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23 hours ago, Fouremco said:

Debbie, you started an identical thread in August 2019:

 

At that time, you concluded that you were going to book both a British Isles and a Baltic cruise because you couldn't decide. You also made reference to not wanting to start your cruise in "a crowded, high crime big city", which might limit choices.

 

Could you go through your earlier thread and tell us whether your thoughts have changes at all. Are British and Baltic cruises still your top choices, or are you completely open to other ideas? CC members are always willing to help out, but if you were set on booking those two itineraries just over a year ago, what has changed?

First I want to thank everyone for such thoughtful, informative answers.  This group is the best!! We have done some additional research and have narrowed it down to a Rome to Rome  10 night on the Edge, a 7 night Venice to Rome on the Infinity or a 9 night Venice to Rome on the Constellation.  We will visit the embarkation and departing cities for 2-3 days each.  The Edge is more expensive and we aren't sure we will utilize the ship to warrant the extra money.  We typically like longer cruises (10 nights +).   

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18 minutes ago, SCGirl3211 said:

First I want to thank everyone for such thoughtful, informative answers.  This group is the best!! We have done some additional research and have narrowed it down to a Rome to Rome  10 night on the Edge, a 7 night Venice to Rome on the Infinity or a 9 night Venice to Rome on the Constellation.  We will visit the embarkation and departing cities for 2-3 days each.  The Edge is more expensive and we aren't sure we will utilize the ship to warrant the extra money.  We typically like longer cruises (10 nights +).   

As part of our July 2021 plans, we are doing that 7 night Infinity (in reverse, Rome to Venice)...I like the itinerary--but, we're doing it as one of two cruises, so we get in 14 nights of cruising.  To me, 7 nights is a little short.  So, my vote would be the Connie.   I looked up the 9 night Constellation itinerary:

 

1 Venice, Italy  Overnight

2 Venice, Italy  Departs: 2:00PM

3 Kotor, Montenegro noon- 7:00PM

4 At Sea - Cruising

5 Sicily (Messina), Italy 8:00 am-6:00PM

6 Naples, Italy  Departs: 7:00 am-6:30PM

7 At Sea - Cruising

8 Portofino, Italy 8:00 am-9:00PM

9 Florence/Pisa(La Spezia)Italy 6:00 am-5:30PM

10 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy

 

Not bad at all--especially if you want to see a lot of Italy...and, personally, I LOVE Italy...probably my favorite European country to visit...perhaps for the food alone...but also history, architecture and art...

 

Here is my breakdown of what you are getting here:

First, you not only start in Venice but also get an "overnight" in Venice...I would consider getting in multiple nights early--but not to Venice...I'd fly in to Florence, perhaps, spend a couple of nights there, then catch a train to Venice and spend one extra night there before  boarding the ship...or flying into Venice but going to Verona or Padua for a night or two, then back to Venice.  But, even just getting in to Venice and spending extra nights there is not bad...

 

Kotor, Montenegro is COOL...a medieval walled city with other neat places nearby...You may want to take a "grand tour" that also visits Budva, Centinje and Njegusi...The ship has this tour...or organize a private tour on your roll call--There are a few private tour companies that offer this.  Budva is a neat little walled beach town.  The noon arrival may shorten how much you can fit in though...

 

In Sicily, you'll want to visit Taormina--neat but very touristy town...unless you are a geologist, then a trip to Mt. Etna is in order--but that's actually a little dull to most. The other attraction is to visit  the filming locations for the Godfather movies.  Last visit, we got a private tour company to put together a tour to Taormina AND the Godfather sites.

 

Naples...A lot of folks love the "Amalfi Coast", it is very scenic...but, to me, I prefer to visit the two incredible archaeological sites--Pompeii or Herculaneum...Last visit, we arranged a private tour that split the day between a tour of Herculaneum AND a partial tour of the Amalfi Coast...That is what I would do in your shoes.

 

La Spezia and Portofino--These two are close together...and the Cinque Terre are between the two...So, you may consider using that longer day in Portofino to visit the Cinque Terre...and the La Spezia stop to venture somewhere inland--Florence if you haven't visited pre-cruise...or Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano or elsewhere in Tuscany.

 

Then, you'll need to get transportation from the port into Rome proper...Stay a couple of nights at least near the Piazza Navona or Pantheon ...

 

The two "at sea" days, BTW, are well spaced...You'll need them to rest and recoup from the long days touring in port...breaks up the port days nicely...

 

Have fun!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, SCGirl3211 said:

First I want to thank everyone for such thoughtful, informative answers.  This group is the best!! We have done some additional research and have narrowed it down to a Rome to Rome  10 night on the Edge, a 7 night Venice to Rome on the Infinity or a 9 night Venice to Rome on the Constellation.  We will visit the embarkation and departing cities for 2-3 days each.  The Edge is more expensive and we aren't sure we will utilize the ship to warrant the extra money.  We typically like longer cruises (10 nights +).   

Nice choices!

 

The Edge's longer itinerary makes it most tempting, even at the higher cost, but I'd think twice about spending time in Rome both before and after the cruise. Instead, I'd look at the option of visiting Venice pre- or post-cruise. Very tempting and my first choice.

 

The Connie's itinerary is only a day less than the Edge's and offers the benefit of the different embarkation and disembarkation cities. The ports along the way are very attractive, and you'd no doubt have a great time. The only potential negative is the chatter over the past couple of months about the Connie being sold off. It's only speculation at this point, but something to keep an eye on if you are leaning towards this choice.

 

The Infinity cruise is just too short IMO. I do like @Bruin Steve's idea of making it a b2b and going in both directions if you can squeeze that in. Otherwise, it would be my third choice.

 

Whatever you choose, I hope that you will have a wonderful time!

 

 

Edited by Fouremco
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You're getting some great adevice here. I would like to add that, if you go to Kotor, it is absolutely worth it to get up very early and watch the sail-in. It is magnificent, especially as the sun is rising, and the colors are changing. It's also nice to watch the sail-away and compare the different lighting, and to view the fjord and its features with the new-found knowledge you gained while touring. 

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I would vote for either cruise that begins in Venice and ends in Rome. We did the Infinity in 2019 with a similar itinerary and loved it. We flew into Venice and stayed 3 nights prior to boarding the ship. We also had the overnight. We only spent one night in Rome but that was due to spending 4 days there on a previous round trip cruise. Venice is so much fun to wander and explore. Not sure when you would be going, but the cooler the better. We were in Venice at the end of June and  there was a major heat wave which curtailed our wandering a bit. Do check out the port section for tour ideas as well as Rick Steves. I found both very helpful.  I agree with MamaFej to get up early if you sail into Kotor-beautiful. 

Enjoy whatever you choose. 

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A note, since it's been mentioned twice:  If it's that Constellation itinerary, you won't need to get up early for the sail-in to Kotor as the itinerary says it docks at noon!  BTW, the even better sail-ins are 1) Malta and 2)  Venice (if they don't change it due to current issues regarding ship traffic).

 

As to heat issues if cruising during summer:  It's not much of an issue to me as I live in Southern California and our climate is virtually identical to most areas of the Mediterranean...So, I'm getting the same weather whether I'm home or on a trip...However, the note to everyone is:  1)  Dress accordingly, 2)  pack a hat, 3) bring--and use--sun screen and 4)  wherever you tour, take along plenty of water.  For me, I take along a couple of 40 oz. Takeya bottles and, before leaving the ship, I head up to the buffet and pack each with as much ice as I can fit, then fill the rest of one with water and the other with iced tea.  These bottles keep the ice frozen, to some extent, all day...and give me plenty of cool, refreshing liquid to drink.  I put both into my knapsack which I carry with me wherever I tour.

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All I have to say is please please don't eat at the tourist restaurants in Italy.  What a waste.

 

Good restaurants will be so much tastier and potentially cheaper than the tourist restaurants.  If you don't want to spend a lot of time researching, at the very least try Yelp or something.  

 

I personally wouldn't do europe by cruise except for itineraries impractical by land (islands, fjords).  Skipping out on dinner is too sad, one of the biggest reasons to go to europe.  Just thinking about all the good food is making me hungry and depressed at the pandemic.

 

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I haven't cruised to most of those locations, but I've visited Italy a number of times on land. If your heart is set on Florence (a great city to visit for the history, culture, art, etc.) that I'd personally highly recommend, then as Steve Bruin suggest, I'd plan to do that pre-cruise on land. Doing a random (tomorrow morning) Google Maps from La Spezia to Florence (not including walking from wherever you're dropped off) estimates an 1:40 to 2:40 depending on route, and pretty much the same on return. I don't know people's experiences are on the Italian ports board, but that's the one that concerns me for disappointment (as Steve Bruin and I discussed last night). If you want to go to Florence, and do it pre-cruise, then Lucca, Pisa, etc., are much more manageable on a port call!

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19 minutes ago, UnorigionalName said:

All I have to say is please please don't eat at the tourist restaurants in Italy.  What a waste.

 

Good restaurants will be so much tastier and potentially cheaper than the tourist restaurants.  If you don't want to spend a lot of time researching, at the very least try Yelp or something.  

 

I personally wouldn't do europe by cruise except for itineraries impractical by land (islands, fjords).  Skipping out on dinner is too sad, one of the biggest reasons to go to europe.  Just thinking about all the good food is making me hungry and depressed at the pandemic.

 

 

They're going to have to do lunch in Italy. They're sailing before any decent Italian would even think of eating dinner...

 

😀

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If you are on a cruise that ends in Rome, take a train and/or ferry combination and spend a few days on the Amalfi Coast.  Sorrento is a great place to use as a base for 3-4 days.  Hire a private driver, go early and stay late, and tour the amazing coast making several stops along the way.  Ravello is to die for!  So many great suggestions here for you from everyone.  Good luck and happy planning!!!

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2 hours ago, Bruin Steve said:

 

 

1 Venice, Italy  Overnight

2 Venice, Italy  Departs: 2:00PM

3 Kotor, Montenegro noon- 7:00PM

4 At Sea - Cruising

5 Sicily (Messina), Italy 8:00 am-6:00PM

6 Naples, Italy  Departs: 7:00 am-6:30PM

7 At Sea - Cruising

8 Portofino, Italy 8:00 am-9:00PM

9 Florence/Pisa(La Spezia)Italy 6:00 am-5:30PM

10 Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy

 

Not bad at all--especially if you want to see a lot of Italy...and, personally, I LOVE Italy...probably my favorite European country to visit...perhaps for the food alone...but also history, architecture and art...

 

Here is my breakdown of what you are getting here:

First, you not only start in Venice but also get an "overnight" in Venice...I would consider getting in multiple nights early--but not to Venice...I'd fly in to Florence, perhaps, spend a couple of nights there, then catch a train to Venice and spend one extra night there before  boarding the ship...or flying into Venice but going to Verona or Padua for a night or two, then back to Venice.  But, even just getting in to Venice and spending extra nights there is not bad...

 

Kotor, Montenegro is COOL...a medieval walled city with other neat places nearby...You may want to take a "grand tour" that also visits to 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just love the ports on this one , we did most of them 4 years ago. 
Kotor was just amazing walled city extremely friendly, amazing view entering and exiting the harbor.

Naples is a problem since you have so many great options Pompeii is totally amazing, Capri is gorgeous island and Naples has the best pizza in the world.

 

Florence is great being a couple of feet from the David statue alone is worth the trip we also stopped a a local vineyard for a wine tasting, this is the heart of the Chianti region, no problem adding quick stop to Pisa , we along with 6 from our roll call did a private tour for all this with papillon best tour I have ever taken.

 

whatever ship you pick join the roll call , we did almost all our excursions with fellow roll call not with overcrowded and overpriced ships tours.

 

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19 minutes ago, markeb said:

 

They're going to have to do lunch in Italy. They're sailing before any decent Italian would even think of eating dinner...

 

😀

 

Haha, true.

 

But even for lunch, even if you are with a tour group, many times you will have the option of choosing your lunch spot.

 

Even if you do no research, 10 min on yelp can usually find you a much better place than those pasta-pizza-hamburger-hotdog places in the main piazzas. 

 

Or ask the tour guide where they would be getting lunch.

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3 minutes ago, George C said:

Just love the ports on this one , we did most of them 4 years ago. 
Kotor was just amazing walled city extremely friendly, amazing view entering and exiting the harbor.

Naples is a problem since you have so many great options Pompeii is totally amazing, Capri is gorgeous island and Naples has the best pizza in the world.

 

Florence is great being a couple of feet from the David statue alone is worth the trip we also stopped a a local vineyard for a wine tasting, this is the heart of the Chianti region, no problem adding quick stop to Pisa , we along with 6 from our roll call did a private tour for all this with papillon best tour I have ever taken.

 

whatever ship you pick join the roll call , we did almost all our excursions with fellow roll call not with overcrowded and overpriced ships tours.

 

And the great walled city of Lucca!!

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10 minutes ago, UnorigionalName said:

Even if you do no research, 10 min on yelp can usually find you a much better place than those pasta-pizza-hamburger-hotdog places in the main piazzas. 

 

 

Goodness no (rewrote my initial response...). That's like Sbarro (which I think has closed finally) or Olive Garden in Times Square! But the true Italian grab and go places off the piazzas can be great for a quick bite.

 

One of the side effects of WFH and a general lack of sports on television was the discovery of an amazing number of Netflix and Prime travel and food shows. Prime has a couple of series at least on traveling in Italy, with restaurants, and if memory serves everything from Chef's Table (high end) to Somebody Feed Phil (fun) visits restaurants in Venice, Florence, Naples, etc. Doesn't mean you can easily find them, or they're the best option, but they give you an idea what's there.

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49 minutes ago, markeb said:

 

Goodness no (rewrote my initial response...). That's like Sbarro (which I think has closed finally) or Olive Garden in Times Square! (you may not like to eat there, but they at least provided jobs) But the true Italian grab and go places off the piazzas can be great for a quick bite.

 

One of the side effects of WFH and a general lack of sports on television was the discovery of an amazing number of Netflix and Prime travel and food shows. Prime has a couple of series at least on traveling in Italy, with restaurants, and if memory serves everything from Chef's Table (high end) to Somebody Feed Phil (fun) visits restaurants in Venice, Florence, Naples, etc. Doesn't mean you can easily find them, or they're the best option, but they give you an idea what's there.

 

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1 hour ago, LGW59 said:

 

 

The Olive Garden is still there and open, and clearly fills a niche. In a normal year they probably pay a huge part of their rent just on New Year's Eve (assuming they're charging market rather than normal prices) given they overlook Times Square and have a straight shot at the ball drop, and have bathrooms, which are not available in the cow pens.

 

I ran across a business article last week on Apple News or Google, or something discussing restaurant chains that were in danger of closing. Sbarro was on the list, and they specifically mentioned that the Times Square location had closed, which I hadn't heard. There's a lot of churn in Manhattan, and it made it longer than I might have thought with the rent in that area. That's all. Whatever replaces it (and something will) will also provide jobs. But Sbarro corporately is apparently at risk due to their mall food court model in an era when the traditional mall has been on the ropes.

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We too, have done many cruises and decided to go to the Western Med. DH served in the Navy and always wanted to go back to some of those ports.  That was pretty much how we based which cruise to book.  We did a round trip Rome, going 3 days ahead to explore Rome.  After the cruise we took the train to Venice and spent a couple of days there, before flying home.  I didn't use a TA, booked everything on my own.  I did ALOT of research.  Best vacation thus far.

On my bucket list is a cruise to British Isles.  Hopefully I can start planning for that soon!

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We most likely would have done Europe cruise this year for our 30 anniversary but hopefully next year , would love to return to many of the ports discussed on this thread. 

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might be heresy advice but I would do a river cruise instead of an ocean cruise for my first Europe trip.   Ocean cruises, for the most part, dock away from the cities that most want to see and require 1-2 hour bus rides to major sites. It really is a herd mentality

 

River cruises are certainly smaller ships and dock right in a town, allowing you to walk off and have a much more intimate look at that countries life.  We have sailed Crystal and loved it on both  the Rhine and Danube.  

 

If you are set on ocean, do a regional cruise - Baltic, Adriatic, Greek Isles.  It would allow a better experience.  The Barcelona to Athens trip would be grueling and you wouldn't really see anything.  

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Posted (edited)
On 1/3/2021 at 2:25 PM, mom says said:

 

 

As to the use of a TA- we always use one when selecting a cruise. But we do our own research and bookings when it comes to excursions. A visit to your local bookstore or library should yield a few shelves full of guidebooks on different countries or regions. If sailing the Med, Rick Steves has one tailored to cruisers.

We used Rick Steves book and found it helpful.  We booked all our tours independently.  Used Romecabs for Italy, ephesesdeluxe for Turkey and privategreecetours for Athens.  All were excellent and very reasonable.  It was our first time in Europe and thought we saw everything we had expected.   Our cruise was 12 days and I would not do it less than that.  Our itinerary was Barcelona, Cannes, Florence, & Rome before a sea day.   Everyone was pooped!  

Edited by shofer
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On 1/5/2021 at 7:42 AM, tfred said:

might be heresy advice but I would do a river cruise instead of an ocean cruise for my first Europe trip.   Ocean cruises, for the most part, dock away from the cities that most want to see and require 1-2 hour bus rides to major sites. It really is a herd mentality

 

River cruises are certainly smaller ships and dock right in a town, allowing you to walk off and have a much more intimate look at that countries life.  We have sailed Crystal and loved it on both  the Rhine and Danube.  

 

If you are set on ocean, do a regional cruise - Baltic, Adriatic, Greek Isles.  It would allow a better experience.  The Barcelona to Athens trip would be grueling and you wouldn't really see anything.  

I'd disagree...on virtually all counts...

 

First, as to river cruises.  We've done a couple of river cruises...They can be a decent way to get to places that you can't reach on an "ocean cruise", but they are a strikingly different experience...The most recent one we took was on Viking...a stretch of the Danube that took us to Prague...then from there by bus to Budapest...and then down the Danube to Bucharest...and a lot of smaller places in between...Yes, you GENERALLY dock "in town"...though it's not always that convenient a location...At times, the sights to see are still a bus ride away.  And some stops were not really that interesting...it depends on what is on the river...Every port had an INCUDED excursion...but many of these were fairly horrendous.  The passenger demographic is fairly elderly and the excursions were tilted toward that--mostly bus rides.  We saw a lot of cities only from the bus...and the photography opportunities were bad...a lot of glare and reflection from the windows and missed stuff from the other side of the bus.  And the cruise itself is very different.  Those small river ships have none of the amenities of a larger ship--no showrooms, no casinos, no pools, no spas, etc.  Entertainment is virtually non-existent (Well, they claim they have entertainment--but it's laughable).  The cabins are VERY small...Food choices were lacking.  Basically, it is NOT for everybody.

 

As to doing a "regional" cruise rather than a "Grand" Mediterranean"...there really is no difference between one being "more grueling"...ANY cruise is only as grueling as its itinerary...It's not where the ports are, rather the schedule...Between ports, on ANY itinerary, you are relaxing on board...The ship is doing the traveling...while you are eating and being entertained and sleeping.  More important than where you go (in terms of how grueling) would be the schedule--how many "at sea" days, how they are spaced, etc.  Some "regional" cruises have few at sea days...Many longer cruises will have 2 or 3 or 4 at sea days, spaced out between ports so that you can have two or three port days followed by an restful at sea day, then two or three more ports...it really doesn't matter where the ports are.  The real difference is that with, for example, a Greek Island cruise, you are getting a more in-depth visit to Greece...but seeing little else of Europe.  With a "Grand" voyage...like Barcelona to Venice or to Athens, you are getting more of a sampler of many countries.  IF it is your first and perhaps only visit to Europe, it may be preferable to do this and see a little bit of several countries.  IF you ever get back, you can then concentrate on a specific area you enjoyed the first time. 

 

As to those cities that are distant from the port (and it is really only a few places--many are fairly close to the ports...really, only Berlin and Paris and, perhaps Florence are really far from the ports...People talk about Rome and Jerusalem in that context--but both are really within an hour of the port.  AND, you don't have to visit those cities--there are other places to go much closer to port), you don't necessarily have to take a "long bus ride"...You can arrange private groups which travel in smaller, more comfortable vans or cars, you can arrange itineraries which make stops along the way...

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On 1/4/2021 at 4:09 PM, SCGirl3211 said:

First I want to thank everyone for such thoughtful, informative answers.  This group is the best!! We have done some additional research and have narrowed it down to a Rome to Rome  10 night on the Edge, a 7 night Venice to Rome on the Infinity or a 9 night Venice to Rome on the Constellation.  We will visit the embarkation and departing cities for 2-3 days each.  The Edge is more expensive and we aren't sure we will utilize the ship to warrant the extra money.  We typically like longer cruises (10 nights +).   

So here is one bit of advice..   get fit!   Those ports are all hills. We live in a city of hills and walk them daily but we have discovered that most folks don't and we saw a lot of people struggling to walk around these ports.. really struggling!   

. It was amazing to spend a week pre cruise in Rome

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If you REALLY want a European experience, choose one or more places, depending on the number of days you have, and park yourself and enjoy that place. Get the feel the the place, taste the cuisine of the place and try to absorb the atmosphere.

 

For the last 30 years or so, we have been doing just that almost every year. 

 

When we started, we would divide 2 weeks into 3 places.

 

Now, we are more likely to do 2 places in 3 weeks!

 

Enjoy!

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Regarding La Spezia -- Celebrity rather disingenuously lists it as the port for Florence and Pisa, but there could hardly be a worse choice. Even Livorno is closer. 

 

La Spezia is much closer to the Cinque Terre ("Five Lands"); five villages linked by paths that sit on the coast and have a lot of character. They make an excellent place to visit if you don't want to make the LONG trek to Florence for the day.

 

The problem with the Cinque Terre is that they are absolutely overrun with tourists in the summer months. I don't just mean crowded, I mean to the point of being dangerous. Like Venice, the locals are trying to figure out ways to limit the influx of people on any given day because you end up being elbow to elbow like sardines. 

 

Anyway, I think you get the idea about carefully planning what to do from each port by looking at maps and keeping distances in mind.

 

Unlike some, I have done 10 Med cruises in as many years (and have another BTB on Constellation in Sept/Oct of this year, if it goes...), so I have visited most of the major ports numerous times. I can tell you there is a huge difference in both crowds and weather going in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall. I would opt 10 times out of 10 for a cruise in April or October (or even November).  The risk of a rainy day is one I will take over being smothered with tourists in the Vatican museum or standing amongst thousands of others in the hot sun waiting on lines to visit the key buildings in Pompeii. The heat coming off those ancient stones is deadly.

 

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