I have sailed on many cruises in recent years but in May 2006 I was to take my family on our greatest adventure yet – a 12 night Carnival Liberty Mediterranean sailing! This was to be a special trip for me – a 50th birthday celebration (I turned 50 on May 19th, the day we got off the cruise and stayed in Rome). With many fabulous and new experiences this was a trip we will all long remember.
By Tim Larison Travel Agent and CLIA Certified Master Cruise Counselor (MCC) With Contributions by: Travel Agent Anne Larison, and our sons Andrew and Joshua (12 year old twins)
We especially liked this itinerary because of the focus on Italy. In addition to four days at Italian ports, starting and ending the cruise in Civitavecchia allowed us to add two days of Rome sight seeing at the end of the trip. We most wanted to see Italy and this itinerary allowed us to spend more time in this beautiful country compared to other Mediterranean itineraries we considered.
If you have read my past cruise reviews you will discover that I like to set up private shore excursions with independent, local operators rather than book cruise line tours. Generally I have found the private tours less crowded, more personal, and less in cost than comparable tours from the cruise lines. This cruise was no exception. I setup private tours at some of our stops (Venice, Barcelona, Rome) and joined tours others had setup at most of our remaining ports (Naples, Sicily, Cannes, Livorno).
The only cruise line tour we booked was at Dubrovnik, Croatia which I will describe below. The private tours we took were truly the highlight of this trip! We met some wonderful tour guides, all with a passion for sharing their homelands, and made some good friends among our fellow passengers who we had only communicated with on the internet before the trip.
Naples and the Amalfi Coast
At our first port of call, Naples, we took a wonderful 7 hour driving tour in a van of 8 people along with our driver. This tour was booked through Drive Amalfi. Our driver Roberto first took us to the ancient city of Pompeii. Pompeii, as you may know, was buried in a volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The eruption took the town by surprise and gives visitors today a snapshot of what life was like in this 1st century metropolis. Before the trip Drive Amalfi offered to setup a private tour guide for us at Pompeii, an offer we readily accepted. The guide was 100 euros for 2 hours – with our van of 8 people and two other vans the cost per person was nominal. Our guide was dressed in a tie and sports coat with dark sunglasses. I mentioned to Anne he reminded me of Cary Grant from a 50’s movie! In our two hours at Pompeii our guide led us through the different parts of Pompeii, from houses, to public buildings, to baths, and even showed us a few bodies that were caked in mud and preserved in time from the time of the eruption. We found the ruins fascinating – a history buff (like me) would love this place.
Drive Amalfi did two wise things in setting up this tour for us: We visited first thing in the morning before the heat of the mid-day and afternoon. At the start of the tour there were few people and we freely moved around the ruins. Towards the end of the tour the crowds and the heat had arrived. You could spend hours here studying the different ruins on the self guided tour. Having a knowledgeable guide for our 2 hour stay allowed us to get the most from our visit here. The guide led us to areas and pointed out different aspects of Pompeii that we may have missed on our own.
Two suggestions if you plan a visit to Pompeii: The site requires a good deal of walking on uneven streets and a bit of a climb up a hill. If you have trouble walking think twice about going here. The ruins have some erotic images. This was not a problem for our kids – we didn’t focus on this part of the tour and they hardly noticed – but it is something to be aware of if you don’t want your kids exposed to this. There are many parts of the ruins that can be enjoyed by families without visiting the erotic sections.
After Pompeii we took a scenic drive featuring the towns of Sorrento, Amalfi, Possentino, and Ravello in addition to the famous Amalfi coast. We were so glad to have a private driver and guide for this part of the tour. The winding mountain roads were a challenge to navigate, and parking was sparse at the towns we stopped at. Our driver Roberto did a wonderful job explaining the countryside and stopping at strategic points for photos and shopping. We especially liked the glimpse of everyday Italian life we saw in the small towns. In Possentino we saw a wedding party marching towards the cathedral in the center of town for the ceremony. The streets were too narrow and there was no parking in the town center so the entire wedding party had to walk from the outskirts of town. The bride said “Grazie” to onlookers wishing the bride and groom well. In these towns we saw wonderful open town squares, anchored by the town’s cathedral and surrounding by open cafes and shops. This was the center of life in these small towns. There was a great sense of community– it seemed everyone knew each other and socialized frequently in the town centers.
For lunch our guide took us to an off the beaten path restaurant in the small town of Ravello. Here we feasted on home made pizzas as we overlooked the countryside. Roberto translated our menu wishes to the Italian waiters. After lunch we did more scenic touring. Roberto showed us a hotel where part of the movie “Under the Tuscan Sky” was filmed and a beach from a scene in that movie. Anne and I saw this movie a few months ago and we want to rent it again when we get back home to once again see the places we visited today. Roberto had us back to our ship in Naples in plenty of time before we set sail at 7 pm
Overall tour grade: A- Drive Amalfi did an excellent job in planning this tour for us. The only complaints I heard was that it was difficult for the passengers in the back of the van to hear the commentary of our driver Roberto. Roberto said the company was planning on putting in a microphone and speaker system to address this in the future.
Anne’s Take: Definitely bring water on your shore excursions. One of the ways to deal with the effects of jet lag is to re-hydrate your body. You can usually buy water from the cruise line on the ship. We bought a bottle of cold water at a stand outside Pompeii for one Euro. The other type of stand I was to see this first morning was the first of many fruit stands. In the Amalfi region of Italy, especially Sorrento, one of their most famous and prolific types of produce is the Amalfi lemon! One type of these famous lemons is the size of grapefruits and larger. There are many shops and stalls in the region which sell lemon liqueurs. We were able to sample some after our lunch courtesy of our guide who brought a bottle over to our table. Delicious! Many went back for a second (or third) shot.
Dubrovnik, Croatia Our next stop was one of only two completely walled cities in Europe, according to Carnival. We originally were going to tour this city on our own, but then we decided to book Carnival’s “Walk the Ramparts” tour the day before. This was the only tour where the boys stayed back on the ship in the kids club while Anne and I did the tour. Unlike our other private tours, for this one we were in a large bus (about 50 passengers) as we drove from the dock to the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik. Along the way we had some great views and our guide told us of the violent history of Dubrovnik (especially of the damage the city and residents suffered in the early 90’s civil war). We learned that Croatia and Dubrovnik were once part of Yugoslavia and during the civil war gained their independence. You would not know from this scenic coastline location that the city had such a violent past. The walled city itself was very interesting, and we had some great views from atop the wall. The city was very clean and very different from all the other towns we visited on the rest of our cruise – can you imagine living inside of walls in a completely stone city? Our guide was explaining different parts of the city to us when suddenly a thunderstorm came. We were high on the city walls with no easy way to get down except for finishing the walk, and with lightning striking all around us. This was a little scary, so we quickly finished the last part of the tour to get off the wall.
Overall tour grade: B We really enjoyed the history and unique setting of Dubrovnik. If our tour was not cut short by the thunderstorm we probably would have given this an even higher grade. While the ship tour was good as ship tours go, we still prefer the smaller groups that we had on the rest of the trip with private tours. It was difficult to hear the guide at times when walking the wall since there were so many in our group.
Anne’s Take: Dubrovnik was the one city we visited which does not use the Euro as its currency. Our tour guide informed us that there were places around the city where the currency exchange could occur to obtain Kuna, the currency of Croatia. Since we were in the city for such a short time we decided not to exchange any of our money. We heard from several other people who did visit restaurants in the city that the seafood and meat was outstanding.
One feature I really liked of the Carnival Liberty itinerary was an overnight stay in Venice – allowing two days of touring in this interesting area. Our first day in Venice was one of the best days I’ve ever had on a cruise. It started with a wonderful “sail in” to the Venice harbor around 2 pm in the afternoon. Our huge Carnival Liberty cruise ship dwarfed the buildings we saw (our cruise director said we were the tallest building in Venice this day). The views from the ship of the city were amazing! We had a beautiful day and we could see many historical sites and the famous canals from high on our ship.
Later in the day, as many of our shipmates were being herded onto the cruise line tours with big boats/buses, we boarded a private boat that I had arranged for 9 people through “A Guide In Venice” (website www.aguideinvenice.com ). We were to take a private 4 hour tour of 3 islands surrounding Venice this day. This tour was fantastic! We first went to Torcello, visited a church built in 500 AD, and climbed a 1,000 year old bell tour. The views from the tower were great – we could see the lagoon system of Venice and the lush countryside. In the church we saw beautiful gold mosaics that dated back hundreds of years. Our guide Fernando did an excellent job explaining the history of the area and answering our questions. Next we walked through the shopping areas of two other islands (Berano and Murano). Murano is known for its glass blowing. Both islands were very beautiful and we got another taste of everyday Italian life as we walked by many houses. Fernando designed the tour so that we would avoid the high tourist areas. We enjoyed the relaxed pace of the tour and a glimpse of everyday Venetian life in these small islands and towns. Finally we toured Venice’ Grand Canal in our small motorboat – seeing gondolas and waving to people eating in the restaurants along the canal. I had seen so many pictures of the canal over the years – it was a thrill to actually be sailing in it! We were very glad we had decided to do this outer island tour in Venice in addition to the more famous sites we would see on day two. This outer island tour was one of my favorites on the whole trip.
Our ship remained docked in the Venice harbor overnight as we were treated to another day in Venice before setting sail at 5 pm on day 2.
After visiting three of the small sedate islands surrounding Venice the previous day, this day we toured the busy main part of the city. Again we had our private tour guide Fernando, and again we were thankful to have him as an escort. We took a private boat from our Carnival ship to the most famous part of Venice – St Mark’s square. St Mark’s Basilica was huge and impressive (built in the 11th century). There was a long line of people waiting to get into the Basilica – it looked like at least a 1 hour wait. But thanks to Fernando we bypassed the line completely and were led into the church. This alone made the cost of the tour worth it. Inside the Basilica we saw the tomb of Mark (the bones of the gospel writer were brought here from Turkey in 828 AD, making this one of the most recognized churches in Europe). We saw colorful mosaics and gold everywhere. Fernando explained the story of the mosaics and provided a running commentary as we toured the Basilica. This is still a working church – Anne saw a priest in a confessional with two parishioners. The sheer size of the church with huge mosaics in the ceilings was very impressive. We then toured the rest of the “San Marcos” square. The boys enjoyed playing with the multitude of pigeons on the square (Andrew and Josh were surrounded by the birds as they threw out bits of crackers). One pigeon stayed perched on Josh’s head and baseball cap for a few minutes.
Next we visited a nearby open air market. The city was bustling with activity as we passed fresh vegetable and fish stands. We bought Italian Ice as a snack (yum!).
We said goodbye to our guide Fernando and made our way back to the ship by public transportation (taking a water bus to a shuttle bus waiting a few minutes from the ship). We had great seats on the water bus as we sailed down Venice’s Grand Canal once more. Just as I felt the day before it was impressive to see all the boats and gondolas on the canal.
Overall tour grade: A+
Our two “Guide In Venice” tours were among my favorites for our whole trip. We liked how Fernando led us away from the popular tourist areas to see some of the hidden gems of this area. And when we did visit the more popular sights Fernando was able to get us around to avoid the crowds. Fernando was a very knowledgeable guide with extensive experience with the art and history of Venice. Though this tour again appealed to history buffs, there was enough to keep the kids interested (private boat rides, pigeons in St Mark’s square, a tasty treat of Italian ice, etc)
Anne’s Take: We decided not to take a gondola ride this trip. It can be very expensive — €62 (62 Euros) for 50 minutes, the cost can be even higher in the evening. The other alternative is the vaporetti (water taxi), which is much more reasonable in cost. The third option ACTV water bus, which we took back to the port area, has zones for which you buy tickets. Our €5 per person cost for the ride was money well spent as we enjoyed the ride back to the ship. It was slow enough to enjoy the sites as the water bus stopped at several zones on the way to our stop. We did have seats near the front of the water bus, but there are a very limited number of seats. There is a large area in the middle where people are crowded into a large group standing for the entire trip. It would have been a different story had we been stuck in the middle of the standing area!
For our day at Messina we booked a private shore excursion with Sicily Life (www.sicilylife.com) Our driver Antonio started the day by driving us to the volcano Mount Etna. The drive was very scenic, reminding us of the Amalfi coast we saw a few days earlier, with great views from a mountain road overlooking the sea. This area was lush with fruit trees (we saw cherry, lemon, and plum trees) along with colorful flowers and shrubs. Once we arrived at Mt Etna we were able to climb to see two craters of the volcano. Andrew especially got into the climb and eventually had to be reeled in by Anne before he went much higher. I have seen volcanoes before in Hawaii and at Mt St Helens, but this visit was the closest I have been to the crater of the volcano. I found this to be a unique experience. After a morning at the volcano we were driven to the Sicilian town Taormina. There we had delicious pizza lunch at a local restaurant, and then spent a couple of hours shopping. Josh bought an Italian puppet as his souvenir of the trip here. Many stores were open here on Sunday and the small town had lots of tourists – we felt the town was safe and we enjoyed browsing in the various shops. We sailed away from Messina at 5 pm.
At 7 pm we got a special treat – we sailed by the active volcano Mount Stromboli. The captain positioned the ship so we could see fire coming out of the top of the mountain, with rocks splashing into the ocean. It was quite a sight!
Sicily Life tour grade: B
We found our tour of Mt Etna and the nearby town of Taormina interesting but not quite of the same quality of our other tours on the trip. Our driver Antonio did not offer running commentary as he drove us through the area, but he was more than willing to answer our questions. Like our Amalfi tour a few days before, one negative was that our 8 person van did not have a microphone, so only the people in the front seat could hear Antonio’s answers to questions.
Mount Stromboli sailby grade: A
This was an unexpected treat – to see an active volcano spewing out rock and fire from the vantage point of an upper deck on our cruise ship. The experience reminded me of watching glaciers from a ship in Alaska – there were views we had here that were only possible from our ship. Anne’s Take: Our kids enjoyed Mount Etna. There were very few excursions on this trip where they were free to run and climb and be outdoors. One word of caution, the road to Mt. Etna takes many twists and turns. Josh tends to be more sensitive to this and the winding road did make him a little car sick. We did enjoy the pizza at the local restaurant; it had a patio setting where we could enjoy the sunshine and breeze. We did learn that many restaurants charge a service fee. Our restaurant charged €2,00 per person (€8,00 total for our family). We noticed as we walked around town that other restaurants charged similar service fees, usually between €1,50 and €3,00. We checked with one of our tour guides in another city about whether this was meant to be in addition to a tip or in place of a tip. It was explained that the service fee goes to the restaurant, not the waiter, so a tip is still expected.
We had a wonderful private shore excursion for our day in Barcelona by Patrick of www.barcelonatourguides.com For our group of nine we had a private bus that seated 20 – we had plenty of space to spread out in the bus. Our bus had a separate driver while Patrick provided running commentary on a microphone for all on the bus to hear. For some other tours we booked on this trip it was difficult to hear the guide in the back seats – this was not true on our Barcelona tour guide minibus. We were first driven to the magnificent Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family). This uncompleted cathedral had four huge spires that reached into the sky and impressive sculptures outside. The church will not be completed until 2026. Patrick told us how the architect, Antoni Gaudi, donated 43 years of his life in designing parts of the church. This was one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen, even in its unfinished state. Next we were taken to Guell Park for a wonderful view of the city. The park itself displayed more of Gaudi’s work – we had a pleasant half hour stroll here. Then we were taken to the 1992 Olympic Facilities. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics I will always remember for the opening ceremonies. In that opening ceremony we saw an archer shoot an arrow on fire to light the Olympic torch. I have seen that lighting ceremony many times on tv (it is often repeated whenever there is an Olympics games telecast). It was a thrill to actually see the stadium where that lighting took place and the Olympic Cauldron still standing as a silent sentinel over the stadium. Also we saw the arena where the US “dream team” basketball team dominated the 1992 competition. Finally we were driven to the Old Town section (Gothic District and Ramblas). We had a quick lunch at a European sandwich shop. Fortunately our guide Patrick was along to help us order! (the staff had a hard time understanding us Americans!). After lunch we walked along the Ramblas – an outdoor mall bustling with activity (open air shops, street performers, restaurants, etc)
Overall Tour Grade: A+
Patrick and Barcelona Tour Guides were the perfect hosts for this tour. The tour bus was the best one we had on the whole trip (comfortable and easy to hear Patrick’s running commentary). Patrick was very knowledgeable and was great in answering our questions and bridging the language barrier at some of our stops.
Anne’s Take: I thought Barcelona was an interesting port of call. We saw many beautiful sights. It is definitely a town for lovers of architecture. As our guide explained, Barcelona is famous for the beauty in the details of the centuries old buildings, churches, fountains and art. Our guide recommended that we only view the Sagrada Familia from outside and not pay the €8 per person to enter the grounds. Everything of interest at this point in time is basically visible from outside and the inside of the church is mostly covered by scaffolding. I had heard from other visitors that they didn’t think they got their money’s worth by paying the entrance fee. I especially enjoyed walking down Ramblas. There was so much activity. It was very crowded but the ideal place for people watchers. I saw many people from the ship, crew and passengers, enjoying a drink and tapas in the many restaurants and café’s along the 5 block stretch. Tapas are small portions, three or four chunks of fish, meat or vegetables, or a dollop of salad. We saw many living statues and street performers both along Ramblas and even around the Sagrada Familia. The boys did enjoy watching these performers as well as debating whether the ‘living’ statues were actually alive!
The day we visited Cannes we were in for a special treat – this was the opening day of the famous Cannes film festival! The city was bustling with excitement for the festival, and especially the grand premiere of the DaVinci Code movie. We found it interesting to see the film festival grounds. I saw director James Cameron (titanic) walking by us in the streets of Cannes, and we also thought we saw the actor Johnny Depp. For our day at Cannes and nearby sights we had another excellent private tour guide – Ghislaine from Dream Tours (website www.dream-tours.com ). Ghislaine, a French guide, spoke excellent English and provided a running commentary as we drove through Cannes, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Eze, and the art community of St Paul.
The highlight of the tour for me was the visit to the small country of Monaco, the 2nd smallest country on earth. At Monaco we visited the palace and saw the changing of the guard, we saw the famous Monte Carlo casino, and we drove part of the course of the well known Monaco Grand Prix. The race was only 10 days away and we could see the grandstands and the race course clearly marked. I’ll be sure to watch the Monaco Grand Prix with interest this year! Ghislaine first took us to an overlook of Monaco, and then drove us down a winding mountain road to the heart of the town of Monte Carlo. As we finished the mountain drive Ghislaine said, “that was the road where Grace Kelly had her fatal accident” (referring to the former actress and princess of this small country). After our visit to Monaco we had lunch at a sandwich shop in Eze. We shopped in Eze, drove through Nice (with a scenic harbor), and the art community of St Paul De Vence. Cannes was the only port where we had to take a tender boat to the shore. We allowed plenty of time in the morning and in the late afternoon to get to/from the ship.
Overall Tour Grade: A-
Our driver Ghislaine provided excellent commentary as she showed us the sights of the French countryside and Monaco. Ghislaine was also very good at answering all of our questions. The drive on the winding mountain roads was a difficult one, with very little parking in the towns we stopped in. We were sure glad we had a professional guide to show us the way instead of trying to drive this area on our own. Like many of the other small van tours we had on this trip, there was no microphone for the driver so it was a little difficult for those in the back to hear Ghislaine’s commentary. This tour also was of less interest to the kids compared to some of our other tours.
Anne’s Take: There were yachts up and down the coast of Canne; yachts of all sizes. As we traveled both ways, ship to shore, and back again we kept our eyes on the yachts in case there were any celebrity sightings. The changing of the guard in Monaco was interesting but very, very crowded and if you did not get a place along the chain path at least 20 minutes prior, you could see very little of the procession. Monaco is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet like most other places we visited this trip you had to make a donation in order to use the public washroom.
Livorno, Italy (including Florence)
We received bad news a few days before our stop in Livorno, Italy. There was to be a big bike race at Pisa the day we were at this port, so instead of seeing Pisa (and the famous leaning tower) plus Florence we were to see only Florence. This turned out OK because Florence had more than enough to occupy us for our 5 hour visit. The port of Livorno is very industrial and there is not much to see in the town itself. Instead we took an hour and a half drive to Florence with Thierry of http://www.florencetour.com We enjoyed the scenic countryside as we got closer to Florence. Our first stop at our destination was Michelangelo Square, where we got a great view of the city and some of the attractions we would visit later in the day. Next we visited the Acadamia to see Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. David was even more impressive in person than the many photos I had seen of it – the attention to detail in the statue was amazing (you could see the veins in David’s arm in stone). The statue was also larger in person (15 feet tall, 10 tons) than I expected. The Acadamia also had other paintings and partially completed sculptures by Michelangelo, but the David statue was by far the most impressive. After viewing David we toured the magnificent St Maria Del Fiore cathedral – the third largest cathedral in the world. The cathedral was quite impressive from the outside. The inside was more simple (not as ornate as St Mark’s that we had seen in Venice) though the inside of the dome was an amazing piece of artwork. Our guide Paola for this section of the tour did a great job explaining the history of the cathedral and the artwork inside. Once we finished touring St Maria Del Fiore we broke off from our tour group to have lunch and explore Florence on our own for three hours. To start we had a delicious pizza lunch at a pizzeria near the cathedral (“best pizza of the trip” said Andrew). Then we decided to go back to St Maria Del Fiore and make the long climb to the impressive dome. The climb was over 450 steps! Refreshed from lunch we were up for the challenge. This was a much harder climb than what we had in Venice, but once we reached the top the views were well worth it. Seeing the colorful artwork on the dome close up, and viewing Florence from the top of the cathedral was the highlight of our visit to the city. After our climb we bought a gelato from a nearby open air café (yum!) and later met our tour bus for the 1 ½ hour drive back to the ship.
Overall Tour Grade: B
We were disappointed we missed Pisa but we really enjoyed our few hours in Florence. The transportation provided for us was very good. Just like some of our other tours, this one also had a van without a microphone which made hearing the driver’s commentary difficult for those in the back seat. Our driver Thierry was excellent, though, in his local knowledge and commentary along the drive. We spent less time with our guides on this tour and did more on our own. We thought our guide that Florence tours setup for us at the Academia was not good. Also at 1 pm there was no lunch break planned so we left the tour, had lunch, and did our own touring for the remaining 3 hours. This turned out to be great for us as we found a good lunch place and we all enjoyed the climb to the top of the cathedral. While there were good parts to Florence tours service, we didn’t think they added as much value as some of our other tour guides at other ports.
Anne’s Take: Seeing the statue of David was amazing. The boys seemed to even get over their shyness at his state of undress and start appreciating the art. I do recommend climbing to the top of the ‘Duomo of Florence’ if you are in good shape and not concerned with tight, enclosed spaces. As we ascended and descended the Duomo, we encountered narrow winding staircases and during parts you were faced with other sightseers going in the opposite direction but the passage was really only wide enough for one person.
We were to experience what I would rate as our best tours of the whole trip in Rome. Here I hired Stefano of Rome Tours as our private guide – 4 hours on the first day and 7 hours on the second. We had limited time to explore this great city, and Stefano truly made our visit memorable.
Our tour on Day one started at 1 pm. Stefano drove us to the Vatican where he had setup for us a private tour guide – an American named Scott. Scott was dressed in blue jeans and had a great sense of humor (in addition to being very knowledgeable about the Vatican). Scott led us to see the highlights of the Vatican in our quick 2 hour visit. The art treasures stored here were amazing, you could easily visit every day of the year and still notice new things. What stood out for me were the beautiful and reverent Sistine Chapel, and the impressive size of St Peters Basilica. We saw the balcony where the Pope addresses the crowds on major holy days (and where the new Pope made his first public appearance). I had seen St Peters square many times on TV before and it was a thrill to actually see this historic setting in person. Andrew and Josh voted our Vatican guide Scott their favorite for the whole trip. He had a unique ability to explain the history and art of the Vatican to the adults yet still keep the kids entertained. After our visit to the Vatican, we were back with our Rome Guide Stefano and saw the Trevi fountain, Pantheon, and other impressive sights. Stefano was amazing in navigating the difficult traffic of the Rome streets while providing us a running commentary of what we were seeing. He recommended a small local restaurant in the town of Fiumicino where we had a huge pasta meal to celebrate my 50th birthday.
On day two of our Rome tours, Stefano picked us up early (8:30 am) for a full day of touring Rome’s historic sights. We saw the Coliseum – here Stefano got us around a huge line to the entrance (still don’t know how he did that!) and we had virtually no wait to get into this ancient stadium. I am a big sports fan and I marveled how the Romans could construct such a stadium in only 8 years starting in the year 79 AD – I could see how stadiums throughout history were modeled after this one. Also impressive to visit this day were the site of Circus Maximus (where chariot races were held), the Roman emperor’s palace overlooking Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum where the remains of government buildings were to be found, and the Catacombs outside the city. For lunch Stefano took us to one of his favorite “quick meal” places, a cafeteria style Italian restaurant near the Vatican, where we had another huge and delicious pasta meal!
Overall Tour Grade: A+
After our long 12 night cruise we all were ready to go home, but I was SO GLAD we decided to add a couple of post cruise days as part of the trip planning to tour Rome. Stefano’s tour was very personalized, taking us to the sights we wanted to see, and he was great in his knowledge of history, his driving skill, restaurant recommendations, and the independent tours he set up for us (Scott for the Vatican, Catacombs, etc). Yes it costs some more to hire a tour guide for a visit to Rome, but it was money well spent. I can’t imagine we would have seen near as much or learned as much about ancient Rome had we done it on our own.
Anne’s Take: Although you could not see everything you would want to see in Rome in several weeks time, we only had 2 days. For the short period we did have we hit all the highlights. The tour of the Vatican was hardest on the boys. It was a very warm day and most of the Vatican is not air conditioned. The boys walked through rooms where they had very little interest and were tired and hot, but they stuck it out. Especially with the fact that our guide, Scott, included them in the tour, talking to them at their level and including sites he thought might interest them. Everything we saw on day 2 was fascinating. We truly got a brief but thorough overview of ancient Rome.
Carnival Liberty While we saw many amazing sights on our trip, the cruise itself was impressive in its own right. Below I describe features of our Carnival Liberty cruise ship.
Main Dining Room (Golden and Silver Palace) We were pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of the main dining room food. We had good meat dishes here throughout our cruise, and the salads, soups, and desserts were very good also. Our servers were attentive to our needs. On the first night of the cruise I had “hot chocolate” instead of coffee as an after dinner drink. Thereafter each night we ate in the dining room our assistant server brought me a hot chocolate. The worst meal I had in the main dining room during our cruise was the lobster one night – it was dry and not very good. The lobster I had in the specialty restaurant (see below) was much better. After experiencing “anytime dining” a few months early on Princess, we were glad to be back on a fixed dining time (the early dining) with the same waiters each night. There were a few nights where we missed our dining because of a late shore excursion, but on those nights we found the buffet to be an adequate replacement.
Main Dining Grade: B+
While we liked the quality and variety of the main dining room food, we found they were not as open to off the menu requests as other cruise lines. For example, our son Andrew likes iceberg lettuce. On other cruise lines (Princess, HAL, Disney, etc) we had no problem getting iceberg lettuce for Andrew. On this cruise no special requests like this were allowed – only the salads on the menu were available. Once we adjusted to the lack of special requests we did enjoy the dining room food and the service. We also found the main dining room an excellent place to eat breakfast. The buffet was often crowded for breakfast and we found we could eat breakfast quicker many mornings in the Silver Palace dining room. The quality of the breakfast food in the main dining room was also superior to the buffet.
Anne’s Take: One thing I liked about the menu was the consistency. With Carnival the menu usually offers a pattern with each meal – two cold appetizers, one hot; 2 hot soups one cold; one basic salad which is on the menu everyday and one new salad; a pasta dish; and a red meat dish every day in addition to a few unique choices. One thing I didn’t like is that on many other cruise lines they had an ‘always available’ menu in addition to the daily choices (such as sirloin steak, chicken breast, and other more basic food). Carnival has a special arrangement with French chef Georges Blanc with to offer signature selections. The times I ordered one of these special selections I was very pleased.
At first we were disappointed in the buffet of the Carnival Liberty. After boarding the ship we expected a wide variety of buffet choices like we had seen on other cruise lines, but instead the main buffet line had limited offerings (a salad bar, 4 or 5 entrees, and dessert). The quality of the food, we thought, was just OK. The main buffet was not open for as many hours as what we have seen on other cruises (Princess and Holland America’s buffets have longer operating hours) As the cruise progressed, though, we discovered other parts of the buffet that we really enjoyed. I loved the oriental section that we missed the first day – I had oriental food for lunch almost every day (fried rice, Chinese selections such as sesame chicken, spring rolls, etc). There were also a separate sections for made to order sandwiches, Mongolian barbeque, and for fish and chips. Perhaps what Carnival is the best at in the buffet area is their 24 hour pizza station, grille, and ice cream located just outside the main buffet. The made to order pizza was excellent (this was Josh’s favorite). At meal times hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and other items were available at the grill. I especially liked the 24 hour soft serve ice cream and yogurt machines available outside the buffet. The quality of the soft serve was excellent – very creamy – much better than the cheap ice cream we had on Holland America last year. Most cruise lines offer ice cream these days (some for an extra cost) but Carnival was the first one we saw that offered 24 hour ice cream. This was especially good for a late night or early morning snack. The buffet was also a good option at breakfast and lunch, though we found the lines to be long at these dining times. At breakfast there was a made to order omelet station that was very good if you arrived early to avoid the crowds.
Buffet grade: B+
Mediocre main buffet line food, but Carnival makes up for it with very good “specialty areas” such as the oriental food station, 24 hour ice cream station, grill, etc.
Anne’s Take: We do not purchase soft drink cards when we cruise and choose to drink the available options. We were very pleased with Carnival’s drink options. We had a variety of juice available in the morning and for the other meals they offer lemonade and fruit punch in addition to ice tea and the usual coffee and hot and cold water. This was a big improvement over our Caribbean Princess cruise in February, when all that was offered for cold drink was water and iced tea.
Josh says: “The food on this cruise was really, really good! The dining room had steak and pasta every night, so I never had anything that I didn’t like. On the last night, I had turkey and it was the best meal of the whole cruise. The buffet was good too because they had almost the exact same thing as the dining room, except you can get how much you want. Overall, I think I would give the dining an A on this cruise.”
Harry’s Supper Club
The growing trend in cruising these days is to have one or more “specialty” restaurants onboard in addition to the regular dining room fare. The Carnival Liberty was no exception as they offered Harry’s Supper Club as an upscale dining alternative. Anne and I were pleasantly surprised with Harry’s. While Andrew and Josh dined with their friends from the kids club in the buffet, we enjoyed a first class meal at Harry’s in a romantic atmosphere. The restaurant was located high on the ship (deck 12) which reminded me of Disney’s Palo. The food here was excellent. Anne had Filet Mignon while I had lobster. The lobster tail portion was huge and was of much better quality than what I had eaten in the ship’s main dining room a few days before. Anne had equally high praise for her steak. The appetizers, side dishes, and desserts were also very good. As an added bonus, the restaurant had pleasant background music with a two lounge singers. Dancing was also available on a small dance floor.
Specialty restaurant grade: A-
The $30 per person cover charge to eat at Harry’s was a bit steep (by comparison Disney’s Palo only charges a $10 cover fee for example) but otherwise everything at Harry’s was superb. I still rate Disney’s Palo and Princess’ Sabatinni’s as my favorite cruise line specialty restaurants (perhaps my love for Italian food influences those choices!) but Harry’s matches or exceeds the other cruise line specialty restaurants we have dined at. I would say Harry’s is comparable to Holland America’s excellent Pinnacle Grill – I liked Harry’s even better because there were more choices available to a non-steak eater like me. We also thought Harry’s was superior to the specialty restaurants we have experienced on NCL, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean.
Our stateroom was a category K inside room – one of the least expensive rooms you could book for a family of four. This was one of the smallest staterooms we have had on a cruise, and we also thought the storage was not as efficient as we have seen on other ships. We did find our stateroom attendants prompt with good service throughout the cruise. The stateroom also had upgraded bedding ( a Carnival “Comfort” bed) – our bed was more comfortable than many other beds we’ve had in other cruise line staterooms
Stateroom Grade: B-
The Carnival Liberty gets negative ratings for the size and storage capabilities of the inside stateroom, but the stateroom service and bedding was good. Having a self serve laundry on the same deck was also a plus, as we used the laundry a few times to get through our 12 night cruise. We did hear from other cruisers who had booked balcony staterooms that they were pleased with the size of their rooms. Our strategy instead was to spend a minimum on the accommodations, and use the money saved to spend more on touring. This worked well for us as we didn’t spend that much time in our stateroom. If we were sailing by a scenic spot (such as the arrival into Venice or cruising past Mount Stromboli) we found the public decks fine to enjoy the scenery.
Anne’s Take: I was pleased that there was plenty of room under the bed in the stateroom to store suitcases. This has not always been the case with other cruise lines. Our limited space was even more limited since the 2 bunk beds were down from the first time we entered the stateroom through the entire cruise. This limits the headroom of course but also there are 2 ladders leading up to the beds. If the boys weren’t in the room, we could put the ladders up on their beds but when the 4 of us were in the room it was a challenge
The Carnival Liberty had a good sized main theatre (The Venetian Palace) with three big production shows during our 12 night cruise. We thought the singing and dancing in these shows were very good, complemented by a “high tech” stage with some interesting special effects. Andrew and Josh even got to participate in one of the shows as part of their kids club group – that was a thrill for them. On other nights in the main theatre Carnival offered singers, a comedian, a magic show, and a few audience participation shows. The Liberty had a good number of different themed bars around the ship – a piano bar, various lounges, etc. We didn’t see as many choices in nighttime entertainment as we had on our Caribbean Princess cruise earlier this year Like the Caribbean Princess, the Liberty also had a large outdoor movie screen and showed “movies under the stars” at night. We liked this feature, but we thought Princess offered more and better movies compared to what the Liberty had during our cruise. We did watch “March of the Penguins” one night on the big outdoor screen and we enjoyed that. The nighttime temperatures on our cruise were much cooler than our Caribbean cruise in February, which made sitting out on an open deck and watching a movie less comfortable than what we had experienced on the Caribbean Princess a few months earlier. The Liberty was somewhat lacking as far as educational lectures onboard. On other cruise lines, such as our Celebrity Alaska cruise last September, there were a number of experts in different fields giving talks for guests on various subjects. With the rich history of the European ports it seemed like this would be a great opportunity to have a number of educational talks onboard, but the Liberty did not offer any. Instead our cruise director John did a yeoman’s job in playing the social host and providing commentary on different ports and sights we saw along the way. John was funny and quite good at his job, but it seemed Carnival could have supplemented John with a few special interest speakers like we have seen on other cruise lines. Anne and I love to play trivia on cruises and the Liberty had a good number of trivia contests (2 or 3 on most days). After a few near misses we finally won a “ship on a stick” prize in a general trivia contest a few nights before the end of our cruise.
Entertainment Grade: B+
The production shows were excellent in a first rate theatre. While John the cruise director was fun (as was the rest of the entertainment staff). Carnival relied on audience participation a bit too much to supplement their main shows.
There were 3 pools on the Liberty. In the aft (outside the buffet) there was an adults only pool with 2 hot tubs. This pool offered a sliding covering, so the pool could be used regardless of the weather. The other two pools on the 9th deck were in the center of the ship. In addition to the pools was a 2 story, circular slide. The slide was not attached to the pool, but ended in a tub-like rectangle full of water. The boys very much enjoyed using the slide. Anne even tried it once. The water in the pools and the slide is very cold. It appeared that the cruise line replaced the water daily with fresh sea water. So in addition to the cool temperature, the water is very salty. There are 3 hot tubs surrounding the 2 main pools. The boys tried out all 3 and reported that only one of the hot-tubs was actually hot, the other two were very warm but not what one would expect for a hot tub. There was a small wading pool on the 12th deck, outside Camp Carnival, for small swimmers.
I will let Andrew and Josh rate the kids club.
Andrew says: “On the Carnival Liberty, on deck 12 forward, ( I remembered) is the best place on the face of the earth! Camp Carnival!! This place is so cool, I can’t tell you how cool it is, it’s so cool! I mean when you walk in it’s a little weird because they have this baby fence type thing but after you get in the fence it’s so awesome! A huge room with a bunch of toys is waiting for you, but that’s not the best part. There is another huge room with a giant T.V. and a bunch of other T.V.S around it. Here they play movies or play DVD movie games. The best part is they have 4 beanbags and a three curvy chairs around the T.V. On the other side they have another awesome room. Here’s the list of what they have (Get Ready): Foosball, PS2, Snowcone maker, More PS2’s, hula hoops, jump ropes, basketballs, soccer balls, More PS2’s, volleyballs, air hockey, and Candy art. Um.. Did I mention that there were PS2’s? Ok, other than PS2’s the counselors were great. They let everyone have fun, but be safe at the same time. There was one kid who would not stop attacking the other kids, and he was 3. The counselors took care of him, yeah! On the cruise we were on, there weren’t many kids so you got a lot of attention. So that pretty much does it for Camp Carnival. Thank You and tune in next time for another special episode of Andrew’s Kids’ Club Reviews!”
Josh says: “I liked the kids club on Carnival a lot. The best part was that there were like 30 Playstation 2s in one room and a lot of games. There was also a huge TV and a bunch of beanbags to sit in. The staff was great too. They were nice and played really fun games. We even got to go on scavenger hunts and go in the arcade for free one time. Overall, the kids club on carnival was awesome!” Needless to say, Andrew and Josh loved the kids club and went there often during our free time on the ship.
The Carnival Liberty had prepaid internet minute packages available – the largest package was 250 minutes for $100. With my work as a travel agent and frequently checking email from clients, I opted for the 250 minute package. Even this was not enough for the 12 night cruise so I found myself buying two packages for the length of the cruise. The internet café on the Liberty was small and located off of a “smoking” lounge (The Cabinet) – you could not get to the café except for walking through this lounge. This was a negative, especially in the evening where smoke filled the lounge. However a big PLUS for the internet service was wireless access throughout the ship, including in our stateroom. I found the wireless service to be very good. I frequently just accessed the internet from my laptop from the comfort of my stateroom or from a lounge onboard instead of going to the internet café. The wireless capabilities of the ship were MUCH better than my two previous cruises (on Disney’s Wonder and on the Caribbean Princess).
Computer Access Grade: B+
I give a strong positive rating for the wireless capabilities – in fact this was the best wireless setup I have experienced on a cruise. The Internet café room could be bigger and located in a better place free from a smoking lounge. Internet access generally was speedy and good throughout the cruise, with only a few glitches. The early morning was definitely the best time to access the internet – I found the connection speeds fastest at that time. An unlimited minutes plan would have been nice to have (like Disney’s) but most non-Disney cruise lines have a similar setup to the Liberty (where a large bunch of minutes can be bought at a reduced price).
Upon our arrival in Rome Carnival was very organized in getting us to the port of Civitavecchia (about an hour’s drive away). In the baggage claim area there were 4 or 5 Carnival representatives easily identified – these Carnival reps directed us to our bus once we had claimed our luggage. Carnival took our luggage and the next time we saw it was on the ship. The bus ride from Rome to Citivechhia was shorter than I expected – I had heard it was an hour and a half drive but we were there in less than an hour. Once at the port Carnival had a good number of personnel to help with the checkin process, and we were on the ship in no time. Our cabin was also ready for us by the time we got on the ship at around 12:30 pm. At the end of the cruise checkout was also efficient. We waited until our group was called to disembark. After claiming our luggage we were escorted to a large bus and listened to running commentary on the area from a Carnival guide as we were driven to our hotel in Rome.
Overall Grade: B
Very efficient and easy on arrival, and it was nice our stateroom was ready early as we boarded the ship. The disembarkation process wasn’t quite as good (it was a zoo to claim our luggage and get it to the truck where it was transported to our hotel), but the bus transportation was good both ways.
Post Cruise Hotel
We opted to book two nights at a hotel through a Carnival package- the Rome Airport Hilton. While the airport is located about a 30 to 40 minute drive from the city we liked the location and the modern amenities of this hotel. We wanted to see ancient ruins, not stay in them, so this fairly new hotel was perfect for us. We were upgraded at no extra charge to the Business Level of the hotel (2 rooms). We enjoyed the unlimited free drinks (soft drinks and juices) in the Club Lounge, and the breakfasts and evening snacks served in the lounge. Anne, Andrew, and Josh also appreciated the big pool the hotel offered, and had a relaxing swim here after our rigorous two days of Rome touring.
Overall Hotel grade: A-
We were pleasantly surprised at the Airport Hilton hotel. With our Rome tour guide Stefano picking us up from the hotel it was not a problem being located a distance from the city center. We thought the checkin process at the hotel could have been smoother (we had a wait of 30 to 45 minutes with a limited number of front desk staff) but otherwise we enjoyed our stay here.
We bought our airfare through Carnival this trip as they had a great deal on the 3rd/4th passenger rates ($399 per person roundtrip from Denver to Rome for Andrew and Josh). While we usually buy airfare separate from the cruise line, for an International flight flying in the same day as the cruise departure we also felt more safe booking the air through Carnival. If there were any air delays Carnival would see to it that we made it to the ship one way or another. Upon departure, we had a 2 ½ hour flight from Denver to Cincinnati, and then a 9 ½ hour flight from Cincinnati to Rome on Delta. Our overseas flight (767 airplane) did come with dinner and breakfast service. Carnival booked us on American Airlines coming home – Rome to Chicago and Chicago to Denver. We liked the service on the return flight even better – we had more leg room on our American Airlines flight and the food was better when compared to Delta.
Other notes to be aware of
Most of our independent shore excursions required payment in Euros at the end of the tour, so we needed a good amount of European money on our trip. I chose to get a share of our Euros before leaving home, and then purchased more Euros through ATM’s in the various ports we visited. I was glad we had Euros with us to start, as ATM’s were not as readily available as I expected early in the trip. However as the trip wore on we were able to easily find ATM’s for extra cash. Be sure to tell your bank back home that you will be traveling abroad (so that they don’t put a hold on your debit card for unexpected foreign charges). Our Washington Mutual Debit Card worked great in the few ports where we did get cash. The exchange rate at the foreign ATM’s was better than what we were able to get back in the U.S. We also took precautions against pick pockets, which we had heard were very common in Europe. Our cruise mates had plenty of stories of friends or acquaintances losing their wallets or purses to thieves in Rome and other European cities. We opted to get money pouches secured around our waists and stored our cash in there while on shore excursions. This worked fine and gave us peace of mind in some of the crowds we were in.
Public toilets in many ports required a 50 cent payment – at first we were not prepared for this! The Euros we brought with us came in 5 Euro denominations at the smallest, and similarly from ATMs we could not get change. After a few purchases we did have some small coins for the bathroom fees. Don’t try to use a public toilet without paying, otherwise you may learn some new Italian curse words that you hadn’t heard before! (we saw one bathroom attendant yelling at an American who had not paid)
We adjusted surprisingly well to the time change – for most of our trip we were 8 hours ahead of our time back home in Colorado. What helped here I think was not doing any “pre-cruise” touring but instead saving our hotel stay for after the cruise. This way on our long first day of travel we took transfers to the port and once on the ship we were able to relax and go to bed early. It would have been more difficult if we had a tour planned right away that first day.
Summary: Overall Cruise Grade: A
This was truly a once in a lifetime trip for us that we will remember for the rest of our lives. The diversity of the ports was great and the best I have experienced on any cruise – at each port we had a different adventure waiting for us. For someone looking for a port intensive cruise with lots of interesting places to see, this is the cruise for you! In addition to my 50th birthday celebration on the trip, this cruise also allowed me to reconnect with my Italian heritage. My grandparents on both sides came from Italy (my dad changed his name from “Lasaracino” to Larison in his 20’s – I am Italian). It was a thrill to see the area where one of my grandmothers was from (a city north of Naples) and see many other small Italian towns. I got a sense of what life may have been like for my grandparents in observing everyday life in these communities. Also we thought our Carnival Liberty ship offered a good cruise experience.
While there was some plusses and minuses compared to other ships, overall we enjoyed this new ship and thought it was comparable to the newer ships we have sailed on with other lines. I’d rate the Carnival Liberty a step below what we have experienced on Princess ships, but still more than acceptable.
The one problem with this cruise – I have now caught the European travel bug!! There are many interesting places to visit in Europe, and we sampled just a few on this cruise. Europe is so rich in history and sights to see – I look forward to visiting again in future years!
Anne’s Take: We did pack a lot into our 14 days of travel. Since it was the first time to Europe for our family it was the perfect opportunity to sample Europe. We now have wonderful memories of all the beautiful places we were able to visit and should we return to Europe we can spend more time in the places that appealed to us. There were many times we were in a beautiful town square with an outdoor café surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the local ambiance. I wanted nothing more than to sit down at a table, get a drink and enjoy the local atmosphere. With our busy tour schedule we didn’t do a lot of soaking up the local culture at a leisurely pace. I hope to do more of that on future trips to Europe. However, I wouldn’t trade a moment of this trip. The itinerary was perfect for us and we were able to experience things we will cherish as a family for the rest of our lives.
Opinions of the trip from 12 year old boys
Here are Andrew and Josh’s thoughts on the ports we visited and the trip overall.
Andrew says: “We had a great time on the cruise and I enjoyed every second of it. During the cruise we went to some cool ports around Italy. These are the ports that we visited and what was so awesome about each one of them.
Naples: Naples was a great way to start out our trip in Italy. Here we went to the ancient town of Pompeii and saw Mt. Vesuvius. The streets in the town went on forever and seemed like you were looking at two things, wrecked bricks and pillars (yawn). Then we saw the bodies of the people who tried to hide from the eruption. You could even see their perfect teeth! (They had great dentists back in the day..) There were also some disturbing images on the walls and some on the ground. (I avoided them) Once we were out of the city we took a rest from our long and tiring trek. Once on the road again we drove for a long time until we reached the Almalfi Coast. It’s a town that is on the side of a cliff, near the ocean! (One wrong move and they’re toast!). Our driver took us to a market were there lemons almost the size of a football! Now that’s a big lemon. For lunch he brought us to a little restaurant were no spoke English! Luckily the guide translated. We got 2 pizzas to split and ordered a few Cokes. Before our meal arrived, they brought out a special appetizer. Pizza without sauce or cheese, oh boy that sounds good eh?. It had spices so it tasted really good. When the pizza came I only ate one slice, but I ate the entire giant appetizer! After a filling lunch we hopped back into the van and went back to the ship. What a long and exciting day in Naples!
Venice: We had a great time in the port city of Venice. From our ship you could see all of the huge monuments and historical buildings. Once we got off the ship we waited on the dock below for our guide. He showed up in a little boat ( It was no yacht, trust me.) It wasn’t actually that bad once we got inside. (It still wasn’t a yacht.) We cruised around the outskirts of Venice and saw more historical buildings. Once in the city I was surprised to see no roads! It was just one huge waterway. They had waterbuses and water taxis to! That made me laugh. On the docks, some pigeons liked to hang out around there and some teens on a field trip were throwing stuff at them, like shoes. (Oh no the poor shoes!) In the late afternoon we climbed a huge bell tower that had tons of stairs. “It even had ramps” Quote my Mom. “For us old folks!” (Just kidding) The view was amazing from the top of the tower; I was disappointed because the bells went off a few minutes after we left. (That would be loud!) We drove around the waterways some more until we stopped for a break to shop and stuff. What a long and exciting day in Venice! (Sound familiar?)
Venice: Day 2: To start of the morning we met our guide at the dock again to go into the city for a walking tour. He guided us through city into churches, squares and towers. The best part was Saint Marco Square were there were thousands of crawling drooling and pooping pigeons. The whole square was covered with those little freaky birds! There was a lady who was selling pigeon feed and every time you threw some to them they started to fly at you and land on your body. This one girl threw it all and almost one hundred started to attack her. What’s even more amazing is that one walked two inches next to me. (Gasp). After the fun with the birds the guide drove us around more until he let us off for a shopping time. I bought ice cream for one euro (Great Deal) with the little money I had. Everyone else bought some too. Oh yeah and I almost forgot my little buddy his name is Spencer and he went along with us during most of the ports I’m talking about. He was funny and entertained us during the trips. What a long and exciting day in Venice, again!
Sicily: Today we had a great day exploring the coastal island of Sicily. To start off the day we went up the long hills and mountains to get to Mt. Etna, a volcano. (Don’t worry it didn’t explode) Once there we found two hills one giant volcano and one not even big. I climbed the huge one all the way to the very top. About a 16th of the way Josh chickened out and ran and said in his annoying voice “You might fall”. I keep telling him, but I never fell a single time. Well at the end when I was coming down to the very bottom, I tripped over this pebble (Funny story about that actually). Anyways the view from the top of the mountain was completely amazing and the crater was huge! Then, my mom suggested climbing the small, tiny, microscopic mountain. Josh was happy because it wasn’t as big. When we went up the very unsteep path to the front of it. There was amazing view of mountains and hills and guess what Josh says? What does he say? I’m gonna fall! After the long mountain hikes we went to the city where the guide let us shop and eat lunch. We went to a local pizzeria for lunch. Josh and I ordered a big mozzarella cheese pizza, no sauce! It was very good. After some more views and driving we went back to the ship. What a long and exciting day in Sicily!
Barcelona: Today in Barcelona, Spain we did many things. To start out the day we met our guide who had a huge luxury minibus with him. (It was huge!) We drove around town to historic places (History and more History, it never ends!) and we finally ended up at a giant church. It had four spires, but I forget the name of the church. Anyway, the guide said they had worked on it for hundreds of years and they haven’t finished it. (Did they have blueprints back then?) What’s on the church is a whole different story. On one side they had the design they made hundreds of years ago. It was very detailed, the other side I can’t say so much about. All the people are huge and blocky and they have little detail. Our guide pointed out one of the people looked like Darth Vader from Star Wars. That side was funny. In front of the church there were a bunch of street performers dressed in costumes. Some acted like statues and moved when you went by. One of them was a Devil (Scary!) who kept looking at me (Scarier!) and then he pointed to his lap! (Scariest!) Or he could of pointed to his money can, I don’t know. (Laugh) Then we went to a local park where people were throwing metal balls at a red ball. It looked like horseshoes to me. Josh was so attracted to the shiny balls he almost got hit with one. (Gasp, Just kidding) We went around the city some more and stopped at parks historical buildings and much, much more. For lunch we stopped by a sub restaurant that had subs (Duh). They were ok. What a long and exciting day in Barcelona!
Cannes: Today was a very short day in Cannes. We met our guide early in the morning and she took us up through the mountains to see amazing views. Then we went to Monaco the second smallest country in the world. There we saw the guards walk around with guns and beating drums. (I bet they love their job) After that we were let off at a town on the side of a mountain! There I bought some candy, but I only got like 13 gummy bears for 2 euros! That stunk a lot. What a short and boring day in Cannes!
Florence: Florence was great today, and I had a great time. Our guide showed us through all of the parks and buildings that had amazing views and incredible construction. The best part was we got to go to a museum (Forgot the name..) And we saw famous paintings, well I think they are famous. We also saw the 12-foot guy who’s naked and is holding a slingshot. Yeah, It’s David from David and Goliath. And yeah he was really naked, it was nasty yet cool at the same time. That Micheal person did a good job, that must of took forever! And it was made out of a block of marble! Pretty Cool. Anyway we had a weird museum guide who talked quietly. He asked me when I saw David, “How does this make you feel?” I had a good laugh out of that. For lunch we dropped out of the group to be on our own for a few hours. We had awesome pizza at a local place. Our guide had showed us a church earlier and we decided to climb the dome church’s 431 stairs! It was a long climb but the view was great from the top of it! What long and exciting day in Florence.
Rome: These were one of the best two days of the trip. We went to the Coliseum, which was really cool. You could even see the part underground where they kept the animals and stuff. It was much bigger than I had expected. We also went to a chariot track, the Pantheon, the underground graves and much, much more. That pretty much does it for our great trip to Italy. I had a great time, and if you ever go there check out everything I said, it’s amazing! Thanks for Reading!”
Josh says: “Naples: First, we got in a van and drove to Pompeii. It was really cool because there were a lot of ancient buildings and people covered with ash. After, we went to three other cities and saw great views of the cities and the ocean. We stopped at each city and looked around at the scenery. At the last city, we stopped at a restaurant and had great pizza
Florence: When we got off the ship, a driver picked us up and we drove to Florence. Our first stop was an old museum. We walked through this long hall looking at art and at the end of the hall, was a huge sculpture. Its name was David. It was really amazing, but gross at the same time because it was naked. After that, we went to a huge church with a big dome and walked around it for a while. We got out of the church and had lunch at a really good pizza place and went back in the church again to climb the dome. There was a long line, but it went by fast. We climbed up almost 450 stairs to the top and saw a great view. After taking a lot of pictures, we went back down all 450 steps and made it to the bottom. I still can’t believe I climbed 900 stairs! When the climb was over we got driven back to the ship.
Venice: The first day in Venice, we visited some islands around the city. We climbed a huge bell tower and saw a lot of old stuff. On the second day, we first went to a huge square where there was a bunch of pigeons! After stopping there, we looked around the city, went in a church, and even got ice cream! At the end, we fed the pigeons in the square and one landed on my head! When we were finished, we took a waterbus to the ship
Sicily: The excursion started out with a long drive all the way up to Mt. Etna, a volcano. I got a little carsick on the way but I was fine when we got there. We climbed up a huge hill of ash and rocks and my shoes got all dirty. At the top, there was a great view. The hardest part was getting down. It was really easy to slip because all of the rocks moved when you took a step. After the volcano, we went in a city and had really good pizza. It was really cheesy! Then after lunch we looked around the city and went back to the ship.
Barcelona: We got on a big bus and drove around the city, seeing historic fountains and stuff. After that, we stopped at a HUGE church that isn’t built all the way yet. We looked at it for a while and took pictures. At lunchtime we ate at a European fast food restaurant and had good sandwiches
Cannes: When we got into the city, we saw a bunch of posters and signs for the Da Vinci Code because it was the film festival that day in Cannes. We started off going to Monaco and seeing the guards of the prince’s palace change. Then we drove around where the Grand Prix was and then went to a tiny village on a hill. We walked around for a while and then had lunch at a sandwich place.
Rome: On the first day we started off going to the Vatican. We only had two hours, but we saw a lot of cool stuff. There were a lot of statues and paintings in hallways. Then we went to this big church and outside was a huge area with a big pole in the middle. After the Vatican, we went to famous places like the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. On the second day, we went to a long tunnel underground with a lot of people buried there. When we got out, we went to the Coliseum and took a lot of pictures. It was really cool to be standing right next to it. After we looked at the outside, we went inside and saw the gigantic arena. Next, we went to a park and saw a great view of the whole city. After that, the trip was finally over and we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go home. This was definitely one of the best cruises I’ve been on. There were great pools and a fun waterslide outside, and lots of fun things to do inside. The kids club was great and the dining was awesome. The ports were also really good. Even though it was 12 nights, I still didn’t get bored. I’m glad I went on this cruise, and I hope I go on another one like this again!”