Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Promise of Palma

Palma de Mallorca
Planning for Palma

TRAVEL THERE: PLANNING THE FINAL ACTIVITY

Palma de Mallorca – a soupcon of Spain before heading home.  The main thing I knew about Mallorca was that it had pearls.  Would I love some?  Of course!  Was I actually going to buy any?  Probably not!  So what do you do on Mallorca?

What I Wanted

Since I didn’t have any idea of what Mallorca was really all about, I was eager to find out what Celebrity Cruise Lines offered.  Then I read about a flamenco performance.  I adore flamenco.  The guitar, the castanets, the mournful voices, the gorgeous frilled dresses.  I’ve read all the books that tell me there is no way I will truly understand flamenco or bullfighting, but that’s OK, because even with my very limited knowledge of this art of dance, I find it fascinating.

There were a couple of other options that sounded interesting – a Tapas Walking Tasting Tour, a botanical garden tour and a castle tour.  The castle tour sounded amazing.  They would have costumed actors living out the castle’s days of glory.  There would be some sort of equestrian demonstration and a shopping opportunity for native crafts.  The excursion would be topped off with a feast.  Now that’s a shore excursion.

What I Considered

Though the castle tour sounded great, it was also pricey.  The Naples and Florence tours had already taken a chunk out of my budget – not to mention the vow renewal ceremony.  Another top tier shore excursion might get me in hot water.  Besides, it was a castle thing, which reeked of a historical, museum-type experience.  My friends might not be as excited about that as I would be and their pocketbooks might also be straining.

A garden was always a good thing in my book.  They rank very high in my interests.  With both Deb and Bill I’ve visited a whole bunch of them.  A little research told me that while it was a garden, I’d seen many, many gardens which were superior. In fact, we’d be visiting the Boboli on this trip and it would for sure put this garden to shame.  No, the garden wasn’t the right choice.

The Tapas Tour sounded pretty good, but this was a cruise and we’d have more food staring us down than we’d be able to consume. And walking?  Would everyone be totally walked out by this juncture in the trip.

What I Booked

When I reasoned out the Flamenco show was the very best thing, I realized just how happy that had made me.  There had really been no competition.  While I always want to do a little of everything, flamenco was much to be preferred over everything else – and besides, dance was one of Deb’s very favorite things and she would love to see it.

So we booked the Flamenco Show, but it didn’t stay booked.  Someone somewhere in Celebrity Cruise world decided to cancel this shore excursion.  I tried to find out why, thinking perhaps it might be worth booking our own excursion, but a little research told me the flamenco show had gone the way of all tourist traps and Celebrity was probably saving me from myself.

None of my reservations about the garden or the castle had changed, so that left the Tapas Tour.  Food, wine, walking…what could go wrong?  We booked the walking tour.

While booking, I went ahead and signed up for a tour/transfer in our Debarkation city, Barcelona – another city like Rome that I was dying to see – Las Ramblas, the Cathedral, so many wonderful memories to make.  However, like a tour of Rome it was a pipe dream.  We cancelled Rome because the schedule was just too tight and in the end we had to cancel the Barcelona tour also and for the same reason.  With an international flight leaving at two, we’d have to be to the airport before twelve and that was too soon to be on the tour.

Seven ports of call, seven shore excursions.  Two cancelled, two changed.  Now I was running out of things to plan.  come back next week and we’ll talk about the vow renewal ceremony.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Considering Cannes

The Beach at Nice, France
The French Rivera

TRAVEL THERE: DAY TWO ON THE FABULOUS RIVERA

Confession first!  I was of two minds about Cannes.  A part of me thought it might be a good day to just take it easy, to do nothing, to hang out on the boat, to go to the beach.  This was only a 7 day cruise and we were hitting 7 ports.  There was only 1 day at sea and that was going to be our vow renewal, so not much in the way of relaxing offered.  At the same time, Cannes had the most intriguing and most affordable shore excursions on the Celebrity cruise.  What would we do?

What I Wanted

As is often the case, I wanted a clone.  The clone would go visit all the places on the possibilities list.  I‘d spend the day on the beach and then my clone could tell me all about it after my facial in the spa.  There was a relaxing little trip to Provence Lavender fields and rustic little town squares.  Another trip offered an industrial view of the perfumeries in the area.  One seemed more like a perfume shopping trip.

And I was serious about the beach day.  I was exhausted just planning this whirlwind tour of the Mediterranean.  I knew we’d be interested in a break come Day 6.

What I Considered

Then I thought about the day we visited Atlantis, a resort in the Bahamas, on another cruise.  It was one of those DIY tours.  Atlantis is the biggest thing there, but it wasn’t at the port and once we got there we stomped all over the place without gaining access to the places I really wanted to go.  It was a fun day overall and we got some great pictures, but it wasn’t a complete success.

As to Cannes, I couldn’t find out exactly how one got from the boat to the beach and if the beach was accessible or we’d have to be associated with some hotel.  Sometimes the most relaxing thing you can do is just go with the flow.  My thoughts flowed to a bus trip which would take us around the French Rivera.

What I Booked 

Cap d’Antibes, Cote de Azur and Nice.  You hear them in the movies and read about them in books.  Cannes is all about the Film Festival and celebrities.  The others seem to float out of the Jazz Age and tempt you out of the every day.  So I booked the bus trip.  After the flurry of booking was over to get the shore excursion specials which were to be short-lived, I almost thought I might have made a mistake.  The bus trip Bill wanted in Monaco seemed to overlap in Nice with the Cannes bus trip, but some voice inside me warned me to leave well enough alone.

Good thing that voice.  When we changed the Monaco bus trip for the Monte Carlo Yacht Club event, it created a need to see something of the French Rivera than the cruise port cities.  The selection was perfection itself.  Want to know why?  Well then you have to keep coming back.  Next week we’ll plan our visit to Palma de Mallorca.

Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Marvelous Monte Carlo

Yacht in Monaco Harbor
Welcome to Monte Carlo

TRAVEL THERE: LUXURY ON STEROIDS

Princess Grace of Monaco, Prince Rainer, Yachting, Wealth, Grandeur, Bond James Bond, the Casino, the French Rivera…we all know what Monte Carlo stands for.  Where else in the world would the list of shore excursions include top of the line Ferrari with race car driver – for a few thousand dollars?

What I Wanted

Monte Carlo is a pretty small place.  I envisioned stepping off the boat and strolling around the city with the help of some map.  In my dreams I would often change companions.  One time Bill and I would stroll the street hand in hand.  Another time I would envision Deb and I gleefully remarking on the excessive wealth – and not without a tinge of jealousy.  In my dreams, I never saw all six of us stomping around trying to figure out what we were seeing.

We would be at the port from early until late and it would be the morning after our vow renewal, so I could imagine Bill and I sleeping late, then visiting the city in the afternoon.  I hoped we’d scoot back to the boat and get all gussied up for an actual visit to the casino – not just the tourist part – but inside, just like James Bond. Maybe we’d be that couple who showed up in the last few minutes before the anchor was lifted.  The anxious crew would be searching the horizon for our silhouettes and when they realized we were coming they’d be angry that we’d waited so long – but only for a few moments, because when they identified us as the 25th Anniversary couple and saw the love we had for one another, there would be smiles all around.

What I Booked

Because the cash register just kept ringing, I thought Monaco might be the right place to see without an official guided tour.  After all, most everything was withing in a one mile radius.  Mr. Bill, on the other hand, wanted a guide.  That seemed to suit everyone, so we booked a bus tour of the French Rivera.

I still had hopes of coming back to the boat afterwards and dressing to the nines for a visit to the casino, but shortly before cruising, a new opportunity presented itself.  The CEO of Celebrity Cruise Lines was coming on our cruise on The Edge.  She’d arranged for a wine tasting at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club (Yes, THE Monte Carlo Yacht Club, I didn’t stutter) and an after-hours, special access tour of the Prince’s Palace.

I’d never been all that excited about the bus tour.  The town of Eze seemed to be the best part of it, but we’d only have 45 minutes there.  The Yacht Club was just too much to resist – regardless of the outrageous price for four hours of entertainment.  And there was still a chance I’d get that peek at the Casino. Perfect!

We cancelled the bus tour and booked the Yacht Club.  For me, the palace was laginappe.  I was just imagining all the ways I could slip “the Monte Carlo Yacht Club” into my sentences after I got home.  Did I get to the Casino?  You’ll find out.  For now, come back next week and we’ll plan towards Cannes.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Naples Excursion Planning

The Isle of Capri
The Isle of Capri

TRAVEL THERE: NOT DOING UNTO OTHERS AS I WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO ME

Naples is a lovely city.  A traditional bus tour of the city with various stops would be a lovely way to spend the day.  However, besides just being a lovely city, Naples is the gateway city for so may lovely attraction.  Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast, Positano, the Isle of Capri!  How does one choose which Celebrity Shore Excursion to enjoy?

What I Wanted

If I had done exactly as I wanted to, I would have hired a private guide and spent the day taking in Pompeii and Herculaneum.  It would be hot, it would have been crowded and I would have been walking all day long.  I would have also been in heaven.

Two cities from ancient history preserved for posterity by an extraordinary volcanic eruption, lovingly researched and restored over centuries.  If I had to choose between the two cities, I would have opted for Herculeneum.  Pompeii is the most famous, an entire city frozen in time, but Herculaneum had been a sort of ancient Riviera-type playground for the rich and famous.  The frescoes and tile floors were supposed to be out of this world.

What I Considered

I’m not crazy.  I know if you drag a bunch of people around to a bunch of places they don’t care about and wear them out at the first port of call, you are not going to be the most popular person on a cruise.  I needed something a little more engaging to transition my group into the swing of things.

What I really needed was a sort of overview of the whole thing.  I checked into the cost of a personal guide for the day, but in order to have sufficient space in the vehicle for all six of us, along with a driver and/or guide, was prohibitive.

What I Booked

Hoping to kick things off with a bang, I decided on something that didn’t have a very exciting title, but promised a wide variety of activities – sort a something for everyone smorgasbord.  Capri, Sorrento, Pompeii didn’t grab me right off, but then I read on – jet foil to Capri, funicular ride, lunch in Florence and guided tour of Pompeii!  First day planned.

Booking Nightmare

This is where the booking problem came in.  I told you several blogs back that when I first looked at shore excursions, they were one price, but had gone up significantly a month later.  I was new to Celebrity as a cruiser, so I had not antisciapted the  shore excursion sale, but the Bagley’s had cruised with them many times.  They let me know when the next promotion came along – 20% off all shore excursions.  It was booking day.

Booking day lasted all day and into the next as I tried to guide everyone onto the same excursion at the same time.  In the end, we were all going to the same excursion, but Jim and Melanie had been forced into another time for it.  Not an auspicious way to start, but the hunt was on.

Frustrations be damned, we were booking excursions.  Come back next week and let’s explore the opportunities in Florence.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Yucatan Adventure

TRAVEL HERE: DISCOVER THE YUCATAN & THE MAYAN WORLD

No time for working out or a sit-down breakfasts today.  Our shore excursion met on the pier at 9:15, so we grabbed breakfast in the Windjammer Buffet and disembarked.

Progresso, Mexico

I love cruising and one of my favorite moments is stepping off the boat at a port of call.  Progresso was not new to us.  We’d been there several years ago on a Carnival cruise, but that was before I started blogging.  On that trip we visited the Dzibilchaltun ruins, which I highly recommend.  This time we were taking a tour called “Discover the Yucatan & the Mayan World”.  It was a sort of compromise somewhere in between going all the way to Chichen Itza and spending the day on the beach.

The city of Progresso is developing their port and I’m pretty sure the cute little market at the end of the pier was not there last time.  We didn’t see anything that tempted us to pull out our wallets, but it was a nice commercial enterprise and it gave us something to do while we waited for our tour to be called.

How do you spell relief?

On the Bus

Once everyone on the tour had been accounted for, our guide led us to our bus for the day.  For the most part it was in good condition, but I could tell it had been in service for awhile.  Our guide had a shtick about his name.  He complained that all of us tourists didn’t know how to properly roll the “R” in Carlos, so he’d prefer it if we called him The Big Chihuahua or Uncle Chewy.

Our first stop was Xcampo.  (Well, actually the roadside restroom before you got to Xcampo.)  Xcampo was a temple complex, like Chichen Itza or Dzibilxhaltun, but on a much smaller scale.  The visit was not very long, but long enough to wander around and climb on the pyramids.

And speaking of climbing the pyramids, we learned that the steps of the pyramid were so steep to be sure that no one could turn their back on the god and walk down.  They’d have to crawl down to do honor to the god.  In addition, That’s the reason the door to their huts were so low – to remind people to bow and do honor to the home’s inhabitants.

On to Dzemul

Dzemul was a small town primarily occupied by descendants of the Mayans.  Our first stop in the town was an architecturally correct replica of a Mayan home.  When the bus arrived our hostess was nowhere in sight.  We sat there a few moments as the guide tried to decide what to do about her absense.  Just about the time he decided we’d go to the next stop, up comes this darling little lady on the orange human-powered vehicle you see in the picture gallery.  These were the most popular vehicles in town and came in a wide variety of colors and themes.

As Uncle Chewy explained the details of Mayan home-building, our hostess went out back, stoked up a fire and made us some tortillas.  They were good!

The next stop was the local Catholic church with a long history.  There we were greeted by this beautiful woman in her traditional hand-made dress.  Just so you don’t miss it, that’s cross-stitch and it covers the dress.  Can you imagine how long it took to make it?

We were enchanted by this lady.  She exuded pride and self-confidence.  She and some associates performed some folk dances for us and one performed with a tray of water-filled glasses.  The the tray of dancer in the picture got a little off balance and dribbled water on her as she danced.  She was such a pro that it didn’t even cause her to blink.  She completed the dance without ever touching the tray and behaved as if the water dripping on her was just part of the act.  The dancers on the ship could take lessons from her.

Inside the church we were treated to a little history. Bill was amazed to learn that they used to make church doors so large in order for people on horseback to ride in, without having to get of their horse, in times of emergency.

Cultural orientation completed it was time to go to the beach.  Come back next week and join us there.  In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of Dzemul.