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Independence - 14th-28th July Med - Live(ish) Blog


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I bought a Rolex a couple of years ago.  They are quite affordable but I hardly wear it and it's a bit bulky.  It was $36 on the streets of San Juan.   Still not sure what all the fuss is ab

Day 7 - Civitivechia  Today we were in Civitivechia which is the port for Rome. We've heard that to do Rome in a day is pretty frantic as it's at least a 1hr 15min drive from the port, extremely

Some of the chef's table photos failed to upload - Ill try them again

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Day 7 - Civitivechia 

Today we were in Civitivechia which is the port for Rome. We've heard that to do Rome in a day is pretty frantic as it's at least a 1hr 15min drive from the port, extremely hot, and very crowded in summer. As we're from England it's relatively easy for us to visit for a weekend so we plan to do that at some point. So we decided not to do an excursion this time around and instead enjoy the ship. 

We had a lie-in until 8 before going for breakfast in the WJ. It was pretty quiet and I enjoyed some nice pancakes. 

We have explored Civitivechia a bit on our previous visit prior to doing a wine tasting excursion and it's a nice little town with a fort, a small beach area and some quaint streets and buildings. 

We had 5 other cruise ships in port with us today: Disney Magic, Celebrity Reflection, TUI Mein Schieff 6, MSC Fantasia and Costa Didema. So we decided to get off and go for a stroll through the port to stretch our legs and look at the ships and super-yachts. 

We were off the ship for about 1.5hrs between 9:45 and it was already very hot. Once back on board, we grabbed an iced latte and a snack from Cafe Promenade then went up to the back of the ship to try the water slides. They were really good fun although I preferred the yellow one as the blue one had lines on sections of the tubes that made my eyes go funny. Top tip for a fast slide: arch your back and dig your heals and shoulders into the slide. 

We then went to the Solarium to relax before lunch in the WJ. More relaxtion followed before the day's shuffleboard match- I'm disappointed to report that I'm now trailing by 3 games! I need to have a word with myself!

As we've got an early start tomorrow for our trip to Florence, we decided we didn't want to do late dining in the MDR so we took advantage of an offer we spotted in the cruise compass for 30% off at Giovanni's Table. It was fantastic! I had the octopus to start while my husband had the belly pork then we both had the fillet mignon - the barolo sauce was to die for! The desserts came on a trolley and the waiter, having picked up in the fact that I love food, let me sampleall of them 😁

After dinner, we did some window shopping on the Royal Promenade and tried on some Rolexs - it's my husband's dream to own one but I don't think we'll be buying one on this cruise! 

Then it was off to bed ready for Florence in the morning. 
 

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Day 8 - Livorno/Florence

We had an early start this morning with a 7:45 meeting time for our trip to Florence. As Florence is about 1.5hrs drive from the port and often has bad traffic, we'd again booked a transfer with RC. I booked it a while ago so can't remember the exact price but it was in the region of £45-£50pp. This included a tour guide on the coach (Trudy who was extremely informative and good fun), a stop at a leather factory enroute to Florence and a guided walk from the coach drop-off point into the centre of Florence and then 4hrs free time for sightseeing. 

Florence is a beautiful old town with some incredible architecture. Well worth a look if you're ever in the area. We saw the tomb of Michelangelo, the Ponte Veccio and several other historic sites. We got quite lucky with the weather as it was hot but with partial cloud cover so it made the temperature bearable. 

In the afternoon we returned to the ship and had a turkey kummelweck sandwuch from Sorrento's which was delicious. Then we played some shuffleboard (the less said about that the better), before going for a dip in the Solarium pool to cool off. The bars were pretty busy before dinner so we got drinks from Bolero's and took them out on to the Promenade Deck to watch the sun beginning to set. Dinner was in the main dining room where we were treated to a rendition of 'O Sole Mio' by the waiters. 

As we came out of the dining room,  I heard someone saying something about lightning so we went out on deck and sure enough were treated to a natural light show out at sea. We then headed to the Schooner bar where Piano-oke continued - it appears the piano player has some kind of throat problem and has been told to avoid singing. 

Tomorrow we have another port day in Toulon in the south of France. 
 

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Hi, your cruise looks amazing and thank you for sharing your blog.

My wife and I are on a 6 day cruise on the IOS on 5th Aug and are really looking forward to it. I had a few questions which I hope you can answer.

1. How much is voom internet on-board per day? There is a pre booking offer of £19 per day for 2 devices. Trying to decide which is cheaper option.

2. We are thinking of pre booking 3 day dining package @ £57 each. Would you consider this as worth it.

Finally, when do they release times of Grease show and is it something you need to book on first day?

Thanks

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Day 9 - Toulon

Back to the south of France today for a visit to Toulon. As it is a Sunday,  we were told that there wouldn't be much going on in port and lots of people seemed to stay on board because of this.   This is a large naval port for the French and there were several naval ships in that my husband, who used to be in the Royal Navy, found interesting so we decided to get off and have a look around. 

The ship actually docks across the bay from Toulon in a little town called La Seyne-sur-Mer. From here,  it's about a 20min taxi or water taxi ride into Toulon. There was the option of getting a local water taxi for €3.90pp each way or RC were offering a direct water shuttle from the ship for $18pp return. Although this was double the price ofthe local option,  it was far more convenient as the local option was 15-20min walk from the ship and as we didn't have much time in port, we went with the RC option. 

The water taxi took us right past all the naval ships and dropped us off in rhe middle of Toulon's marina where there were several waterfront bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. There was a tourist landtrain there which cost €7pp but we decided to just have a wander around. 

We soon came across a bustling vegetable markets with more varieties of tomatoes (amongst othe things) than I ever knew existed. I bought some different herb combinations ready to pep up my post-cruise diet of grilled chicken and fish! I also tried the local street food dish made of chickpea flour and olive oil. Unsurprisingly, it tasted mainly of chickpeas. 

We carried on exploring the town and taking in the beautiful architecture f9r a little while before heading back to the marina for a drink before getting the water taxi back. The afternoon ws spent just relaxing before dinner in the MDR. This evening's show was a hypnotist which we went to see as we're interested in the psychology of it. I was quite surprised that the theatre was absolutely packed and there were quitea few people in the later show who'd already seen the earlier show. 

After that it was time for bed ready for Barcelona tomorrow. 

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12 hours ago, Runge100 said:

Hi, your cruise looks amazing and thank you for sharing your blog.

My wife and I are on a 6 day cruise on the IOS on 5th Aug and are really looking forward to it. I had a few questions which I hope you can answer.

1. How much is voom internet on-board per day? There is a pre booking offer of £19 per day for 2 devices. Trying to decide which is cheaper option.

2. We are thinking of pre booking 3 day dining package @ £57 each. Would you consider this as worth it.

Finally, when do they release times of Grease show and is it something you need to book on first day?

Thanks

Thanks. 

1. We've only bought on be day's Voom which is $27 for 1 device - definitely cheaper to book beforehand. 

2. The specialty restaurants are: Chops, Giovanni's Table, Izumi Hibachi (and Johnny Rockets but that's not worth doing as part of a dining package). We've only been to Giovanni's Table. We're self-confessed foodies and felt it was well worth paying extra for. That said, I  dont think specialty dining is a necessity as the food in the MDR has been superb. 

I hope you enjoy your cruise. 

 

 

 

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13 hours ago, Runge100 said:

 

Finally, when do they release times of Grease show and is it something you need to book on first day?

Thanks

Sorry - just realised I'd forgotten to answer thus question:

Grease is just announced in the Cruise Compass - you can't pre-book tickets. Ours has just been announced with 2 showings today (Day 11) at 5:45 and 8:45 and another showing on Day 14 at 2pm. 

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7 hours ago, hayley_bopp said:

Day 9 - Toulon

We soon came across a bustling vegetable markets with more varieties of tomatoes (amongst othe things) than I ever knew existed. I bought some different herb combinations ready to pep up my post-cruise diet of grilled chicken and fish! 

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Those tomatoes! I would have bought one of each, found a spot in the sun and happily lunched on them! Yum!

And that spice stand - a chance to puzzle out the ingredients using my very basic French, and yes, I'd want all of them too! 

Jealous. Very jealous!

So glad you're having such a great time!

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7 hours ago, hayley_bopp said:

Thanks. 

1. We've only bought on be day's Voom which is $27 for 1 device - definitely cheaper to book beforehand. 

2. The specialty restaurants are: Chops, Giovanni's Table, Izumi Hibachi (and Johnny Rockets but that's not worth doing as part of a dining package). We've only been to Giovanni's Table. We're self-confessed foodies and felt it was well worth paying extra for. That said, I  dont think specialty dining is a necessity as the food in the MDR has been superb. 

I hope you enjoy your cruise. 

 

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to reply.  Thats good information on the wifi. I think I will prebook one device.

Enjoy the rest of your trip.

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Day 10 - Barcelona

Barcelona today. I've been to Barcelona twice previously, although not for about 12 years. Both times I loved it and have wanted to go back as there's so much to see and do. 

Arrival was early with us cleared to leave the ship at 7:30. We didn't leave straightaway. We got up at 7:30, went for breakfast in the WJ and got off just after 8:30. 

There was a shuttle bus from the port to the World Trade Centre for €5 which we thought was good value as it was quite a walk (about 20mins) with absolutely no shade and despite the early hour, it was already quite hot. 

As soon as we got off the shuttle bus,  we saw a guy doing rickshaw tours so we went for one of those it was €7pp per 15mins, with discounts for tours of 1.5hrs or longer and the tours are completely customisable. We told him we wanted to see the Gothic Quarter and the Olympic Port and he suggested a couple of other sites we hadn't seen before which we could do in an hour. The tour was fantastic and a really great way to see the city with stops for photos. 

He dropped us off at the bottom of La Rambla which we strolled up for a little while before navigating our way through the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter to the Picasso Museum. Entrance was €12pp for just the main collection,  €14pp including the temporary exhibition or €5pp for just the temporary exhibition. We went for just the main collection as husband is not the biggest fan of artworks. I really enjoyed it and my husband quite enjoyed it as well I think (well, he didn't moan about it anyway).

We were getting hungry after this so we went to Plaza Real for some tapas at one of the restaurants lining the square. The restaurant we went to was called Ocana. It was realky quirky,  the tapas were delicious and we thought it was good value as a large beer, a small beer and 3 plates of tapas cost €21.90. 

We then headed back down to Port Vell for an ice-cream before catching the shuttle bus back to the ship. When we arrived at the bus stop, there was a really big queue. However, the buses came quickly with us getting on  the third bus after waiting for less than 10 minutes. 

I'd been looking forward to Barcelona as I'd enjoyed it so much on my previous visits but I had wondered if it wouldn't be as good third time around or with only having a few hours in port (all aboard was at 15:30) but I'm pleased to report that I still love it - it is such a vibrant place with fantastic architecture and sculptures and so many different areas to explore. Both husband and I have said that we want to return for another longer visit soon. 

Once back on board, husband went for a nap whilst I went up to the Solarium to cool off - via trying a roast beef kummelweck roll from Sorrento's; all I can say is, I didn't understand before why Matt goes on about them so much - but now I do! They're delicious!

Tonight's entertainment included an 80s dance party before dinner in the MDR and a silent disco on the Royal Promenade after dinner. We had a quick look and people seemed to be having fun but it was very popular and there was a really big queue for the headphones so we just went up to the Viking Crown lounge for a drink before bed. 

Tomorrow is another sea day as we make our way to Lisbon. 
 

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Day 11 - Sea Day

Today was a well-earned sea day after 5 port days in a row as we head to Lisbon.

We had a bit of a lie-in before breakfast in  the a la carte MDR. Following breakfast we had our shuffleboard match where I'm pleased to say I finally won the day!

At 11:30, we went to the casino to learn to play craps and roulette. We haven't had a go at them yet but we might before the end of the cruise. 

After this we did some filming around the inside of the ship before heading to the MDR for a tutti salad for lunch - delicious as always. 

Then we went to the theatre for the Captain's Corner Q&A session. It was the first time we've been to one of these events but we found it entertaining and informative. 

Some periscoping around the inside of the ship followed and then I got a coconut mojito from Bolero's while I caught up on my blog posts. 

Then it was time to get ready for Chef's table which I'd booked ages ago as a surprise for my husband as a 'thank you' for paying for the cruise. 

We had to meet the host and the rest of our party in the champagne bar at 6pm where we had a glass of champagne  before heading into the MDR and onto the 'private' balcony. The table was laid beautifully and our host,  Enrique, was extremely entertaining as he guided us through each of the coursrs and wine pairings. I'd read good reviews of Chef's Table but I must admit to wondering just how good the food could be. I'm pleased to report that I was blown away by the quality and flavours of the food and tbe wine pairings. I was that blown away bybthe dessert, I forgot to take a picture before tucking in to it! It really was a fantastic night and a great way to meet some new people. 

We had thought that we might go to the casino to try our new gaming skills after the meal but we were that full and tired we just waddled back to our cabin to get some sleep before our day in Lisbon tomorrow.

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Day 12 - Lisbon

Today saw us visit the port of Lisbon. When we visited on our NoS cruise in 2016, it was our favourite port so we've been looking forward to going back. 

We'd really enjoyed taking a tuk-tuk tour that we found on the street on our previous visit so this time we pre-booked a tour with a food focus from Eco Tuk Tours. It consisted of a 3hr tour with stops to try different local specialities including fresh sardines, vino verde, cheese & jelly, cured ham, bread, ginger liquor and pasteis de nata. It cost €49pp +€20 to pick us up from the cruise terminal with a minimum of 4 people. We'd planned to go just the 2 of us and absorb the extra cost but we've gotten on so well with our tablemates that we invited them to join us. They're not particularly foodies but they enjoyed the day. It was a really great tour which was made even better by our fabulous guide Nadia who was extremely informative and entertaining and took us to some extra sightseeing spots that weren't included in the food tour. This included a church that had been detroyed several times by earthquake, flood and fire whixh they decided only to partially restore after the last fire so inside the walls are all still charred. We also passed a traditional laundry in the old town so she took us in so we could take pictures. 

At the end of the tour,  Nadia offered to drop us back at the ship or somewhere else in town. We asked her for a recommendation for somewhere to have a drink so she dropped us at a rooftop bar with great views across the city. 

We then headed back towards the port via the shopping district and stopped off for another drink in the old town before getting back on board. 

We loved Lisbon just as much second time around and it's another place we'd like to go back to for a longer visit. 

Once back on board, we refuelled at Sorrento's before periscoping sailaway from the helicopter pad. Sailaway/into this port is impressive as you go under the 25th April suspension bridge which looks like a smaller version of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF. 

We then relaxed before getting ready for dinner in the MDR which was excellent as always. After dinner we went to watch a comedian in the main theatre. His 'one liner' gags are not really my thing but he was ok. We were all exhausted by this point so we went to bed ready for our final port day in Vigo tomorrow. 

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