Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cannes, France

We decided to just do a short and not too strenuous excursion for the port in Cannes, France. So we signed up for a bus tour through the city and along the French Riviera. The views were spectacular...the French Riviera is absolutely beautiful.

We got to see some pretty cool sites too - like a crazy-looking house designed by the Italian fashion designer Pierre Cardin, the island where the legend of the Man in the Iron Mask was originated, and of course the famous red carpet steps of the Cannes Film Festival.

The beaches there were, of course, toppless - and John snapped a picture of some bare boobies, but I deleted it (he was not a happy camper!).

Here are the pictures from Cannes:

Friday, August 29, 2008


We had our final day at sea after leaving Messina and then headed to Barcelona. John and I decided that since we such a great time on the bike tour in Croatia that we would do it again in Barcelona.

Let me just say this - doing a bike tour in the country and doing a bike tour in a city - 2 totally different things! Not only was it a challenge trying to veer around pedestrians and cars, but the other people on the excursion were the biggest challenge. I don't think that some of those people had been on a bike in decades - they made for a very frustrating ride through the city.

Otherwise - the sites were amazing. We rode through the city, visiting the various squares and amazing works of architecture. My favorite part was riding through the Olympic Village and seeing the rows of flagpoles from the 1992 Olympics.

Here is the link to the Barcelona pictures:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Taormina and Mt. Etna

We had another day at sea after we left Venice, and I used the free time to indulge in a pedicure. It was pretty expensive, but at that point, I didn't care.

The following morning we were at port in Messina, Sicily. The excursion that we chose was to go to Taormina and Mt. Etna. In Taormina, we were able to admire the views of the coast and Mt. Etna from a distance. We toured the Greek Theater, which is known for its width and unique acoustic effects...we had some fun there as you will see in the pictures. Then we did some shopping and strolling through the streets of Taormina.

Afterward, we enjoyed a lunch in Catania, which is a town that was almost destroyed by the lava flow of Etna due to the fact that it is situated at the base of Mt. Etna. There is a picture that I took from the balcony of the restaurant where you can see how close the lava actually came to the town in the past.

Then we rode a motor coach to 6200 feet up Mt. Etna to the Silvestri Craters and the impressive 1983 lava flow. John and I successfully made it to the top of the crater (John had some trouble getting up there - swimming recently has paid off for me!). The views from the top were amazing! The worst part was the wind - I was seriously afraid that I was going to be pushed off the top by the strong gusts of wind. Then, for as easy as a time that I had getting up there - getting back down was a challenge for me - it was so steep that you could have easily just tumbled the whole way down, but I made it!

Finally, we traveled back down the mountain, saw some current lava action, drove through Messina, and headed back to the ship.

Here are the pictures from Taormina and Mt. Etna:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Venice, part 2

For our second day in Venice, we decided to not go on an organized excursion. Instead we took a boat from the port to St. Mark's Square and had a day on our own.

Although the line to enter the Basilica was quite long, we found a side entrance and were able to admire the church from within. Actually, when I was there in high school, I attend mass there - which was cool. It was in Latin, so I understood nothing, but still cool.

Afterward, we wandered the streets behind the square and did some shopping. We ate lunch in the square, and just enjoyed the atmosphere.

By the afternoon, it was so HOT (like it was the entire trip), we decided to head back to the ship. One of the best parts of Venice was leaving it - because we were able to watch the city as we sailed by - there are tons of pictures of this.

Here is the link for Venice, part 2:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Venice, part 1

We arrived in Venice the afternoon after Croatia. We decided to do an excursion including a gondola ride, St. George's Island, and a tour of a Murano glass factory.

The gondola ride was first. Let me just say this - it is really strange that the main mode of transportation for the city of Venice is boats. Rush hour on the Grand Canal is quite crazy. There we were, 6 people in a very narrow gondola, and various motor boats zooming past us leaving us in their wakes. It was a lot of fun though!

Then we went to St. George's Island, which is directly across from St. Mark's Square. St. George's cathedral is gorgeous and we went to the top of the bell tower where we saw great sites of Venice.

Afterward, we went to a Murano glass factory where we got to see a glass blowing demonstration, which was awesome! The pictures are blurry because the expert glass blower was moving so fast that my camera couldn't get clear shots. We browsed through the gallery and did some shopping. After a stop for gelato, we headed back to the ship.

Here is the link for Venice, part 1 pictures:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dubrovnik, Croaita

There was a day at sea in between the ports of Naples and Dubrovnik, where we just lounged by the pool and relaxed for a day, which was great.

Before we left for the cruise, I was browsing the excursions and the one that really caught my eye in Croatia was a kayaking and beach excursion. I was bummed when I realized that I waited too long to reserve 2 tickets...there was actually a waiting list by the time we got onto the boat. So, we decided to do a bike tour.

We started with a bus ride toward the east, through the countryside of Zupa Dubrovacka (Parish of Dubrovnik), and the villages of Kupari, Srebreno, Mlini and Plat. We then traveled through Konavle Valley, Croatia’s southernmost region, where the hills border Bosnia and Herzegovina. When we arrived in a town called Gruda, we started our bike tour, which was about 3 hours. Half way through the ride we stopped at a Franciscan monastery for a break.

It was truly breathtaking - Croatia is a beautiful country. We even saw bullet-holes in some houses and churches from the war in Bosnia in the 90's.

Here is the link for the Croatia pictures:

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Island of Capri

So once we finally got on to the boat and unpacked, we were totally spent. We relaxed by the pool and watched over the side as we pulled away from the port at Civitavecchia. We were not looking forward to getting up early for the next day's excursion.

However, the excursion was amazing! Naples is not the prettiest city and although seeing Pompeii and what Mt. Vesuvius did to it is kinda cool (I was there in high school), we opted to go and spend the entire day on the island of Capri - right move!

We took a jetfoil from the port in Naples to the island. We drove up a hill (which the people there refer to as "Mama Mia") to Anacapri. There, we rode chairlifts up the mountain and experienced the most breathtaking scenery. Later, drove back down Mama Mia and had a yummy lunch, and then did some shopping.

It was maybe one of my favorite stops!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Holy Rome

Okay, this is how it is gonna go - I am dividing the pictures up into the various ports throughout the cruise. That way, there are not hundreds of pictures to view all at once. So, here is goes:

First, we start with "Holy Rome," which is the excursion we did as soon as we landed in Rome. So, we left Pittsburgh at 1pm and flew to Newark. We left Newark at around 5pm or so, and landed in Rome at about 7-8am. Needless to say, we were exhausted and not expecting the intense heat or the intense crowds at the Vatican.

We went through the Vatican museums, through the Sistine Chapel, ending with St. Peter's Basilica. I think due to the heat and exhaustion, I slacked on the pictures here, so I apologize for the minimal amount.

It was an amazing experience. I had been there before, but it is still truly magnificent. However, when I was last there (granted it was 14 years ago) the crowds were not nearly to the extent as they were on this trip. Actually, there were hardly any crowds at all 14 years ago...I was amazed with all of the people there.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the disrespect of other tourists. For expample, upon entering into the Sistine Chapel there were signs and guards indicating to be silent and that there is absolutely NO PHOTOGRAPHY! So, as we were admiring the work of Michelangelo, I kept catching people sneaking got to the point where I started putting my hand in front of their cameras. I mean it - what made them so special that they felt that they had the right to disregard the rules. Unbelievable!

After the excursion in Vatican City, we loaded a bus which took us to Civitavecchia, where we got onto the boat.

Below is the link to my "Holy Rome" pictures:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

and the new Bachelor is going to be...


I am shocked. I thought for sure that he would not be up for something like this again considering his son, his rejection from DeAnna, and all...boy, was I wrong. My money was on the new Bachelor being Jeremy. US magazine published an article about the details.

Can't wait until January!

Monday, August 18, 2008

All in a day's work...

5 loads of laundry - DONE - everything is folded and put away.

I am officially unpacked!

Home again

Saturday, August 16
In Italy - awake at 7:00am
In Italy - in bed at 12:00am

Sunday, August 17
In Italy - awake at 3:00am
In Italy - drove 3 1/2 hours to Rome airport (slept about 20 minutes)
Flew 9 hours to Newark (slept about 1 hour)
In US - missed connecting flight because Rome flight left an hour late
In US - new flight to Pittsburgh delayed
Arrive in Pittsburgh at 8:30pm
In bed at 11:00pm

Monday, August 18
Alarm off at 4:10am
At work by 5:20am

countries visited - 4
ports of call - 9
meals - countless
pictures - 1000
hometowns in Italy - 2
hours of sleep over the past 48 hours - 6

Vacation of a lifetime - PRICELESS!

Pictures will follow soon!