Only a month late! We joined the ship a day late in Portland, Maine as…
Rome, Florence, Cannes, Majorca
Civitavecchia, or “Rome”, according to cruise lines, was not exciting either of us. We’d both been there before, we were a little exhaustulated from the day before, and the weather was looking promising for lounging around the pool. Later in the day we stepped off for a look around Civitavecchia town. It was uninspiring but there was a cashpoint.
Our task was to get to Florence, which neither of us had visited, using just our wits. The ship tours were prohibitively expensive – $150 each, just to drop us in the city and pick us up. I booked the train tickets online for a rather reasonable €46 return. The station was a taxi ride away – another €30 each way. So the return journey was just over €100 instead of $300. Plus it was an adventure which is always more exciting.
We arrived in Firenze at 11:30 and wended our way through the streets toward one of the top 10 famous bridges of the world – the Ponte Vecchio. Of course, a list of the most famous bridges in the world is subjective, but it seems to appear on all lists along with the Golden Gate Bridge, Tower Bridge, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge.
The Ponte Vecchio is one of many bridges that spans the Arno River. The weather was perfect for “bridge visiting” and I steeled myself for the crowds as it looked like I wasn’t alone in looking up the top 10 bridges of the world. The bridge itself was full of jewellery shops with a small gap in the middle with a statue of some chap.
Ponte Vecchio translates as, “Old Bridge”, and it was the only bridge that the fleeing Germans didn’t destroy at the end of WWII. The bridge was lined both sides with shops and this has been the case since the 13th century. Back then there were many varieties of shops – butchers, fishmongers, tanners – but in 1593, Ferdinand I decided that only goldsmiths and jewellers could trade on the bridge and the smell improved almost immediately
We continued on the other side of the river and found some other worthy buildings to photograph. Then it was back over the bridge toward the Palazzo Vecchio, for me, and Zara for Dianna.
We missed out on the Accademia Gallery which houses the original statue of David by Michelangelo, said to be the most famous statue in the world. However, at the Palazzo Vecchio there was a life-sized replica for all to see – apparently there are 30 such replicas worldwide. I was happy with the replica. Large testicles, small penis was my assessment.
Following a swift Sauvignon Blanc (which enabled me to use the felicities), we had a whopping 4 minute walk to the highlight of the day – Florence Cathedral, known more commonly as the Duomo. I’d purchased tickets on the train ride in, to beat the queues. It wasn’t clear which entrance to use and we tried them all before being admitted. I wasn’t sure what type of tickets I’d bought and as we entered I thought we were just going inside to see the dome. All of a sudden we were on the “dome climb” – 463 steps. I wasn’t popular. With only one set of stairs to the very top, the 2:15pm group had to descend to the first level before they could let the 2:45 group up. I was bringing up the rear and was informed that “I was late” by the guy at the first level. I assure you, I wasn’t lagging with my stair climbing abilities.
The stairs just kept on going until we reached the open air balcony at the very top and the reward was magnificent. Views over Flo from all sides. My popularity returned.
Being last to arrive, the other rooftop visitors started the descent first and little by little we had the place to ourselves. We took some photos but the wind was playing havoc with my hair. They used to let 50 people up at a time. Now, according to Albi, the young attendant at the top, it’s risen to 125 in each group. Albi did one of the three, 4 hour shifts on the roof. I asked him about lunch and toilet felicities. What can I say – I was intrigued.
We were last to go down and fifteen minutes later we were on ground level. I wasn’t popular. The inside of the cathedral is nothing special. Of course there’s the dome at one end which is spectacular but the rest of it was no more special than St. Edmunds in Village Way.
After the cathedral, there was an option to climb the bell tower which was another 400+ steps. I was marginally keen but my legs were dead against the idea.
After sharing a pizza beside the Duomo, we strolled back to possibly the ugliest station I’ve ever seen, to catch the 4:30 train back to Livorno. An hour and 20 minutes later we arrived and taxied back to the ship. Fabulous day.
We had to tender in Cannes. Tendering is quite exciting the first time you do it, bordering on fun, but the excitement wears off by the end of the first experience.
We just headed for the beach and found some lovely loungers in front of a restaurant that were reasonably priced. At last I was somewhere where speedos were de rigueur and Dianna joined me in Frenchness.
We didn’t arrive until lunchtime and spent the whole morning cruising down the Majorcan coastline. We had that most wonderful combination of bright sunshine, blue skies and a sea mist making the whole scene looking wonderful against a mountainous backdrop. We spent a few hours on deck sunbathing with every other bugger. We were off pretty quickly and onto the hop on hop off bus.
As people left the bus we moved our way forward to the front seats with the best views. We were thwarted by a French black woman with flaming red hair which looked like a fire hazard.
We did the full 80 minute circuit first before deciding where we wanted to get off. We chose the cathedral which is a magnificent building overlooking the water. When we got there, we were denied entry. Nothing personal; they weren’t letting anyone in.
More strolling and then back on the bus to go up to the Castell de Bellver which had sweeping views over the bay, including the three cruise ships parked up. We explored for a while before heading back on the fun bus. Palma was a real treat and we both agreed that we could certainly spend more time there.
There were some things I liked about the Norwegian Epic. The gym was well equipped with fantastic machines, although some were a little curious. I’ve never seen a knee-curl machine before. Also, we had a great room. One of the nicest I’ve ever had. There was even a bathtub. The casino slot machines were more generous than the Princess ship in April, although I use the word “generous” loosely.
The Epic fails (credit Dianna with that one), were NCL charges for more things than Princess. The deli bar and a 3% commission for casino credit for example. At one point Dianna needed to visit the medical centre, and her bill, for next to nothing, in terms of drugs or treatment, was almost $900. The medical centre on a cruise ship is actually a profit centre.
The pool area in the middle of the ship wasn’t very inviting. And at the back of the ship, the engines spewed out soot and oil which is not conducive to sunbathing. The spa area, that they wanted an additional charge for, was one of the worst I’ve seen on any ship. I declined. And there was no sauna or steam room in the men’s changing rooms. I like a steam and sauna at the end of the day to remove the soot and oil.
The Norwegian Epic had too many people for my liking. I prefer a smaller ship with fewer kids. And I got the feeling that they weren’t particularly my kind of people. I’ll know better next time. Don’t get on a ship with water flumes. Attracts the wrong type.
Having said that, we had a great week and the itinerary was wonderful.