Mediterranean Cruise - September 2003
 

Gail and I cannot resist cruising. There is just something in it we both enjoy. Maybe it is the fact that you set up in your cabin, hang your clothes in a closet and THEN travel and the room goes with you! The attraction may even be the relaxed atmosphere brought about by the salt air. Doubt it is the excellent food, available almost 24 hours a day!

We embarked on our seventh cruise aboard the Holland America ship Noordam on September 23, from the port of Civitavecchia just outside of Rome. Our daughter , Tracy and husband Paul Wakefield, from Australia, accompanied us, as well as my cousin Marie and husband Leo Gregoire from Cochrane, Ontario.

Beginning in Rome the ports of call were to be Dubrovnik in Croatia, the Greek Island of Corfu, Malta, Palermo in Sicily, Minorca one of the Balearic Islands of Spain, Cannes on the French Riviera, Sete in the Region of Languedoc, France. We would finally disembark the ship in Barcelona where we planned to spend several days before flying home.

Right: Our Itinerary - Boarding in Rome and ending in Barcelona

Below:  Holland America’s Noordam - Our home for 10 days of Cruising

Cruising

For the most part this was a very busy cruise. Out of 10 days aboard the ship, we only had 2 days where there was not a port of call. We had tours booked at every port which is unusual for us. As arrival at most ports is in the early morning, and the tours are generally off and away by 9 am, and we left most ports by 6 pm, there was not much in the way of spare time around the ship.

When we did have a full day at sea, it is far from being boring, we love to just laze around in the warm Mediterranean sun, soaking up the salt air. Hard to believe but it is quite easy to feel relaxed at sea with not much to do except eat of course.

The first full day at sea occurred the day after we embarked in Rome. We arose early as we were to pass close to the volcanic island of Stromboli. This island is famous for 2 reasons; one, it is still an active volcano and last erupted in 1998, and two, it was the site of the famous movie Stromboli (1949) starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by Roberto Rossellini. A very imposing sight from the sea. Only about 500 people live on the island now.

Later in the cruise we were scheduled to have another full cruise day through the Straight of Bonifacio that separates the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. However, strong winds in that area forced the captain to take us south of that and we cruised instead off the south coast of Sardinia for part of that day.

A more normal day for us was to have a shore tour, arriving back on board anywhere from 3 to 5:30, have a shower and or snooze and enjoy a delicious beverage of some sort as we prepared for the evening meal. We prefer the late service at 8:30, to enjoy some fine dining along with another delicious beverage and good company, and if we can still stand or stay awake, we go to the theatre for the evening floor show. For the most part, these shows were quite good and most of us stayed awake through the performance. Activities continued far into the night, but Gail and I at least were pretty well ready for the sack by 11 pm.

The ship is one of the older ships serving the big lines like Holland America and will probably be phased out within a few years, and sold to a smaller line. But it was classy, a fine captain and one of the better crews we have encountered. The food was excellent both in the main dining area and the buffet counters. Because of the state of the cruising industry these days, we managed to book the very best cabins on board. It will be difficult going back to the usual cabin on our next cruise as I am sure that will no longer be in our price range!

We loved it. Don't care what anybody says about wondering why we enjoy cruising. Guess it is a personal choice like taste.

On the Left:  The Italian Island of Stromboli - this volcanic island was last active in 1998. Still about 500 people make it home.


Below Left:  Beautiful daughter Tracy and husband Paul Wakefield, our regular cruising companions.


Below Centre:  Gail and I ready for the evening, this is as formal as we got on this cruise, only two formal nights out of 10.


Below Right:  We were joined this trip by my cousin Marie and her husband Leo Gregoire from Cochrane.

Rome

Our first visit to Rome, and we thoroughly enjoyed the few days in the ancient city. We arrived a few days early to allow us to get over our jet lag, (Tracy and Paul travelled over 24 hours to get there!). Our hotel was within a few hundred yards of Vatican City, so it was easy to sight see even if all you had was an hour to do it?

The second day we hired a van for a five hour tour of some selected sights. Our driver was a nice Italian man called "Steve" who knew the city and spoke quite good English. The highlights were the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, the catacombs, St. Peter's Square and Cathedral. Tracy and Paul made it in to the Sistine Chapel.

We liked Rome, the food was good, people reasonably friendly and helpful, and most sights not terribly crowded. The Coliseum was my personal choice as the best site to visit. The knowledge that they could seat 55,000 people 2,000 years ago to watch the lions and the tigers and the Christians is kind of mind boggling. Construction of that facility today would take major effort, let alone with the equipment that was available in those days!

Above Left: The Rome Coliseum, note the bottom of the place was covered with a floor, you can see the rooms and pens where the animals and Christians were kept prior to the show.


Above Centre:  The Roman Forum, ruins of the government buildings during the days of the Roman Empire


Above Right:  A photo through a key-hole of an entire country, the country of the Knights of St. John, a walled area with the same status as the Vatican. The Knights moved here about 1800 when Napoleon kicked them out of Malta.


On the Left:  Gail sitting on the edge of the Trevi Fountain where Cary Grant once dallied.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

What a surprise! A very beautiful city set in a delightful seacoast setting of blue waters and islands and sunshine. The city has been declared a "United Nations World Heritage" site and it is understandable.

We started with a bus tour down the coast that served to provide the background for our day. We returned to the ancient part of the city that is completely within walls constructed 800 years ago. People still live within the walls in buildings and apartments hundreds of years old. The streets are marble tiled and despite being bombed ten years ago in the terrible war in that part of the world, the citizens have rebuilt the place and hidden the destroyed parts very well.

We had lunch in an outdoor restaurant right in the old harbour. A delightful assortment of different food, washed down with copious servings of beer. The waiters and waitresses were all young good looking people who spoke quite good English. The bill for a great two hours was 28 euros. I was told that along this coast you could rent an apartment for $20 US per day. That will be changing soon!

On the Far Left:  We took this photo from a hill south of Dubrovnik, the section on the left of the photo showing red tiled roofs is the walled part of the city



Close Left:  Gail in the main pedestrian street inside the old walled city, note the marble street tiles. The buildings are shops below and apartments above.


On the far Left:  A shot of the harbour where we enjoyed a leisurely and inexpensive lunch hour.




Close Left: As we left that evening, the captain cruised by the old city and the walls can be readily made out, still in place after 800 years.


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