Review / Millennium: Barcelona to Venice 9/19/05

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#1
Ontario, Canada
7,598 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
This was a fabulous trip that exceeded our expectations! Thanks to the wealth of information provided by CC members, we (my DH & I) found it very easy and fun to do most of the ports on our own (without the CC advice, I don’t think we would have attempted half of what we did.) Armed with bus and train schedules, maps, guide books, directions on how to get to the train & metro stations, advance reservations for some sites and good walking shoes, it was a very successful trip!

Millennium is a beautiful ship and we loved our cabin - a concierge class/balcony. We enjoyed the food in the Metropolitan and were lucky enough to be seated next to the floor-to-ceiling windows at the stern on deck 5, with 4 fun table companions from NYC. The staff deserves a lot of credit for the incredible service that they provide. Passengers consisted of 700+ Canadians, slightly fewer number of Americans, British, Australian, Europeans...... And only 6 children in total. We had early dinner, which worked well for us because we were up at the crack of dawn (or before) each day. Only saw 3 shows, which were good, but sleep became more important as the trip progressed. Enjoyed spending time with cruise critic friends that we met through our Roll Call.

The weather was amazing....lots of sunshine, temperatures ranging from 72-77F, and only two very brief rainfalls.

Barcelona: Spent two nights pre-cruise at the Hotel Continental Palacete...great location just 2 blocks from Placa Catalunya. Took the Airport Bus....convenient and a bargain at 3.6E. The subway (10 tickets for 6.3E) was a very easy way to get around. Visited Gaudi’s creations: Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and Casa Mila (loved all 3 and spent a long time at each) also, Bari Gothic District and the Cathedral (took the elevator to the roof top for spectacular views) , strolled La Rambla and the harbour area, ate at Les Quinz Nitz (highly recommended!) It was a long walk uphill from the subway to Parc Guell, a bus would probably be the better alternative.
Thoroughly enjoyed Barcelona and would have liked more time there to visit museums.
There was a cab stand with several cabs just outside of our hotel; cost to get to the ship was 11.5E plus tip.

Embarkation was extremely fast - two minutes in the Express Pass line. (Left our hotel at noon and in our cabin by 1 p.m.) Departure from Barcelona was at 7 pm (muster was at 5:30 and following that we had a quick gathering of our CC Roll Call members in Cosmos Lounge.) Dinner times were 6:15 and 8:45.

Villefranche - 10am - 11pm
Tendered ashore at 10:15 and walked to the bus stop next to the TI office. Caught the 10:37 bus (#100) to Eze Bord du Mer, then the 11:10 bus (#83) up to Eze Village (#83 only runs from May-Sept.) . The cactus garden was the highlight in Eze - both for the garden itself and the spectacular views.
From Eze Village, took the 12:50 pm bus (#112) to Monaco Walked down to the Casino, around the harbour, up the hill to the palace in the Old Town of Monaco. Again, wonderful views! We really enjoyed our afternoon here - it is a modern, clean city, with beautiful buildings...lots of luxury! They were setting up for the Yacht Show, giving us a chance to drool over the multi-million dollar yachts. From the palace we walked to the train station to catch the 4:29 pm train back to V.F. , and then enjoyed a stroll through some of V.F.’s streets. Travel costs for the day were 1.3 E each for the bus from V.F. to Eze Bord du Mer, used the same ticket for bus #83 to Eze village, 2.2 E each for bus from Eze Village to M.Carlo, and 2.3E each for the train from M.Carlo to V.F. Bus and train schedules proved their worth here as it meant no waiting. We were in awe of the beautiful scenery along the French Rivieria!
Bus schedules: http://www.eze-riviera.com/emotions/...nt/ang/bus.htm and http://www.lignedazur.com/
Train Schedules: sncf.com/dynamic/_SvHomePage?_DLG=SvHomePage&_CMD=cmdHomepageUK&WB= HP

Livorno - 7am - 7 pm
We had planned to take the train in today, but one of Italy’s notorious transportation strikes was scheduled , so instead took Celebrity’s Florence on Your Own bus, at 8:15 and arrived in Florence at approx. 10 (at Santa Croce Church.) The guide provided lots of interesting info on the way there and back. Walked along the Arno to Ponte Vecchio, Baptisty doors, Duomo (long lines, so we waited till the afternoon to go inside.) Had an 11:45 reservation at the Accademia - waited in the “reservation” line for 15 minutes (the non-reservation line was a 2.5 hour wait) . Enjoyed seeing the original statue of David and some of his other works. From there we walked through a long street market & caught the #12 bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy great views of Florence. This was a slow bus (40 minutes) - the walk back down took about 20 minutes. Back in town, we spent some time in Uffizi Square and Piazza Signoria with their impressive statues, back to the Duomo (still a long line, but it only took 15 minutes to get inside) then to Santa Croce to meet the bus for 3:45 pm. Florence was extremely crowded - had to move with the flow of people all day, but it was our first visit there and an impressive city to visit - great architecture and art!

Civitavecchia 7 am-7pm
An early start today, in order to catch the 7:30 shuttle out of the port to make the 8:12 train into Rome. An easy 10-15 minute walk to the train station, purchased our tickets (9E ea. which included return trip, plus subways & buses in Rome). Be sure to validate your ticket - fines of 25E were given to people who had not done so!

Arrived in Rome Termini by 9:30 and caught the subway (Line B Colosseo stop) to the Colosseum. We viewed it from the outside (you can see in through the many gates) and a quick stop at the Forum before heading back to the subway to head to the Vatican (Line B to Termini then Line A, Ottaviano or Musei Vaticani stop) for our 12 pm Guided Tour of the museum & Sistine Chapel http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/z-In...zi_Visite.html We really enjoyed the tour and having the highlights pointed out to us....the treasures in the museum, as well as the buildings themselves, are unbelievably beautiful. From the museum, we continued on through the Sistine Chapel and directly into St. Peter’s Basilica (bypassing the long line outside) and once again, we were in awe of the size and beauty of this church.
It was almost 3 pm and with an hour left, we were able to walk to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, via Piazza Navona...with very brief stops at each as we wanted to get to Barberini Subway stop by 4 pm. to get back to Termini for our 4:35 pm train to Civitivacchia. We needed about 15 minutes at the terminal to find and walk to the track that our train to Civitivacchia was on (#27) ... be sure to look at Departures and not Arrivals on the board. (It was a long walk within the terminal to get to the gate!)
The trains were very prompt and easy to use - subways were also easy to use, but traffic was extremely heavy, so had to abort using the one bus that we tried after sitting on it through 4 traffic light changes, without moving an inch.
Arrived in Civitavecchia at 5:50 & walked back to port to catch the last shuttle at 6:00 (which waited until 6:15 for late arrivals). Loved Rome and must go back for a longer stay....so much to see!
Train schedules: http://www.trenitalia.it/en/index.html

Naples - 7am - 7 pm.
We (4 couples from our CC roll call) met Salvatore from DriveAmalfi at 8 a.m. The plan was to head to Pompeii first and then the Amalfi coast, however, due to a labour disruption, Pompeii was closed until 10 a.m. so we saved Pompeii for the afternoon. We headed south out of Naples past the volcanic Mount Vesuvius and arrived at the coast for a spectacularly scenic coastal drive of approx. 30 miles, with many stops at viewpoints high up on the cliffs. We bypassed Sorrento, stopping in the coastal towns of Positano and Amalfi, with about 30 minutes in each town to explore and shop. This area is noted for it’s lemon and olive trees and we saw many growing on terraces throughout the drive. Leaving Amalfi, we headed up into the mountain roads and stopped several miles outside of Amalfi at a restaurant (Ristorante-Pizzeria S. Giovanni) in the small town of Pontone . The outdoor patio provided a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and down to the village of Amalfi; the food was delicious (pizza was their specialty) and very reasonably priced. The bottle of Lemoncello at the end of the meal was a highlight! On through the mountain roads, with plans to be in Pompeii by 3 to meet the guide that Salvatore had arranged for us....we were about 20 minutes late, leaving our time in Pompeii somewhat short. Before dropping us off at the ship (at 5:50) Salvatore had time to take us on a short tour through the area of downtown Naples close to the port. Traffic in Naples is chaotic! Had a great day touring with Salvatore and our CC friends!

The following day was a sea day and after 4 busy port days, we were looking forward to this...amazing how quickly a day of doing nothing can pass by! The Cruise Critic party was planned for 10 a.m. that day, but unfortunately Celebrity staff forgot to send out invitations ahead of time, and finally did so at 9:30 the night prior (but then printed invitations from a previous sailing with the wrong date and location, however, they also left voice mail messages with everyone.) With losing an hour to the time change and the late invitations, only about half of our Roll Call group turned up.....for those of us who did get there, it was a nice chance to chat with our CC friends and catch up on the previous week’s activities.

Mykonos - 1 pm - 12am
Off the ship by 1:15, and onto the shuttle into town. Stopped in at the Archeological Museum (free on Sundays)and then walked further into town and to head up the narrow, winding streets to get a view from above. ...back down to the street along the harbour which is lined with outdoor cafes. Continued on through ‘Little Venice’, a shopping/bar district further along the harbour. Stopped at an internet cafe, they are plentiful and cheap on this island (1E for 15 minutes.) Came across the bus stop & took a bus to Paradise Beach. The bus ride in itself was an experience, riding along narrow winding roads ... a great chance to see some of the island. The water felt like it was in the high 70’sF and is crystal clear. Caught the 6 pm bus (standing room only...packed in like sardines!) back into town.
Used http://www.frommers.com/destinations...652010029.html for our guide material

Santorini - 7am - 11pm
Tendered ashore at 7:45 and caught the cable car up to the town of Fira . We had not planned to spend any time in Fira so headed to Tony’s Rent-a-Car for our reserved car. Ancient Akrotiri is closed on Monday but we decided to head in that direction to see the Red Beach. We parked at the end of the road in Akrotiri and then hiked to the beach (made up of red volcanic pebbles and seems to be only accessible on foot or by water) and then to the top of the hill for some spectacular views. Back in the car, we headed to the town of Faros for more spectacular views of the Caldera. On to Emporio for a lunch stop, then Pyrgos (the highest and oldest village on the island)...wonderful views after walking to the top of the village! On to Kamari Beach (black volcanic pebbles) for a swim here and again amazed by how clear the water is.
From Kamari, headed north, back through Fira, towards Oia, but first stopping in Imerovigli for more great views, then down into Ammoudi ....an old fishing village, with buildings made out of red volcanic stones. Ate at Katina’s Taverna and had a delicious Greek seafood dinner , then walked the path along the shore. Back in the car and up to Oia (our plan was to do Oia late in the day once the tour buses had cleared out and this worked well as it was not very busy at 6 p.m.) Parked the car in Oia and found a nice spot to wait to see Oia’s famous sunset. There was still 45 minutes to wait, but people were lining up already. The sunset was a lackluster one but seeing all the people lined up to watch it was a sight in itself. Arrived back in Fira to drop the car off at 7:45 and walked down the 600 steps, dodging donkey droppings along the way (hard to see at times, because it was dark, and the lights didn’t cover the whole stairway.) We actually saw a few people walking up which seemed like quite a feat! It took about 20 minutes to walk down. There was a Greek Buffet on the Pool Deck that night, but we arrived back too late as it ended at 9 p.m.
http://www.frommers.com/destinations...647010001.html

Athens - 7 am - 11 pm.
We met 4 CC friends at 8 a.m. to walk to the Metro Station.... bought an all day ticket for 3E, validated it before entering the train (green line); took it to Omonia, transferred to the red line and then 3 stops to the Akropoli stop. (Thanks to Putz for the detailed instructions on getting to the Metro Station in Piraeus!)
From the Akropoli stop it is a short walk uphill to the Acropolis.... arrived at approximately 9:15 & crowds were very light then. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was National Tourist Day in Greece and admission was free to the sites and museums. (When we arrived at the Acropolis, the 3 couples split up to do Athens on their own.) We toured the Acropolis and museum until 11, by which time it had become quite crowded. On to the Ancient Agora, through the Plaka to the Roman Agora and Tower of Winds, lunch at Monastiraki Square (at a great restaurant recommended by Rick Steves), walked through the National Gardens to the Olympic Stadium, Temple of Zeus, back through the gardens to Syntagma Square & Parliament Building/Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, caught the subway at Syntagma to get to the National Archeological Museum for a quick tour. Needed a caffeine jolt by that time, and found an internet cafe next door to the museum. By this time it was 4:30 and I had one stop left on my list.... Lykavittos Hill. We could see it from the museum, so decided to walk to it, and by the time we reached the base of it, where the buildings stopped, we were half way up. Discovered that the cable car was on the other side of the hill and that it would be faster to walk to the top than to the cable car, so kept on walking. A good workout, with rewarding views from the top. From the museum to the top of the hill, it took us approx. 1 hour. Walking down was much faster and easier! Once down, it was about a 20 minute walk to Evangelismos subway stop to transfer at Monastiraki and back to Piraeus....and on the ship by 7:15. It was a long day, but we thoroughly enjoyed exploring Athens on foot and getting a feel for the city. It was noisy with traffic (esp. the motorcycles), but we quickly got used to it and enjoyed the city for all the treasures that were there to see. Great subway system in Athens!
Guide Material: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/desti...ens.htm#glance
Map: http://www.chem.uoa.gr/Location/AthensMap/Athensmap.htm

Our 2nd and last full sea day - and again, some much needed rest!

Dubrovnik - 7 am to 5 pm
Caught the shuttle bus at 8 am, which dropped us off close to the Pile Gate of the Wall surrounding the old town. First stopped at the TI for a map and then the ATM for Kunas (both nearby to where the bus dropped us off.) Arrived at the wall at 8:30 just as it opened The walk around the wall, with stops to admire the views of both the town and the sea, took till 10 a.m. and after that we spent another hour in the town visiting the Museum of the Franciscan Monastery, The Onofrio Fountain, a walk down the Stradun, the main shopping street and down to the harbour. Visited several churches and worked our way back to the Pile Gate to exit the old city by 11 a.m. when tourists were coming in in droves. Getting to the wall early was nice as there were very few people for the first hour. The map provided by the TI was detailed enough for us to figure out how to walk back to the ship. The first part of our walk was through a park near the walled city, on a hill overlooking the ocean with spectacular views. The rest of the walk back wasn’t all that interesting, but we did get to see Dubrovnik outside of the Walled Town. Back on the ship by 2:30.


Venice - 12 pm arrival.

At 10:30 am we headed up onto deck 10 starboard side, to watch the sail in to Venice. The weather was sunny and warm again - a beautiful day to watch the approach to Venice and cruising past St. Mark’s Square. The views were spectacular from that height and it was clear enough to see the Alps off to the east. We docked at Marrittima Terminal by 11:30 and headed off the ship at noon. Decided to scout out Piazzale Roma and find out how to get the airport bus and where the Sofitel was. Both were within easy walking distance from the ship and once we got ourselves oriented, we headed off towards St. Mark’s Square through the maze of streets, stopping to buy Murano Glass jewelry along the way. (Celebrity provided a free shuttle Vaporetta between the pier and St. Marks Square, which ran till 11pm.) We had reservations at the Basilica for 4 p.m. but went in early (as they didn’t look at the time on my reservation form.) There was a fairly long line without reservations, so worthwhile having them (http://www.alata.it/eng/musei/musei.asp) Back outside, we noticed that the line for the Campanile was fairly short, so waited in it for approx. 15 minutes to take the elevator to the top....for more outstanding views of Venice and the surrounding areas. Back to the ship to enjoy a last dinner with our NY friends, and then finish packing.

Disembarkation the following morning went very quickly - our scheduled time was at 7:40 and we were off the ship within 10 minutes, and on our way to the hotel. We were at the Sofitel and into our rooms by 8:45 a.m. (pleasantly surprised that a room was available for us that early.)
We had reservations for 11:35 for the Secret Itinerary Tour at Doge’s Palace so headed off in the direction of St. Mark’s Square, stopping for an hour first at Scuola Grande de San Rocco (amazing paintings by Tintoretto). The Secret Tour was very interesting and following it, we were able to tour the rest of the palace which is immense and filled with beautiful artwork.
Time for lunch...and we found a restaurant recommended in my guidebook. Recharged, we decided to do one of the walks outlined in the guide, from San Marco to the Jewish Quarter, which took up the rest of our afternoon and led us on some quiet and interesting streets off the beaten track and into some churches with wonderful paintings. Back to the hotel to refresh, and then off to dinner at a restaurant that my husband had spotted during our walk. The Sofitel was a wonderful hotel to stay at.

The following morning we took the 7:50 a.m. airport bus from Piazzale Roma to Marco Polo Airport (20 minute ride...3E pp) - P. Roma was only a few minutes walk from the Sofitel and just once bridge to maneuver our suitcases over. A smooth trip home...made our connecting flight in Frankfurt and arrived home on time in Toronto, and luckily our luggage arrived with us both there and back!

What incredible memories and pictures we have of this trip!!!
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Susan

~~~~Azamara Quest-Ancient Empires 2008~~~~Xpedition-Galapagos 2006~~~~Millennium-Med 2005 (Review)~~~~
~~~~Zenith-Bermuda 2003 & 2005~~~~Radiance-Alaska 2003~~~~Cunard-Baltic 2000~~~~
#2
Pa
3,357 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Thank you!!!!

I really like the way you put a timeline in for your tours. We are planning on doing most of the ports on our own and this a great help.
After lurking on your roll call its nice to see that it was such a great trip!!
#3
NJ now AZ
1,243 Posts
Joined Nov 2001
Susan - thanks for the review; it sums it up nicely! Keeps our memories fresh and alive. I'm still sorting through pix (at Rome files now) and logging my journal (which I don't plan to post online). I wrestled with bringing a laptop and was relieved to find I could use X's MS Office program on the ship to keep my journal - but was so exhausted when we were onboard ship that I barely had time to keep up with downloading my pix (a convenient service at $15/cd since my external hard drive wouldn't cooperate) so I didn't write a drop other than to jot notes on tickets and the like.

We heard from one of the staff that there were 17 kids on board (but we never saw more than 3 ourselves). They also said there were more than 300 the prior sailing (or was that 600+ I can't recall). We enjoy traveling in September because the temps are cooler, the crowds are less (well maybe not in Florence), and the kids are back at school.

Although we missed early dinner 2 nights, we were so grateful we selected that seating as we were in bed by 9pm. And, we only made to 1 show (start to finish) although we stopped in for the beginning of 2 other shows. We left before they were over because we were too exhausted to stay awake! We also booked the Olympic Restaurant for one dinner - which was FABULOUS. We couldn't find one thing to complain about with Olympic - everything was PERFECT (we both had the lamb chops).

We were really fortunate that the weather was so fabulous! We saw a couple drops of rain in Rome (about 10 drops while in Piazza Navona and it didn't pour until we were on X's bus back to the ship). The only other time we recall rain was the day after the cruise ended - we were flying home and we noticed rain on the airplane window. The only "complaint" I could have about the weather was that I wished I had some sort of polarizing filter that would fit my digital camera because it was so bright!

We stayed only one night pre-cruise in BCN - recommend folks fly in early just to get the jet lag thing out of the way if nothing else. We tried those "no jet lag" tablets and we did GREAT with little Jersey jetlag. (We weren't so fortunate returning home though.) We shared a taxi from Angie's taxi with 2 other CC members so the cost was only 20e per couple (17.50e + 2.50e tip) and they picked us up right outside of customs and dropped us off in front of our hotels (which were less than a block apart).

Like you, we booked the Sofitel for our one night post-cruise stay in VCE. Although we were scheduled to get off the ship at 7:40 a.m. we didn't feel any need to rush so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and meandered off the ship about 8:35 a.m. When we arrived at our baggage station (Green #2), there were 2 sets of bags left (so it was easy to spot our luggage), AND our 2 cases were even on a buggy! We got a taxi for 13e to the Sofitel (and tipped him 2e just for picking up our cases). We were able to schlep them over the 24 step bridge next to the Sofitel (12 short and easy steps up and 12 steps down thank goodness). We opted for a little more convenience on the way to the airport and called a land taxi (60e + 2e tip to the driver). A van driver schlepped our luggage (now filled with Murano glass) back over the bridge and into the van (which we shared with another couple but still cost us 60e).

We did Express Pass as well and we sailed right through in no time. We arrived at the port about 11:30am and there was NO LINE to speak of. I was so amazed that I took a photo of the check-in line!

Our first day at sea was day 4 and we laughed at ourselves for not really knowing our way around as late as day 4! But we were hardly on the ship at all. If anyone's booked cabin 3061 (inside cabin), be sure you're a sound sleeper. Every - I mean EVERY - night between 11pm and 2am, the staff practiced rolling barrels (or tables) above our heads. By the 3rd night they offered us another inside cabin on deck 7. When we went to inspect it, neighbors said they sometimes heard drums (either 2 decks above or below I'm not sure) so we decided to put up with the barrels because at least we had the timing down pat! If X had offered to help me pack, I would've moved but DH associates the word DREAD with moving so he lobbied (and won) and we stayed put. At least I'm able to sleep now that we're back home.

If you could only pick one favorite - what would it be? For DH, it's Pisa (which is a riot because that was a "throw in" to our private Tuscany tour). For me, it's a tough toss-up between our Tuscany tour and our Amalfi drive tour. Both were so fabulous I can't believe I was really there!

The big shock for me was Venice - it stinks! I guess we were about 5 miles out when I noticed this horrific smell (like a cesspool). I'm not sure if the smell dissipated - or I grew used to it!

The daily program said we'd be sailing in to Venice about 10:30 am so we arrived on deck 10 about 10:15 am and the starboard railing was already 3 deep with other cruisers. I think it was worse than it might have been because they had the top deck closed for a private function! After a few minutes of posturing, we decided to try the Promenade deck instead and headed down (via stairs) to deck 4. There were about 15 of us on the starboard side of this deck and it was great. We were about level with the top of the buildings so we weren't towering over them and we weren't right at the water line either.

Now that we're unpacked, the laundry's clean, I think we'll rent the movie "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium" which I think will pale in comparison to our trip.

Traveling by ourselves, I can't emphasize how fortunate we felt to know and share experiences with our CC friends! It made the trip that much more spectacular! And, it was great spending time with you and DH! Best regards always, usavvy2
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not taking vacations but collecting experiences - usavvy2
#4
NJ now AZ
1,243 Posts
Joined Nov 2001
in addition to the strike in Pompeii the morning we were in town and the rail strike in Florence that Susan mentioned, there were two other delays that I knew about from our trip.

In Livorno, we got off the ship for a 730am private tour. We heard from folks with 8am private tours that there was an accident sometime between 730 and 8am that blocked up the port for almost an hour.

In Naples, there was a major accident which backed up northbound traffic from the Amalfi Coast area for many many miles. Our private driver was stuck in traffic - delaying our departure from the port by 50 minutes. (Other private tours were more fortunate and got off on time.)
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not taking vacations but collecting experiences - usavvy2
#5
Ontario, Canada
7,598 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
Hi Sara,

Thanks for adding all the comments! I can't pick a favourite spot....they were all great! But Santorini and Rome do stand out. We got into the subway to head back to the Termini in Rome just as the skies were ready to open up (we stayed dry but our tablemates were at the Vatican waiting to get back on the Celebrity bus and got soaked.) In Athens at about 6 pm we had a downpour, just as we got down from Lykavittos Hill (took cover in an office building courtyard for 20 minutes)...nice sunny skies when we got back to Piraeus.

Like you, I found adjusting to the time change much harder coming back...after a week I think I'm finally adjusted.

I'm a little worried about my sense of smell....I didn't notice it in Venice (and neither did Rick) - maybe we had been desensitized spending all day outdoors in Athens

Rick and I really enjoyed spending time with you and Bill as well. And many thanks again for keeping our Roll Call so organized and passing along so many travel tips!
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Susan

~~~~Azamara Quest-Ancient Empires 2008~~~~Xpedition-Galapagos 2006~~~~Millennium-Med 2005 (Review)~~~~
~~~~Zenith-Bermuda 2003 & 2005~~~~Radiance-Alaska 2003~~~~Cunard-Baltic 2000~~~~
#6
Tampa, FL
2,463 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
usavvy2.... please tell me about your Tuscany tour. Where did you go to and what did you do there? What was the highlight. We went to Pisa & Florence last year and would like to do Tuscany instead this time.
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Jackie & Tony

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#7
Sonoma,CA
528 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Susan M,

In October 04 my husband and I did the Millie in reverse of your trip and continued on the transatlantic to Ft. Lauderdale. It was a wonderful trip, reading your review brought back many wonderful momories. It was our first time on X. We had the luxury of spending 5nights in Rome, 4 in Florence, and 3 in Bologna prior to boarding the ship.

I'm sure all the information you posted will be of help to many future cruisers. Thanks again, for all the grand memories.

Happy Cruising,

Shannon
#8
NJ now AZ
1,243 Posts
Joined Nov 2001
Originally posted by zebra
usavvy2.... please tell me about your Tuscany tour. Where did you go to and what did you do there? What was the highlight. We went to Pisa & Florence last year and would like to do Tuscany instead this time.
I booked a private tour (for 6 ppl total) so we could see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and some of Tuscany. (We did Florence in 2004.)

We left Livorno about 7:30 in the morning and arrived in Pisa by 8am. It was wonderful to be in Pisa before the crowds! It seemed like there were only the 7 of us and a few locals around the tower. We spent about half an hour in Pisa and were fortunate to look at the tower with the moon still in the morning sky behind the tower. Then we were off to the hill towns of Italy! Our next stop was San Gimignano, the medieval city of beautiful towers.

San Gimignano is a short, scenic drive from Pisa, we found it well worth the trip to the stony village of San Gimignano – the very picture of a medieval Italian village. The village is tiny – about 750 meters from end to end. We walked the town, climbed a tower, and soaked in this medieval town with all our senses as best we could in the limited time we had there.

After spending a wonderful morning in San Gimignano, we traveled through the Tuscan hillsides to the beautiful Chianti region - a large, well-known wine-producing area in Tuscany to Casa Emma. (Casa Emma is a small winery making Chianti Classico.) The region is characterized by rolling hills, rich farmland, heavily wooded slopes, isolated villas, and numerous vineyards! As we drove the winding (and slow) roads in Chianti, we noticed the many cars parked along the sides. Our driver told us the occupants were probably mushroom hunting (for truffles).

Casa Emma is a small winery making Chianti Classico. The vineyard’s owner was most gracious in telling us about the winery and hosting a wine tasting for the six of us. We started with the Classico then sampled Riserva wines then finally tasted a new blend. We cleansed our palates between tastings with Italian bread and Gold medal winning extra virgin olive oil which the vineyard also produces. We purchased a bottle of wine and a bottle of olive oil and were off to our next destination – Siena.

We meandered through the streets of Siena until we came upon a local deli which was recommended by our driver. After we found the entrance – which was through hanging macramé ropes, we ordered a ham and cheese sandwich on delightful – but crusty – bread and took it out on the streets to eat. From there we walked on to Piazza del Campo, Siena's main square and the site of the Palio horse races in July and August. The square has stone paving around its perimeter for the horse race, while the center is made of bricks set on edge in a herringbone pattern. Guidebooks state that Il Campo is, arguably, the most beautiful piazza in all Italy and considered by many to be Europe’s greatest medieval square.

Siena is built on a series of hills so it is quite hilly and its medieval streets are very uneven! We walked past the Piazza del Duomo (Catedrale di Santa Maria) and its campanile (bell tower) made of striped marble. (Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to view the magnificent art inside by Michelangelo, Donatello, Vecchietta, and others!)

On the drive back to the ship from Siena, we passed through a charming, tiny village called San Casciano with a little over 2,000 residents. Our driver from Benvenuto Limos said that’s where he lived. It was absolutely charming. The drive itself was so picturesque as we watched the scenery unfold right in front of our eyes from one type of landscape to another!
We arrived back in port about 5:30 p.m. and the ship set sail at 7 p.m. for Civitavecchia.

We could not have asked for a better day in Tuscany. No crowds in Pisa, gorgeous scenery driving to the hilltowns, great wine, fun companionship, historic villages, and a good tour driver/guide! What we missed – spending more quality time in both San Gimignano and Siena, seeing Lucca in Northern Tuscany, and revisiting Florence to see Cappelle Medicee, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella churches, and the National Museum and Uffizi Gallery.
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not taking vacations but collecting experiences - usavvy2
#9
Tampa, FL
2,463 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
usavvy2 thank you for your most descriptive review of your tour. You certainly SOLD us on the trip. We've been wanting to do Tuscany for so long and you've made it sound as enchanting as we have imagined.
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Jackie & Tony

Diamond Plus

Upcoming:

South African Safari Oct/Nov 2017
Brilliance of the Seas Transatlantic EB 04.05.2018
Rhapsody of the Seas Transatlantic WB 12.08.2018


Completed:
Tropicale (Western Caribbean), Sea Princess (Alaska), Century (Eastern Caribbean), Maasdam (Western Caribbean), Ocean Princess (Mexican Riveira, Panama Canal Repositioning), Infinity (Hawaii), Golden Princess (Eastern Caribbean), Grand Princess (Western Caribbean), Disney Wonder (Bahamas), Diamond Princess (Alaska), Star Princess (Eastern Caribbean), Legend of the Seas (EB Transatlantic), Caribbean Princess (Eastern Caribbean), Sun Princess (Mexican Riveira, Panama Canal Repositioning), Millennium (Mediterranean) (2x), Carnival Legend (Western Caribbean), Mariner of the Seas (Eastern Caribbean) (Mexican Riviera) (2x), Emerald Princess (Eastern Caribbean), Emerald Princess (Southern Caribbean), Radiance of the Seas (Western Caribbean) (2x), Jewel of the Seas (Western Caribbean) Radiance of the Seas (Sydney, Australia to Hawaii) Majesty of the Seas (Bahamas) Freedom of the Seas (Western Caribbean) Jewel of the Seas (New England/Canada) Jewel of the Seas (Repositioning) Carnival Paradise (Western Caribbean) Royal Princess (Eastern Caribbean) Brilliance of the Seas (EB Transatlantic) Brilliance of the Seas (Scandinavia & Russia) Royal Princess (Southern Caribbean) Vision of the Seas (EB Transatlantic) Jewel of the Seas (Mediterranean) Jewel of the Seas (WB Transatlantic)
#10
Ontario, Canada
7,598 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
Mountainmare & Shannon....thanks for the feedback. What a great trip you have to look forward to Mountainmare!
Shannon....your long trip sounded wonderful....having the relaxation of the transatlantic cruise after such a busy schedule must have been great! It's one of those trips where you need a vacation after the vacation
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Susan

~~~~Azamara Quest-Ancient Empires 2008~~~~Xpedition-Galapagos 2006~~~~Millennium-Med 2005 (Review)~~~~
~~~~Zenith-Bermuda 2003 & 2005~~~~Radiance-Alaska 2003~~~~Cunard-Baltic 2000~~~~
#11
Central Ohio, usa
718 Posts
Joined Dec 2000
We've done several Med. cruises. I, too, was concerned that Venice might be our least favorite port because I had heard that it did "smell". We've been there 3-times in May and there has never been an odor. We were once in late August, early September and there did seem to be an odor at that time. We love Venice and the Hotel Sofitel is nice and so very conveniently located on the "other side" of the island - so close to the airport bus.

This past May while on Millie we opted to do a private tour with CC friends on Tuscany - a real hard decision as we both adore Florence - our preference of European cities. But our tour of Tuscany and the tour of San Gimmi was the best - and I just can't say enough out the winery we spent several hours at. One of the best tours we have every had.

Aside from Tuscany - and Venice - I'll have to admit that I was pretty smitten with Santorini....something I simply didn't expect! Athens though, IMHO, was the pits.

Doing a TA next Nov. on Millie and the only thing I regret is that the Greek Islands and Venice aren't on the first leg of the cruise.
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Pooh Bear
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened" - Anatole

REMBRANDT - Med. 9/1998- R/T Barcelona: and so it begins!
LEGEND OF THE SEA - Med. 5/1999-R/T Barcelona
SPLENDOR OF THE SEA - Med. 5/2000-R/T Barcelona
INFINITY - Hawaii 4/2001-Honolulu/Mexico
MILLIE -Med. - 5/2002 (X No Go)
RHAPSODY OF THE SEA - Mardi Gras - 2/2002 UGH!
INFINITY - Trans-Canal - 12/2002-San Diego/Ft. Lauderdale
SUMMIT - Alaska Repo Cruise - 5/2003-San Diego
/ Vancouver
INFINITY - Trans-Canal - 12/2003-San Diego/Ft. Lauderdale
SUMMIT - Alaska Repo Cruise - 5/2004-San Diego/Vancouver
NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS - 12/04/2004 - E. Caribbean
MILLIE - 5/15/2005 - Mediterranean Barcelona to Venice
NAVIGATOR OF SEAS -12/10/05 -W. Caribbean: G R E A T
SUMMIT - 5/09/06 - Hawaii Circle R/T Los Angeles
NAVIGATOR OF SEAS - 12/02/06 - E. CARIBBEAN: GREAT
ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS - 12/06/09 - S. CARIBBEAN
LIBERTY OF THE SEAS - 12/05/10 - W. CARIBBEAN

What keeps me going:

ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS - 12/11/11 - SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN
#12
Michigan
371 Posts
Joined Sep 2002
We wer just in Venice for 5 days post cruise, and NEVER noticed any foul or unpleasant odor - it was wonderful!

Fran
#13
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
121 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Susan-M. It was great to read your review and to hear you had a fun time. Glad the info was useful for the Metro in Piraeus. It sounds like you covered everything in Athens that you had hoped to.
How was the TD Canada Trust conversion on $ from the ATMs? The CDN$ has gone up &/or the Euro down. I notice one bank is showing it at $1.43. That's about 10 cents cheaper than when we bought our $ in August.
Might as well throw in my 2 cents worth about odours in Venice. We only noticed a slight odour in one area where the canal was a bit of a dead end and didn't get boat traffic to keep it moving...apart from that...never noticed any odours.
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Westerdam - '93,'95,'98
Ryndam - '97,'00
Zuiderdam - '03
Millennium - 8/26/05
Zenith - 5/13/06 Bermuda
#14
Fayetteville, Arkansas
100 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by jrkfrk
We wer just in Venice for 5 days post cruise, and NEVER noticed any foul or unpleasant odor - it was wonderful!

Fran
I was with 7 others on our cruise this past September on the Millie. In Venice I thought the smell was horrible!!! My sister did not notice a smell at all! So, I think it is just a matter of how sensitive your nose is. I still would go back in a heart beat.
#15
Ontario, Canada
7,598 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
Putz: Your directions (and map) to the Metro in Piraeus were great...I printed your post and we followed the directions as we walked. And we covered all that was on my list for that day....I wasn't expecting to enjoy Athens as much as I did...as you said, it was a nice surprise! Many of the other tips that you passed along came in handy as well...such as walking the streets above Mykonos town to get some great views, and getting to the wall early in Dubrovnik, and not attempting the uphill climb to Eze!

The ATM rates were very good - $1.458 Cdn per Euro (I had paid $1.51-$1.52 in August when buying Euros here.) I only used my debit card for Euros in Positano and my TD Canada Trust one wouldn't work (it was Deutsche Bank, but not a Plus machine) ... luckily my President's Choice one worked. They also charge a $3.00 transaction fee for foreign currency. We used that card for Kuna's in Croatia as well.

Thanks again for providing so much info...it came at a good time for me as it was just before we left for our trip!
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Susan

~~~~Azamara Quest-Ancient Empires 2008~~~~Xpedition-Galapagos 2006~~~~Millennium-Med 2005 (Review)~~~~
~~~~Zenith-Bermuda 2003 & 2005~~~~Radiance-Alaska 2003~~~~Cunard-Baltic 2000~~~~
#16
Ft. Worth, TX
41 Posts
Joined Jun 2005
Susan, thanks for your excellent, detailed review of our cruise. I just posted my own (which took all day to write!!) on a different thread (under Millennium). Now I remember what I forgot to include (basic stuff like how we liked our stateroom, etc. ) I, too, really enjoyed meeting the cruise connection people, and the preliminary planning was more fun for it. Sara is an awesome organizer - we all appreciate all you did for us. I hope we'll all keep in touch in the future. To all you future cruisers, think of us back home working. . . Linda
#17
S. Ontario, Canada
287 Posts
Joined Mar 2003
Hello fellow Canadian ! We just returned from the Galaxy Sept 26 Eastern Med. from Rome. We are thinking of taking the Mill repo cruise next fall. I wrote a review to be posted on the CC member reviews shortly. We had similar ports, but Turkey as well. We did not use as much public transit as you, but booked private tours along the way.
It appears that you had extremely active days. I'm not sure of your ages or physical ability, but I'm sure many folks could not have kept up your pace. On the Galaxy, I noticed that the avg age was 55 or more. Many had trouble with the walking just around the ports. I recommend that everyone get prepared for the walks by regular exercise. We are in good shape and had no issue.
We had 3 nights in Venice pre-cruise and 2 in Rome post-cruise. I agree getting to Europe earlier is a plus.
Even with the Galaxy 12 day cruise, there were not enough sea days to recooperate from the active days. Also it seems that the Millie was in Mykonos and Santorini longer than the Galaxy. We did Amalfi with benvenuto limos and Giovanni did a great job. Lunch in Ravello, and the workers were on strike again in the am, so did Pompei in the pm.
The trip to Oia, lunch view there, the Acropolis, lunch in Kusadasi near Ephesus and the Amalfi drive were the highlights.
Happy cruising
AL
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NCL Sky 03/02 E. Caribbean
NCL Sun 03/03 W. Caribbean
NCL Star 07/03 Hawaii
Celebrity Galaxy 09/05 Eastern Med
Voyager/Seas 04/07 Transatlantic Repo
Splendour/Seas 05/07 Eastern Med
Celebrity Mercury 09/07 Alaska Inside Passage
Caribbean Princess 02/08 Eastern Caribbean
Enchantment/Seas 05/08 Western Caribbean
Legend of Seas 09/08 Eastern Med/Egypt
Liberty Of Seas 12/08 Western Caribbean
Carnival Pride 03/09 Panama Canal full transit
Diamond Princess 01/10 Australia/New Zealand
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Celebrity Eclipse 12/11 Eastern Caribbean
Caribbean Princess 11/12 Southern Caribbean
Jewel of the Seas 04/13 Western Caribbean
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Caribbean Princess 11/14 Eastern and Western Caribbean
Cruise Reviews:
1. Celebrity Galaxy Eastern Med.
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=13190
2.NCL Sun W. Caribbean
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...m?EntryID=1447
3. Royal Caribbean Legend/Seas Eastern Med and Egypt
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=48126
4. Caribbean Princess E. Caribbean
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=39606
5.Carnival Pride Panama Canal Full Transit
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=54268
6. Celebrity Solstice E. Caribbean
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberre...?EntryID=81549
#18
Ontario, Canada
7,598 Posts
Joined Oct 2004
Hi Al, Thanks for the comments....I'll look for your review once it's posted in the Review section. Our days were quite active ... I don't like admitting my age (other than to say that I've enjoyed the first half century of my life) ...this trip was a celebration of our 30th anniversary. I know my husband rolled his eyes once or twice when I told him there was just one more thing we had to see that day - he is a runner (and I'm not) so he wasn't about to admit defeat Your advice re advance preparation by exercising beforehand is a good one because even with bus tours it seems that there is quite a bit of walking.
Your extra days in Rome at the end must have been nice....I could have used 3 days there.

Linda...thanks also! I'm going to find and read your review now.
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Susan

~~~~Azamara Quest-Ancient Empires 2008~~~~Xpedition-Galapagos 2006~~~~Millennium-Med 2005 (Review)~~~~
~~~~Zenith-Bermuda 2003 & 2005~~~~Radiance-Alaska 2003~~~~Cunard-Baltic 2000~~~~
#20
89 Posts
Joined Oct 2005
Your review was so informative. I am travelling with my granddaughter on May 15th on the Millie. I am interested in knowing since you are from Toronto Canada what flights you took to Barcelona and return from Venice. My TA is recommending Lufthansa but it is pricey. Air France is showing a good deal on their flights but the departure time from Venice is early, Any suggestions? Is it any cheaper flights and cruise fares in September or is it just a matter of preference when you travel?