In the fall of 2008, Mark and Joy van Marck celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by returning to the site of their London honeymoon, followed by a 14-day Mediterranean cruise. Mark’s travel journal and Joy’s photography documented the highlights of their dream holiday. In the weeks ahead we’ll share some excerpts as the couple travels from the U.K. to Spain, Italy and Greece. If you’re considering a Mediterranean cruise, this will prove to be an excellent planning resource for you.
Sunday, Sept. 7
Monte Carlo, Monaco
We had a light breakfast and then went to the promenade deck for a walk outside. We can see Monte Carlo in the distance and we’re expected to arrive about 11 a.m.
Monte Carlo…the highest income per capita in the world! The richest people in the world come to play here.
The harbour is filled with yachts. The Lady Moura, owned by the finance minister of Saudi Arabia, is the 16th largest yacht in the world and it’s docked next to our ship.
The tour we take climbs up the side of the mountain with a spectacular view of Monaco. We take many of the same streets as the famous Monte Carlo Grand Prix, the same road where Princess Grace was killed in the car crash. If you go off some of these roads it’s straight down for a thousand feet or more.
This has got to be the most beautiful city in the world. Lamborghinis and Ferraris are a common site. We stop at the famous Monte Carlo casino where the very wealthy come to gamble.
That evening, back on the ship, we are treated to an incredible view of Monte Carlo at night. The lights, the harbour, the yachts. The view was worth the price of the trip!
Monday, Sept. 8
We wake up and now we’re in Livorno, Italy. If Monte Carlo was the most beautiful, this dock is the ugliest. Apparently there is not room to dock the ship close to the city, so they put us in the container port. Nothing but cranes, containers, new cars ready to be shipped out or in. A real let-down but our buses are waiting for us and they take us to our first stop, Lucca.
In the heart of the Tuscany province we passed vineyards and olive groves in a picturesque countryside. We visit ancient Lucca, with its massive walls and numerous towers. Much of this town was built over a thousand years ago.
Next we stop in Pisa and visit, of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built in 1173, it has a spiraling staircase of 294 steps running around the cylindrical core of the tower. It started to lean because of shifting ground at its base. They have stopped the leaning and could straighten the tower but choose not to because it has become so famous.
Lots of walking and our feet and backs are sore. Once back at the ship, Joy and I head straight to the hot pool and then for the thermal lounger. Oh that feels good!
We have dinner reservations for 7 p.m. at the Pinnacle Grill. That’s the upscale restaurant. We want to treat ourselves tonight (boy, are we spoiled!).
Tuesday, Sept. 9
Today we go to Rome. We dock in Civitavecchia. It’s about an hour and a half drive to Rome. Beautiful day. We arrive at St. Peter’s Basilica. When we enter into St. Peter’s Square, it’s an awesome sight. You see it so often on TV, but to see it in person is an incredible sight. You can see the balcony where the Pope would stand and lead the service where over 150,000 people can gather. The church is the largest in the world and is a monument to Christianity. It’s decorated in mosaic tiles where the craftsmen who built St. Peter’s were able to produce a large array of colours reaching as much as 28,000 variations. The Vatican Mosaic School was established for the purpose of decorating this church. Inside it’s 32 stories high!
Next we go to the coliseum. The famous arena held 50,000 spectators who came to watch horrifying “entertainment” as live unarmed people confronted lions, or re-enacted famous battles and of course, gladiators.
Most of the famous buildings are ruins today but still give a sense of what it was like in Rome about 2,000 years ago.
It’s very hot today! So it’s tiring walking around. Next we stop at the Trevi Fountain where we throw in a coin which promises that we will return.
It feels good getting back into the air-conditioned bus. We stop at a restaurant and have a nice cold salad with lasagna and a couple glasses of vino. Very enjoyable lunch.
We start back to the ship but have to turn off the main highway because of a fire along the route. It gives us a nice opportunity to go into the town of Civitavecchia. This town is a resort town where many Romans go to get out of the city and close to the ocean and beaches. We spot a helicopter scooping up water to bring to the fire!
Now back on the ship, we again head to the hot pool for a relaxing dip. We meet up with Ken, Dianne, Carol and Derek and afterwards have dinner with them. After dinner, we head up to the Crows nest for a nightcap and learn a new dice game, which was a lot of fun.
Wow. Another great day comes to a close.
Wednesday, Sept. 10
We wake up still cruising to Messina. We pass by the Stromboli Volcano, which is smoking. It’s hard to believe that there is a village right at the base of this active volcano.
We arrive in Messina about 12:30 p.m. We don’t have a tour planned for today, so we decide to walk around the town. Joy wanted to go to the shopping area, but after a half hour walk, we find out the stores are all closed between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. From what we can see, there’s not too much to see in Messina. We do find a few souvenir shops open and Joy bought a few things.
We stopped at a sidewalk café and ordered an espresso and a tea. Another beautiful day. Very hot. It has to be about 35 C but with the humidity it feels hotter.
We head back to the ship and decide to just hang out at the pool and relax. It’s just too darn hot to walk around.
We played “win a cruise” bingo and I came so close to winning. Just one number left to be called but no cigar. Darn!
Got together with Ken and Dianne and Carol and Derek to celebrate anniversaries. Had dinner and then got together on our balcony for drinks, and played dice to the wee hours of the night. A beautiful Mediterranean night.