Written by Marshall Cossman.
Considering a fun, no-hassle vacation? One in which you can cover lots of territory, without driving? Where you can swim in any weather; eat all day, if you’re so inclined!? A trip in which you can be pampered, served meals in your room, have a choice of good food without going any distance at all, not having to cook it or wash dishes afterward!?
If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not. It’s called “Cruising.” We’ve been doing it for 20 years and haven’t tired of it yet. Our favorite cruise line is Royal Caribbean, and they’ve earned it.
We just returned from our second Mediterranean Sea cruise with them in four years. We began in Barcelona; Cannes; Florence; Rome; Naples; Venice; Split, Croatia; and Palermo, Sicily before returning to Barcelona. The ship… Brilliance of the Seas. The ship has a large cafeteria style dining room, open for all meals, and snacks for the mid-afternoon hungry crowd. A large, more formal dining room, two specialty, small dining rooms. One specializing in wonderful Italian cuisine, the other in fabulous meat dishes. There are three pools, one indoors, one out, and one for kids with a water slide. Bars are too innumerable to count. A large casino, movie theater, spa, and large exercise room. Of course there’s also the entertainment which compares with any.
Tours are offered at every port and can be shorter overviews and are not particularly costly, there are also 7-8 hour, in depth tours that can be a few hundred dollars, and there are tours that fall in between the two. Our tours, guided by locals who spoke English quite well, were excellent.
Out of Cannes we went to the town of Grasse which is the perfume center of the world. It consisted of a tour through one of the forty perfumeries in town. The process was demonstrated and is quite interesting. This stop was followed by on in St. Paul de Vence, a medieval town once controlled by the Romans.
Our stop in Florence included a stop in Pisa to view the Leaning Tower. Since Pisa and Florence are not on the sea it was about a half hour bus ride to Pisa. Another hour or so ride through the countryside, from Pisa to Florence was on that luxurious bus, as all Royal Caribbean tours are. In Florence we went through the Uffizi Museum which houses many great pieces of art by many great artists, the Academia where Michelangelo’s “David” now stands, a walk over the Ponte Vecchio, and a close-up look at the golden doors to the Baptistery called the Gates of Paradise, made by Ghibberti.
The port for Rome is also about an hour and a half bus ride away but then you’re in Rome. Here we went to the Vatican Museum for a good look at the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling and upper walls painted by Michelangelo. From there, into St. Peter’s Cathedral, the largest in the world. From there we went to the Trevi Fountain, in which we each threw a coin, in the prescribed manner, into the Fountain. This insures our return to Rome. It has worked, three times now. The Coliseum followed.
In Naples we opted for the bus ride that took us to Sorrento, followed by a drive along the Amalfi Drive to Positano. All this refreshed our memories of our first trip in 1971 along the beautiful, winding road on the mountainside, looking down into the wondrous blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea. From here we went to Pompeii which requires a lot of walking, including steps if one goes to view the Music Theater up close, otherwise it’s all paving stones. Split Croatia was our next stop. Again an old Roman town. Its centerpiece is Diocletian’s Palace. Fascinating! Last stop before returning to Barcelona was Palermo. To get there we passed Stromboli, a volcano in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea, at about midnight. Some on board were able to see it erupt. Palermo is a large city with many pretty buildings from ancient times. We took a tour that took us up a very tortuous road to the top of Mt. Pelligrini. From there we went down to the Gulf of Palermo which water is as clear as a swimming pool. It is the recreation beach for the area.
All in all, a marvelous trip, no cares in the world, but news is available on the TVs in the staterooms or certain bars, as well as, on the daily news sheets. And think, we only gained 3-4 pounds!