Birthday at Sea

Today we celebrated my sister in laws birthday. My lovely nieces Vashti and Berti had prepared a t shirt to be worn by all – all day. 

We started with champagne breakfast ( but passed on the champagne!) 

Marg’s grandchildren adore her and are always trying to sit next to her! 

We went ashore and had a mini train ride. It was something like a scene out of a movie. The Runaway Train. He scooted along the sea front and being in the back carriage we swayed and rolled about. 

I found a vesper I’d rather taken ! 

We celebrated with a lovely dinner altogether followed by cake in Berti and Fabio’s stateroom. 

Then it was dancing in the Piazza until the 11.15 pm balloon drop. Quite spectacular. 

What a day. 

Happy Birthday 🎉 to Marg. 

Sea Day. 

A day at sea is a change from exploring a port each day. Everyone on board seems more relaxed. 
What does at sea look like? 
The buffet is well attended at all times if the day but breakfast is popular. People are making new friends and greetings are getting friendlier. 

There are two buffets which run next to each other. The first looks more casual and the good is slightly more casual- some lighter options. The second one has darker furniture and has more heartier options. 

Both theme a part of their choices to the port we are in. Along with all sorts of food ( which change daily) we’ve had Italian food, Croatian, Montenegrin and Greece. We can look forward to Italian and Spanish. 

The food is good in the buffets and the 7 or so restaurants on board. There’s ever any waiting in line and it’s fresh and tasty. 

Today I walked around the shop I observing my fellow travellers. The ‘walk a mile’ circuit is well used. There’s a fast or slow lane and a woman in a pink Lycra shirt powers her way around every day. The Japanese stroll, the Americans sweat, the Germans charge, the English potter and the Australians – well I walk with purpose and avoid holding any runners up!  
There is also a basketball court, a driving range and about 2,000+ deck chairs. There’s always a deck chair when you need one. 

Today there’s a huge amount of activities. From prayer group to AA meetings, quiz games, bridge, Mahjong, knitting and bingo, silent auctions, concerts, singalong, dancing, outdoor films, ice carving, cooking demos and today a Mr Sexy legs competition ( and I’ve left lots out!). 

We have an app on our phones where we can message each other, make bookings, build a daily planner, keep track of our spending ( we buy alcoholic drinks unless we bought the beverage package!) 

This ship has thought if everything and I’m surprised to say I’m enjoying it all. You have to throw yourself in and have fun. 

Today I went to the cooking show then a tour of one of the kitchens. It’s amazing. Huge, clean as a whistle and super organised. Then we went to the ice carving demo by the pool. A swan appeared out of a block of ice. Next up the Mr sexy legs. We wanted Kenrick, hands down the best looking bloke on board, to enter but he has his standards and refused! 

I spent an hour in the cabin on the sunny verandah just reading and suddenly it was appertivo time! 

Also formal night. 

We had our cocktails in the Main Piazza and all the kids had a dance and a few adults. 

Then it was the time for the Hawley Show. A magic illusion show. It was fantastic. CLEO and Demi had seen it before and kept giving us hints as to what came next! I truly don’t know how they do these tricks!

Then lobster dinner in the dining room for adults. Kids went off to the kids club. Oh what a cruise. Something for everyone. 

Tomorrow Corsica and Marg’s birthday. 

Good Morning Corfu

We woke up in Corfu today. 

It was a super smooth trip. You can barely feel the movement of the ship at all. 

Last night we had aperitifs in Berti and Fabios little apartment. Fabio had organised some wonderful nibbles. 

Then it was off to the Crooners Bar and the Princess Show 

Today we are doing the first and only organised tour. To the Achilleion Palace. Built during the 1880’s by Empress Susie or Elizabeth of Austria as a summer Palace. 

It has beautiful gardens with an array of statues and light airy rooms.

Once again I realised why we don’t like group tours!  They move so slowly. 

But the drive in the bus out of Corfu town was a  good way to check out the countryside. 

Formal Night

Our first full day at sea was long but gave us time to enjoy the boat’s facilities.

I enjoyed a massage, and in the afternoon played bingo with the children.

Every time we pass the ships officers’ photos the kids stop and point to Fabio.

CLEO pointing to her dad with cousin Soraya

The excitement mounted as we prepared for the formal night. We raided Aunty Gwen’s jewellery box.

The formal night is a time to introduce the officers and to christen the cruise with a champagne waterfall. You get the climb the steps and add to the flow.

After dinner another show!

This cruising has its appeal!

This morning we woke in Dubrovnik.

First stop Naples

A quick comfortable overnighter to wake up in Naples.

Many people don’t like Naples (or Napoli as it’s called locally), and there certainly is a seedy side to it – but you have to spend a little time here to really enjoy it.

We were here in about 2003 when Rob played for the Australian under 20’s – and for nearly two weeks. We shared a flat with Peter and Elizabeth McGregor, who at that time were very new waterpolo friends, and who have become great friends over the years. Our apartment was on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel up 96 stairs and it was hot ☀️🌞🔥. We had great fun exploring the city and the areas surrounding it. So my advice is if you want to get to know Naples,  stay away from the tourist areas, certainly away from the railway station, and stay for a week in an apartment. It’s real Italy.

So today when the ship berthed right in the centre of the city, Steve and I headed for an island we hadn’t been to before. Ischia is about 40 mins by fast ferry and is the summer escape for people from Naples and Rome. If you’ve read the book by Elena Ferrante called My Brilliant Friend, you’ll remember her talking about her summers on Ischia.

It’s quieter than usual on the island  now that summer is over. We walked along the port and around to the beach. It’s lined with deck chairs all roped off into private areas belonging to various cafes. I don’t really get this private beach thing that happens over here.

We decided to get a bus around the island to the Giardini la Mortella. This beautiful paradise of a garden was created  by Susana and William Walton. He was one of Britain’s  most important composers of the 20th century (Facade Suite etc.) and Susana his Argentinian wife was a talented gardener.

It’s the most beautiful place with the paths wandering around a large site looking towards the sea with hidden gardens and stone stairs and hideaway areas to sit. There’s a museum and a small concert area where his music is performed in concert from time to time.

Back on the very crowded bus where the ‘ Italian princes’ (rather spotty teenagers) occupied all available seats and left the old and cranky standing.

Our ship stood towering over the harbour and we walked back on to join the family who’d spent the day at Pompei. The kids were tired and hot and spent the next two hours splashing in the pool.

Fabio organised our table for dinner at Concerto restaurant and had someone go ashore to buy fresh mozzarella for the chef prepare an antipasti plate – just for us! We had a lovely night before collecting the children from the evening kids club and heading off for the live musical production starting at 10.15pm! It was great fun.

Some were setting their alarms for 4am when we were due to pass Mt Stromboli in the Aeolian Isalnds. It’s still active and apparently can glow during the night. Not sure I’ll be up!

Next stop Messina. We’ll pass through the Straits of Messina where Steve swam last year so that will bring back some memories.

Messina: Day 3

Another super smooth arrival into Messina on the northeast part of Sicily.

We were here last year when Steve swam (twice!) across the straight between Messina and Calabria.

We didn’t take any of the tours on offer – we’re lucky enough to have stayes in Taormina and Mt Etna nearby. So after a walk around the ship we got off and wandered the streets of Messina.

There are a few very impressive churches here so we did the trifecta and visited each.

The first one the Duomo has an amazing bell tower and at midday it puts on quite a show.

We walked up the hill and stairs and had a wonderful view back over the town towards the ship

We’re on the Lido deck 16. Our cabin is just along from the Blue glass windows. It’s very convenient especially with the kids.

There’s so much to do on board – we have a little planner on the ship’s app on our phone. Very handy.

We met up with Anne and Tim – the lovely couple from Tulsa we met on the first day. We’re planning a dinner together if we manage to stay in touch. This ship is sooooo big!

Tonight after dinner we tried a few of the entertainment things. Into the studio for Name that tune! Country and Western! Jeremy was a whizz but we didn’t win! Then I did the Yes/No game. When on board !!!! You join in.

Then off to the nightclub. We’re trying to help Kenrick,  our gorgeous nephew find some people his age. No such luck (yet!).

Tomorrow is all day at sea. So a tour of the bridge organised by Fabio, and then a massage for me. It’s formal night as well – so bring out the dressy gear.

24hours in  Rome. Let the cruise begin….

It’s hard to decide what to do in 24 hours in this wonderful city.

Revisit the favourites : Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza Popolo, St Peters. So many to choose from. So little time.

Today we chose to have breakfast in Campo Di Fiori. We sat at a cafe right on the Piazza where the markets were set up.

The locals were out buying their fresh produce and wiry Italian men pushed trolleys laden with boxes of fruit and veg to the cafes. They all know each other and were calling out cheery buongiornos to each other as they worked.

The weather is glorious and we wondered if we should jump ship and stay in Rome.

After breakfast we headed off to Trevi in the hope the throwing a coin…… ‘right hand over left shoulder.’ Making  a wish to return (it has worked every time so far!)

We walked from Campo past the ancient site of Argentina ruins, a few quiet cobbled streets and there it was. Rome is as accessible as it is amazing.

We threw our coins made our wishes and returned to the hotel past the Pantheon.

We caught the train from St Pietro station instead of returning to the bustling Termini. For 9 euros  we had a 40 min train ride to the port of Civitavecchia.

It’s a more developed port than I expected. Our ship, the Royal Princess loomed large dwarfing other boats in port. Despite the number of passengers loading it was swift and efficient. You’re given an embarkation time,  to stagger it, and we were in our cabin 10 mins after arriving at the ship. Luggage followed swiftly.

Berti told me we wouldn’t notice the 3,000 + passengers, as it’s so big and I’m starting to think that’s true. Nothing seems crowded.

Our mini suite is great. Lots of room for our things as we unpacked for the 10 days. Our steward,  Keankai met us and delivered flowers, champagne, robes and our information kit. It’s looking good.
Excitement mounted as a knock at the door revealed Fabio Braccelli, the ships Head of Engineering ! He’s married to our niece Roberta ( Berti) and with them were their 2 daughters Cleo and Demi who, until Cleo started school, lived on the ship. Then Birthday girl Marg arrived with her eldest daughter Vashti , Jeremy and their 3 children. Son Kenrick was asleep after just arriving that morning from Austin Texas.

Lots of hugs then down to the serious business of finding lunch.

We all chose cabins on the Lido deck and as  the name suggests is where the pools are located. As well as various eating places and bars. It’s a great location with all the kids. Champagne in hand we toasted our good fortune at being together.

Then it was a nojito ! A no alcohol mojito. I’m pacing myself.

After the obligatory safety demo,  it was a big walk around the decks discovering the places of interest. By now Kenrick was awake wondering where the ‘hot girls’ were hiding. With a fairly high average age I don’t like his chances – though some of the female crew looked pretty excited as he passed by. All 6ft 7in  of him!

The lounges and the atrium are amazing spaces where you could lose yourself all day! And you get lots of walking just moving between venues.

We had a good first dinner in the Symphony restaurant and thought how lucky we were to be here together.

If you’ve been cruising tell me what you liked – or hated about it in the comments box.

Wifi is a little difficult- sorry there aren’t so many pictures.

Rome I ❤️you. A day in Rome

We arrived at 10.30 and made the trip via train to Termini. It’s fast and efficient and costs about 12e each. Then a taxi to our hotel the Hotel Navona Via Dei Sediari. It’s a pleasant surprise. 

The room wasn’t ready so we left our bags and headed off. Piazza Navona was out first stop. How beautiful it is there with its playful fountains and people posing for photos. The weather is spectacular. 

Then it was to Via Coronari a favourite street of art , jewellery and glass shops before a siren sounded and people started gathering in a little Piazza. Smoke was streaming out of an upstairs window and people were pointing and exclaiming and a fire engine made its way along the narrow cobblestone Via. We stayed and watched the action. Police  – the Carabinari arrived , two fire trucks and an ambulance. 

Then the crowd stood as one and smoked and chatted whilst waiting for some action. It took on a community feeling. But taking far too long. So we headed to cafe de Theatro. 

This little cafe sits in a lovely little Piazza and was buzzing. The waiter considered his job a performance so entertained the customers- to the amusement of some but definitely not all. 

The fire 🔥 spectacle had finished so it was safe to continue walking. 

What I love about wandering in Rome is that around every corner sits a surprise so wonderful it takes your breath away. 

We rounded a corner and looked towards the river and there was Castello St Angelo. Such a beauty sitting with its history so imposing. 

I also love Paris but Rome has a different effect on me. It’s more casual about its place in history. It’s there for all to enjoy. Paris is more formal- very beautiful but more controlled. Rome and its people want you involved in having fun. 

We had to return to possibly my favourite place – the Pantheon. I love the feeling it gives me. 

So we walked and observed the history and the people having fun. The business men looking impossibly glamorous with one hand in a pocket the other nursing a cigarette. With their navy suits and their tan shoes and such well fitting trousers! 

The women wear either ballet flats ( I bought a red pair) or heels as they manoeuvre the cobblestones with confidence. Also the scarf tied casually at the neck sets off any outfit. 

It’s a pity the hordes of tourists get in the way of this street fashion catwalk.  

Naturally we had a gelato. Apart from the tourists the locals also enjoy a gelato in the afternoon. We bought ours at that cathedral of gelato,Giotto where the act of buying is a theatre. 

Shopping is another delight in Rome. There are the usual chain stores and high end shops but the smaller boutiques are fabulous. I bought some beautiful ballet flats, red, pointed toe tiny heel ( they came in all colours and either v flat or tiny heel) 

By now the crowds were out,  the armed guards standing on most street corners and the Aperol Spritz drinkers taking up key positions in the sidewalk bars. We joined them at Piazza Popolo. Such a great way to people watch. . 

Back to our room which turned into an apartment- lovely but turning on lights is like organising a Vivid Festival! 

Dinner was gorgeous. Baked fish served by Mr Rome. A young handsome man who in the olden days would have been a gladiator! 

I enjoyed a baked fish with potatoes sliced so fine you could see through them. A Sicilian dish. Steve had Veal lemoni a Roman tradition. 

A quiet walk back to our apartment where a tribe of young girls were yahooing in our hotel courtyard and clomping up and down the staircase. Rome in all its glory! 

We have the morning to wander before heading for the cruise ship in Civitavecchio.