Saturday, November 14, 2009

Roaming Rome

11th October 2009- Civitavecchia, Italy

In the early hours we navigated to the east of the Island of Ponza and continued our track parallel to the Italian coast through the eastern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Shortly after sunrise the ship turned to the northeast to approach the breakwater. We embarked the harbour Pilot at 06:03. On entering the harbour the ship was turned 180 degrees at rest before berthing port side alongside.

A quick breakfast then hustle on down to catch the bus for "Rome on Your Own." We had a tour guide on the bus to point out interesting sites passed by the bus. She had a thick accent (yep, Italian---Surprise!) and was a bit hard to understand at times. I didn't realize it would be so far from the port to Rome. Apparently there was a closer port at one time, Ostia, but it became unusable due to silt and sediment. Emperor Trajan built Civitavecchia as a new port, guarded by a renaissance fort completed by Michelangelo in 1557. The bus route passed through more modern parts of Rome before arriving at our drop off just outside of St. Peter's Square.

Our guide told us the time to report back and the
place to assemble for the return trip. She also warned us to be aware of our belongings and to watch out for "pickapockets-uh" and "gypsies-uh." Had never been warned about gypsies before. How do ya know one if ya see one? Do they wear costumes or badges or something? Anyway, I considered myself warned.

We were told that the Basilica at St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel would not be open until later in the day because there were ceremonies cannonizing five new saints. OK, so no standing in line to see something of which there are pictures in books. A bit disappointing, but Onward! There was an abundance of statuary everywhere...must have been sculptors everywhere. A priest gave me a rosary, and I saw the Pope on a large screen delivering a speech. No idea what he said or why he appeared to be green in the picture I took of the screen.

I wonder how far stone had to be hauled for all of this construction and sculpture. I heard that sometimes materials were "borrowed" from older buildings to construct new ones, and that some structures were significantly modified over the years. One such structure was the Castel Sant'Angelo, built as a tomb for the Emperor Hadrian and later fortified as part of the walls of the city. Loved the Archangel Michael at the top!

Next stop... the Pantheon, built in the first century. How in the world did they build these structures with no equipment? My simple little house would have been a trial without a tractor and power tools.
It was actually smaller than I expected it to be--not too sure where the expectation came from. Yet one would think a "Temple to All the Gods" would have to be big for lots of gods to be included. On to the Forum, which really wasn't too very far away.

No funny things happened on the way to the Forum.... (get the allusion?) However, on the way to the Colosseum, I could swear I heard Native American flute music. There were some street performers along the thoroughfare, including (drum roll, please) Fancy Dancers!

Suddenly it seemed as though I were back in Oklahoma. Didn't expect them in Roma, Italia.

The remains of the Colosseum were really awesome. Many obvious steps were taken to preserve the structure and prevent its further degeneration. Too many tourist dollars at stake to allow it to crumble, aside from the historical significance.

And how in the world does one sculpt something so massive as this?
Can you see the size of the people at the base of this horse and rider? Amazing!
Wow! I can't even imagine translating a model into a sculpture of that size. We went to the Forum Museum where displays explained the process of restoration--interesting. Time for lunch. Lots of street vendors, but nowhere to sit. Mike suggested we get off the main thoroughfare to find somewhere to sit down and eat. Lead on, Macduff! As previously mentioned, I must attach myself to someone with a chance of getting me back to where I need to be when I need to be there. We found a little place with sidewalk seating, well, practically in the road, but seemingly well patronized. Janet seemed less than impressed with her sandwich, but my chicken salad looked tasty. No dressing? Hey, I'm American! Where's the fat?

We taxi'd back towards St. Peter's and Hadrian's Tomb.
Lots of activity back at St. Peter's. There was a parade with drums and piping and flag tossing guys performing. I turned to see people in bright yellow T-shirts leading burros, followed by similarly clad folks on horseback. There were Bavarian looking girls too.

I suppose all of this was not necessarily the usual thing, but it must have been tied in to the beatification of five new saints. Maybe these groups of costumed people were from the home regions of these new saints. I don't know.

We got back on the bus, where a guide continued to give us information about the city in heavily accented English. She kept stressing that one needed at least a week in Rome to do the city justice. I'm sure that's true, but one must also take what she gets. It's life: roll with what you've got! She was explaining the significance of the colors on the uniforms of the Vatican Swiss guards. The uniforms were designed by Michelangelo.

"Yellow is for the sun-uh; blue is for the sky-uh; red-uh is for the bloooood-uh."

"What is bluedah?" came from beside me.

Um, I believe that's "blood."

Arrivederci, Roma!

With confirmation of all passengers and crew onboard, we struck our gangways at 18:45, and our local Pilot boarded seaside at 19:03. Shortly after we let go all our lines and maneuvered off our berth and exited Civitavecchia harbour en-route to Livorno.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cruisin' Day 5-- Naples/Capri

Up at the crack of 6:45 A.M. today. The breakfast buffet provided fuel for the day's activities. We met the rest of our troop of 8 at 8:00 A.M. to set out for the fabled Isle of Capri.

Step 1: Obtain a ticket for the hydrofoil. Fortunately, the weather was calm, although cloudy. 32 euro bought a round-trip ticket and the opportunity to board along with a few other adventurous souls for the half hour or so sail. It was actually a bit boring; the ship was not set up to be anything more than transportation: lots of seats, small windows, but a snack bar and a guy trying to sell donuts and caps (not many takers for either). We snapped a few photos in the harbor area...

Next, we bought tickets for the funicolare to go up to the center of the city. Either walk for thirty minutes or ride the tram-like thing up the hill in a few minutes--no brainer. We planned to explore the city of Capri, but spent more time tying to figure out how to relocate Janet's mom, Vicky's husband, and brother Mike, who had all strayed. Of course, they weren't all together; Mike and camera were off on their own. This was where we saw them last...
W e decided to return to the funicolare station, get a yummy lemon slush, and wait. I guess Capri is known for lemon everything. The owner of the slush stand ran us off because Janet and Janice tried to sit there and eat pizza that they had purchased elsewhere. "Non permisso! Non permisso!" Yeah, yeah, whatever. Took a few more pics....

Vicky located hubby and Janet's mom around the corner having a beer. Well, we were up to 7 of the 8 and knew that Mikey would turn up eventually, so we set off to get bus tickets to Anacapri, another town farther up the hills. Funicolare and bus tickets were 1,40 euro each way. That's when I figured out that these folks use a comma where we use a decimal point in the prices of things. They also sometimes use three places to the right for whatever reason. It was somewhat of a relief to figure out that lasagne was 12 euro, not 12,000 as the sign seemed to indicate. Oh, and in case you were wondering why there would even be mini-trucks like those turning up here and there, I have seen the reason. The "streets" are about as wide as sidewalks, and these little vehicles are about all that could run down them. Main thoroughfares are a bit wider, but accommodate two-way traffic. We got on a little orange bus wide enough to seat one person on each side and allow two people to stand between them and hang on. Off we went up a steep, serpentine road with hairpin turns, missing sideview mirrors of oncoming traffic by inches. Little guard rails separated traffic from a steep cliff. Janet had to look away or close her eyes. Yet we made it safely to Anacapri.

This time we set a time and place to meet, in case we got separated, which, of course, we didn't. We did a little shopping ( would have done more with a more favorable rate of exchange). No major purchases, just some lemon chocolate. After the bus back down, we got on the funicolare back down to the harbor. There was Mikey waiting to catch the boat back to Naples! He had been on his own adventure to some ruins of a fortress. Can't wait to see some of his pictures. Once again, didn't get arrested; made it back to the ship!
After dinner at the buffet, I went up to the very top deck at the back of the ship to watch the sun set over Naples and the sailaway. I had a nice conversation with a couple from Maine. Being a retired teacher brings up all sorts of topics relating to education. Everyone has stories to tell. I got some nice pictures.

Naples is a bustling, modern city--not really my cup of tea. Maybe if I were incredibly wealthy...
Extract from the Deck Log
10th October 2009- Naples, Italy
Overnight, Ruby Princess continued her transit of the Tyrrhenian Sea and in the early hours our track took us by the active volcano island of Stromboli. Just before sunrise we transited into the Gulf of Naples passing close by the beautiful Island of Capri, before turning to the northeast towards the breakwater. Prior to embarking our pilot at 06:06 and entering the harbour we left the historic city of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius on our starboard side.
Once we slipped our lines and thrusted off our berth we exited the port of Naples. Ruby Princess then eased back into the Gulf of Naples and after rounding the Island of Ischia to the southwest to port, northwesterly courses were set towards Civitavecchia, the port for Rome.

Friday, November 6, 2009

09th October 2009-- at Sea

Extract from the Deck Log

Throughout the course of the day, Ruby Princess continued to transit southeastwards through the Adriatic Sea towards the Strait of Otranto and into the northern part of the Ionian Sea. At 11:36 we altered course to 222 degrees where we rounded the "heel of Italy" after maintaining this track for 165.2 nm we set a northwesterly heading and set up our approach into the Messina Strait.

We boarded the Pilot for Messina at 20:50 at a speed of 19.5 knots and carried out the 40 mile transit navigating through the heavy traffic passing Sicily on our port side and the Italian mainland on our starboard side. We then disembarked our Pilot at 21:15 then increased our speed to meet our 0600 ETA to Naples.

Venice to Naples- 816 Nautical miles- average speed 20.8 knots

If you don't find that interesting, maybe over the course of the rest of the cruise postings you'll learn to skip the italicized stuff, hmmmmm?

Land Ho! Since we were on the starboard side, I guess that's the Italian mainland. Going out to the balcony upon waking became the daily ritual, not always terribly informative sometimes. More informative was the TV channel that showed a map with our current position marked. We were late rising today. Last night saw dinner in one of the restaurants, visits to clubs on board, karaoke singing, and ordering pictures for today's class. Did I mention how fortunate I was in roommate roulette? Janet R., hereinafter referred to as Roomie Janet, is fabulous! She is so sweet and fun-loving (requisite for hanging with me). I was a bit anxious signing on for 18 days in a stateroom with someone I had never met, but it couldn't have worked out better. I love the woman!

We hit the breakfast buffet at 11:00, and then we went down to pick up our pictures. Surprise! The kiosk we had used to order pictures was not plugged in to send anything to the printer. Four of us taking the class had no pictures to work from. Travel agent Vicky (need a good travel agent? I can make a recommendation.) sought out the manager to pitch a ring-tailed fit-- said we should get them for free. We gathered our materials and headed for deck 18, the Skywalker Lounge (and me without my lightsword). Janet did a lovely demonstration, and I tried to behave myself. But Carl pointed out some dolphins doing the dolphin thing beside the ship-- had to watch them. Then came time to set pastel to paper. I did have one pastel drawing under my belt before the cruise. Expect great things, huh? What to do, what to do....hmmmmmm.... I sketched in some buildings, started the sky, decided I didn't like the buildings, made them go away.... Better luck next time.

I headed back down to do some balcony sitting before dinner. Vicky called and said to go down to pick up my pictures. Too late for class, but, hey, I wanted 'em! They weren't free, but half price. I should have ordered more. Who knew?

Back up to the room to get ready for dinner-- formal night. Ughh... I hate dressing up! And the food! Too fancy! No, I don't like wine. No, I don't want fancy-schmancy appetizer followed by soup/salad. Forgot my reading glasses, so I couldn't quite make out the menu descriptions, especially since they were printed in gold on beige with low lighting. Anyway, I have decided that if a five-year-old would like it, it's my kind of food. I opted for pork roast, mashed potatoes, some kind of apple sauce, and then, just to ruin the whole thing, cooked red cabbage. I am not eatiing THAT! Well, just the meat that didn't get cabbage-corrupted and the potatoes. Chocolate sundae with some microscopic cookies with a far bigger name for dessert.

Afterwards, we came across the Captain's Champagne Party. Weirdest thing I've ever seen-- a whole bunch of champagne glasses with a cherry in each stacked in a pyramid. With musical accompanyment, people would climb some stairs so they could reach the top to dump champagne from a bottle onto the pyramid of glasses. Other folks took pictures. WEIRD! Very Titanicesque.

Next, we went to see a magician perform, got there relatively late, got seated on the side that didn't evidently register on the performer's consciousness, and saw very little presditigitation. Off to bed. Docking in Naples, meeting Mike and Janet, etc. at 8:00 A.M. Off to the Isle of Capri on a hydrofoil! Adventure awaits!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cruisin': Day 3

We started day 3 with breakfast delivered to the room so we could eat on the balcony in jammies. I could get used to this, despite today's view of another ship. We could still watch boats going by between the ships from our vantage point on deck 10.

That picture of breakfast doesn't look so great. Whenever I go somewhere, the Loved One always asks, "What'd ya have to eat?" Sooooo, what if I take pictures of food? Can't wait to show him! It's playing in my head now...

"What'd ya have to eat?" he asked with genuine interest.

She whips out a stack of pictures.

"Alla this stuff," she replies smugly.

"What is it?"

"What's it look like?"

Just can't wait! He didn't want to come along; so, hey, stay home and eat your own cooking!

Well, I digress.... Back to the day's adventures. We caught the water taxi back to St. Marks.

Bellisimo! I can't wait to see brother Mike's pictures---he's got the expertise and the equipment. He's also got the sense of direction. My family members know how directionally challenged I am. Add to that disability the fact that I don't speak Italian and needed to get back to the ship before it sailed, and I decided to stick close to Mike as we ventured off into the city. There are areas not directly on canals, little piazzas that feature wells like this one in the square.

That would be Mike back there, not too far away from yours truly. We only had a few hours before needing to get back to the ship. Just such a beautiful place! Definitely not northeastern Oklahoma! I had taken over 150 pictures before we left Venezia, Italia. Come on over; I'll be happy to show you all of them!

Didn't get arrested; made it back to the ship! We went up to the top deck, deck 19, to take pictures during the sail away from Venice... offered a magnificent vantage point.

In the distance you'll see the Carnival cruise ship that was docked next to ours. Big, huh?

Extract from the Deck Log of the Ruby Princess:
8th October 2009- Venice, Italy
At 13:19 with all pre-departure checks satisfactorily completed, Ruby Princess slipped her moorings and maneuvered slowly astern. Turning at rest to Stb within the tight confines of the harbour the ship headed to the east, navigating through the narrow, shallow canal network towards the breakwater. We passed the "Piazza San Marco" to port at 13:53. Our pilot disembarked at 14:30, one nautical mile south of the breakwater in the Gulf of Venice. Courses were then set south-eastwards into the northern Adriatic sea, navigating between the many oil and gas rigs, down towards the Strait of Otranto.