Peter Crawford / Richard Gravett
Age: 64 and 45
Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Sun Cruises
Sailing Date: May 3rd, 2003
Itinerary: Western Mediterranean
Places Visited: Tunis ( North Africa ), Civitavecchia, Rome, Livorno, Pisa, Vile France Sur Mer, Monaco, Barcelona, Palma De Mallorca, Valletta, Sicily, Naples, Pompeii, Genoa, Menorca.
Friday, May 02/2003
Our original flight, non stop to Palma De Mallorca, was canceled. This meant that all Canadian passengers, sailing on the Carousel, had to be re-routed on different flights. What a mess!
Some passengers were rerouted via London, New York or Amsterdam. We were re-routed via Madrid, leaving Toronto at 5.30 P.M. with a change of planes in Madrid ( SPAN AIR ) and connecting flights, via Valencia to Palma De Mallorca.
We arrived in Madrid Spain at 6.30 A.M. Saturday, May 03; our connecting flight was not scheduled to leave until 1.00 P.M. Try spending 7 hours at Madrid Airport! Finally, after many confusing gate changes, ( SPAN AIR SPECIAL ) we flew to Valencia where, for reasons never explained, we needed new boarding passes for the last leg of our flight from Valencia to Palma De Mallorca. This meant all passengers had to leave the aircraft, go through security, get new boarding passes, and re-board the very same plane on which we just arrived, to continue our journey to Palma De Mallorca.
Again, after many last-minute gate changes and mass confusion, we finally flew out of Valencia en route to Palma De Mallorca. Along the way we met some fellow cruise passengers, The Duchess, and the Cheetahs. But that's another story. By the time we landed in Palma De Mallorca, we had traveled for 15 hours; a flight that normally would have taken only 8 hours! Talk about being tired!
Saturday, May 03/03
Arrival at Palma de Mallorca Airport ( Spain ) where we were met by the cruise representatives, who escorted us onto the bus that took us to the pier and to our ship " Carousel ", that would be our home for the next 2 weeks. The ship is very nice, we have a great cabin at the Promenade Deck, great food, and most passengers are from Britain and Sweden. At approximately 10.00 P.M. we sailed out of the harbor of Palma de Mallorca; the glittering lights of the houses on the mountains was quite a sight. By the time we hit our beds, we have been awake for nearly 30 hours!
Sunday, May 04/03
Full day at sea. The weather was sunny and warm with not a cloud in sight. We spend most of the day sleeping, eating, sleeping and more eating. ( Still suffering from jet-lag )
Our dinner companions at the main seating in the Camelot Dining Room, table of 10, are all British and, at times, very difficult to understand. Among them are two other couples, Granny and son Jethro, and another couple, Daddy Warbuck and Orphan Annie, ( that's yet another story ) who were also on a two week cruise. Oh, what fun this is going to be!
Monday, May 05/03
Arrival in Tunisia, ( North Africa ) After we managed to escape the clutches of a very persistent horde of local taxi drivers, we walked to the train station and took a local train from the port of La Goulette to Tunis, the capital. The Tunisians are a very friendly people, and one must not forget to walk through the Medina. That's a maze of dark and narrow side streets filled with little shops selling everything from leather goods to diapers. Haggling for the right price is a MUST and Haggle we did! We picked up two Kaftans for 20 Dinars ( originally the shop keeper wanted 50 Dinars for one ) We also picked up a small earthenware mosque candle holder/vase.
We took the train back to La Goulette ( Port City ) and explored the town, enjoyed a glass of hot tea and honey, with a mint leave, at one of the local café's. A very unique experience, sitting with the locals at a simple sidewalk café.
Tuesday, May 06/03
Arrival in Civitavecchia ( Italy ): We walked ( 15 minutes ) from the port to the train station of Civitavecchia where we caught the train to Roma.The train to Roma took only 1 hour and 10 minutes. The transportation system in Italy requires that you STAMP your tickets either on the train or streetcar, or at one of the yellow boxes located at the various stations. But we forgot to stamp our tickets! Thanks to a very nice young lady we met on the train to Roma, and who knew the conductor, we did not get a fine, as is the custom, and were instructed to write our name and date of birth on the back of the ticket for validation.
I am glad that I enrolled in an Italian Language course before I left Canada, it was so much easier to get around etc. In Rome we visited St. Peter's Basilica, St. Peter's Square, The Vatican, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, ( threw coins in the Trevi Fountain ) The Victor Emanuel Monument, the Coliseum, etc. There are so many treasures to see and enjoy, it is absolutely overwhelming. We made our way to Rome's main train station, Stazione Termini, from where we took the train back to Civitavecchia. This time we made sure we stamped our return ticket at one of the bright orange/yellow machines in the train station.
Upon arrival in Civitavecchia, we walked back to the ship, stopping along the way for Aqua Minerale while sitting on a patio overlooking the harbour.
Wednesday, May 07/03
Arrival in Livorno ( Italy ): We took the shuttle bus from the pier to Piazza Grande; the bus driver told us about the Livorno local bus that runs every 30 minutes from Livorno to Pisa, about a one hour drive each way. We made sure that we stamped our bus tickets and, with the help of a local Livorno woman, we made our way to Pisa.
Pisa is a small town with their claim to fame as " The leaning Tower of Pisa " ( It really leans! ) The church at Cathedral Square, right next to the leaning tower, is absolutely magnificent. On the way back from Pisa, about 25-30 loud and FAT German women were among the passengers!
Thursday, May 08/03
Arrival in Vile France Sur Mer ( France ): Arrival in the harbour is an amazing sight. We tendered to shore to Vile France Sur Mer and from here we took the train to Monaco ( about 35 minutes each way). It was a banking holiday in France and the station attendant was off duty. So, we needed to figure out this little machine on the wall which, eventually, will produce a ticket. Unfortunately, it does not take credit cards and we had to run back to the village to get small change.
In Monaco we visited the Palace and the Church where Princess Grace was married and later buried. Monte Carlo is a very pretty City, and one can easily see why the very rich make this their play ground. In Monaco we met a very old lady, ( another story ), walking her little dog, watching a " little duuck " that was sitting in the bushes. Mel Gibson's yacht was anchored in the harbour of Monte Carlo!
On the way back from Monaco, we spend some time in Vile France Sur Mer. A quaint little port town with lots of history and again, oh so beautiful, We saw houses there owned by Diana Ross, Elton John etc. We met a fellow who used to live in Montreal and now runs a small bar there. He just wanted to get away from the " rat-race " and we can see why. For the good life, sun and blue skies, you want to be in the Mediterranean.
Friday, May 09/03
Arrival in Barcelona ( Spain ). No trains or buses to catch this time, just enjoying the city, the sights and sounds of this fantastic place. We visited several very interesting places, including one of the most famous and yet to be finished-cathedrals by Gaudy. One of their main streets is called Las Ramblas which is a giant pedestrian street. La Ramblas is filled with stores, vendors with stalls, street performers and absolutely beautiful. At the beginning of Las Ramblas, close to the port, is a column with a statue of Christopher Columbus. Peter bought an ornate clock at one of the many flea markets in Barcelona!!!
Saturday, May 10/03
Arrival in Palma De Mallorca ( Spain ): We WALKED from the pier, about 45 minutes walking to the City. Even though it was a long walk, the scenery made up for it, palm trees, patios, yachts in the harbour. In Palma De Mallorca we visited cathedrals, palaces, stores, and walked through some beautiful parks. One can easily see why so many Europeans make Palma De Mallorca their vacation destination.
Sunday, May 11/03
Full day at sea aboard the Carousel. Eating, resting from all the running around the week before, eating, more sleeping etc. Oh what a life!
Monday, May 12/03
Arrival in Valletta ( Malta ) Oh, those stairs to get into Valletta, they seemed to go on forever. Just when you thought you were there, another set of stairs! Malta, a beautiful island with very few trees, has a very significant history. We visited the Great Hall of the Knights of Malta, the Cathedral, the shops. Writing postcards while sitting on a patio, enjoying a coffee and watching the people go by. History, history and more history, what a beautiful place!
Tuesday, May 13/03
Arrival in Messina ( Sicily ) At the end of the pier we were stopped by a street vendor, who proudly recited several names of streets in Toronto, such as: Danforth, Greenwood, Coxwell, Bloor Street. We never found out whether he actually lived in Toronto at some time.
Messina is a very noisy city. Cars, scooters and more scooters! Before you cross any street you make a cross, and hope for the best! We are not kidding. It's a mad house there. The city is a very old University town with lots of churches, piazzas, fountains etc. Each day at noon, at one of the church's towers they mechanically recreate the creation of earth and the rising of Jesus out of the grave. Statues of Angles tolling bells, the Lion is roaring, the rooster is crowing, Trumpets are sounding, etc., all in gold leaf move in a certain pattern exactly at noon. Breathtakingly beautiful to experience.
Wednesday, May 14/03
Arrival in Naples ( Italy ): Upon our arrival at the Port, a customs official advised us to take our watches off. " Criminale " was his cautionary word for us. So much for welcome to Napoli! . We took our watches off and tucked them safely away in our pockets.
>From Naples, with Daddy Warbuck and Orphan Annie in tow, we took the train ( stamped our tickets ) to Pompeii, about 35 minutes each way. It was in the year 79 A.D. that Pompeii, was buried under tons of lava and ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. In the mid to, late 1800's, archeologists rediscovered the site and started to unearth Pompeii. Today, you can walk the actual streets where the people in 79 AD. lived, and view the remains of their homes and piazzas, the forums etc.etc. What an experience! When we returned to Napoli we enjoyed the BEST Pizza in the world!
Thursday, May 15/03
Arrival in Genoa ( Italy ) Genoa is located in Northern Italy, about 2 hours by train from Milan, but we decided to explore Genoa for the day. Just wondering around, admiring this beautiful city that once was the seat of nobility. The homes on Via Garibaldi are richly adorned with statues, gates and beautiful gardens. The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is constructed mainly in black and white marble. We also visited ( outside only ) the house and garden of Christopher Columbus.
While at sea, at around 10.00 P.M. we were treated to a view of Stromboli, a live volcano, north of Sicily. Quite an experience to watch molten lava run down to the sea !
Friday, May 16/03
Arrival in Menorca ( an island off the coast of Spain ). A beautiful little island with its capital of Mahon. Such a pretty town with lots of pedestrian only streets, and old piazzas, churches, stately homes nestled on the hilltops overlooking the Mediterranean sea. This is the place where we ordered PIZZA, which had a fried, sunny-side up, egg on top of it. Yum - Yum ! This is also the place where Peter, visiting a very old church, tripped and fell on top of some church pews. The noise alone so alarmed the priest, who was hearing confession at the time, that he jumped up from his pew to see what disaster had struck his church; the noise was so loud and reverberated throughout the church.
Saturday, May 17/03
Arrival in Palma De Mallorca ( Spain ). All good things must come to an end. We arrived back in port at about 8.00 A.M. and we stayed on board the ship the Carousel until about 3.00 P.M. Our flight back to Canada, via London England, did not leave until 5.00 P.M. So we made the most of our last remaining hours on this great ship. Finally, our time was up and we made our way to the airport.
We flew to London England and, after making our way from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3, nearly missing our plane since we did not count on a " Gate Planning Time of 20 minutes ," we caught our Air Canada flight to Toronto where we arrived at 11.30 P.M.
Sunday, May 18/03
No milk in the fridge, the plants are dying, stacks of bills waiting to be opened ( maybe tomorrow )