Cheryl Scremin | Flight Centre Independent | Home Based Travel Agent
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Cheryl Scremin

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Posted on: Thursday July 27, 2017
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MEDITERRANEAN CRUISING

PART1: ROME, POMPEII & DUBROVNIK
In September 2006 my husband and I took a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on the Carnival Liberty out of Rome. I have to say the ship was not my first choice but I got a travel agent rate I couldn’t turn down. Thankfully, the ship and crew were great and we really enjoyed everything about the trip.
September is a great time of year to visit the Med. The crowds are lessened after the summer and the heat isn't quite as unbearable (although we did have some 30C days).
We spent 3 nights in Rome, pre-cruise. After an overnight flight, we arrived at 7am in the morning. (By the way, I highly recommend taking No-Jet-Lag on any trip across the pond. I felt great even though I’d been traveling more than 16 hours and I’m never able to get more than 45 minutes sleep at a time on a plane.) It's a simple process to hop on the Leonardo Express train from Rome airport to the Termini --the main train station in Rome--and our hotel was walking distance from there. After an early check in, we left our bags at the hotel and started exploring the city.
First we made our way to St. Peter's Basilica. It's important to note that a dress code is in effect if you wish to enter most churches in Italy--no bare shoulders or knees. Pictures cannot do justice to the workmanship inside the Basilica and the Vatican, but I will include them anyway.

 
 
The view of St. Peter's Square from the top of the Basilica:
 
Then we took in Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Palatino and the Colosseum. It's so amazing to wander a city and continually come across famous monuments previously seen only in books or movies. It's a very walk able city, but we did take the odd bus to spare our feet.
When riding the transit system in Italy, it's important to know that tickets must be validated when boarding the bus or train. Unlike North American systems, the tickets purchased do not have a date and time so the ticket takes effect once validated. The fines are hefty for travellers caught with invalidated tickets and the transit police check regularly.
Just one of many awesome sites excavated at the Palatino
 
The Colosseum

 

The next day we set off from our hotel on foot for the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. They were very busy and it was impossible to get a picture that didn't have dozens of strangers in the background! From there we visited the Altar of the Nation and the Monument to Vittorio Emmanuel. After a long day of walking the city, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner in a cafe at Piazza Navona. At night local artist's set up their paintings in the square. It took ages to choose the one we wanted--and much haggling with the artist over price--but eventually we settled on an original work depicting a cafe on the Amalfi Coast.
Our last day in the city was spent at the Vatican Museums. The lines can be very long but it is an entertaining wait. There are vendors constantly trying to sell their wares (all displayed on sheets next to the queue) right under the watchful eye of the police, who routinely patrol the area. As soon as they get close, the vendors grab up their sheet of goods and run. There are also beggars but one in particular was most disturbing. A very old lady walking with a cane had one side of her scalp gone! I'm talking completely open, red tissue and all. At first we were all convinced it was a wig or some especially good makeup, but as she passed it was obvious that she had an open head wound! I thought the woman in front of me was going to be physically ill. Interestingly though, despite her seemingly dire situation, the police had no sympathy and escorted her away across the street. Of course, as soon as they weren't looking, back she came!
 
The ceilings and paintings in the Vatican Museums are simply stunning. Without a doubt, it is worth braving the crowds and every minute of the wait to see such awe-inspiring work. It takes hours to go through the museums properly so be sure to allow enough time.

 
 
The next day we checked out of our hotel and headed to the cruise port at Civitavecchia, about an hour and 20 minute train ride from the Termini. The research led me to believe it was a simple process to get there by train--and a fraction of the price of a shuttle--but in fact, with luggage, it can be difficult as one of the stations we transferred at had no elevators! Once we arrived at the port, the cruise lines have shuttles to the ship for about 5 Euros per person. Embarkation was super-quick and literally took about 10 minutes. It was wonderful to sit by the pool and relax after our 3 busy days exploring Rome.
Our first port was the surprisingly ugly city of Naples. I only feel comfortable saying that because our tour guide said it repeatedly and it was true! Apparently there is so much corruption in the city that the inhabitants just build what they want and where, and the authorities turn a blind eye (as long as they are paid to). We had a shore excursion to Mount Vesuvius, a Cameo factory and Pompeii booked. I typically prefer to explore on my own and don't book cruise line excursions unless the port stay is very short, but we thought we'd give this one a try. The excursion itself was excellent and we had a very entertaining guide, but we also had some ignorant people who got back to the bus late at each stop. Honestly, I don't know why the tours don't leave people like that behind. We are plainly told what time we need to be back and it's extremely annoying for the rest of the group to have the last stop--Pompeii--be shortened because of other's inconsideration.

The climb up Vesuvius isn't for the faint of heart. It is steep (in fact they give you walking sticks) and very hot. The view into the crater is worth the effort though, especially when you can see numerous puffs of smoke where the volcano is still active under the surface. I could have totally done without the Cameo factory and had more time to spend at Pompeii. It's an amazing place, if a bit eerie at times. It's quite disturbing to see the frozen bodies, killed instantly in whatever position they were in.




Our next port turned out to be our favourite; the gorgeous walled city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. It's a stunningly beautiful place on Adriatic coast. I never expected to find Caribbean-like beaches in the Mediterranean. The only difference is the water is a bit cooler! We took about 4 hours to walk the ramparts; taking pictures, enjoying the views and listening to the audio guide. Unfortunately, the city was heavily damaged in the Bosnian/Serb war but, as a Unesco World Heritage site, it is gradually being restored to its original state.



 
 
MEDITERRANEAN CRUISING PART 2: VENICE, TAORMINA, BARCELONA, MONACO & FLORENCE
There’s nothing like cruising into a city like Venice on a cruise ship!The views are absolutely stunning.From high up on the sun deck of a ship, it’s very easy to see how much of the city is actually leaning as it sinks.

Ships dock close to the train station, which is also near the vaporetto terminal (vaporettos are the water taxis used to transport the public around Venice).Cruise lines offer their own water taxis to the main tourist area, St. Mark’s Square, for a minimal fee.The one reason not to take the cruise lines’ is missing the opportunity for a romantic boat ride down the Grand Canal (which only the vaporettos do).The cruise port is about a 15 minute walk to the nearest vaporetto station, Piazzale Roma, where the water taxis cruise down the Grand Canal and to St. Marks Square. Or, for walking enthusiasts, it’s a 45min to an hour walk from the cruise port into downtown.Beware though, there are limited bridges that will take you to and from the cruise port and if you get lost—like we did in the dark—it can be difficult to find your way back.We did the walk 3 times, and it can be really enjoyable if you’re taking time to see the sites along the way, or stopping for coffee or gelato in a local shop. Interestingly, in Venice, you pay for your coffee after you drink it!
 
Of course one can’t go to Venice without indulging in a gondola ride, but be prepared for the cost, approximately 80Euros for 40 minutes.They usually seat 6 and you might find yourself sharing with strangers if you don’t negotiate in advance, and most people found—including us—that the ride was not the full 40 minutes.However, it’s hard to pass up the experience.
St. Mark’s Square is the centre of the city with its stunning St. Marks Basilica.When we visited in 2006, the square was overrun with pigeons; many locals had a flourishing business of selling pigeon feed to the tourists.Since 2008, pigeon-feeding is banned, so their presence is somewhat diminished. Another surprise was the water that would periodically come up under the square at high tide!In our case it was manageable, but sometimes it can be inches deep, which requires the hasty addition of temporary walkways to traverse the square.

We took a boat ride to Murano Island, where we marveled at his speed and precision as a master glassmaker fashioned a beautiful vase in minutes flat.Thankfully, it was that fast, as the heat was unbearable in the shop!
After a wonderful 2 days in Venice, our ship headed to the ancient city of Taormina, perched on a mountainside in Sicily.The bus ride was not for the faint of heart, traveling at greater-than-expected speeds up a narrow, winding road!
 
Once there, we visited the ruins of the Ancient Theatre, built in the early 7th century B.C.Amazingly, it is still in use today--for theatre, ballet and symphony productions. We also sampled the world-famous Cannoli--another Taormina claim to fame.
Next, we were in for a rainy day in Barcelona.We had pre-purchased Hop On Hop Off bus tickets, but could not use them as the buses sailed right on by without stopping!It seems they don’t allow standing, so all the buses were “full”, with about 20 people.We eventually gave up and just took the tube to the endlessly-fascinating Church of the Holy Family, or Basilica La Sagrada Familia.Under construction since 1882, it is still incomplete.So many architects have been involved in the process that the church looks completely different on each side.The view from the tower is fabulous; but the steep and windy staircase back down was enough to make me woozy.
Our ship arrived in Cannes on a particularly blustery, rainy day, so the port authorities deemed it too dangerous for the tenders. That meant we were basically hostages on the ship until the waves calmed enough to open the port.When that happened a few hours later, we were frustrated to find out that people who had booked their shore excursions with Carnival got first priority!There was almost a mutiny as many people—including ourselves—had booked outside excursions or had plans for the day on our own.Eventually we found a way off by purchasing a refundable bus ticket (for an exorbitant price), and then took the train to Monte Carlo (for about 12Euros) as we’d originally planned; we turned in our bus tickets for a refund when we got back.I felt a tad guilty doing this but Carnival created the problem by giving preferential treatment to passengers who booked with them, instead of doing disembarkation on a first-come, first-served basis.
After marveling at the amazing cars everywhere we looked, we decided to get out of the rain and cold by checking out the famous Monte Carlo Casino.The fee to get in—yes, they charge—was 5Euros/person and they also took a copy of our passport for security purposes.It is a fabulous building, but intimidating casino.All the dealers are men in tuxedos.Not being brave enough to try a table game, hubby and I split the 12Euros cash we had and gave the slots a try.Lucky us!Twenty minutes later, we walked away with 126Euros between us.We stupidly decided to grab a hot chocolate at the Café Paris across the street; 12Euros later, it didn’t seem like such a good idea!Regardless, we enjoyed our day in Monte Carlo, and the walk through the cute streets of Cannes on our way back to the ship.

Our last port was Livorno.From there we took a 45 minute train to Florence.It was a gorgeous, hot day.Not willing to stand in the 2 hour line to see the original statue of David, we elected to see the copy at Piazza della Signoria.It’s a beautiful square in front of Palazzo Vecchio and full of remarkable sculptures; some, particularly gruesome and not so pleasant!
The statue of Hercules and Cacus
Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus
 
We had a lovely lunch at one of the restaurants in the square and then decided to get a Gelato to help cool us down.What an eye-opener; at 14Euros it must have been made of gold!We certainly learned to check the price first after that experience.
After an additional night in Rome post-cruise, sadly, it was time to head home from our fabulous Western Mediterranean cruise.The Eastern Mediterranean is next on the list.
 
 

Name:
Cheryl Scremin

Location:
Surrey, British Columbia

Contact Number:
604 290 2895

Alternate Number:
778 783 4158

Email:
cheryl.scremin@fcitravel.ca

About Cheryl:

I run my personal travel business in partnership with a company known throughout Canada for wonderful travel experiences at amazing prices - Flight Centre


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  • phone 604 290 2895
  • Alternate Number: 778 783 4158
  • email cheryl.scremin@fcitravel.ca
  • web flightcentreindependent.ca/CherylScremin
  • address Surrey, British Columbia, Canada