Cruising with my First Mate

Saturday, October 15th
Civitavecchia, Italy

After an amazing couple of days wandering the streets of Rome, it was time to embark on our next journey by cruise ship. We have cruised before, however, only for 7 days and through the Caribbean.

The couple we had met at the Vatican were also leaving for a cruise the same morning as us, so they organized a private car and picked us up along their way. It was nice to see friendly faces in an unfamiliar country.

The car ride took us about 40 minutes from Rome to Civitavecchia. We travelled along winding roads through small towns and lush landscapes on our way to the port. We paid our portion to the driver, said our goodbyes to our new friends from Toronto and followed the signs to the Princess cruise boarding area.

A long staircase reached across the port side of the ship and connected to the land. The metal shifted and squealed as guests made their way up to the entry.

The first thing I noticed aside from the large ship was an abundance of elderly people. We maneuvered our way by wheel chairs and weaved through walkers to make our way to guest services to check in. We gave our reservation number, passport and visa and within minutes our bracelets were printed off. We pushed our backs against a black wall and our individual head shot photos were taken. Our blue cruise cards were printed off and we were ready to board.

We were going to check our large suitcase but then decided we could maneuver them up the ramp and to our room. We endured some puzzling stares from fellow cruisers as they debated if we were workers or passengers. Their confusion wasn’t surprising considering we were embarking on a two month long cruise and we were just shy of 21 years old.

The ship was plain but beautiful. We navigated around the winding halls uncovering the fitness area, spa, pools, restaurants, casino and games room. After touring around the ship we decided to find our room and unpack. Our room was larger than we expected and a welcome envelope sat on our bed. We ripped open the envelope and had a beautiful note from my mom and step dad, Brian. They sent us a gift card for on board credits and wished us a great vacation.

In true vacation spirit we wandered to and from our balcony, took in all of our surroundings while we waited for our bucket of Dos Equis beers. We spent the afternoon playing cribbage and reading our books. I have never felt so relaxed.

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The emergency drill went pretty smoothly. I’m not surprised as most of these cruisers are cruise veterans. Aside from the occasional smell of wafting of toots and freestanding nappers, the drill was over quickly and we were heading back to our room to rest up before dinner.

Dinner was wonderful and we were lucky enough to be placed at a table with four wonderful people.

It was certainly smooth sailing for our first night on board!

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A Trevi Fountain Fail & Covering up for the Vatican

Rome
Friday, October 14th, 2011

Our first day as an engaged couple started off with a slow start. Despite setting our alarm for 9am we ended up sleeping in until noon hour. With the excitement of our engagement and jet lag setting in, we were due for some R&R.

After grabbing a cappuccino, we were on our way! We ended up at the Trevi Fountain again and it looked completely different during the day. The crowded space was littered with people and street vendors. We took a few photos and decided to throw a coin into the fountain. We took the necessary tourist picture before the toss (holding the coin together) and Shawn threw it to the fountain. Instead of landing the coin in the fountain, it bounced off the edge and landed on the ground. We left the fountain laughing hysterically.

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Our next stop was the Spanish Steps. For October it was surprisingly warm. We were both dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and I was as usual coated in sunscreen. We captured lots of pictures and ran up to the top of the steps. Once we got to the top of the steps we were presented with three (wilted) roses. One reoccurring lesson that we learned was that nothing is ever free. We said no thank you to the flowers but the man was very insistent.

Tip:
If someone offers you any type of gift (flowers, jewelry, CDs… etc) and tells you that it’s free, it definitely isn’t free. So unless you want to give them some money for it, politely decline their offerings.

Before heading to the Vatican, we decided to stop along our walk for some authentic Italian food. We stopped at a tiny restaurant off a cobblestone street. We were sheltered from the heat as the patio was covered by a canopy. Sipping on a beer, we enjoyed minestrone soup, bruschetta and then shared some spaghetti and meatballs!

We signed up for a guided tour so we could bypass the line and have full access to St. Peters church, the Vatican and the Sistine chapel.

Even though, I am not a religious person, I was extremely excited to learn about the history and see the stunning architecture. The tour did not disappoint. We approached the entry way to the church and I was wearing jeans shorts and a t-shirt. I had packed light weight pants and tops for the other stops on our trip but didn’t even think to wear them today. Lucky enough, we met a kind couple from outside of our hometown and they offered me their rain coat to wrap around my waist. We were able to transform the rain coat into a makeshift skirt and I was allowed in! I was glad I was able to take photos in the church and Vatican museum however, we were unable to take photos in the Sistine chapel. It was really magical being able to stand in the middle of the Sistine chapel in the dimly lit space and fully enjoy the moment free of any distractions.

Tip:
When visiting anywhere sacred, always dress more conservative. Covering shoulders, midriff and knees always helps.

The walk home ended up taking us about three hours since we got lost a couple of times. But, if there’s any city to get lost in, it’s definitely Rome!

Travelling around Rome was truly remarkable. It is a city that I would recommend to anyone. The culture, architecture and food were all memorable.

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