Carnival Liberty - Western Mediterranean: Carnival Liberty Cruise Review by CAC104
Overall Member Rating
Carnival Liberty - Western Mediterranean
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Rome (Civitavecchia)
Before I even begin to offer a Cruise Critic report, I first have to report that this will be done with a slight slant, and that being one with a handicapped condition. Back in August, I had the unfortunate luck in tearing my Achilles tendon - ouch, it hurt! I progressed from the black boot cast to a brace, but needed the use of crutches to get around. Originally my doctor did not know if I would need surgery and offered to write a medical note to cancel this cruise. For me that wasn't an option, and I promised that I would not do anything rash..So, with the aid of physical therapy and a series of three cortisone shots I was good to go as long as I used one crutch to keep my weight off of my leg and not twist or turn it in any unusual ways. For a gimpy blonde I could get along fairly well.
The second slant is that I was traveling with a group of wonderful More gals from a cruising club I joined five years ago- Just-Us-Girls, aka the "jugs." We are a group of women over 40 who have gotten together from all over the United States to share cabins and good times. Some, like in my case, have husbands who work and can not take the time out for cruising. Others are widowed, divorced or simply single. In any case, we all have really enjoyed our cruises together. However, I can't give any perspective to the cruise night life that traveling with my husband might involve. I must say that it appeared that many couples were enjoying the music and dancing opportunities.
Our group consisted this time of 13 gals, 9 of whom stayed on the ship for the transatlantic crossing and will be on the Liberty for a total of 28 days. Those of us who came home can't wait to hear all about the second leg.
We decided to let Carnival sell us the complete package and took their flight and two night pre-cruise package, with all transfers to the ship included. We were given a choice of three hotels in Rome to choose from with the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel being the least expensive. We decided that would do, and were not disappointed. We did not have any option in the flight arrangements, and we all came in on different flights, since we all were coming from different parts of the country.
My cabin mate, Patty, lives in California, and I live in Maryland, but we arranged to fly from the Washington DC airports together. She flew in a day early and got to visit relatives in Maryland and then came to my house for my Dear Husband to drive us to Dulles Airport where he must have given the skycap a really generous tip because he stayed with our bags right up until we got to the ticket counter. I am on my one crutch trying to balance my carry on, and Patty is carrying my cane chair for me along with her carry one. We looked like the walking wounded. We boarded a Lufthansa plane which left at 4:30 pm and headed to Frankfurt, Germany, where we had to change planes for a flight to Rome. I must say that I was not happy with changing planes in another European city. I would much prefer to get to a US city and take a plane directly to Rome. If you can arrange it, try not to make a European connection.
We really enjoyed flying Lufthansa, the service was excellent and the free drinks and edible food were better than expected. Our flight leaving on a Thursday afternoon was very empty and we all had empty seats next to us; that was a real perk. Somehow, it didn't seem to take very long to arrive in Frankfurt. Our arrival time was 6:15am, but since we jumped ahead six hours, that wasn't a very long flight. Now, here is the killer about the Frankfurt airport. They have more flights coming in than they have gates for the planes to pull up to. Their solution is to have you deboard right in the middle of the airfield and get loaded on a bus for the drive to the building. No way could I go down the stairs from the plane with my carryon, so the flight steward carried my bag down for me, and I had arranged for a handicap cart to meet us is in the terminal to bring us to the gate, which was in a different terminal. Our connecting flight to Rome was leaving at 7:05am, and you have to go through passport control. No way gimpy here could make it with out the aid of the little electric cart to whiz us along.
The second leg left only a few minutes late and we arrived in Rome fairly close to the scheduled arrival with all bags intact. Not a Carnival Rep was in sight so much for their Meet and Greet. But, it turned out that all of the jugs got in just about the same time, and we had our own meet and greet in the passage way on the way to the hotel. The good thing was that the hotel is connected to the airport via a covered passage way. The bad thing is that passage way is about a mile long. We used those little hand carts, available for a Euro, to get our bags to the hotel. Blessed be, our hotel room was ready and we blissfully crawled into bed for a few hours of sleep. We had the wake up service call at 3pm and we went downstairs to catch the free shuttle bus into Rome. The Hilton runs a shuttle bus every two hours, leaving the Hilton on the even hour and returning from Rome on the odd hour. So we caught the 4 pm bus with really no idea where it would drop us off. Armed with my Rome guidebook, we were happy that we were dropped off right by the famous Wedding Cake building in downtown Rome. It was slightly sprinkling so we weren't too eager to go walking, and the Musei Capoitolini was right there on the top of the ramp that Michelangelo designed. So, we decided to do a bit of museum sightseeing. For 6.5 Euros we had a great afternoon, with lots to see and enjoy. Patty was a very patient friend and waited while I limped along on my crutch. We had heard that the roof top cafe was a really nice place to eat, and we went up looking forward to it, since it had stopped raining, but it was closed because they were all set up for a private party. It was getting dark, so we thought we would find a place to eat and wait for the 9pm shuttle bus back to the Hilton. With great luck we found that right down from the bus stop was a really delightful little cafe that made the best spinach and mozzarella paninni. We had some Chianti and gelato and bottled water and enjoyed watching people walk by. My leg by this time was pretty sore and I was glad to see the bus and get back to the hotel. The Hilton had really comfortable beds and it was good to get a full night of sleep. The hotel must be very sound proof, because we never once heard sounds of any aircraft.
On Sat. we had arranged a full day tour of Rome with Claudio via www.limoinrome.com half of our group went with Claudio, and my group went with Vincent. It was an excellent tour and priced very well. Vincent picked up three of us at the hotel in a Mercedes Mini Van as scheduled at 7:15 am, and did a quick drive into Rome. We did a quick drive by pick up of two of our Cruise Critic friends who were staying in a hotel in Rome, and who were standing on a corner waiting for us, and then we were off to the Vatican where we were met by an Art Guide. The bad thing about Rome on Sat. is that it seemed more crowded than Disneyworld during Easter. By having a licensed Art Guide, we didn't have to wait on the long line for the general admissions, just the guide's line. We got there a little after 8am, and the general public without a guide are not admitted until 9, so by 9:10am our line had moved through to the Vatican Museum entrance. The Vatican holds an indescribable amount of treasure, it is almost more than the eyes can behold. It almost seems a shame with all the poverty in the Catholic parts of the World that the Vatican sits on such wealth and doesn't share a little of it. We couldn't see it all, but hit the highlights on the way to see the Sistine Chapel. It was everything I thought it would be, and we really had a great guide who had explained so much before we entered. From the Sistine Chapel we entered St.Peter's and did a quick look and see. Four of us had seen St. Peter's before, so we showed Patty the highlights and got out of the crowds to meet Vincent and say good by to our Art Guide. From there we went with Vincent to the Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the the Circus Maximus, the Palatine Hill, a bunch of other Piazzas, the Trevi Fountain (where we threw in our required coin over our shoulder so we can return again), the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. Since this was our tour, we could stop and get out where we wanted, and just drive by other stops. At the Coliseum my leg gave out and three of us elected to just sit in the park and watch the public go by while James and Maria went into the Coliseum. I had been through the Coliseum before, and would have loved to go in again, but where the mind was willing, the flesh was weak, and I had to give in to the aching Achilles.
Vincent was so accommodating. Whatever we wanted to do, he was there to try and make it happen. He delivered us back to our Hotel in Rome after James and Maria were dropped off in Rome to keep on sightseeing on their own. The whole day was 400 Euros for Vincent and the Van, and 130 Euros for the Art Guide. Altogether a very good value split 5 ways. The price was for 4-6 people, but it worked out we only had 5.
We got to the hotel at 4:45 and were meeting the rest of the jugs gang for dinner in the hotel at 7. We looked, and the Hilton has a fabulous indoor swimming pool. That was just what I needed and I convinced Patty to come along, so we changed into our bathing suits and had a really good swim. The Hilton is a very nicely appointed hotel and very much what we Americans are used to. The shock comes with the food. Everything is in Euros. The great thing was that our package included breakfast. Now, usually you don't think that is all that much to offer, but when you find out that the Hilton charges 30 Euro for the buffet breakfast, you realize how nice it is to have that included. Breakfast was very good, and the dinner buffet is 37 Euros, or 15 Euro for a hamburger, coke and fries. A glass of Red wine was 8.5 Euros. So we all exchanged the highlights of the day and happily went off to get a well deserved rest. First, we did check at the Carnival desk that had been set up in the lobby and found out that our luggage needed to be left outside our room by 9am and that the bus to the ship would leave at 10:15.
Sunday, Oct.22nd arrived with a lovely sunny day. The luggage was picked up and brought down and left outside and everyone sat around waiting to leave. Now here is where it all broke down. Carnival did not have any kind of organization of how we were to get on the buses. It turned out that there were three busloads of folks going to the ship from the Hilton. It might have made sense to stagger us and give us bus numbers, but that probably required too much forethought. Instead, the Carnival rep said to come outside line up and identify our luggage and a porter would put it on a bus. So, our group followed the instructions, only to have just about everyone else rush by the line she started, and push ahead to grab the porters to put their bags on the bus. We complained to the Rep that she was ignoring the line she started and indulging the people who just pushed ahead. She just wasn't able to handle the large group of people in any orderly manner and simply said that there would be room for everyone. Being an old experienced Physical Education teacher, I know how to set up lines and move people around, and the lack of organization really got me frustrated, but not much I could do standing there on crutches, I really wished I had my trusty whistle. This sort of got us prepared for the lack of organization that seemed pervasive.
So, finally we all were on a bus and headed for the ship and off for our great Mediterranean Adventure. We arrived after about an hour and passed through the check in lines with no problems. Having our Fun Pass completed on line made it all very simple. Then we entered a waiting room and were told that the gangway to the ship was crowded and they were limiting how many people walked out to the dock. Fine with us, we thought much better to sit than stand. But here we go again when they decided to let more people out, they had no plan on letting the people who were waiting the longest out next, instead folks saw that they opened the line and everyone just go up and rushed to get out. People who were just walking into the waiting room moved right ahead of those who had been waiting. So, it became fend for yourself if you wanted to get out. Sure, eventually everyone was going to get out, but it annoyed me that it was not more civilized. This was my 15th cruise, but my first with Carnival, and I could see the differences starting. I like the way Holland America gives you a number and then calls you in turn. Same with other cruise lines.
We boarded the ship and went up to the buffet area called Emiles. We sat outside by the pool and had some lunch and then were able to go to our cabins at 1pm.
I must say that the Liberty is a very attractive ship, in a very ornate way. Scrolls and colors are everywhere and it is unlike the other ships I have been on. At first, I thought it was almost too ornate to look at&.scrolls everywhere, and then I got used to it. The ship was extremely clean, and being new in really great shape. The lounges and bars were very attractive and the dining rooms were beautiful. The outdoor movie screen is really wonderful, and probably a big draw in the warmer weather. Being the end of Oct, beginning of Nov. on this cruise, it was a bit too chilly to want to sit outside to take advantage of the huge screen&.also, the pools did not get much use. But here is the thing that absolutely drove me crazy no towels in the public bathrooms No paper towels, no fabric towels, just those electric hand dryers that never dry. I just couldn't believe that they couldn't afford to at least put paper towels in the rest rooms. It meant that the handles were always wet because people would give up on using the dryers and just leave with wet hands. Then they had those little tiny thin wafer like papers in a holder on the door to use to open the door, not that they did any good, and then you got outside, and had no where to put the tiny papers. Go figure
We had an aft balcony cabin, and it was wonderful. All of the gals I was traveling with had the aft cabins on deck 6. The aft balcony was a really nice size and the rooms were perfect. The bedding that Carnival used was the best of any ship I have been on. It was like sleeping in a cloud. I am really considering ordering the pillows and duvet system they used. (They left advertisements on how you could order them) There was ample closet space, a full sized couch, large vanity area with all the usual shelves, TV, safe and refrigerator with mini bar included. The cabin service was good, and Jerry our cabin steward left us all kinds of towel critters every night. The one thing that made the cabin less than perfect was the aft location. The Liberty is a huge ship and the walk to the front of the ship seemed endless. With my bad leg, it really got to me, especially since at all of the ports we got on and off the ship at the very front of the ship. Coming back after a full day of sightseeing, and then again at night after the shows that loooong corridor seemed endless as I limped along. So, to anyone who is physically challenged, I would recommend a cabin located in the middle of this ship.
Our luggage was delivered right away and I quickly got my suitcases unpacked and it was off to the Cruise Critic gathering we had planned on our link. I started the link for this cruise and we had about 50 people sign up to meet between 4 and 6 at the aft pool bar. Kate, one of the CCers made up cute name tags for everyone with their real names and CC call names. The majority of the group did come and we all really enjoyed putting faces to the people we had been communicating with.
I must say that the Cruise Critic web site is the best thing going for people who cruise. It really is the best source of information on anything related to cruising you can find anywhere. It is so much fun to read the research that people post about everything related to cruising from A to Z. Plus, by meeting your fellow cruisers on line, it is like having instant friends when you get on the ship. I was so blessed to find new friends that were interested in doing the same things in ports that I wanted to do, and we made arrangement for private tours to share, and just going into ports on our own.
Our life boat drill was at 5:30, so we had to end our get together to go off and retrieve our life vests and practice how to react in an emergency.
Our group was assigned to the 8:15 seating in the Golden Olympian Dining room, on the main section on deck 3. The jugs had two tables assigned, both to seat 8. (Originally, our group was supposed to be 15, but unfortunately ill health caused two cancellations at the last minute) The table that I sat at had 8 of us ladies, but our second table had 5 of the gals and one couple!!! We thought for sure that after the first night the couple would ask to be changed, but they stayed the whole twelve days and the one lone gentleman said he liked having a harem. I think the gals really livened up their dinners. Our table was located in the center of the dining room and it was an impressive setting. A lot of thought was put into the dEcor, especially the glass chandeliers.
The food was good, although a lot depended on what was ordered. I was disappointed in the size of appetizers. For instance, a shrimp dish was offered, and it came with two shrimp. The bowl of mussels came with three, with one shell having no mussel in it. The shrimp that you can always order were rather limp and had four to the plate. The Caesar salad was always offered, and that was very good, but the other salads often missed the mark. Soups were salty, and I was soooo disappointed. On the CC board of favorite Carnival foods, everyone raved about the pumpkin soup. Well, they must have changed the recipe, because the pumpkin soup they served was a thin broth with a little pumpkin flavor, not at all what I had expected. I was not disappointed in taking the CC advice and ordering the sweet and sour shrimp for the entrEe&.it was delicious. The other heads up favorite was the warm chocolate melting cake&Marvelous, and on the menu every night. Maybe it was due to having the later seating, but our lobster was dried out when we got it, and the night I ordered salmon it was so overcooked that I didn't eat it. Twice there was filet mignon offered. The first time it was perfect and absolutely delicious. the second time it was tough and had no flavor same item on the menu, but two different experiences. So, the dinner experience was hit or miss. When it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad&.well, you get the picture.
First, out of all the things that I did not care for, the morning breakfast buffet has to be on the top of the list. In Emiles, located on deck 9, the buffet stations are set up on each end of the room, with each end having a buffet coming from opposite directions serving the same food. With over three thousand people in the morning trying to get off the ship, all the lines were long. I much prefer the way that RCL had on the Jewel of the Seas where different Islands are set up with different kinds of food, so you never stand in one long line, but can go to the food you want and not have to wait thru the line while you pass food you do not want. I just was on the Jewel for a two week transatlantic last spring, and I much prefer her to the Liberty.
One thing that is really nice is that they have a deli counter set up all afternoon and you can get sandwiches made up to order, and they were very good. An Oriental grill is also located in Emiles. By the aft pool they have the grill and you can order hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, grilled chicken patties and French fries all afternoon. A twenty four hour soft ice cream station is set up opposite the grill. On the other side of the pool is the pizza station and they have all kinds of pizza and Caesar salad available through out the day as well. Drink machines dispensing juices, and iced tea are open 24 hours a day, as well as hot water, coffee and hot chocolate machines. Those were the areas I really liked. A separate fish and chips grill is located on deck 10.
The room service menu is not extensive, but adequate and the service was prompt. Since we had such a lovely balcony, we often ordered both breakfast and lunch to eat outside. I also called a lot for bags of ice so I could ice down my leg after we came back from our trips in the port. I usually tip a dollar or two for each trip to the cabin, but a lot of people told me they do not give anything for the room service delivery, but I still think it is a nice thing to do&.As far as tipping goes, Carnival automatically adds ten dollars a day to your account to cover the tips they think you should be giving to cabin stewards, waiters, etc.
Now for the good parts - all the days in Port.
We arrived in Naples early in the morning and were free to get off the ship right after 7am. I had been here before and had seen Pompeii, so I didn't go with my girlfriends, but went to Capri with new friends I met through the CC board - Heather and her Mom and Dad, ( Barb and Harry) We got right off the ship and walked over to the Hydrofoil station and bought round trip tickets to go to Capri.(I believe it was 24 Euros round trip, but I forgot to write it down) It was a nice day and the water was calm. The ride over was nice and we were the first tourists to arrive on Capri, which was wonderful. We bought our ticket to go around Capri via motor boat and that included stopping at the Blue Grotto that cost 13 Euros. Our ride was scheduled for 10:30 so we walked around checking out all the little shops, bought our post cards and had a cappuccino in an outside cafe. The sun was out and the weather was mild, a perfect day for a boat ride. The ride around Capri lasted about two and a half hours and was just delightful. The guide spoke English as well as Italian and had lots to say about everything. We stopped at the Blue Grotto, and there we had to pay an additional 8.5 Euros a person to switch into a tiny rowboat and have the rowers to take us into the Blue Grotto cave. It was high tide and the opening to get into the cave was really small. We had to lay down flat in the rowboat to fit under the cave entrance. They had to time the swell of the waves to go through and they pull the boat through via a rope the oars have to be inside as well as arms, legs, and whatever else. All I could think of was the movie The Guardian that I had just seen with my son, where they have to go into this cave to rescue people who got hit on the rocks. Anyway, the sun was out, so the light was just right for the beautiful blue lights to appear in the water. It was everything I could have wanted, and this was one of the things that I definitely wanted to see. The part that ruined it was the rowers when they were begging for tips when they brought us back. Harry tipped him 4 Euro for all of us, but he seemed to think that everyone should have given him something. When you figure four to a boat at 8.5 Euros each for a ride that lasted about 10 minutes and the line waiting to go in is endless, they have some nerve. Our motor boat driver said that the concession owner for the Blue grotto gets 4.50 and the rower 4 E per person, so he makes 16 Euro for each boat load and probably can get a minimum of 5 boats per hour in, and then thought he should get more than a 4 Euro tip&a lot of nerve.
By the time we got back to the dock in Capri the Island had been invaded by hordes of tourists. We took the funicular, which is sort of a cable elevator that goes up the side of the mountain, up to the top of Capri. There you find all kinds of shops and streets to wander, but since my legs just don't do too well, I told the others to go on and I would just meet them at the same place to go back. So I browsed a bit in some of the shops and then found a nice outside cafe table with a wonderful view and ordered bottled water and gelato (I ate gelato in every port) I sat for an hour just watching the tourists go by and I had a wonderful time doing that. One note to those new to Italy, there are two ways of getting food in the cafes. You can go in and order food at the counter and eat it standing up against the counter, or you can sit and order food from a server. You can not get it from the counter and bring it out to sit down. They charge two different prices depending on if you sit at the table. So after a bit my friends came back, we rode the funicular down to sea level, stopped in a grocery store we had scouted out to buy bottles of wine (very cheap) got on our hydrofoil and went back to the ship. Altogether a great day.
A much needed day at sea Today was a much appreciated sea day. We slept late, ordered room service, did some laundry and generally just chilled. I also spent some time on the Internet. Carnival offers packages for the Internet, which are reasonable. It is 75 cents a minute just regular or they sell 100 minutes for $55.00 or 250 minutes for $100.00. If you signed up the first day they threw in free minutes, 10 for the first package, 15 for the second..Since I left hubby and four children behind, I took the generous package and used up every minute over the 12 days.
Tonight was the first formal night and everyone was very spiffed up - a lot of men in tuxedos, and the ladies were all dressed to the nines at least those that came to the dining room were. The shows after dinner have been good, and it has been very entertaining.
One note on the casinos, there was too much smoke. The other ships I have been on have a smoking side and a non smoking side, but this ship had open smoking in the lounges and casino. I just couldn't stand it, so I stayed away plus, the slot machines were not very nice to me the first two days and I figured it wasn't worth inhaling the second hand smoke.
It was a nice sunny day when we arrived, and Patty and I decided not to do any ship tours, but to follow the CC advice and use the info from the internet and the guide books to wing it on our own. Dubrovnik is a walled ancient city that looks like something straight out of a Crusades movie. We took our time in the morning and then paid 5 Euros, round trip, to take the shuttle bus from the ship to the old city gates and went in. We made the mistake of not changing our Euros into Kuna at the bank exchange located where the bus left us off. We were told that Euros were accepted everywhere, but we didn't know until too late that you get a much better deal if you use the Kuna. When we went in the main gate we went down the stairs, through another gate and turned immediately to the right to find the stairs that went to the top of the wall. We paid 7.5 Euro to walk around the whole wall, and were told to keep our tickets because we would have to show them when we got half way around. We also rented an audio cassette player, for 6 Euro, to give us the audio guided tour. The walk around the wall goes for 1.5 miles and has 1000 steps to go up and down. There are 24 different stops to listen to the cassette, and it was really interesting. For this trip I took my three legged walking cane that has a seat attachment. Surprisingly, I can do stairs easily as long as I can put my foot flat and have a railing to hold on to and help balance my weight off the weak leg. So when we got to the top we turned to the left to follow the route of the audio tour. This took us toward the sea side of the city. The views were spectacular, and the day was perfect for hiking. However, this is not a trip for anyone with bad knees.
I did have one of my most interesting experiences on this part of the trip. After we had walked for a while we got to a perfect photo spot looking over the city. Now, most of the wall is made of huge stone, but in this particular spot there was a wrought iron fence on the city side. I put my seat cane down and leaned it against the fence while I pulled out my camera. Before I realized what happened, the seat cane turned sideways and slipped through the railing down to the ruins below. This was in an old part of the city where there weren't any houses, but rather ruins, no paths up to that point, and no way I could see to ever retrieve my much needed cane. Others came over to look down and everyone said too bad, but there just doesn't seem to be any way down. So I sadly turned and started to walk away and wondered if I was going to make it down on my own. Patty said she would hold on to me, and I thought this was really going to be interesting. Just then someone called out to us, and a woman came up and said would I like her husband to climb down and retrieve my cane. I told her that I wouldn't want to put anyone in danger, and she said that she couldn't keep her husband from climbing everywhere, that he was a mountain climber. So, along comes her husband and when he spied the cane down below he jumped the fence, landed on the ruined shell of a building arch, jumped down from there to a ledge, scampered down the side of the hill and retrieved the cane. He then reversed the procedure and handed me the cane. Now I was just stunned and I thought of a book I had read a while back called, Angels Among Us. It basically is a book written by a Methodist Minister who said we don't need angels to come down from heaven, but that they are among us here on earth, and when we need one, someone will appear. All I could say to him was you are an Angel and thank you so much.
So, on we went, and from then on I looked where I leaned that cane. There are a few rest areas on the wall where you can buy refreshments and sit down and enjoy the views. At the midpoint, right after the second refreshment stop there is a free public bathroom. It was very clean and in a convenient spot. At this point, if you didn't want to continue, you could have exited the wall and only bought a half ticket, or you can enter it and pay half the price as well. If I had to do it again, I would have gotten down now and then walked back through the town, since it was at the old harbor point and an interesting place to visit. But, we kept on going. We got to the observation tower point, but it was just too high for me to climb up, but it was supposed to have a great view. We now had reached the end of the walk. We climbed up the wall at 11:30 am and finally came down at 3pm. We had enjoyed the views and had rested and had bottled water and gelatos at the rest stops, so we weren't rushing the walking. The weather started to change all of a sudden, and the skies were now dark and it looked like it could rain.
When we came down, Patty went off to look at the shops and I went into a monastery museum that also had the oldest pharmacy that still dispensed medicine, it was founded in 1370. The monastery had a lovely walled garden where you can sit and just enjoy the flowers and quiet. There also was a small museum with altar treasures, chalices, jewels, paintings and a collection of ancient medicines and medical supplies. It was only 40 Kuna, or about a few Euros admission fee, and I enjoyed it.
On the way back to the ship, right on the dock, they had set up shops that were selling really pretty items made in Croatia. I bought some glass candle sticks and a hand crocheted and embroidered table runner.
We arrived in Venice at noon and came in through some light fog. I watched from our aft balcony along with all the other aft balcony cruisers, but most of the passengers were up in the front of the ship as we came into Venice. After my big adventure around the wall yesterday, my leg was really acting up, and I decided to take it very easy today. All of my girlfriends went on a 5 hour ship tour to Murano and Burano to see how they make the glass and lace, but I didn't think I could take the walking, so I just chilled on the balcony for a while. After everyone got off the ship, I finally decided to leave and took the shuttle bus to the ferry boat station,. Again, they charged 5 Euro for the round trip bus shuttle from the dock to the point on which you could do something. We were never given very clear instructions by anyone on how to find the Vaporetta station to buy the tickets, but when we were dropped off I wandered about and finally found the way. I bought a 24 hour tourist ticket for 12 Euro that entitled me to ride the Vaporettas for as long and as many times as I wished in that time period. The Vaporetta is like our buses, only it is on the water. The #1 is the local and stops at all the stops that there are. It also has the most crowded and older looking ferries. The #82 Vaporetta is the express ferry that includes St. Marks as a stop, but you have to be careful because it goes in opposite directions. If you get on it going the long way, the ride will take forever because they go around in a big circle. There are neat seats outside up in the front of the 82 ferry, and I got on one of them and just rode around for about two hours, seeing every part of the canal there was to see. Then as it was getting dark, I got off in St. Marks Square to see how the square would look all lit up. It was very pretty, and I just walked around a little before I caught the Vaporetta back to the ferry stop that took us to the bus stop so I could get back in time for dinner.
Now here it got interesting again. Today, I also had my trusty cane, and it came in very handy when I got caught up in the riot. When the shuttle bus let people off, we were told this was where to come to get picked up. As it turned out, the buses didn't stop all in the same place, so people were waiting all over for the buses back. When I got back to the bus stop that night, there apparently had been a gap in the bus service and when one pulled in, it became a free for all. I was luckily by the group that the bus stopped in front of. As the doors opened, people started running from all different directions, and instead of getting to the back of our line, they started to try and push in from the sides. Grown men were knocking over little old ladies to get on. One man pushed a woman out of the way and was up the stair of the bus when a man reached from behind me and grabbed him by the shirt collar and yanked him back off the bus and told him to get in line where he belonged. If they could have gotten closer together I am sure there would have been a fist fight. However, when the man came down off the bus, people just kept surging in the sides and never missed a beat. It was then that I decided to run some cane interference and I put my cane out and blocked the side of the stairs so people couldn't push in from the right. I managed to let some women in front of me get on the bus and then I managed to make it aboard. When I sat down and looked, I had lost a tip off one of my cane legs. Never have I been on a cruise and had such rude behavior from the passengers, but again I attribute it to a lack of organization by Carnival. They should have had a representative there to organize a line where the shuttle bus was supposed to stop. They relieved themselves of any responsibility because the shuttle buses are run by the gov't of the countries we are in, but still, I think they could provide a staff member to help the passengers find the proper place to wait for the bus.
We woke up to dense fog in the morning, and it really never got much better as the day went on. You really couldn't see much of anything and it reminded me of London when the fog sets in. We had to get up early because we had a 9:55 appointment for a special tour at the Musei Civici Veneziani, Palazzo Ducale&.translation, The Doges Palace. Months ago we called the museum and reserved spots for the English, Secret of the Doges tour. By calling the museum the ticket cost 16 Euro, so it was 32 E for Patty and myself. We almost made the mistake of ordering them through an internet tourist site, and they wanted $72.50 for the same tickets. But, our wonderful Cruise Critic friends posted the phone number to call in Italy and we could order the reservation on the phone, but didn't have to pay a cent until we arrived at the museum. But, unless you have a great International phone plan, don't let them put you on hold because it is about $3.00 per minute. This tour spot was filled up by CC people and we really enjoyed it. You go in secret doors and come out of cabinets into the main rooms. If you were just regular museum visitors, you would never even know all that was behind the walls&Anyway, we saw the private secret meeting rooms of the judges and doges, the prison cells..including where they held Casanova, the torture room, and also where they stored all the important documents. Our guide spoke perfect English and was very interesting. After the tour, we were free to go through the normal parts of the museum on our own. We really enjoyed this tour, and we spent a lot of time in the museum. Afterwards, we walked around St. Marks Square and watched it start to flood. The tide was coming in and it was predicted to be a very high one. Water was bubbling up through holes in the square and they had wood platforms erected to walk on when the water would cover the square. Big puddles had already formed and people on line for St. Marks had gotten on platforms.
The city of Venice is sinking and when they have rain and high tides much of the city goes under water. You can tell that many of the houses on the canals have been abandoned, and in many houses the people can no longer live on the first floor because the water level is so high it has come right in to the first floor. The fog hung on all day, so when we were leaving Venice we couldn't get any clear photo opportunities.
10/28 A day at sea
How I love sea days! Again we slept late, had room service for breakfast and just read and rested. This type of cruise is so port intensive, that the sea days are really necessary just to recharge our body batteries. I played Bingo this afternoon, and came close to winning, but didn't bring home the bacon. There was a great show in the evening and a good dinner.
Today we arrived in Sicily and had a very full day. 8 of us from CC booked a driver and a van from Sicilylife. There had been mixed reviews on the CC board about this agency, but I can do nothing but give them the highest praise. I think we were the first passengers off the ship and Alessandro was there waiting for us at 7:30am. It was Sunday in the the port of Messina and most of the shops in Messina would be closed the whole day, so we knew we wouldn't do anything there. Alessandro informed us that since this was the 4th Sunday of the month, one of the Villages in the hills was having a festival and would we want to stop there on the way to Mt. Etna. This is not a regular tourist stop, but rather the way the locals hold a festival. We of course said yes, and we had the best time. This was where the local people come together to have a good time, sell their crafts and food and the prices were so reasonable. We enjoyed a canoli while we walked around picking up the local bargains. I was heartbroken that I couldn't buy some of the items I saw because I knew there was no way I could get them on the plane, but the pottery was beautiful and a fraction of the price you find in America. From there we went on to Mt. Etna where I sat and waited while the rest of the group climbed up to see the crater. It was another lovely day, and I really didn't mind my new hobby of people watching. After that we stopped at a winery to sample some Sicilian wine. We bought some bottles to bring back to the ship, and then it was off to Taormina. I had already been there when I was on two good legs, and I knew I didn't want to make the climb to see the Greek theater again. Instead, I went to see the Giardino Pubblico, or Public Gardens. They were lovely. Built along the cliff bordering the sea, there were gorgeous flowers and trees and benches to sit and relax on. Perfect. Soon it was time to go back to the ship - Another wonderful day.
That night we passed by the volcano Stromboli and the Captain stopped the ship so we could see the volcano burp out some red lava. We saw one really good eruption, and two little burps. Not too often you actually get to see a live volcano!
10/30 Our last sea day
Again, the same sea routine for me - Sleep, room service, read and Bingo. Tonight was the last formal night and it was nice to have time to dress up. This cruise had everyone so tired by the end of the port days that we didn't bother to change clothes for dinner. My leg has given out on me, and I am back on the crutches again and retiring the cane for a while.
10/31 Halloween in Barcelona
Again the weather was lovely. I had been to Barcelona before so I wasn't in any great need to sightsee too much. My friends wanted to ride the tourist bus, so that is what we did. We took the usual shuttle bus for 5 Euros to get off the pier and into town by the Columbus Circle. For 18 Euro you can ride the tourist buses all day, and we did that for the morning. You can hop on and hop off, but we were riding in the top level and just enjoyed seeing the city go by. We did get off at the main part of town at the top of La Rambla, and then strolled our way down to the shuttle bus. La Rambla is really entertaining and it is fun to see all the shops, stalls, open markets, and live statues. But, for me Barcelona is too big a city and too crowded. I love the small villages and towns.
When we got on the ship they had a Halloween party, but they had it at 4:45 in the afternoon! Not my idea of when to have a Halloween party, and then there was nothing in the evening.
Not trying to be repetitive, but today was another gorgeous day. We have been so lucky with the weather. It was up to 80 and I put on my shorts outfit for the first time this trip. My friends went on long private tours down to Monte Carlo, but I had been there already, and have never seen Cannes, so I just stayed behind with one other friend, Karen, and we went into Cannes on our own. This was the only port where we had to tender in, so we just enjoyed the sun on our aft balconies and then went on a tender after the crowds had thinned out. We walked around and saw where they hold the famous Cannes Film Festival. Looked at the beach goers so see if we could see anything revealing we didn't, and then we found the Petite Tourist train. This was a cute little open air tram that has two routes around Cannes the old part of town and the new part of town. For 6 E you can do one route, for 10 E you can do them both. But, the train runs on French time, which means they don't keep to the schedule and you never know how long it will be, so we elected to do the old town part. It was lots of fun. The tram climbed up the high hill to visit the old fort and church. We had time to get out and look at everything, and then we got back on for the ride down. Total time about 45 minutes & which left some nice time to look at shops and take the tender back to the ship before it started to get crowded. I wanted to get my stuff all packed up and out of the way so I wouldn't have to worry about it on the last day.
This is the port where most of the passengers wanted to go to Florence. But, I had spent two weeks outside of Florence in 2004 and have seen just about all there is to see, so I wanted to go to Pisa, because that was one place we didn't go to in 04. I did have friends from the CC board who arranged for a private tour that included Pisa. They had one opening left, and I took it when they posted about it on the board months ago. I really didn't care where all they were going, as long as it included Pisa. I really don't like the huge ship tours, and with an injured leg, I can't always keep up when they guides try to keep a rapid pace. So, we met our Guide and had a nice Van and off to Pisa we went. From there we visited the Tuscany Region and went to two of the walled cities built up in the mountains. I had already been to one of them, but it was still nice to see the scenery in Nov. when I had been there in August. I liked seeing how the countryside had changed with the season. We then went to a winery where we had a wonderful wine tasting with 8 different wines to sample and lunch. I am a wine drinker, so I enjoy this type of thing. The first wines they serve are always the inexpensive ones, and then they get to the good ones at the end. I love red wine, and there were a number of the ones we tried that I thought were good. I did find one expensive one that I thought was very good, and after 8 different wines I was very mellow and feeling very sorry that my husband wasn't there, so I thought, what a wonderful Christmas present. I'll order a case of this nice expensive wine for him. The one little problem was I didn't have my credit card, only my debit card because I knew I needed to withdraw more Euros. So, I had to use my debit card, which doesn't give me any kind of leverage if the wine doesn't show up. Probably something I wouldn't have done if I hadn't already sampled eight different kinds of wine. But, we had a rollicking good time on the drive back to the ship, and I was soooo very happy that my suitcases were all packed already and I didn't have to worry about anything that evening.
We jugs all had our last dinner together and the gals staying on would be moving to the Silver dining room for the transatlantic and would have a table for 9 on the next leg. We all had our hugs good bye and then it was off to get ready to leave.
11/3 Departure Day
Oh boy, what a nightmare! Carnival wanted everyone off the ship by 8:30 and so they started calling people to leave the ship at 5:45. They were the folks who had early flights. Our flight didn't leave until 12:30, so we knew that we wouldn't have to get off too early, but no one was given a time to expect to be called. Under that kind of pressure, I just couldn't eat any breakfast. I really thought they could have given some indication on what time we would leave, but no such luck.
We were called about 7:30. Our luggage was easy to get and we got a porter to get our stuff to the buses. It was only a small hassle trying to get on bus, but our porter was good about finding a bus going to the airport that had room for our luggage and we got aboard. I was on my crutch and the bus was almost filled, but they had reserved the front seat with a handicapped sign, so I figured that was there for me, and I sat Patty down next to me. When we got to the airport, we got our luggage onto a trolley and then went in to try and find Lufthansa. No directions were given as to what direction to go to find the specific airline, and we started out in the wrong direction. Remember, Carnival is dumping about 3,000 people on the airport all about the same time, so it was a zoo. We finally found the Lufthansa line and got on it and waited, and waited. We got to the airport at 9, and finally checked in at 11, standing on a line that moved ever so slowly. But everything got checked in, and we went to the gate. There we had to go down a ramp to get on a bus to go to the airplane. We were loaded up and then sat&.The plane was not taking off on time, and we only had one hour to change planes in Munich to catch our flight back to the States and I was worried. It turned out that a man got sick on one of the buses going out to the plane and needed aid. We were never told if he and his family eventually got on the plane, or if they couldn't and then their luggage got taken off. Anyway, we took off one half hour late Arriving in Munich, those needing to connect to two flights getting ready to leave were met by Lufthansa reps as we got off Our flight to Dulles, and the flight to JFK, because they wanted to get all of us on board. So the reps were there to escort everyone to the planes. I had my little electric cart there, but there were so many others who couldn't walk that Patty couldn't ride along with me and she had to walk along with the Rep. she said she was run through the airport, and there was no way I would have kept up. Anyway, my car driver took us as far as he could, and then we had to go through the third security check before we could get on the plane. There they searched our carry ons and took away my bottle of water I had bought in the Rome Airport. It didn't matter it was bought in the airport, we couldn't have it. So, then the last dash for the plane and we were on. They had held the plane because they would have left 14 people behind with the blame on them, so it was easier for them to hold the plane than put us up overnight.
The flight home seemed soooo long. For some reason it took 9.5 hours coming from Munich, vs. 6.5 hours going to Frankfurt. The plane was crowded and not nearly as comfortable as the flight over. But, we were on it, and it was going home. After arriving, going through customs and seeing my dear husband's face there as soon as we came out of the restricted area, I was really happy to be home. Patty's brother was at my house to pick her up and take her home to his house before she would fly to California on Saturday afternoon. We had a great time together and it all had been a Blast.
So, that is the end of my rather long saga. So far I have cruised with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, NCL, Orient Lines, and now Carnival. I have never been on a cruise I didn't like. What is my favorite line? I think I would Pick Royal Caribbean first, and I am already booked with them for a 15 day Circle Hawaii Cruise leaving Sept.28, 2007 on the Radiance of the Seas in a middle of the ship D1 Balcony cabin. This time I will be cruising with Husband Kent, and youngest son Kevin. Would I pick Carnival again?....I would have to say it depends. It would depend on who wanted to go, and where it was going, but it would not be my first choice. Less
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