Sunday, June 5, 2011

DAY 9 - Ephesus, Turkey (Oceania Cruise)

Al and Vicki Scheck in front of the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey

Through Celsus Tours we were able to engage the services of a guide, Oz Osman, and driver, Sheriff, for a private tour of up to 7 hour’s duration. We were very happy with their services.

The $107 per person cost included pick up at the ship in Kusadasi (11 miles from Ephesus), admission to (1) the ancient city of Ephesus, (2) the Terrace Houses (excavated houses of the rich) and (3) the Ephesus Museum in Selçuk, with return to the ship. Of course, the itinerary was totally customizable, which is an undeniable benefit to having a private tour – being able to spend as much time as you need in one place, and leaving when you’re ready to go to the next thing.

Ephesus is a remarkable place, and this blog posting can provide only the briefest overview.

A work in progress in ancient Ephesus, Turkey

Prior to this cruise, I’d heard from more than one person that Ephesus was the favorite destination of everyone on the respective cruises they’d been on. Based on how many people were in the ancient city on May 14, I’d say word is out!

Crowds in ancient Ephesus

Oz said he’d never seen more tourists in Ephesus, even in peak season. There were not only passengers from three cruise ships, but also group after group of school children. It was still very much worthwhile.

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus once contained 12,000-15,000 scrolls.

Library of Celsus in Ephesus

The Terrace Houses are a “must see” in Ephesus. They’re an archeological work in progress, but already they give a sense of how the very wealthiest Ephesus citizens were domiciled – some of them in homes of 9,000 square feet.

Terrace Houses, Ephesus, Turkey

Our guide Oz (arranged through Celsus Travel) was very
knowledgeable and had an engaging personality.

The tour of Ephesus provided a glimpse not only of how the ancient Ephesians lived, but even how they…

…well, you get the idea!

Ancient public toilets in Ephesus must have taken togetherness to a whole new level!

Before leaving we happened on a gladiator fight.

Staged gladiator fight in the ancient city of Ephesus

We chose to visit the Ephesus Museum, mainly to see the statue of Artemis, the goddess who has what resembles multiple rows of breasts. However, the jury is out as to whether they’re breasts, eggs, or (lovely thought) the testicles of bulls. The latter seems to be the leading contender. You can see which you think it is.

Statue of Artemis (Diana), c. 125-175

Statues of Artemis and a model of the Temple of Artemis,
in the Ephesus Museum, Selçuk, Turkey

There was a historical event in Ephesus in which the Apostle Paul was preaching that idols made by hands are not gods. Local silversmiths, who made and sold idols of Artemis (a.k.a. Diana), were afraid his preaching would hurt their business, so they whipped the people up into a frenzy. The local citizenry gathered into the Great Theatre, where for two hours they shouted, “Great is Diana [Artemis] of the Ephesians!”

The Great Theatre of Ephesus

The fears of the local artisans were unfounded.

Statues of Artemis for sale in Ephesus

However, this column is all that remains standing of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The remains lie in a marshy field.

Ruins of the Temple of Artemis, once one of the Seven Wonders of the World

By now we were ready for some lunch, and Oz took us to a café in Selçuk. It required walking through the local market (only set up on Saturdays). Though we weren’t there to shop, it was very enjoyable to pass through it, experiencing the sights and aromas of that beautiful produce!

Pomegranates at the open-air market in Selçuk, Turkey

Such beautiful colors of produce at the market in Selçuk, Turkey, near Ephesus

Women selling produce at the market in Selçuk, Turkey

Smiling for the camera, a woman at a Turkish open-air market

We also enjoyed partaking of some local produce and food at a café frequented by locals. Tomatoes and cucumbers taste so much better there!  I should say we enjoyed it except for a large “bean” Al took a bite out of. HOT!!

Shown below is the owner of the café where we ate. With a mischievous smile, he said he attributed his muscles to, “I eat just meatballs.”

Muscle man – apparently the effect of meatballs!

It wasn’t until we were on the way back to the ship in Kusadasi that payment was requested for the tour (credit cards are accepted). I kidded with Oz, asking him, “What do you do if someone doesn’t pay at this point? Drop them out here in the middle of nowhere?” He had a great sense of humor. He quipped (referencing the hot, green thing Al had tasted at the café), “Then we make them eat a whole bean!” :) Oh no, not that!!

Beautiful water in Kusadasi’s harbor

Kusadasi, Turkey

We passed some open-air shops on our way back to the ship in Kusadasi, Turkey.

We might have spent a little more time walking down by the water (it was beautiful), but the hawkers are quite assertive, and it had been a busy day, so we felt we would do better with some quiet time in our cabin or its veranda.

The most fabulous meal of our whole cruise was that Saturday night, in La Reserve by Wine Spectator. La Reserve presents a 7-course wine-pairing meal, and as such, it’s the only restaurant on the ship for which there is a charge (though there is a private room, Privee, that can be rented for dinners).

Only 24 fortunate people per night are able to eat at La Reserve, so even at a $75 per person cost (well worth it!), the slots fill up quickly. When we called for reservations, we discovered that we got two of the last four openings for the whole cruise.

They started us off with a glass of sparkling wine in a private, patio-like lounge. For each course of the dinner, the chef and sommelier visited each table, explaining both the food and its wine pairing. The whole experience was simply amazing! Following is the evening's menu:

Amuse Bouche: (I’m not a seafood eater, but…) Bay Scallops Seared on Hot Rock (literally, the hot black rock was on the plate and was used to cook the scallop), Black Lava Salt and Rock Chive Cress. Wine pairing: Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Mashio dei Cavalieri, Veneto, Italy. (Even though I didn’t eat the seafood, I did down the Prosecco!)

Appetizer: Stuffed Brioche with Duck Foie Gras and Truffle Jelly (yummy). Wine pairing: Château la Varière, Coteaux de l’Aubance, Loire River, France.

Pasta: Risotto Primavera with Scamorza di Bufala. Wine pairing: Kolbenhof Gewurztraminer, Hofstatter, Alto Adige, Italy.

Fish: Grilled Turban of Wild Salmon and Turbot with Seaweed Vegetable Casserole. (The chef was kind enough to make some for us without the turbot.) Wine pairing: Nautica Murrieta’s Well Chardonnay, California, USA.

Main Course: Chateaubriand with Bordelaise Sauce and Roasted Baby Potatoes. Wine pairing: Château Bouscaut Grand Cru, Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France.

Our waiter serving Château Bouscaut Grand Cru, Pessac-Léognan

Cheese : Napoleon of Poached Williams Pear and Melted Gorgonzola. (This was one of the cutest and most luscious things I’ve ever put in my mouth!) Wine pairing: Fonesca Porto, Late Bottled Vintage, Oporto, Portugal.

Dinner at La Reserve aboard Oceania’s Marina: Ann, Vicki, Ann, Bob, Jay, Jeanie, Al and Peggy. By this time we were becoming full, and our hearts were merry!

Dessert: “Gold Bullion” of Valrhona Jivara Chocolate Mousse. Wine pairing: Alfredo Prunotto Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont, Italy.  We also had cappuccino.

All in all, a splendid day and evening!

EPHESUS TIP: Ephesus can be quite warm – even hot – and there’s almost no shade unless one can find a skinny sliver of it next to a column. We were there in May, and I would prefer not to have warmer temps than that. There are no services in the ancient city, whether water or toilets, so remember to take care of needs before entering, including purchasing plenty of bottled water. You’ll also want sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and maybe an umbrella/parasol.


  1. Thank you so much for your review and pictures. We will be in Kusadasi in September on a RCCL cruise and I was on the fence about making the commitment to Celsus Tours - but you have convinced me this is the right decision.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

  3. We provide private tours of Ephesus with expert tour guides. For more information please visit:

  4. Thank you for the information, Denizhan.