Working out the Wrinkles
Europe - Western Mediterranean
The Carnival Magic is a beautiful ship. We were looking forward to our second Med cruise with Carnival. New port of departure for us; Barcelona was dazzling and different from what we experienced in other trips to Europe. Nice weather, nice food, friendly (for an urban setting) people, and breathtaking architecture and history.
This cruise was a month after the maiden cruise and it was interesting for us to see crews still hurrying about finishing "the punch list": corrections (prior table/umbrella design didn't hold up on rear deck so they were being retrofitted); chaise and chairs were breaking and being replaced so initial tight budget items being re-examined; finishing certain repairs every morning had hammering and drilling waking my wife up early. Thank goodness for good coffee. These are things you might think about with new buildings, interesting to see it apply to a big, beautiful ship. I learned that that was part of advantage for Carnival to sail in Med after More
maiden trip: closer to construction company.
The crew was friendly and trying hard to get into the groove that helps them in their time onboard. Some were still learning differences between the Magic and where ever they had last served. The cruise director, John Heald, was already on script by our trip; an odd advantage of CruiseCritic reviews was that we had already heard his "Nice & Ezy" joke online.
The itinerary was fantastic -- like going through a dessert buffet where everything looks good: Monaco, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Naples, Dubrovnik, Venice and Messina. We stuck with the menu theme and tried a little of everything: some ports on our own, some with excursions, and even one staying on the boat (we had cruised to Messina the previous summer; had the hat and scarf already).
Looking forward to future Med Cruises. Still haven't seen Istanbul! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We had thought that this port and Messina would be the restful stops in an itinerary of jewels: Rome, Florence, Naples and Venice. The old city was absolutely fascinating. Small alleyways with shops, history and architectural highlights around every corner.
Our only tip worth sharing is to head to the far side of the Old City and work your way back. Less crowded human traffic that way. And wander to the left and to the right of where ever you are. Cute sidetracks and you can't get lost. Go too far and you hit a wall!
You really can have it all. Took shuttle from dock to town square in Livorno, hopped local bus to train station, took train to Florence and walked to Duomo and museum to see Statue of David. Walked and shopped back to train station, hopped train to Pisa, walked across town to see Leaning Tower of Pisa and obligatory photo fun. Hopped local bus to train station, train back to "Leghorn", and bus/shuttle to ship. What an adventure! Still had time to grab food and drink and sit on the Lido deck to see tour groups arrive back onboard.
Quaint town to walk around. Glad we had worked on our endurance pre-trip. Lots of hills. Good map with escalators and elevators definitely helped. Disappointed that first part of day had all shops closed for local holiday. Most re-opened at noon. Weather was delightful. Watched the affluent and the paparazzi at work from cafe in front of casino while sipping on cappuccino. Nearby Euro mall was interesting to see and compare with home. Darn nice place to be when we win our millions!
Capri Walking Tour
Did a great job showing us the life of the rich and famous, the architecture and flora. Very nice lunch at thatch roof cafe. The drive back to the hovercraft port was a scene out of Mr Toad's wild ride. Exhilarating!
Pompeii Walking Tour
Did the combo Capri and Pompeii since we didn't trust that we could do it ourselves without mistakes -- mistakes far enough from port that we could wind up watching the ship sail over the horizon from the dock.
Great tour guide kept us together and informed. Only disappointment was that he was too good. Being the most senior and experienced, he kept holding us while we waiting for the other groups to catch up. We sat on the boat back from Capri for fifty minutes. Result was his having to hurry us through Pompeii with the guard locking gates behind us as the sun began to set, we were the very last and he made skipping some features seamless.
Second time in Rome and we felt like we were masters at transit. We had studied ahead of time, divvying up the ports between my wife and I. With CruiseCritic reviews, Google maps, and soooo many wonderful travel sites online, it was an actual adventure. Advance reservation at the Borghese to see artwork we didn't have time to see the previous year and using the Roma Pass made it cheap and easy; catching trains and buses was fun, too.