Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our Mediterranean cruise

Kathleen booked us a wonderful cruise around the western Mediterranean Sea. We had a great time. We embarked from Barcelona, Spain. We decided to drive there - about 9 hours not including stops. We drove down on Friday so that we could spend Saturday in the city before our ship left on Sunday.

BTW - To save a little space in this long post I have used 'thumbnails' on some pictures. To see them full size just give 'em a click. Then just hit your BACK button to return to the post.
Day 1 of our trip started out with a good laugh. Our hotel was near the airport so we hopped on the hotel shuttle to take us there. From there we took a train into the city. It was warm so we bought drinks before boarding. Payton guzzled his down. I told him half jokingly half seriously to keep the bottle - he may need it for a pee bottle. Not long after getting on the train he said he had to pee. Our train was more of a shuttle and had no bathroom. He seemed like he really needed to pee so we got off at the first stop. This stop was just a platform with no facilities. I led him around to its backside and helped him pee into the bottle. I called this one right. We all laughed at how much he peed. He gave back half his drink!

We waited for the next train and headed for the city center. We spent most of our day touring the city in a double decker bus - a tour bus. We sat on top with a good view. We were given headsets and could listen to an audio tour. It was a relaxing and good way to see a lot in a short time. We could get on and off anytime and we did twice. Once on the waterfront to have a late lunch and again later to partake in a cup of Starbucks.
We had a bit of a mix up catching the bus back to where we started. We ended up having to take the 'tube' across town to our starting point. From there we caught a train back to the airport and finally the shuttle back to the hotel. Stepping of the train at the airport I found out my wallet was missing! I got pick pocketed! It had to have happened on the busy subway train. Damn. I think it was the innocent looking conquistador I saw. In the end we lost some cash, but everything is back to normal now. It didn't ruin our vacation. Back at the hotel we went for a swim and went to bed anticipating tomorrow.

Sunday morning and we were off to board the ship. We could board at noon, but couldn't have our room until 2 o'clock. No matter, we had packed our swim stuff in a carry on and just hung out around the pool. I just knew I was going to like the food. Hamburgers and french fries were plentiful. And oh my god they had bottles of ketchup and mustard on the table for you to use as you please! Unheard of in Switzerland and Europe for that matter. That night and all the next day were to be spent at sea. We sailed to our farthest point - the island nation of Malta.
A beautiful view of the Mediterranean Seas from the back of the boat

We woke Tuesday morning to find ourselves pulling into port at the Valletta - capital city of Malta. Malta is said to be the fourth most densely populated country on earth. I believe it too. It has a population of some 400,000 or about 3,322 persons per square mile. That's packed. I suppose there is some good in Malta, but it was hard to see during our limited time there. It was a lot of rock to me.
The Port of Valletta, Malta

Our tour took us to a marina, a fishing village, through the country side over some of the roughest roads, a drive-by by a very pretty church (why we didn't stop at it is beyond me) , saw the cool vintage 'Malta' buses, and back to the boat. We were happy to be back on the boat. It was much, much nicer than Malta. Leaving port we set sail north to the Strait of Messina. Before getting there we passed by the active volcano Mt. Edna on Sicily. We could see little wisps of smoke coming from its top. Oh, one other thing... I enjoyed a fine imported beer this night.
Hey, check out what our steward left for us in our room. He very cleverly folded and twisted towels to make things. This night he left us a towel dog. Very cool.

After Malta our next stop was Napoli (Naples), Italy. Our shore excursion would be taking us first to the coastal town of Amalfi and then to the ruins of Pompeii. Both turned out to be well worth the visit. But first things first... the boys needed breakfast.

Getting to Amalfi was quite a drive in a touring bus. It is south of Napoli, but first you need to cross over (actually through) a mountain ridge. Coming out of the mountain tunnel you're presented with a fantastic view of the sea. The elevation is about 1200 ft., yet you're only about a ¼ mile from the sea. To get to the sea you have to drive down a narrow and very winding road. In a bus it can be kind of scary. Our guide Antonio kept us at ease while our driver Raphael (said to drive only when he wasn't painting) got us there safely.
Amalfi is a pretty little coastal town with, of course, an equally nice church overlooking the town plaza. Be sure to enlarge to following panorama looking at the town from a pier.
Payton was a little hungry so we got him a slice of margarita pizza. And boy was it a slice. It was one quarter of the pizza - what would be about a large one at that. It was a bit much for Payton so I finished off what he didn't.

As I said this little town has a plaza with a church. The church is up high overlooking the plaza and it looked pretty cool. We didn't walk up the steps to look inside. I don't know why. Maybe because on our shore excursions you just didn't have a lot of time to do anything. Just enough to give things the once over.

After leaving Amalfi we headed back up into and through the mountains and north to the ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii was interesting. The ancient city wasn't small. To me it was a good size city. Just about everything was built of stone except for the roofs of the buildings which was wood. It seemed to be pretty advanced for being a first century city. It was very warm and little to no shade. Still, we all walked around and and took it all in. One of the more interesting things we saw was a weighing table. It was used to measure the merchandise on sale at the Forum. To check if that gallon of vino you bought was truly a gallon you poured it into the appropriate vessel to check.
Mt. Vesuvius is in the background
An amazingly well preserved statue

We only saw a small portion of the city. We didn't see the Amphitheater which is in region 2. We toured region 1. Only about one-third of the city has been unearthed. They say the rest will likely not be excavated. Who knows what treasures will stayed buried.

Our next day was at the port for Rome. Rome isn't a port city so we docked at Civitavechia. Rome is quite aways inland. Since we were in Rome last year we decided to enjoy our day on the boat.

Check this out. From our room we kept seeing these cruise-like ships coming and going. They were actually ferries - you could take your car with you. These ships ferried people back and forth from the mainland out to Corsica and Sardinia - large islands west of Rome.
Like I said we spent the day on the boat hanging out by the pool. The ship was the closest thing to America in Europe. I had a good hamburger and fries everyday. Kathleen and I had a most excellent filet of steak for dinner too. She opted for for the lobster and steak. The ship had the best food in Europe that I have had.
Where was Payton during this time you might ask? The ship had the Tree Tops Kids Club. Payton was on the vacation from heaven with this place. Every minute we would let him be there he was there! He loved the place.
We left Rome, er a Civitavechia and headed for Livorno and the cities of Florence and Pisa.

Livorno was our port for Florence and Pisa. If it wasn't for seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this would have been an excursion where we would have preferred to stay on the boat. Florence was a long ways away. About and hour and 45 minutes one way on a not so cool bus. Not fun. Plus after this we were rushed around. Oh well, vacation is work after all.
A 'shopping' bridge. Inside this bridge on either side of the road were shops.
People are entombed within the floors of this church.
A self portrait as Parker and I walked by a mirror

There was more to see in Florence than our tour had time for and soon we were back on the bus for the ride to Pisa. I don't know what all is in Pisa besides La Piazza del Duomo, but there didn't seem to be much. Still, if all Pisa has is its leaning tower then its a place worth visiting.
We only had a very short time to check out the tower. Our guide lead us to our assembly point first. "The time is now 4:45. Meet back here at 5:10". Well most of us were back at 5:10. Five weren't. The guide waited about fifteen minutes but he had to get his group back to the boat. On the way back to the bus we found 3 of our missing. But the bus left Pisa without two people. This was Friday and on Sunday we found out that the missing two did make it back to the boat via a taxi cab. It cost them about 100 Euros, but they made it back. Obviously they didn't have Swiss watches.

When we got back to our room this night we were greeted with another towel animal. This time a towel monkey was hanging from our ceiling.

Our last full day of the cruise - tomorrow morning our cruise would be over. I don't really have any to pictures to share of our Cannes port of call. We did have an excursion scheduled, but we canceled it in favor of relaxing pool side. We think it turned out to be the wise thing to do. Not long after the ship left port the weather started getting a little nasty. There was light rain, fairly strong winds, the seas kicked up to about 6 ft. waves and the boat was a rockin'. but our day on the boat was just fine and very relaxing. Swimming, drinking and eating. We all handle the rougher water just fine. None of us got sea sick. We were a bit sad our cruise was over, but there is always next year and the eastern Mediterranean Sea!

I sure had a great time. I can't wait to go again. Thanks for reading our blog everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Loved the pics from the cruise! Glad you had a good time. I think I'm going to book a cruise next year for me and the boys. They've been bugging me to take them back on the Disney boat. We are going back to Disney this August.
    We miss you! We miss not having someone to go out to lunch or dinner with!
    Take care,


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