For our 30th wedding anniversary last summer, we'd planed a Southern Caribbean cruise while on our Alaska cruise in 2016. However, we had to cancel that cruise, so we decided to go "all out" for our 31st wedding anniversary with a 9-night Greek Isles tour that included two ports in Italy.
Shortly after putting a deposit down on our cruise, we received offers in the mail from Delta Air Lines for American Express Skymiles cards that included 60,000 miles which, if we spent an additional amount per card would give us enough miles to fly roundtrip to Rome in Comfort+ class, which provides four extra inches of legroom to Coach. So, our flights were "free".
I purchased an Orange Holiday SIM chip for my iPhone, which promised to provide us with plenty of data, call and texting capability throughout our trip. My spouse had planned and was well prepared with sanitary wipes, snacks and many other necessary items we'd need throughout our trip.
It was our first time as passengers in Atlanta's 'new' International airport, and we were there 2+ hours early, which gave us time to thoroughly check it out before making our way to our gate: a lot of duty free shopping and some premium dining options. Just before boarding time, it was announced that there was a small issue with our plane, and it ended up delaying our departure about 30 minutes. With Sky priority boarding (a feature of Comfort+), we were able to board after all the wheelchair bound passengers were settled. We embarked from Atlanta on Sunday at 7:30 PM and landed in Rome on Monday at 10:45 AM, a little more than 9 hours total.
Even with the extra legroom and somewhat better recline-able seats, neither of us were able to sleep during the flight. The most notable part of our flight was the quality and amount of food we were served; it was a lot of food and it was pretty good too. There were 9" diagonal video screens on the seatbacks in front of us and quite a large selection of movies etc. to choose from as well; I watched a longish Western when I wasn't trying unsuccessfully to sleep. I replaced my Verizon SIM with the purchased SIM so that my phone would ready upon arrival. When we landed in Rome, I turned on my phone and - although it took 20 minutes or so - it started working perfectly during the drive to port.
MONDAY (Day 1 - 7,171 steps/2.6 miles/10 floors)
It's been 19 years since we were in the Rome, and the last time we stayed in the city for 3 days before our cruise out of the nearby port of Civitavecchia. This time we prearranged a Civitavecchia Cab Service private pickup for each way between the port and Rome's Fiumicino (FCO) airport. The distance is about 47 miles and it took under an hour each time. I'm afraid I didn't fully understand the instructions we'd received via email about where to meet our driver, but we did eventually find him. I left my spouse "inside" with all our luggage while I exited the terminal. An initially very helpful police officer helped me to locate the "white column" meeting point where there were a slew of drivers holding up name placards. However, he would not let me reenter the terminal to retrieve my spouse and our luggage. Fortunately, she was able to see me when the sliding doors were open and I was able to signal to her to bring the luggage - which took two trips - and join me.
We located our driver and, as we followed him through the labyrinth of hallways, stairs and parking lot to his vehicle, it appeared that he knew everyone we passed along the way. Having no Euros as yet, I asked our driver if he could take me by an ATM on the way to the ship, and he stopped at one in the port city. Once we got to the port, we tipped the driver, went inside and found two lines. Which one should we get in? I went one way, my spouse went the other and we determined that I needed to take both big bags with tags to the luggage drop while we carried our carryon bags (2 each) through the metal detectors towards check-in. Up the escalator, we had to fill out declaration forms and carry them to the appropriate queue (no waiting for suites guests!). We made our way onboard by about 1 PM and since our suite wasn't going to be ready until after 2 PM, we went to the Windjammer cafe to eat lunch.
Of course, everyone else on the ship was doing the same thing, and so it was very crowded. As I'd read on Cruise Critic, one of Jewel's best features is the back-of-the-ship covered outdoor dining seating area. So we made our way there to find seats, which took a couple of times around, before making our way one-at-a-time through the buffets. The food was pretty good and, throughout the cruise, I can confirm that it was better than it was on our last cruise - Adventure in Alaska - and also in the main dining room, which was very good. After lunch we went upstairs and noticed that the Sports Deck was empty, so we dropped our bags and relaxed on the comfortable lounges there while waiting for our room to be ready.
Our Junior Suite (1570) wasn't far from the Windjammer, one flight down in the back third of the ship on the port side. In fact, above our room was buffet seating which means occasionally we heard footsteps through the ceiling. The room was much as we've come to expect, the right size and amenities for us as we have usually chosen these accommodations for our cruises. In short order we met Denis, our cabin attendant for whom my spouse had a gift, and some special Royal Gifts were delivered: champagne, truffles and chocolate covered strawberries. As part of the "Decadent Romance" package, we were also supposed to get a dozen long stemmed roses, but after a couple of days of waiting I found out that there were no fresh flowers onboard, so I opted to receive credit back on my card. If I'd have been quicker on my feet, I probably couldn't have gotten us "free" Wi-Fi instead.
Next, we explored the ship and remarked at how similar it was to Enchantment, which we'd taken to the Bahamas three years prior. It has a Centrum in lieu of a Promenade deck and our room was fairly conveniently located to it without being too close to hear the nightly dance music parties it hosts. There isn't really anything remarkable able Jewel's amenities, especially when you've been on Royal's bigger ships, except the aforementioned Windjammer's outdoor seating. That's not to say that it doesn't have plenty of things to do on a sea day; this cruise had two, which also served as formal nights, and we were certainly not bored with all the available activities and things to do.
With the sun positioned about an hour before sunset, we enjoyed a beautiful embarkation from the port of Civitavecchia from Deck 12, above the pool, with most of the other passengers onboard. Still "up" from the night before, it was getting too difficult for us to stay awake for our Tides (Main) Dining Room seating at 8:30 PM; we found this out while lounging in the Solarium until about 7:15 PM. So we headed to the Windjammer to eat our first dinner on ship, and then returned to our suite to crash for the night. Obviously we didn't attend the 'Welcome' show in the ship's theater, something we never miss.
TUESDAY (Day 2 - 9,128 steps/3.5 miles/18 floors)
Fortunately, the next port was Messina, Sicily, with a ship docking time of 11 AM. That means we could sleep in, get up and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in Windjammer (WJ) and return to our suite's balcony to watch while the ship entered the port. It was a beautiful clear morning and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
I wrote a Tripadvisor review of our excursion in Sicily, so I'll link to that here:
Watching from our suite's balcony the ship's departure from the port of Sicily was magical, glorious in fact. Since our captain has spun the ship upon our arrival that morning, the starboard side was next to the pier which meant our docked view overlooked the Madonnina. At night, she was spectacularly lit. As a bonus, only two miles away across the expanse, we could see the lights on the tip of the boot of Italy. We watched as our ship traveled north out of the port and then steered south towards Greece so that we could then see the night-lit Messina and much more of Sicily as well. With Sicily to our right, the waxing half moon was brilliant in the clear sky up to our left. Arm-in-arm we watched as a shooting star streaked by for several seconds, changing from blue to green, yellow, orange and red in a flash before disappearing. Thank you God!
We debated going to the show that night - Tenors Unlimited - and thought we'd decide during dinner whether to go afterwards or not. Turns out dinner ran through the show, so we missed it. For the first time, we were seated at a Main Dining Room (MDR) table with others that we didn't previously know. Our table of eight had only four others, most nights, a couple of women traveling together without their husbands and mother with her son. We really enjoyed getting to know each of them throughout the cruise, discussing our excursions and activities, while we were served efficiently by Mario (from the Philippines) and his assistant Davor (from Montenegro).
As I wrote earlier, the food was very good, sometimes outstanding and never just good. I usually opted for the beef or steak option, and unfortunately we missed the salmon (which was the first night). The appetizers, especially the crab and seafood cakes, were great and the desserts - we usually chose the chocolate option - were terrific as well. More times than not, I went with our head waiter's recommendations, and he never steered me wrong, but I've always wondered whether the waiters' recommendations are based on what didn't 'sell' well during the first MDR seating. Didn't matter, it was mostly excellent.
WEDNESDAY (Day 3 - 6,109 steps/2.2 miles/35 floors)
Our first of two sea days began as always with breakfast in the Windjammer. There was a program in the theater about the Shore Excursions offered for the remaining ports, which we attended even though we had plans already for all the ports except Mykonos, which was to be our first stop in Greece. We checked out other parts of the ship including the Solarium's hot tub and lunched - again, in the WJ.
Later that day, while we were lounging in the sun on Deck 12, there was announcement that - because of crew member's emergency - our ship would be stopping in Athens first instead. We decided to beat the crowds to Deck 4 to talk with the Shore Excursions staff to see how our planned ship excursion in Athens - Highlights of Athens/Small Group - might be affected. She assured us that our excursion would be rebooked for Thursday (in lieu of Sunday as originally planned).
At 5 PM, we went to the Vortex for the Meet & Mingle gathering and watched while four of the five bottles of wine or champagne were raffled off to passengers that had been with us on our Sicily with Mario tour the day before, one of whom announced that their planned private excursion in Athens had been successfully rebooked. After talking with others at the party, we returned to our suite to start getting ready for the first formal night.
At about 7:15 PM that evening, my spouse noticed a flashing light on our cabin's phone. It was a voicemail that informed us, since there were already four ships in the port of Athens on Thursday, none of Royal's shore excursions could be rebooked and therefore all of them had been cancelled. We found out that there would be a representative from a "Hop on, Hop off" bus company in the Centrum at 8 AM to sell tickets that could be put on your room's bill, but otherwise we were on our own. This was obviously a disappointment, and we discussed several options including trying to hook up with the Meet & Mingle group, if there was still room on their tour.
Ultimately we decided that we could utilize the Rick Steves' audio tours I had previously downloaded to my iPhone with the "Hop on, Hop off" bus option. We went down to the Centrum to have our pictures taken with the captain and another photographer before enjoying another meal in the MDR. Also that night, we enjoyed our first show in the Coral Theatre, which was excellent, a program called City of Dreams which showcased the singing, dancing and orchestral talents of the ship's ensemble.
THURSDAY (Day 4 - 18,042 steps/6.6 miles/19 floors)
I discovered that my iPhone had a message displayed on it which indicated that the cellular function had failed, that an update needed to be downloaded before it would work. I was unable to resolve the issue and - since I thought that the SIM may have corrupted my phone, I didn't want to 'infect' my spouse's phone with it.
After getting up early to eat breakfast in the WJ, we were determined to be the first ones in line to buy "Hop on, Hop off" bus passes. We then walked off the ship and - after getting some assistance - located the two deck yellow (Gray line) bus and found seats in front on the top "open" level. We received ear buds which when plugged into the multi-language ports on bus provided an audio description of what one was seeing while the bus drove from the port of Piraeus into Athens. When the speaker wasn't narrating, there was a louder Greek music playing on the audio.
The bus had Wi-Fi, which I was able to use to get reconnected to the Internet yet still not resolve the cellular phone error. Unfortunately, I soon learned - from the heat in my pocket - that my iPhone was rapidly losing its charge, so I shut it off. Later, I noticed that it was still hot and that shutting down the phone had done nothing to slow the battery's declining charge percentage. From then on during our trip, after recharging it overnight, I was able to use my phone on our excursions to take pictures for about 3-4 hours each day before its battery would totally discharge.
We arrived at the bus's first significant stopping point - the Acropolis - about the time that every other bus and excursion must have gotten there. Lots of people made the famed outcropping look like an ant hill crawling with insects. We bought our tickets, paying an extra 10 Euros for admission to several other sites (none of which we ended up seeing) and made our way up the path with the hordes. After making our way up and through the people and countless tour groups to a point where we finally had a view of the Parthenon, it was apparent that not having a guide was keeping us from fully appreciating what we were seeing.
I took out my phone and ear buds and was able to get Rick Steves' program playing in my ear, but after several minutes realized that this wasn't going to work very well given the fading battery life and the loud crowds which made hearing the audio difficult. However, I did manage to hear that we'd already missed seeing Mars Hill, which he described as a scraggly rock to the left of the ticket booth below. Ignorant of what we were seeing, while we walked around the Acropolis, I decided to at least take a picture of every informational placard so that I could at least read about it later (at this writing, I still haven't had time). We were amazed at how vast the city of Athens is, surrounding the Acropolis like a sea of white buildings. From our perch, we could also see many of the other historic sites - without knowing what they were - in the immediate areas around and below.
After taking lots of pictures, we traveled back down and to the right to find the Areopagus aka Mars Hill. We scaled the original steps and took in the elevated view afforded from the rock, which is spectacular in its own right and only exceeded by the views from the Acropolis itself. Returning to the bottom, we first got back on the bus to travel to the Acropolis museum until we were able to understand the driver who said that it was only a short way down a wide walkway (she pointed towards the front and left). I'd listened to Steves' audio regarding the museum - which is built atop an archeological dig site! - a few months prior and remembered his enthusiasm for it, an enthusiasm I now share. We paid a modest admission charge and had to check our backpacks before entering.
The museum's entrance hall contains many artifacts and leads upwards towards the second floor - one can climb steps or take an elevator - where there is a plethora of excavated statues and other objects each with an informative placard about its history etc. At first, I was being diligent about seeing (and reading about) every piece, until I realized that I could be there for hours. We eventually made our way up escalators to the middle area of the third floor where we watched a very informative video in English; it ran again with English subtitles. We then discovered that the area around the outside on that floor was a recreation of the Parthenon itself, including some of the original Parthenon marbles: pediment, metopes, and frieze. One can see the Parthenon atop the Acropolis out the north museum windows. All in all, an illuminating and fascinating display of the ancient Temple of Athena.
We walked back on the same pedestrian street - the Dionysiou Areopagitou - to our bus, which we then rode around the city loop for between almost 90 minutes, listening to the audio descriptions of the various sites we saw from the bus including the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium. By 3 PM, we were ready to return to the port of Piraeus and our ship. Throughout our bus ride we noted how crazy the traffic and drivers were - especially those on motorbikes - on the city streets, which sometimes resembled organized chaos. Off the bus, we walked back to the cruise terminal while being 'accosted' by various vendors or beggars, though not as bad as being in Jamaica.
Our balcony - on the port side of the ship - was the perfect place to watch our departure from the port of Piraeus (and every other port) because we could watch as the All Onboard time approached and the quickened steps of those passengers who were just able to make it before the deadline. Unfortunately for some, perhaps because of the last minute port change, it appeared that a number of passengers were left in Piraeus, unable to make it back to the ship in time. Leaving the port, we had a beautiful sunset as well; it seemed as if the captain slowed the ship's turn for a while in order that we might fully enjoy it to completion. Later that night we went to the theatre to see Sean Alexander, a confusionist (magician), who impressed with various card tricks and other unbelievable (in many ways, too complex) stunts, before enjoying another meal in the MDR.
FRIDAY (Day 5 - 18,224 steps/6.8 miles/57 floors; phone's date off, half of next day's count in total)
We awoke to a view of the port of Rhodes (or Rhodos). I have to admit that pre-cruise I had low expectations for the island of Rhodes. However, we had signed up for an Historic Rhodes Walking Tour and it soon became clear that this was going to be one of the best experiences on our cruise; our guide Ioanna made it wonderful. She was so knowledgeable about the history of her native island, and was so proud of her heritage that it was infectious. Fortunately, we were each given ear-mounted headphone, which enabled us to hear everything she was saying without having to be at the front of our group, about 30 people. After a short walk from the ship along the shore and through the Virgin Gate of the Medieval City, we stopped and sat in the courtyard of the Church of Saint-Marie-du-Bourg, where she proceeded to tell us the history of Rhodes from Before Christ through World War II.
We then walked to the Jewish Martyrs Square on our way through relatively empty streets - the shops were just starting to open - to the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes; Ioanna referred to the Knights of St. John. Before entering the palace, Ioanna made sure we looked down the Ippoton - the Avenue of the Knights - which was relatively empty when we got there. We were then the first group to enter the Palace, its grand courtyard showcasing eight marble statues. She then walked us up its grand staircase - featured in the movie The Guns of Navarone (1961) - and into a series of large and small rooms, each of which had historical (or authentic recreations of) floor frescos, furniture, and other artwork from the medieval period. Ioanna related that she and her brother used to play in the castle as children, her brother locking her in one room in the dark in an attempt to scare her and, keeping silent, she hid for hours until crying out so that family members could locate her.
Exiting the Palace, we noticed how full of people it now was, as was the Ippoton, which we traversed on our way to the Archeological Museum. Ioanna gave us a comprehensive tour of the artwork there, demonstrating and describing the evolution of the artists' techniques from the more primitive ages through the Renaissance influences. At our tour's end about 12:30 PM, we decided to make our way back to the ship for lunch, planning to return for shopping that afternoon. What a great day! We also bought 24 hours of Wi-Fi to reconnect with our family; it was available until through Saturday afternoon, after that day's excursion. We skipped the Crown & Anchor Club party, which we only usually attend to see if we'll win one of the raffle items.
That night we saw one of the showcase singers Claire-Charlotte try her best to perform various "Women of Rock n Roll" classic hits, an ambitious attempt to be sure, before heading to the MDR. After dinner, we saw the Love & Marriage Game Show which is always good. The oldest couple won, as usual, and ironically the newlywed's MDR table was adjacent to ours.
SATURDAY (Day 6 - 9,140 steps/3.3 miles/29 floors)
Getting up early for our most anticipated stop and tour - Island of Santorini and Village of Oia - we had our one and only tender port; we met in the theater with all the other tour groups and were assigned to group 3 of 10 for our tour. Although we probably could've managed the island on our own, we booked a tour to ensure an early arrival on the island, and I think it paid off. Instead of tendering to port below the capital city Thera aka Fira, where one has a choice between donkeys, their path or cable cars up to Fira, our tender went to the Athinios, where we took a tour bus trip up a perilous switchback onto a main 'ridge' road and various others all the way to the famously picturesque cliff-side town of Oia, at the northwest tip of the (reverse C-shaped) island. We were the only ship in port and perhaps the first tour bus there, so we had relatively crowd-free experience as we walked Oia's narrow pedestrian-only, shop-lined streets, which wind around and provide various offshoots that drop off to the left or rise to the right before providing another array of choices (some even traverse down to the coast itself).
Our "guide" (more of a wrangler, really) started us at the (Church of) Panagia Platsani, and directed us to take either the main street to the left (east) or to the right (west) with no further instruction other than to not venture off the main street. She said that the streets were designed to frustrate invaders and were therefore confusing on purpose. We were fortunate to go to the right because we were able to make our way all the way to the point of the coast where spectacular overlooks are available, in the time allotted. We also had time to go a little way to the left before having to return to our rendezvous point by the appointed time.
We took selfies and offered to take other couples' pictures for them (they counter offered for us) and ran across several professional photographers that were taking newlyweds and brides etc. photos with various angles of the town as their background. We ventured into shops but did very little shopping because of the limited time.
After returning to the bus as a group, we then traveled to Santo Winery where we enjoyed breathtaking views while sampling three kinds of wine, cheese and olives. Afterwards, we took the short drive to Fira, which is similarly situated on a cliff's edge and also features narrow, shop-lined pedestrian streets along the ridgeline overlooking the caldera shaped island, and our ship. We had the option of returning the same way we'd come (by bus and tender) or staying in Fira to shop and wander but then having to make our own way back to the tender port below either by donkey path or cable car. We opted to return with everyone else by bus.
We had a beautiful departure to watch from our balcony as we 'silently' slipped by Fira and Oia on our way to Mykonos for our last Greek port of call. We skipped the show that night - Tango Buenos Aires - but did stop by the Centrum after dinner to see the entertaining 50's & 60's Rock 'n' Roll party start. My spouse rescued me just before one of the cruise staffers was able to grab my arm to pull me onto the dance floor! We enjoyed watching it from several floors above instead.
SUNDAY (Day 7 - 6,422 steps/2.4 miles/19 floors)
Mykonos was the port of the day and since we didn't have an excursion planned, and had gotten up for a 7 AM meet time the prior three consecutive days, we decided to sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, and then get off the ship on our own. As it turns out, the smallest of the Greek Islands used to have a tender-only port. The new port which we used, however, required us to buy a 4 Euro roundtrip ferry ride - or walk 3 miles on the side of a road without sidewalks - to get into town. Great deal for the ferry company - and Royal Caribbean who has effectively offloaded the tender cost to its customers.
In any case, we decided that Mykonos would have been a great first port in Greece as had been planned, but wasn't as exciting as our last Greek destination. Other than its windmills, four of which are in a row at its western coastal tip, there isn't anything particularly unique or special about Mykonos when compared to the other destinations (especially the day after Santorini). It's a quaint little seaside town with a labyrinth of pedestrian, shop- and restaurant-lined walkways (sound familiar?). Plus, it was annoying to not be able to readily find a public W/C to use, especially having to pay 1 Euro to do so! I think we only spent a couple of hours there before returning by ferry to our ship.
Before heading to the show, we walked through the WJ, not that we were hungry but they usually have theme nights so we thought we'd check it out. Good thing we did because we discovered the Chocolate Buffet Bar! Wow, so many delicious desserts. We grabbed some chocolate mousse, which was in champagne flutes, and a few other delicacies and decided we'd return after our MDR dinner for more.
The show that night was Tracey Shield, who performed as "An Evening with Celine Dion", and she was hilarious as a very good impersonator, had all the singer's quirky mannerisms down and a very talented spot on singing voice as well. During dinner, we mentioned the Chocolate Dessert Bar to the others and learned that the WJ was closing at 9 PM, so they'd missed it. One at our table asked if there were chocolate covered strawberries offered in the WJ and, when we said yes, asked our head waiter's supervisor if we could have some delivered to the MDR. She promised a full plate for the table the next night, and she delivered not one but two plates to our table on Monday night!
After dinner in the MDR, since the next day was a sea day anyway, we stayed up to watch the 70's Disco Inferno Dance Party with our Italian cruise director Andrea - very good - and the rest of the ship's Entertainment family. They had a Village People impersonation group that further energized the show, including dancing on the handrail of a Centrum glass elevator as it ascended from the floor to the topmost level. Crazy fun! We watched it all from seats above.
MONDAY (Day 8 - 3,611 steps/1.3 miles/9 floors)
Our last sea day was of course relaxing: we had breakfast in the MDR for once, did some shopping, my spouse attended a couple of the health and fitness classes in Vitality at Sea, played pool in the Games Reserve and the Fairways of Jewel (miniature golf), spent our casino's free spins (per our Emerald status) and played $5 of free blackjack per their promotion, enjoyed the Solarium's hot tub and snacks, sat out by the pool - they were running blooper videos on the big screen - took a nap, and then got dressed and ready for pictures early for the second formal night. We enjoyed the show in the theatre - West End to Broadway - and remarked about the many elaborate and colorful costumes employed by the show. After our meal in the MDR, we went to the Safari Club to witness the outrageous Quest Adult Game Show; it was amazing to us what people were willing to do so that their team could claim the honors.
TUESDAY (Day 9 - 1,853 steps/.66 miles/5 floors; phone died before Pompeii)
Up bright and early to meet in the Theatre for our last excursion - Taste of Sorrento & Pompeii - we soon learned that porting in Naples was delayed. Per our captain, the Regent's captain failed his first attempt to port that morning and - like dominoes - that backed up every other ship's schedule, including Jewel's. Initially, there were only three different excursion groups gathered at 7 AM but, as the delay continued to an hour, the theatre filled to capacity with all the other excursion groups. Some in ours speculated about what would have to be cut from our tour, but we soon learned that the All Onboard had been moved back an hour.
The port of Naples appeared larger and older than any of the others we experienced during the cruise, and later our guide confirmed that our ship was docked very near the recently discovered 'original' port of Naples, below the currently operating port. We exited the ship and were soon on our bus. Our guide Giancarlo spoke very good English, is an archeologist employed by the Italian government by trade, and explained that he couldn't wait to be part of the excavation of the remaining 10,000 hectares of Pompeii (about a third of which had yet to be explored) once the existing ancient city's ruins had been fortified.
We drove in lots of traffic, past Mount Vesuvius on our left with the Gulf of Naples on our right, through the small town of Castellammare di Stabia because of work on the main highway, and through several tunnels on our way south and around the bend to the west towards Sorrento. There were times when I was concerned that our bus driver was falling asleep, and Giancarlo seemed concerned too, prodding him on more than one occasion during the trip. After existing the last of the tunnels, as the coastline curved back to the left at Montechiaro, we were treated to a panoramic overlook of Piano di Sorrento, Sant'Agnello, and Sorrento below.
Our first stop was actually a family farm - Agriturismo Fondo Galatea - and we had to exit our larger bus and board the farm's smaller bus to traverse a narrow one way street - the driver honking all the way - down to the facility. We walked down the driveway to enter a covered patio where tables were set up. There, we sampled fresh mozzarella cheese, bread and olive oil, olives, salami, wine and limoncello, all of which was delicious. While we ate, we witnessed a demonstration of how mozzarella takes shape and form in molds. We then walked further down the driveway to see where some of the products - such as the limoncello - are made, and also saw a tree that was growing both lemons and oranges.
After the farm, we headed down the hill to Sorrento, but first stopped in a wood inlay factory (in the basement of the Lucky Store) and saw various beautiful, expensive pieces for sale. The two of us then ventured into the quaint city, walking through it to the coastline where we enjoyed several awesome views from near the Piazza della Vittoria and, as our guide suggested, the Villa Comunale, a park that overlooks beaches and the Port of Sorrento. We then made our way through the Piazza Sant'Antonino to the Piazza Tasso where we enjoyed an original Margherita pizza (thin crusted, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil leaves) at the Pizzeria Aurora.
With limited time left before our group's rendezvous time, we walked too quickly down Via S. Cesareo and the Corso Italia for shopping (I stopped to sample some Gelato) before - getting help in - finding Via Antonino Sersale back to the Lucky Store. We all boarded the bus and headed back the same way we'd come from Naples that morning towards Pompeii.
What struck me initially about Pompeii's Archeological Park was how it was located in an urban area: the city of Pompeii, which is indistinguishable from the surrounding area's towns with Google Earth. Yet here in the heart of Pompeii is this park which houses the ancient city, that was discovered and much of it has been uncovered after being buried by the volcanic ash and pumice from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. I was also aware that it was now almost 3 PM and was concerned that our tour of Pompeii would be too short to get much from it, especially since our guide dropped us off in a Cameo factory while he went to buy our tickets.
But my concerns were unwarranted as Giancarlo gave us an excellent tour of the ruins; I feel that we got a very comprehensive feel of the time, the people, their houses and shops, the class system, the public areas, baths, house of ill-repute, and infrastructure including the roads, their design for cleanliness, as well as the aqueducts and water system. While there were crowds, it probably wasn't as crowded as it had been earlier in the day, and in less than 3 hours I think we got an adequate understanding of it.
We made it back to the ship around 6 PM, just 30 minutes from All Onboard (definitely our closest call for the cruise), and then had to walk through shops - and less security - in, up, down, and then around the outside of the port's terminal building before boarding the Jewel.
While my spouse got ready for dinner, I remembered to go to the Business Center to print the boarding passes for our flight home, but was dismayed to discover that I'd have to buy at least 1 hour of Wi-Fi to do so! I decided to go to the Crown & Anchor Society Loyalty Desk where the attendant allowed me to use his computer to accomplish the task. Returning to our cabin to collect my spouse, we made our way to the Photo Gallery to choose which ones to buy from our formal nights before enjoying the Farewell in the theatre - Carlo Truzzi & Simona - who did a shadow show, their hands mimicking various wildlife and celebrities, set to music, and our last supper in the MDR, handing tip envelopes to our two waiters.
WEDNESDAY (Day 10 - 5,849 steps/2.2 miles/3 floors)
We opted for the walk-off-the-ship option; I had previously saved a couple of donuts and bananas (which took days to ripen) from the WJ for breakfast. After leaving an envelope for Denis, we departed with all our luggage and headed for the fourth floor. We actually had to get on the elevator going up if we ever expected to find room on one with all the passengers heading down from the WJ above. It wasn't clear from the instructions left in our room where we were supposed to meet, or that we couldn't actually get off the ship until 7 AM, but we found our way despite getting conflicting and incorrect information from two different Royal employees.
Our driver was a few minutes late to pick us up, but just about the time another employee of the same company started to help, he showed up. It was the same driver, and he whisked us to Terminal 3 at the Rome airport, where we had to find our way first to Delta Air Lines and then through to the security line. After standing like sheep with everyone else for 20 minutes or so, when we got to the front we noticed the express line to the left and asked the airport employee whether the TSA PRE CHECK on our ticket meant we could use it. Using her own credentials on the ticket scan, she helped us skip the longer x-ray machine line by going through the Fast Pass on the left.
We were amazed by the shopping mall like insides of the airport where you could buy virtually anything "duty-free", but proceeded on to our gate where we had 3+ hours until departure. I believe we could have made the 9:30 AM flight, but ours was at 12:45 PM. However, since the FCO airport had free Wi-Fi, at least we were able to get reconnected. No water fountains anywhere! Using the vending machines, 1.5 Euro/bottle, is better than buying bottles from the airport vendors for 3+ Euros.
Thankful for our Sky priority boarding, we were able to board fairly quickly for our 11+ hour flight home. Again, sleeping was not possible so I watched four movies while receiving 3-4 different food services on the plane. It was almost 6 PM Atlanta time when we landed and we made it through customs, called the Park n Ride Plus shuttle, and when we finally arrived home it was 8 PM.
ONE THING we didn't do on this cruise that we've done on the last couple is book our Next Cruise while onboard. For one, I noticed that we got a great deal booking this cruise right after Royal announced it, and those announcements for 2020-2021 are later this month. For another, we're not yet sure where we want to go for our next cruise. Read Less