I can't believe it's already Oct. 19. Six days, since we boarded the ship, have passed in the blink of an eye. It was formal night, and tonight Mrs. Kuki and I dressed in all our finery and headed to dinner in the Metropolitan Dining Room.
I'm thankful it's a ten-day sailing, or we'd be packing tonight. Well, Mrs. Kuki would be packing, and I'd be in the casino begging them to give me my money back. Fortunately we've got three more fabulous ports to visits. Naples, Florence and Rome await!
Most European itineraries are port intensive. This sailing consists of not only nine ports in ten days, but all are fairly intensive ports, and all fairly physically demanding. This is not a trip that should be chosen without giving much thought to one's ability to be mobile. Unfortunately this issue arose with some of the people booked into the Cruisemates group. There were a number of elderly women from Florida booked into the group by the Florida based agency handling this package who were not capable of dealing with the rigors of travel which befell us. Their lack of mobility unfortunately negatively impacted the enjoyment of the remaining members of the CruiseMates Net Buddies Group on group excursions that were planned, as well as on their own enjoyment. This package was sold to these people locally, in Florida, not via the "Net". Not a problem I expected to encounter on a cruise promoted on the "Net." Normally I've found those who find and book cruises, such as the CruiseMates Cruises, on the Internet, are fairly well informed, having researched the ship as well as the ports of call. Most are well prepared, and in the short time they're in port want to see as much as they can. Even after I discussed the physical demands of some of the upcoming tours at our cocktail party, and suggested some people may want to switch tours, we ended up with ladies showing up to walk the uneven cobble stone streets of Pompeii wearing pumps or high heels. There was nothing to do, but shake my head.
Using the Internet from the ship we attempted to set up separate this group with less demanding tours for the less mobile members of the group.
I have to say our ports of call on this sailing pleasantly surprised me. Barcelona, and its surrounding area, is home to over 4 million people, yet we visited areas, which have more of a small town feel to it. The city is an awesome combination of hustle and bustle, history, and art. Certainly, a few hours here can not do it justice, nor can a few words. We saw so much in a short time. My personal favorites - the Gaudi Cathedral, the Chagall Museum, and the obligatory walk along Las Ramblas.
Palma de Mallorca surprised me with its size. "Palma" is much larger than I expected. I thought of it as a resort island. We took the ship's supplied free shuttle to the center of the city and just strolled for hours, and had a wonderful time looking in shop windows and stopping for a drink at an outdoor cafe. Although it's a fairly large city, "Palma" has a very quaint feel to it.
The island of Malta was also a most pleasant surprise. The Millennium docked beneath the walled city of Valletta. In the course of history, nearly every conquering army who came across it has seized Valletta. And therefore reflects many influences.
From the pier the city appears to be an arms reach away above. However, we were forewarned that the roadway snakes it way to high above. We got lazy and took a taxi up the hill for $10 per cab, not per person. We simply strolled the narrow city streets for hours again, and then walked the winding road back to the ship.
Today we toured Pompeii. We met up with the "group" in Pompeii and had an exceptional guide who made the visit SO interesting. He told the story of Pompeii with a superb combination of grace and humor. Afterwards our driver took us to Sorrento, when the "group" bus returned to the ship in Naples. Sorrento is another lovely area, where we just didn't have the time to tour to do it justice. The scenic views of the Mediterranean while driving the coastal highway from Pompeii to Sorrento alone were worth the cost of the entire tour.
We got back to the ship, and the Cruise Director Jim Cannon, Hotel Manager, George Traganis joined me in the ships central computer room and we had fun joining the CruiseMates special chat with guest Jack Williams, Pres. of Royal Caribbean International.
I have to think that this was likely the first time ever for an event where people were chatting live online from around the world, and from two different ships at sea. Pretty cool I thought!
Tomorrow is a full day in Rome. I've heard rumors the Pope has been asking, Who's Kuki?