I think it's actually Sunday, but I can't really be sure. Somehow, in the two + days of air travel and the short night in Athens, and all the activities that ensue when embarking...I've lost track of time.
I will have to say, that I really don't have any horror stories to share about our flight here. We left on time, our luggage was checked straight through and we arrived without incident. Easy-peasy.
Arrival into Minneapolis/St. Paul was nothing major. We promptly found a Starbucks and a McDonalds and then settled in for our flight to Amsterdam. We opted not to try and hit the Mall of America as we didn't feel we would have enough time. Probably best.
We arrived into Amsterdam and I have to say, the flight, while long as nice as international flights in coach are. Our stay in Amsterdam was fun - once we got started. :-) I had been led to believe by reading and other's personal experience, that the canal rides were just "right outside" the airport. Well...not exactly true. What is right outside the airport is the train station. But, getting any reasonable information is difficult at best. With a last-minute dash to get all eight of us on board, we boarded the commuter train to Amsterdam Centraal. From here, we just walked outside and then realized..."wait - this doesn't look familiar at all!" Turns out, we'd come out of the train station on the opposite side of where we should have been. Thankfully, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and we eventually found the Gray Line canal tour. Oh, it was beautiful, restful, sunny, and just what this traveller needed to unwind a bit. A few in our group walked to the Anne Franke house and other spots. I was perfectly content to sit in a boat and relax. One thing I should mention for those traveling to Amsterdam: If you want to leave the airport and stow your bags...be sure to stow them AFTER you go through customs. Otherwise, you'll have to remember your original concourse and search for the correct lockers after entering through customs. Then, you'll have to exit and enter customs again when you make it the the correct concourse. Trust me - I know this from experience!
We left Amsterdam at 8:30pm or so and headed to Athens. We arrived a few minutes early and my stomach started doing a tango in fear that we would not meet our luggage. Or that only some of us would get it. Amazingly enough - all our luggage arrived in good condition and we headed out in hopes to meet our ride. Dimitris, an Inchcape Agent that works with Holland America, met us right outside the customs area with a sign that said "Carlson Party". I felt so official! We were escorted to our hotel in Piraeus several miles away in a Mercedes Benz "sprinter". Very comfortable an d we were blessed beyond measure by the kindness of our driver and Dimitris to pick us up at 1AM on a ship day! They arranged a late check-out for us at the hotel and reminded us to be ready to go at 12noon when they would return to pick us up.
Our hotel room at the Triton was small and the bathroom even smaller - if that was possible. But, it was clean and the beds were comfortable. We got up in the morning and ate breakfast (which was included) and then wander out for a look around. It was a typical working-class European neighborhood with fish/meat/vegetable markets, banks, churches and the very large port just across the way.
Dimitris and the driver were early to pick us up and we drove to the Pier where were were to embark. I was glad we had a ride, or it would have been a bit of a hike with our luggage in tow. When we arrived, were were once again greeted by our new-found friends from Inchcape and the embarkation went well. I was even able to chat a bit with the Holland Port Agent, Cathy Cox, whom I had not seen since my tenure in Seattle. It was a nice surprise! We took lots of pictures of the ship in port, then got on, ate and headed to our staterooms.
I'll have to post more later, but suffice it to say, we have Istanbul in our sights an lots of activities to do onboard still. So, until next time - sweet dreams of far away lands.