Hi Everyone-- I am alive!!
Sorry to keep you in suspense for so long, but I had trouble getting connected to these boards the past few days... Sleep?? What's that??!! I think our cabin attendant has spent more time in our cabin than we have!
The weather has been nice the entire cruise-- it seems we're the first cruise of the season that hasn't had anything but rain.. but boy is it HOT!! Mid to High 80's to lower 90's and very humid!! But better than rain I guess.
The ship is in perfect condition and the crew couldn't be nicer. The cruise before ours had Noro with 25 passengers getting sick-- funny thing is no crew got sick so there's something to be said for personal hygene and washing your hands. Hand wipes are everywhere and you're handed them when leaving the ship, returning or going to any food venue. So far no reported cases on this sailing.
Ok.. so here's the recap of the past few days... enjoy and I'll try to check back later tonight...
This morning the group gathered at our usual meeting place/time—Champagne Bar at 730am and were picked up by our private driver for a day of touring the Tuscan Countryside. Our driver Roberto from Papillion Tours was right on time at 8am and within 1.5 hrs of leaving the port we arrived at the town of Siena. We had 2.5 hrs to explore on our own and prior to splitting up, Roberto provided everyone with bottled water, a map of the town and a brief commentary on the history etc.
Siena is quite a large town with several large squares each with a church as the anchor. We were dropped of at the “main square” in front of the Duomo which was modeled after the one in Florence. We enjoyed walking down the many narrow streets and exploring on our own before returning to our van for the short drive to the town of San Gimignano, another quaint, walled medieval town. Roberto had phoned ahead to make us lunch reservations at a small Trattorria which literally had only 8 tables and the best food and prices so low we thought they made an error with the check. 9 of us ate salad, pasta, bread, and dessert with wine, bottled water and coffee for a total of 88.00 EURO. After lunch everyone had a few hours to wander the area and visit the many shops and artist galleries before we continued onto the Castle Montereggione for a brief stop to see the wine vineyards etc.
On the way back to the ship we took the scenic route over the hills of Tuscany passing many wineries and olive orchards as well as several farms. The scenery was beautiful and we pulled off the road more than a few time for picture taking etc.
We returned back to the ship at 600pm, 1 hour before our departure.
Dinner tonight was in Portofino and the food and service were both excellent. We were having such a good time at dinner we totally lost track of the time and before we knew it it was after 11pm and we missed tonight’s show, which really didn’t matter since it was the RCCL Singers and Dancers.
After a brief stop to make a small donation to the casino I was ready to call it a night and head to the cabin to get more than 2 hrs sleep before having to awake for our Rome excursion but that was not going to happen. I ran into an officer friend of mine from the Monarch and was pretty much told I had to stay up and join him for a drink in the Starquest- so as usual we were there until after 3am.
A few unusual things did happen on the ship that are worth mentioning. First, shortly before leaving port tonight, Capt. Hakan made an announcement that we would be stopping in the middle of the Med for about an hour as they had to run some tests on the bow thrusters. Apparently there’s still some fine tuning that needs to be done after the installation of the diesel engines during the last drydock. Nothing major and we would be right on time for Rome tomorrow.
The second interesting thing was—around 1230am, the ship suddenly lurched/rolled hard to starboard—it was a very strange feeling to say the least and the ship righted itself very quickly. We were in the Starquest and looked out the windows to see what was going on and believe it or not, we had to make a sharp turn to avoid a small fishing boat that was right in our patch with no lights!! The wake we left showed how sharp a turn we had to make to avoid plowing over that small boat.
June 25th- Rome
After another 2 hr “nap” it was time to meet the group again at 730am for our 8am departure from the ship to Rome. I booked this driver with my friend Giovanni at Benvenuto Limos and he subcontracted out today to Remo from Driver in Rome and we had an excellent day.
We left the port at 8am and within only 1 hour were in Rome and meeting our private guide at the Vatican Museum. Giovanni had pre-reserved our tour and guide at the Vatican so we did not have to wait in line upon arrival. We literally walked right past the miles long line and into the museum. Giovanni arranged a private guide to take us through the Vatican Museum and had a very intensive tour. We were there so early that it hadn’t yet gotten crowded and fortunately for us it was remarkably uncrowded. After 2 hours of our guided tour of the museum and Sistine Chapel we were met with our van and taken to a small restaurant for pizza and sandwiches before driving to the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Via Veneto, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Palentine Hill, Circus Maximus, Colosseum and just about every other major area of interest in the city. On the way out of town our driver took us to a park at the top of Rome’s highest point for a panoramic overview of the city. On the way back to the ship we were treated to gelato at a little shop on the outskirts of the city that made the best, all natural gelato.
Back on the van, we were pulling up to the ship at 5pm, again only 1 hr after leaving Rome.
June 26th- Naples
We docked in Naples on time at 7am and were off the ship at 8am for our full day tour of the Amalfi Coast. I again booked a private diver and van with Giovanni from Benvenuto Limos and Giovanni was right on time to pick us up.[/size]
We started off with a quick tour of the area and then headed to Sorrento where the group had about 2 hrs to explore. Leaving Sorrento we drove the coastal road into Positano and again had about an hour to explore this picturesque hillside town. Giovanni drove us to the top of the mountain overlooking Positano where we stopped for lunch at a Mom and Pop run restaurant that was literally a cave carved into the mountainside with the most incredible views of Positano and the Amalfi Coast below. The food was all cooked my Mama including the handmade pasta, breads and desserts. Within seconds of sitting down at the table, huge platters of antipasti were placed in front of us—all kinds of meats, cheeses, fruit, marinated and grilled veggies etc. Then came the bottles of water and pitchers of both red and white wine. If that weren’t enough, just when we were about to explode, came platters of pasta, ravioli, gnocchi, manicotti etc, followed by several more platters of desserts and fresh fruit and to top it off coffee, espresso, cappuccino and a shot of lemoncello. Total cost for this incredible meal 23 Euro per person…cost for the experience—Priceless.
After lunch we continued driving along the coastal road to Amalfi where again we had about an hour to wander around and try to burn off the lunch we ate earlier. After departing Amalfi we drove back to the ship by going over the mountains through small town after small town all the time being given narration and local information from Giovanni. We got back to the ship at 6pm for a 7pm sailing.
We were so full from lunch that we opted for salad from the Seaview Café.
June 27th- Sea Day!
Today was a much needed day at sea. We basically slept in, had lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool trying to recharge our batteries for the upcoming 2 days in Venice.
June 28th and 29th—Venice
We awoke as the ship slowed for our entry into Venice. Normally the ship has to dock on the outskirts of town and you have to purchase the ships shuttle into San Marco, however today we were in for a treat and were given the dock right in town which was a short 5 minute walk to San Marco and the heart of Venice. Sailing into Venice is always a spectacular sight and the ship actually sailed all the way through the city before turning around and heading to our dock right in town. Having this dock was most convenient as it was very easy to come and go as you pleased without having to wait for the ships water shuttle. There was a Vaporetto stop right at the ship so we purchased our 24 hour pass for 16 Euro and set out to explore Venice first by taking the number 42 vaporetto which made a complete circle around the city as well as sailing the full length of the Grand Canal. We got on and off at several stops and explored the local areas. We walked back to the ship from the Rialto Bridge and got ready for dinner. I had made reservations for the group at a small family run Trattoria in the San Tomas area of the city. The prices were quite reasonable, especially for Venice which is known for high prices. The entire group had, appetizer, salad, entrée, water and wine for 25 Euro per person. With a very extensive menu and lots of fish and seafood offerings this was an excellent meal. The owner treated the group to coffee, dessert and after dinner liquors which was much appreciated.
Following dinner we walked around San Marco Square and listened to the musicians around the square and took a leisurely stroll back to the ship. As we have an aft balcony and were facing San Marco, we sat out and drank a bottle of wine and watched all the people below.
After a few hours sleep, we awoke and decided to have breakfast at one of the small cafes right next to the ship. After a morning jolt of espresso and pastry we again headed out to explore the streets and canals of Venice.
2 great days and 1 night in Venice…
Tomorrow is Split, Croatia….