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November 17 to December 13, 2008 - Visit to Rome and Trans Atlantic Cruise

Patty and I took one of the coolest trips ever to Italy, France(cancelled), Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Senegal, Brazil and Dominica in the last half of November and the first half of December.   We took nearly 1500 pictures and have selected 92 of them for your viewing pleasure.  Click the photo of the Colosseum to jump to the slideshow now, or click the picture of the itinerary to jump there, or continue on down the page to read a description of the trip.  And be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page for a special treat.  (February 2020) I have discovered that the slideshow does not work any more - I'll try to fix that.

image of roman coleseum   small image of trip itinerary

Monday, 11/17 - Jim took us to the airport for our first flight to Atlanta.  Once there, we had lunch and then found the Northwest lounge for some free beers before heading to the flight to Amsterdam.   Seats for that flight were in business class, the equivalent to first class seats.  During the flight we had dinner, drinks, personal movies, seats that reclined almost all the way flat, and breakfast.

Tuesday, 11/18 - After arrival, we found the KLM lounge for coffee and juice, and then found the flight on to Rome.  After arriving in Rome, Patty got some Euros, bought a couple of train tickets, and we rode the train into town.  Upon arrival at the train station in Rome, we gathered our stuff, found a cab, and rode to the hotel.  The hotel provided first class treatment, including a room with a balcony that overlooked the city.   One of the best things about the first two days was that the flights and the hotel were covered by award points from Patty's recent travels.

Wednesday, 11/19 - Breakfast was included in the first class treatment at the hotel, so we ate before catching the free hotel shuttle service into town.  Once in town, we walked to Vatican City and decided to visit the museums first.  What a treat.  There is more art than anyone can see in days, and it is all contained in rooms and hallways with frescos painted on the walls and ceilings.  During our visit, we found our way into the Sistine Chapel, and then found the underground pass into St. Peter's Basilica.  Wow, what a big place that is.  Later, we found the pickup spot for the shuttle, had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, and then found the Trevi Fountain.

Thursday, 11/20 - After breakfast and the shuttle ride to town, we caught the Metro to the Colossuem.  And, yes, that is the correct spelling for this structure that is over 1900 years old.  We decided to pay the fee to get inside and got lots of photos.  Then it was on to the Pantheon, another very old building.  We had some pizza for dinner and then found our way back to the Colosseum for some night photos.

Friday, 11/21 - Again, breakfast and the shuttle ride into town, then a Metro ride and a bus ride way south to the Appian Way - a prepared roadway used by the Roman armies since the fourth century.  We walked about as far as we could, then backtracked and caught the bus back into town.  We found the old Circus Maximus, walked along the Tiber River, stopped at several famous piazzas, had another pizza for lunch and made our way back to the shuttle stop.  Repacking our stuff took up the evening hours.

Saturday, 11/22 - After breakfast and checkout, a cab took us to the train station.  Patty handled the tickets, and then we had to heft our luggage onto the train.  Following the train ride 80 km to the port town of Civitavecchia, we hefted our stuff off the train on a central platform, which meant that we had to heft our luggage down a flight of stairs, cross under the other tracks, and then heft our stuff up a flight of stairs to get to the main terminal.  What a pain.  We got a cab to the cruise boat, but had to get out of the cab and walk about a quarter mile to the terminal because of traffic.  We learned later that there had been a problem on the boat and they were still disembarking passengers when we arrived around 1:00 PM.   We did get on the boat before 4:00 PM, got something to eat and waited for our bags.

Sunday, 11/23 - After breakfast on the boat we boarded a bus for the one hour ride to Florence.  We found our way to a museum famous for having the original of Michelangelo's David.  No photos were allowed, but that was OK because there is a copy in a piazza not far away.  There was lots of other art and sculpture in the museum.  We left and walked to the piazza only to find that the David copy was hidden behind construction barriers.  That was disappointing.  We found the famous bridge across the Arno River that is just for walking and shopping, and then found our way back to the bus pickup point.  The bus ride back to the boat finished the day.

Monday, 11/24 - A scheduled stop at Cannes, France was cancelled because we were supposed to use tenders to get from the boat to land, and it was windy and rough, making using the tenders dangerous.  So we spent a relaxing day on the boat.

Tuesday, 11/25 - After breakfast, we boarded a bus for the ride to Montserrat, an abbey and monastery in the mountains west of Barcelona.  We joined a line of others waiting to view the Virgin of Montserrat (Black Madonna).  The line moved slowly, but we did finally see the statue carved in wood.  Before leaving the church, we were treated to a couple of selections performed by a choir of young boys.

Thursday, 11/27 - Following one day at sea, we docked in Gibraltar, a British territory.  The day before, after checking the weather reports, we had cancelled our shore excursion, a dolphin watch.  So we walked into the town and strolled up and down the main shopping street.

Friday, 11/28 - Today we had an afternoon bus ride around Casablanca.  We stopped at several mosques as well as a hotel on the coast for a coke or coffee.  One stop was at the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world, with room for 25,000 worshippers inside and a further 80,000 in the courtyard.  Its minaret is the world's tallest at 689 feet.

Monday, 12/1 - After two days at sea, we docked at Dakar, the capital of Senegal.  We rode a bus through the city, a generally unattractive place, with something like 40% unemployment.  Everywhere we stopped there were people with their hands out.  One good thing is that this was our departure point for the Atlantic crossing, three days out of sight of land, heading for Brazil.

Friday, 12/5 - Today found us docked in Fortaleza, a city in the northeast of Brazil.  During the crossing, we had crossed the equator, so we were back to summer for an afternoon.  We took a bus ride into town, found the central market, walked around some more, and rode the bus back to the boat.  Another unattractive place, but it is supposed to have nice beaches.

Monday, 12/8 - After another two days at sea and re-crossing the equator, we anchored at Devil's Island, off the coast of French Guiana.  This is a former French penal colony and doesn't have much to see.   We did take a tender to the island, walk up to the top of the hill 131 feet above sea level, enjoy a cold beverage and then walk back down.

Wednesday, 12/10 - The last non-US stop was in Dominica, one of the islands in the Caribbean.  We had an early morning whale and dolphin watching trip scheduled, so we had to get up early.  The small boat ride was nice.  We found dolphin quickly, and watched as they swam just in front of the boat for a while.  We then went looking for whale while it rained a lot.  We did find three whales, each of which did a nice dive with their tails high in the air.  On the return trip, the guides pointed out a couple of places used in the filming for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Saturday, 12/13 - After breakfast, we gathered the last of our stuff, found a waiting area, and then got off the boat for the last time.   Finding our luggage and passing through immigration took time, but we emerged outside, found a shuttle to the airport, grabbed a car, and after another four hours were right back where we started 28 days earlier.

Here's a picture that we had taken with the Captain on one of the formal nights.

picture of formal dinner