May 06, 2024

May 5 - Civitavecchia

As planned the ship approaches the port of Civitavecchia in the dark at 4:00 AM. Today is the end port of the transatlantic voyage. Lots of special events today.

The captain and cruise director will be leaving the ship. A few crew members will be leaving, but most that are at the end of thier contracts won't leave the ship until we reach Turkey, as the cost of flying home is so much less there.

We end a cruise, and start a new one. Changing cabins, closing accounts, all the stuff that is done at the end of a cruise and at the beginning of another.  Part of the process is dictated by local authorities, not the cruise line.

Luggage is packed with small items, hanging items are left in the closet, our cabin steward will move everything to our new cabin.

Passengers begin disembarking before 6:00 AM. There has been lots of news circulating that Italian train and bus and taxi transportation workers are going on strike this weekend. Many passengers are nervous about getting to thier next destination.

This time we are to gather in the sports complex on deck 15 between 8:00 and 9:30. We are scanned out of the system, our old cards collected. We are then given new cards and "in transit" cards. Our passports are checked by royal security, we are then logged back in using our new cards. All in all, a 5 minute process.

If we wish to get off the ship, the "in transit" cards will allow for expedited reboarding. Initially we were going to get off, but with the very long day yesterday, we elect to stay on board.

The consecutive cruisers lunch was as disorganized as the previous one. I have no idea of the numbers, but estimate there probably are 200 to 300 cruisers staying on for the Greek Isles.

Our new cabin is on deck 13, port side. Just to add to the opportunity for confusion, the cabin layout is reversed from the previous cabins on this voyage.

Our excursion tickets are in the cabin as expected. Fortunately I take a close look at them.  At least four are totally misprinted with the wrong dates and wrong ports listed on the ticket. The best one was two tickets for Pompeii. Two different dates, two different ports, but both for the same tour.

I take them to the shore excursions desk. Initially the gal is very defensive and tries to claim they are correct. Eventually she understood the problem, reprinted my tickets and tried to send me on my way.  A quick glance revealed these were still being printed incorrectly.

Off to find her supervisor, she eventually promises to have it fixed and will have new tickets sent to our cabin before morning.

As I requested we have been assigned the same table in the dining room. I expect we will have a different staff as they are usually assigned to different work areas each cruise.

Beverage service was close to non existant. the protocol here has been for the waiter or assistant  waiter to take our order, and a beverage server to bring it. somewhere that chain was broken. 

Dinner was good, but the environment changed substantially from the last cruise. Primarily the result of a very loud  demanding group of 20+ passengers that all insisted at being seated at one table.  An arrangement that wasn't made at booking time. Of course this resulted in total disruption of the small dining  room.

As always the blinds were drawn when the sun was shining brightly in everyone's eye's as the ship turned south. They requested the blinds be put up again as they were in the middle of the room and wanted to see out. I silently objected with a polite motion to the staff to lower them. They did. End of subject. Sometimes there is value to being a regular customer.

Now that the ship is in Europe for the summer there are some fundamental changes from what was normal in the Caribbean. Dining times in the main dining rooms have all been moved an hour later. The only welcome aboard show the first night is at 10:30. The amount of entertainment scheduled for the next 12 days is less than the amount normally schedued on a 7 day cruise. All announcements are made in at least 3 languages.

Some stability in routine is provided by "The Dukes" still playing in Boleros most evenings. Our choice for after dinner.

The seas remain very comfortable with under 3 foot waves. There are a few clouds and temperatures are expected to be in the upper 60's for the next day or so.

Tomorrow, a sea day,  we will pass around the toe of Italy as we head for Chania, crete, Greece.

May 3 at Sea , May 4, La Spezia

May 3rd is another uneventful sea day. The weather remains excellent, and I am happy to have a day of rest.

I am not sure I have mentioned this previously, but I have started posting pictures on Facebook. The commentary is very brief, but I post an image or two each day.  "Steve Raiford" is the correct spelling.

Our next stop will be La Spezia, Italy, our closest stop to Florence and Pisa.  We are essentially doing Florence on our own. The bus will take us to the edge of the city, drop us off, and then bring us back to the ship at a predetermined time. The bus drive from the port is about 2 hours, maybe more depending on the traffic.

Livorno is the cruise port used by most cruise lines, but for some unknown reason Royal has chosen La Spezia even though the 40 or 50 tour busses and tour guides all came from Livorno, about 2 hours away.

Our tour is scheduled for 7:45,  We are promptly loaded and leave on time.  The guide has been doing this for years and is very competent. We pass many italian marble factories along the way, as well as an ancient roman aqueduct that looked to be in excellent condition. As often is the case, I was too slow to get a picture.

The only vehicles that are allowed within the city of Florence are residents of the city, and a few cabs and special tour busses. Our bus and the hundreds of others that descend on the city must drop passengers off on the edge of the city.  It is about a 30 minute walk over very uneven sidewalks to get to the main square where we are to meet at the end of the day.

When I was here in 2016, the bus dropped us off much closer to the same square which also was our meeting place then.

The tour has arranged for an informational presentation at a local leather factory and store.  The products were of excellent quality. Lynn had already planned to buy a new handbag, and will loook on the way back.  Not that they have a high markup, but we automatically receive a 40% discount for being on the tour.  A bigger benefit is that they had very clean restrooms.

Our next stop was for gelato, a must in Italy. We then wandered the city to see many of the popular sights. The crowds were unimaginable. As busy as Disney on New Years eve.  Most streets were packed with tourists from building to building.  The few taxis that dared tried to navigate the streets has a very difficult time and moved at a snails pace.

There are many places to dine. Some of the popular ones like the shop that makes panini sandwiches had lines that stretched for blocks.

We found a local place with inside seating that served pizza and salad.  The pizza was excellent, the service very good. 1 waitress took care of all the tables. Not becuse they were cheap on help, but because the building was not wide enough for 2 people to pass in the narrow room.

After enough sightseeing we headed back to the leather shop.  Long story short, no purchases.  The color wasn't right.

I walk slow, I have all my life and now maybe even a little more so. Four of us head bck to the bus early. The other couple walk slower than I, and we get to the bus pickup point just as the rest of the group gets there. Leaving 15 or 20 minutes before the others was wise.

We board the bus in the middle of the street as there was no place for him to park.

The bus arrives back at the ship a few minutes before boarding time along with about a dozen other busses. At least one bus is 45 minutes late, and yes the captain waits for them.  We are late for dinner, but so are hundreds of other passengers. The dining room is very accomodating.

Our next port is Civitavechia, often called Rome as it is the closest port to Rome. Much as Port Canaveral in Florida is often referred to as the "Orlando Port".

We are  cruising at over 20 knots as the captain wants to get into port as early as possible as it is a very busy port.

We will change cabins again tomorrow, this time moving from deck 11 to deck 12 and from the starboard side of the ship to the port side. Certainly an opportunity for confusion.