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