This was our final day in Greece. Then we would have three ports in Turkey and fly home from Istanbul, Turkey. It seemed like the cruise had barely begun and here we were on the final countdown of days. Also, right at this juncture, the ship crew all stopped wearing masks. It was a corporate decision, apparently. The crew was very happy about this, but now the ship was even less COVID-safe than before. There were definitely both passengers and crew members being quarantined, but nothing was ever said publicly about it.
I will note that up until now I was writing travelogue notes each evening in our cabin. After the ’emotional shift’ in Antalya Turkey, I stopped writing contemporaneous notes. So I am now working from memory and from my photo / text records, exactly two weeks later. So hopefully I remember most of what happened. It’s a good memory test for me.
Because the ship took our passports last night, we had no passports in hand. We had no excursion planned for Rhodes. I really wanted to explore the port because this was now our final Greece port, before we were only in Turkey. I wanted to buy a few gifts for people and another shawl for myself. I also wanted to eat some Greek food. Normally we want to get back onto the ship before eating, since the ship food is free, but I wanted to have actual Greek food in a Greek location.
Once again I slept in, and Mom went down to bring me fresh fruit and have a leisurely breakfast herself. She went off the ship to scout around a bit. Then she came up for me. I tossed on some clothes and was ready to go. We were without a passport. I was extra attentive to take photos of the ship’s dailies – “Passages” – which has all the shipboard contact information in case of trouble. I made sure my phone was fully charged. I had a driver’s license on me as a photo ID, but that lack of a passport was tangible to me.
My boyfriend Bob, my sister Jenn, and I have our phones set up to see a Google Maps ‘dot’ where the other is located. I asked both of them to watch my dot for the day. For some reason, Bob couldn’t see my dot on this trip and still couldn’t see it this morning. When I told Bob that Jenn could see my dot, he said, “I guess she’ll keep track of you if you’re kidnapped then.” I asked Jenn to please watch our dot for the day to make sure we got back on the ship. I told her that Bob for some reason could not see my dot. Her immediate response: “Communist nations captured you!” See, that is where our minds go :). But fortunately Jenn could see my exact dot of where we were.
I told her, regarding our plans for the next few days, “I was happy to go ashore in Rhodes in full Ukrainian gear. I’m less keen about going on land on Turkey with no passport … or supporting them [Turkey] …” to which she replied: “Not all Turkeyians agree with their government. … so, wear Ukie stuff and pride stuff and give a Thumb’s Up (if it’s not offensive in their culture??) to anyone sporting the same.” To which I replied: “And then you will see my dot hauled off to jail :).”
Jenn then sent me: “Save this to your phone and show it to people:” – and she sent me a JPG. The left half said “Thank you for supporting Ukraine”. The right half said: “Ukrayna’yi desteklediginiz icin tesekkur ederiz.” (i.e. the same thing in Turkish). And then there’s a Ukrainian flag. And she follows up with: ” … in jail.”
So I then made my phone lock screen have that JPG image with the Turkish pro-Ukrainian saying and the Ukrainian flag. My lock screen also now had “Call Bob if found” with his phone number complete with the US country code. I told Jenn: “It is all your fault if I end up in a Turkish prison!” She replied, “At least you’ll have comfy Turkish towels.”
Off we went.
This is an easy walk-off port. You just walk down the dock and a nice ‘old town’ is right there. There were many historic stone buildings and plazas, quite lovely, with labels and signs to explain what they were about. Compared with Mykonos and Santorini, which were bright white-blue and fresh feeling, this was far more ancient feeling in worn-down brown stone. And yes there were happy cared-for cats lounging around.
There is NO “Colossus at Rhodes”. That statue, which stood near the port, was legendarily about 100 feet tall of a sun god. The statue collapsed during an earthquake back in 226BC. Every once in a while people talk about rebuilding it, but they never have.
We went to the local plaza which had shops but didn’t feel “aggressively touristy” like some other ports. There were all sorts of lovely olive oil bowls and scarves and other items. We found a nice plaza-side cafe in the shade and had seats right along the path so we could people-watch. I had stuffed grape leaves, bread, and dip. It was really tasty. The man opposite us in the plaza was at a table trying to sell vegetable peelers. He had a massive mound of shredded cabbage in front of him. I thought a peeler was an odd thing to try to sell in a tourist location.
After we ate, we walked quite a bit through the town area, seeing a nice mix of beautiful locally-crafted wares and historic buildings. There’s a fairly steep walk up to a hilltop tower. I texted my friend live with shawl options and she chose one she liked. It was fun to let her see the options thousands of miles away and be able to select something live.
Eventually it was time to return to the ship.
I showered, we dressed, and we went down to the lounge to listen to the guitar playing. He played the same set in the same order as last time. I really enjoy guitar playing, but it would be nice if it mixed up a bit. We talked with him after. He explained that he used to travel with a full-sized nice guitar but it was destroyed by an airline. Now he just brings his travel guitar. He was a bit unhappy because the ‘duo’ was now in quarantine and he had to cover their performances.
We had dinner with eight of mom’s cruise group at Chartreuse. I adore Chartreuse, so I was happy about that. A downside though is that a group tends to want to order ‘a bottle of wine’ and while it might be a nice one, it could easily be one that doesn’t go well with your dish. So then you’re in a position of declining the nicer bottle in order to get a wine that goes great with your food. Or you order food that wasn’t your top pick. Still, it was nice hearing the other peoples’ stories.
There was a bit of half-joking banter about the Turkey ports and about behaving as perfectly as possible while one was in Turkey. Several of the group members are fans of CBD oil and talked about not bringing ANYTHING at all even remotely CBD based with them, as they didn’t want to end up like Brittney Griner. [Brittney Griner is a US basketball player who was caught in Russia airport security with under a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison.]
When I got back to the room, I texted Jenn about the dinner and said, “If I am thrown in a Turkish prison publicize my dot to the newspapers …” She said: “I will! And say ‘Certainly she did NOT have any CBD Oil of <1oz on her!'” I replied, “We were just talking about it at dinner and how the people with pot cards did not take ANY with them, afraid of Turkey. They did not want to become the next Russia situation.” Jenn said, “Agreed. The world is cruel and unjust.”
I then said: “Every time I look at my lock screen I am filled with both joy and terror.” Jenn happily said: “Just think, whoever pickpockets it will be filled with admiration for you.”
I let Bob know: “Jenn is trying to get me to be thrown in a Turkish prison. I have changed my lock screen to this which is a pro-Ukrainian message in Turkish. So if you get a phone call …”
I really did get a jolt of adrenaline every time I saw that message on my lock screen. But I was committed to continuing to promote a peace-for-Ukraine message, as I had done throughout the previous and current Mediterranean cruises. I shouldn’t just promote peace when it’s ‘easy’, safely in the US. I should do it wherever I could. Others were risking far more.
And with that, I headed to sleep, knowing that three days of Turkey laid ahead of us.