Monday, February 01, 2010


Our first port of call was supposed to be Livorno. Most of the passengers would use this port as their gateway to Florence, Pisa or Lucca. The ship of course offered their own (pricey) tours, others had made arrangements for private tour guides, and others would strike out on their own. Since we’d spent a few days in Florence in October, we decided to take advantage of the morning to explore the ship, and thought maybe we’d walk into Livorno after lunch if the weather permitted.La Spezia. Italy
Everyone’s plans changed dramatically when we discovered that we had NOT docked in Livorno, but rather an hour to the north, in La Spezia!

The storm and resulting rough seas from the night before had resulted in a cargo ship taking our place in Livorno, and we were now anchored off the coast, meaning that everyone wanting to go ashore would have to be tendered, and then travel the additional hour. The seas were still choppy, the skies still threatening, and for everyone with plans to go ashore, there were some serious logistical problems.

La Spezia. Italy
Normally tours offered by the cruise lines are very expensive, but the one guarantee you do have with one of these tours is that if for some reason you’re late getting back to the ship, it won’t leave without you. If you head out on your own and miss the last train, it’s YOUR responsibility to get to the next port where you can reboard the ship. For those people who had booked tours of Pisa/Florence/Lucca through the ship, someone else had been up all night making adjustments to the schedule and figuring out the transportation issues. Those who had arranged for private tours hopefully had cell phones or some way to get in touch with their guides and drivers, but of course no one knew this until first thing in the morning, so I can only imagine the panic and confusion! For those who had planned to take the train to Florence or wherever on their own, they now had to figure out a whole new schedule based on taking the train from La Spezia, and they also had to remember to allow enough extra time to get back to La Spezia in time for the last tender. Although the ship did delay it’s departure an additional hour to compensate for that additional travel time, I’m not sure whether everyone leaving the ship was told this or not. I felt so bad for everyone who had their plans ruined, or at least seriously altered, and I was glad we weren’t affected.

We started out the day as we would every day thereafter, with a light breakfast up in the Oceanview Café, then headed to the gym for an hour on the treadmill. The treadmills were facing the shore, and as we walked we watch the storm clouds roll in, then back out. We watched the tenders bouncing on the waves as they made their trips back and forth from ship to shore. I think it must have been a pretty confusing day, weather-wise, for those on shore.

That evening we had our first dinner at our assigned seating, the late one at 8 o’clock. For those days we were in port, the late seating made more sense because we could have a full day of sightseeing yet still have time to relax before dinner.

We had requested a table for eight so that we could get to know some of our shipmates. Our table for eight turned out to be a long, rectangular table, which doesn’t facilitate conversation nearly as easily as a round table. When we arrived another couple was already seated next to the window, facing one another. We followed suit and introduced ourselves. The other couple turned out to be a woman and her adult nephew, both from Mexico.

We waited for the rest of our tablemates to arrive, but only one other couple showed up, and although the smiled and said hello, they sat facing each other at the end of the table, leaving an empty chair in between us and them. Apparently they weren’t interested in meeting new people!

Our table was tucked away in an alcove, meaning that it was quiet and there was no through traffic except for the wait staff. The menu had a list of ‘standards’ that would be available every day, as well as the featured menu of the day with several choices in each category.

Our service was impeccable that first night: each course was presented correctly and in a timely manner. Water glasses were refilled automatically and unobtrusively. The food was very good – all good signs for the days to come!

When it was time to go to bed the ship was making it’s way from La Spezia to our next stop, Villefranche, France. This would be our gateway to Nice. It was still quite windy, and yes, you could feel some side to side movement of the ship because it’s so tall – 15 decks high. I never found the movement uncomfortable or bothersome, and although Art complained about it, he never felt sick. Our cabin was located pretty much in the middle of the ship, front to back, but we were on deck 10, so rather high up. I think if we had been in the same location on a lower deck the movement would have been much less noticeable.

There are more photos from the cruise and all the ports we visited on our FLICKR PAGE.

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At 2/01/2010 10:53:00 AM , Anonymous Ted said...

Lovely pictures, i could do with a cruise right about now. Its freezing in the UK, some sun and the sounds of the waves would be a welcome respite from the snow and the chilly wind.
We ventured out to Bath at the weekend, I would happily swap for the cruise :)


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