Day 8 (Mon, Sep 22): Delphi / Piraeus / Cruising

We left the hotel at 9:00. Before that I had spent my usual 5-6 am just taking in the "feeling" of the place from our room. Everywhere we've been has seemed magical: In Nauplia I felt like getting on a fishing boat; Olympia makes you want to be an athlete (which I'm not) and Delphi makes you want to be religious (which I'm not). After breakfast I had fun playing with an amusing Weimeriner pup who lives at the hotel and who showed me his two toys, a pillow and and a broom. The driver pulled our bus up to the hotel and left to see about getting the luggage from in front of our rooms. I was leaning against our bus in the sun (Greek fisherman's hat, very tanned, no one else around) when a German lady stormed up and demanded auf Deutsch that I move my bus, which was in fact blocking the four BMWs parked nearby. I just shrugged and pretended not to understand her. It was funny to watch her expression as she obviously thought I was nothing but a stupid Greek.

Once the group assembled, we took off for the ruins of the sanctuary of the Oracle of Delphi, the "Sacred Precinct". It was a beautiful time of day to the see the place. The magical light was shining on the Phaedriades, the birds were singing -- there was even a donkey braying! This site really is magical (yes, I am over-working that word). The air is so clear it's almost unreal. And the thought of all those millennia of people coming here -- originally to settle international disuptes on the Oracle's say-so -- is overwhelming on many levels.

the "Sacred Precinct"


Sacred Way, Athenian Treasury

Temple of Apollo

Karen and me

at the Athenian Treasury

Delphic Oracle

We left Delphi and drove on to Hosios Loukas (see Ossios Loukas in the map on previous page), an 11th century Byzantine church. It has beautiful mosaics and is in a lovely setting high above the plain on a hill covered with almond trees.

From there we headed for Piraeus. We stopped for a snack at a place Levadi's Friendly Spot in Livadeia. I found a friendly cat (finally), a funny one, brindle and marmelade tabby spots on white. We bypassed Thebes unfortunately. I would like to have visited Alexander's monument to the Sacred Band (pictured).

cabin G-2
Stella Solaris -- We arrived at Piraeus harbor about 3:30, boarded the Stella Solaris and found our cabin, G-9 on the Golden Deck, with no difficulty. Our cabin is nice, long and skinny and surprisingly roomy. This cruise was a first for both of us. We did a little exploring of Stella on our own, then had a drink with Christina and several others at the piano bar prior to joining the Reeves with whom we will be dinner partners -- second sitting, at 8:30, 5th table on the right as you walk in from the Gallery -- throughout the cruise. "All aboard" was at 6:30, and the TSS ("Turbine Steam Ship") Stella Solaris departed for Dikili, Turkey promptly at 7:00 pm.

Background: Originally built as the Cambodge (Cambodia) for the now-defunct Messageries Maritimes' Marseilles to Yokohama service. She was completely rebuilt between February 1971 and June 1973 for Sun Line, Ltd., Piraeus. In 1980, when we sailed her, the Stella Solaris was the flagship of the Sun Line. She was 18,000 tons, fully stabilized and air conditioned, capable of traveling at a full 22 knots, with room for 660 guests and 310 crew. A pygmy by today's standards -- Royal Carribean has ordered what, to me, is a mind-numbingly ugly behemoth -- 6,400 guests (customers? consumer units? sardines?), a crew of 2,000, 1,180 feet long (nearly 4 US football fields) and weighing 220,000 gross registered tons (Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are a mere 97,000 tons). Yuck, yuck and yuck!

decks: From the top -- sport deck, lido deck, boat deck, solaris deck, golden deck, ruby deck, emerald deck, sapphire deck. Here are the decks where we spent most of our time:

Lido DeckBoat DeckSolaris DeckGolden Deck

Lido Bar

"Uphill" Promenade

Dining Room

Bar Grill

Stella Solaris docked at Piraeus.


Solaris Foyer

Main Lounge

A "Real" Stern
Note: These pictures are from Peter Knego's wonderful Maritime Matters site. In addition to providing a framework for the place we stayed for a week, they bring back many fond memories. Definitely see the site for much, much more.

Went back to our cabin and unpacked. It's nice to have our stuff out of the suitcases, hanging up in the closet. After we got all settled we did a bit more exploring of the ship -- got out to the Lido deck (where the swimming pools are) and watched the disembarkation from there.

We got dressed for dinner then went to the piano bar and had excellent martinis. We were joined by Christina and Ray Rodriguez from Los Angeles. Had dinner with the Reeves. After dinner we went to the Grill Bar and had Metaxas (Greek brandies). The moon was shining, and before we went to bed Karen and I took a turn around the Boat Deck promenade.

A sad footnote: Sun Lines merged with Royal Olympic Cruises. According to a post at an online Stella Solaris message board "As ROC was in financial difficulty and needed the money, she was sold for scrap (along with APOLLON and STELLA OCEANIS) last year and left Piraeus for Alang, India on 19 November 2003. Arrived at Alang 8 December 2003. She had been beached and breaking commenced by 26 December. Her last keel plates were sent off to the re-rolling mills earlier this month [Jul 2004]." Many melancholy, fond memories are posted at the same site.