September 9, 2023
Today we are disembarking the ship in Osijek, Croatia. Out bags were out at 7am, we had breakfast, and then got on the bus at 7:50am towards our destination of Zagreb, Croatia. The drive took a few hours with rest stops in between.
During the beginning part of the bus ride, the tour guide gave us historical information about Croatia. The way from 1991-1995: Serbia and Croatia are both part of the former Yugoslavia. After World 2, Josip Broz Tito was the President of the Communist Party, and therefore the leader (dictator) of Yugoslavia. He was very smart and very brave – he was the only person to say no to Stalin (after Stalin invited them to join the Soviet Union). To unite the former separate countries (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia), he stationed soldiers in different areas than they were from. Many mixed marriages resulted, and it helped to unite the people.
After Tito died in 1980, the economy started to collapse. Socialism was starting to fall in other parts of Eastern Europe (the Berlin Wall came down in the late 80s). Croatia and Slovenia wanted to leave this union, but Serbia didn’t want Croatia to take their resources and tourism with them, so they started to spread fake news about Croatia. They put the Serbian flag down on 1/3 of Croatia’s land. Police went to take down the flags, but it was an ambush. In Buchovar, 1800 men stood their ground for 86 days, and refugees escaped to Hungary and the Black Sea. The war went on for 4 years, and then Bill Clinton and Tony Blair forced them to negotiations and the Ohio Peace accords were signed. Many parts of Croatia still have the scars, but mixed marriages are happening again.
Croatia joined the EU in 2013, but only just adopted the Euro earlier this year. This made the prices of everything go up a lot for residents. They are also now part of the Schengen zone, so they can travel freely to other Schengen countries.
Zagreb is the only capitol city to start with the letter Z. It was there that neckties were invented, along with dalmatian dogs (names after the Dalmatia province), and pencil
In Zagreb, the capitol city, we went to lunch – the large back room of a restaurant in town. We had a cabbage salad, soup, beef and potatoes, and dessert – quite a feast!
After lunch, we had a tour of the city.
Zagreb is 900 years old, and the oldest section is the Kaptol. The first invaders were the Mongols and Genghis Khan. Then in the 1600s the Ottoman Empire was on the march, so they built a city wall. They were spared, as the army headed instead to ienna.
In 1880 there was a 6.1 earthquake, and in 2020 there were 2 earthquakes. The buildings were not built to be earthquake proof, so many buildings have been destroyed.
The Doluc market is open every day, with the open air portion for fresh produce, an indoor downstairs area for meat and dairy where it’s cooler, and an upper area for flowers.
We continued walking through the stone gate to the Gradic area, to St. Marks square and church. This was built in the 13th century by workers who came from Venice. The portal over the door depicts the 12 disciples, and was created in 1492 – it has survived fires and earthquakes. The roof (with the tiled flags) was built in the 19th century, and the Parliament building is to the right.
The city still has 260 gas lamps, and there are 2 lamp lighters that light them each evening.
We walked to a park, where our bus pulled up. On the bus ride to Zagreb, the cruise director had decided the best plan was for us to claim our bags after the tour, and take a cab to the train station, where we will meet our shuttle to Ljubljana, Slovenia. The drive was supposed to be 2 hours, but it was actually a little less. The landscape was beautiful – We are in the very eastern part of the Alps so it's very reminiscent of Austria, with small farms and villages and large mountains, green hills, just beautiful.
The other passengers asked the shuttle driver if he could take them to their hotel, so we did the same. We stayed at the Eurostars Hotel Union, which was right on the edge of the old town. We left our bags in our room and went for a walk and to find dinner.
What a hidden gem! It is Saturday night, and the city was hopping! Lots and lots of outdoor eateries, families, bridges across the water, a castle on top of the hill. There was some running event, so streets were marked with “ropes” to mark off the running area (although many people didn’t pay attention).
We walked through the charming streets, and followed the signs up to the castle. We saw sunset, but didn’t stay long because we didn’t want to walk down in the dark. Then we found there was a funicular to take us down – I videoed it on hyperlapse and it looks like a roller coaster! LOL!
The gal at the front desk had recommended a restaurant for local food, but Vic and I had passed a sushi place and were just craving sushi so we went there and dined outside.
Very, very nice town and countryside – Slovenia is definitely worth revisiting!
September 10, 2023
Today we head towards Venice and our next cruise ship!
We had the front desk schedule a cab to pick us up at 9am, so after breakfast in the lobby we got in the cab. The train station was only 5 minutes away, and our pick up time was 9:30am. This ride was to be longer – we were told we would be at the Venice airport around 1pm. I had previously arranged for a private transfer, but the company had inexplicably cancelled it. So on the ride, we searched for a transfer company (the other passengers said it is very hard to get a cab at the airport), and booked one for 1pm. We were very surprised when, at a few minutes after 12pm. From there we had a transfer bus to the ship
Cruise ships can’t dock in Venice anymore, so the Azamara Onward docked in Chioggia. Our van driver dropped us off, and there was a tent outside where they put the luggage tags on our bags. At the entry to the ship, they scanned our key cards and took our photo. Then we were directed to the lounge where they had tables set up to finish the check-in (credit card, retaking Vic’s photo), and given a daily schedule. They directed us to a separate seating area, where we waited a couple minutes and they did a safety briefing.
It was now a little after 2pm, so we went to our stateroom, dropped our carry on bags, and went up to the buffet for lunch.
This is our first time on an Azamara ship. The Onward was built in 1999 for Princess (formerly the Pacific Princess), is 592 feet long, 83 feet wide, with 11 decks. It has 352 cabins, so holds 704-774 passengers with 400 crew members. Azamara bills itself as a luxury line, specializing in “destination immersion,” with longer stays in most ports. Azamara includes gratuities and a basic drink package for all passengers.
The line used to be owned by the Royal Caribbean group, and is more expensive and supposed to be more luxurious than Celebrity, so we are picturing an upscale Celebrity experience.
The buffet was nice, and there were many crew members waiting anxiously to assist. There is seating both inside and outside at the back of the ship
After lunch, we ran a few “errands” – booked specialty dining at the Steakhouse for one night, upgraded our internet packages (we had paid for the unlimited voyage package, but wanted the faster speed), spoke with the head waiter about my dietary restrictions, went to the loyalty desk to make sure our loyalty level was correct (we booked before Royal Caribbean sold Azamara, so our Diamond/Elite status carries over onto this cruise), and went to the shore excursions desk to book the disembarkation morning tour of Athens (including the Acropolis).
Back to our room to unpack – the storage isn’t bad, but I thought there would be more, considering they do a lot of longer itineraries, but we made it work.
There is one dining room, one buffet, and two specialty restaurants. Guests in suites eat in the same dining room for dinner, but can have their breakfast in the Italian specialty restaurant. We were nice and early, so we got a table for 2 at the window. Dinner was fine, and they handled my restrictions well. The head waiter (Kimberly) brought over the menu for tomorrow night so I could pre-order.
Early to bed for another early morning.