Pisa and Florence

For our last day in Italy, we went to Pisa and Florence. We had about an hour drive through Tuscany to get to Pisa. This was the most beautiful bus ride I have ever been on! Since we were getting close to the end of our trip, we were both very tired. It was hard to stay awake on the bus, but the views were fantastic! We even saw fields of sunflowers.

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Then we got to Pisa. There was a bit of a walk to get to the city center (The Field of Miracles) and the leaning tower. I have never been in a location with so many people trying to sell you stuff! Seriously, there were around 15 guys waiting at our bus to start hounding us right when we got off. The big push was umbrellas because it was a rainy day (hints our rain jackets). So, when in Pisa, be aware of your personal belongings!

Our tour guide took us around back to enter into the city square because that’s the view where you can see the lean of the tower the most. I’m sure the looks on our faces were hilarious! The tower leans so much! Pictures don’t do it justice. It really looks like its going to fall over at any second.

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Of course, I wanted to take the classic touristy picture trying to “hold up” the leaning tower. Travis thinks this type of picture is dumb. But some how he ended up with more pictures like that than me. Hmm, interesting…

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Look at all the tourists trying to hold up the tower!

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Believe it or not, there’s not a lot to do in Pisa besides look at the tower. There is a catherdale called Il Duomo di Pisa and a smaller building called Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John).

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The Battistero is on the left and Il Duomo is on the right

If I remember correctly, it was free to get into both of these buildings, but you still needed to get a time ticket to get into them. Since we only had one hour in Pisa, we didn’t have time to get a ticket and get inside.

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After waiting for a couple of late people in our tour group (if you go on a tour, DON’T be the person that holds up the WHOLE bus because you’re late. Rude), we were on our way to Florence. It was another 1 1/2 hours on the bus through beautiful Tuscany. Here’s a good idea I saw another family do: Grab the mini cereal boxes at breakfast as a snack to eat throughout the day. Never would have thought to do that, but its a very good idea. I was hungry by this time!

Florence was the biggest surprise to me. I didn’t have high expectations for Florence because of all the other locations we went to, but Florence is wonderful. Its much bigger than I expected and still so much to see. Don’t write off Florence just because its not Rome!

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We started with going into the church of Santa Croce. It was raining quite a bit, so we stayed inside a little longer than we intended to. There are a lot of famous people buried in this church.

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cute couples tomb

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Tomb of Michaelangelo

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Tomb of Galileo

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Rain, rain, go away

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Front view of the church

Next, we walked to Palazzo Vecchio with a sculpture garden including a famous replica of David.

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David is the one just to the left of the door

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Then, we grabbed some lunch and walked to Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Florence). I might be wrong on this, but I believe this is the third largest Dome in the world. Maybe, I dunno, but its big. According to our tour guide, the most impressive part of the Cathedral is the outside. For the most part, the inside is somewhat blank and just very big. If you are impressed with big spaces, it might be for you. If you prefer details, stick with the outside. We just walked around and admired from the outside.

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Last, we walked to Ponte Vecchio, which is a closed bridge.

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 Sadly, it was time to get on the bus (everyone was on time in Florence!). As we were leaving the city, we got an incredible view. The picture does absolutely no justice, it was breathtaking. The picture gives you some idea of how big the Duomo really is.

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I listened to some Billy Joel and slept on the ride back. Exhaustion was hitting us by this point in the trip. We got back to the boat with some very rough waters ahead. We were rocking hard that night. The show was the final show from the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. I was very impressed they were able to perform with the amount of movement the ship was doing. I was feeling sick, so I took a Dramamine and went straight to bed.

 

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Rome

Now that I’m back from volleyball camp, I can finish up our vacation posts! Rome was a big day for us. We docked around 1 1/2 hours away from Rome, so we had a long drive into the city. Once we got in, we picked up our tour guide and had a short driving tour around the city. These pictures aren’t the best because they were taken through a bus window.

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Our first stop was to the Trevi fountain. This is one I was very excited to see: primarily for the romance of the location. We were sorely disappointed. The fountain was under construction and was completely covered for restoration . We still threw a coin into the fountain, though. One coin to come back, two coins to come back married, and three coins to come back divorced. I’ll let you guess how many we threw in. They make a ridiculous amount of money every year on thrown coins (around $800,000)

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We then walked to the Forum. It was very neat to walk through the old part of Rome.

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Altar of the Fatherland also nicknamed the Typewriter

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Trajan’s Column

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The Mayor of Rome is very ecofriendly. Here he is riding his bike around town! (The one in the suit of the far side)

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Then, we got to walk around the Forum. The Forum is the ruins of several important government and religious buildings of ancient Rome. You might notice the pictures look like we were in a pit. The ancient city is quite a bit lower than the current city of Rome.

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The only reason that this temple is so well preserved is because it was converted into a Christian church.

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Next, we walked to the Colosseum. Its huge and very impressive! One of the most memorable places of the entire trip.

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Right next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine.

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After an Italian lunch of pasta, beef, carrots, potatoes, ice cream cake, and wine, we headed to the Vatican City. We went into St. Peter’s Basilica. 

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The Swiss Guard still protects St. Peter’s and the Pope.

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By far the strictest dress code location!

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Alter the Pope preaches from

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This is the only autographed work of Michelangelo

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The dome is around 445 feet tall, whereas the alter is only around 100 feet tall

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Some Popes created very intricate tombs for themselves

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Pope embalmed in wax in his tomb

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Castle of the Angel

We got back from Rome just in time for dinner. The show for the evening was the East Coast Boys who covered Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They were fun and entertaining. We were so tired from walking all day that we went to straight to bed. No fun activities in the evening for us.

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Pompeii

Finally, Pompeii! Travis and I really looked forward to this day. We had an early morning and around a 1 hour drive from the port. The first thing we did when we got there was go to a Cellini Factory while our tour guide went and got our Pompeii tickets. They would make jewelry and other things out of shells. We really weren’t that interested in it. We just wanted to get into the archeological site.

We spent around 2 1/2 hours in Pompeii and it was very crowded. We didn’t even see a quarter of the site. We will definitely be going back!

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The necropolis of Pompeii

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Gladiator training area

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Here you can see original and restored work

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Amphitheater

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original graffiti

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“fast food” restaurant

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Political campaign ads

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Inside a house, water basin

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Sitting rom

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courtyard in the house

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figurines in the house

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human skull and bones (real)

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inside the bath house

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cold bath room

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plaster mold of a human body

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view of mount Vesuvius

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storage for relics that have been found

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plaster mold of a puppy dog

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Temple

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So amazing! The place is massive! That is only about 1/3 of the pictures we took. Let me know if you want to see more (that goes for all the locations, I’m only putting up a portion of what we have).

We also got to sample some limoncello and shop around for a little while. Pompeii had some of the biggest lemons!

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Once we took the bus back to the port, we decided to explore Salerno some (the town we were docked in). It was a Sunday, so the town was very sleepy. It was very relaxing and gave us a good feeling for how life in Italy really is. However, there was a museum Travis wanted to go to, but it was closed. We mostly walked along the pier.

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Every town in Italy needs their staple old palace in ruins

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Beautiful garden where we met a dog!

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closed museum

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That night, the show was a comedian/magician named Neal Austin. Travis’ least favorite type of performance is magic and even he enjoyed himself!

Then we went to the white party (even though neither of us brought a white outfit) where they played 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s music. We stayed for 60s and 70s. We wish they would send information about what theme nights/parties are going to be on board BEFORE we get there. I would have packed more according outfits.

For the most part, the ship had really bad movie selections. However, they were playing Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn that night, which appeared to be the best movie they had to offer, so we decided to watch it. I think Vince Vaughn is pretty funny, but Travis isn’t a fan. Overall, the movie was pretty funny. It would be worth a redbox.

Once again, we wanted to rest up for our huge day in Rome tomorrow!

 

 

Final Sea Day

We had 3 days at sea, 2 at the beginning and 1 in the middle. Since we weren’t docked anywhere, we took the day to sleep in. We got up around 9, so we could go to the Captain’s Corner at 10. Captain’s Corner allowed passengers to ask the captain and other employees different questions about the ship. Here are some things that we learned:

  • The ship costs about 800 million dollars
  • The ship uses azipod propellers which means they pull the ship instead of push like traditional propellers
  • The captain gets 10 weeks on/10 weeks off which means each ship has two captains
  • The entertainment brought on board is often based off the demographic of the cruisers

We then went to the cake decorating contest. It was between the captain, the manager of food and drinks, and the head chef.

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manager of food and drinks on left, head chef in the middle, and captain on the right

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The captain got an extra tall hat

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Instead of sprinkling the cake with liquor, the captain poured over half the bottle

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The captain also really likes his cream frosting

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The head chef’s final cake

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The captain’s final cake

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The manager of food and drink’s final cake

After that, we went to lunch and met a couple from Namibia. We met a lot of people on this cruise (more than the Caribbean cruises), but this couple was very nice and were the only people we met from Africa. They talked us into considering a trip to Africa next! For the most part, young couples on Caribbean cruises are honeymooners, which means they pretty much want to spend their time alone. There were a lot more friendly, young couples on this cruise.

Then we attended the belly flop competition. Don’t worry, Travis didn’t compete. An old guy won (grandpa aged).

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After that, we went to the Love and Marriage game show. They got three couples on the stage and would ask one person a question and see if their partner came up with the same answer. Here are some question examples:

  • Who would you not want to be stuck on a desert island with from your wife’s family?
  • What’s one thing you would make bigger and one thing you would make smaller on your wife?
  • Where is the craziest place you have made whoopee?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve about your husband?

That night was a formal night, so we got all fancied up! The show for the night was Analiza Ching, a violinist that competed on Britain’s Got Talent. She was a phenomenal musician, but had an awkward stage presence.

We then watched some people play minute-to-win-it type games in the centrum. For example, they had to shake ping pong balls out of a Kleenex box that was tied to their lower back, get a coin out of the bottom of pantyhose only using your fingers, etc. We also watched one of the cruise director staff members do a tribute to Michael Jackson by dancing to 5 of his songs. He was a great MJ impersonator! He had a lot of talent (same one who could speak 6 different languages).

We finished out the evening by playing some shuffle board on deck and listening to music! We wanted to be well rested for our big day to Pompeii!

Split, Croatia

Our 4th of July port was Split, Croatia. Croatia, much like Montenegro, is part of the former Yugoslavia. Its a very quaint country. I woke up at 7AM to get a run in. It was also today that I decided I shouldn’t continue to eat bacon, potatoes, and waffles for breakfast every morning and switched to oatmeal.

Since it was the 4th of July, the cruise staff decided to have a lunch BBQ on the ship. I was very surprised that a boat in Europe would celebrate an American holiday, but since the company is American owned, they threw a party!

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As for the “barbeque”, it did not impress this Kansas City girl. Nice try Royal Caribbean. The coleslaw and the ribs were pretty good, but the corn, BBQ sauce, and potato salad were all wrong and there were no baked beans!

We had to wait an extra 1 1/2 hours to start our excursion due to some complications. Other boats were speeding by our cruise ship, creating wakes that were too big for our tender boats. It put a sour taste in our mouths and probably didn’t help our overall impression of Croatia very much. As I have stated in a previous post, Croatia was my least favorite stop. Very beautiful, just not as memorable.

The region we visited in Croatia was the place where Dalmatians came from. Too bad we didn’t see any 😦

We took a bus ride to Omis, a very small town. Seriously small.(Travis thought the tour guide was saying “Amish” not Omis. He was very confused for a good half hour). There was one street and we walked right down the middle of it. Then we explored the town some. There was a church that had many different styles (gothic, renaissance, and baroque), and didn’t allow pictures. It had an eclectic feel to it. Honestly, it wasn’t very impressive after seeing some of the churches in Venice.

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 The best part about Croatia was the boat ride we took. The scenery was beautiful.

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Zipliners! This looked so fun

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What our boat looked like

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The boat dropped us off at a local restaurant where we had olives (which we skipped), ham, cheese, wine, and the best bread ever. They cooked the bread by using coals and an iron dome. We ate so much of it.

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We were seated next to a group of really rude Russians. They drank more than their fair share of wine and were rude to the wait staff. However, these cute singers made it all better. We also watched some people play bocce ball.

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We had a bus ride back to Split, where we walked around the old palace. The basement was preserved because people threw their building waste into the basement.

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The palace was really neat. It photographed well!

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We listened to a group sing traditional Dalmatian music.

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You could rub the big toe of Poljana Gurgura Ninskog for a spiritual wish to come true, not a material wish. They were restoring the statue, but left the toe out for people to rub.

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They would often have parties in this area and used this ledge to throw up their food so they could eat more.

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Once we got back on board, we went to the 4th of July party in the centrum. The singers sang the National Anthem, they had a big cake, and played more American music. I wanted a piece of cake, but it disappeared very quickly.

The show for the night was a comedian/juggler. I absolutely love juggling (that would be my circus show). He was also pretty funny and made a hilarious joke about the delayed tendering situation of the morning.

We then played “Guess that Song” in the centrum where a cruise director staff member would play a song and the first person to the mic had to sing along.

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 Its fun to travel over Holidays, but we missed some good old Parkville fireworks and parades. We stayed out late watching a World Cup game since we had a day at sea the next day – our final day of complete relaxation!

 

Venice

Venice was my favorite location we went to and we had two days there! The city was so unique and had a really great vibe to it. If I were moving abroad, I would highly consider Venice.

On the first day, we didn’t pull in until 2:00PM which finally gave us a chance to sleep in. After waking up and having a leisurely breakfast, we played another round of mini golf. Travis won this one. He also wanted me to tell you he got a hole-in-one. Showoff.

We went up on deck around noon to get some sun, read, and stake out good spots to watch as we pulled into Venice. It sounds crazy to plan two hours in advance where to stand when you pull into a city, but it was very necessary and very worth it. The views from the cruise boat where some of the best that we got and the decks were packed! We even witnessed a fight break out between two people about a place to stand and take pictures from.

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The deck you see in this picture was the least packed deck because it was only for certain people. Most decks were rolling 3 people deep.

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St. Mark’s square

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PACKED with people

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Bridge of Sighs

We had to take a water taxi to get into Venice. The walk from the cruise terminal would have been too long. There are no cars, scooters, or bikes allowed in Venice, only boats and feet.

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We saw Elton John’s summer house in Venice. He wasn’t in town though.

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We first went to the island of Giorgio Maggiore, visited the church, and walked around the island.

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Next, we went to the island of Murano to watch the glass blowers. I am fascinated by glass blowing so this was really neat for me to see.  Then we walked around their showroom. However, they didn’t allow pictures of their products because they had so many original pieces. It was also incredibly expensive! We finally found the cheapo person room and I got a pair of earrings.

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Next, we went on a gondola ride! Its a very touristy thing to do in Venice, but it is a must. Its really the only way to view certain parts of the city since you can walk everywhere. It can get very costly, but you get a group together it makes it much more affordable. We rode with four other people: a couple from Texas and a grandmother/grandson duo from Oregon. The worst part was Travis and I didn’t get to sit next to each other. No kissing under the Bridge of Sighs for us!

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Travis got the seat at the end of the gondola

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I thought our gondolier looked like Fabio

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Here you can see the rest of our group

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Last, we decided to walk around St. Mark’s Square. As you could see from the earlier pictures, its packed in the afternoon. However, it calms down a lot in the evening (its also less busy in the morning).

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Since we didn’t get to kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, we’ll kiss next to it.

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We were pretty exhausted and knew we had an early morning the next day, we decided to go to bed early.

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We would always end our day with looking at the Cruise Compass for the following day so we know what activities to expect on board.

The next day we woke up energized and ready to see more of Venice. We started out with going to Doge’s Palace.

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A place to tell secrets about your neighbors. You could drop papers in its mouth.

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Golden staircase

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24 hour clock. The arm stays put and the clock circles around

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Whenever a Doge would betray the city, they got their picture blacked out

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Crossing the Bridge of Sighs. It is called the Bridge of Sighs because prisoners would be transported from the prison to their judgment across this bridge. I bet they weren’t smiling this big when they crossed the bridge.

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Prison door

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View off the Bridge of Sighs

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Then, we went into St. Mark’s Cathedral. It was my favorite thing of the entire trip, so of course, they didn’t allow pictures on the inside. There were no painted pictures, only marble and mosaic. The line was very long, so get tickets in advance!

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We then saw another glass demonstration, but this time, they gave us more information. We also got better seats for this one. We learned how they make different colors and why some cost more than others (the red is made with gold). Also, the glass blowers have specialties. For example, chandelier makers are different from the vase makers.

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We then looked around the Royal Palace and National Archeological Museum. Napoleon stayed in the Royal Palace. There were no pictures allowed.

Next, we walked to the Rialto Bridge. It was very crowded and not nearly as impressive as it could have been.

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We were told the best way to get to know Venice is to get lost in it. So that’s what we did! We walked/sat along the grand canal, we sat outside and had a coffee(me)/Fanta(Travis), we watched people walk up to the armory, see its not open to the public, and walk in anyway, and wandered through giardini (garden).

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Once we got back on board, we watched this adorable French couple ballroom dance in the centrum. I want to be like that couple some day. More dance classes Travis?

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The show that night was The Voice UK finalist Toni Warne. She was amazing! My favorite show of the cruise!

To end the evening, we went to the masquerade party and watched the mask fashion show.

I love Venice! When can I go back?

 

Kotor, Montenegro

Our first port of call was Kotor, Montenegro. We didn’t know much about Montenegro prior to this trip. It is a small country in the former Yugoslavia. The country is very beautiful and just a week after we were there, 2014 Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic married his fiancée there. We woke up at 5AM to take pictures as we pulled into Montenegro. Getting into the ports in Europe is much different than in the Caribbean. The views are incredible! Most of the Caribbean places we have been to, the ship pull into the docks overnight, but in Europe, we normally pull in during the morning.

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Once we were docked, we needed to tender into the city. Tendering means that the boat is too big to pull up to the dock, so they park a little farther out and smaller boats take people from the ship to the shore.

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Tendering can be a pain in the butt, however, it normally allows for you to take a good picture of the boat.

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Then, we hopped on a bus and rode to the top of one of those mountains. We needed 25 switchbacks to get there! It was a nerve-racking trip, but the view was worth it! This was the most breathtaking view of the entire trip. Pictures don’t do it justice.

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Doesn’t our cruise boat look like a baby from up here!

 

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Our tour guide said there can be a 20 degree difference from the bottom to the top

We stopped at a local restaurant for a “snack”. It was 9AM and we got a full glass of wine, prosciutto, cheese, and bread. It was meal sized. How are Europeans so skinny? Then, we walked around the small town a bit.

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Then we drove to the former capital of Montenegro, Cetinje.

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Once we got to Cetinje, we walked to the Royal Palace. When we heard Palace, we thought big. Nope, it was just a house. The old house of King Nicholas. Haha, our dinner table mates found this “palace” really funny. It was interesting though. We learned a lot of history there.

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Monastery

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Church

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Gates outside the palace. They were doing restorations of the building, so we didn’t get a good picture of the exterior of the “palace”

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We got on the bus for the last time and headed to Kotor. We got a walking tour of Old Kotor.

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Love that gelato! This one was hazelnut flavored

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This is the pillar of shame. When someone broke the law, they were tied to this all day and people would throw things at them.

We had a great tour guide, but he was very opinionated. He didn’t like Serbians and made sure we all knew it. Kotor had an old wall that surrounded the city, so we decided to walk the wall.

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Funny story, I took a picture of the cruise ship in the background of this photo thinking it was ours. It wasn’t. Travis was like, “Nice picture, too bad it’s not our ship.”

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Once we got back on the ship, I took a nap. Travis took some more pictures of Kotor from the boat.

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That evening we had my favorite dinner of the entire cruise. As a starter, I had fried English cheddar cheese and sole meuniere. Yum! There was a Thriller flash mob in the centrum that we watched. The show for the night was a Spanish ballet, also known as Flamenco. They used castanets, fans, scarfs, and lots of rhythm.

That night, the USA played Belgium in the knockout round of the World Cup. There was definitely a party going on poolside. About 1/3 of our ship was American, so there were a lot of people watching this game. Unfortunately, USA lost in overtime. On the bright side, I did get a blue margarita in a flashing glass!

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I also learned that Americans are not the rudest people! I really didn’t experience any rude Americans our entire trip (dumb and loud-yes, but rude-no). However, there were some rude Belgians on board. They cheered when one of the American players got hurt. Who does that?

Next post will be my favorite, Venice! Be prepared for a long one, we were there for two days 🙂