June 5th: Flew from Atlanta (June 4th) and arrived Rome (FCO) June 5th. Flew first class on Delta using frequent flyer miles. Flight time was 10 1/2 hours. Time change was 6 hours earlier than Atlanta time. Took the train to the terminii (train station) for 11 euros each ($15). Don't forget to validate your train ticket at the yellow boxes. Walked to our hotel (Hotel Lirico) stayed overnight for 155 euros ($207) which included breakfast. Later took the HoHo (hop-on-hop-ff) bus for 16 euros ($21) each to tour around Rome. It is a double decker bus. Try getting a seat on the top for better picture taking opportunities. If the urge strikes you (taking a bathroom break) try stopping at one of the many McDonald's restaurants. Clean restrooms and toilet paper available. Ate a value meal for 6,2 euros (the comma is not a typo, that's how they write it) which is $8.31 each. Euro conversion rate was $1.34 for each (1) euro.
June 6th: Weeks (and days) prior to cruise I arranged for Cruise Critic members to travel by shuttle bus from Rome to the port and from the airport (FCO) to the port for only 20 euros ($27) each (that was seating 8 people in each van). I invited Cruise Critic members on the cruise to sign up and they did. This was a great savings compared to Carnival Cruise Lines. The company was Roma Shuttle (www.romashuttle.com) and I emailed Alfredo. All in all I arranged six (6) shuttles for pre-cruise and post-cruise transportation. Embarkation was swift, about 15 minutes. Dropped off carryon luggage in room and then went around the ship. Stopped at the Lido deck to eat a bite. Luggage came within a few hours time. Lifeboat (muster) drill at the beginning of the cruise and that was it. Lasted about 30 minutes. The Carnival Caper (daily paper dropped off at cabin) updates you on daily activities. You can rearrange your dining room with the Maitre'd. We took the late supper in The Chic restaurant and our service staff was Ovi and Gudi (sp?). Dining throughout the cruise was spectacular!
June 7th: Naples, Italy - I prearranged for a tour (Amalfi Coast) with one of the most renowned guides on the internet (Marcello Maresco). Cost was 92 euros ($123) each (group of 6 people in the tour) plus optional lunch fee 20 euros ($27). It was well worth it. You see the Amalfi Coast like the other tourists never get to see it and you avoid the "touristy" spots that suck your wallet/purse dry. Pompeii was 11 euros ($15) each. Marcello arranged for us to join another group and we split the 100 euro ($134) with each member of the group. Time spent on the entire tour was from 7:15am-4:30pm, but the Pompeii tour was 1 1/2 hours long (at the end of the day tour).
June 8th: (First) Sea Day (first formal night) - Essentially a catch-up on your sleep day -- you'll need it! The ports of call will have you running almost everyday so get ready and get your sleep!
June 9th & 10th: Venice, Italy -- Arrived at 1pm (June 9th). This is the only port which keeps you in port overnight. Once we got off the ship we followed the crowds that lined up to get a ticket to drive over the bridge. Instead of standing in that long line for 15-20 minutes ,we walked over the bridge in half that time. Immediately, we saw the transportation station where we were able to buy a "vaparetto" (water bus) pass. The 24 hour pass cost 15 euros ($20) each. [Note: When we returned to the ship later that day we decided to take it easy the next day and did not use the pass the second day.] The vaparetto stops (like most buses) all over town. The vaparetto stops are named after the apostles (St. Tomas, St. Marc, etc...). In St. Mark's square you can buy a bag of pigeon food for 1 euro and the pigeons will literally land all over your arms for you to feed them. A great picture op! We left port at 3pm on June 10th.
June 11th: Dubrovnik, Croatia -- We arranged for a taxi, after we got off the ship, to take us to the city for 10 euros (one way) for entire group of 4 people (2,50 euros each - $3.35) and the same for return. The city is one of the most beautiful you will find. Be prepared for one heckuva walk. The wall surrounding the city is 2.5 miles (every bit of that!) Most people went to the left when they climbed the initial set of stairs (after paying for the entrance ticket.) We went to the right which was less crowded. Cost to walk the wall 7,50 euros each ($10).
June 12th: (Second) Sea Day -- Again, catch up on your sleep. Tomorrow is a busy day!
June 13th: Messina, Sicily (Taormina) -- If you start far enough in advance you can arrange a bus for 10 euros ($13.40) each instead of the $69 fee for Carnival Cruise Lines. The bus holds 54 people (not including the driver.) We filled two buses on our own from Cruise Critic members. It takes you to Taormina (a one hour drive). There's really nothing to see in Messina (an industrial port). Lots of shopping, beautiful views and the Greek Theatre. If you want to get a perfect picture (classic) of Mt. Etna, you need to get to the theatre as early as possible (before 10 am). I got a good picture of Mt. Etna at 9:30am but by 10am the suns heat had caused the snows on the mountain to evaporate and create clouds of condensation around its summit. The best picture can be taken from the seat (O-16) in the Greek theatre BEFORE 10am! You will see the mountain peak through the arch of the theatre with it's columns. A GREAT SHOT. Remember SEAT O-16. Cost for access to the theatre is 6 euros each ($8). You can get the ticket stamped at the ticket booth on your way out and they will allow you to come back in later in the day if the weather (or clouds around the peak) are a problem. After leaving port the captain will take the ship around an active volcano (Stromboli) which makes for some great shots including a sunset amid the smokey air currents.
June 14th: (Third) Sea Day (last formal night) -- You are in the home stretch now. The next three days are VERY BUSY ports of call! Get your sleep!
June 15th: Barcelona, Spain -- Took a roundtrip shuttle from the port to Barcelona (over a bridge) for 5 euros each ($6.70). They did not ask to see our tickets for the return trip. Some people who walked over the bridge (a long walk) could have ridden back for free! Took a HoHo (hop-on-hop-off) bus 19 euros each ($26). There are three routes Red, Blue, and Green. Green goes along the port (aquarium and zoo) and we didn't take it. We did take both the Red and Blue routes which go to the North and South portions of the city (respectively). They overlap at several spots but if you make the transfer at the Place de Catalunaya you can visit El Corte Ingles (like the Ingles department stores in the US only BETTER!). It is at least 10 stories tall and has a nice restaurant and bathrooms at the top (just take the escalators up.) This is an expensive store! We walked La Rambla (a paved area lined with stores between some streets.) La Rambla is filled with small shops, many mimes, and in the center is a GREAT food market called "St. Josep, La Boqueria". There is pretty much any staple item (fresh meat, fish, fruit, etc...) that you may want.
June 16th: Cannes, France -- This is the only port we had to tender from. The captain told us the night before that the forecast was for some strong winds and that he might need to relocate the ship behind a small island after tendering people in the morning. He said, if you come back and the ship is not there don't think, "Oh my God! They've left without me!" The ships tender will just take a little longer. He was right! The ride back to the ship was quite rocky. Parasurfers were out and enjoying the weather. More great shots! We walked to the train station and took a train (roundtrip) to Monaco/Monte Carlo for 15,40 euros each ($21). Many stops but the ride only took 1 hour 10 minutes one way. Took pictures of the famous Monte Carlo Casino and even went inside for 10 euros ($13.40). They didn't have the blackjack tables set up yet so I got a refund (darn)!
June 17th: Pisa/Florence, Italy -- Once we got off the ship we immediately began to haggle with the local cab drivers. We were able to negotiate a fare for the day for 400 euros (50 euros each = $67). Later, I heard someone had a cab driver offering even less. I recommend get off early and negotiate vigorously for the best English speaking driver. Ours (Gabriel) spoke above average English. He took us to Michelangelo Park (a hilltop setting overlooking the city of Florence) before the stores opened at 9:30am. Then he gave us a copy of his personal map with his cell phone on it (3923965522). His cab number was N33. He was an intelligent, young man. It took about an hour to get to Florence, then an hour to Pisa. The trip from Pisa to the port was 25 minutes. We only spent about 35 minutes at Pisa taking the traditional "holding up the tower" pictures. They wanted you to have your luggage packed and outside your cabin door by 11pm.
June 18th: Rome, Italy -- Debarkation. Everyone was to be off the ship by 9:30am. We spent the day in Rome. As I said previously we arranged for shuttles to transfer people to the airport (FCO) and to Rome (those who were staying longer). The cost was 20 euros ($26.80) each for a van of 8 people. We stayed at Hotel Gea (also near the terminii) for 125 euros ($167.50). Breakfast was included and it was a nice family run hotel.
June 19th: Took a cab to the airport for 40 euros ($53.60) rather than hoof it to the train station at 6:30am. Flew home first class, direct (Delta) using frequent flyer miles. It was quicker (only 9 1/2 hours.) Thank God, we never had any luggage problems as I heard some had taking connecting flights. On the first day of the cruise we learned that 84 people did not have their luggage at the time of sailing.
Well, "That's all, folks!" Loved the cruise and would do it again in a heartbeat!
Rich & Lindora Costello Atlanta, GA firstname.lastname@example.org