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Mediterranean Vacation Day 4

Saturday, June 9: To Sea
We had a relaxing morning as Jeannie did some souvenir shopping and I visited the Terme Diocleziano, a HUGE ancient Roman Bath complex. Jeannie really enjoyed being able to bargain with the street vendors, and got some great deals.

Then we took our transport to the docks, and began the arduous process of boarding our ship the Crown Princess …. Which turned out to be not so arduous after all. In fact, of the 5 times we’ve cruised, this was by far the fastest on boarding we’ve ever experienced. Normal on boarding for a cruise usually takes 1-3 hours of standing in one line or another. Today we went from curb to stateroom in 20 minutes. Amazing.
So we had time to grab some lunch, complete the scavenger hunt (a thinly disguised trick to make you walk all over the ship and familiarize yourself with the deck plans), get unpacked, and attended the Muster briefing before going to dinner.
As expected, the dinner was excellent, with 2 minor annoyances. Of course, on cruise ships, everyone knows that they charge you outlandish prices for everything, even bottled water. At dinner, the waitress was really pushing the bottled water, either ‘still’ or ‘sparkling’, and never mentioned the FREE ‘tap’ water unless you specifically asked for it.
The second thing was more egregious. Our Travel Agent had kindly given us a voucher for a bottle of wine, which the waitress accepted, and she delivered our wine to the table. Later on, however, when I checked my stateroom account with the nifty onboard app they have now, I discovered that they had charged me the full price for the bottle! I’ll have to get that fixed tomorrow.
After dinner, Jeannie and I hit a couple of the clubs and did some dancing. Good times.

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Vacation: Day 3

Friday, June 8:
Today was the day for us to visit the Vatican Museums.
We had heard many conflicting stories about the Sistene Chapel and the rules for entry: no pictures, no bare knees (no shorts), no bare arms (no bare shoulders) and no backpacks. This was problematic for us because we tend to tour “Heavy”, meaning we generally stuff everything we might possibly need into my day pack. But we heard that not only were you not allowed to carry a pack into the museum, but that there was no place to store it on site. Both of those rumors turned out to be false, but with them as our base of knowledge, we stuffed our pockets with as much as they could hold, leaving the day pack in the hotel, eschewing such necessities as raincoats, sweatshirts, sunscreen, water bottles, and well, SPACE for anything we might buy along the way.
Nevertheless, we again hopped on the Hop On Hop Off bus to the Vatican, where the “no wait” tickets proved to be useful indeed, saving us about an hour of waiting to get into the museum.
In the meantime, we were, as usual, accosted by dozens of people insisting that only THEY had the tickets that would REALLY let you skip all the lines, or the ones selling bottles of water, even as you were taking a slug from the bottle you already had, or the ones telling you that a river cruise was just the thing that would make your day complete.

The museum itself had many beautiful works of art, as might be expected.
I must confess I was a bit underwhelmed by the Sistene Chapel itself. First, (and I don’t claim to know anything about art) it didn’t seem to me that the artwork in that room was any more special than the art in any of the dozens of rooms that we walked through.
Second, the “rules” are outdated and unenforceable. The rationalization for them is that the chapel is a holy place that should be respected with somber quiet. OK, fine, but with 300 people in one room standing shoulder to shoulder, shuffling about, how solemn can it really get? And does it really make a difference if someone is wearing shorts? It’s not as though you could see any legs in the stampede anyway.
As it happened, there were plenty of people wearing shorts, carrying a backpack, and taking pictures in there, leaving those of us who were brought up to just obey the rules to suffer. Really, in this day of smartphones in every pocket, it’s just unreasonable to expect people to not take pictures in ANY venue.

So back outside, we decided to check out that river cruise, since we were both tired of walking by then, and thought a restful cruise might be just the thing after all. However, after a few wrong turns (like any medieval or older city, Rome is difficult to navigate for newcomers) we found we had walked the riverbank for half the length of the cruise anyway, so decided to skip that particular pleasure.
We headed back to the center of the old town to visit the Pantheon, which I mistakenly assumed to have something to do with the pantheon of Roman gods. It didn’t.
By then we were both hungry, and grabbed some lunch in a restaurant on a huge plaza with 3 fountains. It had the perfect “roman holiday” feel to it.

A bit more wandering found us back at the hotel, via the faithful Hop On Hop Off bus. After a delicious dinner at the pricey restaurant next to the hotel, we went in search of dessert.
At one of the thousands of sidewalk cafes in the city we ordered some pastries and coffee. I ordered “American” coffee, but it’s obvious that the guy making it had never been to America. The cup was half the size of an American coffee cup, and they only filled it halfway full. Then again, I doubt most of the people that serve you French Fries at McDonalds have been to France, so who am I to complain?
We’re getting on the ship tomorrow, where there is no internet available, so there may be a break in the entries until we hit land again. Until then, Addio!

Mediterranean Vacation: Day 2

 

 

 

Thurs, Jun 7: Rome:
On our first full day in Rome, we took a ┬áHop On Hop Off tour (good for 48hrs) around the city, which supposedly included “no wait” entry into the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.
The timing worked out for us to visit the Colosseum today, late in the afternoon. Maybe because it was a Thursday, the “no wait” ticket really didn’t save us more than about 5 minutes.
The Colosseum itself was very impressive, if a little smaller than I had expected. Jeannie and I agreed that we were glad we didn’t spring for a guided tour, because it has been our experience that on tours like that, only the 3 people closest to the guide can hear them anyway. In fact, we witnessed many examples of people at the periphery of tours looking very bored. We got our pictures and got out. I’ll do some research at home to fill in the gaps in my knowledge while I’m sorting our pictures.
In the evening, we went downstairs with Kathy and Randy for some drinks and conversation, and we met a very nice foursome from England. The conversation was very nice until one of the fellas broached not just one, but both of the forbidden topics for polite conversation: yes, he wanted to talk about politics AND religion. The other 6 of us successfully steered the conversation back to something safer, only to have him circle back to Politics and Religion. Of course, it didn’t help that he was being egged on by one of our number. It sure made for a very entertaining evening.
Oh, and did I mention that the Hotel Diocleziano has the most reasonably priced bar of any hotel in which I’ve ever stayed? Yes, an absolutely fine evening indeed.

Mediterranean Vacation; Day 1

Tue/Wed,Jun 5-6: Dalton to Rome: I always say that I’ll write a blog about our vacation trips, but never actually do. I hope to change that with this trip, so here goes…
We flew from Boston to Heathrow to Rome on British Airways. I must say that I was impressed with the service that they provided. The food they served was quite palatable, and the complementary beverages were a nice change of pace. Other than the pain in the neck of having to take a long shuttle ride at Heathrow to our connecting plane, the whole process was not bad. We had a car and driver waiting for us, who got us to our hotel around 3pm.
The only thing left to do then was to stay awake until at least 9pm, to minimize the effect of the jet lag. We walked around the neighborhood, which was near the train station, and as can be expected near the train station in any large city, it was pretty disgusting, with trash laying everywhere, and graffiti on every vertical surface up to 6 feet from the ground.
Our hotel, on the other hand, was Very Nice. The Hotel Diocleziano has an incredibly friendly and helpful staff, who got us settled into our rooms and provided all sorts of great info on the area. Our room is small but comfortable, with sufficient amenities to make our stay very pleasant.