As I have noted before, cruises are not for everyone. But considering them as a package of hotel, food, entertainment and transport, they offer a bargain that can hardly be beat. The transatlantic cruises, which take place at an awkward time for families and are too long for most working couples, are particularly inexpensive.
We joined Holland America’s Maasdam at Civitavecchia, Rome, Italy’s port. A relatively small ship, it can take 1258 guests, but only about eighty boarded with us. The rest had sailed twenty-two days from Fort Lauderdale and now were sailing twenty more back. We have often said, the average age on a transatlantic is “dead,” but the average on this ship was brought down by four children and one young couple who told us they were often mistaken for “crew.”
We like the smaller ships because one never feels crowded. Going to the theater after a late sitting dinner, we never have to fight for seats.
The itinerary back was for two days in Sorrento, a day in Cagliari, a sea day, Gibraltar, and Cadiz, two days in Lisbon, a sea day, two in Funchal and then seven at sea, and a day at a Caribbean island before reaching Florida. Entertainment is provided on sea days, but we find they are best for those who can entertain themselves – perhaps relaxing, reading, or even writing a blog. Alie enjoys them more than I do, and I am usually ready to get off after seven days. They are relaxing, however.
We had not been to Sorrento, so we were disappointed that heavy seas prevented our landing there. Instead we spent the night in Naples. I shall write separately about Herculaneum and Cagliari, but our first day in Napoli, we took a ferry to Capri and back. Our second day, we had pizza at a sidewalk table by a hole-in-the-wall restaurant (after all, pizza was invented in Napoli), and walked around the streets a bit.
Tourist season is over on Capri, and it was cloudy, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Italians put the accent on the first syllable: Cap-ri. It looks like it could be volcanic, but the mountain rising one thousand feet out of the sea is limestone. It is sixteen miles by ferry from Naples. Roman emperor Caligula made his home there for eleven years, and in the seventies, it was frequented by jet-setters.
A small bus took us up a narrow winding road to the foot of a chairlift. From there, Michelle and I took the steep chairlift the rest of the way to the top. Alie, who was not feeling well and does not do heights well at the best of times, chose to remain behind.
The group continued on to a restaurant and limoncello factory (lemon infused alcohol), and Alie and I took a cab back to the dock and an earlier ferry back to Naples. We had been warned about pickpockets and crooked cab drivers in Rome, but felt much safer there than in Barcelona or Paris where it always seemed strangers accosted or brushed up next to us. On Capri, the taxi driver did not turn on his meter and insisted on fifteen euros, an outrageous fee, but we chose just to pay it and move on. We were going back to the U.S., and beautiful as it is, he was stuck living and working on that island.
Had we been in Sorrento, I might have gone into town for the evening, but we have been to Naples before, so I chose to take the opportunity to get better rested.
Michelle and I toured Herculaneum the next morning. Returning to the ship, we picked up Alie to go out for the fore-mentioned pizza and walk.
The Galleria Umberto I, is named for the second king of unified Italy. His wife was Margarita, for whom the pizza Margarita is named. It was created on her visit to Naples and uses her colors: white cheese, red sauce, and green basil.
The Galleria, built in the late 19th century, was perhaps the first building designed as a shopping mall. Pictures do not do the architecture justice. Four gigantic covered malls form a cross over mosaic floors. All surfaces are elaborately carved and the surrounding buildings have interior courtyards.
We returned to the ship via the Royal Palace, built by the Spanish. Naples was a Greek colony taken by the Romans. In the post-Rome era, Norman, Spanish, French and Italian kings ruled it. The castle by the port was built by the Normans in 1266. Current metro construction has revealed the remains of the pre-Roman port. The Spanish ruled almost four hundred years. Today, the port is the second largest in Italy (Genoa is larger). Tourism is also a big industry with six hundred and fifty ships a year calling at Naples and about a thousand in the larger area.
The outside of the Royal Palace is decorated with statues of the kings. I chose to photograph the first, “Ruggiero Il Normanno.”