The ship actually docks in the port of Piraeus, which is a city of about 400,000. Today we have 4 other cruise ships docked with us, so there will be quite a few passengers in the city. We are not taking a tour today which is a good thing; we are pretty tired. We were in Athens a year ago and so have visited all of the main sites and did not want to do exactly the same thing again. I did have a strong desire to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so had pre-purchased HOHO bus tickets.
We exited the ship and found that we were halfway between Terminal A and Terminal B. We opted to head for Terminal A, walked through the terminal building and back outside. We were not sure where to catch the bus so stopped and asked at a kiosk. There are 3 HOHO companies and all pick up passengers in the same location, outside the terminal area. We were not sure which company we booked with; it turned out to be the one with the blue buses. We turned our voucher in and were given a ticket that we would need to show every time we re-boarded the bus. I was excited to see that there was free wi-fi on board; I could check to see if there were any important emails that I needed to respond to. And, of course, check Facebook!
We had to ride one bus (port line) to the Acropolis and then change buses a different bus (city line). We did not need to see the Acropolis again so just snapped a couple of pictures while we waited for our connecting bus. We also took advantage of the free WC. I am glad that I remembered to bring kleenex; there is no toilet paper in many of the WCs in Greece. They provide a trash bin next to the toilet for you to deposit any paper products; you are not able to put anything at all in the toilets.
We only had to wait about ten minutes to be picked up. We thought we would ride the complete circuit and then on the second go-round, get off the bus at the legislative building which is where the Changing of the Guard takes place. The bus route took us past the Temple of Zeus and the modern Olympic stadium.
The traffic in Athens was absolutely horrible; by the time we reached our destination on the first circuit we decided to get off the bus because it was now almost 11 am and the guard changes at the top of the hour. I was able to get some great pictures as well as a short video. I guess my memory is failing me because I remembered the ceremony as being much longer. We opted against waiting in line to have our pictures taken with the guards and instead went to get in line for the next bus.
It turns out that there was a huge protest group marching through the center of Athens so traffic was at a standstill. I chatted with the German gentleman I was sitting next to; according to him the HOHO bus had been delayed an hour due to the march. No one was “hopping on-hopping off” the bus; everyone that actually had a seat kept it. We recognized a few more sites as we drove past including the Monostraki area near the ancient Agora where we had lunch and shopped last fall.
Finally, we arrived back at the Acropolis at about 12:45 pm. What should have been a 90-minute trip around town (including our stop) had taken nearly 4 hours. There was a huge line of people waiting for the bus that would take us back to the ship. The attendants tried to keep people in a line so that when the bus arrived we could board in an orderly manner. It was not to be; as soon as someone spotted the bus approaching, everyone rushed towards it. People pushed and shoved in order to try to get on the bus. We managed to finagle our way on and were happy to have enough space on the bottom level of the bus to stand. I tried to upload my video of the Changing of the Guard to my Facebook page, but the free internet cut out part-way into the upload. I will try again next time I have free internet access.
The drive back was relatively quick; once we got out of Athens, the traffic lightened considerably. The terminal was quite crowded with passengers trying to get back to their ships. Each person had to go through security. I must say that the security people didn’t seem the least bit concerned when someone would set off the alarm; they would just wave the person through. I am not too sure what the point is if you don’t actually stop someone that sets off the alarm! We made it back on board by 2 pm and headed to the buffet for lunch. The rest of the day I will work on my blog, though I continue to have issues with my Skyroam service, so probably won’t be able to upload my posts for quite a while. I may bring my laptop on the bus when we arrive in Safaga, Egypt. It is a several hour drive to the temples and there is supposed to be free wi-fi. We shall see! If you read this post in early November, you will know I was successful. If this is not posted until December or January, it didn’t work!