2020 Travels travel blog

200201 - Carpediem Roma Golf Club

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Rome Temple (She wasn't wearing a Hajib. It was COLD enough for...

Rome Temple

Inside Rome Temple

Rome

Civitavecchia

Civitavecchia

Tarquinia

Tarquinia

Tarquinia

Marina Bay Sands Singapore


Two days of traveling we finally arrived in Rome. We spent almost an hour walking from the plane, through security (and I don’t know why) and to the baggage claim area. Nothing was posted as to which carousel we were suppose to search for, so we just followed the crowd. I finally determined that "the crowd" just landed from Paris and that our bags are not/should not be on that plane. There were only three carousels in sight and only two were working so you would think “this is a no brainer”, but noooo. I finally gave up looking and went to an airlines information booth, the ONLY information booth around (not even OUR airline) and discovered that our carousel was in the next wing. Ran/walk/hopped there to find our bags and two or three more, waiting for us.

Surprised to see/not see any Immigration or Customs people; we just walked right out the door with our four HUGE bags and a couple of carry-ons. There we were pleasantly surprised to see a gentleman standing with the Taxi/Limo hawkers holding a sign with my name on it. The Resort folks came through and our ride was here!!! The 75 Euro cost for the hour trip was well worth it just to avoid the taxi and taxi wannabee drivers.

We were graciously welcomed by the Resort folks who helped us get checked in, explained some of the major bits of info needed and helped us take our bags to the room. We were also pleasantly surprised at our accommodations at the Resort (see photos). We have just about everything we need (some of which you cannot see behind the doors, like the refrigerator and microwave); the Jacuzzi in the bathroom was a big plus. (BTW – a week at this resort was $415.00 (USD) through the Armed Forces Vacation Club (AFVClub.com)

After a "no sleep" two day travel, we were totally wiped out so we quickly unpacked the essentials and I hit the bed (HARD) at around 5 PM; woke up at 1 PM the next day. This was according to my “plan” of not doing ANYTHING that day. (Evidently, my body is not as young as my mind thinks it is…...or SHOULD be).

The biggest drawback of this Resort, so far, is that you either need to bring your own transportation (e.g. rental car) or expect to pay for a taxi to go anywhere. There is NO public transportation around here and NO shopping in the area. The Resort does sponsor a daily trip to the edge of Rome where you can connect to one of two Metro lines they have that will take you to just about any major stop you need to visit. They will pick you up at the Resort at 0900, drop you off at the Metro and then pick you up at 2100 for a return ride to the Resort. The price for that transportation is under $5.00 (USD), so not too bad. I don’t know the price of the Metro yet, but I’ll let you know.

As expected Italian TV has 98% Italian "speaking" shows. They have a few American movies and TV shows, but it's all dubbed in Italian. Doesn't make much difference when you're watching an action movie; don't need words to compliment the "bang bang". The only two stations that are in English is CNN and BBC. I could only stand CNN's crap for 20 minutes before I switched to BBC. At least BBC tells the news, not their opinion of the news.

Since we’ve been in Rome before and have already seen all the major sights, we have just two major targets for this trip. One of the newest Mormon Temples has just opened in Rome, so that’s target #1. For Target #2 – In past trips I’ve always wanted to see Naples and Pompeii, but it never worked out. For sure, we’ll be visiting Pompeii and surrounding sights this trip, but Naples is still in question. They seem to have a big problem with garbage collections so the garbage sits in the street attracting undesirable creatures and smells. I don’t want that memory of Naples in my brain for the rest of my life so I’ll just wait for a good day or have my friends Steve and Maria give us a personal tour (they live in Illinois, but Maria is from Naples).

Sunday night we received a call that two seats had opened up for a tour to Pompeii the next morning so we took it.

We were picked up by the seven passenger tour van at 0730 and drove the 2.5 hours from Roma to Pompeii. We were only allowed two hours to tour the grounds, but we actually could have spent (at least) the whole day there; so much to see. Pompeii has always fascinated me mainly because of those who died and I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t outrun the volcano and lava. I had to watch a number of Documentaries on Pompeii, most of which were archaeologists and historians giving us their “learned” opinion, and finally came to the general conclusion that the lava, rocks, etc. did not kill the majority of these folks. It was the lack of oxygen; these residents, including the animals, died of suffocation. Now, that makes sense. The residents were use to earthquakes and would take shelter inside, but this was a different kind of threat that they didn’t know about. The weight of the volcano’s rocks, pumas, dirt, etc. was too heavy for most of the roofs. Also, most of the folks who died did not attempt to move out of the city for one reason or another such as a sick relative or a pregnant wife or someone who could not move and those who stayed behind to keep them company. This is one of the better documentaries I found that was both informative and entertaining. Some of its data conflicts with others, but after 2000 years, who knows for sure what happened? Anyhow, you may find this interesting: https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/pompeii-the-last-day/

We then were taken to a “real” Italian Pizzeria for lunch which I normally try to avoid. We’ve been to Italy a number of times before and have never had a pizza that was good as those made in the USA, be it New York, Chicago, etc.

The next stop was the town of Serrano, a local shopping district. We needed to stock up on our food for the week’s stay, so this stop was appreciated. We finally returned to the resort about 12 hours after we had left and I was happy to check off another item, Visit Pompeii, from my Bucket List.

Today (Wednesday) we knocked off “Target #1” as we completed our visit to the newest Mormon Temple, located in Rome. This one is just as beautiful as the others we have visited, but besides being the newest temple it also had one other feature that I’ll describe below.

Of course, not being a member of the church I am not normally allowed to go inside a temple, but I have been inside a few when they have their “grand re-openings” after being renovated. That’s the time when everyone is allowed inside.

This temple has an additional display in the Visitor Center of a miniature temple with a cut-away side so the viewer can see all the rooms inside. That makes it much more interesting and I wish all the temples would do this.

Julieann was happy.

I may not have mentioned this before, but the Norwegian Spirit is just coming out of a total "millions" of dollars renovation with numerous improvements and upgrades and this is to be its first cruise. But......

This just in: “On behalf of Norwegian Cruise Line, thank you very much for your loyalty and for making us your vacation of choice. We have important information for you regarding Norwegian Spirit's 20-day sailing from Civitavecchia, Italy on February 11, 2020.

We regret to inform you that as a result of extended labor strikes in France over the past two weeks, coupled with our desire to deliver an exceptional vessel for our guests to enjoy from the first day they board, we are extending the ship's renovation which requires modifying the first sailing's itinerary.

It is always our intention to maintain original itineraries. However, at times, unforeseen circumstances of force majeure require us to make modifications. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

The sailing will now commence on February 14, 2020 in Civitavecchia, Italy. The revised itinerary is as follows:

14 Fri Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 2:00 pm

15 Sat At Sea

16 Sun At Sea

17 Mon Haifa, Israel 10:00 am Overnight

18 Tue Haifa, Israel Overnight

19 Wed Haifa, Israel 11:00 am

19 Wed Port Said, Egypt 11:00 pm Midnight

20 Thu Suez Canal, Egypt 3:30 am 12:30 pm

21 Fri Safaga, Egypt 7:00 am Overnight

22 Sat Safaga, Egypt Overnight 7:00 pm

23 Sun Aqaba, Jordan 6:00 am 8:00 pm

24 Mon At Sea

25 Tue At Sea

26 Wed At Sea

27 Thu At Sea

28 Fri At Sea

29 Sat Muscat, Oman 6:00 am 2:30 pm

1 Sun Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 10:00 am 8:00 pm

2 Mon Dubai, United Arab Emirates 7:00 am “

So, what this means for us is the scheduled stops for this first leg of our three-leg cruise in Athens, Rhodes Greece and Limassol, Cyprus ain’t gonna happen. That doesn’t really break our hearts since we’ve been to those beautiful places already and NCL is knocking off 25% of the cost of the cruise, which is a nice chunk of traveling money. This will extend our stay in or around Rome for a few days, but we’re still trying to catch up on our Jet Lag sleep anyway so that also plays well.

For those following along in our Travel Blog, I’ve updated the Itinerary section to include these changes. I’m guessing, unless something BIG happens, this should be our last post until we board the ship on Valentine’s Day (ain’t I the romantic?)

So we spent two days in the Sheraton Hotel in Rome. Since we’ve been here before we skipped the big sights and just did some minor sightseeing of the closest mall. (NOTE: Just about every hotel we have stayed at in Italy is far from any stores or restaurants. The resort we stayed at had a shuttle that would take you and pick you up at the beginning of a Metro to Rome and the Sheraton had a shuttle ($3.50 round trip) to a mall about 30 minutes away.)

O.K., another ship change in schedule and itinerary (are we having fun yet???).

I’ve told friend Rob about our recent travel problems and want to share with the rest of you.

To begin with our cruise is/was actually four separate cruises on the same ship.

Leg One: Rome (Civitavecchia) (Italy) to Athens (Piraeus) Greece);  Kusadasi (Turkey);  Rhodes (Greece);  Limassol (Cyprus);  Haifa(Israel);  Safaga (Egypt);  Aqaba (Jordan);  Muscat (Oman); Khasab(Oman); Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates); Dubai

Leg Two: From Dubai (United Arab Emirates); Abu Dhabi(United Arab Emirates); Fujairah (United Arab Emirates); Muscat (Oman);Port Victoria (Seychelles); Nosy Be (Madagascar ); Port Louis(Mauritius); Pointe Des Galets (Reunion); Richard's Bay (South Africa);Port Elizabeth (South Africa); Mossel Bay (South Africa); Cape Town (South Africa)

Leg Three: From Cape Town (South Africa); Mossel Bay (South Africa); Port Elizabeth (South Africa); Richard's Bay (South Africa); Pointe Des Galets (Reunion); Port Louis (Mauritius); Port Victoria (Seychelles); Male (Maldives); Phuket (Thailand); Langkawi (Malaysia); Penang (Malaysia); Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) (Malaysia); Singapore (Singapore)

Leg Four: Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Shanghai, China, Hiroshima, Japan, Kochi, Japan, Kobe, Japan, Shimizu, Japan,Tokyo (Yokohama), Japan

We had already seen almost everything we’ve wanted to see of Asia so we planned to terminate our cruise at Singapore, spend a few days sightseeing, hop a military plane to Japan and then try to hop to Hawaii or just buy the tickets because we needed to be in Las Vegas on May 1st.

The ship is the Norwegian Spirit which is just coming out of major redesigns, renovations and upgrades costing millions of dollars. Taking a ship on its “maiden” voyage is new to us, but if our recent experiences are any indication of what to expect, we will not be doing it again.

The first leg of the cruise was to leave Rome on 10 February for a 21 day cruise. A couple of weeks ago we received a message from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) that the departure date had slipped from 10 to 11 February and that they would be putting us up at the Sheraton Hotel in Rome for one night. No problem. Didn’t affect all the shore excursions we had reserved and paid for……….so far.

Last week we received another message stating that the ship was held up in France, where some of the work was being done, because the French workers had gone on strike. Our new departure date was now 14 February and that we would miss out on three stops, two in Greece and one in Cyprus. Luckily, we had already visited these places and didn’t have any excursions planned.

The options for this inconvenience that were offered by NCL were to cancel the whole trip and get a refund or take the trip beginning 2/14, skip the first three stops we were "supposed" to have originally and they will refund 25% of the trip PLUS give us a 25% discount on our next NCL trip --- all we thought was very fair so that's what we're hoping to do. I say hoping because this is the second change to the trip - they originally cut only one day off the trip and were going to pay for one night at the Sheraton. When this second change came I asked my agent if that free night at the Sheraton was still in play and was told "nope". Also, some folks had to change their flights and NCL is giving them up to $300 to cover the airline's penalty. That didn't apply to us since we got here early on our own accord just to visit Pompeii and the temple.

This is only “Part One” of our problems. Because, as most of you know, I plan things way ahead and when last minute changes occur I sometimes get bitten in the a** --- and that’s what happened.

Originally (a long, LONG time ago) when I first started making reservations, I made a reservation in a time share resort outside of Rome for a week so we could spend some time visiting Pompeii and the new temple. This reservation HAD to be a Saturday (1 Feb) to a Saturday (8 Feb) which left us a couple of days to goof around waiting for the ship to arrive on the 10th. I made hotel reservations for those two days in a nice hotel at the port the ship would be using. After the slip of one day and the reservation at the Sheraton, I looked at the map and realized that it would be a lot better to cancel the port hotel reservation and make a separate reservation at the Sheraton for those two days and piggyback onto the one night NCL was paying for. They were also paying for the transfer from the Sheraton to the ship. Done.

Then came the message about the 14 February delay. According to the message, the Sheraton was no longer an option. In fact, NO hotels were in the offer, just the 25% discount for the cruise which, I assume, was suppose to cover ALL new expenses.

Now it didn’t make any sense to stay at the Sheraton for two days and then move an hour away to the port hotel for the remaining four days so I tried to cancel the Sheraton reservation and just move to the port hotel. “Oh no you cannot” --- I was told. The Sheraton reservation I had made was pre-paid on a “special” and was not refundable. So I kept the Sheraton reservation for two days and re-made the port hotel reservation for 10-14 February. That Sheraton stay was also adding an extra $300 in taxi/shuttle fees from the resort to the Sheraton to the port.

Then the THIRD change message came in from NCL this week. Because of the virus going around they have completely dropped ALL Asia stops, including Singapore. Now the ship would be coming back after the African stops to pick up the stops in Cyprus and Greece that we lost on Leg One and end up the cruise in Athens, Greece. Plus, they were offering a 50% refund if we stayed on the cruise. That part sounded good, but now let’s go back a few months when I was making reservations like crazy – including Singapore.

I had made reservations at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore for one night. It’s a beautiful, VERY expensive, hotel and I reserved a room at the very top (see photo) just to say that we had stayed there. When NCL decided to skip Singapore Marina was kind enough to forgive the reservation, but the other (cheaper) hotel will not budge off their “NO REFUND” policy, regardless of the situation (including ship changes, viruses, etc.) so I’m out $400 there. PLUS, I was counting on/hoping that those military hops would come through to get us back to Hawaii. Now that we’re not even in Singapore I am paying over $5500.00 for plane tickets from Athens, Greece to Hawaii. Yeah, yeah I could have gone “coach” a lot cheaper, but we flew over that way and it was a painful 29 hour trip. I upgraded to Business Class for this return trip in the interest of comfort. The 50% refund from NCL on the cost of the cruise will help a little. Oh yeah, needed to get another hotel room in Athens for one night so with all the NCL refunds, we’re still money out of pocket. Oh well, just another “adventure”.

In addition, I made probably the smartest move I could have made concerning “Shore Excursions”. Normally, we just make our own reservations after determining what we really wanted to see, whether or not we knew what we were looking at. Sometimes we paid more than we should have, sometimes we didn’t see something we should have and sometimes we totally missed out on something really interesting by not make reservations early enough. Well, we met a lady on a past cruise who, in my mind, qualifies as a touring expert. She knows who to call and what questions to ask. She is the one who let us know about this cruise and when she began putting excursions together, we jumped on her band wagon. Now with all these changes, cancellations, etc. I am SURE that she is pulling her hair out since she has set up about a dozen tours for hundreds of people, collected their money, paid the tour guides, etc., etc. My heart goes out to her. I only have “us” to worry about and THAT’S a big pain in the butt at times.

So we did the “hotel shuffle” from the resort to the Sheraton to the Traiano Hotel. The port town of Civitavecchia (meaning "ancient town") is a city and comune of the Metropolitan City of Rome in the central Italian region of Lazio. A sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea, it is located 37 miles from the center of Rome. The harbor is formed by two piers and a breakwater, on which stands a lighthouse. Civitavecchia had a population of around 53,000 as of 2015 and is today a major cruise and ferry port, the main starting point for sea connection from central Italy to Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, Tunis and Barcelona. Fishing has a secondary importance. The city is also the seat of two thermal power stations.

We walked around the town (didn’t take very long) and saw the very narrow streets, most of which are and should be “one way”. We can’t seem to figure out what the various store hours are. Some, like the coffee/pastries shops seem to be open all the time. Clothes, shoes, etc. stores seem to open whenever they feel like it. Most restaurants are only open for dinner from about 6 to 9PM. And the stores are completely spread out (can you say “no malls”?) One store may be right in the middle of a block of houses and be as big as a normal living room. We did find a “market” AKA 7-11 in the middle of a block that had many necessities like food, drinks, snacks, etc. Pharmacies (Farmacies) are on just about every street corner and do a big business – of what they sell, I don’t really know, but they always seem to be open compared to all other stores that are hit and miss.

Since this town took some major hits during WWII, almost the entire town’s buildings were built/re-built in the 1950’s. Some buildings were reconstructed to look like the original building, but…..no.

The only tourist sight worth seeing was the massive Forte Michelangelo. This was first commissioned from Donato Bramante by Pope Julius II, to defend the port of Rome. The upper part of the "maschio" tower, however, was designed by Michelangelo, whose name is generally applied to the fortress. Tourists are allowed to view and photograph the fort from the outside, but it is supposedly a “working” fortress manned by the Italian military so no one without official business can go inside.

North of the city at Ficoncella are the Terme Taurine baths frequented by Romans and still popular with the Civitavecchiesi. The modern name stems from the common fig plants among the various pools. And also next to the town is the location of the cruise ship docks. All major cruise lines start and end their cruises at this location, and others stop for shore excursion days that allow guests to see Rome and Vatican sights, which are ninety minutes away.

We were told that we “couldn’t miss” visiting Tarquinia, a small town a 14 minute train ride north. We had four days to kill, so why not? It wasn’t until we got on the train and began talking with an elderly gentleman who spoke very good English that we learned that aside from the museum and a few OLD buildings, there wasn’t much to see or do in Tarquinia. Since we had already visited tombs in other cities he said that we would be disappointed in visiting their tombs.

According to the Tourist Office, Tarquinia, formerly Corneto, is an old city in the province of Viterbo, Lazio, Italy known chiefly for its ancient Etruscan tombs in the widespread necropoleis or cemeteries which it overlies, for which it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. In 1922 it was renamed after the ancient city of Tarquinii (Roman) or Tarch(u)na (Etruscan). Although little is visible of the once great wealth and extent of the ancient city, archaeology is increasingly revealing glimpses of past glories.

And that’s the end of this story. Tomorrow, God Willing, be depart on the cruise ship for Jerusalem. Thanks for traveling with us.

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