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bm2wong

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Posts posted by bm2wong

  1. Some final thoughts...

     

    Honestly, this was one of best family vacations ever. So many memories, it was awesome. The kids are still raving about it and we are constantly being asked "When are we going back?" :cool:

     

    Staying off the beaten path in Rome ended up turning out really well. Being in an area close to the university with a number of student-friendly shops and businesses was awesome. Braci e Abbracci was a pleasant find and now a must visit the next time we're in Rome.

     

    We have never done a private tour before but it was well worth it given our party size. Having young and old available to really enjoy touring in Rome without having to walk as much and get into some cool A/C when ready. Best value of the trip.

     

    Symphony of the Seas was excellent. The ship is amazing and Royal Caribbean has done it right with this ship. There are number of improvements on the Oasis class ships compared to Allure. We enjoyed our Central Park balcony and would do that again if given the price option. For the most part, the staff were awesome - Drazen and Marianna in MDR were amazing, and special mentions to Cassandra from the ship staff and Jerra from the Sports Deck for the impromptu boogie board lessons. Outside of that, there are some walking zombies on the staff - walking around some of the areas, there are some sleepy or un-friendly staff milling around. Again, for the most part, the food was great - MDR dishes had nice variety and Windjammer was improved. My only gripe was that breakfast got really repetitive, really fast. There was not a lot of variety in choices and it seemed like the same items rolled over every day, no matter what venue we went to. However, this is being nitpicky at this point and I really felt like RC made a lot of changes for the good.

     

    Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and can't wait to go back on a cruise or do the Mediterranean again.

  2. Last day - La Spezia!

     

    Before we left on the trip, there was a bunch of debate on what to do for this port of call. There is almost too much choice for this port of call - you can go to Florence, you can see Pisa, you can do Cinque Terre... and only so many hours.

     

    We end up deciding on a tour of Florence, but it's an "on your own" tour of Florence. This way, we can do as much as little or as much as we want. We take the usual step of meeting down in Studio B for our tour and head off to the bus. As usual, we have a nice tour guide, but it appears most of our tour bus is not paying attention or sleeping. Our family is wide awake and listening closely - but that's just us. We make the usual stop somewhere to go to the washroom before we head to Florence itself - I recall it was a leather store with lots of belts and purses for everyone who wants something, but we end up not spending anything.

     

    We hop back on the bus and we are dropped off just outside of the Florence city centre - the tour buses are not allowed inside the city itself and we walk the 10 minutes or so to the square where it is considered the meeting point. For reference, this is Piazza di Santa Croce so anyone can use this as the point of reference to navigate around and use this as your starting point for all things Florence. By the time we arrive, it's almost lunch time so we find a nice spot for lunch. We sink our teeth into another lunch of pasta and pizza. No complaints here!

     

    During the bus ride down, the tour guide offers us an option to do a 60-90 minute "express" eco tour of Florence. Given our weary feet and the last day of touring, we opt for this to make sure we minimized walking. We meet our tour guide after lunch in the piazza and he whisks us away on a tour. We see the outside of all the major spots - the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery - the tour is mainly for picture taking and seeing things from the outside. No opportunity to go into depth in anything here but it was worth doing to get to see everything.

     

    Our tour ends and it's time for one more gelato in Italy, and for me - it's one more cappuccino. There's nothing like standing at the bar of a coffee place and just sipping on your coffee. Love it. We meet our tour guide and of course, everyone is here except 2 people! We wait for about 20 minutes before we finally get them and head back to the bus. The bus ride back is even quieter (everyone is tired it seems) and we get back to the ship just before 6pm.

     

    We head to the dining room after a quick change and we enjoy a great last meal with our servers. They surprise us with a bottle of bubbly and some extra desserts - so nice of them. We spend the last night walking around the ship, packing and getting ready for the ride home.

     

    Overall thoughts and final wrapup in next post... thanks for tuning in :cool:

  3. DAY 6 - Marseilles!

     

    Today is a bit of a DIY touring day. We've done a bunch of tours now so we decide not to do a ship excursion and do something on our own. My DD is *NOT* interested in coming with us today so we drop her off at Adventure Ocean while we go touring. The plan is to go to the Vieux Port and take Le Petit Train up to the Basilica, then have a nice lunch by the harbour and walk around the Vieux Port area, stopping for some ice cream somewhere and head back.

     

    We disembark at around 930am or so... most folks have already left the ship on excursions already as most folks are probably travelling to Provence or Aix. We head out of the cruise terminal and turn left - there is a line of taxis waiting for us. For those of you wanting to take the free shuttle into the city, turn right out of the terminal and follow the green line painted on the ground. It will take you on a 10-15 minute walk to a bus shelter on the grounds where you can catch the shuttle bus into the city. With the four of us, we opted not to take the free bus and just take a taxi directly where we need to go into Vieux Port. Using our rusty Quebecois French, we tell the driver to take us to Vieux Port and to Le Petit Train. He responds "No problem" in perfect English. Oh well, our French will hopefully be of more use later...

     

    We take the 20 minute car right into the city. Not a lot of traffic on a Tuesday so it's a pretty easy right. If I recall, it was approximately 20 Euros for the ride into Vieux Port and he drops us right by the booth for Le Petit Train. We line up and pay for the tickets to take us up to the Basilica. The train ride up was nice - it's about 30 minutes or so to get up to the top of the hill with a winding path along the water and around the harbour area. It's a nice trip up - I recommend it for the views alone.

     

    We arrive up at Notre-Dame de la Garde - the view up here is remarkable and you can see the whole city of Marseille. The church is beautiful as well... but there are lots of signs saying to watch for pickpockets. We're pretty cautious already but it's a bit interesting to see it called out so specifically - especially at a church. We spend about an hour or so touring the church and it's getting close to lunch time. We take the Petit Train back down to the Vieux Port and walk around down by the harbour looking for a place to eat. We find a nice little cafe to sit down and have lunch - my wife and the boys order sandwiches (on baguettes no less) and I order a salad. What could be worse? Sitting having lunch at a cafe by the harbour while sipping on a glass of wine. Life is hard, I tell you.

     

    We walk through the stands near the shore and do some window shopping. I pickup a nice little salt grinder that I still need to fill with, you know, salt... we walk around more and find a place serving ice cream. Sure enough, they serve crepes with ice cream. EXCELLENT. We enjoy our ice cream standing up and take the walk back to the taxi stand by the Petit Train - there are about 20 of us waiting for taxis and it takes us about 20 mins or so before we get a taxi to take us back to the port. The driver is not happy with the radio selection so he turns on some top French hits from YouTube. These are now in our regular playlist rotation for our boys. Funny what they pick up.

     

    We arrive back at the ship around 230-300 and we spend more time at the pool (shocking, I know). I recall we split off at some point and I hit the gym for a quick workout. Dinner at the MDR was excellent as usual and we spend more time hanging out. I believe this night, my DS11 wants to do Teen Boogie Boarding, so we leave dinner a bit early to let him get in about 4-5 rides during the hour there. Hat tip to Jerra helping my son with his technique and tips - helped tremendously!

     

    I think we end the night walking the ship and dropping into a game of "Majority Rules" in the On Air lounge. Lots of fun there with my boys and my brother...

     

    Tomorrow - La Spezia!

  4. Did you use the Royal app on board? If so how was it? I don't think that you need the wifi package to connect to it... but just wanted to check. Thanks.

     

    We did use the Royal app as a bit of an electronic version of the Cruise Compass - but I have to admit, without the wifi package, I found I just locked up my phone in the room safe. I'm on vacation - I'm tethered to my phone on a regular basis IRL so to be free from connections (literally) is a bit liberating.

     

    There isn't much functionality when we were there on the Royal app but I see a recent update allowed you to do more things (such as expedited checkin). I can't speak to the recent updates but I'm sure there will be a few kinks to iron out...

  5. Day 5: Palma de Mallorca!

     

    Today on the agenda is another Royal Caribbean excursion to the Drach Caves... we wake up before our excursion, head up to Solarium Bistro today for breakfast and find an omelette station! It takes a bit of time to get your omelette - seems like it's quite popular - so we spend additional time to eat up. Also, some fresh donuts and sticky buns. The kids lap these up, but perhaps indulge themselves a bit too much... more on this later...

     

    We grab our stuff from the room and pile into the main theatre. We are shuffled off to the bus where it looks like 4-5 buses are heading to our destination. Looks like there is WiFi on the bus - except it isn't really working. Too bad... we start the trek to Porto Cristo towards the Caves site. It seems like the bus ride is a bit bumpy... perhaps a bit too bumpy for my daughter. Combined with having too heavy a breakfast with too much sugar, my daughter is not feeling great tummy-wise and about 45 minutes into the car ride, we have a reversal... good thing I pack some shopping bags to catch it all... feel bad for my daughter but we have to wait until we arrive to settle down. We arrive (finally - feels like an eternity when your daughter is sick) and we are given passes to enter the caves for the 10AM group. A group of 6 of us start into the caves first - my wife and daughter hang back for a few minutes to get their bearings.

     

    The Caves themselves are awesome - unlike anything I've ever seen. We start walking through the Caves and it looks more crazy the further you walk in - add to that the lake and it's unlike anything we've seen. My daughter is feeling better so they catch up to the rest of the group. About 30 minutes into the walk, there is a seating area where you sit and enjoy a 10 minute concert. Well, we're definitely not in Canada anymore... here I am looking at this wonderful caves listening to classical music played by a quartet rowing on one of the largest underground lakes. Unbelievable.

     

    Total time in the caves is about an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes. We end up at the gift shop and browse around. Nothing exciting. We load back up and head to the pearl "factory store" - our typical stop to try and get folks to leave money in the local economy. We enjoy some nice A/C and check in the WiFi - at least that is working now! We head back to the bus and it's back to the ship - we're back on by around 130PM.

     

    We're off now to enjoy to ship a bit more. Lunch is at the Park Cafe - I forgot how good this place is. I enjoy the roast beef from the cafe as well as a salad - awesome. The afternoon is filled with activities - the boys head to the pool and teens club while my daughter enjoys the Boardwalk kids party. I head to the gym for another workout and we meet up again for dinner in MDR. The night's entertainment is the ice show "1977" and it's very good. We end the night with the World Cup game and some adult beverages...

     

    Tomorrow: Marseilles!

  6. Day 4: Barcelona!

     

    We arrive at port early again and head off to MDR for some breakfast. Usual fare at the buffet - it's getting a bit repetitive... today we're going to DIY touring around Barcelona using the Hop On Hop Off bus tour. We asked last night at dinner and Mariana tells us there is a shuttle that will take us into the city that is fairly reasonable and the HOHO tour stop is there as well.

     

    We head out around 9AM and weave our way through the cruise terminal. We look out to find an NCL ship docked next to us - I believe it's the Breakaway, but I am not paying attention. The cruise terminal is a bit of a buzz as they appear to have many people disembarking, so there is luggage and porters and people everywhere. We manage to get out of the terminal and ask someone to direct us to the cruise shuttle - to those exiting the terminal, exit left and the shuttle will be at a bus stand along the far left hand side. There will be a ticket taker selling round trip tickets and if you're lucky, the bus with 'CRUISE SHUTTLE' will be parked there too. We wait about 5 minutes for the shuttle and it proceeds to take us into the city. The shuttle will then drop you off at the Ferry terminal, which is a 2 minute walk to the World Trade Centre stop.

     

    For anyone planning the Hop on Hop off option, we used:

     

    https://www.barcelonabusturistic.cat/en

     

    And took the Red route. We boarded at the World Trade Centre stop and started our trip from there. We head out and start our tour. The weather is beautiful and the open bus up top is great in the morning. We weave our way around the south part of the route, taking in the sights and waterfront area. We decide to get off at Barri Gothic and walk into the church here. It's beautiful... it's Sunday so some of the main church is actually blocked off for mass. We then decide to take the walk to Placa Catalunya stop - this is the main Catalunya Square in the city. It's a busy square but it's a nice spot for a water break and take some photos. We navigate around the square and find out the spot where the Blue line will be, and we then hop on the Blue line for the rest of the tour.

     

    We weave out of the Placa Catalunya area and head towards Sagrada Familia - we hop off here and take some photos and hope to get inside but looks like they sell out early. We take another water break and walk around the outside of the church - quite the site. We then start heading towards Gaudi Park... we get off at the required stop but do not realize there is a bit of a hike to get to the park. We try and navigate around a place to eat - there are some requests to find tapas or paella but it's difficult to find in this type of scenario. We start heading towards the park but it's uphill, starting to get hot so we settle at some Italian place close to the park. Not our ideal lunch stop but we tired and hungry and thirsty at this point. We refuel with some average pasta (compared to Rome, this isn't that good), and head back out to the park. We also navigate around the Park area but again, we need to have tickets to enter the actual Park area with the Gaudi sculptures - a bit disappointing but not surprising given this is a popular tourist attraction. We then weave our way back to the HoHo bus stop and we're spent. It's hot, we're sweaty and we're running out of water. It's close to 2PM and we're still hoping to stop at the FC Barcelona stadium. We miss a bus and wait for 15 minutes for the next one to come by and we getting tired. Well, my crew is... I could do this for days...

     

    We hop on the Blue line again, and we still need to navigate back to the waterfront area - meaning we need to transfer back to the Red line at some point. We talk to the ladies on the bus and they tell us we need about 90 mins to get back to the waterfront. Game time decision - no time for FC Barcelona stadium stop. Sadly, my son is disappointed but he's too tired to care. He crashes in the seat behind me. We enjoy the rest of the tour but the A/C isn't working too well in the bottom section - it's actually cooler up top. I tell my crew to head upstairs to at least enjoy the cooler breezes and nice views. We transfer at I believe Diagonal Les Corts and we find a Burger King for - WATER. WE NEED MORE COLD WATER! After getting hydrated, we hop back on the Red line and make our way to World Trade Center stop. It's after 4PM, and we walk back over to the shuttle and head to the cruise terminal. We stop on the way back to the ship to buy a few souvenirs (an FC Barcelona jersey for my son is must now) and head back to the ship.

     

    The kiddies are tired, but are in desparate need of cooling off so off to the pool we go... We have a nice dinner at the MDR again and we have Hairspray tonight. Great show - wonderful cast and again, it's soooo good to see such talented individuals in shows like this on a cruise ship. Definitely Broadway level talent.

     

    Tomorrow: Palma de Mallorca.

  7. Cruise Day 3 - we're at sea!

     

    We're on our way to Barcelona so it's a sea day today to enjoy the ship and squeeze in as many activities as we can. We sleep in and head to MDR for breakfast. There is a buffet section or an a la carte section - we opt for the buffet section to try and get a selection of different breakfast items.

     

    After breakfast, we head for some rock climbing - everyone gets a few climbs in as it's not very busy early but when we leave, the line starts to build up. The kids want to hit the pool and water slides again so we go dunk ourselves for a little while.

     

    Time for lunch! We've booked a lunch at Jamie's Italian and there is a good selection of Italian options. There are some nice planks and pastas for all to enjoy - it's good, but honestly, it's not as good as Italy :)

     

    We then catch the AquaNation show in the afternoon which is excellent - same performers as Hiro but a different show and they get a chance to have some fun with some more contemporary music and dance. Lots of Canadian dancers - glad Royal is hiring talented Canadians in these roles...

     

    The boys want to hang out at the teen's club so off they go for a few hours... I shuffle off to the gym and squeeze in a workout. We have reservations for Flight at 5PM - it's a decent show, I'm happy to see that Royal is trying to produce some of their own original content. It was OK, not as good as something like Hairspray or Mamma Mia but I had no expectations going in either. The cast is very talented so enjoyed the performance nonetheless.

     

    We head to the MDR for dinner and break off in the evening to do different things. Most of us head to the AquaTheater to watch the World Cup. Along the way we hit the Bionic Bar again to amuse the crew and run into the Piano Man playing the piano in the elevator. I'm not going to lie, I think we rode the elevator for 5-10 minutes just for the personalized entertainment.

     

    Next stop: Barcelona.

  8. Hi all

     

    first ever cruise and it will be on symphony of the seas.

     

    we leave Sunday.

     

    have researched a lot so far but have come up with this questions.

     

    The ice skating doubles up as a laser tag course.

     

    i would like to know how you know when these things are on?

     

    Looking at my cruise planner, ice skating and laser tag are not activities i can find.

     

    how do we know what is on etc...

     

     

    Check the Cruise Compass when you get onboard or you can find copies somewhere on this board. Laser tag and skating are offered at different days and times so they won't conflict. You can't book these ahead of time so just plan to be there for the start (or a bit earlier for laser tag) to get in.

  9. great pictures!! your kids are so cute!!!!

     

    how does the ice skating work?

    i assume you have to pay to rent the skates, yes?

     

    You show up at Studio B during the times they offer the skating. You are assigned a timeslot when you are skating - for us, it was 10:20 to 10:40. Once it's your time, they call your group over and you pick out skates and a helmet. No charge for the skates or helmet. Long pants are recommended. My kids play hockey so the novelty of skating on a cruise ship in the Med was too much to resist. Skates aren't exactly sharp and the rink isn't that big so they couldn't build up any speed or do the usual skating nonsense they do at hockey...

  10. Cruise Day 2, Vacation Day 5 but we're at the point we have no idea what day it is...

     

    We arrive in Naples at 7AM - today, we're booked on a ship excursion to Sorrento (it is called "Sorrento with Pizza Making for Families"). We did realize this would be a fairly "touristy" excursion - making pizza is not really a worthwhile event but the itinerary allowed us to do some sightseeing in Sorrento and feed the kids with the excursion. Both my wife and I are interested in more sightseeing but with kids, we didn't want to do too much that would make it difficult to enjoy. So consider this a compromise :D

     

    We wake up and get prepped for the day - we head up to Windjammer for breakfast and fill up our water bottles. Our tickets tell us to gather down in the Comedy Club for 8:15AM - being our first ship excursion ever, we arrive early but I suspect this time is to ensure everyone is there before the *real* time to start the fun (8:30AM). We are shuffled off like a herd of sheep to the gangway and head outside to meet our coach bus. Walking outside and seeing Naples, I still have a "holy cow" moment - I'm still in freakin' Italy! We pile into the bus and start heading out to Sorrento. The port of Naples is a bit of an industrial area at first glance but you are actually dropped right into the city. Our bus weaves out of the port area and we get a glimpse of the city of Naples. Very different vibe than Rome, that's for sure. We start the drive out of Naples and head out through some highways to Sorrento. Our guide explains a bit about the area and explains that Pompeii is along the way and points out a few things along the drive. As we get closer to Sorrento, the scenery changes a bit and we get into a bit more of country drive through winding highways and roads. Our guide point out olive and orange groves along the way - we're *definitely* not in Ontario anymore. After about an hour drive, we arrive at Cuomo's Lucky Store - the main meeting point for our excursion. We are shuffled downstairs to get a quick demonstration of the wood inlay furniture that is commonly found in Sorrento - very cool. We politely decline the upsell opportunity and we're provided about 90 minutes to explore Sorrento and walk around. We start walking towards the water and the view from here is amazing. Sorrento itself is beautiful - cobblestone streets, narrow buildings filled with small shops. We find a candy store and buy some lemon candies. We find a little food shop off the main street and buy ourselves a nice bottle of Villa Massa limoncello for us to bring home. Is 11AM too early to have gelato? Perhaps for some, but not us. I decide on having another cappuccino though and get my caffeine fix (when in Sorrento, do as the Sorrento people do...?)

     

    We meet our bus and tour guide at the designated spot and everyone's here. That must be a first... we pile into the bus and head to the restaurant where we'll make pizza and eat lunch. The restaurant has a large area with a long table. We're shown by our host at the restaurant how to make our pizza and it's a standard pizza margherita we're making today. Sorry, no additional toppings available. Only 8 of us can make at a time for this long table so we all wait patiently until there is some space available - it takes about 20 minutes until we're up for pizza making. People watching at this point - it's clear to me that many people have not handled pizza dough before or made anything homemade. We have people doing things out of order, putting pizzas on the paddle that look like a train wreck... who knew I was getting lunch and a show? We finally make our pizza - mine looks more oblong than round - but such is life. The dough is surprisingly wet, something I should note for my own homemade pizza at home and we follow the restaurant staff to the wood oven where our pizza is done in about 4 mins. We head upstairs to the terrace and enjoy a salad, drink and dessert - those adults reading this can know that the drink can also be a glass of wine. I suspect the wine is almost cheaper than water... before we head out of the restaurant, I find the free WiFi code for the restaurant. I need connectivity! I hop on quickly and catch up on what's happening back home... nothing exciting. We pile back into the bus and head back to the ship. Some people doze off but I can't stop looking at the scenery and the countryside.

     

    After the excursion, it's another trip to the pool and teens club. We enjoy another nice dinner in the MDR - if I recall, this is formal night. We get a drink from the bionic bar for fun and if I recall, we watch the extra ice show in Studio B (can't reserve this one online).

     

    Next day: sea day.

  11. If you can, I would recommend the Central Park balconies instead of the Boardwalk balconies. While I have never stayed in a Boardwalk balcony, there is simply a lot of activity and traffic in the Boardwalk, especially at night. I would prefer a bit more of a quiet/tranquil room of Central Park.

     

    Not sure regarding obstructions - that would be up to you if you would feel that would impact your room experience or not.

  12. Thank you for the informative post.

     

    If you don’t mind answering a question I have one regarding Playmakers. It looks like it is an open establishment that is right on the main deck (sorry, I’m not sure of the exact location name), but it doesn’t allow anyone below drinking age in the establishment. Is that true?

     

    Playmakers is on the Boardwalk area, next to the Aqua Theater. I saw kids in their hanging with their adult friends in there the whole week. Not sure why it was mentioned to be restricted? They serve bar food as well so I would not expect any bar on a cruise ship to be restricted.

  13. Day 1 of the Cruise - BOARDING DAY!

     

    We decide to sleep in and catch up on some shuteye - not sure if we've fully adjusted to the time zone (yet) but all of the touring and sightseeing makes us all crave a little extra sleep. We enjoy a nice final breakfast at the hotel - maybe it's me, but the cappuccinos are REALLY GOOD. That, or it's just because we're in Rome. We shuffle our luggage a little to put our bathing suits into the carry-on bags so the kiddies can jump into the pool when we get on the ship, if they so choose.

     

    We meet our Romecabs driver in the lobby at 11:15am (he's early!) and we're ready to go. We load up the van and head out. Our driver speaks a bit more English this time and makes a bit of small talk with me. He's from Romania and has relatives in Mississauga - not far! We slowly snake our way towards Civi - it's a nice drive once we finally get our way out of Rome. We pull into the port area - for some reason, I was expecting something a bit bigger but there isn't much in the actual city of Civitavecchia. We pull up to a huge new cruise terminal - it's not busy at all. Are we in the right place? We unload and tip our driver and bring our luggage for drop off - we already have our luggage tags all ready to go so we drop them off in the "tagged luggage" line. We drop them off and head to the security line with no more than 20 people in front of us. We breeze through security and head upstairs to start checking in. Again, nobody in line. We're Gold C&A members and think this will help us in checking in - but there are more counter people waiting for us than people in line :) Check-in process was a breeze - we already uploaded our photos before and we get our SeaPass cards and start heading towards the ship. Every time we see the ship for the first time, we're still in awe - it's a gigantic beast. You see if it from a far when driving and you don't really get to appreciate it until you get up close and personal. We stop for a boarding photo op (why not? WE'RE ON VACATION DAMNIT) and head up the gangway. We're greeted with glasses of champagne - yes, Royal Caribbean, you have won me over and I've just stepped on the ship.

     

    So from hotel to the port to luggage dropoff to security to checkin to stepping foot on the ship - a little over 90 minutes. I look and see it's a bit after 1PM local time. We are told that our rooms are ready, so we head up to drop off the carry on luggage. The rooms are clean and surprisingly spacious (we're used to the inside cabins from the last time we were in Allure). We look to lock up our valuables - phones, passports, cash - but the safe is locked, but open. How is that possible you ask? Not sure. I call housekeeping and maintenance is coming to help. The boys see that laser tag is on and my wife takes them to see if they can join. Meanwhile, I stay back with my daughter and wait for maintenance. Five minutes later, they are here and have the safe ready to go. Sweet! We lock up our stuff and head up to Windjammer for some eats... there is plenty of selection and it's not very busy. We decide to spend the rest of the afternoon doing ship stuff - ziplining, heading to the pool and checking out the Abyss slides.

     

    At night, we head to the MDR for dinner - we are greeted by our waiter Drazen and our assistant waiter Mariana. I will just say that we were treated like royalty throughout the cruise by these fine folks. It was a bit of a rough start - I think they were dealing with a number of other tables that were a much larger party and had special dietary restrictions (I want to say there was a party of 20 or so that were all vegetarian). This caught the wait staff off guard and I want to say we were not their top priority. But we were patient, let them handle their situation and we were rewarded. Sometimes it does pay to wait things out and let people deal with things as they come up. No need to push - I'm on vacation anyways.

     

    After dinner, we head out to see Hiro and then the boys go skating at the ice rink. We head back to the room and are happy to say the cruise has started!

     

    Next stop: Naples.

  14. Day 2 of Rome touring...

     

    We wake up and need to start earlier today to get everything in - so we meet Vincenzo at 8AM. He's ready to go outside the hotel with the van and we're ready to tackle day 2.

     

    Vincenzo heads out and takes us to the Colosseum. Parking at a hill just beside the Colosseum, he walks us through the ticket pickup window and directs us to the "right" skip-the-line line (which still has a 15-20 minute wait time...) We spend about an hour touring the Colosseum and take in the site itself - I can't say we have anything like that in Canada :cool:

     

    We meet up with Vincenzo again down the road by a tent where the Italian Army is stationed (hey, it's a good landmark...) and we head through some more of the Rome streets - we see some different buildings related to an old mall and older obelisks in the heart of the city. Vincenzo drops us off near the Trevi Fountain - and wow. I mean, we keep seeing neat site after neat site, but this was breathtaking as well. We stop and admire for a while, and then we head towards the Pantheon. Another cool site. Wish we had a chance to stay longer here (pictures of the outside only) and spend some time inside the Pantheon so we'll have to come back to this one.

     

    Time to head for a break and lunch - so it was back to Trattoria da Luigi. We decide on a couple of nice appetizers and have linguini with clams... delish!

     

    We then head out after lunch to Castel Sant'Angelo (Angel Castle) - Vincenzo advises us that it might be busy but if not, purchase a ticket and walk to the top. At this point - day 2 of Rome touring, hot afternoon - I'm expecting lots of complaining from my kiddos that they won't be happy about this... but our surprise, they are all gungho to explore A REAL CASTLE! So we buy tickets and start heading up - it's well worth it. We go through a number of different rooms, places added, rooms for the Pope, all different types of architecture over time... but the best is the view from the top of the castle. Wow - simply breathtaking. Views into the Vatican, views back into the old city, views of the Tiber River. If anyone has doubts of whether you should go, my advice - GO. Budget the time for this - my kids raved about this.

     

    Vincenzo meets us a few hours later and tells us he has a surprise for us... we're not quite sure what he has in store, but he takes us to a final lookout. I wish I could remember where but we head to what appears to be another small piazza on the side of a hill with another set of amazing views of the city. From here, we can see little countryside villas on the mountain, views of the Vatican, we can spot the Colosseum... wow.

     

    Well, we've had quite a second day in Rome. If I haven't said it enough, for us, it was well worth it to use Romecabs and do a 2 day tour - Vincenzo treated us like royalty and took us as close as we could to all the major sites and allowed us the time to see what we needed to. We had the time to do things in depth and explore the right things with the right amount of time - just awesome. If you have a large group or are able to organize a group together through Cruise Critic, DO IT.

     

    We head back to the hotel and spend a few hours of downtime before heading out for dinner. We stop by a local grocery store and load up on some wine for the cruise - we try to research and find some wines that we know but it's stocked with a number of local wineries. For me, this is perfect - I'm all for trying new wines that I can't get at home. We pick a few bottles and head out to dinner at (you guessed it) Braci e Abbracci. We're nothing if not consistent. Philippo welcomes us back with open arms and he recommends some nice dishes to celebrate my wife's birthday. We decide on a beautiful roasted fish (pan roasted with capers and potatoes) that simply delicious. We enjoy house wine and a nice birthday surprise for my wife. We head back to the hotel full and happy, ready to start our cruise.

     

    Symphony of the Seas... here we come...

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