January 01, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Pantheon

OMG I'm never getting out of Rome. On the third day (THIRD!) we walked to the Pantheon, which is still the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Here's the 'long' vertical panorama to give a full idea of the size and height.

I also found a cathedral that had some neat Caravaggio paintings which you lit using coin machines.. But I didn't get as many pictures in there as I would've liked. As always, Wikipedia provides. (Ramen!)

It was seriously hot again - around 40C. Maybe my next vacation just needs to be spent in Rome - in spring!

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Posted by JAY at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Colosseum and Forums

From the Pantheon, we walked to the Roman Forums and the Colosseum. By this time, we were pretty wiped, but I could've spent a lot more time here (in fact, we skipped the museums). If I ever return, I'd like to do a tour of the tunnels under the Colosseum. But we relented and took a taxi back to the hotel afterward.

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Posted by JAY at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2013

Cruise 2012 - The Ship!

Finally!! Here's the Celebrity Silhouette in the Italian port of Civitavecchia. It was huge - not the biggest, but very new. I'll have more posts about the ship's amenities in later posts. The main elevator shaft (one of two) was impressive-this was only the first floor. It was very luxurous and took a while to get oriented. Mom never did get the hang of it. :)

Posted by JAY at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Amalfi Coast (Day 1)

Our first port was Naples. Mom, Teresa and I took a bus tour of the Amalfi coast. The views were breathtaking (you can click the panorama above), but the bus ride along narrow roads on the side of a cliff was harrowing.

About 5 people got sick, including my mom, who instead of listening to me, followed Teresa's advice and looked out the back window (!). My stomach was a bit queasy as well... different ailment though!

We stopped at a pretty hotel for some lunch (bottom). The food was just ok, though I really enjoyed the dessert. Finally we stopped in the municipality of Amalfi and explored the village and cathedral there (middle).

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Posted by JAY at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Pompeii (Day 1)

In the afteroon we took a tour of Pompeii ruins. It was interesting, but not particularly exciting - there's only so much ruins a person can take :) The lower picture is the brothel 'menu' to avoid language issues. The 'beds' looked very uncomfortable but I guess they must have had padding at the time.

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Posted by JAY at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Balcony and Stateroom

We got a great deal that included a balcony for no extra cost. We were lucky and got one with an unobstructed view, which wasn't guaranteed. I had thought that I wouldn't care about a balcony and would rather save money with an inside cabin. But now that I've had one, I can't imagine doing without at least an opening window. The main reason? Free room service is very enjoyable on the balcony (more on that later).

But there were also views like this (click for a larger). I think this is the island of Capri as we left Naples.(we looked it up on the TV's map system, but I forget). I'll be posting more balcony pix.

The stateroom was very comfortable. After we requested a jug of water, it was replaced twice daily with ice and saran wrap. The bathroom was very nice - I really liked all the controls on the shower (temperature, sprayers, etc). It was brighter and bigger a than this picture shows - this is only the sleeping area. There was also a small entrance and a larger 'living room' area with couch, table and large flatscreen tv. It was cleaned twice daily - they got the hang of our routine and we rarely saw them.

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January 09, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Mt. Etna (Day 2)

At Sicily's Catania port, we toured some craters around Mount Etna, which was active that day and smoking. Apparently people aren't supposed to approach the actve crater because it spits up boulders every now and again. We visited some nearby craters and saw lava flows that buried trees and houses.
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Posted by JAY at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Taormina (Day 2)

After Etna, we wandered the picturesque town of Taormina. I particularly liked this unconventionally proportioned crucifix sculpture on the exterior window of a church (click to enlarge).

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Posted by JAY at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Valetta, Malta Balcony (Day 3)

This is the view we opened our curtains to on the third day of the cruise. Yep, I think I'm a fan of balconies. That said, there's an element of uncertainty. You might not be facing the port (we were very lucky throughout). Your view might be obstructed by a lifeboat (unless you pay a premium to guarantee an unobstructed view). But we had beginners' luck.

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Posted by JAY at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Valetta Tour Bus (Day 3)

In Malta, we did an impromptu bus tour, which was really cheap at about 10 euros. I really enjoyed it - I rode on the top of the bus with Dom and Clara, where it was sunny and hot. Mom rode inside with Liz and Teresa. The camera's quick autofocus was an asset in taking pix from the moving vehicle.

Out in the countryside, there were a lot of tiny fields enclosed in stone walls. The guide explained that properties keep getting tinier as they are divided by heirs.

By the coast, we got a good view of the ship.

My one complaint about Malta was that it's not part of Amazon's Whispernet - so my 3G Kindle had no free internet access. Boo!

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Posted by JAY at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Ship Dining (Day 3)

You had two options for dining on the cruise, early or late seating. Late seating is definitely the way to go - it gives you more time to explore the port and a great way to end the night, every night - as long as the food is good, which it was! There are 2 menus - a standing menu of 'standards' and a daily menu, ensuring that there's always a reliable standard should nothing look appealing. Usually, it's four courses, but Julia saw another table getting a cheese course and after asking, we had a starter cheese course every night with nuts and dried fruits! The amount of brie that we went through...

Plus, you can order whatever you want, as many dishes as you want. I don't care for soups or salads unless they're REALLY good, but I love appetizers. So I would often get two apps - in this case, eggplant parm (which I took a bite out of before being reminded to take a picture) and seafood risotto.

The kitchen was at its best when it was braising meat. Grilled meats were a bit riskier - sometimes they were great, other times they could be a bit tough. This lamb shank was lovely.

Desserts ranged from great to just ok. Of course, you could hedge your bets and always order a 'side' dessert of yummy creme brulee from the standing menu. Actually, more often what I did was order the interesting daily flavor of sorbet along with my dessert, which was tiramisu on this day.

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Posted by JAY at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)