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Cruising: One week on the MSC Orchestra

October 23, 2017

4 months later, and I finally wrote about the Mediterranean cruise trip Mum and I did!


Barcelona, Spain

We started in Barcelona, and had some time to look around before embarking on the cruise. Upon arrival, we had some initial challenges carting heavy luggage around; Mum's suitcase handle had broken in transit, and the metro station we had to use had no elevators or escalators! We stayed overnight at Hotel Canton, which was simply furnished and very reasonably priced - definitely recommended for travellers on a budget. We arrived in the afternoon, and after checking in, we wandered down La Rambla/Las Ramblas, checking out the markets and curiosities along the way. We walked until the Plaça de Catalunya - the big city centre square - and then headed back the way we came. We stopped at one of the many little tapas restaurants for dinner, where Mum was able to try asking for things in Spanish! Having just arrived from a big week in Kenya, we had an early night.


The next day was embarkation day! We had breakfast at Artisa Barcelona, which was a nice start to the day: I had brioche, Mum had a croissant, and we both had orange juice and coffee. We wandered some more around Barcelona, heading especially to the Arc de Triomf, which is quite different in style to the one I am used to in Paris! We then made our way to the Christopher Columbus statue on La Rambla, where the bus to the cruise port departs. We went through security, boarded the ship, explored, and sat out on the deck drinking non-alcoholic cocktails as we sailed out of the port. We met a lovely French grandmother and her grandsons who were sitting at our table, so I had an opportunity to speak a little French with them! It was then time for dinner in the well-stocked buffet area, as thunder at lightning crashed in the distance.


Ajaccio, Corsica (France)

Our first stop was Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. We walked down to Place Foch and the markets there, and I attempted (unsuccessfully) to convice Mum of the merits of proper French cheeses. I also failed to understand the word "argan" (as in argan oil) in the Corsican French accent. Our mission to see the three statues of Napoleon was, however, successful; I had thought we would only have time for two, but we managed to see all three. Along the way, we wandered past the historic Castel Lombardo citadel, which has been there since the 12th century. After climbing up to see the third Napoleon statue at Place d'Austerlitz, we took a break for baguette and cheese. Next up was Napoleon's childhood home (which is now a museum), followed by the cathedral around the corner. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach before heading back to the ship.


Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

In some ways, I wish we had stayed in Civitavecchia to explore, but when Rome is on your doorstep, you can't pass that up! So, once we arrived at the port, we took several forms of transport, eventually arriving in Rome, at the Roma Termini station (I think). We headed directly to the Colosseum, passing the Pyramid of Cestius, the Porta San Paolo, the Circus Maximus, and so many cobbled roads and ancient ruins along the way! We had already bought our tickets online through the official site, so were able to avoid the queues. In hindsight, it would have been great to do a tour, in order to really get into the history of it all. Although I knew a fair bit already, there are so many little intricate details that only an experienced guide would be able to tell you about. After exploring the Colosseum, we got lost amongst the incredible Roman Forum/Palatino Hill. We could have spent an entire day there. Alas, we didn't have the time for that. After all those ruins, we were hungry, so we ordered the obligatory when-in-Italy pizza at one of the many, many little restaurants lining the streets of Rome. After lunch, we joined the queue to see the Pantheon, which was enjoyable (the Pantheon, not the queue). We checked out a little church as we left, and then went to get gelato. Ah, the gelato! Queuing in any sort of reasonable manner was not a thing at this shop, so we waited about 20 minutes just to order! It was good gelato, but not worth-a-20-minute-wait gelato. We ate by the Trevi Fountain, and then began the trek back to the boat. Thanks to that gelato, we missed the bus, then the train, so when we arrived back in Civitavecchia, we were running late, and had to catch one of the (prepared) taxis, who were lined up waiting for late cruise ship passengers. Thankfully, it was cheap, and we were not the last back on board the ship. I think we made it with about 20 minutes left before the ship departed.


La Spezia (Cinque Terre), Italy

La Spezia is another place I would have liked to spend more time in, but I would not give up the experiences in Cinque Terre! What a beautiful area of Italy! We did the five towns, starting with Monterosso and working our way back by train. Monterosso is a beautiful little town; outside the train station, the street is lined with trees and flowers, and the pastel tones of the buildings are very cute. We walked up the hill and around the corner, up to the Convento dei Cappuccini. From there, we passed the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi as we descended. We looked around a little longer, and then went to the train station. Next up was the fishing town of Vernazza, where striking primary colours give the place its own character. We went up to the Castello Doria, which has a tiny stairwell, but an amazing view of the town. We had lunch in Vernazza, which consisted of more focaccio and pesto than necessary, and more pizza. After lunch came the town of Corniglia - the only town which is not accessible by boat. Climbing up that many stairs in the strong summer heat is not the most enjoyable thing in the world, but the views are incredible. Naturally, we had to have some gelato. My gelato was, of course, the honey flavour! We went to Un Mare di Yogurt, not knowing about the gelato wars in Corniglia, and we enjoyed it! We checked out a little chapel that we passed before heading back to the train station. Manarola was next; it was also beautiful, but probably the least memorable for me out of the five. We walked down the streets up to where the boats where, then stopped in at some shops, which had some unique and beautiful items. Our last stop was Riomaggiore, which, conversely, was probably the most memorable of the five. We had a quick look in a church, and then we met Andrea. This elderly coquin (I don't know the Italian translation!) of a gentleman was very interested in the two ladies from New Zealand, and tried to charm us into giving him a kiss. Mum was apparently one of the wonders of the world. He gave us his address, and told us to send him a copy of the photos we took with him. We finally managed to extrapolate ourselves from his company, and continued exploring Riomaggiore. We found another church, where a wedding was going to take place later that day. A classical singer was in there rehearsing, up by the organ. While I am not the biggest fan of the Lloyd Webbe