Istanbul, April 23, 2006

It's another grey, cold morning. After breakfast we walked 5 blocks to the Basilica Cistern. Beautiful arches & curved ceiling w/ 336 marble columns illuminated from below Some scenes from the movie "From Russia With Love" were filmed down there. It's quite impressive for something built 15 centuries ago; the size of 2.4 acres. Three columns representing Medusa stand out; a green marble one w/ "eyes" all around it; & 2 w/ her head supporting the columns above. It's quite cool down there; & I'm sure on a hot summer's day, it feels very good.

We took one last leisurely stroll through Sultanahmet taking in the sounds & luscious smells before heading to the ship.

By noontime we headed back to check out of the hotel. I stopped in to say one last goodbye to Cuma & Erkan (the rug guys). We never did get to share tea; & I feel bad about that. Finished packing; & the hotel was sending a car to take us to the pier to board the Regatta. The hotel mgr. offered to call MasterCard for Katie to report her ATM problem. He had a 1-800 #, which he assured Katie was a free call. After 40 mins., the problem was taken care of; & the Mgr.'s computer showed it was a 46 YTL toll call. (I kinda doubted that an 800 # would be toll free from here; but wasn't going to argue w/ him.) Anyway, the bank cannot replace her card because we won't be in any one place long enough for them to send her one.

The lobby area of Hotel Nena & the excellent manager & hotel staff.

So, unless my card magically starts working, we're gonna be SOL. The ride to the ship was crazy. Streets were packed w/ people in town for the celebration of Patriot's & Children's Day. Intersections would be clogged; & everybody sits on their horns & yells. Don't know what they expect you to do since no one can move an inch either way. Our driver would weave in & around cars; but managed to get us here in one piece.

We were able to board right away; drop our luggage off in the room & head to the buffet lunch (a very nice spread). Our cabin is a really nice size considering it's in the "cheap seats". We have a love seat size sofa & a dining height coffee table. A beautiful floral arrangement of tropical flowers had been delivered. It was a Bon Voyage/early Happy Birthday gift from Theresa. We went to book our tours right away & started looking for Elaine & Brian (our Cruise Critic/hotel friends). The ship is really beautiful w/ rich jewel tone colors, gorgeous carpets & drapes, beautiful urns & vases. The furniture reeks of classy country club. Artwork is interesting & varied on a smaller scale due to the ship's size. Ship feels large until you get to a public room mid ship where you can actually see how close the walls really are.

Every crewmember we'd encountered was great, that is until we hit the dining room. Our waiter was a first class jerk; & the wine stewardess rubbed Katie the wrong way. But our meal was fabulous. The appetizer of choice was a timbale of shrimp salad wrapped w/ salmon w/ horseradish sauce. We both had a delicious chicken/cauliflower soup, salad of baby greens, bacon & toasted pine nuts. I had a Thai stirfry of scallops, whitefish & shrimp in a ginger sauce. Katie had a butter tender filet. The presentation is as outstanding as it was on Crystal Cruises. I've not carried the camera to the D.R.; & will fight the urge to do so since it will draw so much attention. (These are not the types of passengers that would shoot their plate of food.) But each one could be a picture. We ordered cappuccino (just so-so) & petit fours. The jerk waiter brought a small plate of cookies, pretending they were petit fours. Katie tried to explain what they should look like; & he pretended to not understand. Finally, he brought out the right tray; & said "the chef apologizes". We made it an early night since we wanted to spend our last day in IST exploring the "new town" area of Taksim. It's sooo good to be back on a ship.

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