a fuller life

adventures… eats… laughs… life

12 Day Grand Mediterranean on the Carnival Dream (plus Rome)

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1Day 1: En route to Rome – Having been swamped just about up to the minute we left on this one, I didn’t really have time to get excited about it… I was in the workshop making candles in the morning… I didn’t pack until an hour before I left for the airport… my body decided to switch to Italy’s time zone a couple of days in advance, without checking with me if it was ok… so by the time I got to Toronto, I was pretty much wrecked already… flight from here to there was uneventful… there’s nothing better than the seat beside the toilet on a small plane… ew … at least I had a delicious Ferris best ever veggie sammie en route… and some tasty seed cookies… (this is me delaying the eating of shitty airport food – a mission that was successful until Rome on the way home)

2Nic and Deb were in the ghetto part of the airport waiting for me in Toronto… they had already seen Anna and Margaret off on their flight and there was still several more hours to kill… flight from TO to Rome was also uneventful… I slept for as much of it as I possibly could… was stuck between an Italian man who seemed nice enough and a little Asian lady with incredibly pointy elbows…got to Rome late morning… Rome has the DIRTIEST airport I have ever been in… cab to hotel was also uneventful (about 40€ with luggage for 3 of us)… checked in… waited for Anna and Margaret to arrive (they left first from Toronto but were longer in transit)… Sheraton Roma was fine… it’s not near anything, but for the price it was a good deal… 50€ a piece for the night… they had a 3€ shuttle to some semblance of Rome’s city center, so that worked out fine …3

Spent the afternoon exploring Palentine Hill and the Roman Forum on our own Friday … according to Roman mythology, this was the place where Remus and Romulus were found by the she-wolf… it’s one of the most ancient parts of the city and it looks down on the Forum on one side and the Circus Maximus (currently a big empty field) on the other… we only sort of knew that Palentine Hill and the Forum were together… apparently the oldest structures of Rome are in the Forum… instead of them just being pretty piles of old rocks 🙂 Although I couldn’t identify a single one of them, and don’t really like tour/audio guides, apparently there’s remains of several temples, basilicas, and arches in there… we didn’t get to see the whole thing since we had to start heading up to the Spanish Steps and we were starving… scarfed down some pasta at a cafeteria style place on route to meet our twilight tour at the Spanish Steps…

4Twilight tour was with a company called Through Eternity… our guide was Justin Southern from Alabama… I didn’t really expect to have an American as a guide of a tour of Rome, but it was fine… he had a good sense of humour, the tour was quite good, and he kept going past the 3 hours since he had other things he wanted to show us… there was much talk of Bernini and Borromini… the group was small and everyone could keep up a decent pace… there was no annoying guy asking mass quantities of stupid questions (there is a such thing as stupid questions… one doesn’t really need to know the longitude and latitude of all of their current locations (remember the FPs Greg?!?)) … saw the Spanish Steps (built by the French), tried amazing honey flavoured gelato (and lemon, my favorite) at San Crispino, visited Trevi fountain (nice, but would have rathered to see this during the day…preferably in the wee hours of the morning before the tourists are out in full force… and yes, I know I am technically a tourist as well… … something something three roads junction…5 something something aqueduct… something something throw money), walked through some square where they were protesting by sticking candles in the cobblestones… had some obelisk (which I have now learned is in Piazza di San Giovanni… it’s the tallest obelisk in Rome, and the largest standing ancient Egyptian obelisk in the world… brought over (likely stolen) from the temple of Amun in Kamak…) through to the Pantheon (again, a site I would have rather seen during the day… originally a temple to the gods of ancient Rome and we didn’t get to see the oculus)… Piazza Navona (Baroque-land… has a cool Borromini/Rainaldi fountain, again with obelisk), and Torre Argentina (which is currently a cat sanctuary)… then back to the hotel for passing out…

6Everyone who knows me knows that I can’t look and listen at the same time, and looking always wins…the lights, colors, and angles… and especially people distract me every time… I can look up the history later, or make it up if I need to… so anything that sounds historical here is stolen from Wikipedia… if I were describing the tour, it would be the interesting people I saw, doorways, gelato, and trying to get a decent picture at night without a tripod… Anyways, it was a nice tour and Justin was quite a good guide

Nic, Deb, and I ventured out the next morning to check out the Colosseum before heading to Civitavecchia to catch the ship… en route, we also checked out the Vittorio Emmanuele monument (and it was early enough that no douchey guys dressed up like Romans were about yet … first king of unified Italy… lots of white marble), Capitoline Hill (now a museum I believe, but the piazza was designed by Michelangelo), and a higher up view of the forum… the Colosseum was interesting (I love things with open areas in stone walls and stuff), though I’m quite sure someone somewhere mentioned something about it having been extensively rebuilt and only about 30% of it is actually original… who knows… (Canada is only a couple of 7hundred years old or something, so I’ll take it) … Wikipedia tells me that it’s estimated that 500,000 people and over a million wild animals died at the Colosseum games… arg … less interesting is that building started between 70 and 72 AD and that it was the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire.., we spent a few minutes drinking water and admiring the Arc of Constantine as well…

We saw loads of other things, but I’m too lazy to dig up the names or try and find them on maps etc etc… I specifically liked a building near where our shuttle dropped us off that seems to have some random pillars sticking out of the side of a brick wall… just to the left of Teatro di Marcello (built just before the Roman Empire) if you were walking away from Piazza Venezia… I wasn’t the navigator 🙂 See pictures instead …

Day 2: Rome to Civitavecchia – Around 1pm we were loaded on the buses and headed on our drive to Civitavecchia… someone from a CC group of the cruise arranged the transfer (through RomeInLimo), and since we happened to be at the same hotel… that worked out perfect. It cost us 24€ a piece and the drive was an hour-ish I would say. (Thanks Tricee/Mel for doing that up)… Not much to look at on the drive and it was pretty uneventful. People perked up for a few mins when we could see the ship in the 8distance… and it was pretty huge looking… Possibly the other bus was more lively than us… Embarkation for this cruise was the easiest I’ve ever experienced (this was my 3rd Carnival cruise) and I could never have even imagined it would go so smoothly. We were off the bus and on the ship within 30 minutes at the very most. We had to fill out the do you have a cough/sneeze paper and that was pretty much it. Our room was ready already, Nic’s luggage was at the door within the hour, and mine was in the room within 2.

I had a balcony cabin on the Legend and the Freedom, so the inside cabin was new to me. Nic and I are light packers, so there was scads of room for all of our stuff, and we didn’t ever feel cluttered or like the room was too small for both of us. We’re both also neat, which helps. Except that it was missing the balcony and the couch, it was pretty 9much the same as any other room I’ve been in. The paintings are ugly… but who cares right 🙂 An inside cabin really messes with your internal clock, and it became a recurring joke that I would turn on the tv to the webcam first thing in the morning so we could look out the window. We didn’t spend much time in our cabin, so it was fine really.

After dumping off our luggage, we had to wander off to look around of course. The ship is huge, but the layout was almost identical to the Freedom, so I didn’t have any problems finding how to get to places for the most part… and I’m quite sure that by the end we saw just about every inch of that ship that was open to the public, and maybe even a couple of locations that probably weren’t. Occasionally I had to read the even/odd signs to see which side my cabin was on.

10Lunch at Lido was what you would expect… food was fine, people are wasteful, generally rude to other passengers and/or the wait staff, and cannot for some reason grasp the concept of queuing… I hate the Lido buffet area, so I tend to avoid it as much as possible when cruising. The pasta bar was a nice change and we had lunch there the first day. They give you a number to put on your table, and you fill out a little checklist of the type of pasta/fixings and then someone brings it to you. There’s a salad station up there as well, but we never bothered with it. After lunch, more wandering, then unpacking, and then off to the muster drill. After the drill on the Freedom (which took about 90 minutes at least in the sweltering heat while packed like sardines), this was a nice change as well. If the ship were ever to experience an emergency, sheer chaos would ensue, but it was nice to not have to carry the lifejacket and stand around. I felt bad for the crew that was trying to manage muster 11though, since no one was listening and several people tried to leave. Ours was in the Crimson dining room. It lasted maybe 30 minutes, which included announcements being read in French, Japanese, and Russian. It was quite nice to have a mix of passengers from various places instead of having them be mostly American as well… we were hoping this would be the case since the ship was sailing from a European port, so I’m glad it actually was.

Spent some time in the atrium bar in the afternoon (this was a favorite hangout on the Legend, but that didn’t end up holding true on the Dream)… the music that was played there was not my style (I’m in my early 30’s, so Big Band music, etc doesn’t do it for me… and every time I passed by, there some girl was butchering Linger by the Cranberries)… Stela at that bar was excellent though 🙂

12We had late seating dinner in the Burgundy dining room… table 540 (for 6) with Martina from the Czech Republic and I Gede from Indonesia. We’ve always had excellent servers, but these two were amazing… I’ve never had better service in my life… both of them were fun and friendly… Martina learned our names the first night and used them every time she saw us from then on out. I didn’t take pictures of what we ate, nor do I remember what all the meals were… but everything was fine. I don’t eat food with chemicals in real life, and eat mostly organic, and my system didn’t rebel at this food, so it was good enough for me. We didn’t have any problems with our food not being hot enough or anything like that. There was small issue of a wee green worm walking across Nic’s crème brule bowl the first night, but that was more funny than anything. Martina and I Gede were mortified, and the look on I Gede’s face was absolutely priceless. The assistant maitre’d for the lower level came 13over to make sure everything was ok, and offered Nicole a bottle of wine and asked if there was anything he could do. She refused (part of why I love her) and we all had a good laugh. We contemplated trying to find some fake bugs to put in our food as a joke the next night but couldn’t be bothered to actually look.

Historically, I dislike the shows… sometimes the comedians are ok… and I was prepared to skip all of everything this time if the piano bar was ok (it was so horrible I rathered sleep on the Legend, and it was a lot more fun on the Freedom)… so I was hoping for good things on this one (I’m writing this without caper papers, so days might get confused, but there was nothing going on on the ship the first night for the most part)… after dinner we checked out the piano bar to find Damian Brell fending off a group of Canadians from Alberta requesting Journey. ARG!!! And much to my everlasting pleasure, Damian didn’t play any Journey. He’s amazingly talented, his dry sense of humour is brill, and his original music is definitely worth a listen (his first album is called Haiku Troubadour… check it out on iTunes or something). AND he shot down numerous shitty requests, which was a nice change as well. I know tips are a big part of that job, but I would rather someone not play a song that doesn’t suit their voice than try 14and give it a go for a $1. So we’d found our hangout for the rest of the cruise. That was easy 🙂 This was probably the earliest we called it a night… still wrecked from travel and Rome.

Day 3: Naples, Italy – Woke up from a weird dream that I can’t even remember now that coined the phrase “boyfriend for marrying” that Nic and I kept for the rest of the trip… This is the day we decided we were lucky and put some serious thought into visiting the casino since everything had been going so smoothly. I also wished this was a sea day, but I got over it. We booked a private tour with Francesco Marrapese (500€ for 6 people for the entire time we were in the port)… leaving the ship in Naples was a breeze… there was no line to get off (exit near Atrium bar this port) and we were out of the building and finding our driver within minutes. Found Francesco easy peasy and off we went (Me, Nic, Deb and Frank and Elaine who we found via CC)… Francesco certainly wasn’t hard on the eyes, and Nic15 was quite happy when her prayers were answered and he was actually our guide and not just the guy leading us to the vehicle)… we drove along the Amalfi Coast, stopping here and there for pictures en route to Positano… Positano is beautiful, but obviously quite overrun with tourists most of the time… we were in the off season technically, so the crowd wasn’t too bad… and the tour buses couldn’t get as far down into the town as our van could, so it was a nice break from the crowds… there’s TONS of stores there, and that’s not something I’m interested in… we had a tasty cappuccino at one of the bakeries (thanks Deb) and wandered around… there was some beautiful tile work on the wall by the church of Santa Maria Assunta (yes, I had to google that because I don’t pay attention to the names of anything when I travel… you all know that already)… and we went down on the beach… Francesco even pointed out references from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, including where they took some 17creative liberties in showing places in relation to other places and driving the wrong way on some of the streets)… Positano is known for ceramics and clothing (both of which are too tacky for me in that specific location)… and limoncello…which I didn’t actually try now that I think of it… the streets are incredibly narrow, and you can see marks along the sides of several buildings where buses and cars have scraped along the walls as they turned….

From Positano we travelled back along the crazy windy roads to Sorrento… essentially we went there to have lunch, but we had some time to look around. Sorrento is for shopping (at least the part of it we saw). I don’t shop really, so I was ready to leave that area within minutes. But we walked down one shopping street (closed to cars that day… maybe because it was a Sunday… I don’t remember) and back up the other side. I bought nothing…. Took a few pictures… there was a neat bag shop, but again I’m not a shopper… and I don’t remember the name of it… We didn’t go in many of the stores in general… We had lunch at La Basilica, a restaurant/pizzeria that was down an alley way from the main traffic area… there weren’t any more tables outside when we got there, so they just went inside and got one for us… I had some delicious ravioli… Deb and Nic had pizza… everything was delicious. After that, back to the van and off to Pompei…18

Pompei (a village destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius – 79AD) was interesting, but unless you really like ruins/have all day/ know the history/can put up with a tour guide, it gets repetitive… again, we didn’t bother we a guide or audio guide etc (note the trend) and just wandered around. It’s much more fun when you can just guess what stuff used to be… I have a hyperactive imagination, so I can amuse myself anywhere really… In looking at a map with some information right now, I’m pretty impressed we were actually right about what a couple of places were. The Temple of Apollo was one of the places we pegged as a temple… the temple of Vespasian was another… we deemed a couple of places as pubs as well 🙂 … this site has a good guide of what everything was (http://www.thecolefamily.com/italy/pompeii/) … so I’ll read through it and match it up to pictures at some point… we were there for about 2 hours and saw lots, but likely didn’t make a real dent in the site… some bitchy lady rudely 16asked Nic to get out of the way out her picture… and though we weren’t with Margaret and Anna (they were on a ship tour)… apparently some German guy forcefully removed Anna from a picture… I’m all about taking pictures, but holy… calm down folks… the ruins aren’t going anywhere… the casts of the inhabitants are creepy and depressing… back to the ship after this

We went to the Welcome Aboard show … again, I don’t generally like the shows… but I went to this one with everyone… the staged conversation between Todd and one of the comedians was fine… the rest I could have done without…. Not much else to report for this day…

Day 4: Sea Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love sea days! Nic and I explored every floor of the ship to get a better idea of where everything was this day… and after that we could pretty much get anywhere without making wrong turns. The Serenity deck for adults only is a nice addition, though there didn’t seem to be that many kids actually on this sailing. I think we played some trivia or something this day… hate!!! People take it way too seriously… and that was the end of that. There’s a new drink menu (well, there’s some new drinks… including the Mocha Chocolate Getaway (Brogan’s Irish Cream, Rum and 19chocolate and ice… delish… but you could never drink more than one because you’d be ridiculously full)… Breakfasts on Lido were the only horrible experience of the entire cruise for me… and it was horrible EVERY DAY!!! Too crowded, people butting in line, people complaining about bacon… I don’t get what the big deal is about bacon, but there’s always someone complaining about it. We never did make it to the dining room for breakfast though, even though we planned to on more than on occasion. I don’t actually remember what all we did this day… that’s the beauty of sea days …

After dinner, piano bar (note another trend)… there was a crowd in the piano bar that was the same pretty much every night, and then random folks that came and went… there was some general rudeness with a woman from California dogging Damian frequently on his sexual preferences (none of our business, who cares, shut up and stop being an asshole, let him play) and most were happy when she stopped coming… the Australians and Kiwis were an energetic (and sometimes annoying – specifically the bunch of 50something ladies from Tasmania – who wanted to spend all night long flirting with Damian when he wasn’t playing and talking over top of him when he was)… the Irish man and his Dutch wife who now live in California were wonderful… there was lots of Bowie being played, which was fine with me… though I did get tired of China Girl towards the end… Let’s 20Dance on the piano rocks though… I’m not a huge fan of “American Pie”, so if I don’t hear that for a long time, that would be fine with me… ditto for Piano Man… let’s try being creative folks! He did play “The Man Who Sold the World”, and that was a highlight for me… Mira and Octavius in the piano bar were AMAZING!!!! Love them…

OH! And today was the CC Meet & Greet for the back of the bus group… this is the first time I actually bothered to go to one of these… I’m not the least bit shy, but I can tend to be antisocial sometimes… so we went for about 30 mins, I met some people I hadn’t already met… Nic and Deb didn’t know anyone, and then we left… we had a date with the tandori station we needed to make… but I did meet several of them over the 12 days, with most of them being perfectly lovely people that I’ll be happy to keep in touch with. This might have been elegant night/captain’s reception – I hate them so they are not important to me… there was two on this sailing (I think the second was the sea day after Sicily, with past guest party that I also skipped)22

Day 5: Dubrovnik, Croatia – So this was the port that sold me on the cruise… yes, I know…that’s not normal… but I’ve been to the Czech Republic and Slovakia etc and was so close before and didn’t get here… Nic and I were off the ship early (we had room service breakfast for this one… blah …)… we took the Carnival shuttle (7€ or 10USD round trip… it’s a couple of minutes walking to the Pile Gate from here… if you have stair climbing issues and like to take them in smaller batches to get up on the wall, there’s less at the entrance on the other side of the old city… and keep your ticket, they check randomly on the walls to be sure you have one) and after this we stopped listening to Todd about how far it was to walk to certain places because we’re obviously not the demographic he’s timing things with… We immediately climbed up the walls
21(8€ or something like that) and walked around… it was still early and there was no real traffic up there yet… it took us a couple of hours to do the entire wall, but we stopped and looked at everything, chatted with a few folks here and there, and just took some time to enjoy the view… then we headed back down and over to Café Buza… it’s built into the side of a cliff… it doesn’t have running water, so it doesn’t serve anything but cold drinks (hence the cold drinks sign)… we took the harder/more stairs way to just about everywhere we went in Dubrovnik, which was pretty energizing… sat around enjoying some local beer (Ozujsko) and watching the local kids jump off the rocks into the water… and then we wandered around some more… we avoided the main shopping street (Stradun – another trend) and explored… we took some time to just relax and people watch in the marina as well… bought some soap for Ferris from a local soapmaker… watched some kids playing soccer… wandered outside the walls on the other side… and then back to the ship… I thought we would be off the ship as long as possible on this one, but we came back, had a sandwich and read on Serenity deck for a while instead… nothing to report from dinner… went to piano bar after that …23

Day 6 & 7: Venice, Italy – we got into Venice earlier than expected (we were supposed to be able to leave the ship starting at 2 and were able to leave starting at 12:30… the CD Todd gave us some information on what we were passing as we sailed in through the Canale della Giudecca … it was a bit foggy as we came in, but it started to lift … we had lunch before leaving… we walked to Piazzale Roma to buy a vaporetto pass (18€ for 24 hours) so we could come and go as we pleased… at this point I was tired enough of people not being able to queue that I had to say something and very politely told the lady that thought she could skip the giant line to ask a question that I was next and that she could wait at the back of the line with everyone else… Nic said someone cheered for me, and the Italian lady at the window gave me a little smile, but that wasn’t the point… Nic and I took a vaporetto to Murano, keeping an eye on where things were along the way… we wandered around Murano for a couple of hours (they are known for glass), and I bought a few gifts for people… some of the work there is AMAZING… and some quite tacky and obviously geared towards tourists (yes, yes, I know I am a tourist in these places too) … the signs on some of the windows about Chinese glass killing 24Murano were interesting… took the direct Murano to Piazzale Roma route back and went back to the ship (the walk to the dock from there is about 15 mins… Carnival has a shuttle)… had dinner on the ship and met Marie France, who is friends with Nic and Deb and had missed the first 5 days and was just getting on the ship in Venice… wandered back into Venice after dinner… Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) was nice at night and it wasn’t crazy crowded… and there’s no pigeons at night!! A couple of the restaurants had classical musicians playing… everyone was tired so we caught a midnight vaporetto back… which worked fine for me since I wanted to get out early in the morning when the light is good and people aren’t around…25

Nic and I were into Venice again early in the morning and headed immediately to Rialto to check out the fresh produce market… it was really interesting watching how they transported everything and lifted it off the boats and stuff… and I love markets… everything looked so fresh and tasty… though there were some fruits I didn’t recognize at all… I have a love/hate relationship with graffiti… I like the real colourful stuff that looks like art, but I’m not crazy about tagging something for the sake of tagging… and there was no shortage of graffiti everywhere we went… including the rialto bridge being covered in it… I can’t even begin to list all the stuff we covered in Venice since we just spent hours wandering around alleys and stuff… we saw the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, people testing new gondolas in the water, garbage removal, construction… tried some pastry… some other squares with fish markets… neat statues… Campo Santa Margherita… we had a guide book and didn’t really use it… we never did manage to get lost though… we went to the public garden and walked from there back up to Piazza San Marco in the daylight via alleys (too crowded, we didn’t go into any of the buildings) to meet Deb and Marie France… then we headed back to the ship and they checked out Murano. It was foggy most of the day and it just started to clear as we were on the 26vaporetto back to the ship… had a nap and watched sailaway on the tv while doing some stuff in our cabin … dinner and piano bar again after that… what can I say, sometimes I am a creature of habit and I know what I like

Deb and Marie France stayed up late with us this night, and there were drinks consumed… so much so that somehow horses got caught in the speakers in the piano bar and they needed to be freed… we even went into Caliente (dance club… not very busy late at night)… and then we had to show Deb the horsey room… long story, funnier if you were there27

Day 8: Sea Day!! Have I mentioned I love sea days…. Obviously we picked this cruise for all of the amazing ports… and we got a sweet deal on it… but I love sea days… slept in, had shitty breakfast on Lido, read on Serenity, wandered around the ship, ate dinner, went to piano bar… it was a wonderful day … I think this was the cabin crawl day as well… got to see how the other half lived, won 5€ for being part of the team with the shittiest poker hand

28Day 9: Sicily – We docked in Messina, and we had been warned that Messina would pretty much be shut down to celebrate the lives of those who had died in the mudslides that had occurred the previous week. Not great for those who planned to stay in Messina (there’s nothing in Messina FYI). We had booked a private driver again, this time through Unique Costiera (300€ for 6 people for the entire time we were in port again)… we immediately left Messina heading towards Mt. Etna… we stopped at a couple of places along the way (once to see a church… snore) and then once to get a better view of where we were… we didn’t go to the top of the volcano… it was a bit touristy up there so we didn’t stay all that long… nice views though, walked around Silvestri crater… interesting to see where all the lava flows have been over the years… our guide was James (a Brit that’s been living in Italy for ages) and our driver was Francesco (like I said, we were collecting them)… next stop, Gambino winery (12€ each for a wine tasting, and loads of tasty treats… olives, artichokes, cheeses, bread, mushrooms, 29sundried tomatoes, etc)… there was much wine and delicious food consumed (though not so much the wine by me)… I don’t like wine, but if you’re going to try it again, Italy seemed like a decent place to give it a go… I still don’t like it, but I did try 5 different ones… (with no problem finding someone to finish my glasses of it)… the wine flavoured cheese was also not for me (POISON!!) … the winery was beautiful… I love them even though I don’t drink wine… we got a little tour of how the place runs, got to go out and see the grapes… all in all, a very nice day… and then we spent the rest of the day in Savoca before heading back to the port… this was my favorite stop of the day… it was an almost deserted little town where very likely we were the only English speakers… photographically, the light was AMAZING by this point in the afternoon and we wandered up the hill to an old church … apparently the wedding scene from one of the godfather movies was shot there, though I’ve never seen any of the movies (they’re on my list of things to do)… this company wasn’t super great about answering emails, but I would still recommend them… our guide and driver were great and we had a great tour …. We gathered on deck 5 mid evening as we were supposed to pass Stromboli volcano and the ship was supposed to stop…and it did stop, but earlier, so we could wait for some jerks who missed the ship… and the volcano stop was during our dinner… so we 32missed it (Melissa was nice enough to tell us about it, so we have that at least)

Day 10: Sea Day!! I celebrated my sea day in typical sea day fashion 🙂 This one was quite windy though, so I didn’t spend as much of it on the deck reading as I normally would have… did some writing in the piano bar in the afternoon when it was empty… drank some coffee… piano bar until the wee hours of the morning again…

Day 11: Barcelona, Spain – I friggin’ loved Barcelona. I had no idea what to expect here, but I loved it. I think at this point I was tired of Italian architecture and so this was a refreshing change… we took the Carnival shuttle (5€ round 30trip) to what seemed like 5 minutes away from where we docked, though it likely was further…(FYI: the port has its own shuttle for 2€)… then we caught a HOHO bus (21€ for 24 hours or something like that) near the monument to Christopher Columbus… we did the entire blue route and stayed on… then we walked up La Rambla (street entertainers are intriguing, outdoor pet shops were neat, but too crowded) and then caught the red line… got off at Sagrada Familia… amazing… I can’t even describe it… we didn’t go inside since the lines were fall too long… caved to North Americanism and had a Starbucks coffee (the coffee on the ship is shit… there’s no phrasing that any more delicately… it’s shit… )…. This is a place I will return to… the Picasso museum was closed because it was a Monday…and most everything else was closed because it was a holiday… desperately would like to get to the Gaudi museum as well… and several other things… we did see some of his works en route… La 31Pedrera looked amazing from the outside… time flew in this port and we were pretty much back just in time to get on the ship before leaving… I took my favorite photo of the trip here, and it was of a pigeon in a fountain… which I know I could have taken anywhere, but I LOVE it…

We had rough seas leaving Barcelona, and during dinner Todd came on and was making some kind of announcement… mostly it just sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown, but the gist of it was… next stop, Monaco, I mean Genoa, I mean Sea Day… YAY!!! So we stayed up all night and had a lovely time… took some interesting pictures of the ship while no one else was around, visited the upper decks to get whipped around the wind, etc etc… went to bed in time for breakfast

Day 12: The Sea Day formerly known as Monaco – So yes, I felt bad that we didn’t stop (for about 2 minutes), and I felt bad for people who had made plans to do this and that… we were going to go to France and maybe wander Monaco/Monte Carlo for a bit… but I do not care about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous… so if we were going to miss a port… this was the port to miss in my opinion 33(sorry for those who are still mad about this, but a) you can’t control the weather, so you just make your fun some other way and b) just because I really wanted another sea day doesn’t specifically make this event my fault, and c) now you have an excuse to do the same run again when the Magic comes out in 2011… really, I did you a favour)… anyways… we slept in until afternoon, buggered around the ship for the day, went to dinner, went to piano bar, etc.

Day 13 – Livorno, Italy – Last port day… BOO!!! We had a tour booked in this port as well (through Papillon Service – 75€ each for 8 people, whole time we were in port again) and we were met at the port by our driver Roberto. We went on this tour with Teri and Chuck from Atlanta – super nice folks… Since our tickets to climb the tower in Pisa were in the afternoon, we headed through Tuscany (beautiful) to Florence first… we stopped at San Miniato, an old church on a hill overlooking the city…. that was a beautiful church… the light in there was amazing… but I still have had enough of churches… they we went down into Florence… we saw the usual sites… Santa Croce church, Piazza della Signoria with all the el fako statues (the copy of the David is here)… Il Duomo, the Baptistery, and the Campinile… all too crowded and I don’t like the white marble 34churches as much, Ponte Vecchio, that crosses the Arno River with all the tacky stores in it (we didn’t look, apparently uber expensive)… we didn’t have time to go into Academia or the Uffizi, so those will have to be for another trip… had some gelato, didn’t shop (Florence is for shopping)… Roberto dropped us to the Osteria “De Pazzi” for lunch… delish… I had some noodles and mushrooms in oil… YUM!!!

After that, it was a quiet drive to Pisa… everyone was exhausted, and I’m quite several of us just napped on the way there… Roberto veered off the direct route to Pisa for a second to show us a church in Pisa with a tower with more of a lean to it (and I think there’s a church in Germany that leans more than Pisa anyways)… and then off to the tower… Pisa is a nice city… there’s a big university there with some notable people having taught there (maybe Galileo or something, I was only half 36listening)… grabbed the tickets and climbed the tower… the first little bit of the climb was a pain (there’s about 300 steps) since I had incredibly slow movers in front of me… but once they stopped for a break, I ran up the rest of the way and was pretty damn impressed with myself. The view from the top was nice since there was some crazy dark clouds coming through on one side and it was super clear on the other side… and much like everything else we saw, the tower had scaffolding on it… the rest of that area was fine too… we didn’t spend much time taking pictures, and didn’t really bother with the pictures of people trying to hold up or push down the tower… then back to the ship… packed before dinner, had a sad goodbye dinner with Martina and I Gede, and Damian wasn’t playing in the piano bar that night, so we just hung around and drank (had to visit Mira and 35Octavius) and went to bed later out of sheer boredom (around 3)…

Day 14: Back to Rome – Disembarkation was a bit of a fiasco… nothing like how smooth everything else had been on the sailing… we were in the last group to be called, which was fine with us since our driver wasn’t coming until 8:30 (12 of us were going to the Sheraton Roma… driver was through RomeInLimo, 22€ each) … Todd started calling people to get off the ship at 6am… we expected that… annoying, but whatever… so they called groups through by number in a very organized manner until they got through the last of the people that had stuff booked with Carnival (tranfers, tours of Rome, whatever), and then it was pretty much a “everyone else off the ship call”… so that resulted in a bit of a mess… found our luggage outside no problem… snuck through a door for Carnival tours so we didn’t have to wait in the big line to get out… found our driver ONLY because Michelle was standing beside the van (apparently guarding the luggage)… the driver was on the phone, and Paul was holding up a sign in the front since the driver was useless… We used RomeInLimo three times over the span of the cruise and this is the only time it was a problem, so I wouldn’t not recommend them, but this driver was HORRIBLE… he spent the whole drive back to Rome talking on multiple cell phones, and Michelle was 37telling me later that he kept turning the radio up if people started to talk too loud… I slept so I didn’t really notice… we were to the hotel by 10am, so we couldn’t check in yet… so we left our luggage, got the hotel shuttle at 11, showed Marie France the Colosseum since she missed the first part of the trip in Rome, and caught the Metro to the Vatican… we had a tour booked…

So, the Vatican… I’m pretty much completely against organized religion (catholicism being one of the biggest murderers in history and all that), so I was torn about this from the start… for the longest time I planned not to go and would meet up with everyone later if they wanted to… but I decided I would just suck it up and go… try and keep my brain turned off the entire time, and just admire the pretty art and all that… we booked this “skip the line” tour with Viator… and while generally they get good reviews, I am giving them two thumbs down (and if I had more thumbs, they would get more thumbs down than two)… we met at this newspaper stand where we had to pay another 20€ for the Vatican Museum part of the tour (which we all understood to be optional) on top of the $40 something USD we had already paid… so essentially we paid to have a boring blond girl with public speaking issues from Detroit point out things created by Michelangelo to us…. Nic and I had successfully avoided the use of those stupid little audio things the entire cruise, 38so I was pretty disgusted to get stuck with one there… so the first HOUR of our 3 hour tour was having things handed out to us, walking down the street to the entrance to the Vatican Museum, and waiting for everyone to go pee… I hate tours! Once we finally got started, the guide stopped to get a drink and left everyone standing around (and at this point we had all noticed that the tickets we were charged 20€ for had only cost 14€)… she was without question the worst tour guide ever (even worse than the lady in Japan who did the whole tour with her eyes shut and who only knew 2 stories)… if I could remember her name, I would tell everyone to avoid her like the plague, but the best I can do was blond and from Detroit (I know many Italians speak English, so why we kept getting American guides is beyond me)….39

So anyways, I was tired of waiting around for people and listening to her, so I ditched the audio thing and just kind of left the tour within eye sight for the most part… that way I could at least get some enjoyment out of the tour… there are some amazing pieces in there, but it annoys me to no end that the Vatican is hording all that art (not to mention the stockpiles of gold)… and for the most part, a lot of it is in pristine condition, which means (to me anyway) that it was likely stolen from wherever it was originally by the Catholic church… and so the main part of the tour is supposed to be seeing the Sistine Chapel, and our guide had said she planned to spend about 10 minutes there… not cool… so ditching the tour completely was the way to go… Nic came along as well… the chapel was amazing, but there were SO MANY people in there it wasn’t worth lingering for long… and then we took a wrong door… and Nic and I got to see a section of the museum that none of the rest of the tour didn’t… and we waited for them at the exit… just not the right one… so after relaxing for a while, we want back through and out the other door that takes you outside to St. Peter’s and the square and that… so we missed visiting the church since we decided to try and find the other people we were travelling with instead… no big deal, I was all churched out… so we went and hung out by the obelisk in the middle thinking that was a good place to wait for people… that worked, since eventually the other 4 came strolling by 40us… but they didn’t notice us and all, so we followed them for a bit, trying not to crack up laughing, and listening to them try and figure out what they should do since we were missing 🙂 eventually they noticed us… went to dinner after that at a place called Ristro just down the main street from the square… food was fine, nothing exciting… had some pizza with buffalo mozzarella and basil… two of the group went back to the hotel after that, and the rest of us walked around some more… I wanted to go back up to the square by the Vatican since we didn’t spend much time there to take some pictures… then off to Castel Sant’Angelo (I would have rathered to see this during the day, but people wanted to eat and I was too lazy to bother arguing at this point in the trip)… so I got to see Bernini’s angels, but it was too dark (I travel tripodless) to really take pictures of any of them)… walked along the river and went to Piazza del Popolo (I wanted to see the pink obelisk)… another one likely stolen from Heliopolis… then we traced our steps back to show Marie France some of the stuff we had seen at the start of the trip (Spanish Steps, gelato, Trevi fountain)… caught the bus back to the hotel and called it a trip41

Day 15: In transit… we had RomeInLimo pick us up and take us to FCO (70€ for 6 people and luggage)… checked in with Swiss Air… lingered around the INCREDIBLY disgusting Rome airport… flew to Switzerland… some people got questioned at passport control there since when we arrived in Italy, none of our passports got stamped (interesting system)… bought some chocolate… flew to Montreal… uneventful flight, though I did manage to get an emergency seat, which was pretty sweet… waited around the Montreal airport for like 5 hours, flew home… got in around 11:30pm (after 23 hours in transit)… the end

So, here’s my general musings and rants about the trip that don’t fit into any specific day… though I am a tourist in these places, I generally dislike tourists… I suspect this is mainly from not wanting people in my pictures, unless I am specifically taking pictures of people… and they are loud… and frequently rude… and assume that everyone should know English… how hard is it to try and pick up a few general words and phrases from a country you plan to visit… I hate when people assume 42the whole world works in US dollars… there’s a pretty big world out there that isn’t the US… and while I know and like tons of Americans (to all my new American friends, this is me excluding you from my rant), I found several of them bothered me more on this trip than they have on any other before (Canadians also hate being assumed to be American, which doesn’t help)… I don’t hate Americans, honest… there were other people bothering me too… and likely I bothered someone or another at some point as well 🙂

October is an excellent time to visit all of these places… the weather was AMAZING the whole time… didn’t see a drop of rain and barely even a cloud… I wouldn’t be able to handle the heat in these places in the summer, and I suspect the sailing following ours had cooler weather since it started to cool down for us the last two days we were 43there… apparently this time of year it’s less crowded as well… it’s still pretty crowded in a lot of these places, but not like it would be in the summer…

I liked the ship… it seemed less tacky… and while the decor doesn’t really sway me one way or another, I just liked this one better… they were still working out the bugs here and there, but it didn’t ever really impact me… our room steward Ratcheneewan was great… all of the staff on the ship we dealt with were great… the CD and their staff never really matters to be, but I had been on the Freedom in the spring, so I was already familiar with Todd, James, and some of the others… their morning show was like a train wreck, but sometimes you couldn’t turn it off.. Mark had been on the Legend in January, and his story about being a skating chipmunk for EuroDisney cracks me up every time… We don’t really participate in the events (we like to make our own fun), so whatever they do is fine… I really liked the new Ocean Plaza on the ship, and I like the efforts that were made to make the ship more smokefree… it was nice being able to walk through the casino without smelling smoke, since it’s a pretty major walkway… I loved being able to walk 44around deck 5 all the way outside… Nic and I did that most every night before dinner (it also served as a hair dryer lol, since the Carnival ones suck)…Getting on and off the ship was easier than it’s been on every cruise… especially on port days… we never had to wait… I liked having a port overnight… I didn’t care for a lot of the entertainment… it’s too “old” for me… I didn’t use the casino, shop in the store, visit the supper club, book any Carnival excursions, use the gym or the spa… so I can’t comment on any of those things… I don’t lie out in the sun and bake either, but it seems like this ship will do fine in the Caribbean… I also didn’t use the pools or hot tubs, but the hot tubs that hang out over the side of the ship are interesting… You may have noticed that every night we were in the piano bar, so if there was stuff going on, we pretty much didn’t catch it… great place for people watching, great music, much drama to watch from afar, more fun if you were there than me trying to explain it… I DID NOT enjoy the singing Maitre’D in the dinning room, though I am sure Ken is a perfectly lovely person. It was hard to hear your tablemates to begin with. Some of the dancing the wait staff did was cute, but it was the same as the Freedom pretty much. I think it was only fun because Martina and I Gede seemed to actually enjoy it a lot.45

I’d definitely cruise Carnival again (but if it doesn’t pull some ships out of the Caribbean and visit some more new and interesting places, I’ll have a hard time sticking with them and will go back to land travel before I get all lazy 🙂

So anyways, there’s my long-winded version of this trip… for those who stuck through the whole thing, good going… when I finally do something with all the half-written novels on my computer, you can say I remember when I used to read her ranty travel blogs…

Now to decide where to go next 🙂

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