Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Review by Compass Rose Monica: Fantastic but port-intensive Adriatic cruise!
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Fantastic but port-intensive Adriatic cruise!
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Celebrity Silhouette, Adriatic Cruise, 31 October – 13 November 2013
Warning, my journals tend to be very long….
Tony and I (along with our friends Carol and Glenn) returned from a wonderful, port-intensive cruise on the Silhouette. It was an Adriatic cruise, Venice to Rome, with the following ports: Koper, Slovenia; Ravenna, Italy; Split, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Bari, Italy; Corfu, Greece; A Day at Sea; Valletta, Malta, Catania, Sicily, and Naples, Italy.
This was my second time on the Silhouette and 10th Celebrity Cruise; Tony’s 5th with Celebrity. We’ve always enjoyed the staff, service, and food on board the ship and the S-class ships are our favorite.
Our roll call was pretty active, although not as active as my past transatlantic cruises. I met several people on the ship, which I know we have now become long-lasting friends. I booked one private tour with a fellow cruiser, Barb, and decided the More rest of the ports would be on our own. Having only one day at sea, I didn’t want to be exhausted at the end of each day.
Three Nights Venice Pre-Cruise:
27-28 October 2013, Sunday/Monday
Tony flew stand-by on Usairways (his company) from Philadelphia directly to Venice, while Carol, Glenn, and I flew on United Airlines from Dulles. We had to change planes in Frankfurt. When we were at Dulles having drinks and waiting for our flight, I was on Facebook and found out two friends of mine would arrive into Frankfurt about the same time. It was a treat to see them; they were on their honeymoon and planned a few days in Rome before boarding going on the Reflection for their transatlantic cruise. We talked for about 15 minutes at my gate.
We met Tony in Venice and after gathering our luggage, walked to the Alilaguna boat dock (tickets purchased in advance) and caught the 11:51am boat to Venice. It was about an hour ride into Venice. It wasn’t the most perfect day but very exciting to be returning to Venice. Going by boat is the only way to arrive, IMHO.
Our hotel for three nights was at Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo, which has high ratings on trip advisor, as well as recommended to me by a friend. Here’s my Trip Advisor review of the hotel: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187870-d558796-r184890444-Hotel_Al_Ponte_Mocenigo-Venice_Veneto.html
In our three days we covered a lot of ground. It was Carol and Glenn’s first visit to Venice, so our first day was just walking around much of the area to show the Venice that I love.
We had lunch at Muro San Stae, located in a small campo near the hotel. We were lucky to get the last outdoor table. Three of us had pizza (Carol had a large bowl of soup) - I had one of the specials: the Alba, which consisted of tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, porcini mushroom and truffle oil (13€). Tony had one with eggplant (9€). The guys had beer while Carol and I shared a 1/2 liter of white wine. It was a nice lunch to start our trip.
The Rialto market was closed by the time we got there, which is always a sight to see. The Rialto Bridge was packed with tourists checking out the Grand Canal views. The only time you can really enjoy the bridge is at night when the crowds are gone.
Winding our way around Venice, we window shopped and ended up in Piazza San Marco. It was great to finally see the clock tower out from under scaffolding but now the Basilica had scaffolding!
Later in the afternoon, we shared a bottle of wine at Trattoria da Giorgio ai Greci. It’s located next to a small canal, which was lovely.
I didn’t make any dinner reservations but we were able to get a table at Al Ponte Megio, located just a few minutes from the hotel. No outside tables were available and I think we got the last one inside. Service was slow at the beginning but we weren't in a rush. I had the lasagna and a side salad for dinner, while Tony had the pasta Bolognese. Carol and I shared some wine (this was SOP on the trip). Everything was delicious. When we got our bill, my lasagna was not listed, so I told Silvia, our waitress. She was so very appreciative of my honesty that she kept thanking me and then offered us complimentary lemoncello. Dinner for Tony and me was 32.50€.
After our dinner and some time walking around, I stopped for a minute at Osteria Mocenigo da Guido e Luca to make reservations for the next night at 8pm. This restaurant was just a block from our hotel.
29 October 2013:
Breakfast at the hotel had the typical continental items: fruit, pastries, breads, yogurt, cheese, cereal, coffee, tea. Breakfast is served both inside and outside, which was covered in case of rain.
Tony and I spent the better part of the day in the Canneregio area. We crossed over the bridge near the train station and walked down Strada Nova. At one campo, we sat to people watch. Young school kids were taking surveys and interviewed both Tony and me: Where are you from, what’s your favorite food, favorite color, what’s your favorite sport, and so on. The kids scrambled around to get the most surveys done. They were cute.
We walked north to the Ghetto (such a peaceful campo) and residential area. No crowds in this area, just residents coming and going. Men sat outside at the bars having their drink and talking the day away.
It was an overcast day and the rain began when I was inside the Madonna dell’Orto church. This church had some incredible Tintoretto paintings. Entry fee was a couple of€.
Our late lunch at Alla Vedova was very good, although a little pricey for the portions. We shared a seafood appetizer; linguini with clams for Tony and Bucatini Amatriciana for me.
Dinner at Osteria Mocenigo da Guido e Luca. Tony and I each ordered the seafood pasta, mine with a red sauce; his with a "white" sauce (12€ each). House wine by the 1/2 liter was just 8€ and quite decent for local wine. I typically ordered the Pinot Grigio since it’s a wine of the Veneto region. Dinner for the two of us was 36€, a good price in expensive Venice.
At one point at dinner, Bob, a fellow cruiser, walked in. He had peeked inside and saw me. He and his wife Cheryl had arrived a little earlier and he was out for a walk.
After dinner, we took a bunch of night shots of various areas, including the Rialto Bridge. I had Tony bring my tripod in his suitcase. I was glad to have it although I didn’t use it the entire trip. Next year I’ll just bring my Joby focus tripod.
30 October 2013:
I slept in a little and had a late breakfast. Ran into a few cruise friends and chatted at breakfast. The ladies that brought our breakfast were very friendly and interacted with everyone. I had Walter make our dinner reservations for 7:30pm.
Tony and I made our way up to the Fondamenta Nuovo to take the boat to Burano (purchased the 24-hour vaporetto pass), the colorful lace-making island. It was a sunny day and it was just wonderful to wander the back streets away from the main street, which is always busy with people. It’s one of my favorite places in Venice. A photographer’s paradise! I wanted to stay for the sunset to take pictures but knew we needed to be back to have dinner with our friends.
Not wanting a large lunch since it was in the afternoon, we just sat at Laguna Bar and ordered some sandwiches (one with ham and cheese and the other with the same and grilled vegetables). With a beer and a glass of wine and our sandwiches, lunch came to 13.50€. It was a satisfying lunch while sitting outside watching all the other tourists walking around.
I purchased a small bottle of lemoncello for us to enjoy at the hotel. The place I bought it from on Burano had some of the best pricing.
We ended up taking the ‘long’ way home by taking a different vaporetto, stopping at San Marco and transferring to the #1 back to San Stae.
We relaxed in the room with Carol and Glenn and had some drinks before dinner. I went ahead and changed our dinner time to 8pm so that we didn’t have to rush.
It was a pleasant ride on the vaporetto to the Academia bridge stop, where we walked to Taverna San Trovaso for dinner. I've been here several times now and always find it to be a reliable place to dine. Except for two tables, including ours, with “reserved’ signs, the place was full. There’s a mix of tourists and Italian, probably mostly tourists, but I’ve always enjoyed this place. Service is friendly too.
For an appetizer, the four of us shared a large plate of Prosciutto crudo. Yum! I ordered one of the dinner specials, Mezzelune ai Porcini ed Olio Tartufato (ravioli with wild mushrooms and truffle oil). Oh my!!! Fabulous! I love anything with truffles. Tony had the Ossobuco alla cacciatora (veal shank with mushrooms and polenta). Also excellent. I don’t remember what Carol and Glenn ate but they liked their meal. We shared two liters of wine (9€ each) and later I had a large glass of vin santo, or something similar to that. Dinner for four for one appetizer, four entrees, wine, etc., came to 101€. Service by Elton (from Serbia I think) was quite the flirt, friendly, and efficient.
Dorsoduro is one of my favorite areas in Venice. It’s not as crowded as the San Marco area. We walked along the Zattere and took more pictures before taking the vaporetto back to the hotel.
31 October 2013, Boarding the Silhouette & overnight in Venice:
I wanted to sleep in so we skipped breakfast. We packed our bags, made a quick run to get some wine at a sfuso shop (bring your own empty liter bottle(s) or buy from the store) to bring on the ship. There’s one not too far from the hotel next to Ponte del Parrucchetta, #1562A, near San Giacomo dell’Orio and next to Pizzerie Ae Oche.
We checked out of the hotel, took the vaporetto to the Piazzale Roma, got more€ from the ATM; walked over to the people mover (just 1€; there’s an escalator and elevator) and then walked to the port terminal.
When getting off the people mover, it’s about a 6-7 minute walk. Had there been a “B” line, it would have been shorter, but we had to skirt around the parking lot. When you arrive, the terminal building is on the left, but across the street on the right is where you drop off your luggage. The signs could have been better posted, but we managed. Plus there was one woman directing people but she wasn’t standing in the right area.
Check in was quick and within about 15 minutes we were on board the Silhouette with a glass of sparkling wine in hand.
We had cabin 1546 (Carol and Glenn in 1544). These two cabins are located on the starboard side of the ship, forward, and right under the beauty salon. Right outside the doors were the elevators and stairs. Not once did we hear people coming/going in the area, and no noise from above. It was a great location near the spa, which we enjoyed the Persian Gardens, but a good walking distance to the aft of the ship.
Our cabin attendant (Venty) and his assistant were wonderful, polite, and attentive. Anytime I needed anything (although it was rare), they were prompt to respond.
The rest of the day was spent on the ship having lunch at the ocean view café, exploring the ship, unpacking, watching the beautiful sunset, and having dinner in Blu. Fernando was the maître ‘D and Anita the assistant. Both were very friendly and attentive. Demar was our waiter – he was our waiter last year. For dinner I had the filet mignon. CC friends Judy and Bob joined us and we had a great time.
In the Celebrity Central the evening entertainment was a Halloween dance party, along with a costume contest. A couple dressed as hippies won. I danced with one Celebrity dancer, who wore a beautiful Venetian mask.
1 November 2013, Friday:
Carol and I spent the day doing some shopping and sightseeing, while the guys headed to the naval museum (when they got there, they discovered it was closed). I bought a couple of pretty Murano glass necklaces.
Carol and I wanted to go to the top of the Campanile and we were near the Frari church. So that we didn’t have to spend a lot of time walking we took one of the traghetto across the Grand Canal – our cheapo/fun gondola ride. You can read the article I wrote about our ride: http://www.italiannotebook.com/local-interest/gondola-traghetto-venice/
Once we got to San Marco we saw the very long line for the Campanile. We didn’t want to cut our shopping time, nor risk getting back to the ship late, so we skipped going to the top of the tower.
In our cabin was an invitation to go onto the helipad during the sail-away at 5pm. What a treat! Unfortunately we missed out on meeting our fellow CCr’s at the sunset bar, but we couldn’t pass up this special sail-away from Venice. Up on the helipad, servers passed out sparkling wine and we chatted with a few of the officers. Too bad about the timing of the sail-away (or maybe I should say, wrong time of year) but as we left the port the sun disappeared. We could still the buildings of Venice, but I wish the sun was still out.
Dinner: A lobster appetizer and short ribs.
2 November 2013, Saturday, Koper Slovenia
We woke to a very rainy day in Koper. After breakfast, Tony and I got off the ship but it was just miserable. Tony wasn’t enthusiastic to be walking in the rain so stayed on the ship while I explored the town.
I spent about 2 hours wandering the small streets of Koper (sometimes it stopped raining), visited the outdoor/indoor market, and then caught the local bus (12:20pm) to the lovely port town of Piran.
I met Tom and Dottie on the bus (also on the ship) and we chatted and would later run into each other in Piran.
Up high on the hill is a fortress. Half way up is a church. I visited the church for a small fee. I was the only one inside. Too bad, as I thought it was worth the 1€. From this height, there were great views of the red tiled rooftops, the town center, and the port with its many boats. It had stopped raining by the time I got to Piran, although the sun struggled to come out from behind the clouds, so I enjoyed my time there.
Near the bus station was a small pastry/bread shop, so I grabbed a light snack as my lunch before boarding the bus to go back to Koper.
In Koper I climbed the town’s tower. Tom went too, but he was a lot faster than me. I took my time. I ran into Glenn who was coming down while Carol was still up top enjoying the views. She stayed with me while Glenn headed back to the ship.
Dinner: Rack of lamb, one of my favorites! Later we hung out at the martini bar where Alin and Peter served us tasty martinis.
3 November 2013, Ravenna Italy
I visited Ravenna back in 2006 so I kept this port as a “sea day”. We enjoyed the fact that most passengers were out touring so the ship was nice and quiet. Tony and I enjoyed breakfast, sat pool side for a while, and lounged the Persian gardens and soaked in the outdoor hot tub. Ah, life is good.
Another great dinner in Blu (beef carpaccio, crab appetizer, seafood stew) followed by drinks at the martini bar with friends Andrew, Ed, Joel, and Marjorie.
4 November 2014, Monday, Split Croatia
This was one of two ports where we had to tender. We received priority tender cards in our cabin the night before. This is one Captain’s club perk we really appreciated. After breakfast in Blu (and our only time in Blu for breakfast), we went to deck 2 and walked right onto a tender without waiting.
The water was a little rough, to which I said, “Finally I feel like I’m on a ship.” I think one person actually got sea sick. Good thing we didn’t sit up top, as the waves splashed high.
The tender drops you right at town, so no long walk to any major sights. Behind the beautiful boulevard is Diocletian’s Palace. You can see some of the ancient walls behind the shops and restaurants.
We first headed to Trogir by local bus, which is a beautiful port town. It took about 45 minutes to get there. (The bus station is located to the right of where you’re dropped off from the tender – just follow the road and you’ll see lots of buses parked).
Trogir is a charming town with lots of small, quaint streets. Very picturesque. It’s small enough to visit in a couple of hours. Across the bus station was an outdoor market. We saw all kinds of foods and clothing items. There was also a food stand that served pizzas and other bread-type sandwiches. We found a place to park ourselves for a bit, had drinks, and ate a light lunch.
Back in Split, we toured around Diocletian’s palace. The place was huge! I loved the high ceilings and archways. Carol and I climbed the tower. Oh my, that was one scary tower! There’s even a warning sign to go in at your own risk. Why? The stairs cling to the walls and the middle is just an open area. It warned people who had vertigo. I was very uncomfortable but I didn’t want to turn back. The views are incredible from the top and worth going up the tower. Carol even took a photo of me hugging a pillar at the top. It just felt unsafe, as it felt so open to me.
I visited inside the Cathedral of Saint Domnius, which is located next to the tower. I found the whole palace quite interesting. Both Trogir and Split were beautiful cities. I would definitely like to spend more time in Croatia.
The tender ride wasn’t as rough as the morning so we snagged seats up top. We didn’t get wet except for one small spray of water. The sun was going down just as we got back to the ship.
5 November 2013, Tuesday Dubrovnik Croatia
It was an overcast and rainy day, so we didn’t rush to dive into Dubrovnik. My original plans were to do a small taxi to the top of the mountain for the wonderful views of the city, but it was clouded in and therefore, not worth the drive. So we just got a taxi to the town gate for 10€.
This town was packed with people!! Once inside the town walls, we walked down the main street, did some window shopping (I saw a pretty vase that I would later purchase), visited the war memorial and two churches, and then headed away from the crowds.
It rained lightly as we wandered the small streets. Up in one area, we had great ocean views - the water was quite rough.
I wanted to dine at Lokanda Peskarija but I couldn’t find the restaurant. My map didn’t have the street name listed. I stopped in a shop and asked a woman if she knew the place. My map wasn’t detailed enough so she gave me one of hers, marking the location of the restaurant and stating it was just 5-minutes away. In fact, we had passed the area 10 minutes earlier. Since we were hungry I asked if any of the restaurants in the area were any good, to which she replied with a sharp “No! I would be lying. Go to Lokanda Peskarija.” So we did.
As we got to the place, the rain came down in buckets!! Luckily there were large umbrellas keeping everyone dry…mostly. Where the umbrellas met at the edges, the rain dripped through. Our waiter took care of us and moved us to better table after some guests left.
This restaurant is located next to the old port just outside the walls, with wonderful views of the harbor and mountains. There were a dozen tables outside and a small restaurant inside.
The menu is limited but with some very good seafood choices. Tony and I started with the octopus salad. Delicious! We do love octopus. I ordered the seafood risotto, which came with shrimp, squid, and mussels. It was almost soupy but by the time I was half through with my meal (with three others digging in to try it) the risotto had finished soaking up the rest of the flavorsome broth. Tony and Glenn shared a huge pot of fried calamari, battered lightly, not greasy, and very tender. Carol ordered the grilled squid. With some delicious local bread, we sopped up the juices from our cast iron pots (especially Carol’s with the garlic and olive oil) until every last drop was gone. I couldn’t finish the rest of my risotto even though I wanted more. The house wine was fine and the guys enjoyed their beers. We felt this was one of the best meals we had while on our cruise. Great food, good service, wonderful views, very reasonable prices, and good friendship.
After lunch we did a little shopping and spent the rest of our Kunas. I bought a pretty vase.
Another taxi ride back to the ship and back on board.
Dinner: OMG! You should have seen the lamb shank I got for my meal. It was huge!! I was actually upset that the kitchen would prepare such a large portion for one person, especially in Blu. Once I was done eating, it looked like I didn’t put a dent in it. No doggie bag and the refrigerator in the cabin wouldn’t have kept it cold enough. I should have said to store it and make me a sandwich for the next day!
6 November 2013, Wednesday Kotor Montenegro:
I had read on the CC boards and by fellow cruisers to not miss the sail-in for Kotor. It would take approximately 2 hours from the Adriatic Sea to docking. Knowing the time of the sunrise, I got up for the last hour. It was lightly raining, but everyone on deck didn’t seem to mind. The morning was cloudy and lightly raining. Surrounding the ship were fjord-like mountains and dotted with small villages on along the shoreline. It was beautiful and worth getting up early. I wondered what the locals thought of the huge Silhouette quietly entering the harbor. I’m sure in their eyes the ship stuck out like a sore thumb. It was so quiet as we came in.
As the morning progressed the sun came out and for the rest of the day we enjoyed blue skies and warm weather. The entire area was just stunning.
This was our second port that we had to tender. There were even local tenders, so that made for a faster debarkation of passengers.
The old town of Kotor is walled in and a delight to walk around. My one goal for this port was to hike up to the church located half way up the side of the mountain (just a few € per person to go up). We all took our time going up, stopping now and then to catch our breath and take in the views. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!! Lots of photo ops with the town below, the ship in the middle of the inlet, mountains all around, and beautiful blue skies. Carol and I went up a little further from the church (while Tony and Glenn took a break) so we could take pictures with the church.
Back down in town, we made the mistake of not taking the time to find the right restaurant for lunch. We passed one that had pizza made in a wood burning oven and ended up eating lousy pizza at Rendez-Vous. Oh well, the wine was good and we were glad to sit for a while after our hike.
I think this was one of our best days on the cruise and our favorite port. We just loved Kotor, our hike, and the beautiful scenery.
Judy and Bob joined us again in Blu for dinner. I enjoyed the tuna tartar and filet mignon.
7 November 2013, Thursday, Bari, Italy
Cruise critic friend Barb organized a tour for 13 of us to visit Alberobello, famous for the Trulli homes, and the seaside town of Polignano a Mare. Our guide, an American from Georgia or one of the southern states, gave us some information about the area and towns. She’s new to guiding but was fine.
Alberbello is a beautiful town, and quite touristy. There were probably two Celebrity cruise tour buses but everyone seemed spread out enough to not feel crowded. Our guide took us around, even to a shop that gave us samples of treats and locally made liquors. Tony bought a bottle to bring home (that disappeared quickly).
We also visited inside a church. Quite different from other European churches, as well as visited a home that people can rent out. Later, Tony and I wandered off to some side streets, which was great. Quiet, no one around, and just charming. In the center of town was a market but it was mostly clothing, shoes, and kitchen/garden gadgets.
Polignano a Mare is a beautiful seaside town. The town is perched a cliff overlooking the blue sea. There are caves below. This town is home to Domenico Modugno, who sung “Volare”. You can see a bronze statue of him with open arms. In fact we had a group photo with some of us posing the same way.
Our guide had a specific place in mind but it was closed, so we walked around and ended up at Ristorante Pizzeria Neuro. I think we had arrived when the place was beginning to close for the afternoon. Service was very slow, which didn't make sense because the place wasn't crowded at all. Two couples left after waiting to have a waiter take their order.
Tony and I ordered spaghetti with clams but got gnocchi with clams. A slight mix up but we finally got our lunch. It was very good but a small portion. Our two dishes didn't have consistency. I had more clams in my dish than Tony’s dish. We wanted some bread but our guide she said, "In this region no one eats bread with pasta." Okay, that may be true but we wanted to sop up the delicious, garlicky sauce.
The group split up and we walked around town for a bit. Lots of pretty narrow streets, archways, and quiet corners. Later we enjoyed some gelato at the Millennium Café before getting back into the van to return to Bari.
While we had time left to walk around Bari, all of us were ready to get back on the ship.
Tony and I received an invitation in our cabin to dine at the captain's table for Saturday with the hotel director; Carol and Glenn too.
8 November, Friday Corfu, Greece
After breakfast, the four of us took the local bus into town. It was a beautiful day in Corfu. I had debated about renting a car for the day but decided to just stay in town. I do recommend to those that go to Corfu to get out of town and see the countryside. The town was nice, but crowded, and not one of our most favorite ports.
We went to the old fortress with great city views; and we walked all around town window shopping and visiting a few churches. There was also a great outdoor market filled with all sorts of seafood, fish, vegetables, etc.
We headed away from the center of town and found a small restaurant where we dined outside under large umbrellas (Name of the place in Greek: TABEPNA ΨΗΣTAPIA). Great lunch! We shared a soft cheese appetizer that came with some crusty bread. I had a pork souvlakia dish with fries and a salad along with some inexpensive house white wine. The place had free wifi too.
One local food product that was sold everywhere was candied kumquats. I picked up a small container of them to bring back home.
There was another beautiful sunset as we left the port; and more photo ops on deck. I went to the elite happy hour at the sky lounge, while Tony napped before dinner.
Tony and I dined at Murano’s, a thank-you gift from our friends Judy and Bob. Murano’s is my favorite specialty dining restaurant. Service is always top notch, as well as the food. My dinner: Diver scallop Wellington style, heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, Murano lobster prepared table side (OMG!! that was fabulous!), and Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. Tony had the wild forest mushroom cappuccino soup, diver scallop, grilled milk-fed veal chop, and the same dessert. We were offered the cheese plate, but we were stuffed.
Later we met up with Carol and Glenn at the martini bar. Love those bartenders!
9 November, Saturday, At Sea
Today was our only day at sea on this cruise. We slept in a little, had breakfast, listened to the captain at his lecture (he’s so hilarious!! – even better than some of the on board entertainment), went to the captain’s club celebration, and spent time in the outdoor hot tub and swimming pool.
This evening was the last formal night and our dinner at the captain’s table. We started by meeting some cruise friends at the martini bar for a drink; then met the captain’s table group in the cellar masters bar at 8:20pm. Donna, the captain’s club hostess, introduced everyone (a nice mix of people) and we had a round of drinks. Christophe, the hotel director and host for the evening, arrived and we went to the main dining room for dinner.
The food was very good (excellent rack of lamb and of course, baked Alaska for dessert). What a wonderful night.
10 November, Sunday, Valletta, Malta
For anyone sailing into Valletta, it’s an absolute *must* to be up on deck. The sun was just coming up giving the old city a warm look. This was one port I was really looking forward to visiting. It has such a rich history. Unfortunately, being a Sunday, we could not visit inside St. John’s Cathedral, which I had read was most spectacular inside.
The four of us hired a taxi for the day. We went to Mdina, which was about a 20 minute drive. Mdina, a walled-in town, sits on a hill where you have views of much of the island. We walked through the main gate and spent about an hour wandering the small streets. There were wrought iron balconies, potted bougainvillea, and quite corners.
After visiting inside a church, I purchased a glass vase. There were a few glass shops. I even picked up a glass pendant that was of the Malta cross.
Tony wanted to visit the aviation museum nearby, so that was our next stop. It was pretty small but with some interesting aircraft, engines, and photographs.
Our driver stopped at the Blue Grotto (top side). He thought we’d like to go for a ride to the grotto but there were too many people waiting for a boat and that would have taken up too much of our day; so we just opted for a few photo ops from above.
We had a short visit to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, which was a little disappointing. In addition to a few fish stalls, there were tons of stalls selling clothing, shoes, household items, etc. I was hoping to buy a snack (such as fried calamari or shrimp) but no luck. The place was packed with people.
At least the views of the colorful boats, harbor, and other section of town in the background were worth the visit for the photo ops.
Back in Valletta, we paid our driver and found a place for lunch - La Pira. I ordered a typical Maltese sampler platter, which came with olives, a local pungent cheese with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top, sundried tomatoes, a bruschetta, and other tasty treats.
Tony went back to the ship while Carol, Glenn, and I walked around town. It’s quite hilly but a beautiful town. It was the late afternoon, so a lot of places were closed. I did buy a lovely Maltese cross silver pendant/earring set. I wanted a set in gold but prices were too high.
We visited the WWII siege memorial, which sits above the harbor. More great views.
Getting back to the ship wasn’t fun. I had a map but what looked like a straight shot back to the ship wasn’t. I was prepared to wave down a taxi but there was no one around and not a single car drove past us. We had to back track at one point but eventually made it back to the ship.
Carol and I were up on deck taking pictures of the city skyline as we left port. The sun had gone down and Valletta was quite beautiful all lit up.
For dinner, we dined at the Tuscan Grill. Tony and I shared the fried calamari. I had wild mushroom ravioli with truffle oil (oh my, I loved it!!), arugula salad with goat cheese, filet mignon; and we all shared the lobster linguine alfredo. We would typically order pasta for the table for us to share. Our waiter also brought out an antipasti plate and assorted breads. Carol and I shared the tiramisu for dessert, although we couldn’t finish it. It was an excellent dinner. I definitely want to dine here on my next cruise, although I have not tried the lawn club grill yet.
11 November, Monday, Catania, Sicily
Catania is a huge port city with Mount Etna smoking in the background. It was a beautiful day but a little on the cool side.
My only goal for Catania was to visit the fish market in town, but we first started with a tour of the bridge. It was quite interesting.
Tony stayed on the ship for the day and went to the Veterans Day, Armistice Day event. Carol, Glenn, and I walked into town. We made our way to the market after passing one large church where at least 100 men in military uniform were gathering. Not sure if it was for Veterans Day, Armistice Day and I wish I had stopped to ask.
From the Cathedral, head down the south-west corner of the piazza (with the Fontana dell'Elefante in the center of the piazza) to the bustling fish market. It’s lively, boisterous, and gritty, with an electric atmosphere. This is one of the biggest fish markets in Italy, and only the freshest of fish and seafood to be found. What a variety! Stand in one spot and watch the show. I watched one man clean squid, all by hand. Other fishmongers were yelling out their fish for sale. And what a messy place! Buckets of fish everywhere, debris everywhere, and fish parts on the ground. I’m sure it gets all cleaned up at the end of the day and ready for the next day.
Nearby are lots of other food stalls selling cheese, raw and cured meats, vegetables, including a full spread of various antipasti, foods prepared and ready for an oven, even cavallo (horse meat). I saw a chef shopping for his restaurant. Where else would anyone shop?
Glenn found a store where he had purchased some local craftwork. They also had ceramics, but nothing caught my eye.
We continued on walking around town, passing by many churches. Time for lunch, so we picked a place that we saw, called La Collegiata. It was too chilly to sit outside. On display at the entrance was a small antipasti buffet. Carol and I had that and Glenn ordered a pizza. Each was 6€, a very good price for the antipasti. Even our ½ carafe of wine and one beer was 6€! The food was good and filling.
We walked past the cathedral again and down to the main road that skirts next to the port. More vegetable food stands, including one that was grilling whole artichokes.
Up on deck, the afternoon was gorgeous - blue skies with snow-capped Mount Etna (mostly covered by clouds in the morning in the background.
Happy hour again at the sky lounge followed by some night shots of Mount Etna erupting as we left the area. (Apparently it erupted quite bit a couple of days later).
Prime rib for dinner; martini bar later. Yes, our usual evening.
12 November, Tuesday, Naples, Italy
Naples was our last port for this cruise. My goal: Walk around the Spanish quarter; walk along via Toledo and Spaccanapoli, and to eat pizza! I actually had a specific walking itinerary that I put together, which we mostly followed.
Everyone was out for the day. Streets were filled. Mopeds zipped by quickly down small streets. I kept my camera gear on the ship and just took my pocket camera. I didn’t even carry a bag.
We walked through the Galleria Umberto to via Toledo (main shopping street) and turned into the Spanish quarter. It’s Naples at its rawest. Small streets in a grid (from Greek times), clothing hanging out on balconies, mopeds parked everywhere, cars parked in some areas that you can’t even get through, shops, vegetable stands, and small trattorias.
Spaccanapoli (“split Naples”) is one long street that cuts Naples in half. The street name changes at least five times. It’s a great street to walk along, as there are churches, other sites to see, cafes, etc., along the way. I stopped and bought a ‘sfogliatella’, a Neapolitan crispy pasty that is filled with ricotta cheese. The pastry looks like thin leaves in layers. It was so good!
Carol and Glenn left to another area of Naples and Tony and I went to lunch. I had my list of pizza places to choose from and selected one nearby – Sorbillo on Via dei Tribunali. This is a very popular pizzeria with people waiting to get in. We only had a 5-minute wait. The entire restaurant was packed!! Tony had a beer (3.30€) and we shared a Margherita pizza, also 3.30€. The pizza was fantastic! Thin, with a crispy edge and a softer center with the right amount of red sauce. It was one of our cheapest and most satisfying lunches on our trip. When we left, the place was still packed and there must have been 28-30 people outside waiting their turn to dine in Sorbillo.
Tony wanted to find a place that had wifi so we walked around. We walked along Via San Gregorio Armeno, where you can see shop after shop selling nativity scene displays. A lot were made from terra cotta and others from wood. You can buy individual pieces to make your own nativity scene. These shops are open all year long.
The only wifi place we found was Bar Italia, close to the port. We probably sat for an hour. The wine we purchased (one small glass each) was very expensive. I made the mistake of not asking for a wine list. Oh well, our inexpensive lunch off-set the cost of our drinks.
The sunset over Mount Vesuvius was beautiful with hints of pink in the sky.
13 November Wednesday, Civitavecchia
Getting off the ship, going through customs, and gathering our luggage was pretty quick. I hired romecabs.com for our van service to the airport along with some other friends. Our ride to the airport was about 50 minutes. There was no traffic so early in the morning.
I said at the beginning this was a port-intensive cruise but we had a great time. I would recommend if you book this cruise, you create some downtime. Stay on board if you’ve already been to a port. It was nice to relax on the ship when we were docked in Ravenna. Other ports we kept to easy days. We met some wonderful people on the ship, including some of the officers; and our cabin attendants, who were top notch.
I have two more cruises booked for 2014, both on the beautiful Silhouette, and both TA’s.
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Cabin review: 1546
We had cabin 1546 (our firends were in 1544). These two cabins are located on the starboard side of the ship, forward, and right under the beauty salon. Right outside the doors were the elevators and stairs. Not once did we hear people coming/going in the area, and no noise from above. It was a great location near the spa, which we enjoyed the Persian Gardens, but a good walking distance to the aft of the ship. Our cabin attendant (Venty) and his assistant were wonderful, polite, and attentive. Anytime I needed anything (although it was rare), they were prompt to respond. I would definitely book this cabin again.
My second cruise but first NCL
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