Day 2 – Exploring Capri, Italy on Noordam
Gail Jessen, Live Voyage Reports
I stepped onto my veranda as a purple sunrise crawled up Mount Vesuvius. The Noordam floated slowly toward her dock in Naples. A single fishing boat labored in still water, clear as glass. It was a scene whose calm betrayed the gritty hustle that would soon roar to life. Naples infamy is rightly due to its history, architecture, and of course pizza; but it’s also known as a muscular workhorse of a town. The area is believed to have been inhabited continuously since the 9th Century BCE (Greeks then Romans), making it one of the oldest cities in the world.
Jen and I opted to catch a ferry to the Isola di Capri. We didn’t book an excursion through Holland America, but we did have instructions from multiple guide books. What could possibly go wrong? The directions to the Beverello dock were simple enough, and seemingly within walking distance from the Noordam, yet we still managed to be seduced by a gorgeous bus driver at the end of the pier who said he was headed to the Capri ferries. Of course we did. He was right. We did end up at a ferry terminal that would take us to Capri. The only problem was that this terminal housed giant commuter ferries with vehicles and mountains of luggage and Italians shuttling back and forth. The ferry also left four hours later than we wanted to leave and wouldn’t get us back to the ship in time. We made our way back to where The Gorgeous Bus Driver dropped us off, waited 10 minutes, waved a sheepish hello to The Gorgeous Bus Driver as we hopped on, again, and said, “Beverello?” “Ahhhh,” he cooed, “Si si si…” and an hour after we disembarked the ship, we were off on round two.
Should you decide to ditch Naples in favor of a ferry to Capri (or Sorrento or the Amafli Coast), follow these directions and do not be seduced by visually distracting locals: Walk through the cruise terminal and exit into the parking lot. The buses and tours and chaos are on your right, so hang left. You should be able to see a blue awning with white letters: “PORTO DI NAPOLI.” As you get closer, maybe a five minute walk, you’ll also see “BEVERELLO” further down on the awning. You’re in the right place, now locate the NLG ships and ticket window. We’re traveling in the shoulder season, so the three different speeds of boats corresponding to three different price points as outlined in the guidebook, were not operating. Our singular option was a 45-minute ride one-way and a roundtrip ticket for just under 40 euro. You can sit inside or up top, there are souvenirs and beverages for sale, and the ride is comfortable, and beautiful. Even though it’s off season, our boat was completely full.
Once we arrived in Capri (or to sound as though you know what you’re talking about: “c-AH-pri”) the decision was three-fold: Tourist trap restaurants and t-shirt shops in Porto Marina Grande, the funiculare, or a boat tour circumnavigating the island and additional fees to enter the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). The morning kerfuffle left our time tight if we followed through on our original boat / Blue Grotto plan. We opted instead for the 1.80 euro (3.60 round trip) funiculare. An amenity found in many steep cities around the world, a funicular is a cable car intended to shuttle people to the tippy top of town, usually ending in the historic center. The Capri funiculare holds about 50 people and is a breathtaking five-minute ride. Once at the top there are panoramic views of the Mediterranean, the shiny white yachts of the mega rich, and lemon trees dotting nearly every back yard for miles. There are three cathedrals within walking distance of the Piazetta. We opted to explore Cattedrale di Santa Stefano. We also finally consumed our first gelato since arriving Tuesday afternoon. I know, I know, it’s a personal embarrassment to have been in Italy 44.5 hours and not consumed at least eight scoops of gelato. I’ll make up for it. Trust me.
Before boarding our return ferry we spotted a tiny beach just off the funiculare ticket line. Naturally I took the opportunity to wade into the sparkling warm water. The Mediterranean took the opportunity to surprise me with a sizable wave that left me with wet pants and a stateroom that now smells like salty fish. I’ll sort that situation out later. For now, a quick note about Capri. Get the very first ferry that you can. Plan to take the boat tour around the island and see the famous Blue Grotto. The funiculare offers stellar views if you have time to do both. If you have a lot of time, or are visiting sans cruise ship, take the bus to Anacapri (the highest point on the island and home to three more churches off the main piazza) or trek 90 minutes one-way to the Natural Arch and hike down to the Romans’ Grotta Matromania sea cave. So little to see and so little time. This really just leaves me with an excuse to return to Capri and next time, the UNESCO World Heritage Amalfi Coast.
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.|