Every cruise I take there is always a “sleeper” port. This is the port which you may not be excited for before the cruise, but upon visiting it far exceeds your expectations. For this cruise, that port was Kusadasi, Turkey.

Today, we were broken up into two groups, Team Aladdin and Team Genie, each with our own Adventure Guide. This was due to the maximum bus size in Turkey. We entered our respective bus to discover free Wi-Fi! But it was hard to partake as our guide was fascinating and I didn’t want to be distracted. (I will not hold it against her that she said she loves Disney characters like Scooby-Doo, as she did redeem herself by espousing her love of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse)

Our guide looked a lot like Princess Jasmine, but she was born and raised in Turkey and not Agrabah. She discussed the history of Turkey as well as what it is like to grow up in the secular state of Turkey while the country still has areas that are still used to the old-ways.

We took a 20-minute bus ride to the archeological site of Ephesus. This ancient city was is believed to be the third largest city in the Roman Empire. The first traces of occupation of the area date back to 5000 B.C.E. Due to natural disasters covering the city with silt, and the lack of development in the region the ancient ruins are far better preserved than anything you will find in Athens. The city was built on a slope towards, what in ancient times, was an inlet. We walked from the top, which was the administrative area, to the bottom, which was the public area. I could write a whole article on the amazing parts of Ephesus, but I will have to save that for another time.

When we reached the bottom, we were given a cold towel to freshen up and some free time. It was quite a magnificent site, but quite steep. So we were thrilled when we discovered that the bus would meet us at the bottom of the site and we didn’t have to climb back up.

We then headed back in the bus to discover that Dusty and James had picked up some Turkish Delight for us to enjoy. The bus headed uphill to the House of the Virgin Mary. This site is supposedly the final home of the Virgin Mary. While the house had been destroyed, a church was built on the original foundation in 1950. The church is quite small, but we walked through which was quite interesting. Note that photographs were not allowed inside. Upon exiting we were given clay pots the fill with water from the spring that is reported to contain Holy Water. While I cannot tell if the water has any healing properties, at the very least the pots made a nice souvenir.

It was then time for lunch. We headed to a restaurant that also featured a steam train museum. As a Disney fan, you know we love trains, so this was an unexpected bonus. The meal started with a variety of vegetables and french fries. We then had the choice between a roasted chicken or Turkish meatballs with vegetables and cheese. I picked the later option, which was quite good. Each entrée was served with a side of au gratin potatoes. There was wine, water, and ouzo on the table, but soft drinks were also available. (No one had the ouzo after their Athens experience). We also had a fantastic rice pudding for dessert. The meal was fantastic, adding up to more than the sum of its parts. We also had the option of enjoying Turkish coffee. While I declined the coffee, I did get a cup and pour out to coffee so I could have my grounds read by a fortuneteller. Let’s just say…. I hope she is right.

After lunch we headed to a museum so we could engage in some “hassle-free” shopping. (no haggling, no in-your-face sales). There was also a brief gladiator show. Our expectations were lowered by James and Dusty about the show, but given that it was better than some other tourist trap shows. Following the show, we were escorted to the royal court and given gift bags filled with postcards, books, and other trinkets.

Back on the bus, another gift was an “evil eye” charm, which was given to us by James and Dusty. It is common in Turkey and Greece to ward off evil spirits. We then headed to a Turkish Carpet experience where we saw how they pull the silk from the cocoons (fascinating) and how they weave the carpets. They then took us to a room where they unfurled carpet after carpet discussing the different varieties. We were given wine, beer, or apple tea and encouraged to walk on the carpets barefoot. Of course they were willing to sell us a carpet, but Dusty and James made it clear that there was NO pressure to purchase. The Adventure Guides kept an eye out to make sure that rule was not broken by the carpet vendor (which it was not). That being said, several guests did purchase a carpet. One group even purchased two (I’m looking at you Steve and Paula). To be fair, the carpets were a great deal and high quality.

We then headed back to the bus and back to the ship. We did have the option to visit the Grand Bazaar, but since it is basically a shopping mall, we declined. We were given the pin of the day, featuring my very own Team Genie. It should be noted that Ephesus and lunch were the only things listed on the itinerary. The House of the Virgin Mary, the museum, and the carpet experience were all surprises. I am very glad these were included as they added a great deal to the day.

As there were six ships in port, ours is still the prettiest, getting back on board was a bit time-consuming and we missed the all-aboard time. Thankfully being on Adventures by Disney, we did not need to stress that the ship would leave without us.

Following a brief trip to the gym, it was show time. The variety act was “Lost Locos Ole!” I wish I could tell you what it was but I am not quite sure. I am presuming that the group was brought on board to entertain non-English speaking guests as very little language was used. But they are basically a comedy-flamenco group. The sad part was they focused on the comedy, which was not funny, instead of performing their music. They seemed quite talented as musicians, but as soon as a song got going, a lame comedy bit would interrupt it. The word got out around the ship that it was skip-able as the venue was ¼ full. I should have listened to the warnings.

Dinner was the French dinner in Lumiere’s. This menu has not changed from previous cruises so I went with my old-standby; the Duck Confit appetizer, the French Onion Soup, the Salmon Royale, and the Strawberry Shortcake Sundae. Upon finishing my dinner, Belle and The Beast along with a royal court of dancers made their way through Lumiere’s. And with that I headed back to my room, glad that they pushed back tomorrow’s meeting time until 900 am.