Monday, October 25, 2010

The Two Best Cruise Destinations 1/3

If you cruise in the past, I'm sure you have done the Caribbean - Eastern, Western, Southern, let's face it, it's more about the ship than the destination. With the mega-ships (Oasis, Allure, Epic) or the floating resorts (NCL's Gem and Pearl, Celebrity Solstice and Equinox), a lot of people stay on board to enjoy the floating city and don't even care where the ship is going.

But there are cruises where the destination is the reason to go on board and enjoy the ship... as well.
I selected two of the best destinations in the world and since I've been there and done that, I will explain why I chose them!

A cruise in Europe makes many people turn their eyes... That's not a way to visit Europe, they say. And I will disagree. I call it a sample cruise. You fly to Barcelona and spend two nights before the cruise enjoying this amazing Spanish city with countless attractions and a rich cultural past... Find a nice hotel around Las Ramblas, go see a Flamenco show, visit the Picaso museum and enjoy Gaudi's architectural masterpieces all over town... including La Sagrada Familia, that you see in the picture above. Before you go watch Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona to get an idea of this magical city and it's people by the director's point of view, it will enrich your experience.

Well, then you get on the ship and start your cruise on the Mediterranean. I was on NCL's Gem and I felt like traveling on a resort. 12 restaurants, gym, pool, casino, great staterooms, room service... like a trendy hotel in South Beach.

First day at sea, resting and enjoying the Mediterranean sun. Great meals and perfect staff.

First stop: Valletta, Malta. A small archipelago strategic located South of Sicily and with a rich history.
The movie Troy with Brad Pitt was shot there. You get out of the ship and hoop on the island bus that goes around visiting the countryside of this little jewel. Now, I would never take a plane to go to Malta, but I'm glad I visited the island and I was able to see Caravaggio's masterpiece "The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist" at the Saint John Co-Cathedral in Valletta.  And I also visited the Mosta Dome. The dome is said to be the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe.

Another interesting attraction at the Mosta dome is the World War II bombing incident. On the 9th of June, 1942 during WWII, three bombs struck the dome. About 300 people were waiting to hear Mass. Two of the bombs bounced off the dome and ended up on the square. A third bomb pierced through the dome and rolled across the floor of the church. Miraculously, the bomb did not explode. The other two bombs did not explode either! And so, no one was hurt.

A replica of the bomb that pierced through the dome, can be seen in the sacristy.

At the end of the day, you go back to the ship, have a nice dinner (French or Japanese tonight?) and go to bed early, because we will be arriving in Naples, Italy, the next morning!

We woke up with a beautiful view of the bay and the Vesuvio... Getting out of the ship is a breeze and soon we are on a cab driving around the crazy Naple's traffic. We even had a chance to try a slice of pizza at Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba. Naples is widely regarded as the city's first pizzeria. It started producing pizzas for peddlers in 1738.

After that we went back to the port to get the ferry that would take us to the beautiful island of Capri where we spent the rest of the day. Visiting the upscale Anacapri and the Grutta Azzurra is a must while visiting the 'Pearl of the Mediterranean".

After this long day, a quick dinner at the buffet and then time for bed to get ready for Civittavechia, the port close to Rome.

At 8AM sharp, a driver picked us up at the pier for a day tour in Rome. I hired their services through the internet and paid $400 Euros for the Mercedes and driver for the whole day and it was great choice, since the ship sells a city tour on a bus for US$200 per person and you waste a lot of time going to tourist's traps. We saw most of Rome's monuments in one day. I had tickets for the Colosseum, so that was our first stop, and we didn't stay on the long lines. After that, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza Navona, Piazza de Spagna, the Pantheon... we even had time to try the best Italian gelato in Rome (Via degli Uffici del Vicario).

After that we went to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum where we visited the Sistine Chapel. Yes, we were able to see all this in one day. Of course, we want to go back and spend five days in Rome, but this was a fun and cultural day.

Next stop: Livorno - port for Florence and Pisa. But that will be on the second part of this three part blog.

Before you start booking your next trip, wait until you read about the BEST CRUISE DESTINATION IN THE WORLD!

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