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Three days/nights in Rome before our 15-night transatlantic cruise

Three days/nights in Rome before our 15-night transatlantic cruise

Nov 27th, 2010, 12:15 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Three days/nights in Rome before our 15-night transatlantic cruise

Hi fellow Fodorites,

I'm back from a great trip. Last year I sailed on the Celebrity ship Equinox, on her inaugural transatlantic (TA) crossing. It was such a fabulous cruise that as soon as I got off the ship, I booked the next TA. After waiting a year and chatting with fellow passengers via Cruisecritic.com, my friend Louisa and I flew to Rome, Italy. We spent three nights before boarding the ship for our 15-night cruise.

I'm posting this on the Europe forum since the ports we visited were in Europe. Also, not too many people post on the cruise forum.

28 October 2010, Thursday

Louisa and I met up at Dulles international airport – Tony and Lucy (our dog) dropped me off. I had purchased a neat hand scale to weigh my bags. With the airlines charging for overweight luggage, I wanted to be sure I didn’t go over the limit. Louisa was sure her bag was over 50 pounds. A man saw me hook up the scale to her suitcase and said he was interested in seeing it. I asked him if he could lift the suitcase for me. Sure enough, it weighed 55 pounds. Louisa moved some things around and I added a few items to my carryon bag.

After check-in, we had drinks at the bar near the gate. Larry and Anne (from Kauai) sat with us. They had arrived from LAX. We had a nice time with them. They bought our drinks, which was a nice treat. Thanks! We had also ordered fried artichoke hearts with aioli sauce, which hit the spot. There were several other cruise critic members on our flight, so we chatted with them at the gate.

We encountered lots of turbulence during the first portion of the flight. It smoothed out once we started to cross the Atlantic. A flight attendant came up and I showed her my USAirways ID card to see about getting some complimentary wine. She looked at my seat number and said, "32B and C, yes, we know about you, the Captain told us." A friend of mine is a captain for United and Tony had contacted her to see if she was flying our flight. She sent a letter to the captain on board asking if he could help us out. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine. Later during the flight, the captain came up to me and introduced himself. We talked for about 10 minutes. That was nice of him to take the time to chat with us.

Our flight landed about 20 minutes early but the taxi to the gate seem to take forever. After a quick check-in with customs and gathering our luggage, we met up with John, who had arrived from Boston. I hired Stefano from Rome Cabs to take five of us to Hotel Parlamento in Rome. Price was right: 60 euros plus tip. It took about an hour to get to the hotel, as we hit rush hour in Rome.

Hotel Parlamento (Via delle Convertite, 5) was in a great location: Close to the Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, and around the corner from via del Corso, the famous shopping street. Just half a block away is a bus station, at piazza San Silvestro. The hotel has a tiny elevator, so it took a while to get all of the luggage up to the 3rd floor. Then there’s one flight of stairs to the hotel lobby. Our room (#94), one flight up from the lobby level, had a view of the inner courtyard. It was very quiet at night, so I didn’t mind the lack of views. The room was small and a tight fit with our luggage, but Louisa and I arranged the room so that we could walk around. Twin beds, on the soft side, were comfortable. Lighting was poor but I wasn’t surprised. Most hotels I’ve stayed in while in Europe seem to use low wattage. The room had a flat screen tv., a small table, and end tables next to the beds. The bathroom was a nice size with a large counter top space. Lighting could be better but we had a window for light and fresh air. Small shower.

Next to the lobby/check-in area is a small breakfast room. And on our floor, there’s a doorway to the rooftop terrace. Some of the rooms have direct access to the terrace. This was one area we used during the late afternoon or evenings, enjoying a glass of wine or two, or to simply sit and write in my journal.

Since we were staying just three nights, we didn’t unpack too many things. We headed out and explored our area. For lunch near the Spanish steps, Louisa and I enjoyed a tasty 10-euro antipasti buffet at Ristorante ala Rampa. You fill your one plate up for the 10-euro price. I had fresh mozzarella, meatballs, grilled eggplant and zucchini, white bean salad, calamari salad, marinated octopus, sautéed spinach, etc. Everything was delicious and I actually had too much on my plate. There were many other choices to select for lunch.

The Spanish Steps were packed with people sunning themselves, as it was a beautiful sunny day. I went inside the church at the top, Trinita dei Monti. It was my first time there. Not as spectacular as other Churches' in Rome. The weather was on the cold side, so I was glad that I brought my London fog heavy jacket. We walked along via del Corso and window shopped. Fancy shoes, boots, and elegant dresses were on display.

Later, we met up with our friend John on the terrace for some drinks before dinner. For dinner, we dined at Colline Emiliane (via degli Avignonesi, 22, 00187 Roma, Italy +39 06 481 7538)‎, which was located about a 15- minute walk from the hotel. It’s a small restaurant located close to two other favorites of mine (Gior Mia and Hostaria Romana). I enjoy finding local restaurants that serve authentic cuisine. Colline Emiliane serves classic Bolognese dishes. I was hoping they would have lasagna Bolognese, like I had in Bologna a few years ago. It was served with green lasagna, which was heavenly! This restaurant didn’t have it but the menu had many other great choices. The three of us shared a couple of plates of mortadella and proscuitto. Both were excellent and sliced ever so thin. I had the tagliatelle alla Bolognese, which was delicious, along with a side dish of sautéed spinach and garlic. John and Louisa enjoyed their meal. With house red wine, our bill came to 27 euros each.

On the way back to the hotel, we swung by the Trevi fountain, always a crowded scene with people tossing their coin (or two) into the fountain for a future return to Rome. Back at the hotel, we ran into Christine and Paul, so the five of us had some drinks on the terrace, including some limoncello that I made and brought with me.

It was an easy day for us, but relaxing. More tomorrow!

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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nice start Monica.

you are always so cheerful and positive about everything - is there ever anything you don't like?
annhig is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 01:34 PM
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Annhig, yes, lots of things! I try to keep a positive attitude when I travel.

Here's my journal for the next two days in Rome:

29 October 2010, Friday

What a beautiful day! Last year in Rome it rained a lot. This morning was clear and crisp. I slept well thanks to half of an ambien pill. The wine and limoncello might have helped too. The hotel serves a simple breakfast that includes fruit, yogurt, croissants, cheese, crackers, cereal, coffee, tea, and juice. It was just enough to get you going for the day. The breakfast room is pretty small, but it seemed to work out okay with people arriving at different times.

The owner of the hotel, an older gentleman, invited my friends and me to some wine and snacks later in the afternoon on the terrace. There were a dozen of us at the hotel that were going on the cruise. This was such a nice offer.

Today was a day of Churches. First Louisa and I visited the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, which as a crypt with displays of many bones and skulls (over 4,000 Capuchin friars). There were four or five rooms. Many of the bones were made into shapes and designs, which hung on the walls and the ceilings. It’s probably not a place for everyone.

Next we headed to Santa Maria della Vittoria, a Baroque church, where the famous Bernini statue of St. Teresa of Avila is located. I had missed this church last year, as Tony and I had arrived at the wrong time – it was closed for lunch, so I was glad to be able to see the exquisite and sensual statue. St. Teresa is about to be pierced by an angel’s arrow, which is the symbol of God’s love, or so I’m told.

Heading south, we had lunch at Trattoria Monti (Via San Vito, 13a, Tel: 06.446.6573), a nice local restaurant. It’s close to the Santa Maria Maggiore. I had the rigatoni with pecorino cheese, minced sausage, and black pepper. The pasta was perfectly ‘al dente’ and delicious.

Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the largest churches in Rome. It has a beautiful coffered ceiling, thick columns and wonderful mosaic tiled flooring.

The last church of the day was San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains). I had been here before, but wanted Louisa to see Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.

We headed back to the hotel, walking past the Colosseum, Roman Forum and took pictures along the way. Louisa and I headed to the terrace for our afternoon wine party with our friends. Roberto served red wine and chips/crackers. We ended up drinking four carafes of wine! It was getting colder as the sun began to set. We invited a young woman to join us. Cate was sitting outside at another table. I also invited her to join us for happy hour the next day with the cruise group.

For dinner, Louisa, Christine, Paul, John and I had dinner at Gioia Mia (Via degli Avignonesi, 34, tel 06.4882784), my forth visit there. Packed as usual and fast service, as the owner likes to turn the tables to take the many customers. Reservations are a must! Louisa and I shared a ½ liter of white wine. We all shared a plate of antipasti. All of us ordered the papparadelle alla gran duca (wide ribbon pasta with ham, mushrooms, cream, tomatoes and cognac), which was excellent and very flavorful. 18 euros per person.

After, we walked to the Trevi fountain and stopped in a couple of stores and sampled some liquor. Back in our room, the five of us had some wine before retiring for the night.

30 October 2010, Saturday

It was another beautiful day in Rome. Having been here several times, I decided on another easy going day. After breakfast, Louisa and I headed over to Trastevere. On the way over, we swung by Piazza Navona, which was quite active with tourists and street vendors, as well as visited the market at Campo dei Fiori. It was also crowded with food vendors.

In Trastevere, we walked around the area, did a little window shopping but didn’t buy anything. Clouds started to roll in and it got cooler. For lunch, we dined at Roma Sparita, which was recommended to me two years ago by my friend GB (editor of www.italiannotebook.com where I have several articles published). When I had asked him for restaurant recommendations, he told me, “If you want to eat in Trastevere, ONLY do Roma Sparita!” Just a few months ago, I was watching No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. He had dined at this same place! The name of the restaurant was never mentioned, but his review was so interesting that I searched his web site and found out it was the place my friend recommended to me! Located in the corner of a simple piazza and next to a church, we dined al fresco. Louisa and I ordered fried, stuffed zucchini flowers, which had mozzarella and anchovy inside (should have ordered more!). I had the tagliolini cacio e pepe, which was served in a crispy parmesan cheese bowl. Simply delectable! Louisa had the fettucini with mushrooms, which was also very good.

Completely satisfied with our lunch, we walked to the Santa Maria in Trastevere church before heading back over the Tiber River and back to our hotel. Louisa had enough of walking, so we took a taxi to the hotel. The ride was welcome.

After our rest in the hotel room, we walked to La Curia di Bacco for our pre-cruise get together with fellow cruisers. I had set up a happy hour for about 40 people that included antipasti and wine. Everyone had a great time. Food was fine, but I’ve had better antipasti at other bars, but it served us well, as we needed a large place to take all of us.

For dinner, the same dinner group dined at La Sagrestia (via del Seminario, 89. Tel: 06 67 97 581). I think I had one of the best meals in Rome on this trip: Seafood pasta that was baked in parchment paper. It had calamari, shrimp, clams, mussels, and lobster. It was in a very light red sauce. The seafood was tender (the lobster didn't taste fresh, so I avoided eating it) and the linguini cooked properly. I also had an appetizer of bruschetta with a tartufo spread. With wine, it was 20 euros per person.

Another walk past the Trevi fountain, Louisa picked up a bottle of limoncello for the cabin. More drinks on the roof top terrace. A nice end to our time in Rome.

Tomorrow we head to the ship for our 15-night cruise.

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 02:14 PM
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31 October 2010, Sunday

It was time to pack up and head to the ship. Louisa and I did most of the packing last night. Of course, we didn’t unpack too many things anyway. I didn’t sleep well, as I was concerned about the bus service I hired to take 39 of us to the port. I wanted things to run smoothly, unlike last years problem. When I got up, I used Louisa’s phone and re-confirmed the pick up time. I was told, “Yes, the driver will be there at 11:30am.” I corrected her saying I requested an 11:00am pick up time.

The breakfast room was crowded with us cruisers getting our last meal, and others just checking in to the hotel. We met Debra and Tom, who had arrived from their hotel, so they joined us for breakfast. Mr. Chini didn’t charge Debra and Tom, saying they were my guests. I found all of the employees at the hotel to be friendly and provided very good service. In fact, after showing Debra and Tom our room, they said they would stay at Hotel Parlamento. They didn’t like the service where they stayed.

Debra and Tom helped us take our luggage downstairs. At one point, Tiziano told me, “Come see me before you leave. I have to kiss you.” What a flirt! He was one of the younger men at the hotel. Downstairs all of the cruisers were waiting for the bus. Thank goodness everyone showed up. Everyone was chatting up a storm and at one point, I saw a woman look out her window wondering what the noise was all about. Apparently the building holds two hotels and apartments.

It had been raining all morning, but at least the weather held out until today. I took Debra and Tom to the nearby grocery store to buy some wine to have while on the ship. On the way back, I ran into Tiziano who said, “Don’t forget, I need to kiss you goodbye.” I’m all smiles. Upstairs, I said my goodbyes to the staff and Tiziano got his kiss.

The bus was parked a block away at the bus area, so everyone had to haul their luggage. It took a while for the driver to load all suitcases and had to open another compartment to add the last five pieces. Note to self: If I use this company again, the maximum number of people should be 34.

An hour later, we arrived at the port. It continued to rain. Not long after, we checked in and were on our way to the ship. It was very windy and rainy, so not a nice start to the cruise. On board, we received the standard glass of champagne, a nice welcome.

This was Louisa’s first cruise, so we were quite excited. She loved our room (cabin 9261) and the views from the balcony. Surprisingly, our room was ready. We met our room attendant, a very quiet man from Thailand. Our cabin is in a very good location: near the elevators, port side for a sunny balcony (although it was hot most of the day), and just four decks below the ocean view café. It was also a concierge class cabin, so a bottle of champagne was sitting on the table in an ice bucket.

After lunch at the ocean view café, I took Louisa around to see some of the ship. The Equinox is in excellent shape, still looks brand new. At 3:30pm, many of us gathered at the ocean view bar for our early sail away party. It was very cold and windy, so we moved to the sky observation lounge. Being Halloween, many wore masks. I made some for Louisa and me but ended up not wearing them. I saved mine for next year’s cruise. The sail away party was lots of fun. Many people showed up and the bartenders couldn’t keep up with our drink orders.

The muster was at 5:15pm. Louisa and I went to Michael’s club, same location as last year for Tony and me. It lasted just 15 minutes and then we were back in the room.

Dinner was at 6pm, which I wanted to try. After two days, Louisa and I felt it was just too early for us. For dinner I started with the crab Louis with avocado, the caprese, then the mushroom cappuccino soup and then the prime rib. Oh my, the cut of meat was huge! I could only eat half of it and I like to eat. It was a great dinner to start this cruise.

Later, we ran into Tom and Debra at the Quasar bar. They were dressed in Halloween costumes. We had drinks in their cabin. They had a large balcony, so we stood outside for a while. The wind was really blowing and you could see swirls of water in the air. The ship was rocking but it was a fun rock. We had a fun night.

Off to warm up Thanksgiving leftovers, so more tomorrow.

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 02:20 PM
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I hope you post a link to your photo's, I always love looking at them. You have a wonderful eye for photography.

Great TR, really enjoying it. We just got back from doing a cruise from San Francisco to Sydney so I am looking forward to hearing about yours.
Maudie is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 02:23 PM
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Maudie, yes, I'll be posting photos soon. Seems I don't get to them quickly enough.

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 02:29 PM
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Monica, welcome back. Enjoying your trip report. Sounds like you and Louisa had a great time. Looking forward to the next installment.

jdc26 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 03:03 PM
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Monica: I was in Rome that same weekend! The place was thronging with visitors for the All Saints long weekend.

We stayed at a friend's opulent apartment off the via Nomentana but visited many of the areas you saw. A weekend of wandering -- no museums, just strolling and people-watching in the mild if overcast weather.

Like you, I admire La Rampa's antipasto plate.

We didn't eat there this trip but did have a great, great meal at Osteria del Pegno -- where Low Country Islander ate (again) this week. I got an enthusiastic report from her on Facebook. If you have never tried that place (near Piazza Navona) you must, on your next trip!
tedgale is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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Monica: really enjoying your trip report, as usual. As Annhig mentioned, you always seem to have a good time. Love it!

Tedgale: after having read one of your trip reports, I visited Osteria del Pegno a few weeks ago when I was in Rome. It was a lovely evening and my mom, sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal there. Thanks so much!
jmct714 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2010, 05:59 PM
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Monica: I'm really enjoying this report - did you organize a group to go on this cruise? Or maybe that's what you do. I never picked that up in your other reports. have fun and keep writing.
taconictraveler is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 06:38 AM
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tedgale, I'llhave to add Osteria del Pegno on my Rome dining list for the next visit. Friends of mine were going to go to the Vatican but heard that there were 3,000+ students there, so they decided against it.

Thanks jmct714 and taconictravler, glad you are enjoying this report. I met people via cruisecritic.com on the discussion board for this specific roll call. We were quite an active group so by the time we got on board the ship, we were old friends. I got to know at least 100 people. It's a great way to cruise. I did organize a few things on board the ship with the help of the coordinator for cruise critic members.

Here's the next entry:

1 November 2010, Monday – Livorno, Italy

What a miserable day! It rained all day long! I hired a private tour company (Tuscan Sunshine Tours 50 euros pp plus tip) for the day to take eight of us to Lucca and Pisa. The company’s name didn’t help us. We docked at 7:00am and were off the ship by 7:30am (Louisa and I ordered room service for breakfast). In my group were Larry, Anne, Elizabeth, Eric, Laura, Jeff, Louisa, and me.

Franco drove us to Lucca, which was about 30 minutes away. It was just drizzling when we arrived in Lucca. Too bad for the weather - Lucca is such a beautiful city. Franco started our tour with a visit to the Cattedrale di San Martino, a church located on the south-east side of town. I loved the smaller columns on the façade of the building, as they are in different designs: candy striped, checkered, zig-zag, floral, knotted, and even plain. Inside, you can see a painting by Tintoretto, the Last Supper, which was done in the late 1500s.

Franco took us for a short walk down a few narrow streets (in the rain!) to Piazza Napoleone. Surrounding the square were large trees, very pretty, but not so in the rain. Walking north, we visited San Michele and San Frediano, two other important churches in Lucca. Nearby is the Roman theatre, now a beautiful oblong shaped piazza. People were setting up booths for their comic book exhibit. Apparently this yearly convention is quite popular. Many young kids were dressed in costume of their favorite comic book character. I have a photo or two of the piazza from several years ago – it was a sunny day, so I wasn’t overly disappointed that I missed out on some good photo ops.

The group split up for a few hours. By then it stopped raining and all of us were hopeful. Louisa and I stopped at a bar for a snack before heading up to walk along the town walls. Lots of people were biking and walking their dogs, but it began to rain again. Louisa and I just couldn’t stand it. Instead of our original plans to buy a panini and eat on the go, we decided to go to a restaurant I had been to before. I also decided not to climb the Guinigi tower (it has a tree growing on the top). Along the way we stopped in a leather store, where I purchased a beautiful purse. On display were the materials that the owners used to make their purses, belts, wallets, jackets, etc. It was nice to know I purchased a hand-made product.

By now, it was pouring! Louisa and I ran into a ceramic store to wait out the rain. It did not let up at all! We stayed long enough for me to buy a small ceramic bowl. There were may beautiful things in the store. I love Italian ceramics! Knowing the restaurant was just one block away, we made a mad dash to Trattoria da Leo (Via Tegrini, 1, tel 0583 492236). We were drenched. My shoes and socks were completely soaked and my umbrella as well. It was great to be in a warm and inviting restaurant. The waiter gave us napkins to sop up our wet socks, so we were very grateful. Our lunch consisted of local soups, which we felt would be the best on the menu to warm us up. And they did. My soup, minestra di farro, was made of faro and spelt, close in taste to a lentil soup. It’s a local Lucchese specialty and was full of flavor. Louisa had a soup that was similar to a split pea soup. We shared a baked fennel dish that was topped with parmesan cheese. Simply made yet wonderful. With a half carafe of wine, our lunch was 12 euros each. We sat for the longest time not wanting to leave the restaurant.

We headed back to the van and fortunately for us it was just drizzling. We got back to the van early but the rest of the gang was already there. I guess they had enough ot Lucca and the rain.

Our next stop was to Pisa. I wasn’t interested in going there but a few wanted to climb the tower. Louisa and I had were done for the day and decided we would just sit in the van while the rest toured Pisa. Franco was kind to us and took us for a short drive showing us the area and marina in Pisa. I saw a sign for Livorno and was temped to ask him to drop us off at the ship but decided that would cost him extra in gas. Back in Pisa, he bought us hot tea at a café where we sat for a while.

On the way back to the van, Louisa and I walked by the tower and took the obligatory photograph. On the way a young Italian said to me, “Ciao sexy.” Smiling, I said, “Louisa, did you hear that guy?” No. When I told her she said, “Wow, you must be desperate.” She thought I meant one of the guys who were selling umbrellas. “No! The good looking Italian!” We both laughed.

As we drove back to the port, the clouds began to break up and we could see spots of blue sky and a pretty rainbow. I had collected everyone’s money and paid Franco. Happy to be back on board the ship, we changed out of our wet clothes and got ready for the evening.

Dinner tonight: Escargot, salad with gorgonzola, chicken saltimbocca; cigar tres leches for dessert. Later we met Ken and Victor and Rob and Carlos at the martini bar.

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 07:56 AM
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Hi Monica and thanks for above. Am enjoying this very much!
TDudette is online now  
Nov 28th, 2010, 10:38 AM
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hi monica,

sorry you didn't get to see Pisa in the sunshine. it's actually a place I like quite a lot - if you can look past the tat to the fabulousness of the campo dei miracoli, which I'm sure is difficult in the rain with limited time. it probably helps that the first time we went was about 30 years ago when it wasn't as comercialised as it is now. but if you get the chance again, it's well worth it.
annhig is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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Sounds like a great trip! Enjoying reading about it.
yestravel is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 12:28 PM
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My one day in Lucca was also in the rain. We took refuge in a chocolate shop, LOL. would love to go back.
In Pisa the sun was out, and it was a much better town than I had expected.
Keep having fun, and letting us in on it!
taconictraveler is offline  
Nov 28th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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annhig, it was my 4th visit to Pisa, but wish it hadn't rained. I would like to wander away from the main campo and explore the town itself.
monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 29th, 2010, 01:25 PM
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2 November 2010, Tuesday – Barcelona, Spain

Ah, finally, sunshine! In fact, we had sunny days the rest of our trip. I didn’t have a lot of plans for Barcelona since I had been there several times before. I just wanted to enjoy the sights of the Gothic quarter and Las Ramblas. Louisa and I took the local bus to town, as it was too far to walk from where we were docked. Celebrity had a shuttle service for 6 euros round trip, but the bus was half the price. We ended up waiting a little longer but chatted with a few people in line.

The bus dropped us of next to the Columbus monument and we walked up Las Ramblas. Nearby on the left is Placa del Rei, a beautiful square with lamp posts designed by Gaudi. In the center of the square is a large fountain where people can sit and enjoy this spot.

As we walked along Las Ramblas, we saw several human statues already at work and others getting set up with their makeup and clothing. We saw some interesting ones: A headless chef, a Yoda-like character that floated in the air (easy to figure out), an invisible man with floating sunglasses, a fruit stand, a baby in a carriage (annoying guy) and the creature from the movie Alien – he scared a little girl into crying as he leaned towards her.

One section of Las Ramblas has several flower stalls with lots of colorful flowers and plants. There’s also a bird market but that was further up the street.

On the left past the Leicu metro is the fabulous mercat (indoor market). With so many people in town the market was hard to walk around. It seemed like every type of fruit, vegetable, meat, and seafood were on display. Some of the shops had cured ham hanging from the ceiling. They looked wonderful. I purchased a few ounces of the tasty meat to snack on.

Off Las Ramblas on Calle Ferran, there is a great place for tapas: Mikel Etxea (#15). On display on the counters were numerous types of tapas to choose from, several of which were served on slices of toasted bread. We had chorizo topped with brie (baked), zucchini slice topped with a potato croquette and roumalade-type sauce, a mixed seafood salad with green and black olives, meatballs in a thick red sauce, and skewered chunks of pork (my favorite), along with some red wine. It wasn’t cheap but the food was very good and filling.

Later we did some window shopping, bought a couple of items, walked by the Cathedral (under partial scaffolding), and then headed back to the ship. Onboard in the theatre we caught the last half of the flamenco show, which consisted of three dancers, a lead male singer, and a male guitarist. They were very good.

Our usual evening on the ship started with happy hour at the sky observation lounge, which lasts between 4pm and 6pm. As a new Captain’s Club Elite member, I was able to enjoy complimentary drinks, 90 minutes of internet access, laundry service, and other perks. Louisa enjoyed the happy hour too since she was booked in my cabin. Entertainment of the night was a card magician. He was very good.

Dinner: Oysters Rockefeller, seafood risotto, pate, and stuffed sole with vegetables topped with a tiny amount of black caviar.

monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 29th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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annhig, it was my 4th visit to Pisa, but wish it hadn't rained. I would like to wander away from the main campo and explore the town itself.>>

5th time lcuky perhaps.

25+ years ago we spent the last night of our ist italian holiday at the hotel Royal Victoria in Pisa, and loved it and the town. fast forward 25 years, and we wanted to share it all with our kids, who were by then 21 & 18. sadly, the hotel is no longer what it was [and 25 years ago, the best description would have been faded grandure] but we still loved the town. Surprisingly it is pretty clear of tourists, apart from the last 100 yds or so.
annhig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2010, 02:12 PM
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I agree about the 100 yards - when our guide took us for a drive, we saw a noticeable difference of the areas away from the campo.


3 November 2010, Wednesday, Cartagena Spain

This morning (68 degrees and sunny) the cruise critic group met at the passport bar at 9:00am for our ‘cruise critic connections party.’ Although many of us already met at the sail away party, this was the official get together. About 60 people showed up. The staff served coffee, tea, juice, and pastries. We had about 45 minutes before everyone split up and got off the ship for the day. I had talked to my point and asked for a second get together later in the cruise, knowing that 45 minutes wouldn’t satisfy people.

Cartagena is an easy port to visit, but we were docked away from the town center. The Queen Elizabeth was docked in front of the town center, where we were docked last year. There was complimentary shuttle service to the center of town. For some reason we couldn’t walk to town on our own. Maybe it was because of the roads and lack of sidewalk, but as we drove, it didn’t look dangerous. I decided on a very relaxing, do not much of anything for this port. This cruise, being port intensive in the beginning, was beginning to wear on me and since I had been here before, I wasn’t worried about ‘seeing it all.’

Cartagena is a clean city with palm trees, beautiful architecture, and a pretty pedestrian street. Along the street is city hall, shops, bars and restaurants. At the bottom end of the pedestrian street is the town hall. A few of us walked inside just in time for a short tour. The building had been restored. It was amazing to see the “before” photographs. One room had three large chandeliers and tapestries with coat of arms on the walls. It was quite colorful. The front entrance leads to a beautiful marble split staircase with a rich red carpet runner in the middle – elegant and regal looking.

We did some window shopping and admired the wrought iron balconies and marble tiled façade of the buildings; and we stepped inside one church. Being a small town, we kept running into cruise friends. For lunch Louisa and I had some fried calamari and marinated mussels along with a glass of sangria that went down too quickly. Debra and Tom had joined us, as we sat outside, people-watched, and had a good time talking.

Dinner was a delicious seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp and mussels.
monicapileggi is offline  
Nov 30th, 2010, 04:24 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 4,837
Monica, as always, you're doing a great job describing our trip. This was my first cruise and it was fabulous! Oh yes, those Italian men are quite the flirts.
LouisaH is offline  

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