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Civitavecchia to Roma

9 Sep

Against the rules of cruising we kept our luggage in our possession and did not label and put them out the night before disembarking. Especially since we saw that the color of our tags meant that we weren’t supposed to leave the ship until after 10am. This was unacceptable as we were anxious to get into Rome and do some siteseeing and serious eating. Also our dinner friends were scheduled to leave earlier and we attempted to meet up in order to catch the train together. Even though I stress about it every time, we kept our luggage and, when we couldn’t find our friends, we disembarked. I know, Im such a a rebel. Others passengers were sitting in a holding area waiting endlessly for their luggage to come off the ship. After some initial confusion, we walked right to the shuttle bus and made our way to the train station. Italian train stations certainly will not be winning any awards for efficiency. We bought our 5€ tickets on the local train to Rome and waited for the 10:41 train that never came and instead hopped on the 11:10 which, of course, left late. One of the beauties of buying train tickets in Italy is that you need to validate them in a mini kiosk that is different at every station. (Note: none of our train tickets were checked on the train. So as usual I got myself hyped up to buy tickets and rush to validate it, only for no one to even look or ask for it).

Once in Rome we had a terrible map from the ship and therefore had no clue where we were in relation to our hotel. We also desperately had to use the WC and had no desire to pay 1€ for the opportunity. Did I mention it was also raining? So like typical tourists, we overpaid for a cab to La Griffe hotel on via Natzionale. After check in we hit the streets with a vengeance. We had limited time and every major site in Rome to see.

First stop was Vatican City, aka San Pietro. We went through the metal detectors, got approved by the fashion police, and past the Swiss guard. We even climbed the 551 steps up to the coupola. What we didn’t realize is that the Vatican museum aka the Sistine chapel, closed at 4pm. So we jumped on a bus and went straight to the colosseum. Thank goodness for the Roma pass because we promptly cut the line and saved ourselves at least 45 min. After listening to James quote Gladiator a couple times, and ask me if I was not entertained, we hightailed it over to the Trevi fountain, where we stopped for pizza and wine. We ate on a quiet side street and were pretty much the only people there on a monday.

We saw the Trevi fountain and the pantheon in haste, since we were exhausted and anxious to get gelato and relax at the rooftop garden of our hotel. The last day of vacation is always the hardest. We met great people, saw amazing places that we want to go back to, and ate delicious food. Now we had to psych ourselves up for a long travel day followed by going back to work.


3 Sep

Last night we bid our friends farewell and discovered almost all of the excursions had been cancelled. We were scheduled to do a short tour and tasting of Genoa, but instead we slept late and walked around the city of Savona. The weather was a bit windy and a lot of shops were closed since it was Sunday. However we hunted down a restaurant that made personal pizzas.

As James pointed out to me, when a restaurant in the states says it opens at 11am, it means they are ready to serve you at 11am. In Europe it means that the worker will just be strolling in and maybe finishing cleaning from the night before. The pizzas were everything we dreamed they’d be especially after a night of adult beverages. We proceeded to walk around the town including climbing an archeological site/castle. There were farmers markets along the streets including bottles and jugs of wine. Too bad the US has such strict laws about that or else I would go to the NY farmers markets more often.

Before dinner we attended Mago (magic) Martin’s show which was not as cheesy as I expected. Once at dinner we met up with the Canadian family and the couple from New York, both of which had done excursions. I almost regretted not going to Monaco and Monte Carlo, and seeing Princess Caroline, like the couple from New York. But it was still a Sunday and the shops were closed everywhere and not just in Savona.
Our last night on the ship was bittersweet. I think we were ready to be back on land but we’re definitely not ready for vacation to be over.

Palma de Mallorca

1 Sep

This morning we woke up early to take full advantage of the city of Palma in Mallorca. The ship is very clever by charging per person to take shuttle buses from the port to the center of the city. As soon as we get to the center we are determined to rent bikes and ride around the city with our new friends. Fortunately they also have an iPhone app of the city that shows us where we are in relation to popular city sites. The most treacherous being the castle Bellver on the hill, which of course we decide to bike. While the view was beautiful, it was slightly disappointing inside. Thankfully the bike path was downhill from there. Once back in the center we headed to the Arab baths which were extremely disappointing. No in-ground pools, no side rooms meant to be a sauna. We paid 2€ to sit in a garden named a bath. Lunch consisted of paella and tapas, and an angry waiter who accidentally brought us 4 pitchers of sangria instead of one pitcher and four glasses. Drinking and biking on tiny bike paths seemed a bit risky.

Our next stops were the church of San Francisco and la playa bike path. However once on board we found that we would not be docking in Marseille due to windy conditions but instead in the port of Toulon and San sur mer. Many people were upset and crowding the excursion desk. According to Paul, the English speaking host, many French people that boarded in Marseille had driven and parked at the port to catch the ship. Therefore, they have to arrange for transport for all those passengers from Toulon to Marseille. After last years accident, they don’t want to take any risks trying to park the ship at a windy port. Overnight the ship was extremely rocky. I have not experienced such turbulence on a cruise before.

Apparently Marseille is going through some sort of cultural restoration where they’re knocking down the city and rebuilding. I thought France was in dire financial troubles but what do I know. Hopefully Toulon will make up for the change in schedule.

Olbia, Sardegna

30 Aug

Our new friends wake up earlier than us and came knocking a little after 8am. Surprisingly I was almost ready and James was the one dragging. (Apparently the soreness of racquetball lasts for days). They graciously waited for us and we made our way to the free shuttle into the center of Olbia. However at 830am there’s not much going on and we were quickly trying to figure out what to do. We found an open air market and some outdoor cafes. Slowly the shops began to open and the town came to life. Even though we forgot our bathing suits and towels in our haste to leave the ship, we tried to see how to get to the beach.

This consisted of asking multiple Italians how to catch the bus, how far the beach is and how much money it would cost. Of course everyone gave a different answer, or didn’t speak English. We temporarily gave up and went to sit at a cafe where we indulged in Mirto, the local liquor. Even in this sleepy town, there were gypsy’s begging us for money while we sat in the restaurant. After talking with some other cruisers, who were Spanish, and a local, our friends decided to head to the beach and we decided to stroll around some more before heading back to the ship.

Back at the ship we hopped into our bathing suits and hit the deck. Despite applying sunscreen multiple times, James somehow managed to get the weirdest patchy sunburn. It’s pretty hilarious. Almost as funny as us attending the Italian lesson and learning his Italian name is Giacomo!

Tonight was the Captain’s gala. Everyone was in their evening finery and making their way to the cocktail reception. There was flutes of prosecco and mimosas along with finger foods. The captain and the cruise director impressively spoke in Italian, English, Spanish, French and German. Afterwards we had a pleasant dinner at table 192 with our new friends, along with a family from Toronto, a couple from New York, and a couple that speaks Spanish and no English and must feel really left out.

After dinner we joined our friends on their balcony for some after dinner drinks before hitting the onboard clubs. We may or may not have stumbled into the 17 and under club. The jury is still out since there was a full bar…hmm. Fortunately, there is round the clock room service and James and I were able to order a nice lunch at about 4am. Let’s see how well we hold up for tomorrows excursion in Ibiza.

20120830-102515.jpgOlbia MarketsJames and Eli in OlbiaMirto tasting

Departing Rome

28 Aug

Our flight into Rome was delayed by an hour due to congestion out of JFK, shocker. After getting our luggage, and sorting out customs, which consisted of getting our passports stamped without making eye contact. We exchanged some Usd for euros and had our selves some cafe au le and split a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich. Power breakfast! The bus was roughly an hour and a half from the airport to the port of Civitavecchia. The port was a bit more chaotic considering it’s Italy, and organization is not something they’re well known for. Once onboard we found that our room is actually very spacious and that we are fairly self sufficient besides the fact ever announcement and activity is in Italian. Somehow we managed to book a couple of excursions and sync our credit cards to our room key without the help of any english speaking assistance on board. But we were a little confused when it came time for the safety drill. Bottom line; each cruise line has their own way of performing the drill and its important as passengers to recognize that and realize that it only really cuts about 20 from your vacation time. No biggie.

There are 2 seatings for dinner, 7pm or 9:30pm….woof! Being in our mid to late 20’s we decided to suck it up and go for the 9:30 seating. Thankfully there is a nice young couple from Jordan and Lebanon sitting at our table. We’re excited to meet new and fascinating people and explore Olbia, Sardinia tomorrow.

Back by popular demand

26 Aug

Apologies as I have been seriously slacking. I, like many young professionals, get caught up in daily work life and sometimes forget to stop and do more of the things of love…like share my passion for travel. I follow many other blogs that post daily, and I make time to read. But for some reason I have not devoted as much time to my personal life as I should.

On that note…I am currently sitting in one of my favorite places in the airport (the delta lounge), getting ready to go on my favorite airline (delta, duh) and during one my favorite times of the year (vacation!). James is (finally) starting to see the light and joining me on a spontaneous European cruise vacation. I still can’t believe he fully trusted me to book this whole trip so I’m a little nervous that it won’t live up to our girls trip in April.

Tomorrow we leave from Rome and head to the Costa Serena where our journey will begin. Before you say anything I want to preface with “yes I know what I’m getting myself into”. I will not deny that what happened earlier this year on Costa was a tragedy. But I’m not one to let the past deter me from doing what I want to do. Besides… It was cheap as hell! We’re really excited. Considering that we’re seasoned travelers, we’re positive that our Costa Cruise experience will not be as horrible as some people make it out to be on cruise critic. 🙂

All Aboard Costa SerenaSafety DrillFirst Drink Onboard