Instead of The Colosseum, The Forum, The Parthenon and The Vatican, we strolled through The Monti to Santa Maria Maggiore (one of the largest churches in Rome), Saint Peter in Vincoli (to see a Michelangelo Moses sculpture).
We had pretty good pizza at a Kosher Italian Restaurant in The Ghetto, walked past the Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter, and dined on a rooftop terrace near the Tiber River and our hotel. After all, rooftop restaurants are all the rage, all across the globe right now.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 4 — A 10-Mile Walk
We like to explore by foot so we set out today in Rome by following the Tiber River to St Peter’s Basilica, past the Castel Sant’Angelo, to Piazza de Popolo. Of course, taking a break for soothing gelato along the way. We briefly stopped by the overcrowded Spanish Steps before heading back to our hotel.
This intimate, small group tour (maximum of six people) included stops for biscotti, prosciutto and pecorino cheese, a deep-fried rice ball, Roman-style pizza, a savory meat sandwich with a glass of Chianti, more Chianti with a choice of three toppings over pasta, and finally, some intensely fruit-flavored gelato.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 5 — Arriverderci, Roma, Hello Crystal
Today was a travel day to Civitavecchia, the port of Rome, where we boarded our seven-day Crystal Cruise on the Serenity. First stop tomorrow: Sorrento, with a side trip to the volcanic ruins of Pompeii.
Quality of the food, as well as staff, services, and amenities have been superior — which is why two sets of couples we met had booked back-to-back Mediterranean Crystal Cruises last week and this one. (We later discovered that about 120 passengers of the 900 had been on the ship for two consecutive cruises!) And all of these folks have cruised for many years on multiple ships around the globe before choosing to stay with Crystal exclusively from now on.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 6 — Sorrento, Pompeii & Circumstance
We docked in Sorrento today, a charming seaside town south of Rome with a huge harbor. It’s like Sausalito, but probably 10 times higher, terming with high-end shops and pizzerias. It faces a horseshoe-shaped bay sprinkled with luxury yachts and a handful of small cruise shops like ours.
We opted for a 6-hour round-trip bus ride and tour of the ruins of Pompeii.
Buried under volcanic pumice and ash by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, it began being unearthed in 1748. Today, it remains as one of the world’s most active archaeological sites.
The town that’s still being dug out includes a large nine-district area that may have been home to about 12,000 people, complete with private residences, bread ovens, wine shops, whore houses, public baths and toilets, plus water fountains.
We’ve never witnessed anything like this in our travels as it provides a realistic look at how these ancient villagers lived. On the other hand, it preserves the horror of how they died by being buried alive by 1000+ degree lava.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 7 — Sailing Between Two Seas
We left Sorrento at 8am bound for Corfu, Greece, a journey of about 300 nautical miles and our only full day of sailing. We passed through the Tyrrhenian Sea at the toe of the boot as we squeezed past Messina, Sicily, and entered the Ionian Sea as we headed northeast in open water, just north of Albania.
I’d only been to Corfu once as a backpacking college student and Ellen Young has never been there, so we’re both excited to discover Greece’s Emerald Island.
As for our Crystal Cruise, all of our fellow passengers agree that it’s in a class by itself for service, amenities, itineraries and food. One couple today said, “Guess we started at the top of the food chain for our first cruise” and all can attest to that.
There are also 120 passengers of the 900 aboard who were aboard last week from Rome to the Amalfi Coast and back, then stayed on for another week because it’s such a fantastic way to travel and excellent value. They don’t nickel and dime you for soft drink packages, liquor or even tips — and everyone loves that convenience.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 8 –– Corfu… Zeimer The Greek
Our ship anchored off of this huge island before dawn. Over the centuries, Romans, Silicians, French, Turks, Russians, and Normans have invaded Corfu. Today, the more friendly invaders descended as Italians, Germans, and Americans on a handful of cruise ships.
We opted to beat the high 80s heat with a bus ride to the west side of the island to Paleokastritsa’s grottos, a dip in the warm turquoise Ionian Sea, and a lunch stop atop a mountain in the town of Lakones.
Ellen Young had never been to Greece before and I had only spent one night here in 1970, so I was not aware of the size of Corfu, it’s now thriving popularity, or its place in the country’s tourism hierarchy as one of the five most popular islands. The natives are still as warm, friendly, and charismatic as Zorba and all the Greeks.
We dined tonight at the ship’s Brazilian Steakhouse, AKA “We have the meats!” Ellen had the salad bar and baked potato, while I chose among the grilled chicken, pork sausage, pork tenderloin, shrimp, lamb chop, shirt ribs, and sirloin steak, so I may not eat for a few days now…
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 9 — Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor also happens to be surrounded by towering mountains and filled with a blend of highs-end hotels, countless waterfront condos, and quaint shops.
The town looks Venetian along this Dalmatian Coast, but the surrounding 60-foot high, 30-foot thick, and three-mile long wall makes it unique in Europe. There are several must-see churches to see here, too.
On the ship, Ellen Young and I had our best meal yet at Prego, one of the Crystal Serenity’s specialty restaurants, at no extra charge.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 10 — Dubrovnik, Croatia… The Name Behind The Game of Thrones’ Seventh Kingdom
Just about everyone we know who’s been to Eastern Europe in the last five years has visited Dubrovnik, which is now one of the most popular stops in these here parts.
The Walled City dates back to the Fifth Century and is the most charming part of this ancient city. Because the rest of the city sprung from the ashes of the 1991-1992 war, it looks nearly new and modern juxtaposed to the Old Town that’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Since this Rome-Venice Crystal Cruise replaced our original dream of taking an Alaskan Cruise, we hit our proverbial iceberg yesterday. We never had the opportunity to see any breaching humpbacks, helicopter over any calving glaciers, or see any grizzly bears catching salmon swimming upstream.
But Ellen Young’s surgically suddenly repaired left knee locked up and she couldn’t move or bend it. So we actually could NOT walk through Kotor, Montenegro on Wednesday or Dubrovnik on Thursday. We also had to cancel both of the shore excursions with tours.
A Croatian orthopedist thinks it’s a ligament problem, so armed with a leg brace, crutches, and a few pain pills, we’ve sadly cancelled the second half of our 23-day trip.
Most unfortunately, we will have to skip our planned time in Milan and Cinque Terra after we dock in Venice on Saturday and disappointedly head home.
Our Roamin’ Holiday, Day 11 – The Merchandise of Venice
Because of Ellen’s knee injury, we were prisoners of the ship today, but enjoyed our last hours aboard with a minimal passenger count and half-deserted restaurants.
Tomorrow, we will disembark from our Crystal Cruise and fly home from Venice to Zurich to San Francisco. In our minds, it’s simply the best value afloat. Unlike other cruise lines, all meals, beverages, liquor, tips, unlimited WiFi, AND specialty restaurants (up to two visits for each of three of them) are encompassed in the all-inclusive price.