I am back from my latest abroad adventure, and what an adventure it was! You’d think that being on a cruise is a relaxing experience, but I can tell you that it is not. My father turns 50 this autumn, so my family and my uncle’s family (they’re twins) went on this cruise to celebrate. We started our trip in Barcelona on Friday, spending two days in what turned out to be a ridiculously expensive hotel. They charged us so much for changing the room arrangements (even though the site we ordered through didn’t have a fee as long as we made the changes more than 24 hours prior to the check-inn, which we did but we couldn’t get a hold of them), that we might as well have rented new rooms. In addition the mail we got from them implied that breakfast was included, so we assumed that it was, but it turned out to not to be. Needless to say that the hotel did not live up to our expectations, especially considering how expensive it was. Still, Barcelona was beautiful! Hot, but beautiful. We had breakfast at a tapas restaurant, and the six of us having breakfast, coffee, dessert and fresh juice was cheaper than two of us eating at the hotel. I went on a Hop-on-Hop-off buss with my mother and my sisters, so we got to see most of Barcelona and not to mention the La Sagrada Familia which was just stunning.
Sunday we boarded the ship Norwegian Epic, which is HUGE! Walking from one end to another took forever, and it had 15 decks, 10 of which was open to us with a spa, a salon, a sun deck with a pool and several water slides, a casino, and lots and lots of places to eat. As large as the ship was, I wish it was bigger because there was soooo much people there! People everywhere, bumping into you, squeezing past you or even stepping over you as you try to relax on the sundeck. Luckily we just spent the first day at sea and the remaining days docked at different harbors.
Monday was spent at sea just getting used to the ship and the facilities, and Tuesday we docked in Naples. I remember the first time I heard about Pompeii which lies just 20 minutes or so outside of Naples; I must have been 11 or 12 years old and we read about it at school. The picture that went with the text was of two of the people who was caught by the disaster. The entire city was drowned in ashes, and they have managed to reconstruct a lot of it, including some of the people. They were trapped under the ashes, and as their bodies turned to dust they left an empty space in the ground like a mold, and by filling this mold we now can see statues of the people who used to live in Pompeii, including the look on their faces as they died. The picture in our school book showed the statue of a woman trying to shield her child from the fire and ashes raining down on them, and I could never forget the sight of them.
My mother, two of my sisters and I took a taxi from the marina to Pompeii and back for 90 euros, and he waited for 1,5 hours while we walked around in the city. I really recommend the experience, though I do NOT recommend going there in July. I wish we had gone in May or April because it was so incredibly hot and not a lot of shade. We didn’t even have time to see 1/4 of the city, and sadly we thought that all the people would be in a museum of some kind at the end, but it turned out that they were somewhere in the city and we didn’t have a map. I’ll definitely be going back sometime, with more time and at a better time. I would also like to explore Naples a bit more when I’m not in danger of having a heat stroke.
Wednesday we docked in Civitavecchia or “the port of Rome” as it is known as. My two oldest sisters joined one of the Cruise’s trips to Rome (which cost a fortune), but my parents and I had already been there before so we just walked around the small coastal town a bit, having lunch before returning to the ship. It was a pretty uneventful day which was good because I did a bit too much walking in Naples, so my stomach was really sore that day. It could be that we only saw the outskirts of the town, seeing as we came through the harbour, but my impression of Civitavecchia was a small town with a few stores and a few cafés (who advertised to have free wifi, which conveniently was down that day). Still, it was nice to have a calm, quiet day after the hustle and heat of Pompeii and Naples.
We docked in Livorno in Italy on Thursday, which was just a 15 minutes train ride from Pisa, so of course we had to go and see the leaning tower. We walked down one of the main streets of the city, and I have to say that it was my favourite city to visit. The streets were narrow enough and with tall enough buildings to be in the shade, and though they were slightly crowded, it was still bearable unlike some of the other cities I’ve been to. We found the leaning tower easily enough, and later ate the world’s best pizza. I could only have half a slice, but my 10 year old sister ate almost an entire pizza, and my father ate almost two. Needless to say that not a single slice went to waste, and we tipped generously so everyone was pleased, including the waitress.
We walked a lot, but made sure to take enough breaks to make it comfortable for all of us, and even locate a café with internet so my parents could download the newspaper, and the rest of us could update our facebook statuses with pictures of us pushing or holding up the leaning tower of Pisa.
It felt so strange, going to bed in Italy on Thursday and waking up the next day in France. I have been to France before, but never to the south, and Marseille was very very different from Paris, especially this time of the year. The name Marseille was constantly bugging me, I knew I had heard or read about it, but it was’t until I saw the Island of If and the Château d’If that I remembered. Both Marseille and the Château are featured in one of my favourite books, The Count of Monte Cristo. I used to listen to the exciting tale of Edmund Dantes on my aunt’s old tape-player as a child, and it was wonderful to not only see the city he grew up in, but also (sadly from a distance) see the island and the prison where he was imprisoned for so many years. Needless to say that I am now re-reading the book. It was such a pleasant surprise because I didn’t see it coming, and didn’t realize where I was until it was announced over the speakers in the small train my mother, youngest sister and I was taking through the city.
Saturday was the last day on the ship, and we were docked in Palma, Mallorca. It was incredibly hot outside, and my family was planning on taking a taxi to the beach. Seeing as I was still prohibited from bathing by my doctor, I opted to stay on board the ship rather than to get fried alive on a beach where everyone else would be spending most of their time in the water. I spend the time in my parent’s suite (they had a balcony, we did not) reading a book and keeping myself hydrated. After more than a week in constant company of other people, the alone time with my kindle was wonderful, and after hearing about exactly how hot it was and how long they had to walk to actually get to the beach, I don’t regret staying on board the ship.
Getting off the ship the last day actually took more time than getting on board the first day. The line went all the way from the front of the ship, to the back, and then back to the front again and it took forever to get off, mostly because people were always cutting the line. After an hour in line, another 30 minutes in line at the airport, 2 hours of waiting at the gate and then an hour of waiting on the plane (it was delayed) we were finally on our way home. Of course we had to change planes once and wait another 5 hours, and then drive 3-4 hours, but at 00:30 at night, after 15,5 hours of travel we were finally at home, and I suspect that the entire house was asleep 10 minutes after we unlocked the front door.
The trip was both exciting and exhausting, and I recommend everyone to try it at least once. The ship was a bit too crowded for our taste, but then again this was high-season, so we were expecting it.