Monday, November 24, 2008

Family & Florence Cruise

Hey Everyone!

On our next to last cruise (aka the last full cruise before the repositioning cruise), my step sister & her husband visited. Their names are Michele & Jay.

The itinerary was the same as it has been for the last two weeks. We visited Malta on Tuesday. In Malta, we walked to Freedom Square and from there we walked to get coffee...of course! Then we decided to see the Palace. The Palace was very interesting. Lots of painted/frescoed ceilings and walls. Malta had lots of crusaders buried there so there were tons of family crests and portraits of knights. One of my favorite rooms was a room of tapestries of wildlife in South America. There were no photos allowed so I can’t show you but they were amazing and very well preserved.

After the palace, we decided to head to St. John’s Co-Cathedral . The outside was so very plain. The inside was AMAZING. The floor was made of hundreds of tombs of crusader knights. The ceiling was gold and painted and brilliant. There was a nave for each of the countries that were involved in the crusade. The naves were full of statuary, tombs, frescoes, paintings and more tombstones. The Cathedral also had two Carravaggio’s - The Beheading of St. John the Baptist and St. Jerome. They were both great. Bonus items were the illuminated chorale texts and the flemish tapestries. Really it was a great thing to see.

On Naples day, we set off for Herculaneum/Ercolano. Ercolano was destroyed in the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD but unlike Pompeii it was preserved under a layer of lava. The lava moved slowly and because it was somewhat “cooled” when it reached Ercolano lots of wood, fabric and paper was preserved. The site is not very big so it was easy to do it in a few hours. We saw lots of great mosaics, some masks and statuary. The site was practically empty which was also great. We got an audioguide and that gave us some additional info. Most of the people in Ercolano knew that the explosion had occurred so they fled to the beach where they thought they should be safe. And they were...until the giant flood of lava occurred. Yeah. Bad news.

Michele & Jay took tours in Rome & Florence. On Rome day we woke up to find out that there was a huge storm hanging over Italy. There was heavy rain, hail and at least 5 water funnels spotted on the ocean. A water funnel is basically a tornado pre-land. Needless to say, we didn’t go anywhere. Michele & Jay did get to go on the tour. Oddly, we ran into their tour in Florence by the Duomo. It was funny.

So we went to Florence as a cast. We got there pretty early. We took a quick break and then headed of to the Duomo. The Duomo was amazing. The outside is very intricate with the different colors of marble to create geometric patterns. It’s also covered with lots of statues. Across from the Duomo is the Bapistry. The Bapistry has these amazing doors that are covered in bronze (originally gold) and the door has 12 panels (?) on it. Michele told me that each panel represents one of the major stories from the Bible. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Bible but the Italians love that thing!

While we were at the Duomo, Deanna encouraged us to climb the Cuppola. The Cuppola was designed by Bruneschelli - there were no visible supports - they’re all built inside. I can’t explain it but it’s amazing. It’s painted with frescoes of the progression from hell to heaven. The depiction of hell is horrific and very imaginative. Heaven is heaven - lovely, calm and beatific. Hell is crazy, gross, violent and awful. I have pictures.

The climb up was 486 steps. I got some great photos going up and from the top it was breath taking. We took lots of photos. Surprisingly the climb down was also 486 steps.

After that we went to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. November is a great month to travel. Usually there’s a long line to get in and you need to reserve a time slot with hundreds of people to crowd around David for the alloted 15 minutes.

We just walked right in and stayed as long as we wanted in a nearly empty hall.

David is spectacular as is the whole beautiful city of Florence.

The final day of the cruise, we just hung around and enjoyed Villefranche. We went to a local market in the town center and bought some jewelry, we ate some chocolate croissants, drank some cappuccinos, bought some postcards and drank some wine.

Now we’re off on our final Euro ports and then the crossing!


Thursday, November 13, 2008


Larrance with a statue of one of his "relatives" in Naples
Malta - city of Valletta
Mike, Michele, Me & Jay at Herculaneum.

Second attempt for photos - a few more

Storms make for Internet Time


Today there was a terrible storm in Civitavecchia (port o' Rome) so we went to the internet place. I uploaded some photos but it was slow so they got uploaded in a somewhat haphazard manner.

Here's a list of what's there:

The Cathedral of Pisa - near the tower
A view of The Vatican & Rome from the bridge by Castle di Angelo
My 15 euro gelato
Tower of Pisa
Trevi Fountain - Rome - in the middle is Ocean, on the right is health and on the left fortune. I think....
Malta - slightly blurry but it took to long to upload so....yeah
Barcelona - Larrance reading the map on the Via de George Orwell
Barcelona - Constitution Plaza
Lucca - the wall and the tower
L & J with cappuccinos

I tried to get a more photos but it didn't work. So more later....maybe later today....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week Two - Oh, my legs! 11/2 to 11/9


Last week was our first week “alone” on the ship. By “alone”, I mean without our producer, director and our producer’s assistant Monica. So there’s still the whole cast....

Here’s a quick breakdown of what we did each day:

Barcelona: We walked everywhere - the Gothic section, the old Roman section, a pastry shop and we found the Picasso museum.
Sea day: Not much. Sleep in, relax, gym and some Gloom.
Malta: We wandered to the city center. Lots of photos.
Naples: Archeological museum of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pizza. Walked 4 miles.
Rome: We saw Vatican city, Castle of the Angel, Piazza Nuvona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Coloumno and the Spanish Steps. Walked like 6 miles. Also gelato for 15 euro.
Pisa: The tower, the cathedral, a bit of the city and purple is the color of the year in purse form. Walked 4 miles?
Villefranche: handmade soap shop, cappuccino on the waterfront, we learn about the bus to Nice.

And now for some highlights....

It was raining in Barcelona so the first thing we did was get a cappuccino and a Spanish Omelette sandwich. We walked all of the La Rambla - taking in all the sites. From there we kind of just wandered all over the Gothic and the Roman sections of the city. In the Gothic section we heard some wonderful music - a soprano singer and an excellent spanish guitarist. They were both great and the setting - the gothic section - was just magical.

The day in Barcelona was about getting our bearings. We found the archeological museum and the Picasso museum but we didn’t go in. Instead we found a lovely piazza and got a glass of local wine and later we found a fantastic patisseria/bomberia called La Colmena and got some local pastry. The pastry is great and we went back again this week.

As I mentioned above we went to the Archeological museum in Naples. The museum wasn’t very well organized - everything was labeled in Italian (of course!) but the English labeling was very random. One cool thing was they were moving a rather large statue and working on some new rooms so we got to see that. We also managed to find the room of artifacts Yes. It was called the Secret Room and it was filled with ribald lanterns, paintings, beds and uh, statues. The statues were very....upright.

Naples is like the NYC of Italy. I mean there are people everywhere and scooters, taxi’s cars, construction and garbage. Still, it is an exciting city. The people aren’t overly friendly but we have noticed one phenomenon. We got lost twice. Both times a middle aged man, usually dressed nicely, stopped to help us. They went out of their way to give us directions - one man almost missing his bus to do so.

Rome was a great day and a long day. As you can see from the list above, we saw a lot of sites in one day. The whole day was amazing. My favorite site was definitely the Trevi Fountain. I’ve always liked fountains and this was a fountain on a grand scale.

I did have one mildly unfortunate event happen to me. We were close to the Spanish Steps and we decided that some gelato would be good. So we stopped in a shop and Brett got a cup of gelato that cost him 5 euro. I’d spied these good looking cones with dark chocolate on them and asked for one of those. The clerk told me it would be extra and I said okay. He proceed to create an enormous cone of gelato embellished with creme freche, cookies, caramel sauce, little cones, a mini paper umbrella and a purple sparkly thing. I thought, “oh, this is nice.” Then he gave me the price - 15 euro! 15. Euro. I had been suckered. I paid for it and luckily it was excellent. I did find out that this happened to some other passengers which made me feel a little bit better. I’ll post a photo of it later.

Pisa - what can I say - the tower was great! The cathedral by the tower was beautiful. They also had several great stalls that were selling purses. I walked away with a great purple handbag. The clerk told us that purple is the color of the year.....we thought she was pulling our wallets but now I’ve seen purple everywhere!

Villefranche was an easy day which is just what we needed after Italy.

This week my step sister, Michele, and her husband, Jay, are on board. We showed them around Malta and today we went to Herculaneum. What’s Herculaneum? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s a city that like Pompeii was destroyed/covered by the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius. Instead of being covered by ash, Herculaneum was covered by lava. The lava was somewhat cooled (relatively speaking) so some wood, papyrus and clothing survived as well as a bunch of mosaics and sculptures.

But I’ll write more next week....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Larrance on Italia

I'm pretty sure that many people that know me know that my favorite food of all time is pasta with tomato sauce. Well, I'm in Italy 3 days a week and am loving the pasta. Naples tomato sauce is lighter than Roman. Tuscan has more fresh tomatoes in it. At least from my few experiences. But it's all good with a glass of Chianti.

This European jaunt is all about history, streets, museums, cappuccino, pizza, pasta, chianti and a day in France and Spain as well for their delightful streets and treats.

Soon we cross the Atlantic and settle in New York for the Caribbean run. That's all about snorkeling and rum. I look forward to it but in the next two weeks that we have left in Europe I intend to see more museums, walk more streets and eat a lot more pasta and wash it down with chianti.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

First Things First

We woke up at 6am to find out that our next president will be Barak Obama and we could not be happier. What a wonderful feeling to know that we will have a president that we can be proud of. Yes, we can!

Okay, begin blog....

Malta, Naples, Citavecchia, Lucca and Villefranche - week one

Hi Everyone,

Well, we’re just starting our second week. The first week on the ship was very hectic but fun too.

The first day we got on the ship we were very tired. We had a glimpse of Barcelona from the shuttles windows but we had no energy to go into the city itself. So we settled in on our first day and went to dinner for Mike’s birthday. The dinner was excellent but I felt like I was going to fall over onto my shrimp and swordfish and begin to snore. We both slept about 12 hours that night. 12 hours. That’s a lot of sleep. Unfortunately it didn’t really refresh us but left us feeling still jet lagged.

The next day was a sea day. We didn’t meet for rehearsal until 1:30. Rehearsals went well but we didn’t get onto the stage until the next day. That night I had a horrible time sleeping. I got like 3 hours.

We were in Malta the next day - Malta is beautiful! It’s an ancient walled city and the sail in is really spectacular. As you come into port you have Valletta on one side and on the other you have Sliema. The water is a brilliant blue and the walls of the city are a light blonde stone. It looks like the city grows out of the stone. The city has the look of a Byzantine city with a lot of Italian influence. Malta is an independent country and their languages are English and Maltese. We didn’t have time to wander around but we did have time for coffee and lunch. Always time for coffee - a cappuccino! After lunch I purchased a Maltese pastry - a puff pastry pretzel thing covered with almonds, dark chocolate and more almonds. It was great.

We had some time on the stage that day. The show was coming along but had a lot of work left to do. We had the night off and I used some of that time to study.

Naples was our show day. Naples day is also known as Wednesday. We didn’t get off the ship but we took some photos from the ship. I’ll be posting photos later when I have access to fast internet so for now just words.

The rehearsals went very well that day but it did feel like we were doomed to never get a full run through. We kept getting interrupted by different events on the ship. But, you know, that’s part of living on a ship....there’s always stuff going on. This was a big week for crew events - they had the Miss Norwegian Gem contest and they had a big Halloween party. I didn’t go to either because I was busy trying to sleep and failing.
FYI - Miss Indonesia was crowned the first Miss Norwegian Gem.

We did manage to get a run through in and then we were excused to get ready for the show. We did the show and it went great. The crowd loved it and we felt very proud of our work. We all look forward to doing this show for the next four months.

That night I slept barely at all. Barely at all. Suckville.

The next morning was the planned cast trip to Rome. We just weren’t up to it. I woke up after about 3 hours of sleep and felt like crying. So I stayed in bed. Larrance went and made our apologies and we ended up hanging out in Citavecchia with our friend, Mike. There’s not a lot to Citavecchia. It’s a cute, quiet town. We had coffee, looked at the open market, got pizza (of course!), took photos, petted an Italian dog, had more coffee and returned to relax before our first improv show. The show went great. We have a great cast. Lots o’ fun.

The next day we were in Livorno which is close to Florence. Instead of going to Florence we went to the medieval city of Lucca. Lucca is a walled city with lots of great buildings, sculptures, and piazzas. To get there we had to take a shuttle to the bus, take the bus to the train station, stop for cappuccino, train to Pisa, switch trains to go to Lucca. Lucca is beautiful. I want to go back there when it’s not raining so we can ride bikes along the ancient wall and sit out on the piazza. Since we couldn’t do that we had hot chocolate (more like liquid chocolate mousse) inside. Beth, our producer, took us out to a great lunch at an Italian restaurant. What did you have for lunch? I’m glad you asked:

We had a plate of local appetizers - prosciutto ham, gombatelli (cured fat on bread), salami with fennel, chicken liver pate and some other meat. I tried everything. I ate all of the ham and the pate. All of it!

Next I had a savory tart with ricotta and mushrooms in a chick pea sauce. I ate all of it including the plate. BAM!

Then came my main course of handmade tortellini with ricotta, zucchini and tomato. Larrance had a Luccan soup made of onions. We ate all of that - double BAM!

For dessert I had pear cake with warm vanilla cream and Larrance had chocolate mousse. We ate all that - doubla BAM!

We also drank wine and of course more coffee.

Yeah, it was good. Yum.

We had our final improv show - the adult show. It was a fun show but I was TIRED. Not much sleep and lots of adventure makes Jen dull.

The final day of the cruise we are Villefranche. Villefranche is on the French Rivera. We were pretty tired. So we got up late went and had savory crepes, cappucinos and some water. Then we wandered the quaint, quiet and beautiful Villefranche. A lot of stuff was closed but it was so fantastic. The town is built into the mountainside and parts of the city are very old. So most of the walking is up narrow stairwells that open onto landings that have little gardens or private home courtyards. We finished our trip to Villefranche with the purchase of some perfume....for me.

I finally slept that night - a normal night’s sleep.

We said good-bye to our director - TJ, our producer - Beth, and her assistant - Monica that night. The next day we were in Barcelona. It was raining like sheets of rain with high winds. So we woke up for breakfast at 8:30 then went back to the room for an after breakfast nap. We woke up around 10:30am and got up to go out into Barcelona.

Barcelona is really amazing. Big, beautiful, fast, colorful and friendly. It was still raining but we walked all of La Rambla (markets, shops, restaurants). Then we got a map and started wandering. We found our way into the Roman Necropolis, The Gothic part of the city, lots of funky shops, and an incredible pastry shop. We had some amazing pastry - little almond lemon marzipan cookies and we shared a crunchy chocolate tube filled with chocolate mousse. OH WOW YUM.
We also located, for future use, the Picasso museum and the Archeological museum (see the underground city!).
We also drank cappuccinos and wine. We must have walked forever. I think I would have taken more photos but it was raining so I only took 70. Again, I’ll post them later.

Today is the sea day again and we’re starting all over. Tonight we’re celebrating Rance’s birthday. Tomorrow we’re in Malta again - we’re going to try and see the neolithic ruins and a bunch of other old stuff.

Hey, Europe! Keep it comin’!