Sunday, September 28 - Burlington to London

When the taxi in Burlington was later picking us up, we hoped it wasn't an omen. Apparently it wasn't because traffic was fine, we got to the airport in plenty of time and were upgraded to " World Traveller Plus" which is really Business Class -- very comfortable for the cross Atlantic trip.

Monday, September 29 - London to Rome

In spite of the comfort of the trip, Jan didn't sleep much. Larry got several hours, though, so was very refreshed. We travelled through Heathrow's new Terminal 5, so it was pretty much hassle-free. It's a beautiful facility with lots of high-end shopping. the flight to Rome was quick an easy, and surprisingly comfortable and spacious for tourist class. The shuttle we had arranged 8 months ago was waiting for us with a sign no less, and our friendly Australian/Roman driver Sergio kept us entertained on the trip to the Hotel Les Chambres d'Or. We're so glad not to be trying to drive around Rome! Mazes of very crowded streets many one-way kept him going a while before we spotted the hotel. Its entrance is very unobtrusive and the lobby/breakfast room/bar tiny, but very attractive. The staff are very friendly and helpful. After enjoying a complimentary drink, we were taken to our rooms, about a block from the lobby. A mass of keys will get us in whenever we are out and about.

The room is fresh and clean and comfortable - nicely decorated and with a view out the open window of a corner of the Vatican City in the distance. Thanks Lisa and Quintin for suggesting this place!! Jan napped while Larry got out the laptop and figured out the internet connection.

In preparation for this vacation I watched the movie Roman Holiday and the building our room is in is just like the one where Cary Grant had his apartment, though without his view. After our rest, we walked over to see St. Peter's Square - words fail!! And then we had an hour or so before the Basilica closed, so we wandered through it -- Again - no words!! Perhaps the most interesting thing was after we were out, we realized Larry left a camera case away deep in the cathedral. Because it had closed we had to get an armed escort back in to get it. The place was absolutely empty and errily quiet except for a choir which was rehearsing a recording in one of the chapel areas. Magnificent!

Dinner afterward at a small nearby restaurant was nice but not spectacular. We were tired enough not to really care. Back to our room before 9 pm to rest up for tomorrow - our hop-on-hop-off.

Photos Sep 29

Tuesday, September 30 - Rome, Italy

We certainly slept well in this very comfortable firm bed. Rome seems surprisingly quiet during the night, but there were very peculiar thumps and bumps inside the building. This morning we were ready for breakfast as soon as they started serving it at 7:45. Wonderful cappuccino to start the day, along with pastries and sandwiches. Then we walked to the Vatican Museum. We joined the queue about 2 blocks from the entrance but it moved quickly so we were inside in about 20 minutes.

By the time we left, the queue was much longer - about 2 hours, and continuing to grow. Inside we were stunned by the amount of priceless art in such large and beautiful surroundings. It defies description, and our photos tell only a miniscule part of the story. We both enjoyed this museum more that the Hermitage, but occasionally the lack of information left us wondering what we were looking at. Eventually we made our way to the Sistine Chapel, which was packed shoulder to shoulder and very warm. Guards were directing traffic and reminding people to maintain respectful silence - largely unsuccessfully. We both thought it was entirely unlike our expectations, but extremely impressive, of course. Afterward we wandered through a few galleries of contemporary art that we had entirely to ourselves. Eventually we found the beautiful double spiral staircase and made our way out ot the street.

We picked up our hop-on bus tour in front of St. Peter's and rode as far as the Coliseum, catching glimpses of many parts oft the city along the way. We have tickets for the Coliseum on Thursday, so just walked around the area and ate lunch from a street vendor. We walked all aound the outside of the Form/Ancient Rome and could see many of the excavated ruins. We picked up the tour again for a short hop to the Campidoglio where we admired a different view of the ancient city ruins.

Another short hop took us to the area of the Parthenon/Basilica of Mary and the Martyrs -- what an astonishing place!! It's been there for nearly 2000 years and is still intact and very beautiful. It was taken over as a Christian place, but still is in its original state otherwise. From there we walked to the Piazza Novorna here we had coffee, beer and biscotti while we enjoyed the passing scene. Then we wandered through the artists' vending areas and enjoyed their displays.

After a fruitless attempt to find the bus stop to rejoin the tour, we walked across the bridge to the Castel Sant Angelo - an impressive place. Then barely missing the tour bus again, we wandered back to the hotel, picking up supper makings at a deli. A drink in the bar, little walk in our neighbourhood and we're done for the day. Whew!! Saw lots and really enjoyed Rome today.  

 Photos 30 Sep

Wednesday, October 1 - Rome, Italy

We slept a bit later this morning and found the breakfast room quite crowded. The cappuccino was still quite wonderful though. We caught our last ride on the hop-on-hop-off tour before our 24 hours pass expired, and went the Trevi Fountain to begin our day. We arrived there with no coins to throw over our shoulder but enjoyed the early light on the fountain, and then set off for the Spanish Steps. We had difficulty getting the streets to match our maps so joined forces with another North American couple and found it fairly easily. We climbed the steps, enjoyed the view and then toured the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.

We strolled along the upper road to the gardens overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. On the way down to the piazza we discovered an exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci’s works – primarily his inventions modeled with his original drawings.

We couldn’t get into the Santa Maria del Popolo church, so strolled on to the Mausoleum of Augustus (circa 28 BC). There’s a lot of excavation around it and we couldn’t get too close, but it’s certainly impressive.

Across the Cavour Bridge we hoped to find a café for lunch, but no luck. Too much construction. Eventually we made our way to Castel Sant’Angelo where we lunched on street food. We climbed to the top terrace of the Castel, to take in the astonishing views of Rome from that vantage point. By the time we came down again we were ready for a rest, so made our way back to the hotel.

We’ve walked a lot here, and so have interesting street-level impressions of the city – the amazing smell of good espresso on nearly every corner — the insane traffic and proliferation of scooters and small cars ( “Smart Cars” are the norm here ) – archaeological excavations everywhere and amazing antiquities - many men in clerical collars and women in habits everywhere.

Today we saw a nun with a sun visor over her veil. Mostly friendly, helpful people with patience for non-Italian-speakers - marble cobblestones – women in crazy high-heeled shoes and boots. How do their ankles survive? – everyone eating gelato – How do their waistlines survive ?

After our afternoon break we walked to the closest piazza and had a gelato ( before dinner ! ), then sat at the outdoor area of the hotel’s café. We got chatting with an interesting couple, named Marian and Harry, from Glasgow. They’re off to San Giovanni tomorrow and we’re looking forward to hearing how their experience there goes.

Now we must pack so we can make a graceful exit out of here early tomorrow. We’ll have to beg to store our luggage here until 2 when our transport to the ship at Civitavecchia arrives. We are off to the ruins of the Colleseum and Ancient Rome in the morning.  

Thursday, Octotober 2 - Rome, Italy

A bright & early start, packing up, breakfast at the hotel and off to the Metro to findo our way to the Colosseum - easy and pleasant. The Rome subway is modern, clean and smooth. The Colosseam is very interesting - it has stood for nearly 2000 years in spite of fires and being looted for building materials. A major restoraton is underway. We wandered then went into the major mid-city Palatine ares of ruins. It is vast, and once away from the edges, quiet and peaceful. There are tall trees and shady areas. A lovely museum of recovered artefacts - statues, mosaic floors, and wall sections, etc, from several different areas. We enjoyed wandering among the half and fully ruined walls and buildings.
Steps of many kinds and paths. Around lunch time we made our way back to the metro and to the hotel.
That's when the fun began. The concierge conveyed a message from the shuttle company that there was a rumour in the Port that our ship, the Braemar, had been diverted to Salermo, the Port of Naples. So we called the ship - busy signal repeatedly for 15 minutes - tried Fred Olsen offices in London and our call was put on hold and eventual dropped.
Finally we decided to simply go to the port as scheduled. When we arrived, a Fred Olsen rep. met us with the news that the ship was actually in Palermo, Sicily and we'd be joining it there. With 2 other couples we were driven to the Rome airport, handed tickets by another rep. and proceeded to check in.
Then it got interesting again - we had not packed for domestic flights with very limited luggage allowances, and instead of simply paying for the overage, the rep insisted we repack, right there in front of the line! Embarrassing to say the least, and since didn't really didn't understand the object of the exercise, somewhat futile. In any case we finally satisfied the agent. Then we were told to run! because the flight was boarding in 5 minutes. Security, fortunately was a breeze, and we got to the boarding area in plenty of time to join the line and board. In Palermo we were once again met by cruise line reps who showed us to our buses. There were people coming in on several flights, including those who had had to make their own way to Palermo from places like Barcelona, Spain.
So we waited onboard the bus for about 45 minutes, then a 50 minutes drive brought us to the ship, arriving about 8 PM. Check-in was quick and we found our cabin easily. We are most favourably impress with the accomodations - lots of space, closets, drawer, comfortable chairs, TV, fridge, etc. Finally around 10 we went for dinner as the last few passengers were arriving from the airport. It was delicious and the service was terrific. This is a lovely ship. We'll explore it more thoroughly tomorrow, though it will not be a day of cruising as planned but back to Italy mainland, Reggio di Calibrio, for the ship to replenish while we wander around town.  

Friday, October 3; Reggio di Calabria, Italy

Nice chat over breakfast with 4 stranger, then a bit of time to explore the ship before the safety drill. By late morning the ship was cleared (customs) and we went ashore at Reggio di Calabria 'on the big toe of Italy' as Larry says. It's not a very exciting place and the ship only stopped for provisions, but Larry got a couple of shirts which he needed and we had a nice stroll on the promenade which is beautiful. Lunch and more ship exploration followed by an illustrated talk on some of our ports of call coming up.
We had a cocktail reception with the First Officer (while the Captain got the ship out of port) followed by a formal dinner with everyone in formal wear. We met our table partners for the cruise. Very nice. Larry was greatly entertained by the 87-year-old Queen E lookalike beside him. We enjoyed a lively show in one of the lounges before setting our clocks ahead an hour and going to bed. ( Mac! now we are 7 hours ahead of you guys )

Photos Oct 3

Saturday, October 4; Katakalon, Greece

We slept in a bit this morning, so had to hustle to have breakfast before Larry went to a shore talk and Jan to line dancing followed by a quiz session. Didn't entirely disgrace myself in spite of the very British bias of the quiz. Then a quick lunch and off to Olympia. This site, the original start of the Olympics in about 275BC, is entirely ruins with the exception of the stadium. Three thousand years ago there were no seats for spectators, just gassy slopes and those are intact. We saw where the torch is lit for every modern Olympic games and learned that the ancient 'games' were very different and part of a 3-month truce from continual waring every 4 years. The museum holds stunning artefacts from the site. Then are largely preserved because it was inundated and covered in mud for more than 10 centuries. The port town of Katakalon is small but colourful and we enjoyed the beautiful view of its harbour from the ship. While we were at dinner the sun set most spectacularly. We enjoyed a spectacular 'Vegas-style' performance of music from the movies and then another quiz session before bed.
We enjoy seeing how the staff set up our bedding twice a day. My night gown is always laid out in some fancy way ( wish I'd brought classier lingeries!! ) and the pillows, duvet, bed spread etc arranged artfully. 

Photos Oct 4

Sunday, October 5; Chania & Rethymnon Crete

It was a fairly early start to catch the bus tour to Rethymnon. Our guide was very pleasant and easy to listen to. She pointed out and explained the geography of Crete and gave us a brief summary of the history of the island. Our first stop was Fortezza Castle, a Venetian structure whose walls are largely intact, but the buildings are in ruins. The views are fantastic. The museum in the castle contains many new finds, which show that Crete was at least visited, if not inhabited, much earlier than had been thought.
We couldn't photograph most exhibits because they haven't been published yet, but they were so well-organized and displayed that they really told the story. After the castle we walked through this lovely, colourful town, enjoying the architecture and flowers as well as the shops, etc. I bought a necklace, since I've broken 2 that I brought with me. The waves were really breaking over the walls in the harbour, a bit of a preview for the evening on the ship. The high wind was blowing spray as well. Back onboard we enjoyed a late lunch and admired the views from the decks, though the high winds make it uncomfortable. in the open. We took coffee outside and it actually blew out of the cups! I joined a bingo game in the afternoon and was just 1 number away from a £70 jackpot. We went to a short church service, then dressed and went to dinner. During dinner we left port and immediately started pitching around. Making our way to the comedy show was a challenge and the comedian actually couldn't do parts of his show. He ended with a rather burlish and raunchy version of Rindercella which we enjoyed. By then we decided that our cabin was the safest place to be with the rolling and pitching. The captain hopes we'll be into calmer seas before midnight. Luckily, neither of us is suffering at all from the motion.

Monday, October 6; Corinth & Mycenae, Greece

We keep picking the excursions with early starts! Today we got tangled up in Athens rush hour traffic as we made our way from Piraeas to Corinth. Once out of the traffic, though, we drove along the Aegean Coast to the Corinth Canal. It is an amazing feat of engineering, linking the Aegean and Ionian Seas; they had to dig through 6km of rock more than 100 feet high.
At Corinth we saw the ruins of the very cosmopolitan city where St. Paul stayed for some time. On then to Mycenae, with its cyclopean walls made of very heavy blocks of stone stacked in various ways. There are two ancient cemeteries there, where a great deal of treasure has been found. Larry climbed to the top ( acropolis),but I stayed low down to watch. Then we visited the Tomb of Agamemnon (so called ) which has an interesting beahive shape, but was empty when discovered. We then had a lovely 5-course mid-afternoon meal in a large restaurant before returning to the ship. We were tired and it was a bit late, so we didn't go to the dining room. Instead we had a later dinner in the buffet, followed by a show in the lounge where we enjoyed the company of a couple from our dinner table.  

Photos Oct 6

Tuesday, October 7th; Athens, Greece

An early start in order to be into central Athens by about 9. The traffic is horrific and every trip takes forever. 
The Acropolis was as amazing as we could have hoped. Pictures, of course, don't do it justice. The Parthenon is covered on one side with scaffolding because of restoration work, but the rest is visible. Our tour of Athens included the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier - Quite a show - they goose-step and more, and have a very tightly - chloreographed routine. Back at the ship we went on deck to enjoy the leaving-port show, then off to various activities.  

Photos Oct 7

Wednesday, October 8th; Marmaris, Turkey and Rhodes, Greece

We arrived in port at Marmaris, Turkey this morning. It's a beautiful area - lots of pine forests, steep slopes, colourful villages. We took a bus to Dalyan, which is in a conservation area. Along the way we enjoyed the beauty of the landscape and learned, among other things, about the wonders of pine honey. Many honeybees in this area of pine forests. We saw fields of cotton, citrus orchards, sesame seeds being harvested, pomegranate groves and other crops. It appears to be a prosperous area, but there is much less traffic than we've seen elsewhere. There is a lot of highway construction to widen the roads.
At Dalyan we boarded small boats for the trip to Kaunos passing amazing Lycean tombs carved into the rock walls high above the river. At Kaunos we had a long walk up to the ruins of this former seaport of pre-Roman times (until the harbour silted in). The ruins and particularly the amphitheatre was quite amazing and we disturbed a mountain goat grazing among the 'bleachers'.
Back at the ship we watched the beautiful harbour recede and a few hours later arrived at the Greek Island of Rhodes. It has an ever more amazing harbour. Very beautiful, surrounded with crenalated walls and buildings like something out of the middle ages. The harbour was very beautiful at night with all the lights.
We've been enjoying professional entertainment in the lounges every night. Tonight many people went ashore, so the pros took the night off and the amateurs among the cruise staff put on an excellent show. Then it was time to turn in early for tomorrow is very early departure on our Rhodes tour.

Photos Oct 8

Thursday, October 9th; Island of Rhodes, Greece

Our tour to lovely Lindros was certainly worth getting up early for! It is a lovely place: a lower town of immaculate white buildings and a mediaval fortress with some parts dating back to BC times. Our guide, Dora (as she said: 'not the explorer') was very good. We drove out of Rhodes City and along the coast for about 45 minutes.
At Lindos a shuttle took us to the lower town, then we climbed the 399 steps to the acropolis. It was well-defended and well-provisioned to provide shelter for all the town's residents im case of attack. There are layers of history dating back 2700 years the worship of the Greek gods through the 14th century, when the Knights of St. John occupied the island for a long time before moving on to Malta. The market lined the winding road up to the fortress and both of us did some shopping (Jan more than Lar by a long shot ).
Back to the ship for a noon sailing. We continued to be blessed with fine weather, usually a bit overcast and cool enough that we don't suffer as we clamber around all these ruins.
...later: Tonight was a western night on board, so we ate Prime Texas beef, wore western clothes and listened to western music. The entertainment included saloon girls and cowboys and nightly quiz was all about things western - we thought we had a chance, but didn't do so well -- well, everyone else was on a team of at least 4.  

Photos Oct 9

Friday October 10th; Limassol, Cyprus

The port of Limassol, Cyprus is very utilitarian and not as interesting as Rhodes. We left early for the drive/tour to Omodos Village in the Troodos Mountains. This was a very relaxed tour. We cruised through lovely but very dry countryside ( Cyprus is experiencing severe drought conditions - they get water only Mon, Wed, Fri for 12 hours each ) to this peaceful village, then strolled its streets and market. We walked through the small, beautiful church which contains many relics including a piece of the true cross and holy robe ( maybe!! ).
After a bit of shopping in the market, we enjoyed a cappucino at an outdoor café, then drove to a taverna for wine, cheese, olives and bread. There were cats and kittens frolicking around , which amused us all. Cats are 'big' on Cyprus, as they were brought in to control the snake population ( really... not the cats I know!! ).
Back at the ship we paused only briefly, then caught the shuttle to downtown Limassol for a bit of shopping and to try to find an internet café to upload photos. We found an interesting place where Larry was able to upload a bunch while Janice found good shopping ( that made the internet free!! ). Onboard we joined the rousing 'leaving point' party on the aft decks with free-flowing punch, followed by a rather dismal game of bingo - neither of us got even close enough to increase our pulse rate!! Evening entertainment is early tonight because tomorrow is an early departure for a long day in Egypt (where we sail to overnight).  

Saturday October 11th; Port Said, Cairo, & Giza Egypt

The first impression of Port Said was the smell of charcoal. Since we had to be ready to go ashore at 6:30, we were up at about 5:15. Imagine everyone's surprise at the announcement that Egypt had ended Daylight Saving Time a bit early, and so it was really only 5:30! (Larry got up at 5 to watch the approach to the Suez Canal...that turned out to be 4am!).Many people were very upset by the error, but we just relaxed and watched the docking process. Making our way to the buses gave us our first exposure to the aggressive Egyptian hawkers. Yikes! But it is a develping country, and I guess they have families to feed. The long ride to Cairo through the Sahara was interesting. Much of this edge of the desert is being reclaimed for agriculture, but to our eyes it is still vast and drab. The Suez canal parallelled our route but we couldn't see much of it. The traffic was pretty heavy, but we had a police escort and cross roads were blocked by police so our convoy of 15 busses could sail through (it helps to have police with a siren up front who radio to police ahead to block crossing traffic). Security was heavy and armed guards evident everywhere.
Traffic in Cairo itself was chaotic but our driver was masterful & we seemed to get through it just fine, eventually crossing the Nile to Giza and arriving at the pyramids which turn out to be just around a corner from Giza). For the first time, neither of us was surprised by the size of the pyramids, but Larry expected the sphinx to be bigger. We were a bit surprised by the good condition of the pyramids, particularly the part at the top of one of them that still has most of the outside covering on it. The whole area is interesting, with many smaller pyramids and desert stretching away. Again, there were aggressive, annoying, almost frightening vendors and security people taking money for anything you could guess.
Larry went into the middle of one pyramid, an experience he ranks with the last 5 miles of his marathon -- no air, little light, no space, nearly crawling to get through the passage with hundreds of other people., many turned back along the way. Janice stood by for photos and the security people kicked her out 4 times before she actually got the shot -- always have a dollar bill handy in these circumstances. There were also lots of camels and their drivers offering rides &/or photo ops. We took a pass on that but enjoyed watching.
At the sphinx we wandered through one of the funerary chambers. This adds a dimension to everything we've read about the preparation of mummies and the associated rites.
Leaving that area, we went for lunch at a former palace which is now a luxury hotel. Beautiful & delicious. Then to the museum. The building is certainly not impressive but oh goodness! the displays! We had seen the King Tut exhibit in Toronto in December 1980, but that was a very small part of the treasure we saw here. As well, of course, we were able to see treasures from many of the thousands of other archaeological sites in Egypt. Crowded, hot, noisy, stuffy, but very well worth the visit.
On the trip back to Port Said we passed through truly appalling slums in central Cairo. What a contrast to the luxury hotels and embassys, etc. Half-finished buildings (no finish/no tax) , garbage everywhere, building rubble that may be either a collapsed building or a building site, donkey and pony carts among the cars and trucks. Most women wear long skirts or pants, long sleeves and cover their heads. A few wear full covering with only a slit for their eyes, or a veil. Others, like our guide, wear western dress and no head covering. There are many styles of head covering, many quite beautiful, and it's interesting to see display in store windows of western style dress but with scarves over the head of every mannequin.

Coming back to the ship in the dark, we once again had a security escort. We could see the lights of several ships in the Suez Canal. We were tired and dirty, and still had to run the gauntlet of hawkers at the pier. Security stopped the xray machine for about 5 minutes, leaving us standing waiting while vendors harrassed us -- apparently just because they could. Cairo may not be a place we yearn to return to, but it was certainly worth the visit. A quick dinner, very enjoyable 'Big Band' show in the lounge and early to bed. 

Photos 11 Oct

Sunday, October 12th - At Sea HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY LUC!!

The first of two consecutive days at sea, so time to relax and recuperate from all the touring. Unfortunately, we hit rather rough weather early in the day, and many people became sea sick. Both of us felt it, but made it through without incident. Enough onboard activities to enjoy ( quizzes, bingo, port lectures ) but the evening show was cancelled out of concern for the safety of the dance performers. Instead, a rather good vocal concert was given by 2 of the regular show performers . Also most decks were closed because of gale force winds and spray.

Late in the evening there was the high drama of a med-evac event. With the bad weather and no helicopter landing space, it was all quite dicey, but was successfully completed in short order with a stretcher/cable procedure. From the first ship-wide page (`Code A Gold') to the departure of the helicopter to Crete was under 2 hours.

Photos Oct 12


Monday, October 13 - At Sea - Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The weather continued rough through the morning, but became significantly calmer by late afternoon - those who had been seasick begain to reappear around lunch time. We got a good laugh when one of the housekeepers lined up about 30 barf bags along the hand rails in her section - open and ready for use.

During the morning some of my quiz buddies asked if I was going to the Canada Quiz that night - 'well', I said,' I must be doing the Canada Quiz after all!!' I had offered, but never heard back, so I checked the Daily Schedule Paper and sure enough it was published to the ship! I tracked down the host and made our arrangements and WE WERE ON!

Meanwhile, we'd heard that there were several other Canadians onboard - a group from Calgary, mostly in their 20s. The rest of the day was the usual round of daytime activities and a good show at night. After that we donned our CANADA shirts and set up for the quiz. The place was packed! We handed out CANADA pencils to everyone - actually ran out. Larry passed around chocolate Loonies and Toonies. The quiz was a great success and the prizes went over well. People keep stopping us and mentioning it. Fun! The normal quiz host got so excited he said he had never seen anything like it on any cruise, and called in the ship photographer to take photos for HQ. 

Photos 13 Oct

Tuesday, October 14 - Malta - Good luck to all of us on Election Day

Early morning found us tying up in the harbour at Valetta, Malta. We went ashore after breakfast and took a bus into town. It's a lovely little city! What contrast to Port Said, Egypt! We strolled the main street, drank some cappucino and did some shopping. We caught the bus back to the harbour and had lunch at café on the wharf, where Larry was successful at linking to internet service but was unable to upload photos.

Back on board we got ready for the afternoon excursion around the island of Malta. We visited a botanical garden around the Presidential Palace, then a craft village that is housed in buildings on an old RAF base from WW2. The filigree-making and glass works were very interesting to watch and we did buy a few things. After that, we went to a local winery, also on former RAF land ( a torn-up runway is part of it) and sample white and red wines and local cheeses. Yummy!. Then on to Moska to visit the beautiful domed church. A bomb came through the dome during the WWII, but it failed to explode and non of the 300 or so worshippers was hurt. This was considered and documented as a miracle by the parishioners. Back aboard we were ready for a bit of rest before the Captain's Fairwell Cocktail Party, and final formal dinner - including a parade of servers in the dark with baked alaskas topped with giant sparklers - very impressive and fun. Later the evening show was put on by the ship staff. Also fun, including some Philipino dancing and singing as well as a rousing rendition of YMCA and Chippendale sendup that was a 'Half Monty'. The bad news did go around today that the gentleman who was medivac'd the other night died in the hospital.  

 Photos 14 Oct

Wednesday, October 15 - At Sea

A final day at sea to end our cruise. Mostly quiet, with a few quizzes, and a big bingo. There was a small talent show by a couple of guests, and of course the usual very good food. Lovely chats with various people, some of whom were new acquaintances. A bit of sun time out the top deck and tidying up a few loose ends. A Rock & Roll show after dinner. Altogether a really enjoyable cruise. We'd certainly travel with Fred Olsen again. 

Photos 15 Oct

Thursday, October 16 - Civitavecchia to Pompeii & Amalfi Coast, Italy

It was certainly an organized departure this morning. Everyone had colour-coded luggage tags and a time to leave that coincided with their flights/tours etc. Being "Independent", we were free to go any time from 8am, so we aimed for 8:30 to make our car pickup reservation of about 9. We picked up our luggage in a shore-side depot and took a shuttle to the port exit. Then we walked several blocks to the car rental agency dragging our 4 suitcase in a "train". The agent there gave us a good map and excellent directions and we were on our way! Navigation was simple as far as Pompeii and we found good parking in a campground opposite the Pompeii excavation/archaelogical site. We spent a few hours wandering through the ruins Amazing how much survived being buried in volcanic ash for nearly 2 millenia. The murals, mosaics and monuments are astounding, and the ordinary homes interesting. Leaving Pompeii, the challenge was one of navigation. There are not a lot of signs on the smaller roads, and when there are, they are in clusters right at the intersections, so snap decisions are necessary - oh and did I mention that Italian driving is to North American driving as Snoop Dawg is to Mozart?? Lane markings are purly decorative, "STOP" means "YIELD" and "YIELD" mean "WHO-ME?". Motorcycles and scooters zoop in and out everywhere and generally consider the line between lanes an extra lane for them ( which makes it real interesting as cars ignore lanes anyway). Plus of course it's narrow, hilly and bendy. I tried to navigate while Larry drove ( standard transmission, just to add a level of complication). Eventually we found Vico Equense, where our hotel is situated, but had no idea how to find it. We asked a cop in the middle of the street and he waved a hand and said "toward Sorento". That seemed vague, but about 10 minutes later - voila! Of course getting into the Hotel involved a 180 deg left turn and then a steep uphill, followed by several more steep turns ( requiring use of the emergercy brake/clutch combo ) before we reached the parking lot. But Larry managed it, and the hotel is great. We have a balcony ( the size of our deck at home ) over hanging the road ( great thrills watching the traffic ), and overlooking the Gulf of Naples. We are drinking from the mini bar and planning on room service tonight. There's no way we want to go out on that road any more today. Also the view is too spectacular to leave...especially at sunset.

Note: Photos have been uploaded right up to today's photo from our balcony. ( The internet connection here is fabulous - just like our home connection. 

Photos 16 Oct

Friday, October 17 - Amalfi Coast to Fiumicino AP, Italy

Well, it took juggling 3 or 4 maps at a time, and we still got lost a few times, but what a spectacular day it was! We enjoyed our breakfast at the Torre Barbara Hotel, and successfully negotiated our way onto the road, heading toward Sorrento. The scenery along the coast is unbelievable, but so are the roads and drivers. Larry picked up Italian driving very well and did a great job negotiating extremely narrow streets, weaving motorcycles and motor bikes and giant oncoming tour buses. He seems to have mastered the necessary skill of using one hand for the gear shift, and one for the horn with a bit of steering in between. We worked our way to magnificent Positano, where we worked our way slowly to the bottom of one cliff and gradually back up another to the coast road. We didn't stop because there were not parking spots, but also because it was so mobbed it wouldn't have been very pleasant. We drove on to Amalfi, which appealed much more, parked, enjoyed wonderful pizza at a restaurant on the beach, then wandered the streets for an hour or so. Shortly after leaving Amalfi we spotted a sign point to the autostrade, and decided we should start back toward Rome. Of course we didn't know the autostrade was on the other side of a mountain! It was an interesting journey, with more amazing scenery -- steep slopes cultivated with various crops, tiny villages and of course, precipitous drops to little valleys. Eventually we hit the highway and had an uneventful trip back as far as the Rome ring road, where we managed to get lost! After a bit of driving around we found a sign & got back on track. The hotel was easily located & a welcome sight as we were hot and tired by then.  

Photos 17 Oct