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Post Cruise Report - Explorer Oct 22-29 - Italy/Croatia/Greece


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This will be a work in progress. 

I've reserved replies for each day and I'll come back and add to them.  It will take me a few days to complete, but I wanted to show how easy it was to cruise from Venice/Ravenna despite the long travel distance from either Bologna or Venice airports.  We are really travel newbies, and we were still able to navigate our first European cruise easily.

I'm a butcher, not a scholar, so please overlook typos, grammar issues, etc.  Yes, I'm literally a butcher.  I've been doing it since I apprenticed at 15.

I took pictures of things I found interesting.  Others may or may not be interested in them...you've been warned. 🙂   We kept meaning to take food pictures, but forgot when we started eating because we were hungry.  🤷‍♂️

My wife and I are in our mid-50s, pretty frugal, and never started cruising until our youngest was 19 in 2019.  We weren't quite prepared to enjoy it as much as we do.  We managed three cruises before the shut down. When we were jumping through the hoops to go to Nassau in 2021 to sail on Adventure, we realized we had become "Cruisers". 🙂

We booked this cruise as soon as the 2023 European itineraries were released (Jan 6, 2022 to be precise).  I woke up in the middle of the night every day of release week until they were finally live.  We wanted an aft corner balcony cabin and there are only a handful.  We ended up with cabin 9690.  Aft port corner on deck 9.  Total cost for booking (before gratuities) was $2318. 

Flights were $1412 for Economy, then we had to add the cost of individual seat upgrades for a bit more legroom.  We flew in to Venice Marco Polo Airport and returned from Rome Fiumicino.  We also paid for post-cruise transfers through Air2Sea at $71.95 each.  I'll get in to how we made our way from the Venice Airport to Ravenna (via Venice) on those specific travel days.

We went back and forth about whether to check bags or not.  We decided to each buy a convertible soft backpack/suitcase and check those.  Airtags went in the checked bags, but thankfully we had no problems with our bags arriving.

In preparation for traveling to Italy, I started learning some basic Italian through the popular apps like Babbel, and DuoLingo.  I moved from there to podcasts, videos, and settled on a paid membership to Coffee Break Italian.  I watched a lot of Italian tv shows and movies, some dubbed in Italian (like Friends) and some were actual Italian tv shows (like Un Medico in Famiglia).  My prep work helped, but not quite in the way I expected....more on this later.


When we decided to cruise out of Italy, we thought we might have bitten off more than we could chew, but we didn't.  Trust me...if we can do it, anyone can.


Note...I'm using 24 hour clock for times because I'm still screwed up enough with the time zone changes that it's easier for me to keep track of things...plus, that's how I wrote things in my notes I took over the week.


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Wednesday October 18 into Thursday October 19, 2023

My wife and I both worked this morning...me 330a-9a and she 7a-10a.  I convinced her that we should leave at 10 instead of 11.  No real reason for this other than I wanted to start our trip.

We went from Maine to Boston's Logan Airport via bus. This was the cheapest way to get there...parking at Logan is crazy, and we knew we wouldn't want to drive two hours north when we finally got back on the 29th....Boston traffic is never light.  We are only 7 or so miles from the bus station in Portland, and parking is $5/day.

We flew on TAP Air with a connection in Portugal. We booked Economy then paid 50 € each for “Comfort Plus” seats with more leg room and recline. The seats were comfortable.  The plane was an Aerobus 321LR.

We chose the second row from bulkhead on the port side so we had under seat storage. The third seat was empty so it was just the two of us. I had checked the seating map two days prior and moved us to that row because the third seat was empty. Bathrooms were all the in the back though.

The flight was incredibly bumpy. Extreme turbulence doesn't bother me, but I thought my wife broke my hand squeezing it. The people in the row in front of us shrieking didn't help either.

We had no hot meal service because of the turbulence. They served cold cheese sandwiches a couple hours out from Lisbon.


We departed Boston at 1755. Our scheduled arrival time in Lisbon was 520 and we arrived a bit before 500.  We went faster to avoid an incoming storm.  We disembarked from the plane on the tarmac and were taken in shuttle buses to the terminal.  This was kind of pita, but thankfully it wasn't raining too hard.  First impressions:  Damn, it's hot and humid here.

Passport control was easy...10 minute wait but area was wicked hot....everyone was uncomfortable, not just us.  The immigration agent was very brusque...he said two words to us “Come!” and “Go!”  I'm assuming there was a language barrier.  In any case, we had no problems getting our passports stamped to enter the Schengen Area.

Our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 1420.   We had originally planned to go out in Lisbon and be tourists but weather was very windy and rainy, so we booked the TAP Air Lounge for 48 € each. The lounge is upstairs and opens at 0500. Included food, drinks, showers, etc.

There's no decent place to lay down, and by 1000 it was packed with people.  We ate and napped in a booth until noon then went downstairs to terminal to walk around a bit and wait for a gate to be assigned. We did not have to go through security again since our bags were checked all the way to Venice. We stayed right in the Schengen Area with no problems.


At 1330, our flight showed up as canceled. The TAP service desk was swamped because two other flights to Italy were canceled as well. I was on the phone with Air2Sea while my wife waited in the line with some other couples who we met who were going on cruises. Air2Sea couldn't find verification of flight cancellation so the agent asked me to get back in line with my wife while we were still on the call so the Air2Sea agent could talk to the TAP agent. Unfortunately, all cell service and wifi dropped when I got close to the service desk. No one had any service. I was using ATT International Day Plan which worked well everywhere but this spot. Wifi calling using airport wifi was a no-go too.

The TAP agent was very helpful. When he saw our boarding passes, he immediately gave us hotel vouchers, meal vouchers for the hotel restaurant, and four vouchers for airport restaurants the next morning....two for the Schengen Area and two for the non-Schengen Area. We were rebooked on a flight to Venice the next morning at 0755.  The total wait was around 40 minutes from getting in line to getting our new flight.  While in line, we met three other couples who were on the cruise as well.  We stayed together as a group since there was a definite "safety in numbers" thing going on with keeping your place in line.  TAP Air was trying to separate people into four separate lines because four flights were cancelled, but a lot of people just inserted themselves into whatever line looked like it was moving the quickest.


We shared an Uber to hotel with one of the other couples.  The hotel we were booked at was the Sana Metropolitan. It was nice hotel with decent rooms, although we had two single beds that couldn't be put together.  We definitely felt like there were much nicer rooms in the hotel, but we just wanted a place to shower and sleep. 

We put our carry on bags in the room and went for a walk in Lisbon. Beautiful city and we felt very safe.  All the people we interacted with were very pleasant and welcoming.  We used a translator app on my phone and had a great time walking around and seeing that part of the city.

The hotel restaurant had a huge buffet filled with local specialties. I have no idea what the things I ate were called because I didn't understand the Portuguese, but it was all excellent.

Despite sitting around the airport for 8+ hours before our flight was cancelled, we ended up having a great day.  We weren't stressed about getting to Venice a day late because we built extra days into our trip.  We also have an annual trip insurance plan so we knew the missed night in Venice, the water taxi ride from the Venice Airport to the hotel, and the Uber in Lisbon would be reimbursed.

The little bit of Lisbon we saw left us wanting to go back and spend more time there.


**Edited to add this**

As soon as we stepped away from the TAP Air service desk after we got our new flight, my phone buzzed with a couple messages. It was Air2Sea trying to call me back after our call was disconnected.  I called them back to let them know we were rebooked the next morning.  They asked for our updated flight info and thanked us for letting them know were were all set.  Then they closed out our incident.










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Friday October 20

Transportation Strike Day!!

We got back to the airport at 500 and had no problems going through security. The process was fast and simple...nothing came off our body or out of our bags. They didn't care about liquids, tablets, etc. In addition, since our flight was within the Schengen Area, we didn't have to go through any kind of passport check.

Our flight took off and landed as planned...it was rather uneventful. Two and a half hours of nap time for us.

Once we landed, we had to figure out transportation to our hotel since there was a scheduled National Transportation strike in Italy today.

Our original plan was to take a water taxi from the airport to our hotel when we arrived, but the canceled flight changed that. Thankfully, one of the bus lines, the ATVO bus is privately operated and we were able to take that from the Venice Airport to Piazzale Roma at the end of the bridge to Venice. The cost was 20 € for the both of us. Tickets can be purchased inside the airport just beyond the baggage claim area or outside at ticket machines in the ground transportation area. We bought ours inside because I wanted to try my hand at Italian. The woman at the ticket counter understood me fine, but replied in English. This was a common theme in the Venice area....people seemed to rather speak English than risk a non-native Italian speaker misunderstanding something.

The bus trip was 20 minutes and you get off at Piazzale Roma, right in a big area with lots of bus and car activity. Watch out for vehicles cause they don't seem to watch out for you. There are many vaporetto stops nearby and the train station is a very short walk away.

Since no water buses (vaporetti) were running because of the transportation strike, we decided to walk to our hotel....Google Maps said 35 minutes. We didn't have a ton of luggage, and we're both in good physical shape...what could go wrong?

This was one of the only real mistakes we made during the whole trip. The walk on the uneven ground and narrow alleys in the heat and humidity was brutal....and the crowds. Holy S the crowds!! The popular areas were shoulder to shoulder people. It's currently the time of “acqua alta” (high water) in Venice so the water was shin deep on me in places...and I'm 6'4”...my wife is 5'2”...she was not impressed.

The Rialto Bridge was so crowded that it was an exercise in futility. We ended up finding a reroute which added another 25 minutes to our walk.  We were absolutely exhausted when we arrived.

On the flip side, the hotel experience was great.

We stayed at the Locanda Silva. It's an easy walk (5 mins) from a Vaporetto stop, and the owners are wonderful. I had contacted them the day before to let them know we would be a day late and they said not to worry. I neither expected nor asked about a refund for the missed night of lodging due to our canceled flight. We have trip insurance for that.

Our room included a private bathroom, included a breakfast, and ran us 200 € each night.

The check in process was easy and the owner spoke good English and humored me while I spoke in Italian.

After changing clothes and hydrating, we spent the next few hours walking around Venice...unencumbered by luggage.

Our hotel was in the Castello neighborhood and we headed deeper into it, going away from the tourist areas. We love to see normal people like us going about their daily lives rather than fighting the crowds.

Dinner tonight was at place recommended to us by the young man who was at the hotel desk. He even called to get us reservations.

We ate at 6342 Alla Corte. Dinner ran us 75 € and even our “thrifty” selves thought it was worth it. There are pictures below. The appetizer was a local seafood platter, I had a chicken dish, and my wife had bacon wrapped monkfish. We're not foodies, so I can't tell you the names of the dishes. Sorry.

The restaurant was very nice and to be honest, a lot higher class than we're used to. I felt like the proverbial bull in a china shop, but everyone was really nice to us. The owner felt bad that we didn't have a drink and wanted to give us one on the house after dinner, but we don't drink alcohol.

This was a recurring theme. We ran into a lot of confusion from people who didn't understand why we wouldn't have a glass of wine or an after dinner drink.

The walk back to our hotel from the restaurant was amazing, even in the drizzle. Venice at night is worth seeing.

We were in bed by 2230. Tonight, we had two single beds pushed together, so while we could sleep together, there was a light outside our window that shone in on us all night. We were exhausted, so it didn't bother us, but I could see some people complaining about it. It's something to be aware of at least if you consider staying here.  Another consideration is there are no elevators at the hotel.  You will have to walk up stairs to get to the desk and then more to get to your room.

Tomorrow: travel to Ravenna


Edit: Added one final picture to this reply...it's of the entrance to our hotel, Locanda Silva.   It's the brightly lit open door.



















venice dinner cindy.jpg


venice dinner ted.jpg

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Thank you for your patience.

I started a new position within my company (still a butcher, but now I’m in charge again)...the department I took over has a lot of......opportunities.   Unfortunately that means I work a lot for a few months.

Anyway, back to Italy.

Saturday October 21, 2023 - Venice to Ravenna

We checked out of our hotel sometime around 900.  It was a short 5-6 minute walk to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop. We rode the 5.2 boat and paid 7.50 € each for tickets at the window.  I asked for two tickets in Italian and the woman at the counter talked back to me in English....it's a trend here in Venice.

After buying, you must validate your ticket.  It was quite simple since you had to validate them to get through the barrier to the loading dock.  The process is very easy and intuitive.

Vaporetto Route 5.2 runs in a clockwise direction around the main island (and stops at Lido).  According to the signs, we needed to take it six stops to get to the train station (Ferrovia stop - I believe it translates directly to "rail" or "railroad").  This stop is right in front of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station.   It was ended up being only four stops, which was stressful since it was difficult to look out the windows to see where we were.

The whole process seemed simple to us, and it was...except for the crowds.  The boat was crowded....think "I can't move" crowded.  I don't know what the capacity is of a vaporetto, but it must be "as many people as you can stuff in it".  All I could think of was the headline..."Venice vaporetto capsizes, no survivors".  I'm not sure how it could have been evacuated if it swamped. Yes, it was that full.  My wife was sitting and I was standing next to her, trying to keep an eye on our bags and pockets. 

It appeared that most, if not all of the other people were locals.  No one seemed upset with us having bags, but we definitely felt out of place.  At the second stop, a woman got on with a young boy, physically pushed and shoved her way to the back (where we were), and was screaming at everyone to get out of the way and give her son a seat.  It was uncomfortable.  I could understand the gist of what she was saying, but there were a lot of things that I assumed were obscenities.  She was very aggressive and I shrunk out of her was as much as I could.  Once she bullied someone out of their seat and her son sat down, she was all smiles.

Anyway, at the Piazzale Roma stop, most people got off.  The train station was the next stop.  The whole process from hotel to train station took about an hour.

We took no pictures of the whole vaporetto process.  It was kind of stressful and unfortunately, pictures were the last thing on our minds.

At the station, my wife used the bathroom and paid 1 € for the privilege.  Interestingly enough, our credit card considered it a travel related charge, so we earned extra points.  After my wife came back, I went in and bought our tickets to Ferrara (where we change for Ravenna).  I went up to the first ticket machine I came to and bought our tickets.  Turns out, the machine was for ItaloRail, not Trenitalia, so we paid a bit more for high speed train from Venice to Ferrara rather than the cheap regional train.  We had to wait two hours for the train, and while that sucked, having assigned seats (as opposed to first come, first served on a regional train) was great.  Since the tickets for the high speed train had assigned seats and a specific time attached to them, validating was not necessary.  I bought our tickets on the regional train from Ferrara to Ravenna through the Trenitalia App on my phone.  It was very easy, and doing so meant the tickets did not have to be validated at the station.  I simply clicked the "Check In" link on the app and that validated them.

The change in Ferrara is easy.  There are six tracks there (as opposed to 20+ in Venice).  There is an underground passage to access the track you need, and the displays are in both English and Italian.  We found our track with no problems and boarded easily.  I asked a woman a question in Italian, and she ended up telling us about the area while we waited.  She was happy to talk back to me in Italian, and explained things I didn't understand in English.  Finally!!!  Someone who appreciated my learning Italian. 😄

The train rides were great.  We really like seeing the countryside and non-tourist areas.  The scenery was awesome, although by this point we were both trying not to nod off.

Ravenna station is a small station as well, and it's the end of the line, so you don't have to worry about missing it.  Like Ferrara, you descend into an underground passage to go below the tracks, then go back up to get to the main lobby and exit to the street.  There are elevators for those with large luggage or mobility issues.

We walked 15 minutes to our B&B, the M Club Delux.  It was an easy walk, although we found out after that there was a city bus we could have taken for 2 € each.  We'll do that next time.

The B&B was absolutely amazing.  It's been in the owner's family for 200+ years and it's quite obvious he takes pride in not only his B&B, but also in the city of Ravenna, where he has spent his life.  I'm not sure how to put into words how incredible the place is.  The rooms are modern, immaculate, and have a private balcony overlooking a private courtyard.  I hope the pictures below convey some of how nice it is.  It's located in a small piazza right next to one of the old gates to the city center.

The owner checked us in, showed us around, showed us to our room, and gave us some advice on things to see and places to eat.  He gave us his cell phone number in case we ran into any problems in the city, and told us to call at any time.  We will go back and stay there again.

After changing, we went out to explore Ravenna.  We didn't have a ton of time, but we did manage to see the Basilica de San Vitale and the Mauseoleo di Galla Placida.  Both are a block or so from the B&B.  The owner had made us a list of important things to see in Ravenna, and these were numbers 1 and 2.  We also got some gelato and fries, and my wife bought some.....underwear 🤣 ( @SweetPea ) For dinner, we went to a restaurant on a side street called Babalus.  We didn't have a reservation but there was table available outside for us.  The waiter humored me and let me speak Italian, and we ended up with what we wanted, so that was good.  We ordered and split their "Third Foccacia which was burrata, proscuitto crudo, and extra virgin olive oil.  It was excellent and only cost 15 €.

From what we could tell, we were the only non-Italian speaking people there.  Again, we like being in non-tourist areas and seeing how regular people like us live their lives.  After some observation, we saw that people were taking their ticket and going inside to pay, so I did that.  A big, gruff guy came out from the kitchen and barked the total to me in rapid fire Italian.....I'm not sure which one of us was more shocked that I understood.  Anyway, we liked the restaurant and would eat here again.

From there, we slowly wandered back to the piazza, sat there a bit people watching, then around 2100 we went in to bed. It was a beautiful evening, and we were left wanting to come back to Ravenna and spend more time exploring.

Tomorrow:  To the ship!!!





























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Better late than never I guess.  I prefer Cruise Life over work life.


Sunday October 22, 2023 - Embarkation Day

We had a wonderful night's sleep at the M Club.  It was very dark, quiet, and the bed was comfortable.  Breakfast was included and was served in the room that's in the 10th picture from the bottom in the reply directly above this one.  We were served coffee by a woman that we think was the owners wife.  She didn't speak much English, and while my elementary Italian was more than enough for basic tourist needs, I wouldn't know where to begin to ask a personal question like that.

Breakfast was good, strong coffee, pastries, fruit, meats, and cheeses.  The croissants they served were excellent...so much better than anything I've had here in the States.  There were a few other guests at breakfast, all of them going on Explorer.  We all chatted a bit and shared the normal awkward "where are you from?" questions.

We had arranged an 1100 ride to the port through Michael, the owner and the cost was 40 €, payable in cash to the driver.  We could have gone back to the train station and taken the bus provided by Royal.  I forget how much that was other than remembering it was less than 40 €.  If you take the Royal provided bus, it will be charged to your stateroom, so I guess there's some simplicity in that. 

Michael told us where to find his bank's atm the day before, and we withdrew 100 € with our debit card.  We contacted our credit union prior to traveling to find out the best way to get Euros and were told to use a Bancomat atm when we got to Italy.  Apparently these are actual bank atms rather than third party ones that charge hefty fees.  I forget the exact fee we paid (over and above the exchange rate) for 100 € was, but I do remember it was less than $2.00. 

Once we were finished breakfast, we finished packing our bags and went to the reception area to meet up with Michael, who escorted us down to the driver.  I was pretty pleased that I could follow their conversation, although it wasn't anything more than Michael telling the driver to come directly back to pick up the next guests...apparently his other driver was awol and he was worried about making sure everyone got to the port when they wanted to.

Our driver was friendly enough, and we exchanged the normal pleasantries in Italian.  The drive took 20 minutes, and there was no traffic at all.  Porto Corsini (where the ship was) is a big industrial area, although there was a small village nearby. 

Drop off was very close to the terminal and once we handed him the cash, he was gone with no small talk. 

At the terminal, we were told we could not check our larger bags.  The reason varied depending on who we talked to....either not big enough to check or because they didn't have wheels.  It was kind of a pita to carry them with us onboard, and while we were very frustrated, getting on board was slick.  The longest we stopped during the check in process was to have our pictures taken.

We went immediately to our muster station when we got onboard, then headed to deck 11 to find a place to hang out while we alternated going to the Windjammer.  We found a couch with table by the pool and waited there until rooms were ready (around 1330).

We hung out on our balcony for sail away, then went to the Windjammer for dinner, then to the Welcome Aboard show.  The show was an aerial show featuring a young couple from Ukraine.  As with most shows like this, I was reminded of just how out of shape I've become since my mid-20s.  The young man and woman were incredible and the show was great.  The cruise director, Clo (Chlo??) introduced herself as well.  She was from Limerick, Ireland, and apparently her whole name is difficult for most to pronounce, so she goes by Clo.  She was one of those cruise directors who seemed to be everywhere at once but still had time to chat with every guest that she encountered, and we really liked her.

After the show we picked up a plate of pizza and went back to our balcony for an hour or so before falling asleep.  We're kinda boring.

We didn't take a lot of pictures today.  Jet lag was really catching up with us.


Tomorrow: Split, Croatia








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Monday, October 23, 2024

Cruise Day 2

Split, Croatia

We had coffee and donuts brought to the cabin by room service.  We wanted two cups a piece so we asked for two carafes on the room service door hanger.  We got two small carafes...barely two cups of coffee between them.  We decided to ask for four actual cups of coffee tomorrow.

We had no organized excursions planned for today (or any day for that matter).  We made the conscious decision to "wing it" at every port (although we had done some internet research over the previous year, so we had an idea of things to do).

We walked off the ship around 900 and wandered.  We stumbled on to the path up Marjan Hill.  We didn't know what it was at first, we just kept walking upwards figuring it had to go somewhere.  There are awesome views from the top along with a children's petting zoo.  While we didn't go into the zoo part, there is a bathroom there....for 1 € a person.

After we wandered around the Marjan Forest Park for a bit and found an alternative way down, we found our way to the Diocletian's Palace and wandered around there, along with the rest of the old town, meandering through the market, and finding a place for lunch before making our way back to the ship.  I wish we had more pictures of the market.  It's quite extensive and really cool.  We wished we had spent more time there.

We napped on the balcony until dinner, then went to the Windjammer to eat.  After that we went to the production show (I believe it was "Wild, Cool, and Swingin"), which was great, then we went to bed....we're still pretty lame...now with jet lag.

I'll try to post the pictures of our time in Split in a better order....more chronological rather than random.

Watch out for the picture down below of the butcher shop in the market.....remember what I do for a living.


























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Ok...back to it. 

Cruise day 3,  24 October, 2023

We were in Zadar, Croatia today.  The original itinerary had us in Bari, Italy, but there was an issue with water levels and the ship would not have been able to approach the pier.

The cruise port is a 15 minute or so drive from the old town area, where the famous Sea Organ is located. Zadar Sea Organ Info 

Royal Caribbean provided complementary buses from the port area to the Sea Organ.  We got out early and beat the crowds to the old town.  It's a great town for walking, and we spent four hours wandering around before we headed back to the ship for lunch.  We made the decision to head back because it kept getting more and more crowded.  The day became less pleasant when we started having to jostle through people just to walk down a street. 

The bus back to the port picked up in the same place it dropped off.  Boarding was easy and the ride back quick.  Going through security to enter the terminal area, we got to observe an American arguing with the Croatian security guard about having to show his Sea Pass.....he kept saying it was a violation of his rights to have to show ID.  The guy tried to get some of us involved by telling us they were violating our constitutional rights.  My response was one of the nicer ones (I called him an idiot and kept walking).  No wonder some Europeans have a poor view of American tourists.

Back on the ship, we napped on our balcony until it was time for dinner.  It was my wife's 56th birthday, so we splurged and went to Chops.  She had the filet and loved it.  Unfortunately, this was the day I started feeling ill and I didn't eat much...nothing contagious nor food poisoning, but not eating was the way to make myself feel better, so I didn't get to experience much of the awesome food the rest of the week.  I still had a great time though...just a bit hungry. 🙂


















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Cruise day 4, 25 October 2023

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Beautiful day today.  Rain was forecast, but other than a two minute shower, it was dry.

Since I still wasn't 100%, we opted to pay the $20 pp (round trip) to use the Royal Caribbean shuttle from the port to the old town.  While we prefer walking (since we see more of the "real" area), I still wasn't feeling 100%, so we paid to take the ride.

Dubrovnik's old town is another amazing place.  It was super crowded, so we tried to go where people weren't.  For the most part, we succeeded, but there were times it was impossible to avoid the crowds.  There were four ships in port today. 

We didn't walk the walls because they were too high for my wife's comfort as well as quite pricey to access.  We enjoyed walking and people watching.  We stayed out almost five hours then went back to the ship for our standard balcony nap. The shuttle back was easy to board

It's really hard for me to explain in words how amazing all these ports are, and the pictures just don't do justice.
























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Cruise day 5, 26 October 2023

Corfu, Greece

Another beautiful day.  Four ships in port today.  Since I was feeling much better, we chose to walk from the port to the city center.  We had no plans other than exploring and seeing what we come across.  The only goal we had was to see the city center and avoid the tourist crowds as much as possible.

We walked through the port and along the water until we came to the New Venetian Fortress.  There was lots to explore here and the entrance fee was 5 € per person.  There's also a free toilet at the entrance...first free one we have come across all week.

After wandering around the New Venetian Fortress, we continued our walk through the middle of the city center, ending up at the Old Venetian Fortress.  History break here....I've been interested in WW II since I was 9 or 10 years old, so I'm always on the lookout for history related to it.  The Old Venetian Fortress has some very sad WW II history attached to it....I won't mention specifics...the info is out there.  This whole trip, I found it quite moving to be in places where significant history took place.  It's one thing to read about something, it's a completely different thing to actually be there.

The line to enter the Old Venetian Fortress was extremely long.  There were so many people that the authorities had implemented a one out/one in entrance system and the wait was 45 minutes.  We decided to not bother waiting and walked north along the side of it until we got to the water, then we followed the shoreline back to the port.

On the walk back, we stopped in lots of shops and had the opportunity to meet lots of local people.  My wife bought baklava at one place and it took a lot of work with English/Italian/hand gestures/translator app to convince the owner that I couldn't have any for health reasons, not because I thought he wasn't a good baker.  Once he understood, he was very friendly and we talked for quite a while.   Meeting people like this is why we prefer to walk rather than take a shuttle.

Once back on the ship, we took our daily nap on the balcony and went to the Windjammer for dinner.

We added Greece to our list of places to go back to (along with Portugal, Italy, and Croatia).
























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Cruise Day 6, 27 October, 2023

Messina, Sicily

Ok, we were starting to get a bit tired, but we were determined to see the Astronomical Clock do its thing at noon.  Until then, we wandered around like usual. 

The ship docks right in the city, so there's no long walk or shuttle needed.  Messina was the first port we were in that really felt like it was working class, unlike the old town areas of the previous ports.  There was much more poverty visible.

While doing our usual "walk uphill until we find something interesting" thing, we came upon the Sacrario di Cristo Re (Shrine of Christ the King).  Inside the shrine, there is a memorial to an Unknown Soldier as well as the gravestones of fallen soldiers from WW I and WW II.  No pictures were allowed inside.  From there, we meandered around Messina, getting a kick out of what seemed to be a total lack of parking enforcement until shortly before noon, when we went to the Astronomical Clock.  The show at noon was neat to see, but it was kinda crowded.  We went back to the ship after five or so hours for our standard nap.
















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Cruise Day 7, 28 October 2023

Naples, Italy

Naples was the most gritty of all the ports we visited.  From our perspective, it was total chaos on the streets, but it was fun.

Our original plan was to take the train to Herculaneum for the day, but we were both pretty beat, so when my wife suggested the hop on/hop off bus, I was very grateful.

We were on our balcony when we came into port and saw a beautiful moon setting to the west and sunrise to the east.  As we left, we watched the moon rise and the sun set.  It was a great way to end our last port day.  On a side note, I was amazed at how developed the area around Mt Vesuvius is.  This seems like a disaster waiting to happen. 🤷‍♂️

The port is right in the middle of the city and the buses are located behind the big castle across from the port.  When we were there, crossing the street was time consuming due to the amount of traffic and long walk light cycles, however it's my understanding that there is now an underground pedestrian walkway that goes from the port to the subway station across the street (Municipio).  The port itself is very busy due to MSC home porting there, and when we walked off, we had to zigzag through the terminal, go outside, then go back inside, then we exited.  It was kinda crazy.

The buses have two different routes.  The first goes west along the coast, the second takes you into the city.  Both routes were included in our fare...which we didn't document, and neither of us can remember how much it was.  It couldn't have been too much, or we wouldn't have purchased the tickets. 😄    I took a picture of the routes on the map and hopefully it will look decent below.

The coastal route is quite touristy and laid back once you get away from the city itself.  The city route is insane, but in a good way.  Naples feels like a city that can't be explored in a one day port call.

One of the pictures is of a person texting while driving their motorbike.  This was a common sight.  Sirens and ambulances were everywhere, too.  We figured there must be a lot of auto accidents based on our observations of their "rules of the road". 🙂 

Don't get the wrong impression....we loved Naples and will be going back in May of 2025.  There is so much we want to see in


My internet is suddenly wonky and no pictures will load.  I'll try again after rebooting my router and computer

Pictures made it.





Naples Map.JPG
























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1) Love our local butcher! Hope you're as revered up there!

2) God bless you for using military time! Working shifts, it's the only way to go!

3) Sounds like despite your set backs everything wound up going pretty smoothly (so far!).

4) This is just me, but i wouldn't call you entirely frugal! Sounds like you know when and where to splurge to me!

5) Thanks for writing this! Sailing out of Italy is on our bucket list!

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First of all, I'm thinking you undersold the bit about "if i can do it, anyone can do it." 🤣 We definitely would be waaaayyy tooooo stressed dealing with the journey you took! I'm pretty sure that based on the description you provided, I'd never attempt a joy ride on a vaporetto ... I'm a little disappointed though that there was no pic of the pushy woman demanding a seat for her son.  Can you imagine what kind of mother-in-law she'll turn out to be for some poor bride?! 😄

The B&B does look lovely, but I'm wondering if there is an easier way to get there 🤣. I think after your "adventure" there, I'd be looking into a private car service or helicopter ride .... 😅😅😅

And since your wife bought undies in Italy, I'm pretty sure they count as souvenirs and definitely not necessities! 😍

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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Disembarkation Day:

We arrived in Civitavecchia early and were out of our cabin at 730.  We paid $72 each for the Royal Caribbean shuttle to the airport (FCO - Rome Fiumicino Airport).  While pricey, it was worth it to us for the simplicity of it all.  We walked out of the terminal and were immediately directed to the correct bus.  The bus ride was just under an hour.  The only thing for others to be aware of is the drop off was only at Terminal 2 and our flight left from Terminal 3.  We had to lug our bags down to Terminal 3.  While not a big deal for us, if you have a lot of luggage or a hard time walking, things could be difficult. 

We paid for Fast Track at the airport (14 € total) and breezed through security.  Our flight home was Rome --> Munich, Germany --> Boston.  We left Rome a bit late, but the aircrew told us we would get to Munich in time to go through the Schengen exit procedure and make our flight....and we did. The checkpoint was a breeze.

It was funny...when we boarded the plane in Munich, the flight attendants thought my wife was German and started chatting with her.....just like people in Italy assumed she was Italian and started talking to her.

We arrived in Boston on time and used the Mobile Passport Control lane.  While we moved much faster than the regular lanes, Global Entry had priority over us, so we had to wait for all the people with GE to be processed.  We will be getting GE before we go to Europe again this fall.


Final thoughts:

We absolutely enjoyed our first trip to Europe.  The internet makes things so easy to research so use it.  YouTube was a wonderful resource for us.

For cell service/internet, we chose to not purchase a Voom plan.  Our cell carrier is ATT and we used their International Day Pass.  It was $10 per day for the first phone and an additional $5 for the second with a max 10 days worth of charges (no more charges in the billing cycle after that).  The International Day Pass allowed us to use our unlimited data/cell plan in every port. Having unlimited access to the internet was perfect for using things like Google Maps as well as getting an Uber in Lisbon.   Since we had a port every day, there was minimal time we did not have internet access. 

We never felt unsafe anywhere, nor did we have issues with pickpockets.  We acted just like we would in any major US city.  I always practice situational awareness and strive to make myself look like the risk is not worth the reward.  It's a mindset that anyone can have, so don't let fear keep you from seeing the world. 

An important lesson we (ie my wife 😄 ) learned was it's worth the extra money for better airplane seats, especially if you're flying economy.  We flew TAP Air over and paid $50 each (on each flight) for better seats.  She was "okay" with the extra when I bought them.  The flights home were on Lufthansa, and better seats were $150 each (on each flight).  I played the long game and agreed when she said she thought it was too much.  Now I'm 6'4" and she's 5'2"....when we got off the plane in Boston, she asked me how the hell I managed to make it seven hours in that !$#%^& seat cause she was miserable. My gamble paid off, and we are now flying BA Premium Economy on our flights to/from London this fall.....and yes, I was absolutely and utterly MISERABLE on the flight from Munich to Boston, but sometimes ya gotta do things to get what you want. 😇

English was pretty much universal everywhere we went, but other than Venice, people in Italy seemed to appreciate my limited Italian.  Even in Croatia and Greece, Italian was common (although English was fine).  I would recommend learning at least the very basics of the language spoken at your destination.

I'm not trying to start any debates with this, but our next trips to Europe are unfortunately not with Royal Caribbean.  We found a smoking deal on a 7-night MSC northern Europe cruise in October of this year....$2200 for a Yacht Club balcony suite (Preziosa).  We also have another MSC cruise in May 2025..6-nights from Civitavecchia to Naples via Greece and Turkey...$1100 for an obstructed balcony (Divina).  We took a short 4-night cruise on Divina back in January due to having expiring flight credits as well as a hotel room on points, so we're comfortable going on MSC.  Feel free to ask any questions via private message since this is not really the place to discuss another cruise line.

We're not totally traitors though...in Jan 2024 we are going on an 11-night southern Caribbean cruise on Odyssey, and in Sept 2025 we are doing a 9-night Spain cruise on Independence. 🙂


Thank you all for your patience with me as I took entirely too much time to finish this post. 

I'm certainly not looking for any sympathy, but if you're interested in what the health issue is that I mentioned, I'm having the procedure that is US insurance billing code 44140 done in less than a week.  It's a good thing and will take care of a couple uncomfortable issues I've been dealing with.


Fair winds and following seas to all

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1 hour ago, teddy said:

I'm certainly not looking for any sympathy, but if you're interested in what the health issue is that I mentioned, I'm having the procedure that is US insurance billing code 44140 done in less than a week.  It's a good thing and will take care of a couple uncomfortable issues I've been dealing with

Great 👍🏻!  Happy healing!  

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