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Traveling Fools

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    Amelia Island, FL, USA
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    Celebrity, NCL
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    Exotic Destinations

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  1. Thank-you OP for posting the menu and photos if the items served. It will be helpful to illustrate to our grown children what to expect when they join us in August for a combined reunion/birthday/holiday celebration cruise on the Breakaway. We have been taking our youngest grandchildren on spring break cruises for the past 3-years. At age 4 our GS discovered he loved mussels and lamb. Given their ages we had to eat dinner early otherwise they would (mostly him) would fall asleep at the table. We would call ahead of time to let the maître d know he wanted either lamb, mussels, or both and, while we were eating our appetizers, he had his main course. Whenever he did fall asleep the staff put him in a wheel chair when we left the restaurant so we could wheel him to our suite. GD loves Mac & Cheese and was able to order it whenever she wanted. We found the venue fostered an atmosphere that helped teach the kids manners, etiquette, and proper dress. One of our suites was an aft facing penthouse. We always ordered breakfast and it always arrived on time and hot. An advantage of the aft suites is the ability to jump on one of the nearby elevators and zip up to the buffet and snag a few items as needed (cookies, OJ, milk, etc.)
  2. I realize this is a somewhat untimely trip report, but it has taken some time to get back to normal after returning from our cruise. Sunday, 03 Nov 2019…..Kotor, Montenegro The ship entered the fjord leading to Kotor. On the Pilot’s boat the Captain was told were blowing at 20 knots. High, but still safe enough to dock the ship. Unexpectedly, the winds picked up to 75 knots, creating a parlous situation for the ship. Using the ship’s side thrusters, the Captain decided it was unsafe to dock, made a sharp “U”-turn , and plotted a course to open water. Bottomline, the Kotor Port Call was canceled, and we had another unexpected sea day. Several days later in Venice, we were speaking with passengers from a Celebrity ship. 90 knot winds forced their Captain to also cancel their stop at Kotor. Had a good lunch and dinner in the GDR. Monday, 04 Nov 2019…..Kadar, Croatia The ship docked in Kadar without incident. We had not booked any shore excursions and explored the city on our own. The Ship’s complementary shuttle dropped us off adjacent to the old walled city and almost on top of the harmonic steps. The wind was really blowing, and the sea was very rough. A large sailboat just offshore was having a difficult time riding the waves and was bouncing up and down and to and fro. I would not have wanted to have been aboard her!! We walked through the old walled city and visited a couple of museums. The city is immaculately clean! Had a late lunch at the Waves Grill. Hard to go wrong there. Dinner was at the Tuscany. DW had a veal plate which she enjoyed. After my experience with the Osso Buco, I opted to order the rack of lamb, which I considered to be a failsafe item to order. I love lamb, but my order was very gamey tasting and not very good. I only ate about 25% of the lamb and filled up on the potatoes, vegetables, and desert. Tuesday, 05 Nov 2019…..Koper, Slovenia I had originally planned on visiting the Skocjan Caves and had even talked DW into going. However, when getting directions on how to best get there from Koper tourist representative, she recommended we not visit them. She was of the opinion they might be to physical demanding for us. She was very fit herself and told us she had difficulty negotiating some of the grades. She also told DW that the entrance could be somewhat claustrophobic. That was all DW had to hear to decide we weren’t going. Instead, we opted to explore the old walled city. While weather did not impede our arrival in Koper, rain did end up cutting our exploration of the city short. We tried to sit the rain out at a local café to no avail. We, along with other shipmates, were able to return to the ship in between squalls. The weather never improved throughout the day. We had a very good lunch in the GDR and a good steak at Polo’s that evening. Wednesday, 06 Nov 2019…..Venice We arrived in Venice without incident and took our time disembarking. Because we had booked 2-extra nights in Venice we wanted to conduct a dry run to our hotel (The Grand Hotel De Dogi). The hotel had previously emailed with directions on how to get there from the cruise terminal. I knew from my research we needed to purchase a 72 hour Vaporetto pass. The question was where? After exiting the cruise terminal we approached a booth that was selling sightseeing tickets. The young lady in the booth was less than friendly, and even less helpful. She told us we could buy them from the newspaper vendor’s storefront. Wrong…..he told us we needed to take the people mover to the bus station and buy them from a vendor located across from the people mover terminal. By then there was a group of us wanting to buy passes. We formed a gaggle and headed for the people mover. The entrance to the people mover was not well marked and most of the gaggle attempted to enter via the exit. They soon found the escalators ran one way….down. Directions on the automated ticket machines aren’t very clear, leading to additional confusion. Fortunately, a veteran Venice traveler showed us how to purchase the €1.50 one-way ticket. A word of advice….pay in cash. It is quicker and less complicated. After exiting the people mover terminal we found the Vaporetto ticket booth right across the street. The lady working in the both spoke very good English and was both super friendly and helpful. She wanted to know when our departure flight was scheduled and the hotel where we were staying. Armed with that information, she told us what type of pass we need and gave us directions on what Vaporetto to take and precisely where to catch it. She also gave us advice on what Valporettos to take to explore the city. In our case, we had to take the 4.2 or 5.2 around the outskirt of the city to the M. dell ‘orto stop and the walk to our hotel. From our hotel she outlined on the route map the path to take to the Grand Canal’s San Marcuola stop and to take the #2 Vaporetto. The valporetto ride to the hotel took about 20 minutes and then it was about a 5-minute walk from the stop to the hotel itself. We poked our heads inside and told the front desk staff we would be checking in the next day. The let us know we could store our bags with them until we actually checked in. The hotel staff confirmed the directions to the next vaporetto stop and we headed out. On the way hunger got the best of us, so we stopped for a “quick” lunch. We stopped at the Trattoria Aldo Fradie Ristorante and had a great lunch of pasta and turbot. We liked the place so much we stopped there one other time for coffee and pasta. If any of you decide to eat there be aware of attempts to up sale you on your order. It happened to us and we chalked it up to a learning experience. The restaurant is located at the confluence of Rio Tera San Leonardo, Rio Tera Farsetti, and Rio Tera Della Maddalena. We spent the remainder of the afternoon cruising the Grand Canal and visiting Saint Mark’s Square. When we first boarded the vaporetto (Rt.2 towards St. Mark’s Square) it was impossible to get a seat with a view. We decided to ride it to the last station and when everyone else got off we would grab some upfront seats and ride the boat both ways for the view. DW told the female conductor what we planned and she told us where to stand and wait. She wouldn’t start the boarding until we had claimed our seats. The crowd that boarded included some Aussies who took the seats next to us. We had a blast sharing the time and ride with them. One of the two couples learned the hard way about the need to either buy a multi-day pass or within 75 minutes of purchase to recharge their ticket. They were unaware of the need to recharge their ticket and were fined on the spot €50 EACH. Following that incident, I observed the conductors singling out obvious tourists and checking their tickets. I witnessed two other couples getting fined. Whereas we had a 6 o’clock gondola ship sponsored excursion we returned with enough time for a coffee and snack. There was major disconnect with meet place instructions that almost resulted in 3 couples missing the excursion. The ship’s instructions were to met in the bus parking lot across the street from the cruise terminal. The majority of us were stopped inside the terminal and told to wait for our guides. Once they showed up we left the terminal for the walk to the water taxis that would take us to the ride venue. Outside the terminal we met the 3 couples who had been waiting at the bus parking lot. Fingers were pointed and blame cast in both directions, but everyone scheduled for the excursion made it. DW had a preconceived opinion the excursion was going to be kind of hokie. Was she and I in for a surprise! Each gondola carried 6-guests. Our gondola only carried 4. The remain 2-seats were occupied by an accordionist and singer. Once all the gondolas were underway, the accordionist began playing and soon after the singer started belting them out. It was marvelous! We cruised the back ally’s with the music reverberating off the water and walls. It not only made our day, but also made the day for countless hotel guests in rooms overlooking the canals we cruised through. Windows were opened, heads popped out, and cameras flashed away. It was really fun and well worth it. After returning to the ship, we headed straight to the GDR for our last dinner aboard. Because we had packed earlier in the day, we didn’t stop at our suite to change clothes. I was wearing light colored levis and a long sleeve polo shirt. DW had on slacks and a sweater. I assumed “O”, like other cruise lines exercises a more relaxed, but reasonable dress code for the first and last nights at sea. The maître d seated us without question, but I did get the evil eye from several passengers. In this respect, I must report that the no levi/jean policy at dinner in the GDR was not enforced. On several nights I observed mean wearing jeans or levis being seated in the GDR. We had the Chateaubriand for dinner and enjoyed it Thursday, 07 Nov 2019…..Venice This morning we said farewell and disembarked. The disembarkation process was simple, easy, and unrushed. There was no stampede of passengers trying to be the first off the ship. I like how “O” sorted the luggage in the cruise terminal. It really helped making disembarkation less than an ordeal. Our reconnaissance the day before paid off. We sailed through the people mover ticketing process, with time to help a couple of fellow passengers purchase their people mover tickets. The only issue we had reaching the vaporetto was with my wife’s suitcase. Someone broke one of the wheels during the outbound transfer of luggage from the ship to the cruise terminal. She quickly figured out how to compensate for the problem and we made to the vaporetto and hotel without issue. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, placed our luggage into storage, and were heading out the door when two couples from the ship arrived via water taxi. On our way to the Grand Canal vaporetto stop we stopped for coffee and breakfast rolls. Our first stop of the day was St. Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace. Disappointingly and perhaps because it was now “off season” the extra Secret Itineraries Tour in English wasn’t available until Sunday the 10th. We found the Palace to be spacious, mystical, and intriguing. Enough so that we have to return to Venice someday just to take the Secret Itineraries Tour. We rented headsets and found them very helpful. Our next stop was St. Mark’s Basilica. We queued up Rick Steves’ walking tour of the Basilica on our IPhones and started exploring. It took awhile to orient his tour to the actual roped off pathway we had to follow. There was no fee to enter the Basilica, but there were fees to view anything extra; i.e. the treasury, Pala d’oro on the high alter, and museum. We stopped for coffee and water, then did a quick spin through the Correr Museum. By time we finished seeing the Correr we decided it was time to grab some dinner and return to the hotel. For the life of me, I can’t remember where we ate. What I do recall was it was late enough the #1 boat on the Grand Canal had discontinued service for the day and that by time we returned to the hotel, recovered our luggage, got settled in our room, and got ready to call it a day it was after 9. Oh, FWIW, our room had a partial view of a canal. Let me pause to say given the time of year, the crowds are nonexistent at the tourist sites and museums. There has been no need to purchase any skip the line tickets as there are no lines. No lines also mean the venues are not crowded. Friday, 08 Nov 2019…..Venice We got a later start than expected. DW was suffering from blistered feet, so it was going to be slow going the entire day. Before beginning our journey, we stopped again at at the Trattoria Aldo Fradie Ristorante where we enjoyed a wonderful pasta meal. From the restaurant we went in search of a shop where we could buy some duct tape to use in making repairs to the wheel on DW’s suitcase. Both the concierge at our hotel and the waiter at the restaurant recommended looking for the tape at the same place. Should any reader have need of hardware related stuff the name of the place is Il Quadrifoglio Di Donati Mauro E C. S.n.c. (The Quadrifoglio S.N.C.) It is located on the Grand Canal side of Rio Tera San Leonardo just before Fondamenta Di Cannaregio and the Guglie vaporetto stop. It is a small narrow shop right next to a tobacco store. The owner speaks excellent English. Along the way to the hardware store we shopped for original Venietian masks and found one for our 6 year old grandson (a Batman one) and one for our 9 year old grandaughter (a beautiful eye mask). There was light sprinkling rains in the morning, but no downpours. Today we decided to begin working our way up the Grand Canal towards St. Mark’s Square with the first stop being the Fari (Farari) Church. Once again we used Rick Steves’ audio guide and foud it to be useful and educational. This Venitian gothical Church is fanominal inside and out! The absence of crowds made it much easier to appreciate the Church’s grandeur. We spent more time exploring and appreciating this church than anticipated and it was well worth it! Next we visited the Academia. We took our time exploring the museum and stopped often to rest DW’s feet. Although she is a tough old broad, her blisters bothered her enough that we decided after the Academia to call it a day. It was early evening and the #2 boat had discontinued operations meaning once again we were force to take the #1 milk run. Along the way we got off to visit the Rialto Bridge. Although it is considered by some to be a must stop and see site, we found that although it provided a Kodack minute, it was an overcrowded, overated attraction. We stopped at a nearby sandwich shop and grabbed a bite to eat before returning to the hotel. Gotta say they had some canolies. Saturday, 09 Nov 2019…..Venice to Istanbul Up early for the walk to the airport vaporetto stop. It was on time and uncrowded. We were the last stop before the airport, so the ride was uninterrupted and at 30 minutes short. The walk from the airport vaporetto terminal to the airline “ticket” counter was a long one, and somewhat confusing. Turkish Airlines, and perhaps other airlines, does not have a defined, well signed ticket counter per sey. Instead, they are assigned a numbered counter somewhere in the terminal. I do not know if this changes daily or is the same one each day. Bottomline, you must read the overhead display in the terminal to determine which counters your airline is using to check-in outbound passengers. Check-in and pre-departure security checks were a snap. Venice’s Business Class lounge is very nice and was conveniently located to our departure gate. The flight to Istanbul was uneventful. They served an excellent omelet. The most tedious thing experienced on landing at Istanbul was the very long walk to the Immigration and Customs processing area. There weren’t any lines, so clearing immigration and customs was a breeze. We arranged for roundtrip car service to our hotel and were on our way very soon after clearing customs. We were told the ride from the airport to our hotel would take 55 minutes, but our driver got us there in 30. Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Istanbul Old City, was selected by Turkish Airlines. Again, they picked up 2-nights of lodging as part of their “stay over” incentive program. We were booked into a standard room and found it roomy enough and quiet. The hotel is centrally located in Istanbul’s Old City and very near a tram stop. The bar/restaurant’s dinner menu was limited, so we opted on dinning out. We chose a crowded street side restaurant on a busy street and were not disappointed. DW had kabab and I had lamb. Both were excellent! Sunday, 10 Nov 2019…..Istanbul Started the morning with a hearty breakfast. The hotel had an excellent buffet that provided ample nourishment for a day of exploration. We walked from the hotel to the Blue Mosque. It was a beautiful morning and the walk up and down hills was good exercise. DW had switched to wearing flipflops, so blisters were not an issue. The mosque is very interesting. It was under renovations so we were not able to appreciate the full grandeur of sunlight shining through it’s stained glass windows. From the mosque we headed next door to the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum. We found this museum to be very interesting and enjoyed our time there. From the museum we stumbled across the Serbethane Café & Restaurant where we stopped for coffee and water break. It is located right next to the museum, is shaded, very fashionable, has very clean restrooms, and seems to be a chosen stop for may tour guides and their clients. Our next stop was the Hagia Sophia Museum. The tickets and entry lines were unmanageable, so we opted on hiring a guide and fast tracking it. That proved to be one of our better decisions as we learned more from the guide than we would have stumbling blinding through the huge facility. I was wearing a ball cap and asked our guide if I should remove it. He told us it was a museum, not a place of worship and that wearing a hat was OK. We took our time looking around on both the ground and upper floor. It was very impressive. Next, we crossed the street and entered the Basilica Cistern. The entry line was manageable, but once inside the reverberating crowd noise was a distraction. DW does not enclosed spaces and quickly moved towards the exit where she waited for me to do my thing. I was amazed and thoroughly enjoyed my time underground. Given all the ambient noise, I do not think a guided tour of the Basilica would have been worthwhile. I shutter to think about the effect a large, loud tourist season crowd would have on anyone visiting the cistern during peak season. From the Cistern we started walking back to the hotel and along the way stopped for a late lunch/early dinner. We found a clean little place on a quiet street favored by locals. The service and food were very good. After walking 6-plus miles, it was Miller time. Monday, 11 Nov 2019…..Istanbul We overslept and got a late start. After breakfast, we stopped at the tram ticket kiosk, a short walk from the hotel and bought a single 100 Turkish Lire ticket for both of us to use. Yes, it is permissible for multiple people to travel on a single ticket. You just swipe it once for each passenger traveling. When at the boarding area’s turnstile, a transit employee helped us out. Our first stop was the Topkapi Palace Museum. We spent close to 3-hours exploring this museum, the highlight being the Hareem. The only line we encountered was the regulated line to enter the Treasury. From Topkapi Palace we walked to the bustling Egyptian Market, perhaps better known as the Spice Market/Bazzar. The crowds of people in and adjacent to this market were crushing! We spent $31 on 2-kilos of shelled hazel nuts and 1-kilo of pine nuts. From the Spice Market we went to the very nearby Hamdi Restaurant. Both the spice bazaar and restaurant border a common street and the restaurant offers a view of the Bosphorus and Galata Bridge. The Hamdi was recommended to us by a fellow traveler we met in Miami’s business class lounge. Our hotel concierge also recommended it. We found the wait staff to be unfriendly, the prices inflated, and the food just OK. The restaurant’s restrooms are very clean. Our next stop was a very uphill walk to the Suleymaniye Mosque. It was getting late in the afternoon, some shops were closing for the day, and I was unnecessarily concerned the mosque would be closed to visitors. There were no entry lines and the mosque was crowd free. From it’s hilltop location, the grounds of the mosque offer an impressive view of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn. On our way back to the hotel, we ventured into the Grand Bazaar. Having lived, worked, and traveled in the middle east bazaars and souks are not new to us. We were impressed with the size of Istanbul’s Grand Bazzar, but were not inclined to browse around and shop. From the Grand Bazaar, we walked to the closest tram stop and returned to the hotel. After getting off the tram, we stopped at restaurant we spied two days earlier and had a Turkish doner kebab dinner. Even using the tram, we ended the day after walking just shy of 6-miles. Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019…..Istanbul It must be sign of age, because we got even a later start today than yesterday. Because we had booked an afternoon Bosporus cruise and tour to Pierre Loti Hill, we had to call off seeing other sites on our agenda. We found the Bosporus cruise to be the right length of time. It was interesting and educational. The ride to the summit of Pierre Loti Hill itself was interesting. The view of the Golden Horn, Old City, and the Bosporus was well worth the trip. Wednesday, 13 Nov 2019…..Istanbul to Miami Ah, the day we all meet with mixed feelings…the travel day home. And, for us, it was long one. Our airport transfer driver arrived at the hotel on time. However, instead of driving directly to the airport her took a 15-minute detour to swap drivers. It is a good thing we built extra time into our departure schedule. This trip, we were more cognizant of the time and distance it took to drive to the airport. Istanbul’s new airport is really a long way out of town. The replacement driver never asked us our destination or airline and dropped us off next to an escalator in an airport parking garage. The escalator took us up to the departure level. The terminal was bustling with passengers and the lines everywhere were long. Fortunately, we quickly learned that we were in the wrong terminal. We had to walk back to the curbside and about 200 meters to our right before reaching the correct terminal. Once inside and before reaching the ticket counter we went through our first full security check. After checking in, we went through another full security screening and then were in the main departure lounge. Once inside the Business Class lounge we learned about the flooding in Venice and thanked our lucky stars for permitting us a chance to visit that grand city before the devastating floods. We only had enough time for a couple of cups of coffee before heading out on the 25-minute walk to our departure gate. Most of the way to the departure gate there were no moving sidewalks and the walk to the gate took every bit of 25-minutes. Once there we had to go through yet another full security screening. And, to make matters worse, the contractors employed by Turkish Air to conduct that screening were rude. Boarding was much more organized than the Miami boarding. FWITW, it appears that Turkish Air’s SOP is not to offer cocktails to Business Class passengers until after take-off and cruising altitude is reached. They do though offer soft drinks and non-alcoholic fruit cocktails, e.g. mint lemonade and a pomegranate juice drink. The main meal was served soon after take-off and, with the help of science and the VA, I slept soundly for the remainder of the flight. Arrival and Immigration/Customs clearance in Miami was painless. In fact, it took longer to find our car than it did to process through U.S. Government arrival formalities. We overnighted near Ft. Pierce and returned home the morning of the 14th. The past month has been spent getting back into our normal routine, picking the grandkids up from school, catching up on neglected household chores, Thanksgiving, and prepping for Christmas. Assessment of the cruise to follow.
  3. Saw men in jeans in the GDR at dinner time several nights on our Oct 25th - Nov 7th cruise
  4. Monday, 28 Oct 2019…..Barcelona, Spain While checking out of the hotel, we were approached at the Registration Desk by an English speaking gentleman who offered to drive us to the Port for €30. I knew from listening to returning cruise passengers the day before they had paid between €25 and €50 for transportation from the cruise port. Considering €30 a fair price, we hired him. Our driver was a Brit who had emigrated to Spain to be closer to his children. While DW speaks fluent Spanish, it was interesting to engage in an English conversation about the demonstrations and have someone be able to point out details about things we passed along the route that we otherwise wouldn’t have known about. He drove by a hillside cemetery permitting us to view the crypts dug into and up the rocky bluff. He confirmed our perceptions that with exception of a small number of agitators the demonstrators were peaceful. We learned the hard way there are two cruise terminals in Barcelona. Initially, our driver took us to the South Terminal. Our hearts stopped when there was no Oceania ship docked there. After assuring both my wife and driver our ship was scheduled to depart Barcelona that day, our driver asked if our ship was a smaller cruise ship. When told it was, he knew right where to go. (We had forgotten to pack our Blue Book containing all our cruising documents) Our ship, Oceania’s Nautica, was docked at the World Trade Center Terminals, Terminal S. The WTC terminals are at the base of La Rambla, not far from the statue of Columbus. If you stay on or near the base of La Rambla and are so inclined you can walk to WTC’s terminals. Barcelona’s other cruise terminal is the Quai Adossat (Adossat Quay) Terminals. This is where the larger ships berth. There is no way you should consider walking to, or from, them! Boarding was a breeze. We were onboard within 10 minutes after checking our luggage. Upon boarding we were escorted to an elevator, told our suite was ready for us, and given directions on how to find our suite. We were not escorted to our suite. A bottle of champagne on ice and fruit basket welcomed us. We spent a scant few minutes in our cabin and then headed up to the Terrace Café for lunch. We rated lunch as OK. Following our meal, we familiarized ourselves with the ship and returned to our suite to unpack and chill. After unpacking, I quickly learned our 2-standard size suite cases would not fit under our bed. Strange as they have with every other line we have cruised with. We had to stack them in a closet. Our butler, Mahesh, dropped by with a bouquet of flowers and introduced himself. We dined at Polos and had a great dinner. We returned to our suite and called it an early night. Tuesday, 29 Oct 2019…..Monaco Our first stop was Monaco, a Tender Port. Morning ocean swells made boarding and disembarking from tenders a dicey operation. I think if swells had been any larger tender operations would have been suspended. Some passengers declined to board our outbound tender, at least one passenger who boarded decided to return to the ship, and at least one passenger on board our tender got seasick while we were still tied up to the ship. The trip into Monte Carlo was smooth, as was the return trip. Swells did not impede embarkation onto the ship from our tender. Lunch and dinner were in the GDR. Wednesday, 30 Oct 2019…..Livorno, Italy Livorno was our next port. One major factor attracting DW and I to this itinerary was the opportunity to visit Florence. My research of how best to get to, from, and be able spend the most time in Florence led me to book Oceanian’s Florence on Your Own excursion. It left Florence later than any of the private vendors. For those considering this itinerary, please take the following into consideration in planning your day in Florence. · Passengers on our excursion met in the Nautica Lounge at 8:25 A.M., were on our bus about 10 to fifteen minutes later, and underway a short time afterward. · 15 minutes into the trip we made what must have been a contractual bathroom stop. We burned up about 15 minutes and then moved on. · From our drop off point in Florence to the plaza in front of Basilica di Santa Croce was a 10 to 15 minute walk. This was to be our 4:30 P.M. meet point for the return walk to the bus. · I had pre-purchased tickets for the Academia for 11:30. We learned from our Excursion Escort the Academia was a very long walk and that in we should take a taxi there, and from there we should cab it to the Uffiz. · We were glad to have chosen a guided over self-guided tour. The perspective provided by the guide could not have been replicated by a non-interactive audio assisted self-guided tour. · After finishing up at the Academia on our own, we headed out by cab to the Uffizi. We arrived on time only to discover our tour had begun without us. Fifteen minutes and two phone calls later we learned we were supposed to have been there at 15 minutes early and that it was too late for us to join the tour. The tour operator extended a credit to us that can be used within the next 6-months. · We were able to avoid ticket and entry lines at the Uffizi and spent the next 2-hours strolling through the museum aided by rented audio guides. · From the Uffizi we strolled back to Basilica di Santa Croce, had a bowl of soup, and waited for our group to gather for the return walk to the bus. Once back on board the Nautica it was off to the Terrace Café for dinner. Seemed as if the majority of our shipmates returning from a day in Florence also flocked to the Terrace. Our meal that evening was excellent! Ok, here are some lessons learned today: 1. We should have opted for a private transfer to and from Florence. I am certain we would have spent ample time in the city and would have arrived there, seen what we wanted, and been back to the ship sooner. 2. Do not attempt to see both the Academia and Uffizi in one day. If you are like us, you will get museumed out midway through your second museum. Thursday, 31 Oct 2019…..Civitavecchia, Italy Our third stop was Civitavecchia. Having spent quality time in Rome we opted to do something different. My brother and sister-in-law live in Rome so we planned on meeting them at the train station at Cerveteri, about 30 KM east of Civitavecchia. Our plan was to explore the Etruscan Necropolis of Banditaccia and corresponding National Cerite Museum. The first thing we learned after disembarking was train service from Civitavecchia had been suspended. Passengers who planned on taking the train were vectored to a bus. A dockside transportation coordinator told us a taxi to the Cerveteri train station would cost €80. I called my brother and arranged for him to pick us up at the bus “station” the ship’s courtesy bus took passengers to. This bus “station” is located just outside the main entry to the pier complex. FYI, you can catch a bus from there to the train station for €2. The Etruscan Necropolis of Banditaccia and corresponding National Cerite Museum are UNESCO sites well worth the visit. They are tombs and not catacombs. The Nacropolis walking trail is laid out in a loop, with stops at and inside selected tombs. The provided audio guide is not one used with ear buds, rather the respective tombs have speakers that broadcast the script so all in your party can hear. One large tomb is equipped with a projector that uses the tomb walls as a screen and shows frescos discovered in the tombs. The National Cerite Museum contains relics found in this and other burial sites and is located in the walled Medieval section of Cerveteri. You pass by the museum on the way to the necropolis. The two are only a short distance away from one another. If you rent a car at the port, free parking is plentiful in the plaza in front of the entrance to the Medieval village, museum, and Church of St. Mary Major. There are also several places in the plaza to have lunch. Our visit to the necropolis and museum and the lunch we shared with my brother and his wife was a wonderful and educational experience! We did and saw a lot, and the best part…..it was all done without any crowds. Just the 4 of us at each location. No pushing, shoving, or distracting background chatter. We wrapped up the day with a great dinner in the GDR. We shared the table with 4-other fantastic tablemates. Everyone had interesting stories to share about their day ashore. Friday, 01 Nov 2019…..Naples, Italy Having been to Pompei before, we chose to spend the day on the Island of Capri. It was about a 55 -minute ferry ride from the Port of Naples to Capri. On arriving at Capri, all the ship’s excursions to the Island boarded busses for a ride up to Anacapri and then walked to a ski lift that would take those who desired up to the summit. The only real guided/narrated part of the excursion was the bus trip and the walk to the lift. The lift didn’t start taking passengers until we had been there for at least 10-minutes. It is a 20-minute ride to the summit. The views from there are spectacular. After returning to the base of the lift, we boarded busses for the short ride to Capri. We had time for lunch, shopping, and wandering around before taking the tram down to the Grand Marina. We had 30-45 minutes of free time there before boarding the ferry for the trip back to Naples. Once back aboard Nautica, we rested awhile and then went to the Terrace Café for a pretty good dinner. Saturday, 02 Nov 2019…..At Sea At last a sea day. A chance to sleep in, rejuvenate, and prepare for the coming busy days. The Captain had told us to expect heavy seas, but none really materialized. Breakfast while onboard have consisted of coffee and bakery products served in our suite. Today we had a full breakfast in our suite. Now is a good time to comment on the food service. Monday-Barcelona: This was boarding day and lunch at the Terrace Café and was so-so. The veal and chicken cutlets were very dry and somewhat bland. Dinner that evening at Polos was excellent. (Veal Chop and Pancetta Wrapped Filet of Veal) · Tuesday-Monaco: Lunch in the GDR and very good. Dinner (sea bass) that evening, also in the GDR, was excellent. · Wednesday-Livorno: Lunch was in Florence. Dinner (New York Strip) was at the Terrace Café and was excellent. · Thursday- Civitavecchia: Lunch was at a local pizza place in Cerveteri. Dinner in the GDR was fantastic. DW and I had perhaps the best filet mignon ever! A real melt in your mouth cut of meat. · Friday-Naples: Lunch was in Capri and dinner in the MDR. We had a superb filet magnon. · Today (Saturday) we had a great lunch in the GDR and a disappointing dinner at Tuscany. I had Octopus Carpaccio and Osso Buco. The octopus was excellent. Although tender I found the Osso Buso dry and bland. DW had Aragosta Fra Diavolo con Taglinolina Freschi (lobster) and did not like the “spaghetti” sauce that had been served over it. · Just a word about breakfast. The room “service” is exceptional, but we have found the Danish pastries to be a mostly dry and boring. We need to order 2-carafs for each of us to get 2-cups of coffee. Coffee onboard is weak. We miss not having a coffee maker in the suite. It produces better tasty coffee when we want it, without having to wait for the butler to deliver it, or walk the length of the ship and back with 1 or 2 cups. · Afternoon canapes. The selection offered sucks! More to Follow
  5. Just a bit of background about ourselves. We are very experienced world travelers who have worked and lived overseas. Our cruising history has evolved from inside cabins, to balconies, to concierge level and up to suites. We have experienced suites aboard Carnival, Celebrity, and NCL (suite & haven). This cruise marks our first Oceania cruise. We booked Nautica’s Vista Suite on a 10-night Coastlines to Canals itinerary. The cruise begins in Barcelona and ends in Venice. When planning this trip, I explored the cost of both economy and business class airfares from Jacksonville, FL and from Oceania portal cities of Savanah, Orlando, and Miami. We opted not to take the routing Oceania offered. Instead we took the $800 PP air credit from Oceania and booked our own flights. After comparing all fares, we booked r/t business from Miami with Turkish Airlines. Reviews of Turkish Air’s service were all positive and some even exceptional. By the way, Turkish Airlines only has two classes of service…Business and Economy. Turkish Air offers a perk to r/t passengers who have a “stayover” in Istanbul. They will pick-up the cost of 1-nights lodging for economy and 2-nights lodging for business passengers. Oceania still mails out cruise documentation to passengers. This was commonplace with most, if not all, cruise lines years ago, but with the advent of e-documents a lot of cruise lines no longer mail out cruise documentation to their passengers. Kind of ironic when you consider the tons of printed advertising ALL cruise lines mail out to perspective clients. Regardless, Oceania’s practice of mailing out “Blue Books” to its passengers is not only classy, but just adds to the excitement associated with cruising. Turkish Air operates out of Miami’s South Terminal, so parking is found in the Flamingo parking lot. If you decide to fly Turkish, try to find a space on level 3 near the southeast end of the parking facility. You will be able to walk across the bridge from parking facility to terminal and be closer to Turkish Air’s passenger counter. We arrived at the airport at out 4:30 P.M. Parking was easy, as was getting to the check-in counter. Check-in was a breeze and in no time we were seated in Avianca’s Business Class Lounge, used by Turkish Air in Miami. It is a functional lounge that offers passengers a selection of food and drinks. It is all self-service. Getting on the plane and to our seats was no problem. But, because they used all doors to perform it, general boarding was kind of chaotic. All the passengers flowing thru the business class section prevented the crew from providing any pre-departure beverage service. In fact, citing proximity to take off time, the cabin crew discouraged the passenger across the isle from me from ordering a drink. That said, the in-flight cabin crews’ performance during the entire course of the flight was exceptional! The flight was 10 plus hours long. The length of the flight and lay flat seat meant it was possible to get an adequate amount of sleep that corresponded with regular sleep patterns. When the seat was in the upright position, we had a difficult time adjusting it to a comfortable position. The main meal was good, but we weren’t as WOW’ed by the food experience as expected. In-flight entertainment options were very good and the provided noise cancelling headsets blocked out all distracting background noise. We had a 5-hour layover in Istanbul. Turkish Air’s Business Class lounge is outstanding! As is Istanbul’s new international airport. Property and terminal wise, it is huge!!! One of the longest taxi times we have ever experienced. The terminal flows and flows and flows. There are no trams, just moving sidewalks to get you from place to place. One feature that we did not like was the deplaning process. We had to use boarding stairs rather than jetways to deplane. I don’t know if it was because we were an arriving international flight, or if the jetway and corresponding corridors to the transient and Customs and Immigration inspection areas were not functional/open, but for whatever reason it sucked! A standard jet way was used for boarding the continuing flight to Barcelona. The flight from Istanbul to Barcelona was about 3-hours long. We flew on a 737 and the business class was set up like standard first class section in the USA. The meal service was very good. We arrived at about 10:30 P.M. and had no trouble recovering our luggage and getting a taxi for the ride to our hotel. We arrived in Barcelona on a Saturday night so, even though it was close to 11:00 P.M., the streets were full with people walking from place to place. Many of them were demonstrators either going home, or walking to the next demonstration. None of the demonstrators we saw appeared dangerous or radical and none were wearing stocking hats that could be used to coverer their face. In fact, most of the demonstrators we saw were well dressed couples of all ages with Catalonian flags draped over their shoulders or wrapped around their waist. One of the streets we needed to take was closed due to an ending demonstration, so it took an extra few minutes to reach our hotel. We stayed at Sheraton’s Barcelona Four Points Barcelona on the Diagonal. Check-in was a breeze and given that it was almost midnight we were able to get a full nights sleep. Between the sleep obtained on the lay flat seat during the overnight flight from Miami to Istanbul and the subsequent full nights sleep in Barcelona we were able to avoid the scourge of jet lag. We woke up Sunday morning fresh and ready to explore Barcelona. Having been to Barcelona twice before for multiple days, we decided the most relaxing way to spend the day was aboard a HOHO and there was a HOHO stop a short walk from our hotel. Mid-way through the route we were informed demonstrations had forced the closure of two roads with stops for the bus. This meant getting off the bus several blocks away from the La Rambla. Again, the demographics of the demonstrators we saw ranged from youngsters to elderly, all well dressed, some with pets, and most with flags. The street closures disrupted all but emergency vehicle movement. As a result, we saw several families and couples exiting the La Rambla district towing or pushing their wheeled suitcases to a street where they could get transportation. You could tell from the look of panic on several faces that some of those with suitcases were probably concerned about reaching the airport in time for their flight. We were able to walk the length of La Rambla and the breadth of the seafront without encountering a demonstration. We did see one demonstration on a street paralleling the La Rambla. All-in-all, it was just another day on the road. We ended our day in Barcelona people watching over a meal and refreshments at a La Rambla sidewalk café. More to Follow.
  6. Thanks Mate! Got the trash out for Thursday pick-up.🤣 You missed a shooting that occurred by Sadler and Jasmin about 12:30 AM, Sunday morning. Guy was walking home from Flash and was accosted.
  7. Thanks Rick. We leave tomorrow for our 1st "O" cruise. Have sailed suites on X and NCL since 2012. Full range of ship sizes. It is going to be interesting to compare. We are early boarders and have never experienced any issue with cleanliness of our suite. They generally secure the fire doors and that contains 99% of the passengers inside the larger common areas, pool, food & drink venues. It has been my experience the vast majority of cruisers are just as eager to disembark as they are to board. Vacation is over and they just want to go home. The crew doesn't waste any time and start cleaning cabins and suites just as soon as they can after the guest has left.
  8. Checked with my hotel in Barcelona yesterday (we arrive late Saturday night/early Sunday morning). They said they were not a problem. Ditto with the U.S. Embassy's Travel Advisory program. https://es.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/demonstrations-in-spain/
  9. Another question regarding awarding of points. Does class of cabin have any bearing on points earned?
  10. Understand, but as Stand Jim said having the availability of reserving a venue for a private dinner party for amount is great!
  11. Wow! That's a good deal. We have book the Chef's Table on NCL several times for $75 and $90 pp. Max number of guest at the dinner is 12 and they only offer it one night out of a 7-night cruise and twice on the longer cruises.
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