We left Rome happy in the knowledge we’d be back there after our cruise, and headed to Civitavecchia, the cruise port. It’s about an hour and a half from Rome, so we hired a private transfer through Bob’s Limos to take us there. We had the most annoying Texans on our ride–the kind of morally bankrupt idiots who give America a bad name. As hurricanes ravaged the US, these ladies were plotting how to buy land in Florida and vacation there with a trailer. They had a whole plan worked out where they didn’t care if Florida got destroyed since they’d have no major investment lost. Ugh, they piss me off just writing about them. Moving on….
We did have some awesome Aussies in their 70s and 80s, a group of friends who saw the world together. One feisty woman, Audrey, even vowed her next trip would be to Alaska to mush with the dogs! #aginggoals
This was to be our third Norwegian Cruise, this time aboard the Norwegian Epic. The first few days of the trip having been such a whirlwind of new places, we were comforted by the familiar NCL surroundings, and we looked forward to the lack of responsibility and ease of travel a cruise provides.
We made it to the ship and relaxed with many drinks, a delicious dinner, and a really solid classic rock cover band from the Philippines. The guitarist was a master impressionist and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Filipino guy sing “Money for Nothing” in a dead-on Mark Knopfler impression.
Our first port stop the next day was Florence. The excursions offered by NCL were obscenely expensive, so we booked private excursions for most of the stops on this cruise. Our tour of Florence was one of two tours we booked through Can’t Be Missed Tours. While our other tour through Can’t Be Missed was great, this first one sorta sucked the big one. It started about 45 minutes late because two dullards—we’ll call them Tracy and Dan (not their real names)—read their reservation incorrectly and showed up super late. I don’t blame CBM for this necessarily, but they definitely did not need to delay everyone’s tour for those two. It wasn’t just the wait, but the disorganized nature of the tour really bothered us. The driver didn’t have a clear picture of the tour, he left us with a guide who had us pay money for tickets, but then didn’t GET the tickets from the taker so we were stuck in limbo for 30 minutes, etc. Their promise of a small group tour was also bullshit, as our group of 12 ended up being combined with about 5 other groups to create an ungainly herd of tourists—not exactly the ideal situation for a crowded place like Florence.
We eventually made it into the Accademia and saw selected art pieces, including the David. The David’s scale was impressive and the level of detail, especially in the comically large hands, still shows clearly after all these years.
We then walked to the Duomo and Baptistry. I wish we’d had time to go inside, but next trip. The outside alone was breathtaking.
We decided the word “Duomo” has the same inflection as Bobby Flay’s speech impediment. “That’s a gweat Duomo!” became a trip catchphrase.
We made our way to the Ponte Vecchio and passed a small market with the “little pig” or “Porchilino” statue (my new nickname). While looking at the Arno, all Paul and I could do was sing the Police song “Peanuts.” Tell me he’s not singing about the Arno!
For lunch, we wanted the authentic Florentine steak experience of huge slabs of thick cut rare steak seasoned simply with salt and pepper. We also ate criminally overpriced, but tasty, gelato.
On our way out of Florence, we stopped at an overlook for a picturesque Tuscan shot. Tracy and Dan, who were now our arch-nemeses, were nice enough to take our picture. This picture aside, these people really sucked. It’s hard to put into words, but Tracy kept yelling about the air conditioner being too loud and not being able to hear anything. When the driver turned it down, she then yelled about it being hot. Keep in mind this cycle repeated about every 5 minutes for a 5 hour tour. You’d want to kill her too. Dan made loud international phone calls to his adult son to discuss his fantasy football team and to remind him to read Proverbs. At every site, Tracy would flit around with her giant iPad elbowing people out of her way to get the shots she wanted. It didn’t help that they were both self-professed Jesus freaks who clearly didn’t get the Biblical memo about not being a rude, self-absorbed asshole.
After Florence, we went for a brief stop at Pisa. It was cool, it leaned, but I really had to pee and some of the bloom was off the CBM tour rose.
When we got back to the ship, industrial fans were going in the hallway and the carpet in our cabin had been replaced. Some tiny flood must have happened, but nothing of ours was damaged. Norwegian handled it like a champ and gave us a free specialty dining meal, a bottle of wine, and chocolate strawberries. The night wrapped up well with some music and late night spicy Asian wings and nachos. Cruising is the good life.