A May 2007 trip
to Italy by Wasatch
Quote: A 10 day cruise around Italy.
This was our first ocean cruise, following three European river cruises. There is no comparison between the two. Although Oceania’s ships, 640 passengers, are small by cruising standards, compared to 170 on a river ship, it is much different experience, loaded with amenities. After the stress of 23½ hours without our luggage when the cruise sent it to a hotel instead of to the ship, this turned into a fine vacation, thanks to a well planned itinerary by the cruise line and perfect weather– 6 drops of rain in 14 days, one cloudy day, and 13 days of cloudless skies. Our "10 day cruise" from Venice to Rome made these stops:
Venice: A bit of a disappointment. St. Mark’s Square and a trip up the Grand Canal were stunning, but that’s it. One afternoon will do for Venice.Dubrovnik, Croatia: A medieval gem, this walled city, unlike Venice, more than lived up to its reputation.Corfu, Greece: The British made Corfu famous. Corfu is an object lesson is how bad British taste actually is. Don’t bother.Olympia, Greece: The Olympics began here in 734 BC. More than 1,100 years later, the Christians shut the Games down, one more example of how stupid Christians are.Messina, Sicily: Messina isn’t much, but Messina is where you go to get to Taormina, and Taormina is worth the trip.Amalfi: I would not argue with the claim that the Amalfi Coast is one of Europe’s most scenic spots, but then, North America’s west coast from Homer, Alaska, to San Diego is better. We visited Ravello, but what really impressed us was the interior of the Amalfi Cathedral.Portoferraio, Elba: Brushed off in the travel books, Portoferraio turned out to be gem.Livorno, gateway to Florence: Yeah, sure. Florence is 2-3 hours away. Forget Florence, and go to Pisa. We got to Pisa in less than one hour from the time we left the ship. And Livorno hath its charms. La Spezia, gateway to the Cinque Terre, Pisa, or Florence. We took the local bus to Portovenere which was, on this cruise, second only to Taormina for scenery and also scored high on overall quaintness.
Unfortunately, we bought Oceania’s very expensive transfers from the Venice airport to the ship. They lost out luggage. They found it a day later. Do-it-yourself options include reasonably priced train or bus, vaporetti, and walking to the ship or very expensive water taxi or road taxi. If your ship is docked at the south pier, as was ours, there is close vaporetti stop. The other piers seem to require a considerable walk.We arrived on board in Venice about 11:30am. After lunch, we walked from the ship to St Mark’s Square. We finished touring the Doge’s Palace at about 4pm. As the Regatta would sail the next afternoon at 4pm, we bought 24 hr. discounted Vaporetti (Venetian water taxis) tickets ( per person, thanks to GW Bush’s economic blunders that priced the Euro sky high in 2007. It would have cost -10 at Pres. Clinton’s exchange rate).The ship docked close enough to town in Messina, Lavorno, Portoferraio, Elba, Amalfi, and La Spezia to walk to most of the local sights, but only Portoferraio, Elba, and Amalfi are major attractions on their own. The rest are mainly the jumping off point to nearby attractions: Messina– Mt Etna and Taormina; Livorno– Pisa, Lucca, Florence; La Spezia– Cinque Terre, Lucca, Florence, so something had to be done to arrange land transportation to see the major sights. Passengers had several options: some had prearranged private car and driver waiting for them, some rented cars, some took the optional bus cruise offered by the ship, and like us, some did it themselves by bus, train, and taxi.Our cruise ended at Civitaveccia, the port of Rome. The ship only provided transfers into Rome in conjunction with very expensive hotel packages. Taxi or limo cost -180, depending on who you email. Our trip for two into Rome cost just under using the dock’s free shuttle bus to the entrance to the port , then walking a couple blocks to the train station (~) and taking a taxi () to our hotel.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 30, 2007
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 29, 2007
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Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 29, 2007
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Attraction | "Katakolon, Greece"
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 14, 2007
Attraction | "Ancient Home of the Olympics"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 14, 2007
Ancient Olympic Games
Taormina is the reason cruise ships stop at the east end of Scicily.Like the perched villages of France(see Eze), TaorminaSicily was built at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea to help protect the village from ship born raiders. It’s an understatement to call Taormina’s setting spectacular--- a thumb of land 700 ft. above the sea overlooking a bay on one side and the Sicilian coast on the other, with steaming, snow capped Mt Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, in the background.Originally one of the Greek settlements in Sicily, Taormina most noteworthy sight, after the setting itself, is the Greek Theater, dating back to the third century B.C. The remains of the theater, still in use today, is a Roman reconstruction of the original Greek amphitheater (the Greeks built with stone, the Romans used bricks, but note that the upper tier of seats are stone, so they are probably part of the original Greek theater). The theater, a half circle, facing inland, is 360 ft. across at the stage, with Mt Etna perfectly centered behind the stage. After exploring the theater, we walked downhill to the attractive town garden (take the first left after you leave the theater. Bear left whenever there is a choice), with its impressive views of the coast and Mt Etna, then back to Corso Umberto, the main street. Working our way back to Corso Umberto from the downhill side of the Gardens gave us a chance to wander through some of the less heavily touristed neighborhoods, which are attractive themselves. The Cathedral, at the far end of Corso Umberto from the Greek Theater, marks the end of the main street. The side streets of old Taormina were very attractive, well worth some time spent aimlessly wandering. The ruins of a medieval castle, visible uphill from all parts of Taormina, can be visited. The modern tourist resorts are below the town on the beaches. A gondola connects old town to the beach. Arriving by train from Messina ($26 rt for two), we took the local bus ($2, ow) to climb more than 600 feet to Taormina proper. The bus stops right in front of the station, slightly to the right. On the bus from Taormina back to the station, we had front row of seats, giving us an unobstructed view out the front window. That view of the trip down to the station is the best $2 per person we ever spent. How the bus made it around the curves in the road defies humanunderstanding. I would go back to Messina and Taormina just for the bus ride.To get your bearings, the bus station is downhill from the back(top) of the theater. The Gardens are downhill behind the stage. Corso Umbetouristrto and the street going to the theater form a letter T.
Once in town, walking is the way to get around.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 15, 2007
heber ctity, Utah