Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 21, Civitavecchia, Italy

Friday, November 10, 2017
Day 21, Civitavecchia, Italy

Today our port is Civitavecchia, Italy and is the closest port to Rome.  Today we had an all-day tour planned to see the highlights of Rome that was arranged through our Cruise Critic Roll Call Group, but unfortunately things didn’t go as planned.

It was an early tour and we had to meet on the dock at 8:15 so we set the alarm for 7:00.  When the alarm went off and I got up I knew we were in trouble as I didn’t feel very well at all.  I was determined to go though, and went ahead and got cleaned up and dressed, but I felt worse and worse as time went on.  Val and I talked it over and we went back and forth on what to do, but we finally decided not to go.  We would be cooped up all day in a van with six other people who I’m sure would not appreciate a sick person, and besides that, I just didn’t feel like I could make it all day.

We contacted Georgina, the coordinator for the tour, and told her we wouldn’t be going and she said she would let the driver know.  Val didn’t want to go without me so neither one of us would be seeing Rome today.  Unfortunately, we had prepaid our tour and we were cancelling too late to get a refund so we would be out that money.

I went back to bed and spent most of the day sleeping or at least trying to sleep while Val kept herself occupied; it was a pretty boring day for her, but I appreciate her giving up the trip to stay with me.  I decided I would go to dinner tonight, but skip trivia and the casino and get to bed early.  After taking a shower and getting dressed I actually felt a little better, which gave me hope for tomorrow.

It was a boring day for Val, but she was entertained by the sea gulls following the fishing boats into the harbor.

Today was a very disappointing day, but Val and I both agreed that if we had to miss a day, we would probably choose Rome for several reasons.  First, Rome is notorious for being very crowded with long lines and to add to that, today the public transportation workers were calling a general strike so traffic would be very bad.  Also, the skies were heavily overcast with a possibility of rain. And finally, we found out that the van would be packed with two rows of three with two of our eight traveling companions sitting in front with the driver.  If it is a short trip this might be OK, but this was an all-day tour with a long drive back and forth to Rome.  We hate these overcrowded private tours where they cram as many people in a van as possible to make more money.  We would rather pay a little more for a private tour and be comfortable.

So, the end of a lost day.  Tomorrow we will be in Naples and we have a tour planned to Pompeii, which neither one of us want to miss.  It is another full day tour and I really hope I am feeling well enough to go.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 20, Livorno, Italy

Thursday, November 9, 2017
Day 20, Livorno, Italy

It’s hard to believe that today is day 20 of our cruise, it has gone by so quickly.  Today we are in our first port in Italy, Livorno.  Livorno is in the Tuscany region and is near the well-known cities of Florence and Pisa.

Today we had to get up at 6:00 as we are taking a ship excursion to Lucca and Pisa that leaves at 7:15.  The ship docked at 7:00 and when we looked out our window the weather was heavily clouded and looked like rain.  The Neptune Lounge doesn’t open until 7:00 so this morning we went up to the Lido to grab a quick breakfast and then headed to the showroom to meet with our tour group.

An early morning in Livorno.
After meeting the rest of the group, we made our way to the bus and were on our way to the small city of Lucca, our first stop.  Lucca is located in the Tuscany area of Italy and is a very old city dating back to 180 BC.  Although the city has grown over the years, the old town is still surrounded by the walls of the 17th century.

We enter the old town area of Lucca through the surrounding wall.
Lucca is an interesting small town with the old buildings and winding streets we have become accustomed to, but it wasn’t as interesting as some of the other old villages we have visited.  The narrow streets were crowded with locals and tourists alike and the locals weren’t too happy to have groups of tourists blocking their streets and slowing them down on the way to school, work or errands.  We didn’t find the local Italians to be as friendly as the Portuguese or Spanish, but maybe I wouldn’t be too happy either with tourists blocking my way.

We spent a little over an hour walking around the town and of course, we took quite a few pictures.  We once again were issued receivers and a headset so we could hear what our guide was saying as he talked about the history of Lucca.  The weather was cool, but not too bad and the rain was holding off so far.  We were delayed leaving because one couple in our group never showed up at the appointed departure time and we ended up having to leave them behind.  I believe it turned out that they had decided to leave the tour and strike out on their own, but never let the guide know.

Our next stop was Pisa, which of course is famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but there is more to Pisa than just the tower.  Pisa is an ancient city dating back to before 180 BC when it became a Roman Colony.

Our luck ran out as we got off the bus and headed into the walled city area and it started to rain.  Not too hard, but hard enough for us to be glad to have worn our rain jackets.  It was quite a long walk from our bus to the area called the Miracle Square where all historical landmarks are.  The walk in was lined with booths of vendors selling every kind of souvenir you could ask for as well as people walking around trying to get you to buy everything from umbrellas to puppets.

We finally left all the vendors behind and reached Miracle Square.  You enter the square through gates in the wall that surround part of the square.  The first things you see are the Baptistery and Cathedral, both very large and very old buildings.  You can also see the Pisa tower poking above the cathedral.  The tower was originally built to be the bell tower for the cathedral and it actually started leaning soon after it was built.

We enter Miracle Square.

The Baptistery
The Cathedral

We went into the Baptistery first and were given a tour.  Evidently it is very famous for its acoustics as at one point a person got up in the center and sang, which was very beautiful with the sound echoing throughout the building.  Next it was off to tour the cathedral, which was also very old and large inside.  We spent quite a bit of time in there learning about its history and the meaning of the various paintings and sculptures.

Finally we exited the cathedral, went around its side and there was the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I must say it was more impressive that I thought it would be and I found it to be pretty interesting.  This is supposed to be the off season for tourists, but I would hate to see the busy season as there were a lot of people and they were all trying to get pictures of themselves in front of the tower (including us).  Luckily the rain had stopped so everyone was happy about that.

We had hoped to have some time to explore on our own, but this was a pretty structured tour and with the delay leaving Lucca, we were soon out of time and heading back to the bus.  There were two more people missing, but they showed up when we got back to the bus parking area.  Evidently the lady had fallen and gotten muddy and in the process of cleaning herself up, she and her husband lost track of the group and got lost trying to get back to the meeting spot.  It ended well as they walked up just as the rest of us were boarding the bus.  They said it was a scary time for them, but now they have a story to tell.

It was a short bus ride back to the ship and we were back on board around 1:00.  This was a nice tour, but not one of our best.  The guide was very good and we enjoyed our time with him and we did enjoy what we saw, but it is not something we would do again.  If we are in the area again we would probably choose to go to Florence.

A view from the bus.
After getting back to the room, Val and I were both starving and headed up to the Lido for lunch.  After that, it was back to the room for some rest; 6:00 AM is just too early for us.  I did take time to write the blog and download the pictures, but I felt pretty tired.  I hope that’s just from getting up early and not my cold getting worse.

I skipped trivia and the casino tonight, but did go to dinner and felt better after I rested for a while.  Tomorrow our port is Civitavecchia, Italy and we have a long tour planned to visit Rome so I hope I feel up to it.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 19, At Sea

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Day 19, Sea Day

We slept in this morning, but we couldn’t sleep too long as we wanted to see a talk by the port guide for our upcoming stops in Naples, Italy and Dubrovnik, Croatia.  The talk was very interesting and I’m beginning to see why we have met so many people who have taken this cruise multiple times.  There are so many things to do in each port that you could visit over and over again and see something different each time.

After the port talk, we stayed in the showroom to see a question and answer session with the ship's captain.  That was also very interesting and we learned quite a bit about the running of the ship and some of the operational details of getting in and out of the ports.  After the captain’s talk it was time for lunch so we headed up to the Lido for lunch.  We sat beside a couple from the Gainesville, Florida area and it turned out they had a similar interest in music as we do so we had a good conversation over lunch.

After lunch, Val headed off to trivia and since the blog was caught up, I spent my time reading until she returned.  We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at some of our photos.  We haven’t had time to look at any of the pictures we’ve taken since Lisbon so we were anxious to see them.  We made it through Malaga and Cartagena before tiring of looking at pictures and saved the rest for another day.

It wasn’t quite time to get ready for dinner, so we relaxed for a while before starting our evening routine.  Our pub trivia team has been short a player the last couple of days and we found out that Roy has been down with a bad cold; I hope that’s not how mine ends up.  We did go back to the casino tonight, but my time ended up quickly and I was back in the room early as we have an early tour tomorrow.

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 18, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Day 18, Palma, Mallorca, Spain

Today we are visiting the island of Mallorca (also spelled Majorca) off the East Coast of Spain.  We got up a 7:30 this morning and when we looked outside we saw that we had already docked in Palma.  It looked like another beautiful day as the sky was blue with just a few clouds.


Today we are taking a tour arranged by Peter from our Cruise Critic roll call group.  After getting ready and a quick bite to eat in the Neptune Lounge, we met the rest of our group in the Ocean Bar on the ship and then proceeded down to meet our tour guide for the day. 

One thing we always worry about on these types of tours as how many people will be on them as occasionally we end up crammed together in a small van, but today isn’t one of those days.  There are only twelve in our group and we are traveling in a small bus with more than enough room for everyone. 

We were soon on the bus and on our way.  Our first stop was the town of Valldemossa, but we first got a tour of Palma with our guide filling us in on the history and culture of the area.  Palma was a surprisingly large city and looked quite modern although there were still remains of the past.  As we left the city we could see that Mallorca had a mountainous terrain, at least in the southwestern part that we were in.  We also saw many very old fields of olive trees that were quite old, ranging in age from 150 to 500 years.

We arrived in Valldemossa and found it to be a very picturesque town nestled on the hillsides.  Mallorca’s major industry is tourism and that is prevalent wherever you go, but even though there were many shops and restaurants catering to visitors, the town had not lost its authentic charm.  The Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa is known because Chopin spent a winter there and most of our group toured the monastery and its grounds, but Val and I chose to spend our time wandering around the town and taking photos.  The town is full of winding narrow cobblestoned streets with many flowers and interesting houses.

The Carthusian Monastery

After wandering the streets for a while, we headed back to the main street where Val spent some time browsing in the shops.  Mallorca is known for its pearls and Val found some pearl earrings she really liked so she got those as a present to herself.  It was getting near time to meet the rest of the group and get back on the bus to travel on to the town of Soller.

Soller is another charming coastal town, but was a lot busier than Valldemossa.  Our bus dropped us off near the train station as the streets in town are very narrow and buses and trucks can’t drive through the streets.  We walked with our guide to the town square that was bustling with people.  As always, there was a large church adjoining the square and also the city hall.  There were many outdoor cafes, crowded with people enjoying some food and drink in the warm afternoon.  Val and I walked around a bit exploring the area, but our guide had told her about a place that makes their own ice cream so that was Val’s real quest.  After a few false starts we finally found the ice cream place and Val said it was worth the effort as it was very good.  By this time, it was time to join back up with our group and walk back to the bus.

We start our walk to the town square from the bus.

The Soller town square

Success, the elusive local ice cream shop is found.
Our tour today was only a half day tour so once we got on the bus, we headed back to Palma and the ship.  We really liked our tour as we got to see the Mallorca countryside, but also visit these picturesque Mediterranean towns.  Thanks to Peter for arranging it.

We were back on the ship by 1:30 and immediately headed off to lunch as we were both very hungry.  After lunch we both relaxed for a while as neither of us slept very well last night.  Later in the afternoon Val headed off to trivia and I wrote the blog for our morning in Mallorca.

Unfortunately, I seem to be trying to get a cold so we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading as I tried to get as much rest as possible.  Tonight, we were back to our usual routine including the casino, but I left early as I wanted to try and get a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow is a sea day so there will be more opportunity to rest.