Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5.19.09 Boarding the Ship

We had breakfast at the hotel and I’m really glad it was covered with the room fee. €27 per person – that’s about $40. The breakfast was good – I’ve come to expect nothing less from the Italians. We packed up our belongings and head out the door.

The front desk called us a cab to take us to the train station. I began talking with the guy on the way to the station and he said he would be willing to drive us all the way to Civitavecchia for €70. Hmm, tempting. I did some quick math and figured that we would spend about €50+ to go by train (including cab fare to the station and then to the boat) so we told him to take us to Civitavecchia. It was a lovely ride. Our cabbie was a good, honest Italian. He has been married for eight years, has a 3 year-old son and another on the way.

Looking at the hills and trees while riding up along the coast of the Med reminded me a lot of California. The biggest difference was that the homes were all Italian Villa style. In California a home like that would cost millions, but the cabbie told me it was very inexpensive to live there compared to Rome. Funny how that works.

The cabbie took us all the way to the check-in point. His meter was up to about €150, but he stuck to his word and didn’t ask for anything more than what we agreed to. I paid him €75 and thanked him for his hospitality. He was sure to caution me that if I took a cab ride back that I would have to pay a lot more than €70 – I would get charged whatever was on the meter. He was a really good guy and put both Melba and I in a really good mood. This was an excellent way to start our cruise.

We boarded around 11:30 (left early not expecting a ride all the way there) and our rooms weren’t going to be ready for another 2 hours. The ship directed everyone to a dining room with buffet-style lunch foods. We weren’t very hungry so Melba had a salad and I ate a sandwich. All of the food is really good and it’s all covered with the cost of the room. The only catch is that we have to pay for all of our drinks (except for water). All things considered, that isn’t too bad – I just don’t like being nickeled and dimed. Oh, well.

About an hour later we saw two people we met at the airport while waiting for our bags. They are a retired couple from Arizona. We talked to them for about an hour yesterday and they sat with us at lunch while we waited for the rooms to be ready.

Lots of retired couples on board. I think Melba and I fall amongst the youngest people on board. If I were create a normal distribution of age on the ship, we would be around the first or second percentile, I'm sure. That said, we’re very glad that this isn’t a ‘party boat’. Everyone is quiet, respectful and friendly. If there were a bunch of undergrads running around on the boat creaming, yelling and getting drunk all of the time, this would be a rotten cruise.

Dinner was excellent. We have what’s called a flex-dining plan which means we can eat anytime between 5:45 and 9pm. The other option would be to have a fixed time to eat every night – it’s mostly groups who prefer that option. Tonight we ate with a retired couple from Vermont. He had recently sold his share of a Pharmacy business to his partner. We have a delightful time talking to them over dinner. It’s weird to me to think that Melba and I can each order appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert all for free. The serving sizes are moderate – enough to fill you up and nothing more. The quality of the food, I think, is similar to a nice restaurant. Not something like Ruth’s Chris, but it’s still nice. There is food everywhere and it’s all free – we just have to pay for the drinks.

Right now Melba and I are planning out the day tomorrow. I kinda want to go to Pisa and see the sites there, but Melba wants to go to Florence and see the artwork. I think she is going to win out on this one. She’s already seen Pisa. We’re listening to a talented string quartet. I write the journal while Melba reads Lonely Planet to decide what tomorrow’s plans are. We’re heading off to a theater in a couple of minutes – the actors are doing an interactive production to introduce the passengers to what the nightly productions will be for the rest of the cruise.

Perhaps we’ll know by tomorrow if we’re going to go to Pisa or Florence. While I want to go to Pisa, I must admit that after Melba read to me what she wants to do in Florence I’m bothered that we can’t do both.

UPDATE - She talked me into Florence. More tomorrow.


Martha said...

Keep the updates coming! I love reading about your adventures. I need something to occupy me since this baby is taking her own sweet time coming out and I'm getting really antsy!

Carrie said...

My mouth is watering over those Italian dishes, but I sure don't envy your jet lag! I'm so glad you made it safely . . . sounds like you're in for even more great adventures. I hope you have a fabulous time! Keep us updated. Love you guys!