Departing Genoa, Italy – Cruise Day 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter digging out the biggest suitcase from the closet and packing all our much needed summer clothes, having our passports in our hands and relevant travelling tickets needed, we were ready to leave. Our journey started at the bus stop where our coach would pick us up for the overnight journey to Genoa, where our cruise ship departs. It was a 16 hour drive through the south of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and finally in the north of Italy. We had the whole back seat area of the coach as it wasn’t completely full, and could luckily get some sleep across some of the chairs. For me was easy, but Lennart sure did struggle with his 196cm length!

Waking up to the early morning sunrise in Switzerland was beautiful, seeing the snow on the mountain tops and the houses hidden on the mountain side. Stopping at the gas station we bought some breakfast before crossing the border to Italy. Most other guests on the coach were 50+ and we had our speculation that the cruise would also be filled with the older generation, but we didn’t mind as it was a brand new travelling experience for us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving in Genoa at the cruise terminal was an exciting feeling, checking in our bags and receiving all the information needed for when we were on the ship, like our dinner time schedule and room key. We had a few hours to wait before we could actually get on the cruise ship, so like most other guests we headed into the city of Genoa to start soaking up the sun.

Beautiful city, and much bigger and busier than expected! We knew that we would have a few more hours in the city when our cruise returned for the home journey with the coach, so we had no rush to see the city now. While waiting for the time to board we found a little café for some lunch. We were very nervous and excited that we didn’t actually eat much!!

It was time and we were ready. Finally standing next to the ship was amazing, warmly greeted by the personnel while others rushed around with taking peoples suitcases to the correct room, cleaning the whole ship and making all the preparations to depart. It wasn’t the biggest cruise ship on the sea, but to us it was breathtaking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first day and night was towards our first destination of Marseilles, France. We had to take part in the safety routine emergency drill, grabbing our life jackets from our room and heading straight to our safety point. Definitely made us realise the seriousness of being on a massive ship with up to 3500 people in an emergency. However it was like being in a comic scene seeing people in life jackets, wondering around lost and taking selfies, making the best of the routine emergency drill. It all added to the excitement as our cruise ship departed the docks of Genoa.

Joining in with our first sit down dinner at our time schedule we learnt how we would have the same table every week, with the same guests on our table. It was very organized and new to us. To our delight we had a lovely older Dutch couple who had the same interests as us, and also the same charming waiter every day, making our dinner time’s very ‘gezellig’.

We had an inside cabin, which we didn’t mind as it had plenty of space for us to unpack and make it cosy. Couldn’t feel the ship moving at all and once we turned the lights off it was perfectly pitch black and couldn’t hear a thing from other guests in the hallway. Our first nights sleep on our cruise was a delight.

Check out Day Two where we arrived in Marseille, France.

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Mediterranean Cruise 2010

In 2010 my partner and I took a last minute Cruise which docked at five different locations in the Mediterranean sea. We had a rather cheap deal for the Greek Louis Majesty cruise ship at roughly €500.00 per person for 7 days all inclusive, as a few months prior it made headline BBC news for an 26ft wave crashing into the ship killing 2 people and injuring at least 14 others.

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We toured the Mediterranean anti-clockwise. Check out the itinerary below as each destination I have created a separate blog post (Some still WIP):

Departing Genoa, Italy – Cruise Day 1

Marseilles, France – Cruise Day 2

Menorca, Spain -Cruise Day 3

Tunis, Tunisia – Cruise Day 4

Valetta, Malta – Cruise Day 5

Palermo, Sicily – Cruise Day 6

Back to Genoa, Italy – Cruise Day 7

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Overall Experience

Thinking back to 2010 seems so long ago already, but the experience hasn’t been forgotten. A cruise vacation is definitely something we would invest in again, giving you enough time to visit more than 5+ places during a holiday. The downside of course is not having enough time at those places to do and see everything we wanted, and really only visiting the touristic things.

We met some great people, explored all new locations and the cruise ship experience was very enjoyable, especially with the swimming pool/jacuzzi and the all you can eat buffets from more than 5 different types of restaurants!!

Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius, Italy 2015

We booked a tour online with City Wonders that would pick us up at 7am in Rome for a long drive to Pompeii for the excursion. Our lunch and entrance tickets for the Pompeii Lost City were included in the price and we would be back by 11pm. We were a bit skeptical as we would be sat on a coach for a total of 6 hours (3 there and 3 back) and this is hugely something out of our comfort zone. Plus with Lennart being 196cm tall he’s not the comfiest person sitting on a coach, but we really wanted to visit so we prepared ourselves for the long journey.

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From the first hour on the coach to Pompeii we already had a great impression of how the rest of the day would go. Our guides were Luca and Dmitri who were fantastic! Luca told all different information about the region, the food and the history of castles on the way in such an interesting and comic way that we really enjoyed it. He also made it personal by adding in little stories of his wife and children and how they have experienced life in the region.

Once we arrived at the Pompeii ruins we were appointed to a guide who works at the Lost City to show us a main walking route that takes 2.5 hours. Right from the start it was impressive and fascinating to be walking through the ruins. Experiencing the houses of how some of the richer families lived to the poor areas where the famous brothels were. Truthfully we could have spent all day exploring there, but for an excursion this was the perfect amount of time. It is definitely a place we will return to and explore more.

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(It’s been hard to choose which photos to share as we have so many! This last photo above shows Mount Vesuvius in the background, where we headed next.)

Back on the overheating coach we headed to a booked restaurant for lunch. We were treated to a set meal of a fresh salad, a Napoleon pizza of our choice and a much needed cold drink, since it had reached 29°c! From there we had about a 40 minute drive up to the highest part of the volcano. Lots of twists and turns in the road definitely made it a challenge for the coach driver but he did a fantastic job getting us to the top, most likely something he does often on these excursions.

We bought a fresh cold water at the temporary little shop and prepared ourselves for the steep walk to the top of the volcano. It was temporary because the previous little shop had been struck by lightening a few weeks before!

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We were prepared with our sneakers on, rather than some guests with high heels on. There was a time limit of 20 minutes for us all to get to the top and enjoy the views before having to get back to the coach as we still had the 3 hour drive back to Rome.

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If you open this photo above larger, you can see the dried lava/volcanic rock in grey from the eruption from 1944.  The other two photos are of the creator of the volcano.

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We were extremely lucky for such a clear day. There was a super friendly Chinese guy on the tour that took our photo at the top, he lost his wife near the coach as she was wearing heels and literally couldn’t walk up the steep part, but he didn’t want to miss out and joined us to the top.

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The day ended back in Rome at 12pm, later then expected due to some traffic from Naples. We highly recommend City Wonders tours, since we can’t think of any negative things to say about the day as we were well informed about the history of Pompeii, Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the overall service was fantastic. If we visit another city that the tour company is based in we will certainly book another excursion with them.

Rome, Italy 2015

Rome was at the top of our list to visit for a long while. But we knew this would be a little more expensive than our usual city trips, due to the amount of attractions in Rome that we really wanted to visit. Plus, we couldn’t go to Rome without at least a day trip to Pompeii for the ancient ruins of the Lost City and to climb the top of Mount Vesuvius volcano, so we were pushing out our usual budget.

As soon as we arrived we were hit with the 36°c degree heat and we were prepared with our sunglasses and suncream. We stayed at the Four Seasons Hostel, which was great location from the train and metro stop plus cheap to sleep there, however overall rather dirty and it’s definitely not a place we will return to. But seeing as we spent the whole day and evenings in the city it was fine just to sleep and shower there.

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We were a little in doubt to queue up and visit the Colosseum inside, as we could see how crazy it was to wait in line up to 4 hours! And we are definitely not the type that like queuing! We took a chance and got up on our 3rd day at 7am, which was hard to do after going to bed so late, and took the metro to the colosseum to see if we had a chance to get to the front of the line. Surprisingly, it was the best time and idea we had on our vacation. We must of been within the first 100 people, so once the Colosseum was open we went straight in!

We found it stunning to see, and to learn the history of how it would of been. We wanted to book the underground tour as it was highly recommended and definitely something we would enjoy, but unfortunately it was sold out online months before we actually arrived! When we return in the future, we will keep this in mind and book in advance.

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With the same ticket you had entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which was also at the top of our list to visit. We took a side entrance that was rumoured to be less popular for the tourists, and with our curiosity we got there and could walk straight in, instead of queuing at the main entrance for minimum an hour.

Once again Rome took our breath away as we tried taking in all the information and history, how life would of been and how amazing it is to walk around freely in such a preserved area. Again we didn’t go with a tour so we could take our time and explore at our own pace, but we would of benefited from a guide to learn better about what some of the ruins were.

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With one of our free afternoons we decided to travel out of the non-stop city with the metro to the famous aqua ducts. I personally didn’t know much about them, so Lennart became my tour guide. He had a good place in mind that he had researched where there were still parts of the aqua ducts standing that would have carried water towards Rome.

IMG_8726Was beautiful to just walk through the fields, with no other people in sight. We followed the dried up path, with the wild flowers and a little stream nearby. It didn’t feel like we were only 20 minutes from the center of Rome. We could of spent hours there but once the sun was setting we headed towards the city for dinner and prepare ourselves for our excursion trip to the Lost City of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius the following day (and our last full day in Italy).

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IMG_8738Here Lennart is photographed with a section of the original stoned road to Rome.

Some things we missed were the Pantheon and the Appian Way so they will be on our list next time our travels take us to Rome! There is just so much to see and take in it was hard to fit everything in on a 5 day visit! Would definitely recommend at least 7 days if your planning your visit to Rome.