The FL people opted to leave Sun 10/4 on USAir from Tampa to Philly changing planes after a 4 hour layover to Venice. I wanted to minimize the chance of our luggage being lost. We each checked one large bag and each had a carry on. Needless to say, they lost one piece from each couple that found it's way to our hotel on Tuesday. The flight was in coach and not too bad except for the man and his wife who reclined the seats before we took off and we had no room. The cabin attendant had to ask them to sit upright while we were eating and then they slammed them right back down.
We stayed at the Hotel Molino Stucky and booked early enough to receive a promo of 149 Euros/night. Later were were offered and "Executive" upgrade for 59 Euros/night and we took it as it included a wonderful champagne breakfast plus hearty appetizers for lunch and dinner along with unlimited cold drinks, beer, wine and some liquors. The hotel staff was wonderful and very helpful in locating the traveling luggage. The rooms were rather large with very spacious bathrooms and the bed were comfy. The Molino provides limited transportation to St Mark's and P. Roma and we did use that a few times. They also have a taxi from Murano that will take you to a glass factory where they almost badger you into buying overpriced glass items. Had we known, we would have taken the vaporetto and gone on our own. It took them 45 minutes to call a water taxi back to the hotel. We bought a 72 hour Vaporetto pass online before we left and you get a discount and a voucher to turn into a ticket in Venice.
The 1st night we went right to St. Mark's square and took in all the beauty there. No pickpockets were seen and no one approached us. We did find a few rude Venitians who don't consider themselves Italians. In a market, we checked out and was waiting for a bag and when I asked for on the lady screamed at me they were 10 cents....how did I know?
We took a vaporetto ride from one end of the Grand Canal to the other just to soak in the sights. It was awesome. We took in the Secrets of the Doges Palace tour that we pre-purchased on line and it was fabulous. We also did a ship's tour "The nighttime tour of St Mark's Basilica" and it was worth every penny we paid.
We boarded the ship at about noon on Wednesday and used it as home base. The ship is beautiful and her crew is wonderful. We had Captain McCharming-Capt Tony Yeomans. Having been on the sister ships, we didn't do too much exploring of the ship. We did enjoy the new Elite/Platinum lounge in Skywalkers each night. We also spent a lot of time in the Piazza people watching and using the International Cafe for coffees and goodies. The Chicken salad is awesome and don't' pass up the shrimp!
Our cabin steward was one of the best we've had and he made our stay memorable. Always smiling, any requests answered promptly.
The other passengers were mostly an older group of travelers. I never saw such a collection of scooters and rolling walkers in my life!!!! Some of them were quite rude-pushing on elevators before passengers got off etc. I often wondered how they got around Venice which is a walking city and getting on and off vaporettos requires a lion heart!!!
Naples was beautiful and we had a private driver take us to Sorento, Positano, Amalfi and Revalo. Beautiful little towns. The weather was perfect while Venice was hot and humid. We had a guide to take us to the Herculanium-awesome.
Rome was a marathon tour with Stefano of Romecabs. He is wonderful and I highly sing his praises. We saw things that I only dreamed of. The fountains, the Colloseum, the churches etc .... truly sensory overload!
Florence was a rainy day and we had ponchos to get around and our private driver also had umbrellas. We did the Leaning Tower and it is a beautiful building even in the rain. We drove to the town center and visited the leather market. You could gently bargain but the stuff is still not cheap.
We could not get in to Marseille due to high winds (60mph) and rough seas - 21 ft. Sounds scary but it really wasn't. We enjoyed another sea day to rest.
Barcelona again had us in a bus with a private driver and guide and we concentrated on Segata Familia. The church is an emotional experience and I'm not that religious but was moved to tears.
WE sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and I was a bit disappointed! I remember reading the Iliad in school and remembered the "Pillars of Hercules" and was expecting two giant rocks guarding the entrance. Only one big rock. I'm told there is another rock on the African side but we didn't see it. But is was amazing to see Africa on one side and the windmill farms on the Spanish side.
Lisbon brought another private tour and we saw all the statues of Prince Henry the Navigator and explorers. Of course we stopped in Belem for the tasty pastries!
Ponta Delgada took our hearts away. We went with Amazing tours and it truly was amazing. Beautiful country-peaceful, clean and friendly. We will go back that again. We went to the top of the mountain and saw the crater lakes. Awesome times three.
After Ponta delgata, we have 6 nights at sea and we needed them to recover from the hectic pace we set for ourselves. The sip provided entertainment and of course the casino was always open.
The food on the Ruby was better than good bordering on great. They were trying out several new menu items-most were good with one clunker as in anything new. We ate in the DR for all meals except for a rare deviation for waffles for breakfast or Pizza for lunch. We had fixed early seating and our server Alex caught on to like and dislike quickly and made appropriate suggestions. After the first night, we didn't have to ask for tea-it was waiting for us. Great service.
All in all it was a trip of a lifetime and we are planning to do it again next year. I will pack differently-taking more capris and fewer long pants. My touring shoes were comfy but I developed blisters on my swollen feet from the shoes worn on the ship for dinner.