Day 1 – Exploring Rome, Italy on ms Noordam
Gail Jessen, Live Voyage Reports
After a direct redeye on Delta from Salt Lake City to Paris, a quick jump on Alitalia delivered us to Rome. We took advantage of a Holland America Line (HAL) transfer to the four-star Hotel Londra & Cargill. The property is tucked away in a quiet, residential corner of the city near Piazza Sallustio. To give you a sense of scale, it’s a 10 euro / 10 minute cab ride to the Coloseum. The staff was incredibly friendly, breakfast was included in our rate, and it was the perfect respite for one night of jet lag recovery. I strongly recommend pre-cruise extensions, even if it’s only for one night. Do not underestimate jet lag, seasoned globetrotter or not. We were able to meander around Roman ruins under a full moon, eat a delicious meal (though anything other than the multiple rounds of airplane food we’d been subjected to for 15 hours at that point would’ve been a king’s feast), and fall asleep soundly by 9:00pm. If you sail with HAL out of Rome, know that the Londra is their partner property for extensions and you will be well taken care of. HAL personnel staff a reception table in the lobby to answer any questions you may have and the hotel porters handle your bags for your ship transfer. Easy breezy. Circadian rhythm reset. A quick and comfortable 18 hours in Rome.
The port of Civitavecchia is 90 minutes outside Rome, so prepare for a jaunt to the Noordam. Our transfer bus was comfortable, air conditioned, and conveniently arranged by HAL. I actually quite like seeing the surrounding areas outside the city centers in which we spend most of our time as cruise ship passengers. Once we made it to the very-industrial Civitavecchia (albeit with gorgeous ruins and half a castle, because Italy), embarkation ran smoothly. I haven’t confirmed that the Noordam is sailing at full capacity, but if that’s the case, there are 1,918 passengers accompanied by 620 crew members. With 11 decks and 14 passenger elevators, embarkation is no small feat. We were fortunately through the entire process and relaxing inside our Deluxe Verandah stateroom in less than 30 minutes. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom within 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes after that we were unpacked, settled in, and off to lunch in the Lido Restaurant.
My first experience of the ubiquitous buffet was a pleasant one. I need to eat gluten-free and the staff at the grill station were polite and happy to accommodate. They scrubbed the grill surface, retrieved fresh fish (not dredged in seasoned flour) from the kitchen, and a few minutes later I was enjoying my flounder. Similarly, the staff at the salad station accommodated with pure olive oil and balsamic vinegar, steering me clear of the gluten-filled salad dressings. In my daily non-cruise life I receive a wide range of reactions when I tell waitstaff about my gluten allergy, ranging from ignorance to overt visual annoyance. The Lido Restaurant crew didn’t miss a beat and handled it all with a smile. The other positive note to report about the Lido is that for the first 48 hours, the staff serves the passengers. After that window of time the buffet returns to self-service. When I was cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage in May (Princess, not HAL), an outbreak of Norovirus ripped through the ship. The staff at that point served passengers in the buffet and a number of people were quarantined. It’s savvy that HAL allows a two-day window to assess if anyone brought Norovirus or other illness on board before setting people lose on communal food. Savvy indeed.
After watching a pink sun set on a crystal blue Mediterranean, we had dinner in Noordam’s Vista Dining Room. Gluten accommodations continued and the staff was pleasant and well educated about the limitations. I enjoyed the “Citrus Delight” which describes itself as “glistening oranges, pineapple, and graprefruit with an autumn-scented cranberry apple vinaigrette.” I can’t say I’ve ever eaten anything described as “autumn-scented,” but it was lovely. My entree was a Mediterranean chop salad with grilled chicken, see also: My ongoing mission to consume as many Kalamata olives as possible. Everyone at my table ordered prime rib and report that it was cooked to the perfect temp.
Tomorrow the Noordam docks in Naples. Jen and I plan to take a local commuter ferry to Capri. It’s not one of HAL’s sanctioned excursions, but we feel confident navigating the experience on our own. Come back tomorrow to hear how we fared.
I hope you’re enjoying your virtual vacation. Until tomorrow…bon voyage,
Holland America Line Noordam, Mediterranean Explorer
|Day 1 – Exploring Rome, Italy on ms Noordam||Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy||Step off the cruise ship, linger at a sidewalk café in the early evening, and take in the pageantry: The taste of cappuccino, the kiss of warm air, the immaculately attired locals getting their evenings started. Rome is nicknamed the Eternal City for the array of icons (Colosseum, Pantheon, Castel Sant'Angelo, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica), and for the role it played shaping the Western world. There is perhaps a less-recognized genius in the way the city embraces the sensual side of life, as if to acknowledge there's no eternity like the present.|
|Day 2 – Exploring Capri, Italy on Noordam||Capri, Italy||The docile bay, the peaceful, cypress-tufted islands of Ischia, Procida, and Capri, and the muscular city of Naples itself. Over it all looms Mount Vesuvius: A volcano, national park, and persistent corrective to hubris. Cruise to see the only active volcano on the European mainland, which blew in A.D. 79 and buried the city of Pompeii. Naples itself is mere enduring greatness. One of the chief commercial cities of Europe, highlights include Castel dell'Ovo, Castelnuovo, and national museums dedicated to art and archaeology. The city center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the surrounding area is dotted with cultural and historical treasures, not least them the restored ruins of Pompeii.|
|Day 3 – Exploring Palermo, Sicily on Noordam||Palermo, Sicily, Italy||Traces of Roman, Arab, and Norman influences mix in Palermo. The highlight of the city is the Norman Palace with golden Byzantine mosaics.|
|Day 4 – Exploring Greenhouse Spa on Noordam||La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia - CANCELLED DUE TO SECURITY CONCERNS||The stop in Tunisia was cancelled due to security concerns. The ship rerouted to Cagliari, Sardinia.|
|Day 6 – Exploring Pisa, Italy on Noordam||Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy||If one mistakes Livorno for another city across the Italian peninsula, all is be forgiven. The Venice District of town is a tangle of streets crisscrossed by canals. A beautiful Renaissance city in its own right, Livorno is also the gateway to Pisa (north) and Florence (west). Pisa is home to beautiful cathedrals, palaces, and bridges over the Arno River, as well as an infamous monument to faulty engineering. Florence represents so much of what is vital to human expression in commerce, politics, and the arts.|
|Day 7 – Exploring Calvi, France on Noordam||Calvi, Corsica, France||Rumored to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Calvi is a small, stunningly beautiful beach resort town on the Island of Corsica (known to be the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte). Visit Notre Dame de la Serra Chapel and take in 360° views of the bay and surrounding mountains, explore the centuries-old fortress Citadel of Calvi, a remarkable example of Genoese architecture, and relish time relaxing on one of Corsica's secluded white sand beaches.|
|Day 8 – Exploring Nice and Eze, France on Noordam||Monte Carlo (Nice & Eze), Monaco||The principality of Monaco is the essence of the Riviera: couture fashion, grand yachts, and nightlife centered around its famed Casino.|
|Day 9 – Exploring Provence, France on Noordam||Marseille (Provence), France||A salty city with a feel and culture all its own. Try the renowned bouillabaisse or tour the lovely towns and vineyards of Provence.|
|Day 11 – Exploring Barcelona, Spain on Noordam||Barcelona, Spain (overnight)||Barcelona effuses the ancient, the modernist, and the Gaudi. Legend has it the city was founded by Hercules 400 years before the founding of Rome. Whatever the truth, the city today is a global capital of commerce, fashion, culture, and sunshine (300 days a year). Enjoy a walk down Las Ramblas, the glorious tree-shaded thoroughfare at the heart of the city. Claim a patch of sand on one of the city beaches. Do not miss the creations of visionary architect Antoni Gaudi. Seven of his creations are honored as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Mila.|
|Barcelona, Spain||Itinerary ends with a 6:00 am disembarkation.|