May 11, 2013

Cruise 2013 - Stressful Trip Home (Day 13)

I'm short a day - I guess I missed one of the Sea Days. I don't have good luck with airline strikes... Lufthansa was doing wildcat strikes on our departure date. The Venice airport was chaos, with really long lineups. It was only the start of a REALLY long trip. Though I didn't know it, I was also getting sick.

When we finally boarded, the plane took over an hour because of assorted mechanical/electrical issues. They had to 'reboot' the plane about 3x - all lights, fans etc went out and the cabin temperature was gradually increasing as A/C wasn't on.

That being said, they took really attentive care of us - handing out substantial snacks, bottled water and some REALLY delicious chocolates. But by the time we reached Stuttgart, Germany, we had missed our connection to Toronto.

Luckily, we were with Olga, whose wheelchair status landed us in the 'special accommodations' section of the Stuttgart airport. Expedited treatment (and a peaceful private waiting room where everyone used my Kindle to get messages to people back home who weren't available by phone) got us ensconced in the Sheraton airport hotel where, after dinner (eh, just ok), I had a good wander, returning to the hotel to find a HUGE lineup of all the other people who had to deal with the standard lineup at the airport.

Unfortunately, our group got separated onto different indirect flights. The others got sent to England and Switzerland while mom and I were unlucky and got Atlanta (boooooo!). On the bright side, Mom and I got upgraded seating. It wasn't luxurious, but there was more leg room and wider seats. Unfortunately, she got seated next to some guy who was SUPER smelly - the attendants came by with air fresheners and sprayed all around him, that's how bad it was.

I gave her my seat and switched to a different row with a nice kid who had his well-behaved dog in the carrier next to him. His parents were in business class and came back to check on him a couple times. After that, it was a good flight.

But THEN, in Atlanta. Sigh, American airport staff have earned their reputation as being the assholes of the airport world, openly ridiculing people who had trouble with English and lacking any semblance of professionalism - such a contrast to every other airport. While we didn't have any problems with them, our flight changed gates six times without any notice (requiring a bus trip at one point!), and was 7 hours late. Then they lost our luggage - apparently that's normal for United Airlines, which has been known to break guitars and lose children.

But it did show up a few days later at my house. So that's the end of an epic vacation for us.

Last thoughts on cruising: So now I've done Vegas (self-planned), Dominican (resort) and Mediterranean (cruise) and definitely the cruise was my favorite. Waking up in a different location every day and the ease of scheduling activities and having good meals to look forward to every day - it was very easy. Admittedly this was the most expensive trip I've taken as well, so it may not be directly comparable - but the structure was very appealing.

If I ever do it again, I'd like to try some of the really physical tours - like hikes and swims. I actually lost weight on this trip due to all the walking - it would be crazy if I was actually doing heavy activity!

Posted by JAY at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Rialto Bridge (Day 12)

Facing the other direction, here's the Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal.

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May 09, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Wandering Grand Canal (Day 12)

Teresa wanted to see this, but everyone got tired before we found it. But eventually I managed to find it while wandering and got a really great picture, considering the overcast conditions. I might come back to this later and do a bit of editing to make the buildings pop separately from the sky.

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May 08, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Wandering Canals (Day 12)

Canals are beautiful but narrow, tiny, winding streets and bridges to nowhere make navigation very difficult. Locating myself on my tattered tourist map was difficult and judging by the number of times someone asked me for directions, I wasn't alone in being disoriented most of the time.

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May 07, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Wandering Private Bridges (Day 12)

It would be so cool having your own canal bridge... like having a moat around your home.

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May 05, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Wandering (Day 12)

I wandered around Venice for hours after the others returned to the ship. Luckily the rain let up and I could use my camera to pry around. This picture was through a peephole in a gated courtyard.
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Cruise 2012 - Venice San Marco Basilica (Day 12)


The basilica is also in San Marco Square. It was raining on-and-off through the day and the land is so low that the water went right into the basilica, requiring ramps. More recently (this spring) the water levels rose so high that people were actually swimming in the (unsanitary) water in the square!

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May 04, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Venice Murano Glass (Day 12)

After the palace, we did a tour of the Murano glass factory (really, these trips are more like "facilitated shopping" - just like the rug store in Kusadesi).
We saw a glass blowing demonstration, though, so it was still pretty interesting. Later, after the others returned to the ship, I went into the Correr Museum, where they had some striking Murano glass chandeliers.

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April 27, 2013

Cruise 2012: Doge's Palace Throne Room

The main room at the Doge's Palace, with a large religious mural behind the thrones.

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April 20, 2013

Cruise 2012: Doge's Palace Interior (Day 12)

Taking pictures inside the palace wasn't allowed, but they were being a bit jerky and I couldn't resist taking a bunch of pictures on the sly. Of course, not many turned out well, but I got a few good ones.

Everything was super-ornate and sometimes pretty cool - like the zodiac clock above and the massive sculptured fireplaces.

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April 19, 2013

Cruise 2012: Doge's Palace from Boat (Day 12)

We took a tender from the cruise ship back to the main part of Venice. The first tour was the Doge's Palace. The best view of the entire palace was from the boat.

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April 18, 2013

Cruise 2012: Venice Bridge of Sighs (Day 12)

The Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge's Palace to the prisons. On the tour of the palace, we went through the interior of the bridge.

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April 04, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Approaching Venice (Day 12)

We woke up early and went to an outside deck to cruise into Venice. It was well worth it - the views were spectacular.

San Marco Square from the ship - we went on a tour in the Doge's Palace (bottom right of the picture) where I snuck a bunch of pictures (they were being dickish about it and it wasn't a church so... it was fun to be rebellious.)

Venice was one of my favorite ports, there was amazing stuff to see everywhere.
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April 03, 2013

Cruise 2012 - At Sea (Day 11)

This was a very busy cruise - with so many ports, there were very few days at sea to relax and explore the ship. This day started with an elaborate buffet in the dining hall, with lots of ice sculptures and fruit carvings and server stations carving meats and seafood.

Later, mom watched some movies in the cabin and we went to the glass encased panorama deck where they had lounge chairs to read. I think on every vacation I have an 'over the feet' picture.

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April 02, 2013

Cruise 2012 - After-dinner Theatre (Day 10)

The ship had an impressive theatre with nightly productions. The performances were always enthusiastic but of varying interest (to me at least). The one I liked best was the circus production, with contortionists, acrobats and balancing acts (on a ship!). This picture of an acrobat on the silks turned out well.

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April 01, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Lobster Beef Wellington (Day 10)

Formal night had two 'special' main courses - Beef Wellington and lobster tails. So of course I asked for Beef Wellington with a side of lobster. The beef was just ok - the pastry wasn't particularly great. Of course, the low point was when the waiters came around asking if anyone wanted more lobster - I was too full! :(

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March 31, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Crete Wandering (Day 10)

Like Kusadesi, there were carpet weavers scattered in Chania-town. It was picturesque and the temperatures on Crete were a bit milder than most of the rest of the trip.

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March 30, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Crete Botanical Gardens (Day 10)

This was the only tour that mom and I did by ourselves. We thought it would be a nice relaxing walk around a garden, but it turned out to be quite the long hike! The gardens were extensive and had all manner of fruits and plants. Apparently Crete is one of the densest areas of plant biodiversity.

We also got a demonstration of Cretan cooking - in which the main source of calories is olive oil (they drink it straight up)! And they basically confit everything in olive oil. Apparently the olive oil, lack of meat and availability of fruit and veg contributes (at least in the older generation) to extreme longevity.

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March 24, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Santorini (Day 9)

Santorini was the only stop where we took a tender (that is, a boat from the cruise ship) to shore. We wandered around the small tourist area and saw the sights.

Returning, we took a cable car back down to the tender, which was quite a long lineup. The other alternative was a smelly donkey road. Apparently, a few people got left behind, which, given that lineup was pretty understandable.

The last picture is the view from the cabin balcony sailing away.

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March 17, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Rhodes (Day 8)

Rhodes was a beach trip with the entire gang. The weather was great. Mom had a brief incident in the waves which bowled her over and she had trouble getting back up. The sunset as we sailed away was spectacular - remember you can click for a larger view! Balcony - top and bottom!

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March 15, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Room Service (Day 7)

Free room service is SO MUCH FUN. After working up an appetite wandering or touring, we would order a variety of things from the Apple-powered tv menu and it would usually come while I was taking a shower. Our usual order consisted of chicken wings, burgers and creme brulee, with iced tea and lemonade. I wanted to get cookies and milk for a bedtime snack, but we were always too full from dinner!

This is another reason that it's nice to have a balcony - eating in the room wouldn't be much fun without some natural light and there was a table out there to eat at too, when it wasn't too hot.

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March 14, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Kusadesi Wandering (Day 7)

Just a short walk away from the bazaars, the city gets a bit more dilapidated. I wanted to wander inside of some of these places that looked pretty abandoned, but I settled for pictures from the outside.

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March 12, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Ephesus (Day 7)

Ephesus was scenic. To the left are the Temple of Hadrian and the Library of Celcus.

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March 11, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Bazaar Weavers (Day 7)

We took a tour of a silk and wool carpet seller who provided refreshments - there was a lovely small silk rug for only $30k or so. Mom managed to kick over a glass of tea but luckily it didn't get on the rugs. After the others went back to the ship, I wandered the bazaar and the city.

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February 23, 2013

Cruise 2012 - House of Mary (Day 7)

This is where the Virgin Mary spent the end of her life, according to legend. Being a jaded cynic, it wasn't very meaningful for me, but it was much cooler and felt like a nice temperate summer, surrounded by foliage - mostly fig trees. There was also a spring where people could fill bottles of water (the tour operators supplied a cute terracotta jug) that had 'healing properties'. I took some for the neighbors but warned them not to drink it, since it had been sitting in my suitcase for a while and might have the opposite effect.

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February 22, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Kusadeshi Turkey Balcony (Day 7)

Still loving the balcony. This was a packed day, starting with a tour then extensive wandering.

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February 21, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Dinner Notes (Day 6)

We were lucky - our ship managed to get the only dock in Mykonos, so we didn't have to take a boat from the ship. Later, I found out that we were even luckier... apparently the waters were rough that day, and the other ships had to skip the stop entirely.

By the time we returned to the ship, it was swaying slightly and the trees in the elevator shafts were whipping back and forth. I'm prone to motion sickness and wasn't really feeling up to dinner. But unlike Julia (who also had a cold) I made it down, and ordered blander stuff off the standing menu (which was actually really good - poached salmon). But I skipped dessert.

The servers thought that I just didn't see anything that I liked - so they delivered a Grand Marnier souffle that wasn't on the menu. I couldn't let that go to waste and I enjoyed it - I've never actually had souffle before.

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February 19, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Mykonos Balcony (Day 6)

Mykonos was a low-key stop - we explored the picturesque port and didn't do any tours. The weather was hot and beautiful and we got a great view from the balcony.

I think we found our way to a beach, but for some reason I don't have any pictures of it! Oh well, more beaches later.

I had sort of lost track of time by this time and was mourning the end of our trip because it seemed like we'd been on vacation forever. Happily, I was corrected at dinner.

Top: Sunrise
Bottom: Sailing away

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February 17, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Dinner Braised Short Ribs (Day 5)

I won't post all the dinners (they were all fun and tasty), but these short ribs were, by far!, the best thing I ate onboard. They were tender and unctious and the equal of anything served at La Pergola! I would've asked for a second helping if I hadn't also ordered a 'side main course' of breaded veal. Argh, after a cheese course, cod risotto appetiser and gumbo, there was just no room! And there was a sacher torte for dessert still on the way.

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February 12, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Indian Buffet Selections (Day 5)

Unlike most days, we made it back for the end of the lunch buffet (or maybe it was dinner?), which was really good. This particular plate was Indian food, which was really well done. There's also some really tasty fried fish on the plate. There was always a huge variety of things to pick from. By now, I was kind of in the swing of things and getting used to the ship's schedule and layout. It takes a while!

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February 11, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Acropolis (Day 5)

The Acropolis was super busy. And super inefficient. Even though we had purchased tickets at the Zeus Temple, they wanted them EXCHANGED for new paper tickets. The line up for exchanging the tickets was mixed with people buying tickets and was super long - HOURS! Plus they didn't tell you that you needed to exchange them until you you waited through the entrance line so lots of people were being turned away.

Joseph, Dom's son, came to the rescue and persuaded one of the 'tour group' gatekeepers to let us in with our un-exchanged ticket. But yeesh, what a stupid system.

It was a pretty steep hike over smooth, slippery marble to get to the Acropolis and our older travellers did well to get up and down.

At the top, there was some heavy restoration going on and archaeologists were also there taking measurements.

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February 10, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Temple of Zeus (Day 5)

In Chania, Crete, our first stop was to see the Temple of Zeus. We didn't get a tour here, we just hired two cabs that took us around for the day on their itinerary. The cabs prefer that kind of fare because it's much more than they would get otherwise - it can be difficult to get a regular cab. They get paid at the end - so you don't worry about them abandoning you.

They advised us to buy tickets here because the same tickets could be used for the Acropolis. That didn't quite work out, though.

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February 09, 2013

Cruise 2012 - Special Request(Day 4)

The waitstaff seemed to delight in special requests (I bet they really didn't but they seemed to). One our our party requested no salt (though she had to select her dishes the day before). Another didn't like her food piled on top of each other, but separate, cafeteria-style.

My requests were usually 'can i have this part of that dish along with my regular order?' For instance, this was the daily-menu "Cherries Jubilee" (ice cream, cherry sauce and almonds) served on top of standing menu chocolate cake!

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February 08, 2013

Cruise 2012 - At Sea - Engineering (Day 4)

Here's a German engineer giving a presentation on how the poop water is processed before being ejected. The presentation also looked at various systems - propulsion, desalination, electrical, etc. He did a good job of injecting the interesting-but-dry subject matter with dry humor.

Posted by JAY at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2013

Cruise 2012 - At Sea - Crepe Bistro (Day 4)

Usually, we missed the buffet lunch onboard (which is very good!) - usually we got back after lunch, in time for pizza and sushi that was served around 3pm. While at sea, we went to one of the specialty restaurants, which involved a supplementary charge of $5USD. The food wasn't really any better, but I guess it's a bit more labour intensive. This spicy crab crepe was very spicy, and the dessert crepe that followed was good too. I'm not sure why they also served a salad BEFORE the main, since they also served a salad with the crab crepe. This is the only specialty restaurant we went to - we were more than happy with the buffet and the dining room.

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February 01, 2013

Cruise 2012 - At Sea - Kitchen Tour (Day 4)

This was a packed cruise - there were only two days spent at sea. We spent a couple of hours touring the dining room kitchens, which were vast expanses of stainless steel. The head chef and captain spent time in the dining room answering questions while we were waiting to take the tour. Here, you can see someone searing off some beef tenderloin (the most reliable of the dining room's grilled meats).

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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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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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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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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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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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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 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)

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 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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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 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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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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December 30, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Vatican Museum

We did a tour of the Vatican Museums, which were huge and impressive and filled with famous statues.

One example was the Laocoon, which was apparently reconstructed from various pieces and re-posed a few times.

The painted rooms in the papal apartments were similarly impressive.

The Sistine Chapel was less so - it's much smaller than expected and not very architecturally interesting. (I vaguely remember some art teachers saying the same thing.) It was also hot, dim and crowded. They asked that no photos be taken, and as they were so nice about allowing pix in the rest of the museum, I obliged.

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December 24, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Vatican Panorama

Well sort of panorama. This camera has a variety of pano modes, This one is a short one with the camera held vertically (scanning down). Anyway, this shot gives an idea of scale compared to the people.

Posted by JAY at 08:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Vatican Pieta

Michelangelo's Pieta is also in the Basilica and it was interesting to see it in person. It was larger and somehow a bit 'lighter' feeling.

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December 21, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Vatican

Ornamentation everywhere...

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December 20, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Vatican Altar

This altar structure would look right at home in a satanic cult, no?

The grandeur of the Basilica was amazing, but it makes me pause... How many poor people tithed or could've been fed? On the other hand, they're long dead anyway and the Basilica is still here - so maybe it was worth it?

While choosing photos, I realize that I take more closeups than scenes... The Basilica was even bigger than it looked below - each of the side naves are as big as the one directly ahead (behind the evil altar).
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December 19, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - St Peters Square

On the second day in Rome, we walked to Vatican City, where we had a tour scheduled for the museum. But first we stopped to see St. Peter's Basilica. There was a lot of restoration work going on outside, so I didn't get a good exterior shot - Wikipedia provides (amen).

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December 18, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Night Walk

Because of the time difference, I was wide awake at 3am and roamed Rome, trying hard not to get lost (I was taking pix of street signs as breadcrumbs). I was testing out the camera's low light capabilities, which were pretty good. For the church paintings, I used HDR, which allowed me to capture detail in the shadows under the collonade that I couldn't see with my eyes.

As always, click to enlarge.

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Posted by JAY at 11:20 PM | Comments (2)

December 17, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Architecture

Crazy architecture everywhere in Italy. I actually thought that I had an illustration filter set on my camera for this shot.

I bought the camera specifically for this trip, for shots like this. So worth it. (Sony RX100)

The sun was blazing and it was super hot for most of the trip. We got used to it, though.

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Posted by JAY at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain was impressive, even better than the replica in Vegas ;) Part of it was under restoration. It was really busy. We bought some gelato - they were advertising 2 euros but you had to REALLY insist to get that size - they did everything but flatly refuse to sell it.

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Posted by JAY at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2012

Cruise 2012 - Rome - Tiber River

I took my mom on a 14 night cruise of the Mediterranean at the end of August. We were lucky - Dom and Clara let us know of a great deal - $2500 for the two of us, and they were going too! But before we left, we spent a few days in Rome. The Tiber river was a few minutes walk from the Visconti Hotel, where we stayed.

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Posted by JAY at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2012

Restaurant: La Pergola (Rome)

We were in Rome for a few days prior to going on a 14 night cruise, so I took my mom to Rome's 3-Michelin star Italian restaurant: La Pergola. It's view from the top of the Rome Cavalieri is breathtaking, and everyone was seated out on the terrace. It was slightly warm, but worth it for the view.

Amberjack tartare was a tasty, tiny starter. The peach puree was acidic enough to cut through the richness of avocado and complement the clean fish flavor.

The Italian-sushi dish was one of my favorites of the night. There was nothing Japanese about it. The nori was represented by powdered olive. A perfect slice of tuna (not sure how they grilled it that delicately) was topped with a chopped funnel 'rice' layer and red onion 'ginger' - apparently from an Italian varietal that is red all the way through. It was creative and delicious.

A broth fish soup called "The Sea" was ok but didn't taste overly special - It seemed more about the presentation than anything else. You can see the chef make it here. It was a briney fish soup.

Green tortellini wish clams and squid were delicious, as were tempura shrimp over a squid puree. Interestingly, I didn't really love a black cod dish that we had been advised to skip by someone at Chowhound but it was my mom's favorite dish of the night.

My other favorite dish of the night was the lamb shanks, which were cooked to medium rare sous vide - a preparation that allowed the shanks to cook for a long time and become tender while not cooking past medium rare. The flavors were familiar and savory while being deliciously different.

After an Italian cheese course with some interesting fruit breads, many tiny desserts were presented for our enjoyment. My favorites were a coconut sorbet quenelle in lemongrass light syrup (I could've eaten a lot more of this), some coconut hot chocolate that was not too sweet and some chocolate dipped cones of lemon sorbet. But the other desserts were all good - some surprisingly so. An anise cake was surprisingly delicate and enjoyable (I don't ordinarily like licorice flavor). The rolled gelee lollipop was the only real miss - I still haven't had the equal of a tender gelee in a Quebec restaurant.

Overall, the meal was very satisfying. The focus on seafood meant it was a bit lighter than other tasting menus and let us enjoy the varied desserts at the end of the meal. It was definitely less bombastic than the Vegas fine dining restaurants that I've dined at, but more consistent - fewer hits and only one miss.

Other than a slight snafu with the water (mom was drinking sparkling, mine was still - they got confused a couple times) service was attentive and friendly. I'm not sure if it was because of the water confusion, but they only charged us for the first bottles of water, which was appreciated. At the end of a long meal, the head chef, Heinz Beck, came around for compliments and photos.

La Pergola
Rome Cavalieri
Via Alberto Cadlolo 101,
00136 Rome, Italy

Posted by JAY at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)