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Orchestra Trip Report Part 3

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I meant to mention that our first formal night was our second night on the ship. Although our Swiss friend to the right wore a tuxedo both formal nights, he was the only one I saw in a tux. It was very laid back for formal dress. More than half the men had ties, but many only wore a nice shirt and decent pants - sometimes black jeans. Women wore everything from tops and pants to evening gowns. It was a very comfortable ship.

 

We left Valencia at 5:30 pm and arrived in Ibiza at 1 am. This was supposed to be a day at sea and then they inserted Ibiza from 1 am to 1 pm. Ibiza is supposed to be party capital of the world but it wasn't season yet so to me, this was a very wasted stop. MSC offered a shuttle for 13 euros, unlimited trips, and the kids did it, but said the driver just dropped them off in town with no directions and they just wandered, Eventually they found the Old Town which was pretty, but most things were closed. Another big MSC port mistake!

 

We skipped Ibiza and instead enjoyed the mostly empty ship. I had a massage (60 minutes for 99 euros) which was not much of a massage. The girl admitted she has only been doing massages for 9 months and I didn't want to get her in trouble by complaining, so I let it go.

 

We joined the kids on the deck for enormous gelato banana splits which were very good. Then to Savannah Bar, which is also a lovely showroom, and hung out with drinks. (All my trips to Italy have me addicted to the Aperol Spritz, and they made it very well on this ship!)

 

We dragged ourselves to dinner still full from the gelato and bar snacks and ate very little, to our waiter's dismay. When I said no to the dessert menu, I thought he would cry! We didn't attend any more shows but everyone talked about how great they were.

 

The next morning we took advantage of the 30 pieces of laundry for 25 euros and the clothes came back the next day in spectacular condition!

 

On Thursday 4/19 we tried breakfast in the dining room because the kids had enjoyed it. The service was quick and good. The weather was absolutely gorgous as we sailed toward Tunisia, a special stop for us because my step-daughter's husband is Tunisian and was currently visiting his family in Tunis!

 

The ship arrived quite early so we had to wait for him to pick us up after walking through the gauntlet of camel rides, falcon photos, and taxi drivers. There were plenty of Police in evidence at the port. We were given back our passports for Tunis (and they were collected back afterward).

 

The taxi drivers were not impolite or obnoxious in any way, they just kept trying to tell us there was nothing within walking distance (which was true) and few of them spoke enough English to understand we had a son-in-law picking us up. When one driver DID understand that, he made an announcement to the other drivers and they smiled, nodded, and left us alone. They were thrilled when my son-in-law actually arrived and he was, in fact, Tunisian!

 

He took us to the suburbs where we had lunch at a streetside grill place. I don't eat lamb but the others had it and pronounced it delicious. I had grilled beef (I hope) which was tasty. My son-in-law had some sausage dish that was delicious but so, so different from anything I'd ever eaten!

 

We went to Carthage but it was starting to rain and there were busloads of people in line, so we headed up to Sidi Bou Said, called the "Santorini of Tunisia," and that was nice. It stopped raining long enough for us to enjoy the town and the sweet pastries my son-in-law bought. Having a local guide was fantastic and he also brought us capuccino and other treats during the day.

 

Then we went to see the house he is building with his brother. The bottom floor already had a beauty shop (where men are not allowed to enter) and his brother is opening a cafe, but the top two floors still needed a lot of work and it will take "years" before they can find the proper building materials and workers.

 

We hated to go back to the ship but it was formal night again so we said goodbye to our son-in-law (who loves in Orlando) and feasted on delicious prawns, salad, pasta, cheese, and Baked Alaska which was brought out in a ceremony of chefs and waiters. They waited patiently as we scrambled to get pictures of the flaming desserts.

 

Friday morning the weather was lovely again as Sicily came into view, followed by the first views of enormous snow covered Mt. Etna. One of the nicest things about the cruise was that only one of the ports (Villefranche) had an early morning arrival so each morning our port was just coming into view.

 

This was the only port where we'd planned an excursion. My daughter had been here before and wanted to rent a car, but the time constraints (6 hours) had made her agree to go with Mario Astone of Sicily with Mario.

 

We arrived almost an hour early (from our balcony we saw dolphins accompanying the ship) and I called Mario. His brother Ig****o answered the phone and said they would rush right over, which they did. We were lucky enough to have both brothers for tour guides in their comfortable Mercedes van!

 

When they drove us straight up the side of a mountain, past Taormina to Castelmolo, I was SO glad we hadn't rented a car as I couldn't even bear to look over the edge! We were immediately comfortable with the brothers and took all their recommendations with how much time to spend in each place. Mario and Ig****o walked us through Castelmolo, a gorgeous little mountain village, and then we went to eat at their favorite little restaurant, Gallo Cedrone. The bruscetta and dessert wine were free, our bottle of local wine, pastas, pizza, meatballs, and espressos came to 60 euros. Mama didn't speak English but she made sure we were happy with everything and it was a wonderful meal.

 

We asked where we could buy more bottles of the local wine we'd had, and they sold us the bottles at 6 euros each!

 

One of the little jewelry stores had caught my daughter's eye, and we ended up spending 5 euros per pendant and 10 euros per bracelet of lava rock. We had great views of Mt. Etna from here.

 

Then we went down to Taormina, which was PACKED with school groups and busloads of tourists. The brothers told us our meeting place and off we went. We checked out the old Greek arena first and then just started wandering up the pedestrian walkway. It started to rain so they ducked into an Irish Pub and I continued to walk. There was a wedding going on in the rain and I hadn't melted yet, so I didn;t figure it would hurt me. Eventually we got back in the van and returned to the ship. We parted like old friends (they gave us a bakery box of delicious fruit tarts), and the 240 euros it cost for 4 of us were more than worth it. I have used other tour companies in Europe and they were clearly the best.

 

We ate a light dinner, my husband turned in, and I stood on the (very cold - I'm from Florida!) deck for an hour to watch us traverse the Straits of Messina. Mario had explained it was less than 2 miles wide, and it sure took some careful maneuvering on the part of our huge ship. Meanwhile the car ferries steadily ran back and forth between Sicily and the mainland of Italy.

 

We had very rough seas again as we headed up the coast of Italy.

 

Our longest port day was on Saturday 4/21, in Naples from 8-5. All of us had been there several times and felt no need to rush as we breakfasted leisurely on a beautiful, warm day. Because of our familiarity with the city, and having been to Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast and Capri many times, we were planning to make a good deal with a taxi driver or take public transportation to go to Herculaneum and Mt. Vesuvius.

 

We left the ship after 9 and immediately were approached by a taxi driver who spoke excellent English. We told him what we wanted and he took out a chart showing us that it was 160 euros to do both Herculaneum and Mt. Vesuvius, but he would cut that to 150. We said 100, he said 125, and it was done. (In the end, I think it was 120 because no one had change).

 

It being a Saturday, there was no traffic in Naples! The trip to Herculaneum/Ercolano only took 15 minutes, and he waited for us there for 1.25 hours. (And it was free due to Culture Week) As we climbed the vertical road to Mt. Vesuvius, the weather changed completely to very cold and socked in by fog. When we reached the ticket booth, a large sign stated "No Visability." It still cost 8 euros, though. My husband didn't want to go but he did. It was incredibly steep, windy, cold, and yes, there was no visibility whatsoever. The kids went on ahead, sure as mountain goats. They soon disappeared in the fog.

 

We were almost to the top when my husband just said he wasn't going any farther. We couldn't even SEE the top so I'm just guessing we were close! We headed back down, had a well needed drink in the little bar (my favorite thing about Italy is there is at least one little bar nearby at all times), and were joined by the kids, who said they had about 10 seconds of clarity while up there and had a picture to prove it.

 

We piled back in the taxi and appreciated the beautiful sunny views of Naples as we descended. We needed an ATM/Bancomat, so Maurizio the driver took us to one downtown and stood outside making sure everyone knew we weren't easy marks. (We have never had a problem in all our visits to Naples)

 

Then he dropped us at Da Michele pizza place which is supposedly the best pizza place in Naples, a place we've never been able to get into. We said goodbye to Maurizio and got a number - it was going to be at least an hour wait. So we went across the street to the place we'd gone to last time in Naples, Trianon, which is also on the list of the top 10 pizzerias in Naples.

 

Again, we really enjoyed the great pizza, cold beer, and excellent friendly service. We strolled back to the ship with time to spare and stopped at the little bar just inside the port entrance. We knew the beer would be expensive, saw the large beers were 6 euros, and ordered three large beers and one Coke Light. Out came three medium sized glasses of beer filled halfway, and the Coke Light. We asked if they were smalls, not large, and he said no, they were large. Then he brought a bowl of very stale snacks.

 

We told him they were stale and he pretended not to speak English. Then my daughter told him they were stale in Italian and to bring fresh snacks. He came back with the bill and more stale snacks. The bill was 24 euros although my soda was 3.20 euros and the beers were definitely smalls which were supposed to cost 4.20 each. She asked to see the manager and he never came out. The young waiter finally came out and said he needed to be paid.

 

My daughter paid the 24 euros and said this was absolutely the very first time in three years in Italy that she'd ever been treated like this, and it made her sick. They drank up and I poured my Coke Light into the bowl of snacks to make sure no other tourists got them. Hopefully they got the message, but they did get our money!

 

I went to another English-speakers meeting about disembarking. They said we would have luggage tags waiting for us after dinner which would give us a color code for leaving the ship. On Celebrity, they had asked everyone's plans before they decided on groups. Since we were driving from the port, we were allowed to leave first. The colors we got had us leaving LAST.

 

We went to our final, good dinner of mussels and mixed fish grill. We got goodbye kisses from the family to our left, and then the couple to the right joined us for after dinner cocktails at La Cantinella. The music was great and I thought of how we'll miss this ship.

 

In summary, it was a great cruise for the price, but they definitely need to tweak those port times. I'd gladly pay more money for more time.

 

We did experience some of the "no line" attitudes of the passengers, but that's common throughout Europe, plus I've encountered this on ships full of Americans! I could get in front of them as easily as they could get in front of me if that's what it took!

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i read everyting, so glad u had a good time on an italian ship and here in italy. next time u go to naples don't miss da michele, it really worths. more than trianon. i went to trianon once and i said "never again". when we go michele's we usually take the number, ask how long does it take to be called, and then go around for some shopping then come back. it works ;)

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The three people I was with refused to wait for Da Michele, and we had enjoyed Trianon the last time, so I was overruled. I actually prefer the very thin crust pizza in Rome to the thicker Neopolitan style.

 

I think we enjoyed the cruise because we've spent a lot of time in Italy in the last three years and love the country and the people!

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The three people I was with refused to wait for Da Michele, and we had enjoyed Trianon the last time, so I was overruled. I actually prefer the very thin crust pizza in Rome to the thicker Neopolitan style.

 

I think we enjoyed the cruise because we've spent a lot of time in Italy in the last three years and love the country and the people!

 

 

nooooooooo the only real and actual pizza is in naples!!!:(

 

consider that now the napolitan pizza is patented, no one is allowed to call it "pizza napoletana" unless it's prepared in that way.

 

anyway i'm always very glad when foreigners that visit italy are happy of being here :D

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