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12 Day Grand Mediterranean Review on the Norwegian Spirit


nolatravelgirl
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Part 23

HIB then drove us to the entrance of the Colosseum. We were less than a 100 yards from the Arch of Constantine. I think we had 90 minutes for this stop. He said he would be back here at the stated time and sure enough when we finished HIB screeched to the curb for us.

 

As you approach the Colosseum there is a long security line to get in. Everyone needs to join that line. There will be tons of “helpful” people who say they can get you in quickly. Learn from me that they are :full of carp. They will sneak you in with a tour group. The security line is actually pretty quick. Once you get frisked there will be another long line, that is the line to buy tickets. You can print your own tickets at home so be sure to do that, especially if using RIL as you will waste a lot of time.

 

Walk past the long lines and go right up to the entrance turnstiles. Now that I was inside the Colosseum I once again turned to Rick Steves for my audio tour guide. He did a good job with directions on how to tour on your own.

 

TIP: book your Colosseum tickets in advance and use the Rick Steves audio guide to save some cash.

There are a lot steps and lots of uneven terrain inside the Colosseum so wear your walking shoes!

 

 

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Thankfully our whole group was at the appointed meeting spot and sure enough HIB picked us up and we were off for our next spot which was the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola. HIB told us that the Trevi fountain was still covered in scaffolding but this was also a beautiful fountain. HIB said this is where he takes dates for some late night make out sessions. I was unimpressed with the fountain but wouldn’t have turned down a kiss.

 

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It was getting to be lunch time and HIB wanted to know whether we wanted a wonderful sit down lunch or just a quick pizza stop. After the lunch yesterday in Florence the group thankfully agreed to a quick pizza stop. I am not sure how we would have squeezed in a full sit down lunch based on the frantic pace we were keeping. The pizza was nothing great but it was quick and tasty.

 

Next up the Vatican!

 

** HIB = Hot Italian Boyfriend (aka our Rome in Limo Driver)

Edited by nolatravelgirl
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I am hoping that you are going to post a picture of your HIB for all of your faithful readers to enjoy!:D

 

OP-I too hope there's a picture of HIB in the works!

 

Did you load the Rick Steves audio guides to your phone like a podcast? Where did you get the guides? But them or download for free? Please hold my hand here lol!

I totally failed at getting a picture of HIB. We were so focused on hopping out at all these stops it never occurred to me take his photo! I know, three whips with a licorice stick for me!

 

Thankfully google and tripadvisor to the rescue. I didn't take this picture, but this was him.

 

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This photo of Rome In Limo - Day Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

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This photo of Rome In Limo - Day Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

Go to the App store on your phone and search for Rick Steves Audio Europe once it is downloaded you then open the bottom and there is a blue bar at the bottom where you "add tracks" then just pick the ones you want to download.

Edited by nolatravelgirl
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OP-I too hope there's a picture of HIB in the works!

 

Did you load the Rick Steves audio guides to your phone like a podcast? Where did you get the guides? But them or download for free? Please hold my hand here lol!

 

I am not the OP but I can answer your question about the audio guides. You can download here;

 

Rick Steve's Audio Guides

 

to the OP; Really enjoying your review and I vote for a pic of your HIB too! ;)

 

 

Rochelle

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Part 23

 

I couldn’t believe how much time was flying but yet we hadn’t stopped moving. We were now on our way to the Vatican. HIB said we would be picking up our Vatican guide Karin in just a minute. Sure enough this lovely blonde lady was standing on the side of the road flagging down HIB. HIB hopped out and opened the van door for Karin, she got a double cheek kiss and a “Ciao bella!” from HIB.

 

Karin immediately jumped into guide mode and started pointing out things on the drive and kept talking about how we were going to need quickly. She collected all our ticket vouchers and HIB screeched to the curb. As we each stepped out the van she checked to make sure we were all suitably covered for the Sistine Chapel.

 

TIP: you must have your shoulders and knees covered to enter the Sistine Chapel

 

There were mobs of people at the entrance but we followed Karin inside who went through another line and bypassed the crowd. She parked us on a bench and she went and collected our tickets with the vouchers. Normally I hate the “stick people” aka the guides who lead people around attractions holding up a stick so the sheeple don’t get lost. This was one place where even just a small group of 8, like we were, really needed a stick.

 

The Vatican complex is a maze and everywhere you look are amazing works of art. It was art overload. We dutifully followed the stick as Karin pointed out amazing things at every turn.

 

The hall of statues. There were probably a thousand statues and busts

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Then there was what I called the hall of tapestry. These were wall sized hand woven tapestries depicting biblical scenes. My pictures do not do this justice

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Even the ceilings were amazing

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Next came the “map room”

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With more amazing ceilings

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We kept dutifully following the stick when we finally headed down a stair case that would lead us to the Sistine Chapel. Karin was not allowed to talk to us in the Chapel so before entering she had pulled out a poster and had pointed out the scenes and items of note. We were led in and Karin gave us a meeting spot to meet when were done looking. I once again popped in my Rick Steves audio guide and listened to the commentary. Technically you aren’t supposed to take photos but I did take one photo without flash. Needless to say I don’t recommend doing that as your pictures will be pretty crummy anyway. The other thing you are not supposed to do is talk but lots of people were incredibly rude and kept talking like they were at a rock concert.

 

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Next up St. Peter’s Basilica!

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Part 24

 

Just wanted to give a big thank you to everyone who has been reading along. I love that you guys are enjoying it but I am trying not to be one of those people who quotes everyone and says "thanks" just to beef their post count.

 

We exited the Chapel and we had a minute to look out onto St Peter’s Square while Karin had to get headsets for us to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. The view was pretty amazing

 

The balcony where the Pope stands

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St. Peter’s Square behind me.

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Karin came back with audio headsets for our group. She wasn’t allowed to talk to a group bigger than 6 in the basilica without the headsets. I actually really liked the headsets as she wore a microphone and we were able to follow along behind her and hear her full commentary without having to be glued to her side

 

Michaelangelo’s first major sculpture

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Pope John Paul II burial site

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If you rub St. Peter’s foot it is supposed to bring you good luck

 

TIP: Rub the foot!

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My pictures are terrible but sheer size and grandeur was astounding.

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Still just loving this review and I set sail on a similar itinerary in March of 2016, the advice is just priceless.

 

Also, HIB is making me laugh and I love the descriptions. I was especially touched to learn that you lost so much during Katrina and that that section of Rome was so moving for you. For me, New Orleans is the Great American City and watching the ten-year anniversary Katrina coverage was so poignant for me.

Edited by CincyJen
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Still just loving this review and I set sail on a similar itinerary in March of 2016, the advice is just priceless.

 

Also, HIB is making me laugh and I love the descriptions. I was especially touched to learn that you lost so much during Katrina and that that section of Rome was so moving for you. For me, New Orleans is the Great American City and watching the ten-year anniversary Katrina coverage was so poignant for me.

Katrina was such an emotional point in my life but it really solidified my joy for travel. Stuff is just stuff, but memories can never be taken away.

Here was our house after the flood damage

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Just loving this review. I'm doing the same cruise next May with a friend and we're really looking forward to it. I find myself checking compulsively for the next post. Can't wait for Naples!
This is a great cruise and you will love it. We were two friends traveling together. My piece of advice to you and your friend is to do some things separate. If you are given X time to explore an attraction by your guide then agree to sometimes go your own way and meet up at the end. Everyone has their own pace and wants to spend additional time at exhibits that appeal to them. You will have plenty of time to connect at meals and travel time.
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Part 25

 

At this point I was literally on visual information overload. I was amazed at every turn and couldn’t believe this treasure trove was all in one place. We exited the Basilica and got to see the Swiss guards and take some more photos from St. Peter’s Square

 

The Swiss Guards

 

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The Obelisk

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This is the view from the obelisk

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At this point my phone was pretty much dead. I had taken a ton of photos but it was an amazing day. I made a quick dash into the souvenir shop and bought some postcards and quickly scribbled out some notes home and mailed them from the Vatican post office.

 

TIP: we really didn’t have time to write out postcards here. There are tons of Vatican post cards you could buy at many of the souvenir stands earlier in the day. I wish I would have bought a post card earlier in the day and wrote it out in the van and then just bought the stamp at the Vatican to quickly drop in the Vatican post.

 

We exited the Vatican grounds from a completely different point from where we entered but magically HIB was there waiting for us. We approached the van and HIB asked if Karin was a good guide? He said “If she was good I give her a kiss, oh who I am kidding I would kiss her either way!” We assured him that she was an excellent guide and Karin was given the double kiss again and she walked home.

 

Our final stop in Rome was a gelato shop named Captain Cono. I didn’t have high hopes as it looked touristy and was spitting distance from St Peter’s Square but surprisingly it was some pretty yummy gelato. I am pretty sure I got some sort of toffee crunch. We ran into some of our cruise critic friends who were also doing a RIL tour so clearly Captain Cono is the official RIL gelato stop.

 

Sufficiently stuffed full of gelato HIB piled us all back into the van for one final ride back to the port. As was a common theme several us fell asleep on the ride back to the port. We bid arriva derci to HIB and another successful day of touring with RIL.

 

Similar to my review of Florence/Pisa if you want to try to see it all in a day then RIL is a good way to do it. You will be in sensory overload by the end of it. I think if I were to go back I would focus on just seeing the Vatican as I knew we breezed by way too much. I highly recommend you add on the Vatican guide if you are going to go to the Vatican with RIL. It was pricey at 180€ but we all thought money well spent. We could have easily gotten lost and never made it to the major parts in our limited time without our guide.

 

We made it back to the ship completely exhausted but managed to sneak in a disco nap and a shower before heading out to dinner. Up until this point we had been very satisfied with the food on NCL and really craving Italian food. Tonight’s dinner was at La Trattoria. We showed up and the hostess seemed a bit confused and the restaurant seriously lacked atmosphere. On the Spirit they have taken a section of the buffet restaurant seating and blocked it off with screens to create a separate restaurant. During the day the screens are removed and it is just general buffet seating.

 

The food was pretty so-so and the waiters seemed to lack any flair or panache. The bread basket contained the same standard bread available on the buffet. Since we had the dining package included in our rate it was no big deal, but had I paid the separate cover charge for this restaurant I would have been disappointed. Also right off the dining area was the dish washing station so the only ambient sound was that of dishwashers and clacking dishes.

 

I really believe an Italian restaurant could do well on NCL, but this wasn’t it.

 

Calamari Appetizer

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Shrimp main course

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I really wanted to love this restaurant but unfortunately this one was a low point of the trip for onboard food. Thankfully I have better food reviews to come!

 

Ciao for now! Naples is tomorrow!

Edited by nolatravelgirl
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We are doing a similar cruise in Jan on the Epic and I am really enjoying your trip report. We are also doing RIL tours in Naples and Rome-hope that we get HIB lol.

Thanks so much for your sassy reviews :). I actually have been listening to some Rick Steves audioguides in preparation for our trip. I don't listen to the tour ones obviously but there are a lot of other ones about various cultures and cuisines that are very interesting. Love the free stuff!!

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Part 26

 

Another day is upon us and today we are in Naples. We had two really big “history” days already in Italy and I think we were up for a more casual and relaxed trip. We looked through the tour offereing in Naples and one seemed to call out to us. It had a big fancy name “Enogastronomic Tour” which I think turned a lot of people off thinking it was going to be some weird molecular cuisine or eating strange things like brains and eyes. Thankfully, enogastronomy roughly translates to food and beverage/wine.”

 

We again decided to set up a tour share with RIL but we decided that it may be a challenge to get 8 people so only opened up a tour share for a group of 6. Using our roll call we were able to fill all the spots which was good. The cost of the tour was 500€ but you needed to pay for your own pizza making class which was 15€.

 

 

We met our tour guide Daniele who was a big burly guy. Not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley late at night. As became the norm with RIL we would have frequent hop out in crazy spots for a quick photo while in the van. Our first was a pretty lookout on our way to the olive tree farm and factory.

 

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We arrived at the factory/farm and a nice lady from New Zealand was our guide. She took us up into the trees and explained to us about the trees. It was hot but the worst problem was the mosquitos. They were practically attacking me from every angle.

 

TIP: if you take this tour then pack some bug spray

 

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We finally moved inside and she showed us the machinery which would have been much more interesting if they were actually pressing olives. We finally moved inside where she put out a dish that had 5 sections. My initial thought is that we were going to taste 5 oils, but instead she pulled out about 20 more little dishes. I couldn’t believe we were going to be able to taste so many!

 

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She also pulled about 10 different liqueurs for us to try including limoncello. I am not a huge fan of hard liquor but I did like the pistachio flavored one.

 

The olive oils were all excellent and I was pleased that it was complimentary. I ended up buying three different olive oils and thought this was a great stop. A small group of 6 was the perfect size as we could all easily walk around the table and casually taste.

 

They had a cute little shop and lots of nice gift items if you were looking for a food gift to bring back. The olive oil prices were quite good and they sold in cans which are excellent for travel

 

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Part 27

We had a bit of a drive to get to Sorrento where Daniele drove us around and pointed out several of the highlights of Sorrento. He pointed out our meeting spot for after the pizza making class. We arrived at Il Leone Rosso restaurant which was a few blocks away from the center of Sorrento.

 

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We met Niko the pizza guy who spoke no English. He showed us how to pat out the dough and made a sample pizza for us. Daniele left and said to meet him at the point he showed us earlier in about 2 hours. They handed out paper hats and aprons to us all. We each took turns making our own pizza and when done Niko would put it in the big oven. I was expecting a bit more of a culinary class, but overall I thought it was a lot fun!

 

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After all the pizzas were made we sat down and our table was full of food since our 15€ class also included a salad and a glass of beer/wine. This was the most social of the tours we had done and it was nice to all sit around and chat while not feeling rushed to get to the next attraction.

 

After finishing our pizzas they brought out these big platters with a bunch of shared desserts

 

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We are taking this cruise in October. I have booked 3 Rome In Limo tours with guides. Can you provide some guidance on the appropriate tipping amounts. I know Europe has different tipping protocols than we are used to.
We didn't have a separate guide other than at the Vatican. The drivers are very knowledgeable but they are generally not guides. It just wasn't in the budget for Italy to have both an all day guide and separate driver.

Our tour in Rome was 550€ which divided 8 ways was 68.75€ and we each gave the driver 75€ which I thought was adequate that he ended up with a 50€ tip. Same thing in Florence.

 

For the Vatican guide at 180€ it was 22.50€ per person and we each gave her 25€ so she got a 20€ tip which I think was adequate for a 2.5 hour tour.

 

Tipping is a personal thing and I would tip what you feel comfortable tipping but these are paid positions. I have been on some tours in the US where guides and drivers start putting out feelers for tips or start giving you some sad story so you tip more, but there is no need to over tip like in the US. Most European restaurants add on a service charge so there is no need to tip beyond that other maybe round up to the nearest Euro.

 

We are on The Spirit on Oct 12 and looking forward to our cruise so much. Thank you for posting we are learning so much from your posts and really enjoying your pictures.

Gary and Cathy

I will have more "ship stuff" when I get to the sea days. This cruise is very port intensive so the first five days if you leave from Barcelona are very intense/ I didn't feel like I really got to enjoy the ship since we spent a lot of time in port at the beginning. By the time we would get back to the ship in the evening it was nap, shower, pre-dinner cocktail, dinner then usually straight to bed due to 8am tours.

Edited by nolatravelgirl
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Thanks for a great read and for the many photos!

 

We used Rome in Limo last September. Franco picked us up at the dock in Civittavecchia and dropped us at our hotel by the Pantheon 9 hours later. In between we saw the sights and had a two hour guided tour of the Vatican via RIL's Massimo. He was so tall he didn't need to carry a sign. Wonderful experience but we were exhausted-complete overload.

 

We will be back in Rome a week from tomorrow and RIL are handling our transfers. Great company to do business with.

 

I feel for the Italian restaurant on the Spirit who had to serve you "Italian food" after you had eaten in Italy. We normally eat in the Italian Restaurant on Princess for our first dinner but as we will have two days of Roman vittles before boarding we will eat in the Steakhouse instead.

 

Our cruise winds up in Barcelona so we have two days there to see the Gaudis and tapas our brains out. I'll check out your tapas recommendations.

 

I like a nice brisk read that moves along with wit and useful information-and yours is one.

 

Much appreciated!!

 

Looking forward to more...

 

Norris

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[u]Part 28[/u]

 

We each got a plate with our name written in chocolate for our shared desserts. When you lined up all the plates the words at the bottom I think spelled out the name of the restaurant. He tried explaining it, but he didn't speak much Italian.

 

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As if this wasn’t already a great value they then brought out a bottle of limoncello and frozen shot glasses. We got to pour our own!

 

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Cheers to new friends!

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We even got a pizza class certificate!

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Overall I thought this was really worth the $15 charge per person. The pizza was very good and we had a lot of fun making them.

 

After our lunch we had free time where we were able to shop around Sorrento. It was nice to be able to walk around and burn a few calories. The weather was pretty hot but not unbearably. Just as expected Daniele pulled up at the appointed time right at the center of town by the flags and we were off for our next destination.

 

Next up will be wine tasting while overlooking Vesuvius!

Edited by nolatravelgirl
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Part 29

 

This was turning out to be a great day. We had about a 20 minute drive to the winery we would visit “Cantina del Vesuvio Winery” and initially I was disappointed since there was a large tour bus parked outside. Thankfully they were loading up just as we arrived so it was nice not to be mobbed.

 

A representative from the winery came and walked us through the fields and gave us a brief history of the area and the types of grapes that they grow. We were able to get really pretty pictures out in the fields.

 

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We were then brought into the barrel room where we were given a few more random facts then our wine guide said “Are you ready to taste some wine.” She was really just a waitress than someone who really understood about the wine and the region. Oh well.

 

She led us to a table outside that was in the shade where we were first served a small plate of antipasti. I wasn’t crazy about the meat but the other parts were pretty good.

 

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We tasted 4 different wines plus a sparkling wine and I think some grappa.

 

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We never felt rushed and I think we got our money’s worth for the 10€ tasting fee. The white wines weren’t so great but the reds were decent. I have paid far more for tastings in California and gotten much less value. We sat around chatting again with our tour mates until it was time to go.

 

One thing I will point out that I noticed in several of our Italian stops was the type of toilet. I wouldn’t normally take toilet photos but thought those who are not familiar with them might be surprised by the lack of seat, so be prepared to use your glute and thigh muscles to hover!

 

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We loaded back up into the van for our final trip back to the port. After having consumed a fair amount of wine across the day it was again time for a little cat nap in the van. We got back to the port in plenty of time. The rest of our tour group decided to explore the castle that was walking distance from the castle while jenidallas and I decided to head back onto the ship and enjoy some time at the Tivoli pool. The pool chairs were beginning to fill up but we didn’t have a hard time finding two loungers that met our needs.

 

Overall this RIL tour was the most fun of the three but the other two were much more focused on the history and art surrounding us. I didn’t have a huge interest in touring Pompeii so I thought this was a great tour for the day. I would recommend this tour for adults and not so much for families as the kids would be quite bored at the winery and olive oil tasting.

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