Mediterranean Adriatic Cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette
May 17 - 30, 2012
Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in Venice, Italy; Ship Information through Dining
Page 2 - Ship Entertainment/Activities; Ravenna, Italy; Split, Croatia; Valletta, Malta
Page 3 - Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy; Civitavecchia, Italy; Kotor, Montenegro
Page 4 - Dubrovnik, Croatia; Venice, Italy; Post cruise in Bellagio, Italy
We had looked forward to returning to Dubrovnik, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Adriatic. When we were there the first time, we did the most popular attraction, walking the wall around the city. It was a great experience; but as we completed the walk, it had started to rain. We hoped that this time we would have a clear day so that we could see more of the city. It appeared that we were in luck, since the forecast looked good. As we cruised toward Dubrovnik, we could see the modern suburbs; and the best part -- a sunny morning.
The Silhouette pulled up to the dock next to the large bridge right on time.
Since we only planned to see more of old town Dubrovnik, we didn’t need to book a tour for the day. We did however use Celebrity’s shuttle bus service to get to the old town. With it being only $12 per person, it was a reasonable price. I also remembered how difficult it was to get a cab when we wanted to return on our last visit, since it had been raining. When we got dropped off this time at the main entrance, the Pile Gate, I found a taxi driver named Dragan to take us up Mount Srd to get the famous view from above the city that we had missed out on last time.
We had originally planned on taking the Cabrio Bus tour that would go up the mountain as well as tour through other parts of the area; but the bus had not yet started running. I can’t imagine why, since there were thousands of tourists in the city. My second idea had been to take the cable car up to the top of Mt. Srd, but I didn’t want Carol to have to walk so far to the cable car station. So the taxi was the last option, but turned out to be the best.
Dragan told us that where the cable stops is not the best view of Dubrovnik. He would stop at a couple of places along the winding road up the mountain to let me take photos. At the first stop, he showed me where the cable car would have dropped us off and pointed out that it would be more of a looking straight down shot rather than looking from the side. He took our photo at his favorite spot.
He was correct and we had a much better viewing angle; and just a gorgeous view of the magnificent city of Dubrovnik. For this photo, I didn't want to be limited by the smaller size that is used throughout the review. It is just too spectacular of a sight to try to squeeze into a smaller photo.
We then went up to the top of the mountain, near where the cable car ends. It is located at a fort that was built by Napoleon. Dragan offered to take our photo at the large memorial cross on top of the mountain.
We then went to the viewing area that is 1,396 feet above sea level to look down on the city. Dragan was right. The view, although beautiful, didn’t compare to the first spot we had gone. I have to say any view from above Dubrovnik is a beautiful sight.
He also pointed out to an area just below where we were standing where a large golf course is to be built. It will take away from the view; but what a view the golfers will have when playing.
We drove back to the Pile Gate and got to see the massive walls surrounding the city from ground level. Dubrovnik is impressive from any view.
We thanked Dragan for a great tour and headed to the Pile Gate to enter the city. We weren’t the only visitors.
The first thing we saw was the Big Onofrio Fountain. It is kind of handy to use for filling up water bottles.
We then walked into the Franciscan Monastery right across from the fountain. It is quite lovely with some gorgeous artwork.
As always, the city streets were crowded, but because the weather was in the 70’s it was most enjoyable to walk around exploring.
I went into several churches that didn’t allow photos to be taken, which was OK, since I had already taken more than enough church photos. I was enjoying the architecture and statuary of the town more.
Since I was inside the walled city, I couldn’t see the water surrounding the outside of the walls. So I walked out a gate to the marina area. It was like a totally different town, but still gorgeous.
It was getting close to lunch time and Carol was getting tired, so we set out to find a restaurant as we walked back toward the Pile Gate. We found one, but decided to just get drinks, since Carol was ready to go back to the ship. I walked her to the shuttle bus, but I stayed and took some photos of the outside of the wall.
Since Croatia was to begin using Euros in June, I decided to try to use up the Croatian Kuna’s I had left. I remembered reading about a dessert that Dubrovnik is known for called Rozata. It is a crème caramel desert that looks similar to flan. I found it at the restaurant right outside the wall where I was taking photos. A beautiful location for a meal. Since I hadn’t had lunch and I had just enough Croatian Kuna’s for a pizza, I couldn’t resist. The pizza was very good and the Rozata was delicious. It had the consistency of flan, but a different taste. Quite good.
I had one other place that I wanted to see in Dubrovnik before I returned to the ship. I had heard of the Buza Bar, which I had seen from the top of the wall when walking it five years earlier. It is in a unique position overlooking the sea on the outside of the wall. I thought it would be a nice place to have my last Croatian beer. I had also heard that it was very hard to find the hole in the wall that one goes through to get to the bar. I tried to figure where the hole would be, based on where I thought the bar was. As would be expected, it wasn’t a straight shot. As I kept climbing steps and making turns to where there were more steps, I started to think that this was a mistake.
I really didn’t need a beer that badly. It seemed like I was getting close to the top of the wall and I still hadn’t found the hole. As I walked along the street, I saw that there were more direct routes to get up than I took. It was a long way back down to where I would be going back to the ship.
There were very few people walking on the narrow streets I was taking and I was about to just give up and go back. At long last I saw people coming out through the wall. I had arrived at the Buza Bar. It was a pretty crowded place. All the decent seats were taken, so I decided to just take some photos of the bar and the little beach before heading back.
After all the climbing I was getting tired and was ready to get on the shuttle bus. As I walked to the bus departure point, I couldn’t believe that there was such a long line to wait in. Surprisingly there were several busses, so as one filled up another was right there for more people. It turned out to only be about a ten minute wait to get on.
When I got back to the ship a lot of people were out at the pool as well as sitting around the Sunset Bar enjoying the beautiful weather and view. I stayed at the bar until our sail away and enjoyed the view of the bridge as we headed to Venice, our last port. There was only one day left for the cruise.
Since I had missed most of the sail away from Venice, I was looking forward to the sail in, which usually takes about ninety minutes. We were supposed to arrive at the dock at 10:00 AM, but we actually entered the Venice area around 8:30 AM. The ship travels at a very slow speed to prevent damage to the town from the ship’s wake. But this is also a good thing because you have time to appreciate the view as the buildings slowly pass by.
St. Mark’s Square and the Santa Maria dela Salute Church are always the highlights; as is a great view of the Bridge of Sighs.
It is such a beautiful old city, that all the views along the canal to the port are a pleasure to look at. It is such a unique city and there is no other like it. It also gave us a chance to see the backside of the Santa Maria dela Salute Church.
When we docked, there were several options to get into town. We chose to take the Celebrity shuttle boat service for $22 per person. It was about the same price as taking the Alilaguna boats, but the shuttles left more frequently. A lot of people took the people mover, in the below photo; which was a short walk from the ship, to Piazzale Roma, where they picked up the vaporetto for a ride down the Grand Canal to St. Mark’s Square. It’s a great way to get a ride and a canal tour of Venice at the same time; but it does take longer. There was a long line waiting to get on a shuttle. Had we bought the tickets for the shuttle the night before, we would have left a lot sooner.
When we got into the square, Carol and I walked around a bit mainly to see what the shops had, since we had previously been to the main tourist attractions. We stopped at a restaurant not too far from the square. It was a bad choice. Not only was the food not that good, the prices were high. Oh well, that is to be expected when eating in the Venice tourist areas. After Carol had seen all she wanted, she walked to the shuttle to return to the ship and finish packing, since we were disembarking the next morning.
I on the other hand wanted to do some more walking in the beautiful city of Venice. Included with the shuttle boat ticket was a ticket to get entrance into sixteen of the Venice churches. Since I hadn’t planned on doing a lot of touring, I picked out three that were closest to where I was. The walk as always in Venice was most enjoyable. Just too many beautiful sights around the Rialto Bridge and St. Marks Square.
I was particularly impressed with the many statues I passed while trying to find churches I had been looking for.
The cruise was over, but we still had three more days on this vacation that we both had been looking forward to. One of our roll call friends, Deb, had arranged for transfers to Marco Polo airport through Low Cost Taxi (www.lowcostaxi.net/fleet-taxi.html). We were supposed to meet our van outside the terminal at 7:30 AM. On the disembarkation request form that Celebrity had given us, I requested 7:00 AM disembarkation. They gave us 6:30AM, which worked out fine. We waited in the theater until they called our number and headed down to where the luggage was waiting for us. Everything had gone smoothly until we realized that the luggage number for the group we were in wasn’t where it was supposed to be. We finally found it; but it didn’t seem logical that number 52 should be between 7 and 8.
We walked out of the terminal about 20 minutes before we were supposed to meet our van. The driver was there shortly after with the sign we were looking for. We waited for the other two couples that were on our van and walked around the corner to load up our luggage. Now this was one first class van. It was very large with lots of luggage storage space; which it certainly needed. The ride to Marco Polo didn’t take long at all. Deb had done a great job, since the transfer only cost 10€ per person. I will use that company again.
Post Cruise at Lake Como, Italy
We have wanted to visit Lake Como for as long as I can remember. It is supposed to be such a beautiful place and we had never been able to find time to go there. With the timing of the end of the cruise, we would be able to spend three days in Italy’s Lake District. I had booked a rental car for our trip to our hotel in Bellagio. The only time I had previously driven in Europe was for a few hours in Santorini. This time I would have a much longer trip and have to be able to navigate on highways and through small towns. It would be interesting. The rental counter was very close to where we had been dropped off at the airport. Ever since I had reserved the Fiat Panda, I had been concerned if we would be able to fit all of our luggage into it. The Panda is a very small 4 door hatchback. When we got to it, we were even more concerned. This was a really small car. I laid the back seat down and put in the two large suitcases. Then I put the two carryon bags between them. There was plenty of room, but I was glad Carol hadn’t brought another big piece. I was pleasantly surprised.
I hadn’t driven a stick shift car in long time; but it came right back to me. It was kind of fun and the little Panda handled very nicely. Getting out of the airport and finding the right highway was a bit stressful; but we lucked on to it and were on our way toward Milan. There was no posted speed limit on the Autostada, so I pretty much stayed around 110 km/ph, which is about 66 mph. With the small tires of the Panda I didn’t want to push it. One thing I found out very quickly was that Italian drivers are very courteous, and they move to the right if someone is coming up behind them. I was so surprised how everyone did like they were supposed to. Probably because some of the cars really speed in the inside lane and they don’t want to get rear ended. I tried to drive the same way; but I did get a few people frustrated, since my Panda couldn’t accelerate quickly enough to pass and get around cars so I could move over. I was very impressed with how smoothly traffic ran. It was also very easy to navigate to Bellagio.
I stopped for gas when we were getting closer to our destination, so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting any more gas before we got to Milan. When I started filling up the tank, I thought there was something wrong. The liter and Euro gauge on the gas pump were spinning so fast and it didn’t feel like that much gas was going into the tank. Since it was a small tank it must have filled very quickly. I had bought about $40 worth of gas in less than a minute. It was like $9 a gallon. Gas in Europe is very expensive. After that experience, I was very glad I had a small fuel efficient car.
We took the road that goes directly to Bellagio rather than taking the highway and a ferry. I am so glad we did, since the views from the road were incredible. The water was so clear and the mountains so majestic.
The roads were in good shape, but very narrow. I was glad I had the little Panda when we met someone coming from the other way. It would have been much more stressful with a full size car. Plus with all the hairpin turns, it was a leap of faith when going around them that someone else wasn’t driving in the middle of the road.
When we finally arrived in Bellagio, the challenge of how to get to the hotel became the top priority. A friend of mine who goes to Bellagio regularly said that the first time he came he had a terrible time finding how to get to his hotel. I guess I was just lucky, because I followed the signs to “hotels” through the pedestrian streets and came right to the Metropole Hotel (www.albergometropole.it). This is a unique hotel, since it is the only one that is directly on the water. All the others are on the other side of the lake road. The public rooms were very comfortable and there was a nice roof top terrace for the guests.
When we checked in, the clerk asked if we still wanted the terrace room we requested that was not available when we booked. Since it was only 10€ more per night, I jumped on it, since I had read recommendations that those were the best rooms. It took two trips up in the small elevator to take our four pieces of luggage. European elevators are normally small and this one was no exception. The capacity was three people. The room was actually larger than we expected and quite nice for our two night stay. The hotel had been completely renovated and everything looked quite new. A friend had surprised us with some champagne and strawberries; which we put to good use in the evening.
Then we walked out onto the terrace. We had made the right room choice. What a view!
I took quite a few photos when we first arrived and was glad I did, since most of the time we were in the Lake District, it was hazy. It was almost 2:00 PM and we were ready for lunch. We went down to the hotel restaurant and sat out on the patio. Just an awesome place to eat. Plus the food was excellent, not to mention the Bellagio Beer.
As we were eating, the Bellagio Water Taxi we would be taking the next day went by returning from a tour. It looked like a nice boat to tour Lake Como in.
Most of the hotels in Bellagio don’t have parking facilities, so you have to park in the convenient public parking spots for about $30 dollars a day or go find one of the marked free parking spots, which aren’t quite as convenient. I didn’t have any luck finding a free one, so I spent a few Euros for a few hours. The desk clerk had told me that it would be easier to find free parking after the stores closed and the employees went home for the day.
We walked around town on the lower level to get a taste of the town. Since Bellagio is on a mountain, most of the stores and restaurants are on the streets that go straight up the hill. This means that there were lots of steps to navigate.
The town was just precious with so much natural beauty all around. We were really enjoying it. Carol wanted to go back and unpack what we needed for our stay, while I went exploring. A couple of restaurants had been recommended to me by a friend; but I didn’t know where they were. I would look for them while sightseeing. I walked all around town, finally getting to the furthest north point on the peninsula at the end of a rock walkway. It was a very nice view, except by then the haze had started to come in. I could see the snow covered Swiss Alps in the distance.
Later, when I was walking around near the upper section of the city getting ready to return to the hotel, I saw both of the recommended restaurants right at the top of the street. There would be a lot of steps to get back up there. As I walked back down to our hotel, I counted 100 steps. If we wanted to go to one of those restaurants, I would have to find a way to get Carol up there without her having to climb all the steps.
As I continued my exploring, I walked south along the lake to see what was in that part of town. With all the flowers that were planted everywhere, every view was a photo stop. Lake Como was so much more beautiful than I had expected.
As I looked back toward town, the pink Metropole Hotel stood out from the rest.
When I got back to the room we decided that I would drive the car to the top of the steps, drop off Carol, find a free parking spot and walk back up to the restaurant. Then she could walk back down after dinner. It worked out great, since I found a pretty good parking spot. But I was beat when I got to the back to the restaurant, Trattoria San Giaccomo, where Carol was waiting for me.
The meal and service were excellent and the environment just awesome. We were having a great time. After walking back down all the stairs to the hotel, we broke open the champagne that a friend had sent me and we sat out on our terrace taking in the beauty of Lake Como. We stayed outside until the sun started setting. This was the definition of relaxation.
The next morning we woke to a lovely sunny day. The haze wasn’t too bad yet and the lake was gorgeous. The hotel had an included breakfast in the room rate and it was quite good.
We had a two and a half hour boat tour planned with Bellagio Water Taxis (www.bellagiowatertaxis.com) that included an hour and a half tour of the famous Villa Balbianello. This is the villa that was used in the movie Casino Royale; as well as in the wedding scene of Star Wars Episode 2. We were on a group tour and we had a full boat with 16 people, but it was still comfortable. The boat is in beautiful shape and the owner/driver Lucca takes immaculate care of it.
As we left the dock, which was right next to our hotel, Lucca explained the rules of the boat, many of them designed to keep people from damaging the lovely wood and leather on the boat. We crossed over to the eastern shore of the lake and Lucca told us about the different villas and told us stories about them. It was just fascinating and so much eye candy. I am going to put more photos of this trip than I should, but I have to so I can show the beauty as well as help us to never forget it.
On one house, the owner had put up a sign that said “no George”. Apparently his house resembled George Clooney’s house and people were causing him problems. Since George lives over an hour’s ferry ride down the lake, it is surprising that someone would look there for him.
Then we approached our destination Villa Balbianello. At the end of a peninsula sticking out into the lake all by itself, was an absolutely lovely villa.
This was going to be some place to visit. We had to wait for another water taxi to leave before we could pull up to the small dock.
As everyone left the boat we met our guide for the tour, Marcella. She was both very pleasant and knowledgeable. After a short orientation, we walked up the steps through the lush gardens till we got to the loggia. This was supposed to have the best view anywhere on the lake. I couldn’t disagree.
We then took a tour of the house. There was an extra charge to take photos if we wanted to. Since the lighting wasn’t that good in the house, I decided to pass on it. Interior photos couldn’t compare to the villa’s exterior beauty.
One of the most popular places at the villa was the garden where Anakin Skywalker marries Padmé in Star Wars Episode 2. I can see why it was chosen for the scene.
The original structure that was built was a monastery, which is still a part of the villa.
The views from every angle are just breathtaking. The beauty is overpowering.
We hated to have to leave, but we needed to complete the lake tour. Very close on the same peninsula is a villa belonging to Sir Richard Branson. It looks rather plain compared to Villa Balbianello; but Sir Richard is able to charge 150,000€ or about $200,000 a week to rent it.
On the return trip to Bellagio, Lucca described some of the villas on the western side of the lake. The below one was different from any of the others we had seen during the tour.
I had planned to walk down to the Villa Melzi gardens after we had lunch, so I was glad to get a preview from the boat. Right after the gardens was our hotel.
We had a very nice lunch at the hotel and decided after we finished, to take a little tour bus called the Trombetta Express. Reading the information about it had peaked our interest, since it appeared that we could see many areas we hadn’t been to, and Carol wouldn’t have to walk. Plus it looked like a great deal for only 5€ per person.
It was grossly overpriced! The ride was extremely bumpy and not a smooth bumpy, a very rough bumpy. The biggest problem though was that there wasn’t anything to see. The path we took was more a tour of walls than of any of the advertised attractions. We just couldn’t see much from the train, and what we could see wasn’t particularly worthy of spending time on. Needless to say, do yourself a favor and just walk around Bellagio. You will see a lot more and have a much better time.
After the waste of time on the Trombetta Train ride, Carol went back to the room and I headed down the road to tour the Villa Melzi Gardens. I passed by my rental car which was parked in one of the free spaces. It was a very good space, since I wouldn’t have to walk up the hill to get to it the next day when we left. The gardens were composed of rare and exotic plants, trees, shrubs and some flowers. There were fewer flowers than I expected, but the environment of the gardens was quite relaxing and enjoyable.
Interspersed throughout the gardens were statuary and even a temple that kept the walk interesting.
The Melzi Villa itself is not open for touring, but I could appreciate the structure itself and the many statues surrounding it.
In the family chapel, I was pleased to see the beautiful wall monuments; but was surprised to see the family tombs.
When I got back to the hotel, Carol was packing stuff up in preparation for our drive to Milan the next day and for our flight home the following day. Later that evening we decided to have dinner in our hotel, since we had enjoyed it so much for the two lunches. After dinner we sat out on our terrace enjoying the beauty of Lake Como.
The next morning we packed up the car and took a ferry ride across the lake for our drive to Milan. It was kind of fun. I was already planning how we could see other parts of Lake Como on the ferry system when we return.
Since we had the whole day to tour the Lake District, we planned to drive over to Lugano, Switzerland while we were in the area. After that we would check out the actual town of Como. The drive around Lake Lugano was very pretty; but when we got into the town of Lugano, we were shocked that it was such a big city. We were expecting something much smaller. The traffic was terrible, there were lots of large buildings and worst of all there were no parking places to be found anywhere near the tourist areas. Since we didn’t see much appeal in even stopping in Lugano, we decided to just travel directly on to Como. That is when we had our first navigational problems. The maps were not making sense. Probably because we were using an Italian map and we were in Switzerland. We finally found the right way to go and were on our way to Como.
I guess we were spoiled by little Bellagio, because when we arrived in Como, it sure seemed like a big city too. Not as big as Lugano, but bigger than I expected.
We stopped at a park and admired the monuments and the view across the lake. This was a pretty town; but after spending two days in Bellagio, nothing was going to impress us. We had been spoiled by Bellagio.
We got back into the car to try to find the main tourist area. We did have a problem trying to find a parking place near where we wanted to get out and tour; but we did find a spot near a restaurant, so instead we stopped for lunch.
After lunch, we decided to just go on to Milan and our hotel at the airport, the Novotel Milano Malpensa. We had traveled enough and were ready to just chill out at the hotel. I was surprised how close Como was to Milan. It didn’t take very long to get there. Looking at the map, it didn’t appear too difficult to find the hotel. Wrong again! We got off on the right exit and saw a sign pointing where to go for the Novotel. We went down the road, but there were no hotels anywhere to be found.
We went back to the same intersection where the sign was directing us to the Novotel and decided that we must have made a wrong turn, so we tried something else. We followed that path and got hopelessly lost. We didn’t know where we were. Once again, I had to use my iPhone GPS maps to rescue me. It was able to get us back on the right road, which was nowhere near where the sign had told us to go.
Carol watched the GPS following the map as we drove, and she directed me right to the hotel. I was so glad to find it, since we had been driving around getting lost for quite awhile. The hotel itself was very modern and a nice looking place. We found our room and it was lovely. It even had two bathrooms, one which was handicapped accessible.
After we settled in, I decided that it would be a good idea to drive to the airport to make sure I could find where to return the rental car the next morning. I am glad I did, because it was very confusing once I got to the airport.
Since we didn’t want to get lost by driving to a restaurant, we decided to eat at the hotel. We were spending our last night in Italy. Our wonderful vacation was over and we had so many wonderful memories to reminisce about.
When we booked our third Med cruise, we had no idea that it would be as good as this one turned out. We met some new friends on Cruise Critic that we shared some good times and some awesome tours with. The new ports we visited were fascinating and beautiful, the tours we had in the ports we had previously visited were incredible, and the weather was almost perfect every day. What more could we have asked for.
Below is a link to the Shutterfly albums with other photos from the vacations: