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Italy 2004 – Day 15

Dubrovnik, Croatia

We hadn’t closed our drapes the night before, and I was awakened by light at 6:30am. I looked out the window and saw a beautiful dawn breaking over a mountain ridge. I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of pictures as the sky brightened and the sun appeared over the elevated horizon. By 7:00, we were both up and had prepared the room for the arrival of breakfast.

Room service arrived just after 7:00, bringing the breakfast we had ordered: eggs (2 over easy, 2 boiled), sausage, toast, bananas, orange juice, and coffee. We ate on the balcony, watching the Croatian shoreline brighten as we arrived at our anchorage. By the time the tenders were ready to leave the ship, we had eaten and dressed. We were on the first tender to leave, just after 8:00.

Croatia does not use the euro as currency. We were told that many of the local merchants would accept euros or dollars, but we could convert currency to the local “kuna” onboard the ship. We opted to do that and converted €20 to about 140 kuna.

Our original schedule had us in Dubrovnik from 8:00 until 1:00pm. However, the port authorities had shortened our stay due to additional cruise ship traffic in the area. We would be departing an hour early, at noon. We hadn’t signed up for any of the tours of Dubrovnik, so we decided to simply walk the city. We had read that a good way to do that was to walk around the top of the old city walls, and we intended to do that.

First, though, we wanted to find a nearby virtual geocache. My GPS said it was only a half mile from our anchorage. By the time the tender pulled into the pier, it was only 300 feet away. We quickly located the landmark, took the necessary pictures, and then set out to make our way to Dubrovnik old town to walk the wall. No cars were allowed into the area where we were, so we needed to get to a place where we could catch a bus or a taxi. As we walked it started to rain lightly. The rain never got heavy, though, and it eased up and stopped about 10 minutes later.

Dubrovnik Street

The cruise documents had indicated that the tenders would come to shore about half a mile from Dubrovnik’s old town. We didn’t realize that the plans had changed and we had actually come off the tender in that very section of the city. Oblivious, we walked through the old town to a bus stop, where we hoped to get a ride to the old town. When no busses came for about 5 minutes, we walked across the road to a taxi stand. One of the drivers approached us speaking English. We asked how much it would cost to get to the “Old Town” and he told us we were already there! Oops.

Next the cabby tried to sell us a €50 tour of Dubrovnik in his taxi. We thanked him, but declined.

Back inside the city wall, we looked for a way to get to its top. We noticed a large tour group ascending steps on the wall. Rather than getting caught up in that large group, I thought we could find another access point. We walked along the base of the wall looking for another stairway. We found several, but they were blocked by locked gates and doors. After about 15 minutes we returned to the first set of steps, which were empty of the tour group by then. We started up the steps, but soon came to another gate. This one wasn’t locked, but there was a man there selling tickets for 30 kuna (about $5.50) to get onto the wall. That explained the locked gates at the other stairways.

We bought our tickets and continued to the top of the ancient stone wall. All around the top of the wall is a walkway that varies in width from four feet to fifteen or more. There are watch towers that overlook the outside of the wall, and they also give good views of the old city within.

Dubrovnik has been ravaged by war in the past 20 years. When we were there, nearly all of the buildings had been rebuilt or repaired. From the top of the wall, the most obvious evidence of the destruction and reconstruction was the abundance of new roof tiles on nearly every building. The tiles are called “knee tiles” because the clay used to be shaped by placing it over the artisan’s knee and bent into a curve.

It took us about 90 minutes to walk the top of the wall – just over a mile. We enjoyed the views of the city inside and the seascape around 3 sides of the city. We could see into the narrow streets, where we noticed schools, bars, and restaurants in pretty random places throughout the town.

After we descended from the wall, we wandered around the old town for about 45 minutes, strolling the back streets and the markets. At 11:30, we caught a tender, the Baby Diamond, back to the ship. On this trip, the tender was piloted by one of the ships officers who apparently needed to get his piloting hours in. He gave us a treat by steering the little boat under the Diamond, between it’s twin hulls. His lack of practice showed up when it came time to dock with the Diamond. It took him several minutes to “parallel park” the tender next to the entryway on the ship’s side.

After all of our walking, we were hungry, so we ate lunch right away. By the time we finished, the tenders were back in their racks, the anchor was up, and the ship was starting to move. We took more pictures of Dubrovnik as we sailed past. On the far end of town, a church rang its bells to wish us farewell.

When we were out of sight of Dubrovnik, Chris took her book to the patio again, and I stayed in the room to work on this journal. At 2:30 I took a short nap, and was awakened by an announcement signal. I stepped out into the hallway so I could hear it. It was the captain announcing that we would be stopping in twenty minutes to put the swim platform in the water.

The Diamond carries a complement of water-recreation equipment, including jet skis, snorkeling gear, etc. It also carries a floating platform that can be lowered into the water underneath the ship. A hatch gives passengers access to the platform, from which they can swim or use some of the water toys. We weren’t stopping long, so the jet skis stayed on deck, but about 50 passengers took advantage of the swim platform to jump into the cold (73° F, 23° C) water of the Adriatic sea. Chris and I were among them. The captain himself showed up ready to go into the water, wearing swim trunks and a tee shirt, and looking a lot less stuffy than the typical cruise captain.

The water was definitely cold. I watched a few of my fellow passengers painfully lower themselves into the water, and I decided I couldn’t do it that way. I just steeled myself and dove in. From underneath, the water was a beautiful shade of dark indigo, and I could see it was lighter farther back where the sun could hit it. I struck out for the sunlit area, hoping the water would at least feel warmer. It didn’t really.

As I swam out, Chris dove in and swam to join me. Since she wasn’t wearing her glasses, it took a while for her to find me. We treaded water for a few minutes. Chris had taken a couple of pictures of me from the platform, and I wanted to get some of her before she got too cold and had to get out. I swam back to the platform, fighting a slight current, and got out. I took a couple of pictures from the platform and headed to a higher deck to get more. Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t hear me calling from 30 feet above. She finally looked in my direction and waved, giving me the photo I wanted. She then swam back to the platform to extract herself from the chilly water.

Other passengers continued to swim, and some even ventured out in a couple of the ship’s canoes. About an hour after we stopped, the swim platform was loaded back onto the ship, we raised anchor, and headed northwest again.

By 4:30, we were showered and in our dinner clothes (casual, that night). We had signed up for a tour of the ship’s galley, hoping to see cooks busily preparing the evening meal. We showed up for the tour and the head chef escorted us into the kitchen, which was very quiet. Only a handful of workers were there. I guess they scheduled the tour at the quietest time. That makes sense, but it doesn’t make for an interesting tour. Mostly, we just listened to the chef talk about his job, and we had trouble following him in the acoustically poor environment, and his thick Philippine accent didn’t help, either.

The tour had been disappointing, but we made up for it with cocktails on our balcony again. We fixed drinks, and Chris asked me to read the journal to her. For an hour we relived our trip so far, and I read so much my throat hurt. At least that’s why I thought my throat was hurting.

At 7:45 we headed to the dining room. After so many nights making conversation with strangers, we asked for a table for two. The maitre d’ gave us a nice quiet table by a window where we could see the last bit of daylight slipping away over the Adriatic. Five minutes after we sat down, another couple was led to the table next to ours. It was Vlad and Elena. We had the waiter push their table next to ours, and we enjoyed another dinner with them. Dinner lasted for two hours as we chatted the evening away. The wine waiters were as busy as ever, and none of us ever shooed them away.

After dessert, Vlad invited us to join them on deck 10 to drink the complementary bottle of champagne from the ship. We all changed into more comfortable clothes and met up on deck. We sat at the rear bar and drank mimosas (complementary orange juice) until the champagne was gone. Once again, I had let the free alcohol lead me to excess. But we had lots of fun!

At 11:00, we found our way back to deck 7 and fell into bed at 11:00.

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