Iberian Immersion Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
11/4/21 to 11/20/21

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Page 1 – Pre-cruise in Nice, France; Embarkation, Ship (Part 1)
Page 2 – Ship (Part 2); Ports of Call:  Marseille, France; Toulon, France
   
Page 3 - Ports of Call: 
Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Cartagena, Spain; Melilla, Spain; Alicante, Spain
Page 4 -
Ports of Call: Ibiza, Spain;  Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy
Page 5 - Rome, Italy: 
Day 1 & Day 2 (Part 1)
Page 6 -
Rome, Italy:  Day 2 (Part 2) & Day 3

 

Ports (Continued)

Ibiza, Spain

We were originally supposed to be going to Malta, but it was changed due to Covid related issues.  I was originally very disappointed about the change.  I had been in Malta twice before and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I had hoped to show Cathy the beautiful St. John’s Co-Cathedral; but when I found out that it would have been closed to visitors since we were there on Sunday, I was much less disappointed. 

Having never been to Ibiza, I was glad we would get to see it.  It is a small island that is only 8 miles wide by 25 miles long.  Ibiza is Europe’s biggest scene for partying and dancing.  Close to 2 million young clubbers visit the island to have a good time.  Fortunately for us, that is more of a summer thing and the place wouldn’t be packed with young partying tourists.  With Covid, it might not have been in the summer either.  As we approached the port area, we could see the old town on a hill in the distance.  After having pretty much perfect weather for the whole vacation, we were finally going to have a rainy day.  Some of the other ports had forecasts for rain, but each day had been awesome touring weather with not a hint of rain.  Since it was raining as we came into port, it appeared that our weather luck had run out.  We had a nice view of the old town as we approached the port.

We would only be in Ibiza from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM, so we wouldn’t have much time to explore on our own.  We took a ship tour that would take us to old town and also give us some free time in the newer part of town.  Our guide was Sergio.  He was an excellent guide and quite a character.

With umbrellas in hand, we took about a half hour bus ride to the old town.  On the way there we passed by some ancient walls and a fort.  We were thrilled to see a rainbow, since it meant that the sun was shining somewhere on Ibiza.

   

We pulled up to the Renaissance walls of the UNESCO World Heritage Site old town.  They were quite impressive.  Since we were dropped off at the base of the walls, we would have to walk up to the top of the hill through the old town streets.  But it would be a most interesting walk at a reasonable pace.

   

The walk through the medieval town was so enjoyable.  So much to take in.  Just a fascinating beautiful place.  We were thrilled when the rain stopped, and the sun would come out to make for much nicer photos of this special place.

   

   

We would stop periodically for Sergio to tell us about what we were seeing and tell us stories about the Ibizans.  Beautiful views wherever we looked.

   

As we got further up the hill, we were able to get a better view of the 14th century Cathedral of Santa Maria d’Eivissa. 

A short distance away we approached the entrance to the church. 

   

It wasn’t open yet, so Sergio found someone who worked there to let us in.  It was a beautifully decorated church.

   

   

After leaving the church, we headed back down to base of the hill with panoramic views of the area and through the quaint medieval streets.

   

We stopped at a house named Casa Colom.  They claim that it is the house that Christopher Columbus was raised and lived in.  Sergio told us that it had not been verified but only claimed; but it was a photo stop.

There was so much to take in on our walk leaving old town.  This place is a true tourist gem.

   

   

   

   

   

   

We finally left old town through the main gate.

   

We then started our walk through the newer part of town, which was also a treat.

   

   

It is just a very pretty town.  And we were so glad that the weather improved early so that we could thoroughly enjoy it.  They have a monument dedicated to the hippies.  It is statue of a hippie father with his young daughter.

We then had about 45 minutes of free time.  I was needing to find an ATM, so Sergio walked us over to one.  It was very nice of him, since it was a few blocks away.  We came back close to where the meeting spot was for our return to the ship.  We found an outdoor café and had a beer with a couple who were on the tour with us.  A most enjoyable way to spend free time in Ibiza.  It had been a short visit but a most enjoyable one.  When we got back on the ship, I was able to get a photo of some of the high end hotels and condos that Sergio had pointed out when driving back to the port.  I particularly liked the multicolored one.

   

As we were leaving port, I had a nice view of the old town in the sun and the lighthouse.

   

It had been a most enjoyable day in a port that wasn't on our original itinerary.  I am so glad that we got to visit this lovely island. We were looking forward to the only sea day on this cruise.  We needed some R&R after our two day pre-cruise in Nice and six port days.

 

Catania, Sicily

I was so looking forward to returning to Sicily and showing Cathy what a gorgeous place it is.  Once again, we had a forecast for rain.  When you look at the below photos, you can’t find a cloud in the sky.  I guess weather forecasting is the same everywhere.  I am so glad they were wrong again. As we approached the port, I was so thrilled that we could actually see the top of Mt. Etna.  It is normally covered with clouds, as it would be most of the rest of the day.  We could see the steam coming out of it as well as the snow on top.

   

While getting ready to leave the ship for our tour, I heard the USA National Anthem being played in the distance.  On the dock were a few people standing at attention with their hands over their hearts while the music was being played in the background.  They also played the Italian National Anthem.  At least that is what I assume it was.  A very nice gesture.  I took their photo after they had finished.

We boarded the bus for the beautiful hour drive north to Taormina.

   

Our guide for the day was Taula.  She told us all about the area and did a great job.  She also handled keeping everyone together in the group in this crowded tourist city. 

After arriving in Taormina, we began our walk down Taormina’s main street, the Corso Umberto.  Just a lovely walk with so much beauty to take in.

   

We arrived at the Piazza del Duomo, where cathedral is located.

It is also home of an ornate baroque fountain from 1635 that sports Taormina's symbol, a two-legged centaur with the bust of an angel.  Quite a strange looking character.

   

We continued our walk down the lovely main street.

   

   

We arrived at the gorgeous Piazza IX Aprile.  It is the home of the church, Chiesa di San Giuseppe.

   

   

The main attraction is the large square with lovely view of the Ionian Sea.

   

The walk along the Corso Umberto just kept getting prettier.  I loved the decorated narrow stairways.

   

   

   

We came to the Palazzo Covaja.  On the left side is the church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
The right wing of the building was constructed at the beginning of the 1400 century in order to house the meetings of the Sicilian Parliament.  It is called the Parliament House.

   

Although the tour didn’t go into the church, I broke away for a quick visit inside to take some photos.

 
Along the way to our next stop, Taula pointed out the official symbol of Sicily, the Trinacria.  It is the head of Medusa with three legs.  It was first used by Sicilian Vespers in 1282 and is the official flag of the autonomous Sicilian region.  It is unusual indeed.

Our next stop was up the hill where a Greek theater that was built in the 3rd century BC is located.  It was expanded by the Romans and held 10,000 spectators.  It is a beautiful theater that has been modified some to be used for current performances.

   

   

   

Probably the best part of the theater is the view of Mt. Etna in the background and the view of the Ionian coast from the outside of the theater.

   

After leaving the theater, Taula told us that we would have about 20 minutes of free time.  We had hoped to get a Sicilian pizza in Sicily.  As we walked around, most of the restaurants were closed.  We did come across a shop that sold cannelloni.  That sounded like a great alternative due to our time constraints.  I’m normally not a big cannolli fan, but the first time I was in Sicily, I had one and couldn’t believe how good it was.  The one we got here was also outstanding.  It definitely made our free time worthwhile.

On our walk back to the bus, we saw more beauty along the Corso Umberto.

   

Taula pointed out an opening in the wall that is the narrowest street in Taormina.  It looked like the narrowest street in the world to me.  I would have to walk the stairs sideways to use it.

   

We headed back to the Riviera and were so grateful that we had been able to visit this beautiful city in the amazing country of Sicily.  Since we had reservations at Jacques for the next night, we decided that this would be the only night that we would be able to try out the buffet.  We had heard how good it was from our friends Bill and Mary whom we had shared specialty restaurant reservations with, as well as other Oceania cruisers in the past.  Although we do enjoy being served in a dining room, we thoroughly enjoyed the buffet.  In addition to the items on the main dining room menu, they had lobster tails and other meats at the grill and many other items including crab legs.  How bad could it be?

That night we would pass through the Strait of Messina during dinner.  With it being dark at that time, there wouldn’t have been much to see, so we passed on it.  We were also going to be passing by the active island volcano, Stromboli.  Below are photos I previously took of it in the daytime on another cruise.  Notice that the white spots on the lower left part of the island are homes where people live on this activ volcano.

   

The captain told us that we would be passing by it at about 11:00 PM.  With the show ending at 10:15 PM, we thought it would be nice to wait up to see what we could see of it.  I had hoped to at least be able to see a glow on the top from the hot magma in the volcano.  It is always amazing to me that people could live on that island with the potential of it exploding at any moment.  We kept looking out into the darkness to see where the island was to no avail.  11:00 PM passed, as did 11:30 PM with no sign of the island.  Finally close to midnight we could see something in the distance.  As we got closer to it, we would see some bright glow coming out of it every once in a while.  When we were passing by it, we could actually see occasional views of orange magma shooting up into the air.  That was so much better than the simple glow I had expected.  It was a shame that there was no way to take a photo of it; but we certainly won’t forget it.

 

Naples, Italy

I have been to Naples on three prior cruises.  On two of them, I had a phenomenal guide, Marcello Maresca.  I had planned a wonderful private tour with two other couples to go to the Amalfi coast, one of my favorite places in the world.  A few months before the cruise, Italy decided that in order for cruise ships to dock in Italy, passengers could only be allowed off the ship if they were on a ship tour.  We kept hoping that those restrictions would loosen up, but they didn’t.  As a result, I had to book a ship tour.  The ship didn’t have any tours that went to the Amalfi coast, or many lefft at all for that matter.  The other tours that I thought might be good were already sold out, so I booked a Naples tour.  It was a bad decision.

As we cruised into the port, Mt. Vesuvius was in the background.  Once again, rain was in the forecast, and it was cloudy.  But it never did rain.   As we docked, Ovo Castle was nearby.  Being built in 1141 AD, it is the oldest standing fortification in Naples. 

We passed by the port light house and statue of St. Januarius.

   

Castle Nuovo that was built in 1282 AD, was right in front of where we were docked.  It is a beautiful structure, but even better from the other side that we would see later.  I wish that we could have gone off the ship to see the interior of it.

The views of the city from the ship were some of the best photos I would get for the day.

   

   

I had booked the Highlights of Naples tour.  It was more of a panoramic tour with three short stops at scenic views with several other busloads of people.  We did have a good tour guide named Barbara.    It wasn’t her fault that we weren’t allowed to be able to have a better Naples experience.  We did get to see some interesting things, but they were through a bus window.  Reflection on the windows can make for a bad photo.  I have tried to fix them as best I can to at least show some of the beauty of the city. 

As we walked to the tour bus, I was able to take a better photo of the Castle Nuovo.

Once in the bus, I was able to get some photos from one side of the bus to show some of the Naples sights.

   

   

   

I was pleased to be able to get a photo of the prettier front side of the Castle Nuovo.

We stopped in front of the Galleria Umberto for Barbara to tell us about this amazing shopping mall.  It was built in 1887-1892 and is supposed to be quite beautiful inside.  Quite a shame we couldn’t see it.


   

After driving around the town for over an hour, we made a stop at a scenic lookout area.  There were several other busses from the ship on the same tour, so there were lots of people there.  Everyone looked around and took photos. We got on the bus for the next stop not far away.

   

The next stop was a more scenic area.  But also crowded.  We weren’t there for long.

   

Our last stop was basically a restroom stop along the water.  There were some shops where some people got gelato or other treats.  Since we weren’t there very long and there were lots of our busses there, the lines at the cafes and shops were pretty crowded.

We continued the ride, and I was able to get a nice photo of the Ovo Castle along with some other sights.

   

   

We got back to the ship, and I was glad that we had at least gotten to see some of the Naples attractions; but was sad that we weren’t able to do the fabulous Amalfi coast tour that I had hoped to do. 

The cruise was basically over except for completing our packing and having our last dinner at Jacques with our friends Bill and Mary.  They were continuing for 16 more days with the transatlantic cruise to Miami.  We on the other hand were looking forward to our three-day visit to Rome starting the next day.  It had been an awesome cruise.

 

Civitavecchia, Italy

Disembarkation

We had been told to have our passports and EU tracking QR code available for immigration when getting off the ship in Civitavecchia.  With the ship only being 61% full and only about 350 passengers disembarking it went very smoothly.  We were quite surprised when there weren’t any immigration or customs people to deal with.  We just walked off, picked up our luggage and found our driver who was waiting right outside the terminal with a sign with my name on it.  Once again, I was using RomeinLimo (www.romeinlimo.com) for our transfers to Rome and back to the airport three days later.  I have used this service for transfers and tours in the past.  They always provide a first-class service at a reasonable price.  The drive to our hotel in the center of Rome took about an hour and 15 minutes.

 

 

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