Hello Again!

When I last wrote, we had just finished up an action packed stretch of port days in Turkey and were preparing for the second sea day of our 10 Day journey. The waters had become just a little rocky, which made for a very interesting (but FUN) White Hot Party as we sailed back east toward Italy.

Well…the bumpy waters continued throughout the night and led to me feeling a little green the next morning. I am not proud to admit this; as a veteran of cruising, a little bit of rocking should not have fazed me. I gingerly made my way up to the aft deck for a small breakfast, but food was not my friend. I was feeling nauseous, so I headed back down to the room to lay down. As a result of my “cruising pride”, I didn’t bother to bring any motion sickness remedies when I packed my bag. My dear Mr. B went down to the gift shop to purchase some Bonine for me, which worked wonderfully (after I took a nap). Needless to say, this sea day was pretty restful and uneventful. The Dawn staff offered a myriad of activities onboard throughout the day, but we were so tired from our multiple port days that we chose to rest. Speaking with fellow passengers later that evening, we found that many people did the same.

(BVB Tip: If you are concerned about motion sickness, here are a few remedies and tips that offer some help).

Day 9 – Naples/Amalfi Coast

We began Day 9 with a bit of sadness, knowing that our adventure was swiftly coming to a close. We pulled into the port and found ourselves docked next to the Celebrity Silhouette; I found myself feeling tad bit of ship envy.

How YOU doin'?
How YOU doin’?

Anyway, CruisinShawnie from our Cruise Critic Roll Call had organized yet another wonderful tour for us, this time with Mondo Guided Day Tours. There were about 13 of us in the group and the cost was $75 US per person. We opted to skip Pompeii in the interest of visiting the Amalfi Coast – honestly, we had seen so many ruins in the past week that we wanted to do something a little different. The weather in Naples that morning was pretty crappy (about 60 degrees with rainy, overcast skies), but we decided we would make the most of this day. We met our guide, Francesco, at the cruise terminal and boarded our van. I chose to sit on the right side of the van, as I read in my guidebook that we would get the best vantage point during our ride along the Amalfi Coast. This turned out to be VERY true.

Our tour would take us to Sorrento (Francesco’s hometown), Positano (where we had lunch), and Amalfi (where I found more gelato). We had the opportunity to pass Mount Vesuvius and wave to Pompeii on our way to Sorrento…

Mount Vesuvius aka the big troublemaker
Mount Vesuvius aka the big troublemaker

Francesco was an AMAZING tour guide. He was engaging, funny, charming, and knew his material well. And his accent was AWESOME. It was clear that he loves this area, his country, and his job. I highly recommend requesting him if you opt to take a private excursion. Here is a sample of Francesco’s singing:

The drive to Sorrento took about an hour. Upon arrival we embarked on a walking tour of the city. Francesco took us into one of the oldest churches in the city, through the town square (where we admired their massive Christmas tree) and showed us the impressive canyon that lies below the city. As much as I enjoyed the city, it would’ve been MUCH better had it been about 15 degrees warmer. (I live in Florida, what do you expect?)

Canyon below Sorrento
Canyon below Sorrento

We re-boarded the van for our trip to Positano, where we were planning to have lunch. This was our first look at the epic Amalfi Coast. We stopped along the way for a photo opp; I got a few photos but I was SO COLD (and it had started raining again), that I was back on the van before the other folks had gotten off. BRR!!

Positano is an interesting city. It’s built right into the cliffs of the coast, so its occupants must park their cars among the narrow streets and walk a flight of stairs to their residences. I would imagine that Positano’s residents are in immaculate shape. We stopped for a family-style Italian lunch at a local Trattoria, where we dined on margharita pizza, ravioli and variety of other delicious Italian food. That lunch made me happy. I wish I had a photo of the food, but I was too busy eating to take pictures!

As we left the restaurant, the sun decided to make an appearance, so I had an opportunity to take this photo:


We left Positano for Amalfi, which offered us the most dramatic drive down the coast. I actually managed to capture some of this on video — (give it about 30 seconds before you see something interesting, lol)

We arrived to Amalfi and were given some time to enjoy the town square. It hadn’t gotten any warmer, but we were in Italy and I NEEDED gelato. Fortunately, there were 2 or 3 open gelaterias in Amalfi; most every other store was closed. We snapped a few photos before my shivering hands and gelato back onto the bus.

Church in Amalfi
Church in Amalfi

Amalfi was our final stop on the tour. We headed back to Naples, taking a completely different route, and everyone in the van was starting to wonder if we’d make it back to the ship on time. Francesco assured us that we’d be fine, and he was right. We would not have had time to explore Naples at all; we were so cold though, all we wanted to do was thaw out in our cabins!! It truly was a wonderful day, in spite of my low tolerance for non-tropical weather.

(BVB Tip: If you want to see the Amalfi Coast, either take an excursion or rent a car. The roads can be a bit harrowing, so unless you are brave, I vote for an organized tour with someone who knows the area well!)

We enjoyed our final dinner on the ship (sniff!) at Le Bistro French Restaurant and began to get our belongings together for disembarkation. We decided to carry off our own luggage; with Freestyle Cruising, you can walk off of the ship whenever you get ready if you carry off your luggage. No assigned disembarkation times. We skipped out on the farewell show…we missed most of the onboard entertainment this cruise, for whatever reason.

Day 10 – Disembarkation, Rome and London

We woke up in the morning and went to the main dining room for breakfast. We knew the Garden Cafe was going to be a madhouse, whereas we could get table service and perhaps some better food options in the Grand Pacific. The dining room was certainly less crowded; we were able to order what we wanted and toast to the end of great cruise. We were back in Civitivecchia at that point and guests were already leaving the ship.

Once ready, we went back to our cabin to collect our luggage. We were only able to use the elevators in the forward of the ship on Deck 7, and the swarm of people waiting for an elevator was ridiculous. We carried our luggage down the three flights of stairs to Deck 4; much better option. I actually got a bit emotional saying goodbye to the cruise staff that we had grown to love over the past 10 days – I’d never been so sad to leave a ship! We took a shuttle bus from the port to the main street in Civitivecchia and walked 10 minutes to the train station. Just as with our arrival from Rome, we purchased our tickets at the electronic kiosk and enjoyed the 90 minute ride back to Termini Station.

We had about 3 hours to burn in Rome, but the weather was markedly different from our prior visit. Just as Naples, it was raining and chilly. In hindsight, we were THRILLED that we did our sightseeing before the cruise, as the weather would have prevented us from really enjoying the city on that last day. We took our luggage back to the Baggage Claim at Termini and quickly found a little coffee shop within walking distance of Termini. I had the most amazing cup of hot chocolate I have ever had in my LIFE – it was like melted fudge mixed with angel tears and gelato. I know; healthy, right? We were seated next to two gentlemen who had just disembarked from the Celebrity Silhouette (the ship we saw in Naples), and we compared notes. Long story short; both cruises were awesome, but they got to go to Egypt and we didn’t. lol.

We made our way back to Termini and jumped on the next Leonardo Express train to Rome Fiumicino Airport. It was a quick 30 minute ride. We located the British Airways counter, checked in for our flights and checked our luggage. We had a 24 hour stopover in London, but BA was kind enough to check our bags all the way back into Tampa so we wouldn’t have to worry about them in London.

Day 10/11: London, England and back home

The flight to London was uneventful. Since we were staying overnight, we had to complete a Tourist card once we arrived to Gatwick Airport and provide that to their immigration agent. We had flown into the North Terminal, but not knowing the difference when I booked our hotel, we had to walk to the South Terminal to get to the Hilton Gatwick. The walk took about 20 minutes through the airport, but I was pleased to see that the hotel was conveniently near the train station since we were planning to head into London that night.

After checking in, we went back to the train station. In spite of my research, I was utterly clueless about which train ticket to purchase and how we would get to London. The ticket agent was EXTREMELY helpful in guiding us the right way…but we still got on the wrong train. (shaking my head). We were able to realize our error pretty quickly, jumped off the train, and waited for the right one that would get us to Victoria Station. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t completely FREEZING in London. I mean, literally, FREEZING. 28 degrees. OMG. Next time we return will be in the summertime.

We made it to Victoria Station and made our way to London Underground. Our only plan was to go to Piccadilly Circus and grab a bite. It was too late, dark and cold to do any real sightseeing. The Underground was MUCH easier to navigate than the regional train system, and we were at our destination in no time. We had a chance to walk around, take some photos, dine on fish and chips (no comment), and buy some souvenirs before heading back to the hotel. It was basically a British appetizer, but since it was our first time in London,  we were just happy to say we’d been there. We’ll do more next time!

SAM_1581 SAM_1588

After a restless night at the hotel (the bed was like a slab of stone), we returned to Gatwick for the final leg of our adventure. The flight back to Florida took 9 hours; I watched “The Hunger Games” on my iPad, read a book and watched two additional movies on their in-flight entertainment. I was sad that our vacation was over, but was glad to be home!

So there you have it. It only took me 3 months to finish this trip review, but at least it’s done! We are already looking forward to our next adventure, and I hope you are too! If you have any interest in designing a similar vacation, or doing something completely different, I am here to help you! This adventure was planned completely by Mr. B and I, with some input and coordination from members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call group. It IS possible!