May 14th 2011 – Civitavecchia, Italy to Rome – Barbara’s Adventure


DSC06621As far back as I can remember, Barbara has always documented important events in the life of this family by keeping personal notes and journals. When we started taking this cruising life seriously, she has faithfully kept a daily journal on each cruise. I am always amazed by how beautiful and precise her handwriting is, no matter if she is using a solid surface or riding in a bouncy tour bus, compared to mine which is illegible under the best of circumstances.

Since we chose to do different things when we were in port on the 14th of May, I was unable to blog about her experience, until she gave me permission to use her journal to write the following.

It is so easy to get used to life onboard a cruise ship, especially one as lovely as the ms Noordam. In the mornings Jack is up “before the crack of dawn” so he is well into his day by the time he wakes me at 7 AM with my mug of fresh coffee and a glass of “fresh squeezed” orange juice. However this morning was different as I had to be in the Ocean Bar at 7:45 for Alan’s tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, so Jack woke me at 5:45 am to see that we had already docked early in Civitavecchia. While I am gone Jack will stay here enjoying the port on his own.

My group met in the Ocean bar at 7:45 AM to board our bus.  Allan and AlanDSC06480 shepherded us today, because Kathryn has lost her voice. Alan’s buses were late arriving and did not appear on the dock until 8:20. I sat in the farthest back right window seat. This is perfect because it affords me the best unobstructed view of the passing scenery. Our bus, #3, was driven by Salvatore, and we pulled out of the terminal area at 8:40, almost a half hour late. Our bus was made up of 44 passengers and we listened as Alberto (our guide for the trip to Rome) talked about Italy and Rome during the hour drive. Our route took us between the mountains and the coastline passing through countryside with lush fields of artichokes, wheat, hay, grapes and olive trees.

A couple of noteworthy tidbits Alberto shared with us as we traveled along the Autostrada, was that wine, which costs 1.60 Euros a liter is more expensive than gasoline which costs ($9 gal), and how Rome was founded by the Etruscans

In his pre-cruise excursion offerings, Alan described our tour today as “a coach transfer from the pier in Civitavecchia to Rome and into Vatican City…the Vatican Museum…the Sistine Chapel….St. Peter’s Basilica….Papa Rex Restaurant (for lunch)……to the Basilica of St Paul Outside the walls. This is one of four churches that are the great ancient major basilicas of Rome: the basilicas of St. John Lateran, St Mary Major, St Peter’s, and St Paul’s Outside.”

Upon arrival at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Alberto handed us over to Francesca, who would be our guide until we boarded our bus back to Civitavecchia. She handed out “Whisper” headsets that would enable everyone to hear her inside quite churches, etc. We started our walking at approximately 10 AM with Francesca in the lead, holding her blue scarf held high on a pole above her head; we followed as she explained the magnificent details of St. Paul’s.

Re-boarding our bus, Salvatore skillfully maneuvered his bus through traffic as we drove by the Tiber River, past Roman temples, and the Jewish Quarter and Vatican City to the Papa Rex Restaurant for “a huge Italian feast with plenty of good Italian wine! During lunch you will be entertained (Operatic Tenor and accordion) and you are welcome to join in!”


Upon entering Papa Rex’s we were each photographed with a Swiss guard and I was only too happy to “fork over” the five Euros for mine. It is a treasure. At our table, I enjoyed the company of Carol & Leo, Jerry, and a couple from Aloha, Oregon, all a part of Alan’s group. Each table was set with a good red house wine, bottle of water, and waiters filled our champagne glasses with Spumonte. I was careful not to drink too much, as next on our schedule was the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. As at previous “luncheons” Alan had done it again with his offering of endless wine.

My antipasto plate had a variety of vegetables, of which I felt the fried onion was the best. The white cheese was formed in the shape of hard boiled eggs. The bread baskets on each table were filled with seasoned pita bread and rustic bread slices.

The pasta plate had two kinds: one with marinara sauce and the other green pesto, and as is the custom in Italian eateries, shredded parmesan cheese was available in a bowl.

For our main course a tasty thin slice of veal was served with potatoes and vegetables.

All of this was topped off with a slab of ice cream.

After this “huge Italian Feast” we waddled to our buses for the ride to the Vatican Museum. Francesca explained how lucky we are to be here on a Saturday instead of a weekday with far worse traffic and crowds. In the museum she led us through some of the main halls of the museum with good explanations of what we were seeing.

For me the piece-de resistance was The Sistine Chapel with its beautiful famous ceiling fresco paintings by the master; Michelangelo.  In  1968 we had not been able to visit the Sistine Chapel when we were in Rome.  This time I was even ready with binoculars to see the high ceiling details better. We tried to keep up with Francesca, but it was hard to follow in the thick crowds, even with her blue scarf held high on a pole over her head.

Next she took us through St Peter’s Basilica and I once again enjoyed seeing Michelangelo’s “Pieta”. (Jack and I had visited here in 1969 when the Pieta was not protected by bullet proof glass, and we were able to observe this magnificent work of art much more closely.)

I learned a couple of more things about religious history; that St. Peter’s Basilica is over the body of Peter, who was crucified upside down. His request was to be different from the Savior Jesus Christ, and that Paul is buried under the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. He was not crucified by the Romans because he was a Roman citizen, so he got be beheaded. All burials were outside the walls of Rome at that time.

(Not a spare minute for shopping today. Luckily we returned to Rome at the end of the cruise, and I could buy a book with good Sistine Chapel photos. No matter where we are, I always enjoy the interaction with sidewalk salesmen; my latest prize was a pretty Rome scarf for one Euro ($1.50).

It was hot and we were tired, but Francesca managed to get all of us back onto the bus by 3:25.

It was a satisfying day that I had longed to experience, and even though I was tired, I was able to enjoy the pretty country side as Salvatore drove us back to the pier. Since we were running late he backed the bus in as far as possible, shortening our walk to the gangway. We all appreciated his thoughtfulness so much. It was 4:30, and we were scheduled to sail at 5 PM, and I suppose the Captain was getting a bit antsy. Jack was watching anxiously from the Promenade deck to welcome me home and to tell me about his day in Civitavecchia. The market had sweet smelling strawberries. He and Connie enjoyed authentic pizza and beer.

After enjoying a glass of chilled wine, which we kept in our stateroom refrigerator, we dressed for dinner and struck out for our “evening exercise” to the dining room, some two football fields aft.

Joining our table-mates and sharing the events of the day had become another “ritual” that we would miss upon our return to “normal” lives, however this evening I continued my culinary journey with an Italian Prosciutto Ham and Cantaloupe appetizer, Tortellini Soup, Chicken with cornbread and sausage stuffing, bread, Tiramisu, and Cappuccino. MMM – so yummy and superbly served by our ever attentive dining room stewards; Suteyama (Sute), Putra, and Rezky.

When we returned to our room, we found, as usual, our bed had been turned down, and the bed contained a very nice new Holland America gift bag with Navy trim and a pocket – for Mariners, which was guarded by a Lobster towel animal. On our coffee table was a plate of candies from the Captain and Hotel manager, given in appreciation for Collector’s Voyagers continuing onboard.

Today was also a “change-over day, when new passengers boarded the ship for the next “seven day leg” of the cruise, aptly named “Riviera Romance”, and some crew members, having fulfilled their current contract, will be traveling home to be with their loved ones.

One thought on “May 14th 2011 – Civitavecchia, Italy to Rome – Barbara’s Adventure

  1. Jack and Barbara,

    It sure is a thrill continuing to read of your adventures in the Mediterranean last month aboard Noordam! You both capture so vividly the unique environment of shipboard life and routines, and the essence of the beautiful places and sights you saw along the way.

    Thanks for keeping the journey at-sea “alive”!


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