Surprise Sea Day
Due to the weather we were not able to leave Rome until the morning so we did miss our first 2 ports on this cruise and now will have a sea day while we make our way to our 3rd stop which is Livorno. Even though I was bummed to miss those first 2 ports I do always enjoy a sea day. The sun came out and eventually the waves died down and it turned out to be a nice day. I found a cozy spot to read in the Living Room, which is on the top deck at the very front of the ship (still inside). The ship has a nice sized library which came in handy for me since when I packed for this trip I brought a book for flying but since this cruise was very port intensive I didn't think I would have much time to read. You could tell that the library was recently stocked as many booked still looked brand new. Even though this is a smaller ship there are still plenty of places to get comfy inside. There are also lots of really comfy looking spots outside so I am hoping we get at least one warm day to be able to sit out there too.
As I mentioned before sailing with Azamara really includes a lot in your cruise fare. There are many options for drinks to order in any area of the ship. Even if you are in your room the mini bar is stocked with drinks that are all included in your cruise fare and your room steward will refresh it each day. Also when getting off the ship there will be plenty of chilled bottled water to grab as you get off which is perfect for exploring. Another nice free option is the self serve laundry onboard. I know I might be in the minority but I almost always do a load of laundry when I cruise and having the self serve laundry is nice and even better when it at no charge. I probably should have done a load of wash today during our sea day but I got sucked into my book and did not get to it.
Later tonight we will arrive at our next stop a little earlier than scheduled and this is the port we were already scheduled for an overnight visit anyway so now we get 2 nights even though we won't be able to get off the ship until tomorrow morning.
We spent all day still in port and the weather was really bad. Some people opted to take excursions into Rome but since we had already seen plenty in Rome and the weather in the port area wasn't good we just stayed on the ship. It was very windy so it made sense to stay inside. We were just hanging out in the room when it got a little darker outside so I looked out and next thing I know we were moving. An announcement came on saying echo, echo, echo. I looked it up to see it pretty much meant high winds be prepared. In this case it meant our lines had broken and we were no longer tied to the dock. We were now floating out in the middle of the channel and spinning a little. My view did a 180 turn before tugs came to bring us safely back to dock. It was a bit crazy but quickly under control and the captain came on to say there was no damage and no one was hurt. Now that my view was of the dock I could see how much the wind had damaged the terminal. We were now tied up at the MSC cruise terminal, which was a little further down from where we were tied up before. Thankfully the MSC Meraviglia was able to leave port the day prior or we might have hit her. The port building itself had a few sunroof panels that come loose and some of the glass doors had blown open. The temporary metal gates were blown over and scattered around. It really looked as though a hurricane had blown through. A firetruck came later to take the pieces of the sunroof off. We were supposed to finally get out of port tonight but the captain came on around 10 pm to say sorry it is still not safe to leave so we will be staying overnight and hoping to push off in the morning. That also meant we were going to miss our second port of Bastia. It is bummer to miss these 2 quaint little ports but safety is more important. After seeing what the winds did in port I am very glad that we were not out in the open water for that. It sounds like tomorrow will be a sea day and we will arrive at our 3rd stop, Livorno (Florence/Pisa) a little early.
After squeezing in as much of Rome as we could in our short time we are now headed to the port to board the Azamara Pursuit. The port for Rome is in Civiavecchia which is about an hour away. If you take a Mediterranean cruise that doesn't start in Rome but says it stops in Rome this is the port you will be in so keep that in mind when planning your day. Since we are on a smaller ship we will be visiting some ports that the big ships won't do on a typical Mediterranean cruise. I love the idea of visiting the smaller less busy ports, especially after spending a couple days in crowded and busy Rome.
Last night Daylight Savings ending here in Europe, which is a week earlier than back home in the US so now I am 5 hours ahead instead of 6. It also means that now sunset is around 5 pm which is a bit of a bummer. When we got up this morning it was rainy and windy. We realized we were lucky that we had such nice weather for our 3 days of walking around. On the ride to the port the weather seemed to get a little worse with the winds picking up along with some thunder. When we arrived at the port it was easy to see that that seas were very rough as the waves were crashing over the seawalls around the port. The boarding process was quick and easy, another plus of sailing on a smaller ship. We explored the ship, which has only been sailing for about 3 months since coming out of drydock so it still had that just like new smell. I really love everything about this ship. She isn't too big but not too small either. She seems brand new with a modern sleek style. There were a few other ships in port with us. The MSC Meraviglia was right in front of us and she is a mega ship so you really got a feel for how small the Pursuit is in comparison.
The weather was still pretty rough when we went to the muster drill and luckily since this is a smaller ship the muster locations are inside in either the theater or dining room. I have been on many cruises where weather has caused adjustments to our itinerary but this was a first to find out that our ship would not be leaving port today due to the weather. That obviously meant we were going to miss our first port of Olbia, Sardinia. It is always disappointing to miss a port but that is something you do always have to be prepared for when cruising. Since this cruise only had 1 sea day originally and it wasn't until the end of the cruise I am OK with a rest day to recover from all the exploring we did in Rome. It will be nice to sleep in and just enjoy the ship. The Captain said the plan is to leave port at 9 pm tomorrow so that is a long time to wait out the storm. For anyone that didn't arrive early for the cruise they might be happy to have a whole day to go visit Rome. I am thinking if the weather isn't too bad maybe we will get off the ship and wander around the port area which is in a city dating back to the 2nd century.
WOW! Like the saying Rome wasn't built in a day, the same goes for seeing Rome - you cannot see it in a day or even 2. There is just so much to see in Rome and we are trying to squeeze it all into 2 and half days while battling a little jet-lag! If you are like us and haven't been to Rome before and are taking a cruise out of Rome you really do need a couple days to even scratch the surface. If your cruise is round trip it might be easier to do Rome after the cruise but either way I think you need at least 3 days to just get a sampling of Rome.
As I said yesterday, I chose a hotel based on location that was close to things I knew we wanted to see and we really have walked to everywhere we have been in these 2 days. Yesterday our step meter said we did 13 miles! Our hotel's location allows us to walk to the Trevi fountain in about 2 minutes which is nice since that place is always crowded. We found this morning when leaving for an early tour we passed the fountain at 8 am and that was the least crowded it we have seen it. Our front desk said the best time to go is 3 am - which would be possible being this close but don't think we really need to do that unless we cannot sleep tonight for some reason. We have also easily walked to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona. All of these you can just walk around for free no tour needed. Slightly longer walks but still easy to handle were the Colosseum and Vatican City. I did pre-book us a tour for the Colosseum with Project Expedition and I am so glad I did. Even though this is considered slightly off-season for tourists things have still been very crowded. Our tour not only allowed us to skip the lines but it also got us into places you cannot go on your own. It was very cool to go underground and also up to the very top level of the Colosseum. The tour also included the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Having a guide over there was really great since there was so much to see and learn about.
We weren't really sure how we would be feeling so I didn't want to pre-book too much and I am glad I didn't since we really couldn't have been up early the first day after an overnight flight. We decided for the Vatican we would just explore the outside for this visit. By the time we got over there the crowds were already large so I wouldn't recommend doing that without a tour that lets you skip the lines.
We also walked around the river and other things like Circo Massimo, Castel Sant Angelo, and Largo di Torre Argentina (this is where Julius Caesar was killed). There are also lots of shops, churches, monuments, and piazzas we wandered around. You can see how easy it was to do 13 miles in a day!
Food in Italy is pretty much as you would expect lots of pasta, pizza, and gelato pretty much every where you turn! There are just so many restaurants it can be hard to choose. I asked our hotel for a suggestion and they gave a great one. I also checked google reviews to get an idea. As you walk down the street many of the restaurants will try to pull you in. That wasn't as bad as some of the other people in the streets trying to get you to buy things. As with most tourist areas you will find the street art like the different performers and artists which can be fun. Then you have the "pop up" shops and guys walking around selling things which is fine to me as long as they are not pestering you to buy. Apparently selfie sticks are the biggest thing for these guys in the streets to sell as they were pretty much at every major attraction trying to get you to buy one. One thing I can stay about them is that a simple no thanks and they left you alone. The one thing I really didn't like were the African men that seemed to line the street around the fountain and they would pretend to want to shake your hand but really slip a bracelet on and then expect you to buy it. They were very aggressive and very annoying. It made me not want to walk that street and I am sure I wasn't alone on that. We went into the wonderful gelato shop right next to our hotel and the owner even said something about them and how he isn't happy about them being out there. The funny thing is we were going to walk down towards the fountain to get gelato but then decided we didn't want to deal with those guys so just went next door. It worked out since we realized that shop was great and very convenient for us. We have had a great time in Rome and definitely would come back again. Tomorrow morning we head for the ship. The port is about an hour away so you really do need to plan for transportation over there. There won't be much rest for my feet as the cruise is 9 nights and out of 10 days only 1 sea day! Most Mediterranean cruises are like that since there are just so many great places to see in a short distance. On one hand it is great to pack so much into one trip but on the other hand can be exhausting as well. I highly recommend planning at least a day or 2 after a Mediterranean cruise to relax and recover (kind of like a Disney World visit).
Our cruise starts out in Rome. I always recommend arriving a day early for any cruise but even more so for European cruises when you will be flying further and also dealing with some jet-lag. I also think it is very important to not forget that the place where your cruise starts should also be considered a port of call. If you were to fly in the day of your cruise you will miss out on exploring that port. If your cruise is a round trip cruise then you can also plan to explore that port after the cruise. My cruise is a one way cruise so I cannot do that.
For this cruise I know Rome is huge with so may things to see that it could be a vacation unto itself but with already doing a 9 night cruise we could only add a couple days there pre-cruise. The port is about an hour from the city of Rome so the day the ship departs doesn't really leave you much time to see anything. This means we had to plan our time wisely and choose the things we wanted to see and do most.
When searching for flights it can help to be flexible and also a little creative. Living in Orlando we are lucky enough to have quite a few airport options withing a few hours drive. Generally Orlando has some pretty decent flights to just about everywhere but being a travel agent I cannot help but explore all options to find the best flights for my needs. This time it turned out that I could save about $500 per person by flying out of Miami so for me a 4 hour drive is worth $1000. It turned out even better when we boarded the flight to Rome and found the plane wasn't even half full so we lots of room to spread out and get comfy for the overnight flight.
Finding a hotel in a place like Rome can be overwhelming, even for a travel agent like me. There are just so many options and it is not like in the US where you have all the chain names where you pretty much know what you are going to get. Most of the hotels in Rome are in old buildings many that might not have started out as a hotel. I decided I wanted a hotel right in the heart of things and then realized I needed to narrow that down even more so I picked the Trevi Fountain to be close to and then started sorting through all the options. Reviews are helpful but I will be honest what really made up my mind was when I read the hotel rooms have a mini bar where everything in it is just 1 euro each. I know it may seem like a silly reason to some people but when there as so many hotels and many seeming to be very similar that stood out to me as something I know I would like to have. I just know so many times when I travel we will spend the day exploring and when you get back to the room you are thirsty or maybe just need a snack and are too tired to venture back out to find something so the mini bar comes in handy and knowing I am not going to be gouged for that is nice. Most European hotels will come with a free breakfast but the hotel I chose has a bonus and the free breakfast is served on the rooftop terrace, another feature that stood out as a reason to choose this one for me. Since we are short on time in Rome having a hotel that was in easy walking distance to a lot was important too. I am very happy with my choice of Relais Trevi 95 Hotel. As the name suggests it is super close to Trevi fountain. So far we have been able to walk around and get to see a lot very easily. Will add photos later :)
My next adventure is a 9 night Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Barcelona. I will be sailing on the Azamara Pursuit. You might not have heard of Azamara before but it is part of the Royal Caribbean family. Royal Caribbean has the mega ships with all the crazy extras that are super family friendly. The next level up in the Royal Caribbean family is Celebrity, which is a premium cruise line. Their ships are still pretty large but do not have all of the crazy things like bumper cars and ice rinks. Instead they are a little more refined and geared a little more towards adults. The next level up is Azamara which is a small ship/luxury cruise line. While it isn't adult only it does discourage families from sailing since they do not offer any children's activities onboard. Azamara has 3 ships at this time and I will be sailing on the newest addition to their fleet. The Pursuit isn't a brand new ship but instead one they purchased and did a multi-million dollar refurbishment to. The Pursuit just started sailing recently so she will still look like new when I get onboard. Azamara has ships that hold less than 1,000 guests which allows them to get into smaller ports. Azamara is also known for having more overnights in ports on all their itineraries. As a luxury small ship more is included in your upfront cruise fare.
Included for every guest:
- Beverages including soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffee, and select spirits, beers, and wines.
- AzAmazing evenings (a complimentary event on most itineraries)
- Self service laundry
- Shuttle to and from port communities where available
Veranda Plus and Suites get even more amenities but as you can see you get a lot included with any room already.
Most smaller ship cruise lines will include more in their up-front cost which I really like. I also prefer the quieter more laid back feeling you get on a small ship. No crowds and no long lines to get off and on the ship. This will be my first Mediterranean cruise so I am really looking forward to each port! From Rome we will visit Olbia, Bastia, have an overnight in Florence, Monte Carlo, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and ending in Barcelona. Stay tuned for more on each stop. You can also follow me on instagram for more photos - coleentravel
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