In September and October of 2023, three couples took a vacation to Europe together.  The Silverns (Reid and Meg), the Whitelaws (Kim and Gina) and the Zechiels (David and Jessica) arrived in Rome on Wednesday, September 13th.

September 12th & 13th - California to Rome

Kim and Gina came to our house, and the shuttle driver showed up on time (despite his company threatening to cancel the trip when I didn't answer their call promptly).

The drive to LAX was uneventful and our flight to San Francisco left and arrived on time. Had to walk to the International terminal for our flight to Rome. It was also on time. Watched a bunch of movies and tried to sleep (without much success).

The flight arrived about 1:00p local time, which is 4:00a Pacific Time. Passed through customs without too much effort, then collected our baggage (despite Gina not bothering to put on luggage tags).

Went to get a cab to our Air B&B. It turns out it is so close to the airport that they have to charge you four times the cab fare that you would normally pay.

Our rooms are on the third floor, and the elevator can accommodate one person at a time. I elected to scale the steep, narrow, dangerous spiral staircase and carry luggage at the same time. Nothing bad happened, but I won't be doing that again.

It's about 3:15p local time and we are trying to stay awake for dinner.

Meg and Reid (who flew from Tucson to LAX to Rome) showed up about an hour later. They flew business class and were quite pampered. The current discussion is revolving around where to have dinner.

Jessica, Gina, Meg, and I played "Phase 10" a custom card game where the basic rule seems to be, on each round, you are dealt exactly the cards you don't need.

Around 7:30p we walked to a local restaurant. This was a short walk up the street. After some back and forth, we managed to order a pizza to our specifications (if you want pepperoni, you must order "spicy salami"). This is a real mom and pop operation. The pizza arrived! It was really, really good (and they brought out more food than we expected). Six of us got out of there for €64 (and this included drinks).

We walked back to our Air B&B and were getting ready for bed by 9:00p.

Pizza dinner the first night in Rome. Meg made the matching bucket hats for the girls!

September 14th - Rome

Slept pretty well. I was out first for the continental breakfast. Soon joined by Kim, Reid, Meg, Jessica and Gina, in that order. Breakfast consisted of coffee, orange juice, and pastries. The pastries were cream filled, and as light and tasty as any I have ever enjoyed. The coffee was espresso. A man named Joseph waited on everyone (despite the smallness of the room).

We all met outside downstairs for our tour guide to pick us up. The guide, Caron, showed up exactly on time. We quickly piled into her large van and were on our way. Caron engaged us in conversation for the approximately one hour drive into the city. Turns out she was raised in the Washington DC area, but has spent the last 22 years in Italy. 

We got to the Vatican and met our guide, Elena. She's very knowledgeable and took us through much of the museum and the Sistine Chaple. There were a number of flights of stairs to be negotiated, and Kim managed them in good fashion. Once again, the Vatican Museum delivers. So much artwork, statues, tapestries, etc, etc!

We finished up and our driver, Caron, was waiting for us. Back in the van. Our first stop was a British pub for lunch. Jessica and I both got the bacon cheeseburger, pretty tasty! A good meal, but much more expensive than our pizza dinner the night before.

After lunch we got caught in bad traffic on our way to the Colousseum. We toured all parts of the Colousseum (much more than the last time with Sal), which involved a lot of walking (this was very taxing for Kim, but he was a trouper). This place is still impressive today. I can only imagine what people of the first century thought about the place during its heyday. 

After, we made a stop for Gelato, very tasty!

We then drove to the Square Colousseum, which was built by Mussolini. He and Hitler wanted to build something worthy of the ancient Romans. This ended up looking like a good sized office building, and not much more (I'm sure it was a lot more impressive when constructed in the 1940s).

We then returned to our Air B&B, where Jessica, Gina and I walked to the corner store to buy soft drinks (€2 for a 1.5 litre bottle vs €4 for a glass in a restaurant). Later we finished the card game we started yesterday. Gina caught the winning cards first. 

Because we had such a big lunch (and the fact that jetlag was still affecting us) Jessica and I skipped dinner and went to bed just after 9:00p. We have an early start tomorrow.

Entering Vatican City.

Touring the Vatican Museum.

Map Room in the Vatican Museum.

The Roman Colousseum.

Enjoying gelato in Rome.

Mussolini's Square Colousseum.

September 15th - Rome

Up early this morning as our ride is arriving at 7:30a. Breakfast was very nice (pastries, coffee and juice). Our driver was running a couple of minutes behind. She gave each couple a copy of a book about Rome. On our way to St Peter's Basilica, we picked up a wheelchair for Kim. I expect he will be a lot more comfortable than yesterday. We parked in a handicap spot and used Kim's handicap card on the mirror (we were told that it would be honored internationally).

Once again, our guide, Caron, leveraged Kim's situation into jumping the line to enter St Peter's (and it was considerable in size). We saw a couple of the Swiss Guard (whose uniform resembles that of a court jester). This place is breathtaking in terms of scope and history! Such fantastic artwork and statuary everywhere one looks. The Pieta (by noted artist Mike L. Angelo) is on prominent display. We visited the entire ground floor, then exited through one of the lower levels that is packed with the crypts of popes past. Really impressive!

We transferred to another vehicle for the next leg (with a new driver), but got word that someone had tagged the van in the handicapped spot. We decided to return to the van to ensure that it wouldn't get towed. The van is now safe and we are back on the way to the Pantheon.

Again, Kim allowed us to bypass the long lines to get in quickly (but there was quite a bit of discussion with the powers that be on this point. They wanted to break up our group and make most of us stand in the long line. Caron held her ground and demanded we be admitted as a family). The Pantheon is a stunning building. A huge dome covers what was once a tribute to Roman gods, but now has been converted into a Christian church.

Next stop was Trevi Fountain. This place is lousy with tourists (and rumored pickpockets). Everyone threw their money into the water, with the promise that they would return to Rome someday.

Now we stopped at the Spanish Steps. The steps were built around a hundred years ago to allow the schoolchildren to climb to the church on top of the hill. It appears that there are about 96 steps in total. I climbed 36 of them; Jessica climbed 48. Once again, lots and lots of tourists (and some nice views).

We now left our new driver and ended up back in the original van with Caron behind the wheel again. Now it has reached lunch time. A LOT of the roads here are paved with cobblestones. This makes for a bone jaring ride. We drove up, up, up on to Janiculum Hill above Rome, where we saw a series of monuments to Giuseppe Garibaldi, former deputy of the Kingdom of Italy (and all around national hero).

Then we stopped at a café for lunch. This place is very nice and pleasant. The menus are in Italian and English, but this hardly matters, because the things you would like to order are not available for lunch. Some of the items on the menu seem quite reasonable, until you find out the quoted price is by the ounce (and, even though it's an English menu, the special pricing is in Italian)! I ended up with the fettuccine. It also turns out that the prices on the English menus are out of date. They charge you for everything, including the bread and water.

We drove by the Acqua Paola fountain, then stopped to take pictures of Rome from the hilltop. On the drive back we stopped at an ATM so Gina, Meg and Jessica could buy some money. We tipped Caron and said our goodbyes. She was never less than enthusiastic, and her help with Kim was above and beyond. I think Gina is going to make a quilt for her.

Back at the Air B&B we played more cards (this time, "The Game", where we "beat the game" on the second try).

We then decided to go back to the pizzeria we visited on Wednesday night. It had the advantage of being good, being close, and being reasonably priced. I have to say I will miss that place, Pizza Rustica (Nonno Carlo).

Back in our room we packed up before bed to be ready for tomorrow's trip to Civitavecchia (the port city for Rome).

Outside St Peter's Basilica.

The Swiss Guard.

The Pieta.

Conclave of visiting cardinals from Africa.

Skeleton holding hourglass of time over Pope's door.

Looking up in the Pantheon.

Trevi Fountain.

The Spanish Steps.

September 16th - Join the Cruise

Slept well last night. Up at 7:30a to get dressed, breakfasted, and packed. Met the others in the dining area. Once again it was pastries, coffee, orange juice and yogurt. I grabbed a stapler and attached our special Princess luggage tags to all the bags. We will leave at 9:30a with Kim and Gina for the airport, where we will catch the shuttle bus for Civitavecchia and the cruise ship. Meg and Reid have their own transportation directly to the ship, bypassing the airport.

At 9:25a I took our luggage down the elevator and out to the street. Our cabbie was waiting, saw me, and called out. I got everyone else down and we were promptly on our way. The hack took us to the exact spot that Princess was loading a truck with baggage and a bus with cruisers. This operation went about as smoothly as one could ask for. Jessica and I took our seats in the bus about 2/3 of the way back; Kim and Gina got front row seats.

Everyone must have gotten to the bus on time, as we left shortly thereafter. The trip to the cruise port was about an hour. Jessica and I played phone games along the way.

The bus arrived in Civitavecchia in good stead. We passed through security and checked in with no lines or issues. Kim and Gina were right behind us, and lapped us while we made a brief stop in the Elite lounge. We met Kim and Gina for lunch in one of the formal dining rooms. If the other meals on this cruise are this good, we will have a really good time (the salmon was absolutely delicious).

Got the phones successfully accessing the ship's Wi-Fi, and our next stop is at our muster station, then dropping our carry-ons in our cabin. Two pieces of our luggage had already been delivered, and Jessica promptly unpacked them. We met our cabin steward, Froilan. He seems to be on top of things. Jessica wants him to disable the automatic light in our cabin. I offered to "poke around", but Jessica instantly put the kibosh on that.

We met up again with Kim and Gina in the Good Spirits lounge. Jessica and Gina are working hard at figuring out ways to game the system. If there's a way to cash out all the incentive money, they will come up with it.

Reid joined us. He pointed out that by accurately tracking everyone on the ship, these new Princess medallions have contributed significantly to the reduction of on-board affairs. I suspect he's just guessing, rather than having any first hand knowledge.

With some effort we got everyone connected via WhatsApp. Communication within the group should be good for the next three weeks.

We all gathered together in the dining room for dinner. Short ribs were on the menu, and most ordered that. A very nice meal. We went straight from there to "Where in the World" trivia. Scored 21/44, the winners scored 36!

Jessica, Gina, and Meg played cards to kill time until the comedian came on at 9:00p. David, feeling loggy, stopped by the International Café for some coffee.

Meg, Reid, Jessica and David met in the Princess Theater to see the comedian. Unfortunately, the comedian literally "missed the boat" and was not on board to perform (he is supposed to come aboard tomorrow in Naples). A pianist, AJ Clark, took his place and played many old, familiar tunes for the audience. 

Back in the cabin at 10:00p we found our big bags waiting. Jessica unpacked everything while I called housekeeping to get the light situation taken care of (and ask for additional clothes hangers).

Boarding the Enchanted Princess in Civitavecchia.

September 17th - Naples

Up at 6:20a in order to be at breakfast by 7:00a and on our walking tour by 8:00a. Meg and Reid joined us for this day's activities.

At 8:00a we left the ship and met our walking tour guide, David. He passed out "whisper ears" to everyone and we walked away from the port to the center of Naples. Along the way we casually passed a couple of very large castles, the newest of which (Castle Nuovo) is like 700 years old.   

We started walking up and up and up, then turned into a most unassuming doorway that had a flight of stairs leading down into the earth. At the end, the corridor turned and went down another flight. This continued for a total of eight flights down into the earth. At the bottom was a room where we heard a special talk from our guide. He told us this was the "Bourbon Tunnel", and that various parts had served various purposes over the centuries. There were shafts leaving in several different directions. If you failed to stay with the group, you could easily get lost down there.

The first several rooms we visited had been used as bomb shelters during World War II. With Italy part of the Axis, the Allies started bombing Naples up through 1943 when Italy threw in the towel. These were brutal conditions, but it was safe from the bombing. They were so well protected that people on the surface had to tell them when the bombing was over.

We continued to walk further and deeper into the complex. We came to a part that was used by German soldiers as a base of operations. Further, and we saw HUGE underground cisterns that held the water supply for Naples in the 19th century. The stories about the men who cleaned and maintained them would make you shudder.

Then, of all things, it was used as a vehicle impound lot during the 1950s to hold cars and motorcycles until they simply rotted away. So many car carcasses! We also saw massive rooms, that for many years in the 1980s served as garbage dumps. They spent seven years cleaning out these tunnels so they could be opened as a tourist attraction. 

Each time you went further and deeper you really started considering how you were going to get back out. Finally we encountered a really long corridor that we were told was the local king's "emergency exit" when the peasants revolted. Fortunately this also led to the gift shop and then to the exit at the bottom of the mountain we had been inside.

From there we continued our city walking tour, eventually winding up at a traditional Napoli pizzeria. They brought everyone salad, pizza, water, wine and dessert. A delightful meal.

Then it was time to return to the ship. Most of the walking so far had been underground and very cool. Now it was 12:30p and the sun was beating down. When we entered the ship's terminal we rode an escalator up to the second floor, ran the gauntlet of tacky souvenir shops, then down a staircase, back outside, headed in the direction we had just come from. In fact, some members of our party announced this was wrong and headed in the other direction. But, it was a ruse to force you to visit the shops. Soon we encountered security and were back on board.

Jessica and I headed to the Good Spirits lounge. She got a beer, I got a Coke. We were joined by Meg and Reid.

Going back to our cabin we ran into Gina and Kim returning from the museum excursion. We got a hold of our cabin steward and he brought us extra clothes hangers and a piece of tape to keep the hall light from coming on automatically. 

Jessica and I then joined Gina for afternoon trivia. We scored 23 (which was respectable), however 31 was good for first place.

Everyone got together for dinner. I ordered the shrimp and scallops, very tasty! We all skipped the evening trivia in order to enjoy dessert. 

After dinner all six of us went to the Princess Theater to see the violinist Inna Tolstova. She came out on stage and a moment later the performance was over. I think Jessica and I slept through much of it.

We returned to our cabin, set our phones and watches ahead by an hour, and hit the hay.

Descending into the Bourbon Tunnels.

One of the large underground rooms.

Traversing the tunnels.

Underground room used during WWII.

Where the locals hid during the bombing.

A collection of confiscated cars and Vespas.

September 18th - Sea Day

Woke up another year older. Everyone met for breakfast at 8:45a in the formal dining room. A lot of discussion about upcoming excursions. Today is a sea day.

I made myself comfortable on the Promenade reading. The others came by and said trivia was starting. We scored 13 out of 20, good for first place.

Jessica, Gina and Meg spent the morning and early afternoon playing games. I read through an old Isaac Asimov book. It surprised me how many of the stories that I must have read fifty years ago, I still remembered.

Everyone but Kim went to afternoon tea. Then there was more trivia at 4:00p.

Jessica and I got dressed up for the formal dinner. We got photos taken with the others before the meal. I ordered the duck l'orange, very, very tasty. A very tasty chocolate mousse was brought out, and the staff and surrounding tables sang "Happy Birthday" to me. Kim and Gina left early to see the comedian at 7:00p.

Jessica, Reid, Kim, Gina and I went to the Princess Theater to see the song and dance show. This turned out pretty well with a lot of energy!

From there Jessica and I went to the Vista Lounge and finally saw the comedian (who failed to show up the first day). In a 45 minute set, he made me laugh about five times. He can play the drums, though. 

We have a big day planned for tomorrow. 

Reid and Meg at sea day dinner.

September 19th - Heraklion, NOT!

Jessica and I both up early to be breakfasted and ready to go for our day in Heraklion (Crete). We ran into Meg and Reid in the Wind Jammer.

Just as we were finishing breakfast, the captain came on the public address to announce that the wind was blowing so hard that he was unable to bring this ship safely into the dock. Even though there were a couple of tug boats available, the captain said, "They didn't have enough power to tear the skin off of custard!" (I'm certain this is an idiom in the captain's native language.)

So it appears we are in for another sea day.

David, Jessica, Meg and Reid met on the promenade and played a couple of rounds of Code Words, each team winning once.

We then attended an emergency trivia game. With no ability to go ashore, this was sold out. The assistant cruise director who put the game together is from Argentina, and many of the questions concerned people and events from the southern hemisphere. We were lucky to score 6 out of 20.

I played some online chess, then met Jessica in the International Café for lunch. I finished reading "Earth is Room Enough" by Isaac Asimov. It's surprising how many of the stories in this book I remember as well. 

Afternoon trivia went our way. David, Jessica, Meg and Gina scored 19/20 for first place going away. The only question we didn't know the answer to was, "What saftey feature was introduced into the UK in 1967?" All the other questions were easy-peasy.

Dinner with everyone but Reid in the Capri dining room. Afterwards, Jessica and I took in the "Inspired Silliness" show in the Vista Lounge. This was Jim Henson's Muppets live on stage. It involved a large cast of singers and dancers (plus a zillion Muppets). Part of it involves showing how the puppeteers do their thing.

Jessica and I visited the International Café for some late evening dessert. We were in bed by 9:00p. Got an early start tomorrow in Kusadasi.

September 20th - Kusadasi and Ephesus

Up early. Jessica and I got breakfast in the Wind Jammer, then met the others on deck five before leaving the ship and touring Kusadasi and Ephesus. We all walked off together. The first thing you needed to do was run the gauntlet of tacky, overpriced souvenir shops. Finally we passed through the last security checkpoint and found ourselves out on the street.

Very quickly, our guide, Atilla, found us and brought his big van around. We all piled in and he talked to us about Turkish history and culture all the way to Ephesus. 

Ephesus is an "outdoor museum" where you wander around and among the ancient buildings and artifacts. There is a large, central corridor that is paved with stone. It is uneven and sometimes slopes considerably. In other places there are stairs that must be negotiated. As Kim uses a walker, he and Gina opted to ride with the van to the end and walk back along the path, which is by and large flat at the far end.

Guide Atilla took us along the traditional path, pointing out various temples (such as the Temple of Hadrian) and monuments (the statue of goddess Nike). This included the theater that was used by their lawmakers, the baths, the public toilets, and many residences for various important people.

We took a special mini-tour of the Terrace Houses. When we visited here in 2011 they were excavating these houses, but they were not available to visit. They have since done a remarkable job digging everything out and covering it with glass bottomed scaffolding. You have to climb many staircases (I would estimate at least six), but you get up close with seven or eight houses (think of a large townhouse with eight units) that were all built into a hillside above the main drag. Beautiful mosaics in the floor and spectacular marble on the walls.

From there we came to the reconstructed Library of Celsus. Quite an impressive engineering feat.

Near the end you encounter the 25,000 seat theater built into a hillside. It has been restored enough that they hold modern rock concerts there nowadays. We then walked down a tree lined avenue to the exit and a modern day Agoura. All the tchotchkes you never needed. We then met back up with Kim and Gina and the van.

After leaving, we were taken to a pottery factory. This was much like the papyrus shop we visited in Cairo or the carpet shop we visited in Istanbul. You are purportedly there to witness the artisans perform their craft, but actually there is pressure to make a purchase. I saw other visitors being offered drinks and tea, but felt slightly slighted when none was forthcoming to our party. Reid did break down and buy something anyway. 

Leaving the pottery shop we made a quick stop at the Temple of Artimus. This site is just outside Ephesus, but it's contents have been completely looted to museums around the world. The single pillar there isn't even original.

We then made our way back to the port in Kusadasi. We were dropped off right next to the entrance and we're back on board in good stead after slogging once more through the souvenir shops.

We all met in the Capri dining room for lunch.

I read my second Isaac Asimov book while waiting for 4:00p trivia. Gina showed up late to trivia and cost us one point (but we still would not have won), as we scored 23, and 25 was good to win.

I spent more time reading with Jessica, then it was time to eat again! We all met in the Capri dining room for "Surf and Turf" night. I think everyone is ordering the lobster. The meal was as good as I have had on a cruise ship. The steak was perfect, and the lobster was delicious. Very tasty. 

At 7:00p we all met again in the Vista Lounge for the Captain's Circle Cocktail Party. As my sister, Lori, would say,  "This is an FAO" (Free Alcohol Opportunity). We stayed through the speeches and drawings, hoping for a win. No such luck. Gina is happy as she finally managed to score a long drinking straw (this reference may be lost on the casual observer; Gina keeps ordering fru-fru drinks that come with a straw, and invariably the supplied straw is too short to reach the bottom of the glass. Gina always asks for a longer straw, but until tonight, they said "no", or told her they had none. When she saw the longer straws this evening, she asked for two, then explained to us how she was going to dry them out after use and carry them in her purse).

We then adjourned to the Princess Theater to see "Rock Opera", presumably music in Rock-and-Roll format. Kim, Reid, Jessica and David attending. This show was better than you might imagine. Very loud, high energy, and familiar songs!

Then Jessica and I attended the Marriage Match Game. I think we would have done better than the contestants they had. The winners scored 3½ out of a possible 6. I think we would have scored at least 5.

Got back to the room and hit the hay, readying ourselves for tomorrow in Istanbul.

Guide Atilla, with Jessica, Reid and Meg.

Jessica near the start in Epehesus.

Reid, David, Meg and guide Atilla at Hadrian's Temple.

David and guide Atilla on the central avenue in Ephesus.

Jessica with Nike.

Public toilets.

Walking up the recently restored Terrace Houses.

Jessica, Reid and Atilla above the Terrace Houses.

Mosaic floors for people with too much money.

The Library of Celsus.

The theater at Ephesus, still in use today.

Jessica at the pottery shop.

September 21st - Istanbul

Slept pretty hard. Got ready and had breakfast with the gang in the Capri dining room. Meg told us that, last night, her heart went into A-fib and that she would not be going ashore today in Istanbul. While we were eating, she used her Apple watch to check her sinus rhythm and noticed that her heart was beating normally. Still, she and Reid decided to remain on board.

Jessica and I disembarked together and walked through the sizable cruise terminal (Galataport). It reminds you of a large airport. After going down and up several escalators we found ourselves on the street. Our guide, Bulent, was there to meet us. We explained that Meg and Reid were not able to come.

He walked us up the street a couple of blocks and showed us around the Kiliç Ali Pasha mosque. You must remove your shoes and women must cover their heads to enter (they have scarves to borrow at the door). Right outside the mosque were the rails for the local metro. We boarded it and traveled five or six stops to get to Topkapi Palace.

Bulent walked us up a hill and brought us in the back door. He had pre-purchased the tickets for entry and allowed us to jump the line. First stop was the sultan's throne room. It's impressive how the other 0.00001% lives! This place is palatial in scope! There was an entire wing devoted to his personal harem. This comes complete with a staff of eunuchs (boys kidnapped at a young age, castrated, then trained to administer the women).

There were several displays showing the clothing worn by the sultan, his staff, his wives, his soldiers, etc, etc. There was further several rooms displaying all of the royal jewels and jewelry. Some of these were large enough to make you suspect they were fake. There was one bejeweled dagger that was breathtaking. 

There is a viewpoint from the palace that allows you to view both Europe and Asia at the same time. Naturally we stopped for pictures here.

There was another display, the Hall of Relics, that seemed to contain parts (by parts, I mean fingers and toes [and footprints]) of personages such as John the Baptist and the Prophet Muhammed. Supposedly, they had the original Staff of Moses! Jessica is not so sure. This was very popular and had a long line.

Then there was the Armory, an amazing collection of swords, axes and other weapons. This also included an impressive hologram, which showed the use of these weapons in life size 3D!

Just when you think you have seen it all, there is a very large collection of antique clocks! These started pretty small (like big wrist watches) and got larger and larger and more complex (some bigger than a grandfather clock).

Next we toured the kitchen. This included the ovens, the kitchen ware (pots, pans, etc), the place settings (very fancy china), an amazing collection of tea sets, and a vast collection of antique coffee cups.

We finished our tour of Topkapi and asked if we could visit the ancient cistern. Unfortunately it was closed today. We then walked to the Grand Bazaar (taking pictures of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia along the way). The Grand Bazaar is huge beyond belief. I would guess that we walked through less than 5% before we turned for an exit. 

Bulent walked us to a nearby metro station where we settled up with him. He put us on the metro train back to our ship (about seven stops) and we then found our way back into the gigantic port terminal, and were back on board by 3:00p.

We ran into Gina on the way in and met Kim and Gina for (since we had missed lunch) a little bite to eat at the International Café. 

We all got together for Trivia at 4:00p. We scored 19½, good for first place. Everyone contributed. 

Kim, Jessica and I went to the Platinum/Elite Lounge. They have a finger-food buffet and a pianist. Plus - you can get drinks in this place! (Yeah, you can get drinks virtually anywhere on the ship at any time of day; no surprise there.) Reid joined us in there once we told him of its existence. 

In no time at all it was time for dinner. Dress code called for white and gold. Kim and Gina did not get the memo. Our usual table. I went for the trout almondine (it was good, not great). For dessert I went with the caramel custard and the cherries jubilee. 

Jessica and I went to the Princess Theater to see the comedy magician, Dain Cordean. He did a few OK magic tricks. The best one involved a banana/bandana. His jokes were not much better.

From there Jessica and I went to see Herbie Adams in the Vista Lounge. This was the comedian who missed the ship that we saw a couple nights ago. His "B" game was pretty bad. I think I smiled one time, and didn't laugh at all.

At he Kiliç Ali Pasha mosque in Istanbul.

Interior of the Kiliç Ali Pasha mosque in Istanbul.

Waiting for the metro in Istanbul

Entrance to the Topkapi Palace.

The Sultan's entertainment room in Topkapi Palace.

Some of the period clothing on display in Topkapi Palace.

Sultans must have had really long arms.

Europe in foreground, Asia in backgound, from Topkapi Palace.

These swords must have belonged to Goliath!

Clock collection in Topkapi Palace.

David with the small chess set in Topkapi Palace.

Blue Mosque in the background.

Hagia Sophia now used as a mosque.

In the Grand Bazaar.

September 22nd - Mykonos

Slept late this morning as our ship doesn't get into Mykonos until this afternoon. We got dressed and left the cabin around 9:00a for the International Café and a light breakfast.

Everyone met in Princess Live for morning trivia. We scored 15, but 17 got first place.

Killed some time reading, then met everyone at The Salty Dog grill on Lido deck (by the pool). The chili dog was pretty good.

We are meeting at 2:45p to go ashore and take our tour of Mykonos. We have to tender in, but there will be no waiting as it's late in the day for this.

At 3:00p our tender pulled away from the Enchanted Princess. Six or seven minutes later we moored at the Newport dock. As the tour people should not be here until 3:30p, we waited in the shade before exiting to the parking lot.

At 3:20p a girl (Petra) holding a sign saying "Jessica Zechiel" appeared, and a moment after that the van arrived. Everybody in! Soon we were traversing the narrow, winding roads of Mykonos. When we had gained some altitude, you could see that there were three or four other cruise ships in port. We stopped at a popular beach and took pictures. Petra spoke non-stop about Mykonos, the population, the tourists, etc.

We saw a lot of churches. There are some 400 churches on Mykonos. Some churches have red roofs. Those churches were founded by farmers. Some churches have a blue roof. Those churches were founded by sailors or fishermen. Other churches (many of them) have white roofs. Those churches were founded by people with money, who are saying, "We don't have to work, so we don't have to paint our roof any color!"

We stopped at an outdoor shopping plaza that was next to an old church, the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani. Everyone toured the church (including Kim, despite the steps involved). Despite its size, it was filled with religious paintings and statues. On a chair right inside the door was a young man in black cleric robes completely absorbed in his iPhone. At first I thought he was there to take tickets or perhaps provide some sort of security, but he ignored me completely. 

All the houses and buildings in Mykonos are painted white. All of them. The trim (door jambs, window frames, etc) can be painted a different color, but it's usually blue. The HOA here is very powerful. 

We drove to a remote beach. We were informed there are many nude beaches in Mykonos. Before anyone could ready their camera, we turned and drove away. 

Mykonos is very rocky. Rocks are everywhere you look. There are rock walls of all shapes and sizes everywhere. Some new, many old, and many, many more dilapidated. You see huge fields, full of rocks, surrounded by rock walls.

On the way to yet another beach, we suddenly stopped to feed a donkey. Our guide seemed to have a personal relationship with this donkey. We then drove down a hill that was as steep as any I can recall on our way to Agrari Beach.

This beach is remote and, presumably, exclusive. There's a bar with tables and chairs in the sand under shade trees. Closer to the water are umbrellas and lounges for rent. It really is very nice. We relaxed here for maybe 15 minutes. I saw my first naked butt on this beach. Unfortunately, it was a 50 year-old overweight guy.

We left the beach and traveled back toward town, passing the airport along the way. We stopped at a small, independent restaurant and took one of the outdoor tables. We were all served a dish of traditional Greek appetizers, a glass of water and a glass of tsipouro. Tsipouro is a traditional Greek liquor that could probably double as lighter fluid.

From there we drove to downtown where everybody except Kim got out and walked the busy streets to where the old windmills are located. We got there just at sunset, and there were some good photo opportunities. We then negotiated our return through the myriad of small alleys that make up the ancient town. We bought some baklava at a bakery that has been around for 700 years, to enjoy later.

Back in the van our driver expertly dealt with the excessive nighttime traffic. They got us back to the tender dock exactly on time (despite hand wringing by several in the group). We were back on board just after 8:00p.

Dave, Jessica, Kim and Gina went to the Capri dining room for dinner. I got the crispy shrimp, very tasty! Everyone else had to settle for prime rib. Since tomorrow is a disembarkation day for some, they had a big "introduce the crew" production in the atrium this evening. It's always interesting to see the various countries these people come from.

We had a big day and we were ready for bed by 10:00p.

Guide Petra, Kim, Gina, Jessica, Meg, and Reid at a beach in Mykonos.

The Monastery of Panagia Tourliani.

Typical one family church found throughout Mykonos.

Gina, Jessica, Reid, Kim, David and Meg and the Greek flag.

Donkey being fed out among the rock walls.

David, Jessica, Gina and Kim enjoy Agrari Beach.

Gina, Jessica, Meg, Reid and David visit the windmills at sunset.

Typical twisty street to confuse any pirates.

Getting back late to the Enchanted Princess.

September 23rd - Athens

Got up early this morning to be dressed and ready for our tour of Athens. Jessica and I got a quick bite at the International Café, then checked into the Princess Theater as part of group Silver-3.

We had a short wait until they called our group. We trundled outside and onto our bus. We took a leisurely drive to the Acropolis, passing many colorful buildings along the way, including two of the major venues used in the 2004 Olympics. Parts of the drive revealed quite a bit of graffiti. Most of the store signs use the Greek alphabet, but the western alphabet is also in evidence. 

Our guide, Irene, is very informative. She keeps up a constant dialog about the places we are passing and the places we are heading to. 

The bus dropped us off at the base of the Acropolis ("Upper City"). It is a steady, uphill walk to get to these ancient Greek monuments. I didn't count the steps, but it was a lot. Things to visit here include the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena (also known as the Erechtheion), among others. The place is lousy with tourists, but we are told it is much worse later in the day. We had about an hour to check the place out on our own. We saw the spot that the apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians. Jessica bought me a miniature woven carpet bookmark. 

At 10:15a we met back up with our group and boarded the bus. We drove through downtown Athens on the way to Corinth. This place has heavy traffic, but is also loaded with statues and monuments approximately every ten feet. The Science Academy was most impressive, with statues of Aristotle and Socrates in front. The drive to Corinth took over an hour and a half. Along the way we passed through several very long tunnels.

Our next stop was a restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is part of a larger hotel, and is in the lower level, which looks out on a lovely park in the back. The food was good, cafeteria style. I had the lamb, potatoes and rice. There was all the wine you cared to drink. I had two glasses and could immediately feel it. I'm such a lightweight! Also an assortment of tasty desserts.

After an hour, we walked back to the bus. Now on our way to old Corinth. 30 minutes later we arrived at the ancient city of Corinth.

This place has a small museum (which we visited first), that had a collection of scuplted body parts. From there we visited the outdoor archeological site. Corinth was a bustling metropolis at the time St Paul visited. He was nearly condemned, and founded the first Christian church. While it is in a sad state of repair, you can still see how big and important the city must have been in its heyday. They gave us some personal time and we used it to take additional pictures.  It's pretty warm out today, 97°F. 

Back on the bus, and the air conditioning is running! Our next stop is the Corinth Canal. This canal connects the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth, kind of making the Peloponnesian Peninsula into an island. It is truly a feat of engineering! We walked to the middle of a bridge spanning the canal, took pictures, then walked back to the bus. The brochure showed a section of the bridge being submersible to allow ships to go over, but the section of bridge we saw was fixed in place at a serious altitude.

The return trip was uneventful (took about 90 minutes). Even our guide had only a few things to say about the buildings and monuments we were passing.

Passed through security and were back on the ship lickety-split. Back in our cabin we found that (because we had reached Elite status) our cabin steward had stocked our cabin with liquor (scotch, brandy, vodka, beer, and Coca-Cola). We asked him to take back the hard stuff and leave more Coronas and Cokes. The big test will be getting him to do our laundry.

We met everyone in the Santorini dining room for dinner. Reid and I got the fried chicken. Stayed for the crème brûlée. After dinner Jessica and I went up to the Guest Services desk and got our medallions upgraded to the black of Elite.

We sorted about ten days of laundry into three bags, filled out the necessary paperwork, and left it in our room. When we got back the laundry elves had already taken it! We expect it back in about two days.

I picked up my book and spent some time reading on the promenade. I then met Jessica in the Princess Theater to see the new comedian that came on board today. While he wasn't side splitting, he did make us laugh. I think his best bit was a comment on the fact that he learned that one person in five on the planet is Chinese. This had him worried because he, himself, came from a family of five! There was his Dad, his Mum, his brother Bill, and his brother Chang-Bai-Ming.

10:00p now. We have had a big day, and have another one tomorrow in Santorini.

Jessica at the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens (Parthenon top right).

Looking back at Athens from the Acropolis.

Jessica and the Temple of Athena (Temple of Erechtheion).

Parthenon, left. Temple of Athena, right.

At right is the place Paul spoke to the Atheaians.

This is the place that Paul spoke to the Corinthians.

A museum filled with sculpted body parts (this is the part we can show).

The ruins of the Ancient City of Corinth, once a thriving metropolis.

The Corinth Canal cuts off the Peloponnesian Peninsula.

September 24th - Santorini

Slept well last night. Jessica and I showered, dressed, and went down to the Capri dining room for breakfast with everyone at 8:00a.

We need to tender in to Santorini, so Jessica and I met Meg and Reid in Take Five (one of the many lounges on board). Meg and Reid went strait to the tender. Jessica and I caught up with them. Kim and Gina not going ashore today.

The short trip to shore was uneventful. We looked and looked for our guide, but he was not to be seen. Finally, Jessica called the number and asked where he was. He said he was on top of the mountain and we would need to take the cable car to the top to meet him. There was nothing in the excursion description that mentioned a cable car, much less paying for one. Jessica called the tour company, canceled the tour and asked for a refund.

Without a guide, we decided to get in line for the cable car (about an hour) and ride it up. Once on top, we wandered about and came upon a Catholic mass that was just letting out. All the scripture on the church walls is both in English and Greek.

We started wandering. It's a warm day. We found the local McDonald's, but opted for an outdoor restaurant where we all ordered cold beer (very nice on a day like this). Meg and Reid also ordered some appetizers.

We looked at the receipt for our cable car ride. It's clearly labeled "4 persons up". There was some hope that it included the ride down as well. You can walk down (there's a switch-back path that is allegedly covered in donkey poop), but I expect we will fork over the euros again.

Jessica and I broke off from Meg and Reid for the walk back to the cable car station. We stopped in several small shops along the way. The crowd in front of us started to slow, and eventually stopped. This was the back of the line to board the cable car. This is one pokey line. We have been standing in it for over an hour. We finally got to where you buy tickets, and there was only one person running the counter. But, this hardly mattered as the actual bottleneck was the cable car itself. It could only transport so many people at a time.

We shared the ride down with a couple of Brits who are also on board the Enchanted Princess. They took the ship's tour which brought them to the top in a bus, then they had to walk down or take the cable car. Meg and Reid were on the same cable car, but a different gondola.

We got back onto the tender quickly and were underway right away. Getting back on the Enchanted Princess we fell in line behind Meg and Reid. We passed through security and headed for Deck 5 to get a cold drink. Kim met us there.

We all met for Trivia at 4:00p. We scored 18/20, good for first place. While waiting for trivia to start I got online with Citi Bank and tried to dispute the charge for the tour the guide failed to show up for, but there were Internet issues.

We stopped in our cabin to freshen up. I had hoped that room service would have replaced the scotch, brandy, and vodka with Corona and Coke, but this was not the case. I called them to find out why, and was told their records showed me as Platinum, not Elite, and if I had a problem with that I should contact Guest Services. I suppose that they have to believe their computer, even if it's wrong.

Then everyone (except Reid, who is fasting for Yom Kippur) met in the Capri dining room for the evening meal. The drink waiter came by the table and told everyone exactly what they would be drinking! He has a good memory. 

Jessica and I went past the Guest Services desk and told them about our Elite problem. He seemed to clean that up. We tried to dispute our issue with Tours By Locals, but the CitiBank website wasn't properly responding. We will try again via e-mail.

David, Jessica, Meg,  Gina and Kim played movie trivia, scoring 41 out of 48. Unfortunately another team was either very good or very good at cheating and scored a perfect 48/48.

Jessica and David attended the piano concert in the Princess Theater. The pianist was a Japanese woman who was spectacular! She played a lot of classical pieces, including Clair de Lune and Hall of the Mountain King. She's the best entertainment on this cruise so far.

We watched a little of the "Yes-No" game show in the Princess Live! venue, then returned to our cabin for the evening. We found the hard liquor gone and the Cokes and Coronas in their place.

Jessica, Meg and Reid in the cable car.

Looking down at the cable car line and cruise ships.

Cruise ships and cable car lines in the backgound.

Church with English and Greek scripture.

Jessica, Meg and Reid enjoy themselves in Santorini.

The line waiting for the cable car down.

The cable car arrives to take us back down.

Santorini seen from the cruise ship, all atop the mountain.

September 25th - Sea Day

As this is a sea day, we slept in some, meeting Kim, Gina and Meg for breakfast in the Capri dining room around 8:30a (Reid is still fasting).

I have developed a cough which I am sure is bronchitis related. Apparently the ship's doctor will see you for a fee of $100.00. I will visit him if I get worse, but right now it's just an annoyance. 

We all met in the Princess Live! lounge for trivia at 10:15a. We scored 27, which tied us for first. We won outright on tiebreaker by guessing that Honduras was celebrating its 200th anniversary of independence, when they are, in fact, celebrating 202 years.

Spent some time reading, then met everyone on deck 16 for pizza. There's a band playing loud oldies. Right now it's Achy Breaky Heart. Ugh. Oh, my. Now it's YMCA. Jessica is doing the arm motions.

I wandered back down to deck 7 to read. Jessica joined me and played with her phone. We went to our cabin to change for formal night and found all of our laundry returned! It's very much like the shoe-making elves of lore (except it's the laundry elves)!

We met in the Vista lounge with Meg, Gina and Kim for more trivia. We scored 18 out of 29, way back in the pack. 

Dinner in the Capri (again without Reid). This is the "captain's" menu, and is full of difficult decisions, so many tempting items.  Another terrific meal.

Everyone in attendance for trivia in Princess Live! lounge. We scored 71 out of 75 for an easy first. We would have been perfect, but someone, whose name rhymes with Xena, talked us out of a correct answer worth 4 points.

Jessica and I took in the Rock Opera show again in the Princess Theater. We saw this show last week, but it was still good. We had different seats this time which gave you a different perspective on the dancing. Very high-energy! 

We then hustled back to Princess Live! to attend Liar's Club with Meg and Gina. Cockalorum, hoosegow and gardyloo were the words given real and fake definitions. We correctly guessed the first two (I think most of us already knew the second word), but were fooled on the last one.

We set our clocks back an hour tonight, this will help us getting up early for Kotor (Montenegro) in the morning. 

The cruise director, Olivia (in pink), and the assistant cruise directors (Focu, Bernardo, and Oz) running "Liar's Club".

September 26th - Kotor, Montenegro

Up very early this morning to visit Kotor (a city in Montenegro). We were in the International Café by 6:30a local time (9:30p Pacific).

We met everyone (except Kim) at the Princess Theater and became part of group orange-4. We boarded the tender and were in Kotor in short order.

I asked our tour operator about restrooms before getting on the bus. She informed me that they were "out of order, but it would be OK." I think if she needed to use one, they would suddenly be in order.

We boarded a bus and headed to the Lipa Cave. We passed through a very, very long tunnel. The countryside is beautiful, and traffic, by and large is light. This is a long ride, going well up into the mountains. All the retaining walls along the road are painted expertly with ads for local businesses. It is very nice graffiti. 

The bus has moved onto a narrow, one lane mountain road, with a perceptible cliff on the left side. There were a couple of moments when I envisioned a "Bus Plunges Over Cliff" headline. The driver knows his stuff.

When we pulled into the parking lot, long lines immediately formed in front of both the men's and women's rooms. Once everyone had availed themselves of the facilities, it was time to board the little "train" for the ride to the caverns.

This cave is big. There is a natural entrance from the ceiling, but it would require you to rapel down a cliff face. We took the artificial entrance that someone thoughtfully provided in the recent past, and looks like a colossal door in the side of a mountain.

Everywhere you walk in here has an artificial floor that is basically level. There are many ramps and staircases going up and down. Some of the stairs are of dark material, in a poorly lighted room (and any lights there are, shine in your eyes), and with no handrails. These are particularly treacherous.

Still, there are large caverns with massive stalactites and stalagmites. It is quite cool (I'd guess in the 50° range) and very moist. Water is dripping from the ceiling and collecting is puddles and small ponds (and we are told this is the dry season).

Our guide was knowledgeable and provided good information. After we had gone down, down, down and up, up, up, we were told we were at the end of the tour. I looked around for the EXIT sign, but she said we had to march all the way back the way we came in. 

We took the little "train" back to the bus, then started the trip back. We went up to about 3400 feet, passed through a tunnel, then headed back down the far side. We stopped at a small restaurant for a "snack" (which turned out to be a ham and cheese sandwich that was delightful)! They gave you beer, wine, or a Coke with your sandwich, and it really hit the spot. 

Driving down the long, narrow, switch-back road, we would occasionally encounter other traffic coming up. Because we were going down, our bus would have to give way, sometimes backing up considerably to allow the other buses or cars to get by. There are 25 switch-back turns on this road. I know this because they are numbered (and each turn is negotiated with no room to spare by our bus driver).

It took about 90 minutes to get back to Kotor. We are supposed to have about an hour of free time before we must be back on the Enchanted Princess. Once we entered Kotor, we hit, what can only be described as, rush hour traffic. We managed about one mile an hour to the cruise port. We really could have walked it faster.

When we got to the port, we still had about 45 minutes before the last tender boat. Getting off the bus, I tipped the guide, and made a special effort to tip the driver.

So, Jessica and I, along with Meg, Reid, and Gina opted to walk through Old Town Kotor (a little bit like Tijuana) and see if we could find some souvenirs. We visited several shops and made some purchases (including a tiny ship in a bottle for Noah).

We then joined the line for the tenders. We have stood in longer lines, but not by much. We finally boarded a tender, despite it being 20 minutes after the "last tender" departure time. Back on board the Enchanted Princess we went immediately to Good Spirits to cool down and enjoy a cold drink.

Gina and Meg were the last two people to board the last tender in. They joined us in Good Spirits for drinks and the sail away. I read some on the promenade. 

We changed for dinner. Then met Kim, Gina, Meg, and Reid for dinner in the Capri dining room. This evening I had the lamb. An excellent meal.

We were intending to go to the Captain's Circle Cocktail Party, but dinner ran long (and it's not like we are suffering from a shortage of alcohol), so we headed straight to the Princess Theater for the show by the ship's lead male singer, Ross Hunter. He put on quite a show, singing Queen, Elton John, Frankie Valli and others. 

Jessica and I hustled over to Princess Live to see the Battle of the Sexes Show. This show was great fun, and good for a lot of laughs. The men's team won, 22,300,030 to 18,700,050 (they were giving ever increasing amounts of points away with each new round).

We have a big day planned for Sicily tomorrow.

Reid, Jessica, Gina and Meg at the parking lot for Lipa Cave.

The "train" taking you from the parking to the Lipa Cave entrance.

The "artifical" entrance to Lipa Cave.

Jessica, Reid, Meg and Gina in one of the many well lighted rooms in Lipa Cave.

David in the Lipa Cave.

Gina, Meg and Reid stopping for our "snack" on the way back to Kotor.

Kotor (far right) with our cruise ship and the Adriatic Sea (far left).

Old Town Kotor, complete with the requisit hoardes of tourists.

September 27th - Messina and Mount Etna, Sicily

Slept in some, as we don't make port today until noon. Met everyone for breakfast in the Capri dining room. Then to trivia in Princess Live! where we split into two teams, scoring 12 and 13 (but 15 was the winning score). If we had combined our answers, we probably would have scored 15.

At 12:00 noon, Jessica and I reported to the San Torini dining room for our tour of Sicily. By 12:20p we were seated on the bus, ready to go. About 12:30p the bus pulled away. The first thing we saw is Stele della Madonna della Lettera, the Lady of the Letter, a big statue in the harbor of Messina (on the north east tip of Sicily; you can throw a rock to the Italian mainland from here).

As we drive to Mount Etna, we are starting in Messina, where virtually every house has a satellite dish and a window mounted air conditioning unit.

The road to Etna proceeds south along the east coast. You can easily see mainland Italy in the distance. We have passed through a couple dozen tunnels, a few of them quite long (at some point in one you could not see the entrance or the exit).

We are headed to the city of Santa Venerina, a place that seems to be built entirely of lava stone. Then Zaffenera Etnea, another town even closer to the volcano. After this, we started driving up Mount Etna proper. Once again lots of narrow roads and switch-back corners. We got up over 6200 feet. At this altitude there are volcanic cones from where lava has flowed in the past, most recently in 2001. There's also a restaurant/gift shop that gave everyone a cannoli (a very delicious Italian dessert).

We went outside the restaurant/ souvenir shop and walked around one of the caldera. The wind is really blowing here, you need to hold you hat down or it will blow away. All the ground around it is fine, black sand. You can imagine what it would be like erupting. We were back on our bus, which left at 3:30p. It took 40 minutes for us to get back to Santa Venerina. 

After 90 minutes of driving (along some very narrow roads with even narrower bridges) we came to Gole Alcantara (Gorge of the River Alcantara), which is like the Grand Canyon of Italy. This place has several levels of admittance. We got the premium level, but it wasn't evident why you would want that until the end.

It started easily enough. Our group of 48 started walking along what looked like a nicely manicured nature trail. The first view point looked over a very large canyon with a river running through it. There were people down at the river, way down below. We continued our walk, by all sorts of fruit trees and well tended gardens and lawns. We came to another lookout, this time you could see a waterfall feeding the river below.

The trail started to get more rustic (gravel underfoot), with the occasional ramp or staircase. The views below continued to be spectacular. Now the trail was getting rocky, and the steps bigger. The trail started trending downhill seriously. We were perhaps 20% down the cliff when we came to a lift (elevator). The car had two buttons, "up" and "down". "Down" took you down to within 10 steps of the river.

Our group walked upriver a bit, took some cool pictures, then it was time to return to the bus. As we walked back up the steps to the bottom of the lift, there was a sign that said you needed the premium wristband to ride the elevator back up. Whew!

We browsed through their gift shop on the way out. Then it was back on the bus for the ride back to the port in Messina. Last on board time was 7:30p. There were perhaps 10 people after us when we got on board at 7:35p.

We ran up two flights to the Capri dining room and were seated with six cruisers who we just met. We met a lovely couple from Canada. They are serious cruisers. I had the veal scalopini. 

We then joined Gina for the Strike-Out game show in Princess Live!. They play a song and display two possible years the song came out. Contestants stand to the left our right depending on which year they felt the song came from. Contestants who are wrong sit down until there is one left standing. Gina won the first round! David washed out of three games. Songs that came out between 2010 to 2020 are indistinguishable from each other.

Then we went to see the hypnotist show in the Princess Theater. This guy, David Knight has a British accent. He got 18 volunteers from the audience. In the winnowing process he washed out about six of them. He then proceeded to hypnotize the remainder.

The guy put on a good show. The suggestions that he left with four of the subjects were pretty funny (he told one woman that when the cruise director, Olivia, appeared on stage at the end of the show, that she would appear to have no clothes on). The woman took her seat, and a moment later Olivia came out. The woman appeared to be genuinely mortified. Jessica is convinced that all these "volunteers" are just playing along because they are wannabe actors. Who knows for sure?

Stele della Madonna della Lettera.

Jessica and David at one of the Mout Etna calderas.

The Alcantara River that cut the gorge through the lava rock.

Looking down into the gorge.

Jessica and David in the Alcantara gorge.

The elevator shaft to the Alcantara River.

September 28th - Naples (again)

Up early for our visit to Italy's Amalphi Coast. Jessica and I breakfasted in the Wind Jammer. While there we got a call from our guide, Antonio. It turns out he's tested positive for Covid. It was possible that the company could provide another driver, however that would have really been pushing the time limit, so Tours By Locals cancelled for us and gave us a refund and credit for a future tour,

Jessica and I are going to explore Naples on our own. We walked to the funicular base station that our guide from our first walking tour in Naples had mentioned (perhaps a half mile walk), through a huge shopping mall, then took it to the upper part of the city. There we wandered around aimlessly (read "were lost") down some very narrow alleys until we stumbled on another group of tourists heading to Castle Saint Elmo. €12 and we were inside. This place is really big and has ramps. Lots and lots of ramps. All going up. They are long and broad, but you get a very good look at the inside of the castle. 

We walked up and up and up, passing through various rooms, a draw bridge, and many battlements until we came to the roof. Even there we were able to climb one more level to the upper parapet. The view here is spectacular. A large room on the roof contains an art museum. Most (but not all) of it was "modern" in nature. For instance,  a silver plated automatic pistol with a cable coming out of the barrel connected to a bullet in flight. There was other strange stuff to go with it. However, there were also some very nice paintings.

Finding the toilet was a challenge: you see the first sign with an arrow pointing left. You go left for quite a ways and find another sign pointing left again.  Another long walk and way ahead is a sign pointing right. Go that direction and look around behind you and on the left are the doors to the toilet. 

We left the castle the way we came in, down ramp after down ramp after down ramp. We found our way back to the funicular station without getting lost. We located the cause of our confusion on the way in: a sign pointing to the castle was so covered with local stickers that it could not be seen for what it was. I managed to steer a German tourist in the correct direction when he appeared baffled.

There was a short wait for the funicular to arrive, then we boarded and took seats quickly. However, at the last second an elderly woman boarded and Jessica gave her my seat. This train has four stations. Besides the top and bottom, there are two middle stations equidistant from their respective destinations that the train stops at along the way. The entire line is inside a tunnel, including the two middle stations. 

We dodged traffic and walked back to the cruise port, then ran the shopping gauntlet to get back on board (we walked seven miles today). Some cold drinks in Good Spirits helped. We then kicked trivia butt in Princess Live!, scoring 29 out of 35.

Gina missed dinner, it was steak and lobster night. Very tasty. Meg, Reid, Jessica and I went to Princess Live! to play more trivia. Kim went to pickup pizza for Gina, who has been keeping to her cabin with an unknown ailment. 

Dave, Meg, Reid and Jessica attended "identify people by their young photo" trivia. We scored 13 out of 25, pretty abysmal, as 20 was the winning score.

Jessica and I walked to the Crooner's bar to listen to piano and vocal entertainer AJ Clark. Jessica is expecting to sing along with the guy. The fellow is pretty talented and takes requests. The Foundations, the Moody Blues, Elvis, etc. He has a broad repertoire. 

Jessica, Reid and I next attended King of Pop v King of Rock trivia in Princess Live! They played 20 songs. 10 by Elvis Presley, 10 by Michael Jackson. You had to identify the songs. We got 13 correct. Two of the more hard core teams got all 20 correct.

The enclosed shopping mall.

Beautiful Zodiac mosaic floor in the mall.

Naples funicular to the upper part of the city.

Jessica outside of Castle Saint Elmo, Naples.

The ramps and walls of Castle Saint Elmo, Naples.

One of the many cannons used to defend the castle.

Don't get your foot caught in this door.

Entrance to art museum. Note sword hands on clock..

Mt Vesuvias in the background, our cruise ship just to the left of the bell tower.

Part of the art gallery housed in the top level of Castle Saint Elmo.

One of the many ramps throughout the castle.

One of the better views of Naples.

Can you tell what direction the castle is? Me neither.

September 29th - Sea Day

This is a sea day, so we slept in. Our first stop was trivia in Princess Live! with Meg and Reid. We scored 16 out of 20, but 17 was necessary for first place. Who knew that "alligator pear" was another name for an avocado? 

We spent the time before lunch reading and playing cards. Gina and Kim are both no-shows. 

Lunch in the Capri dining room was with Jessica and Kim. Gina still incommunicado. 

After lunch, Jessica and I worked on puzzles and I read my Asimov book, "The End of Eternity". This book could make a good movie. A pretty relaxing day, so far.

At 4:00p Jessica and I joined Meg and Reid for more trivia in Princess Live! We scored 18/22, but 20 was the winning score. 

Jessica returned to the cabin to prepare for dinner; I sat on the promenade and talked with a woman from Ontario, Canada.

Five of us for a specialty restaurant dinner in The Catch by Rudi. The reason this is called a speciality restaurant is because you pay a special fee to eat there. That being said, the food is very, very good. I got the calamari in the Capri and the calamari at Rudi's, and Rudi's is far superior! Plus, they brought out jumbo shrimp to the table like it was a basket of bread! Jessica ordered the salmon, shrimp and scallops dish. It was delivered with the jumbo shrimp suspended over the plate! We all agree, this was the best meal of the cruise so far. 

We adjourned to Princess Live! to play "What the Heck is This" trivia. There were 35 weird questions. We scored 23, however 25 was necessary to win.

Jessica and I attended the Farewell Show (for guests that are disembarking tomorrow). They had singers and dancers, an Irish duo on guitar and fiddle, a comedian, and all the ship's officers. An OK show.

Jessica admires her shrimp dinner from The Catch by Rudi restaurant.

Kim is stunned by the size of his dessert in The Catch by Rudi..

September 30th - Barcelona

Up early to visit Barcelona. We breakfasted in the Wind Jammer. Then Jessica and I got off the ship and took a cab to La Sagrada Famila. We wanted tickets to go inside, but they were sold out. You had to use their app to see if any tickets had become available. After about 200 tries (on which 20 times tickets showed as available) each time we jumped through the hoops to make the purchase, the tickets were no longer available.  We ended up walking completely around the cathedral and then called it quits for trying to enter.

We then decided to take the couple mile walk to Mercado de la Boqueria (the big marketplace). We let Meg and Reid know where we were going and they met us there. We walked up and down this huge market aimlessly, admiring the fantastic displays of food and drink. Everyone made a small purchase and we sat outside in a small park that may double as a homeless shelter.

We then decided to try our luck at the Picasso Museum. It was about a ¾ mile walk down very narrow streets, some of which were available only to pedestrian traffic. We got to the museum around 1:00p and the tickets they had available were for 1:30p. They did have a nice area where you can sit and wait your turn.

Considering that all the artwork is from a single source, there is quite a bit of it. Sixteen galleries by my count, each one with a dozen or more works. From small sketches and studies, to huge paintings and works of pottery, Picasso had his fingers in everything. Honestly, many of his works make you think he needed glasses, especially his later stuff. All the cats in his later paintings look like something from a first grader.

We finished the museum and Dave, Jessica, Meg and Reid walked more narrow pedestrian-only streets to a street large enough to support taxis. Pretty quickly we had a ride back to our ship (and it's good we did, the port here is *huge*, and there are at least six cruise ships in port, and ours was the last one). We lost Meg and Reid passing through security. Apparently Reid had issues with his belt. We headed to Good Spirits for cold drinks. Meg joined us there.

We later met Kim in Take Five, the "private" room for Platinum and Elite members. They have all manner of delicious hors d'oeuvres. From there everyone but Gina met in the Capri dining room for dinner. The short ribs were very good.

Jessica and I then went with Meg and Reid to Princess Live! for "Where in the World" trivia. We scored 26 out of 34. With more clear thinking we could have boosted that 29, but, alas. 28 was good to win.

Jessica and I went to the Princess Theater to see the comedian/pianist. His name is Peter Cutler, and he's a song-and-dance man. He can certainly carry a tune, and he's an accomplished tap dancer. But his jokes were kinda lame, and his choice of music harkens back to the '60's (or earlier).

Anyway, we came straight back to our cabin at the end of the show. Tomorrow is a sea day, we will likely sleep in.

Jessica outside of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.

Jessica confronts Deadpool in a game shop on Las Ramblas.

The crowd on the narrow streets going to the museum.

Meg, Reid and David at Mercado de la Boqueria.

Jessica's favorite work by Picasso, when age 14.

Picasso wishing us farewell.

Listening to the electronic guide in the Picasso Museum..

October 1st - Sea Day

Slept in. It turns out our ship didn't leave Barcelona until 6:10a this morning (it was undergoing some sort of maintenance). This is a sea day, on our way to Gibraltar. It appears we will arrive an hour late into Gibraltar because of our delayed start.

Everyone (including Gina) showed up for 10:00a trivia in Princess Live! We scored 28/33, good for first. And! there were really nice prizes! They handed out six sets of jewelry, each set had three small silver charms on a chain; a palm tree, a ship's wheel, and an anchor. We were up to our ears in plastic Princess coasters before.

Jessica, Meg and Gina ran off to play games on deck 16. I have settled in to a chair on the promenade for some reading. 

Everyone but Kim to the Capri dining room for lunch. The fish and chips was good. The bread and butter pudding was better. Jessica, Gina and Meg back to game playing. I'm back to my book.

Everyone but Kim present for trivia at 4:00p. We got the first 14 correct, but missed the last 7. Still, that was good for first place.

Got dressed up for dinner. We all met at the Crown Grill. This is another speciality restaurant on board. The atmosphere is very nice, and the menu is impressive. The food was spectacular! I had the Porterhouse steak. Jessica says, "That was the best baked potato I have ever had!" The dessert was Apple Rhubarb Cobbler; very, very tasty! This was a very nice meal,  but it ran long and caused us to miss the movie poster trivia. We will struggle along somehow.

We decided to head up to our cabin, as we have already seen most of this evening's entertainment. Jessica says that three weeks for a cruise may be too long.

Jessica and Kim order from our wonderful waiter, Ranjit (from India).

Our friendly assistant waiter, Nebojsa (from Serbia).

October 2nd - Gibraltar

Up at 7:00a in order to be breakfasted and ashore in Gibraltar quickly. Exiting the cruise port we saw a guy holding a tour placard.  You can get a standard tour for $55 or €50 or £45. After a brief conversation, he introduced us to our driver, Lionel. Lionel was born in London, moved to Gibraltar some years ago, and was a wealth of information. 

With six other tourists we piled into his van and were off to the Pillars of Hercules. These are the promentories that flank the Strait of Gibraltar. The view here is quite nice. Africa is hazy, but definitely viewable. At each stop on the narrow, one lane road, the taxis would stack up while the tourists got out and visited the site. By the time you were finished, your cab had inched to the front of the line, you climbed in and were on your way to do it again at the next point of interest.

We went up, up, up to St Michael's Cave. This cavern, which was discovered in the 1700's has been converted into a major tourist attraction. The floors are all level, stairs have been installed where necessary, and a major sound and light show incorporated. Where most caves install lighting so you can see the cave structures, here the lighting is striking colorful projected images making it look like the cave walls are moving. That, together with a professional sound system makes for a compelling experience. There's even theater seating to allow one to sit and enjoy the show. We were probably here for 20 minutes, then ran the souvenir shop gauntlet on the way out.

Along the way he showed us where the James Bond film "The Living Daylights" was shot. Makes you want to see the movie again. He seemed genuinely surprised that anyone besides him had heard of Timothy Dalton.

We continued up, up, up where we came to a vista point called Skywalk Gibraltar. From here you can see Spain and Africa. Walking further up the road is the location where they feed the macaques (the Barbary Apes). These apes (actually monkeys) are everywhere, climbing on the cars, dipping into your bag, etc. One of them actually used me as a stepping stone to get on a roof. They seem to be all ages, from infants to grizzled veterans. As the macaques are vegetarians, the people here put out fresh fruit for them each day.

We walked to a high point, for a vista view. On the road up we frequently saw black rings (about the size of your open hand) embedded into the mountainside with a yellow square painted on the rocks. These were installed hundreds of years ago to help hoist these huge cannons up to an advantageous point on the top of the rock.

Our driver informed us that, in Gibraltar, a dozen different religions coexist harmoniously. There is no crime (because there is full employment, and because there is nowhere to run).

He dropped us on one of the tourist streets and told us it was a 10 minute walk back to the ship. It may very well have been a 10 minute walk, but the route we took (we walked the length of the tourist street, then headed in the direction we thought the ship was, then another direction, then another direction, until we found signs directing us to the port) turned it into an hour walk back to the ship. 

We got back to the port terminal about 12:30p. Jessica left her water bottle in the taxi cab. We spoke to a representative of the taxis, and he telephoned Lionel. After going through security we were back on board and hoped to go back to the terminal before we would leave at 4:30p to retrieve the bottle.

We met Kim, Gina, Meg and Reid in the International Café for a quick bite. Meg, Reid and Gina then left to go ashore and see Gibraltar. 

Jessica went to talk to someone at the front desk about our bill, and there on the counter was her missing water bottle! She was genuinely excited! We left the ship a second time in order to extend our thanks to the taxi coordinator for having the bottle returned. He wasn't there, so Jessica left him a very nice note.

We passed through security a second time, dropped off our travel things in our cabin, then went down to the promenade to relax. We played phone games and read until Meg and Reid announced they were back on board.

At 4:00p Meg, Jessica and Dave went to Princess Live! for trivia. Kim, Gina and Reid eventually showed up. We scored 17/20, good for first place (more coasters). Who knew there was a car called the Toyota Avensis? This model was not marketed in the US under that name.

We all met for dinner in the Capri dining room. Then, at 7:00p it was time again for the Captain's Circle Cocktail Party in the Vista lounge. We took over a corner in the back and listened to the presentations. The three most traveled guests had 784, 1151 and 1170 days. Those latter numbers represent over three years afloat! 

Jessica and I then went to the Princess Theater to hear the vocalist perform. This guy was pretty good. He sang "Johnny B Goode", "New York State of Mind" and "Superstition", among others.

From there we went to Princess Live! to see the "Majority Rules" game show. We were team #42 and got minimum points. We then hung around for the "Sky's the Limit" game show. While this is a game, not everyone competes. A contestant might be required to name 12 large cats in 30 seconds, with the audience shouting potential answers while they stammer away.  It was fun. 

It's nearly 11:00p and we are back in our cabin.

In the taxi, heading up into the hills above Gibraltar.

Gibraltar is a very busy sea port.

Taxi driver/guide Lionel and Jessica near the Pillars of Hercules.

The Pillars of Hercules monument on Gibraltar.

The colors inside St Michael's Cave on Gibraltar.

David in St Michael's Cave on Gibraltar.

The theater inside St Michael's Cave on Gibraltar.

Taxis in line at each stop along the way.

Jessica on the Skywalk.

Taxis stacked up at the Skywalk and Barbary Apes.

Barbary Ape family.

Jessica with three (there's a baby with the one on the right) of the Babbary Apes.

Feeding time for the Babary Apes.

One of the many antique cannons hauled up the moutain to provide defence to Gibraltar.

Commeration of the only time the Queen visited Gibraltar.

Gibraltar looking into Spain, across the airstrip (shortest in the world) and football pitch.

David with the two flags of Gibraltar.

The long walk back to the ship through Gibraltar.

October 3rd - Sea Day

Slept in this morning. Met the others in Princess Live! for trivia. We scored 22 (we could have scored 27 if the others had listened to me), 24 was the winning score.

Jessica and I visited Guest Services to try and find out why we were again showing as Platinum instead of Elite. I think the guy took care of it.

It was seafood day in the Wind Jammer. We all met there for lunch. Then Meg, Gina, Jessica and I went to the Princess Theater to watch the "Deal or No Deal" game. The first contestant opened 18 of the 20 cases, leaving only the $350 and $1000 (the maximum) unrevealed. She settled for a deal of $607. It was then revealed that her original choice had been the $1000 case. The second contestant went to the bitter end and ended up with $40.

Jessica and I went to the promenade. We read there until it was tea time. Meg,  Gina, Jessica and I went to the Capri dining room to enjoy tea and scones.

Everyone present for 4:00p trivia. We scored 18/20 (who knew that koalas have fingerprints?) But another team went 20 for 20. Good for them.

Back to our cabin to get dressed for dinner. Our door video shows we are once again Platinum. This needs to be straightened out once and for all. We visited the Loyalty people once more. This time there were two of them working on our problem. We think it's fixed.

Everyone met for dinner in the Capri dining room. Surf and Turf night! Very good steak and lobster! 

Everyone attended Flags Trivia. They showed 50 flags, of which our team correctly identified 24. The winning team got 43 of 'em!

Jessica and I saw another vocalist in the Princess Theater.  You could tell this guy was accomplished. He was pretty good. My favorite piece he sang was "Music of the Night" from Phantom.

After that I went to see Jim Henson's Inspired Silliness again, this time getting a much better seat for the performance. I enjoyed it more this time as I could see everything that was happening. They offered to take your pictures with the Muppets at the end, so I did.

Jessica,  Meg and Gina went to see the "Top, Middle or Bottom" game show. Gina was a contestant and won! 

David with the Inspired Silliness Muppets.

October 4th - Marseille

Up before 7:00a in order to be breakfasted and ready for Marseille. When Jessica and I entered the Wind Jammer, it was still dark outside. This morning there were fresh crepes available! And, I hate to admit it, but they were even better than my own!

We reported to the Princess Theater and were assigned group Silver-8. The bus was parked right outside and we were underway shortly. As we drive north out of Marseilles, one notices that there isn't a square inch of wall space that isn't covered in graffiti. Even some of the natural rock formations are covered in spraypaint. 

Our first stop is Arles. This is about a 90 minute drive. Our guide, Claire, is walking us among the local Roman ruins. The first is a theater where dramatic performances were given. From there we went to the amphitheater where the gladiators would do combat. They still hold "bullfights" to this day, but rather that kill the bulls, they put colored threads around their horns, and it's up to the "matador" to remove the threads without being gored.

Leaving the amphitheater, we walked down a series of narrow streets, past the National School of Photography. This part of the city is pretty old.

Apparently Vincent van Gogh is a big deal in Arles. There are frequent plaques showing the locations that he painted many of his famous works. There's even a café that has been painted to look like it did when Van Gogh painted it.

We saw the Old Town Hall (13th century) and the New Town Hall (17th century). They have an obelisk in the city square, but it looks like it has undergone considerable repair and restoration. Here we were cut loose from the group for some time on your own.

They have the ancient Church of St Trophime that we were able to enter. Massive structures, statues, tapestries and artwork galore.

Jessica and I did a little shopping on the way back to meet up with the rest of our tour group for lunch. The lunch (at the Best Western) was delicious! It started with a meat and greens salad, then ended with a veal and eggplant entrée. And! It came with dessert and coffee! A very nice meal.

Back on the bus at 1:30p. Our next stop was Les Baux-de-provence. This is a castle-like shopping center, built on the top of a mountain eleven centuries ago. There are a number of churches/chapels still in use. There is a museum that houses all of the carved figures of the entire town for the creche scene. You can see the wall that was built to defend the city from invaders. Every building (and there are a lot of them) is constructed of stone.  It is nicely maintained and a pleasure to visit. 

About this time we started getting text messages from Gina and Meg strongly asking when exactly we would be back onboard. I checked with our guide and was told 4:30p. I let Meg and Gina know, then didn't think much more about it.

At 3:10p on the dot our bus was back to collect us, and everyone seemed to be aboard, as we hit the road immediately. On the bus ride back we played phone games. We got back around 4:25p, but there was a big line to pass through security. We were back on board around 4:40p.

I asked what was going on, and was told to put on a necktie and report to deck 5 forward. So, it turns out there is a dining experience on board called "360". This is not available to the great unwashed, you must be invited. First they took nice pictures of everyone.

Exactly 20 guests at a time are fed dinner in a multimedia experience. This experience is reserved for guests that have booked a suite (not a cabin, not a balcony, a suite). Well, none of our group booked a suite, but it turns out that they do have cancelations, and they want every seat to be filled. Today, they were six people short, and Meg was in the right place at the right time. It turns out they will fill out their numbers with Elite members in a pinch.

You arrive by taking a secret door in the back of The Catch restaurant. Everyone is seated in a round room at a circular table with two gaps in the table for the waiters and maître d' to enter the center. It started with us being serenaded by two violinists. There are 10 waiters, one for every two guests. The walls are like Circlevision 360 at Disneyland (high resolution displays), only way, way better. There is music and sound effects playing, and each place setting has a personal projector in the ceiling that puts moving images directly in front of you on the table top. Some of these images are interactive and will behave differently if you touch them. They even put scents into the air when showing the lemons or lavender. 

They started bringing out different courses, each one with its own wine. The multimedia show is tied to the food. For instance, they showed us how lemons are grown on the Amalfi Coast before bringing out the lemon pasta. I hate to think how much this meal would cost if you had to pay for it. It is difficult to describe exactly how immersive this experience is. When talking about lavender, and how bees are important to it, suddenly the entire table was covered in bees. When I went to touch one on my plate, suddenly it started to fill with honey!

The entrée was some of the best steak and shrimp ever. And the dessert is difficult to describe, but I think "honey custard" comes close. There's a light that shines down on your plate. If you move the plate, the light automatically adjusts to follow! And, if all that wasn't enough, then they brought out champagne! At the end the entire staff came out and took a bow to champagne bottles dancing the can-can (I think you had to be there). Quite the experience!

We went to Princess Live! to play "Google It". We scored 38/80. You needed 45 to win. The host prompts you with a little text, and you must figure out what the Google predictive engine will come up with. For instance, with the prompt "Why do men...", we scored a point with "cheat" and another with "go bald".

Next Jessica and I went to the Princess Theater to see the comedian, Keith Bender. He was from Chicago. His first jokes were about him growing up and getting smacked about by his mom. He had some OK material, but then lapsed into poop jokes (always a sign of weakness in a comedian).

We stopped to look at the pictures that had been professionally taken on the cruise. We will see what the others think about the group photo before making a purchase.

Guide Claire shows Jessica and others around Arles. Van Gogh plaque in background.

The colosseum of Arles.

Inside where they still have bullfights.

The obelisk of Arles.

The Church of St Trophime.

Inside the Church of St Trophime.

Typical French street with graffiti.

Café from "Café Terrace at Night", by Van Gogh.

Entrance to Les Baux-de-Provence.

Christmas creche.

The townspeople are all represented.

Jessica at the peak with the city behind.

Looking down to the valley below the city.

Our "360" photo opportunity.

The 360 meal starts with violins.

The walls and tables come alive with light and music!

An hour into the meal. Everything was wonderful!

October 5th - Milan

Up very early this morning. We are making port in Genoa, but are taking a bus to Milan. We had to meet our tour group at 7:00a.

We got a report that Kim was doing poorly last night. We hope for good news about his condition later. Early breakfast included crepes, OJ and espresso. 

Jessica and I got to the tour meeting place and we were asked if we had our passports? Oops! We ran back to our cabin and scooped them up. It's not clear why they are required, but they are. We are part of group Beige-4 (but the guy keeps calling it "Green-4"). Jessica thinks he's colorblind. Our group was called, and when we got to the bus, the sign read "Cream-4". This explains a lot.

The bus pulled away about 7:40a. It's supposed to be a couple hour drive to Milan. Leaving the port we first traveled through the Liguria region, which is quite mountainess. We passed through many tunnels, and all the houses here seem to be stapled to the side of a hill. Very pretty. 

We then entered the Lombardy region. This area is much flatter and broad in scope (a lot of farmland). There are a lot of low clouds and fog today in Lombardy (though not enough to inhibit driving). There is an unbelievable amount of graffiti along the roadside. Any surface that can be covered has been covered. Only the trees escaped tagging. My guess is that it's tolerated, as there's no other explanation for how much graffiti there is.

It took two hours to get to downtown Milan. The graffiti is everywhere. Really bad. Our first stop is Castello Sforzesco. This castle is ginormous! Apparently Leonardo DaVinci lived here for 17 years. We were told that Victoria Beckham wanted to move into this castle for a while, and engaged lawyers to get her way. She came up short. We walked through the castle, and out the front door (we entered from the gardens in the rear), then onto a gravel path back to where our bus was supposed to be waitng. It showed up a minute later. We are on our way to see DaVinci's painting of The Last Supper.

First stop is the Church of the Virgin Mary (Santa Maria Delle Grazie). This church is right next door to the building that houses The Last Supper (which was built around the painting, as the painting was on a wall of the dining hall of the Benedictine Monks, and was one of two walls of that building that survived a bombing in WW II). We entered the church right at 12:00 noon, and the church bells started clanging away immediately. 

It turns out that our passports are required to see Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper. This is part of their security procedure. They carefully control who is admitted and when they are admitted. Apparently the tickets (which are personalized) to see The Last Supper had to be acquired seven months in advance. Before viewing the painting they make you stand in a staging room for 15 minutes to cool you down to protect the painting from excessive body heat.

Once in the room with the painting, you have precisely 15 minutes to gawk and stare and take pictures. This painting took four years to finish [1494-1498] and it has been restored 11 times! The last restoration took 21 years to complete. The difference was like a black-and-white photo compared to full color.

There are two works of art in this room. They both survived the bombing and spent time exposed to the elements. Of course, everyone fixates their attention on the DaVinci. There was also a 3D model rendered of The Last Supper for blind people to enjoy. When your time is up, they hustle you out to the gift shop.

We walked back to our bus and drove to the main city center of Milan. Actually, they dropped us about a mile from the "city center" and told us it was a short walk. I started to seriously doubt our guide when I saw her stop complete strangers three times to ask directions. We had 30 people in our group, and she was walking quickly enough that I had trouble keeping up with her. At least twice someone had to call her attention to the fact that the people behind were straggling and would end up lost. I could find my way back because I put a stake in the ground with Google Maps when we first got off the bus. By the time we got to the "city center" we had to be back to the bus in 55 minutes. This left very little time to look around, but Jessica and I did take a look at a truly massive church, the Duomo di Milano (this is the second largest, after St Peter's Basilica, in size). We would have loved to go in, but tickets must be bought well in advance.

Jessica took some additional time to shop. Then we started the walk back. Fortunately, Google Maps led us straight back where needed to be. About a dozen of our group were already there. Some others straggled in. Then the bus showed up, then the guide showed up, and after a nose count, everyone was present and accounted for! I was slightly shocked. 

The two hour ride back to Genoa, and our ship, was uneventful. We boarded without comment, dropped stuff in our cabin, then met Meg, Reid and Gina for dinner in the Capri dining room. Gina said Kim was doing fine, but would not join us for dinner.

After dinner we went to the casino and cashed out all of our on board credit. We withdrew $1000.00 into our casino account, bet and lost $4.00, then cashed out for $996.00.

We then went to the Photo Gallery, picked out our favorite image, and paid $21.95 for a digital file (which I immediately downloaded to my phone).

From there we (everyone but Kim) went to movie trivia. This was an interesting approach where they gave you three hints to a movie (a quote; the awards it won; the sound track; a clip; quirky facts; etc). If you guessed correctly after one clue, you scored 3 points. After two clues, two points. After three clues, one point. Otherwise, zero points. There were 20 movies. We scored 54 out of a possible 60 (nobody believed me when I said "Godfather III", they put "II", and that cost us), and 55 was the winning score.

Getting ready to enter Castello Sforzesco.

One of the large towers of Castello Sforzesco.

In front of the main entrance to Castello Sforzesco.

Church of the Virgin Mary, interrior.

Church of the Virgin Mary, exterrior.

Front and back of our personalized tickets to see The Last Supper.

The "cooling down" waiting area before being admitted.

Perhaps the most photographed wall in the world.

Again, perhaps the most photographed wall in the world.

The 3D rendering for blind persons.

The Duomo di Milano, a gigantic church!

October 6th - Florence and Pisa

Up early. In the Wind Jammer by 7:00a for breakfast. More crepes, so good. We docked at the Port of Liverno, which is the port city for Florence and Pisa.

My medallion failed to open my cabin door. I had to have the room steward let me in. A quick vist to Guest Services and they issued me a new medallion. However, when leaving the ship this morning, their system balked at the new unit. We will see if am able to get back on board.

We (Dave, Meg, Gina, Jessica, Reid and Kim) met our tour guide, Elizabeth, right outside the cruise port. Quickly we piled into her van and on our way to Florence. Elizabeth is nothing less than exuberant. It took about 90 minutes to get to Florence. 

On our drive into Florence we got caught behind a recycling truck that was picking up cardboard boxes every few yards. Our driver became testy. We finally reached the city center where we met our guide, Sylvia. While she now lives in Italy, she spent a number of years growing up in Irvine, California.

Sylvia walked us around, talking about the history of the city and the buildings. She told us about the various guilds that controlled the city, took us to the Leather market (with its bronze pig statue), and pointed out the Wool Merchants Guild building that's still standing today. From there we walked to the Piazza della Signoria (the political focus of the city).

Elizabeth picked us up and drove us to see the Duomo of Florence, such a beautiful church, with three colors of marble! There we saw Giotto's Campanile (the church's bell tower), one of the taller towers in Florence. We also saw the beautiful golden doors at the Gates of Paradise at the Baptistry of Florence. We then walked to the Galleria dell'Accademia, which is the museum in Florence that houses Michaelangelo's David. I'm not sure how, but she managed to crash a kilometer long line to get us in immediately. 

We saw many impressive works of art (one that stood out was Abduction of a Sabine Woman), including a collection of antique musical instruments. But the big payoff (and, yes, "big" is a play on words) was the statue of David. You notice two things right away: 1) Here is a statue of a man the size of an oil derrick, and 2) This place is lousy with tourists. Our guide counseled us to examine the statue from the front, right, back and left. I'm glad we did, because each vantage point offered more and different information. It's hard to belive that Michaelangelo was only 26 when he started this project. After exiting we bid Sylvia "Goodbye" and met back up with driver Elizabeth. 

She drove us straight to Pisa, a little over an hour drive. Down smaller and smaller roads, until she parked. We got out, walked around a corner, a there was the Leaning Tower, big as life! After gawking for a moment, we headed to a local bistro for lunch. Jessica got pizza, I got a really delicious tuna salad.

At 2:45p Jessica and I excused ourselves from the others, as our tickets to enter the Leaning Tower were for 3:00p. We got in line, but we're told they didn't allow any bags in the tower. They provided a coat check service, which Jessica availed herself of, getting back to the line just as they were admitting the 3:00p ticket holders. 

You have to walk down a couple of steps to get to the stairs that lead up to the entrance. Once through the threshold you can go straight ahead to a small room on the ground floor (the size of the tower central core), or you can quickly turn left and immediately head up a spiral staircase with room for a single-file going up and a single-file coming down. Every 50 or so steps there is a small landing with room for three or four people. As you proceed up you feel yourself leaning to the left in respect to the passage. After more steps, you feel yourself leaning to the right. You can't see the tilt on the inside, but you can sure feel it! After over 200 steps you can go out to a balcony on the penultimate level and walk around the outside. There is also another much narrower, much steeper spiral staircase leading to the top level where the bells are housed. There are six bells (there's room for seven, but one has been removed to make an access way to the top). As soon as you catch your breath you realize just how spectacular the view of the Field of Miracles is.

It is tough not to feel a bit acrophobic looking around up there. Jessica and I did a lap on the top level, then started down. First with the narrow, steep staircase, then the (somewhat) broader narrow staircase. If possible, it seemed longer going down than going up. Since the tickets we purchased for the tower included entrance to the cathedral, we ran over there and checked it out. It's really, really big! As with other huge churches, it is filled with artwork and statuary.

Meet-up time was 3:45p. After visiting the cloakroom and retrieving Jessica's bag, we walked to the designated point where the car was waiting. Everyone was on time, and our driver made a few more photo-op stops on the way to the cruise port. We saw the building Napolean used as his headquarters, and we saw the most exclusive school in Italy, Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies

As we were approaching the port, our guide, Elizabeth, confessed that this was the last tour she would be running. When pressed, she said she was going to become a bus driver. We wished her the very best with her new career, she was wonderful for us.

Coming back on board my medallion balked again (but they let me on anyway).

Everyone to the Capri dining room for dinner. The discussion got moderately heated on the subject of school choice, with Gina pro and Reid con. Reid's contention is that the bulk of private schools are money grabs. I had the crispy shrimp, Jessica got the prime rib.

We are leaving the ship in the morning. So, tonight we need to get organized and packed. It's always sad when a cruise ends (but I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed).

We packed up our two big bags and put them out for collection. The next time we looked, they were gone.

Dave, Jessica, Meg and Reid met in Princess Live! for quirky trivia. Most of this stuff was completely off the wall, but it was very funny. We scored 18 out of 29. 24 was good for first.

Back to the room to finish packing. We have to be out of our cabin by 8:30a tomorrow morning. We disembark at 9:30a to take the bus to the airport.

The Wool Guild building in Florence.

The famous Leather Market in Florence.

Jessica gets in on the "good luck" by rubbing the pig's snout and inserting a coin it its mouth.

Guide Sylvia with Jessica and Reid inside the Piazza della Signoria.

Gates of Paradise (East Doors).

Duomo of Florence.

David and Giotto's Campanile.

Abduction of a Sabine Woman.

Jessica and the antique musical instruments.

David. What we came to see.



Moving around to get all views.

The place was lousy with tourists (but we can't complain).

Our first glimpse of the Leaning Tower.

Just inside the door to the Leaning Tower.

One of the landings on the way up.

Seven minutes along, still going up.

On the top of the Leaning Tower.

The baptistry and the cathedral in Pisa.

Inside the cathedral.

Jessica and the baptistry.

In the shadow of the Leaning Tower.

October 7th - Rome to Montreal to Los Angeles

Today we fly home. We docked in Civitavecchia. I have been trying to use the Air Canada app to check-in without success. Each time I put in all the information correctly, promise not to bring any explosives, then the app appears to accept it, but at the last moment it announces "There's a problem" and the check-in fails. This happens whether I use the app or the online interface. Very frustrating. 

Anyway, we got up early, finished packing, went to the Wind Jammer for breakfast (more crepes) then down to Vista to join our group (only to find out that they had just been sent to the gangway). We caught up to Kim and Gina, and this time my medallion worked fine, but Kim's failed (I'm glad they let him off anyway). We found our luggage with no issues and a porter loaded up the eight bags on a cart and took them to the bus.

Everyone aboard and we are on our way to the airport in Rome. The bus ride was uneventful. Pulled up right in front of our terminal (#3). Found Air Canada straight-away, and we had no line to check-in! Checked our two big bags (and one of our small bags) through to Los Angeles, got our boarding passes (which now show up on the app) and headed to Gate E42. Now, Rome has a large airport. After passing through security, then customs, we followed the arrows to the E gates. Then the signs to E5-E62. Then to gates E34-E62. Then you were pointed to a door for gates E41-E62, behind which was a train. We got on the train and were carried to a whole 'nother part of the airport. Up an escalator and ahead was E42.

We were seated here for awhile, waiting for Kim and Gina to arrive, when they announced a gate change to E43. I texted Gina, and she seemed to have problems grasping the concept of a gate change. Perhaps she didn't believe me, and thought I was trying to trick her into missing the flight.

Kim and Gina arrived at Gate E43 in plenty of time to make the flight. We started boarding around 1:00p. Our flight is slightly delayed from 1:30p to 1:50p takeoff. This is a big plane. I'm guessing that it took at least 45 minutes to get everyone on board. Jessica and I are in row 34, Kim and Gina in row 36.

So, the first thing I did was watch "Asteroid City". This must be a profound movie, but I have no idea what the message is. The only good thing I can say, is that I didn't have anything better to do with those two hours. What a bizarre film. 

The next film I watched was the animated "Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham". Then it was the live action "Little Mermaid". This had additional songs, but the same exact story. I noticed only a few little things missing. 

Last film on the first flight was "The Man From Toronto", starring Woody Harrelson and Kevin Hart. A strange plot, but lots of laughs. Jessica managed to finish the last two books of the second trilogy written by our daughter-in-law, Eleanor.

Flight landed uneventfully in Montreal. We walked following the connection signs until we saw the USA flag. That person wanted to see your boarding pass and passport. Then downstairs to security, where they wanted to see your boarding pass. Then through customs, where they wanted to see your passport. Finally got to Gate C76.

Jessica got hungry, so we went to an airport restaurant and shared fish and chips. It was actually pretty good.

The next flight started boarding on time. Once more we had to show our passports and boarding passes. We are now seated in row 29. The plane is filling up. Flight was uneventful. I managed to doze some.

We landed at LAX about an hour early. So early that there's a plane at the gate we want to use. I texted the driver this fact, but don't know if he got the message. I engaged my seatmate in a conversation about cruising.

We finally got to the gate and deplaned. All the baggage was where it should be. We took the LAXit shuttle to the Uber/Lyft/taxi staging area and texted the driver. He was delivering another fare and said he'd be there in about 15 minutes. Fortunately  it's a mild night as we are sitting on benches outside.

The shuttle guy showed up around 11:45p (which was slightly ahead of schedule). We filled his trunk with our luggage and still had two bags left over. One of those bags fit in his front trunk (he drives a Tesla) and Kim carried the other bag on his lap. Jessica, Dave and Gina squeezed in pretty tight in the back seat.

We dropped Gina and Kim off first. Then David and Jessica. It's good to be home.

Our last dinner aboard the Enchanted Princess. Kim, Gina, Meg, Reid, Jessica and Dave.

Formal portrait taken aboard Enchanted Princess.