We flew British AIrways, business class, from Denver to Venice, thorugh London - we will never fly international coach again! The water taxi from the air port to Venice was well worth the cost. We stayed a night in Venice before boarding the Spirit, and had a nice evening walking along the Grand Canal, eating at a canal-side ristoranti, and viewed the night lights from the Rialta Bridge before going to bed.
We boarded the next morning and had another night in Venice. We explored the ship before having a night time gondola ride and exploring St Mark's area. We have to go back to Venice, as we didn't get nearly enough time to do it justice. We were idsappointed that Norweigan would not let us book tranfer to the ship becasue we didn't book our hotel or air through them, but it was an easy tram ride to the pier.
Thje first two days were sea days on our way to Piraeus, Greece, and a visit to Athens. Bus ride into Athens and the Acropolis. Pictures do not do it justice! It was amazing to walk through such history. The Plaka is an interesting place to shop and lunch. The Archeological Museum was an interesting stop, but we would have our fill of archeological museums before the cruise was over.
Our next port was Izmir, Turkey. We had a busy day in Athens and would have a busy day in Istanbul, so we stayed in Izmir. Ended up buying a Turkish rug and had it shipped home, as Turkey would pay duty and shipping. Izmir was interesting and walking through a local market was great for people-watching. It was a restful day.
We arrived in Instanbul in fog. IT was lifting by the time we headed into the old city. The Blue Mosque - magnificant. The blue tiles really do give it the right name! Watched people praying, and marveled at the entire inside structure. On to Hagia Sophia - church, mosque, and now a museum. Renovations were being done, but it was still a beautiful sight, and so historic. The Basilica Cistern was amazing, and cool - although very humid. 230 Roman columns, subtle lighting, and even fish is the water. The Grand Bazaar was something else! We could have spent days wandering around (with a good map) and people watching. While sitting on our balcony before sailing, the sun was going down when the call to evening prayers began - we expected to see spirits rising out of the fog! Hagia Sophia in the sunset was also a beautiful image to remember our time in Istanbul.
Mykonos, Greece was our next port. Beautiful island with white buildings, accented with red, blue, and black doors and windows. We did a short tour through the narrow streets and enjoyed a local lunch with the group. I had all the ouzo I ever care to have, although I did have to try it - once!
We had another sea day on the way to Naples. Explored more of the ship and spent time in the casino, which we enjoy doing. Beautiful sailing weather.
Naples. Would like to have seen some of Naples, but it was off to Pompeii. A big item on the bucket list checked off. It lived up to my expectations. although I would have like to have had three or four hours to explore on my own. We did see the high lights, however, including a brothel and some plaster casts of people who did not make it our of the city. It was then on to Sorrento and lunch at a local cheese making farm. Sorrento is a beautiful city poised on cliffs above the Bay of Naples. Nice area to walk around and shop for gifts and wish you had more time to spend there.
Our next port was Chivitavecchia - gateway to Rome. Long bus ride into the old city. After crossing the Tiber, we headed to the Flavian Amphatheatre - the Colosseum. OMG! What an impressive masterpiece from Rome's haydays. You could see the crowds, gladiators, Christians, animals, and it full of water and the ship battles! Could not believe we were actually standing there. Off to Trevi Fountain - no coin toss, as it was extremely crowded. . . but we'll return to Rome, just the same. The Pntheon was one of the things that impressed me the most. The light coming in from the roof, the statues, the majesty. Our last stop was the Vatican. And I thought the Trevi Fountains were crowded. . . no time to stop and enjoy the art in the museum, as you were pushed through at a rapid pace. The Sistine Chapel was the thing - elbow to elbow with disrespectful and noisy tourists. We would have enjoyed more time and a lot fewer people, so we could enjoy the beauty of the ceiling. We did not even go into St Peter's, as we were tired and completely "up to here" with the crowds. Long, but amazing day.
Liverno - our port for Florence and Pisa. Florence - the birthplace of the Renaissance. What a beautiful view from the overlook of the Ponte Vecchio and Florence. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptismal were multi-colored in red, green, and white marble - interesting to note the difference in the cleaned areas. Lunch on our own in the square. The Accademia and the marvel of Michelangelo's David - absolutely awesome! Pisa was another check off for the bucket list. Everything about Pisa was wonderful. Tower was amazing. Another long day, but so worth being tired.
We were so tired by the time we got to Toulon, that we cancelled our excursion and just walked around the local market and wharf. Great people watching and very relaxing. Sorry to have missed Marseille, but were happy that we decided to take an "off" day.
The only rough seas we encountered were on the leg from Toulon to Barcelona. I slept through it, but my bride was looking for the life jackets!
We met some cousins from the UK in Barcelona and spent 3 days exploring Barcelona, the Fleixenet cava winery, and Montserrt. Wonderful time with new friends!
Easy flight to London and back to Denver.