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My Favorite Cruise Vacation
Cruising the Mediterranean
In 1999 my husband and I took the cruise of a lifetime when we cruised the Mediterranean from Barcelona Spain around the boot of Italy and back for 12 days. Our stops included Marseille and Villefranche in France, Messina, Sicily and Livonrno, Naples, Venice, and Civitavecchia in Itally. At each of those ports we boarded a bus and took trips to nearby cities and towns.
We were able to see sights in places like Rome, Venice, Pisa and Monte Carlo. We saw places we had read about or seen in movies and on television but never dreamed we would get to visit.
Since that trip, more than 12 year ago, we have visited many wonderful places and taken some great cruises but that trip still ranks in my mind as the best ever!
photos by Mary Beth Granger unless otherwise noted
La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi Cathedral
Our plane landed in Barcelona, Spain and a bus took us to meet our cruise ship(Royal Caribbean's-Legend of the Seas) in the harbor. Since it was morning and we could not board the ship yet, the bus gave us a two hour tour of Barcelona. Our bus stopped at the La Sagrad Familia for about an hour and we were able to walk around the structure. I was awed by it's size. It is a very interesting piece of architecture.
The La Sagrada Familia Cathedral is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona. It has been under contruction for 128 years and is not expected to be completed for several more years until 2026-2028. The cathedral's original architect was Antoni Gaudi.
Rick Steve's Guidebook to Barcelona
These guidebook are really helpful in learning about what to see in each location.
south of France
Our first stop on the cruise was in Marseilles, France. We had heard that Aix-en-Provence was a great town to visit so we signed up for a bus ride to the town.
Our visit to this little town in the south of France was a delightful stop. We had several hours to wonder the streets of this small town, stopping to enjoy the fountains, shopping in the stores, and stopping for lunch in a great little restaurant on the main street.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Our next stop was in Livorno, Italy. At this port we took a tour to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was one of those places that we had always heard about and wanted to see. It was very special to actually see it in person.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most famous landmark in a city of beautiful architecture. The tower is located at the Piazza del Duomo where we also saw also houses the Cathedral, the Baptistry and the Camposanto Monumentale (the monumental cemetery). The inside of the cathedral was breathtaking with all of it's columns and arches and an intricately carved ceiling.
The next port was Naples, Italy and here we chose an all day trip down the Amalfi coast and a stop at the little town of Sorrento. The Amalfi coast is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We took a bus along the winding roading and look down at a fantastic view of the coast below us. The bus ride was a bit scary but definitely worth the view.
The town of Sorrento overlooks the Bay of Naples. It is a wonderful little down set on a hillside. There are lots of little shops and here I stopped and bought some Limoncello, a special lemon liqueur and some inlaid wood gifts.
I had always dreamed of going to Venice and loved every minute of it. Our first glimpse of the beautiful city was from the balcony of our ship as it negotiated the rivers that led to where it docked. We stayed in Venice for two days.
The first day we took a boat ride through the canals of the city. It was wonderful to see this city from the water. Buildings opened right onto the water and most of the lower levels were kept empty for when there was high water.
The second day we explored Venice on foot and walked up and down their little bridges. We stopped in St. Mark's Square and had pizza at a sidewalk cafe and shopped in many of the little shops down the narrow streets. We bought Murano glass gifts to bring home.
Our stop in Sicily was at Messina. It is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, Italy. Here we did not take a tour but got off the boat and walking around the town enjoying the architecture and fountains.
the eternal city
At the port of Civitavecchia we took a tour bus into Rome, Italy. We really just touched the main sights in Rome in the 6 hours we were in the city but it definitely was a great experience.
We stopped at St. Peter's Basilica and where we had a guided tour inside the basilica. The enormous size and the beauty of the basilica is humbling. It is truly a work of art. I especially felt moved seeing Michelangelo's Pieta. After touring the basilica we had time to wander around in St. Peter's Square.
Next we were let out in downtown Rome to explore the city on our own. We saw the Spanish Steps and many of the fountains of Rome including the Trevi fountain, where we threw a coin over our shoulder into the fountain.
The bus also had a brief stop at the Colosseum where we could get out and take photos but did not have time to go inside.
It was raining off and on all afternoon when we were in Monaco. It did stop long enough for me to get this photo of the casino in Monte Carlo. We were able to go into the casino and I dropped a few coins in a slot machine just to say I had gambled there. It was very luxurious and you felt like you were stepping into a James Bond film!
© 2011 Mary Beth Granger