Celebrity Reflection Transatlantic Cruise
April 9, 2016 Sailing
Our first transatlantic cruise was in April 2015 on Celebrity Eclipse. I was very worried about being "bored" with so many sea days but was amazed at how quickly I adapted to sea days. We loved it so much, we booked another while on board. Here is our trip review of our second transatlantic cruise, this time on the Celebrity Reflection
Packing - This trip my goal was not to throw stuff in a suitcase the day before we leave, but to plan better so I don't forget things I need. I am a chronic under-packer which saves on luggage but is annoying when you are running around for the hundredth time to buy tweezer because you can't remember them!
||Fly to Miami -Homewood Suites Bickell
||Board the Ship - meet Cruise Critic group
||Florida Lunch - Main Dining Room @noon
||Cabin Crawl @ 1pm
||Tenerife, Santa Cruz, Canary Islands - Tour with Patsy Little of Northern Highlights
||Malaga, Granada, Spain
||Barcelona Spain - Montserrat on our own
||Barcelona Spain - Sagrada Familla (prepaid tix)
||Villefranche, Nice, France - train to Nice DIY
||Florence, Livorno, Italy - share a ride to Lucca with ??
||Civatecchia (Rome), Italy - Fly to Stuttgart
||Porsche Factory Tour
||Porsche rental and drive
First packing session - Bathroom
Took everything I would need, categorized by type (hair stuff, make up, skin, Rx, etc).
Started with this:
Sorted into 3 bags - the idea was to not open the big suitcase in Miami since we are only in the hotel one night - whatever I need that one night goes in my carry-on bag.
-Suitcase bag - stuff for the cruise that I won't need at the hotel in Miami for 1 night
-Carry-on Bag Non Liquids- stuff I need the day we are at the hotel in Miami
-Carry-on Bag Liquids - Must have liquids that can't go in my suitcase.
For the rest -we just start tossing it on the bed in the Guest room until it's time to pack
So, after packing my bag, it weighed well over 50 pounds so I had to move some stuff into a carry on bag. Oh well, not the end of the world. I'll learn how to pack less I guess.
I did use vacuum bags to pack a lot of stuff including dresses for dinner. No, they didn't wrinkle badly - a few had to be "steamed" in the bathroom on-board but I managed to get 12 dresses in one vacuum bag
The rest of my clothes to pack.
Terry packed his and we ended up with 2 large suitcases, one silver carry on for me and one duffel bag carry-on for Terry. Not bad for 3+ weeks.
I feel like I waited so long for this day! I worked a few hours that morning before signing off for 3 weeks of vacation. Adam picked us up at 0730 for the trip to the airport. He's a retired gentleman in our community who does rides to the airport for a fee. It's a great way to start your trip - with a driver!
We checked our bags with Southwest airlines (Terry used his points for free tickets) and cleared security thanks to TSA Pre-check. After security I got a cup of coffee and we sat for a quick breakfast.
The flight was long but uneventful.
At FLL, we used Uber for the first time. Although the driver went the wrong way, he apologized and eventually got us to our hotel with no extra charge.
Doubletree took forever to check us in and the room was a disappointment. For reference, I had used points plus cash to book the Homewood Suites in Bickell only to be notified less than a week before leaving that the hotel wasn't actually open yet and wouldn't be open in time. They said they would rebook us but it took 6 phone calls, 3 emails and some tense conversations to actually get that done. They moved us to the Doubletree who put us in a one bedroom condo on the 10th floor. Note the 10th floor has a rooftop pool/hot tub that was literally just a few feet from our bedroom slider. Lots of loud music and loud people late and night and even early in the morning. It was only one night and we kept saying, we have 7 days at sea to sleep so just suck it up and look forwarding to boarding the boat! The TV didn't work, the furniture was very old old and worn but the kitchen was nice! No room service menu or standard amenities and the "included" breakfast we received was just an 8 dollar credit with a list of restaurants we had to go find - they were in an attached small indoor mall like area next to the hotel.
The next morning we wandered down to find one of the listed places for breakfast. We ordered breakfast and went to sit down (counter service restaurant), tables were scarce so we shared with another couple, Barb and Leigh who also happened to be from Cruise Critic and we knew each other from on-line postings! They were so nice and we bumped into them several times on the cruise.
We check out of the hotel and managed our way through the madness to the hotel port shuttle. We finally reached the port and made sure we had all our bags. We were ready to board the ship!
Check in was easy. This was our first time in a Concierge cabin which shared a check in lane with Elite Plus. However this line was just as long as other lines. Easy check in and we were onboard quickly.
During check in we were given an invitation to lunch in the dining room for Concierge cabin so we went directly there as it was almost at the end of lunch service. We had a nice lunch and then went to the sunset bar.
My first lunch onboard!
Our first desserts onboard!
Our first concierge cabin - same cabin just has a bottle of bubbly.
One more photo of the cabin with the city of Miami in the background
We walked around the ship to explore - random ship photos
My first drink at the sunset bar before sail away
View of Miami from the Sunset Bar
Being our very first time in a Concierge Cabin - we went back to see if the luggage had arrived, but were greeted with our very first Canapes! I think this was the first day, but it could have been the second - they kinda blurred together after a while.
I do remember warning the bartender at the Sunset bar that the Cruise Critic (CC) group were meeting after Muster drill but they kind of shrugged it off. Muster drill is SO much better on Celebrity!! We went to QSine for our Muster Station, then back to the sunset bar for the informal CC Meet and Greet. It was MOBBED!
We met a lot of Cruise Critic people but with so many faces and such a crowded venue, I don't remember most of it. It was a bit overwhelming. the bar couldn't keep up. The smoking area was right next to the bar and the smoke was a bit bothersome for me so we left and went back to our room for a nap and to unpack.
We were so tired after the lack of sleep at the hotel that we slept through dinner. After a nap, we headed to Ocean View Cafe for a salad. I don't even remember what we did that night - probably sat on the balcony chatting.
The next day was our first day at sea!
Ocean View Cafe provided a quick breakfast with a great view. The coffee was NOT good in my opinion. It tasted very burnt like Starbucks which is also not something I like. I had a bowl of Muesli and some fruit to mask the bad coffee. I love sitting here to watch the waves and the ocean - mesmerizing!
Thanks to our wonderful Cruise Critic volunteers - we had lots of stuff to do onboard, although I didn't actually find these posting until a few days later.
After Breakfast we explored a bit until the Cruise Critic Official meet and greet at 10:15 am in the Sky Lounge. It seemed a lot of senior officers were present which was nice. The captain was there as well.
They had coffee, pastries and mimosas for us. Richard Spacey, our Cruise Director was very funny although his "I love you"'s were a bit weird to me. Just a weird thing to say to hundreds of strangers but I guess that is just his personalty. That and his socks.
After the CC meet, we wandered a bit more and again ended up at the Ocean View Cafe for a light lunch and to marvel at the views. I tried just a bit of a few things.
More exploring then our obligatory afternoon "nap". We headed back to Ocean View Cafe to get some drinks and discovered they had "tea time".
I took a few photos but didn't partake on this day.
And one of our favorite places on the ship - the complimentary Ice Cream and toppings!
I loved the Sorbet and Terry the ice cream but my only minor complaint was the staff often mixed up the labels. They couldn't seem to understand the different between frozen yogurt and Sorbet. But the candy toppings were fun!
We finally made it to the dinning room that evening and it was Top Chef night!
Kale Pesto Beignets
The braised beef cheek was very tough but I tried something new!
The Ginger cake was excellent - I loved this dessert.
The Pecan Pie was OK - Terry preferred my Pecan Pie recipe!
The sea days all kind of melted together so I don't really have a running itinerary for each day - however the first sea day a group had a big lunch in the Dining room for all the Florida cruisers. I used to live in Florida so we went as lunch is always more fun with a group.
Seafood crepe was only so so
Pasta was OK but Terry likes mine better!
Amazing Chocolate mousse - I could have eaten several of these!
After lunch, you don't have to wait long for them to bring the afternoon canapes to the room.
Then after a lazy afternoon, another dinner!
The Beef tornado - actually very good!
Interesting - Walking up to Ocean View Cafe later for a drink, I saw this and yes, it does say "Chicken Run Down"
One of the Cruise Critic Actives we did was a Cabin Crawl. This was my first Cabin Crawl!
Forgive the photos - there were a LOT of folks who did the crawl.
I lost the paper I had with the cabins so apologize I can't tell you what category they were.
But.... I started with our cabin and took photos before people got there. Just a standard balcony with Concierge. I am a chronic over organizer so that was the only "feature" of our cabin. I brought metal hooks to hang my scarves. I might have a bit of scarf problem - these are the hooks I used - I love Amazon.
A close up of my Chalkboard contact paper - also from Amazon.
Amazing how one magnetic thermometer settles "the room is too cold/hot" conversations.
We toured a Handicap cabin but it was difficult to get photos and I don't remember if it was a suite or handicap balcony.
Handicap cabin bathroom - nice and large!
Someone let us tour their "Celebrity Suite"
This suite had the bed separated by a real room with real doors! And it had a real walk in closet!
We also toured an aft balcony - it might have been a sky suite, but can't remember. I just wanted to see how much privacy there was - if you walked to the railing, you were visible, but under the overhang it seemed you had privacy.
However this view is very nice from the aft balcony!
Bathroom from a Sky Suite Cabin
Champagne and snacks for the cabin crawl - we had the BEST Cruise Critic folks!
Aft Corner Sky Suite Cabin
After the crawl, some of us stragglers had an impromptu viewing and chat in Patty and Steve's suite - thank you for showing us your suite! I think this was an S1 Sky Suite but not sure.
Photo from the balcony overlooking the atrium at the end of the cabin crawl.
Touring all those cabins was exhausting so we headed to Ocean View cafe for tea time which is every afternoon at 4pm I think. I loved the scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam.
They called these "Berliners" - they are like cream filled donuts and Terry tried several to be sure they were all good!
The only problem with going to Tea Time is that when you get back to your Cabin, Canapes are waiting.
I thought it was cool that the position map on the television showed us smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
For dinner that night, we went to the dinning room - I did try to take a photo of the menu but the overhead lights gave too much glare - here is my attempt anyway.
I always get the crab cake and it's always very good!
And I had the ribs which were also very good! A little fatty but very tender and flavorful so I didn't mind.
Terry had the chicken which he really liked. That surprised me as he will eat chicken but he doesn't usually care for it - he is a red meat eater. Not sure why he chose the chicken, but he tried something new so not complaining! The little croquette thingy was not great though.
The Olive Oil Cremeux is one of my favorite Celebrity desserts - and ice cream for Terry of course.
The next morning we wandered around a bit - I took some photos of the Tuscan Grill while it was empty. This is our favorite specialty restaurant and I do have photos to come later of our evening there.
First stop - I learned I could walk past the restaurant to see what is going to be served for dinner later.
Tuscan Grill was empty so I took some photos
More of my quirky photos - I love these floor references that include what is where - this is taken from inside an elevator.
Later that day we went to try the grill for lunch - this is the grill near the pool that serves hamburgers. It was at that point during the trip when I had tried lots of new food but just wanted some good old comfort food. Yes, I was a bad girl and took a glass of wine from my room to the deck to have with my burger. I brought one bottle of red wine on board and I didn't share it.
This cruise a a bit chilly so I didn't use the pool but we did walk around to see that area a bit after our burgers which were really good!
This was later in the afternoon so I think people had abandoned their chairs for the day one the sun starting disappearing.
We didn't have "lunch dessert" since we at the mast grill which meant I had to go to the Ocean View cafe for something sweet - I couldn't decide so tried a few things - oh and I can almost never pass up Sorbet.
Just a gratuitous photo of the wonderful man who puts up with me every day.
The Ocean View Cafe had Puerto Rican Food that day.
I LOVED the knitting group and looked forward to this every day. I am a beginner - just teaching myself from You Tube videos and this group was so supportive. We met in the Martini lounge around 10:30 but some of us starting showing up earlier. We tried the Sky Lounge but too many loud activities and other things going on in there made it difficult to meet or talk.
Some ladies who are not on Cruise Critic saw us and just starting joining. That was a lot of fun. One of those ladies was Theodora "Dora" who was on her way from her winter home in Florida to her summer home in Greece. Dora was Greek and the most amazing knitter/crocheter I've met. This is the project she was working on during the cruise.
Dora showing me a different way of holding the yarn after wrapping it over your neck. Patty ended up spending a lot of time fixing my mistakes if we could figure out what the heck I did which sometimes we could not. Note - if you do an on-board knitting project in a group; either don't knit and talk if you are a beginner or pick something so easy you can't mess it up.
Dora teaching a newbie (pink shirt) the basics of knitting and I can't for the life of me remember her name - so sorry!
We even had a gentleman join us for needlework.
Our Projects - socks
Kathy was knitting a scarf for her friend who passed away just before Kathy got there to visit - so sad
I don't know how these folks did counted cross stitch with all the socializing we were doing!
Patti was very intently watching Dora's technique!
There must have been a formal night in there because we did dress up one evening on a sea day!
And then the laundry bag challenge - I rolled up clothes and was surprised how much i could fit in.
Breakfast the next morning at the ocean view cafe - the guy poaching eggs thought I wanted hollandaise sauce but remembered at the last minute and I only ended up with a drop - thought it was kind of picturesque.
This must have been Friday - a very lazy sea day with the knitting group, lounging around, taking a nap but also skipping lunch in preparation for dinner at the Tuscan Grill. We stopped at the bar just outside the specialty restaurants (forgot the name) for a quick drink before dinner, then headed in for our favorite meal of the cruise!
The view from our table in Tuscan Grill
Terry's Caprese salad which he always loves
My salad with pine nuts and fried goat cheese - OMG if I could have this every night, I'd be a happy camper.
Terry had the NY Strip which he always likes
I had the filet, cooked Medium which deserve two pictures.
I ordered Risotto as my side dish - again, this alone would be an amazing meal.
Terry ordered as a side dish, the spaghetti bolognese which sadly is better than my bolagnese. Well, good for him, bad for me because this is one recipe I couldn't get from the Celebrity cookbook or the chef.
Everyone was raving about the truffle fries so we asked if we could just try them. OK, now I get it - these were not like any other fries!
Blue Cheese butter for the steak. Although the steak didn't need it, I tried anyway and really like this.
Next came the very difficult decision - dessert
Terry's dessert - again very good!
I can almost never say no to Gelato or Sorbet
The next morning I think was our first port - Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We were awake early and I think I took a hundred photos of the sunrise as we were docking.
The colors kept changing every minute
Last one I promise
View of the port after I stopped gabbing at the sunrise when the ship turned around to dock.
The night before we had received an invitation for sail away - I took it with us on our excursion in case we didn't have time to get back to the room when we returned.
The dock in Tenerife is long and narrow but not a bad walk.
Map posted at the port entrance
Nadine from our roll call booked a private excursion and we joined her group. On the van they had posted a picture of the island and talked about the different parts of the "duck". Yes, I know will always think of Tenerife as a duck.
It's been another long week at work, so nice to have a chance today to work on this and relive our vacation.
So.... Lanzarote - our private tour with Patsy Little started at the gate to the dock where we had a small van that took us into town for a walking tour.
We started at this square and briefly discussed history and architecture -
Including the place where the nuns have lived for years - with almost no contact with the outside - loved the ingenious way they had air flow with no windows.
Photos of the town as we walked through
My husband checking out the local pastries - in hindsight, we should have stopped here and bought a few as it was a long time to lunch and I liked the look of these better than the crowded market.
Church Bell Tower
The Dragon Tree
I love the street photos - maybe a little too much as I have tons of these
Bread delivery - just tied the bag of rolls to the door of the restaurant every morning.
The colors of the buildings were beautiful
After a walk through town and a quick stop at a market where I didn't get any photos, we got back in the van and drove to the other side of the island.
I wish I could remember the name of the town, but the van stopped and let us out to walk into a small village where we saw the very very very very old tree.
Entrance to the village.
And the very old tree. Next time I think I need to take a journal so I can remember these things - like how old this tree really is but I thought it was over 1,000 years old.
On this side of the island, the beaches were very rocky but they managed to carve out places to enjoy the sun and water.
We stopped for lunch and although we just shared a quick sandwich, we did spend time trying to figure out what to have for dessert.
I tried to capture the name of the restaurant but I was already as far back as I could get, I would recommend it though - some great local foods.
The inside of the restaurant
Some of the others in our group did try the local favorites and of course I took photos.
Better photo of the restaurant and explains why I couldn't back up any further to get a better picture. I had no idea what we were standing on until we walked down and around the street. I thought we were standing on the edge of a small cliff, not a man made overhang sticking out the side of a cliff!
Even though I say I'm not much of a shopper - I just loved this store and did buy a few more scarves for my collection.
We walked around a bit on our own before meeting the van to ride back to the port - it was a great day, not very long but just long enough.
Back in the room my laundry finally caught up with me. The day before was the laundry bag challenge but being a bit unfocused I wrote down the wrong room number. Gratefully they figured it out and delivered my laundry.
This was also the day we were invited to the helipad for sail-away so we made our way as directed. They served mimosas which I asked DH to hold mine so I could take his photo.
They rolled out the red carpet for us!
It looked like this might be a crew area that we walked through - I always wondered if they had a special deck area.
Then it was back to our room as we were exhausted - my 2 new scarves
Terry found 2 new belts - he loves these types of belts but we've only found them in Palm Springs so nice to be able to find them on our trip
And no sooner had we put things away than it was time for afternoon canapes.
We took a nap, sat on the balcony watching the scenery and tried to find the energy to go to dinner.
We didn't find it and instead tried room service for for the first time. It was actually very good but we ordered too much food.
Dessert was mandatory but we did share one piece of cake and this was VERY good, moist chocolate cake!
We had another sea day so back to knitting group. I had so much fun there!
We walked around for a bit and saw the ice carving demo at the pool.
We changed for dinner and took a quick photo - we didn't have many of me since I was usually the one with the camera. We might have been having a little too much fun.
The next day was Malaga and we had no plans other than to just wander on our own.
Just outside the port area on the walk into town.
Glad I don't have to drive through these alleys
Yes we saw this and had to check it out. I wanted to know what the Spanish idea of American was like.
Terry is addicted to Coke Life and we couldn't find any in Miami before boarding the ship so when we saw this we stocked up. Of course that means that Terry got to carry his Coke Life the rest of the day.
The fun of just wandering is finding these places where no one speaks English so you just point at stuff. Thankfully Terry knows enough Spanish to pay for the items.
Our sweet treats for later. I had a huge macaroon and I think Terry had a danish like thing that was very very good!
We didn't eat the pastries right away because it was really lunch time so we found this place to get a bite to eat. At this point, I have no idea where we were but was hoping we weren't too far from the ship. IF so we were going to have to find a taxi because we were getting tired.
Sangria sounded like a nice refreshing way to relax so we started with 1/2 carafe (this would lead to a later Sangria incident in Barcelona)
Bread to start
The prices in Malaga were not only reasonable but we thought very cheap.
We both selected a few different tapas - I started with bacon wrapped dates and OMG I could eat these every day.
Terry had some chicken thing that he really liked - he ate every bite of it.
I thought I had ordered a Patat Bravas sampler (3 kinds) but this is what showed up - oh well, maybe its their version.
So.... terry tried some and asked me what the dips were - I didn't know, I guessed and told him the white one was kinda like tangy mayo. He kept eating it saying he really liked it.
We asked the waiter later and the white was was really a Roquefort. Terry HATES blue cheese so that was the big joke of the day.
After leaving we saw a woman walking her pig. I know the photo is blurry but I was rushed trying to get a shot to prove we really saw a woman walking a pig through downtown Malaga.
Walking off lunch we headed back toward what we thought was the port (carrying 8 cans of Coke Life).
Found a shopping area/main street.
Walking towards the port we saw a nice park area.
And then we manage to get back to the far side of the port area where we had to stop and rest. It was also a good spot to unpack our pastries and take a rest.
The wifi here was free and pretty good so we stayed to clear out some mail, relax and people watch. A zoomed in view of the ship.
Long walk to get back on board
We went to Lido for some drinks and they were having a Spanish Tapas themed menu. I took some photos although I didn't try any.
The next day was Cartagena and that morning we tried breakfast in the dinning room for the first time.
I tried the frittata as I love making these at home. This one was just weird though - it was all egg and very spongy. I only ate a few bites.
The day before we had walked about 8 miles which is a LOT for us so our plans today were to just walk around, not far, take it easy and relax.
Thankfully it was a much shorter walk down the pier to the city center than the last port.
Sometimes I think I am interested in the strangest things but this caught my eye - no electric or phone poles - just a mash of wires that are attached to buildings.
There are a few places where old Roman ruins are being excavated and for a small fee you can enter and see the work being done.
I loved these door knockers
This day was spent learning a lot about the history of the town by visiting the historical areas. We shopped for something special to bring back to our neighbor who was taking care of our 11 year old Jack Russel who can be very clingy at times.
A morning of exploring and we had to find some lunch. This cruise was very heavy on Spanish ports and we wanted something different so yes, we had Italian food while visiting Spain.
Olives to start with a refreshing soda - Somewhere on this trip we were at a restaurant and I wanted to try something new so I ordered Fanta instead of Iced Tea which is what I usually drink but not so common in Europe. I really liked the Fanta.
We shared a wonderful pizza, very fresh but the crust was a little bland.
Our neighbor Sharon has a wonderful collection of Geodes and unique artifacts from around the world. Terry found a local artist who recreated old Roman pottery, then left it in the ocean for 8 years to "age". These were just the item I could see in Sharon's house so we purchased one and Terry carried it all the way back, home on the plane and even in the ride home.
History of Cartagena in ceramic tile.
Ship docked in Cartagena
I had bought a "hood" for my camera but not crazy as I kept getting the corners of my photos cut off, however the viewfinder doesn't show that so it was annoying and I don't think I'll use this one again.
We had an overnight here - so this was the beginning of 2 days. We had been here a few times and planned a trip to Montserrat on our own. But after the last two ports and all the walking, we were very tired. We opted for a cab ride to the Gothic Quarter.
We didn't wait for the port bus or buy tickets - we just went for the cab and the Gothic Quarter. This was our first time in this part of Barcelona.
Again, so glad I don't have to drive these narrow roads
At first glance, I thought it said Snake bar
I just loved the way the sunlight sneaked through these alleys
We walked around and I don't remember having lunch but we must have (guess it wasn't memorable). We did find a barber and get Terry's haircut. No English but we managed. There was a yarn shop I wanted to visit but they were closed for siesta. We did make it back there where Terry was very patient while I went into a complete yarn frenzy.
My amazing husband - waiting so patiently. Eventually he had to help me choose colors - he's much more artistic than I am. I can follow directions but he has the "vision" to see potential even though he is color blind.
Thinking about it now, we might have skipped lunch altogether because we did have an early dinner. We found this place (yes, Italian again) back in an alley and decided to try it out.
This is the second half of the Sangria incident. Sitting at our table, we decided to get Sangria - I said that last time we had 1/2 a pitcher and it went quickly so I think we can handle a whole pitcher.... famous last words.
Note to self: pitchers are NOT the same from place to place and Sangria varies greatly in strength.
They had a bolognese pizza so we thought we would try something new but it was not something I'd get again. Lesson learned, while in Spain, eat Spanish Food.
So, the Sangria starts taking effect and I am a very "Happy Camper". I decided while we were waiting for dessert I'd take a photo of my yarn - yes at the dinner table. The local yarns were died using the local Roja wine along with other items for color variation - I was careful to pick local or regional yarns, not something I could buy back home.
And I have no more photos of this evening because I barely remember getting back to the ship. thankfully my husband loves me enough to make sure I'm safe when I think we can drink a whole pitcher of Sangria.
We overnight-ed in Barcelona so the next day we had tickets to Sagrada Familla I had purchased online before we left.
We took a cab to the church but we were early so we walked around the neighborhood a bit. My mom and I had rented an apartment just around the corner 4 1/2 years ago so it was familiar.
Sagrada Familia is breathtaking - but here a little planning goes a long way. Since we prepurchased our tickets, we didn't have to stand in the looooooong line. But they are very strict about entry time and we weren't allowed in until the moment designated. Then as you climb the steps, another employee asks if you purchased the audio tour which we had. Only one person from every group is allowed in the line to pick up the headsets. I took photos of the exterior while Terry stood in line.
Once inside, I could have taken a hundred photos and still not captured everything. The light changed from every angle and it was beautiful. I can[t believe I waited until my 3rd trip to Barcelona to finally see inside.
Not a great photo - but this is the locker area. If you have tickets to the tower, you must check your purse/backpack as they are not permitted. I bought these tickets thinking you go up, take photos and come down.
I was wrong. I didn't know the difference between the towers so I booked the Nativity facade not knowing you ride up and walk down.
Bad photo of the lockers.
The wait for the elevator. I'm terrified of heights and was working up my courage for the trip - I wanted a few good photos of the city and bragging rights to say "I did it".
For anyone who is afraid of heights, you understand that it helps to have something solid under you or a wall or something you can grab onto. We got off the elevator and it was a one way path - through this. I almost lost my breakfast.
Very unsteady but trying to focus I did get a photo of the city through the mesh, but it was a hazy day.
I did get a better photo closeup of some of the spires - looking at those made me less queasy. The mosaic is very pretty.
I was seriously not feeling well and about ready to have a full blown panic attack. I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time someone had one up here. Terry took the camera for all future photos.
We made it across the "bridge" and there was a nice solid pole so Terry took a photo. I have proof I was in the tower! One forced smile, then I knew I would be safely to the other elevator to take me down.
This is how to get down - the entire way.
Every now and then I'd try to look out the window on the way down - always a mistake. I just thought, I'm here, I am supposed to enjoy this.
The staircase as photographed by Terry because I couldn't focus on anything but getting down.
Toward the bottom you had some great views of the church - I was starting to feel a little better.
Reaching the bottom was an immense relief, then I just felt like an idiot for my irrational fear of heights. Regardless, I can say I did it. I might have been not so friendly or enjoyed the view, but I did it and Terry did get to enjoy the views.
So... back to my favorite part - the colors of the windows.
The floor outside the church as you exit
After visiting the church, you can walk around the back and go in the basement to see the exhibit on the architecture.
This was very interesting.
They used 3D printers to print scale models
We spent a long time looking at the exhibits but to be honest, after the tower, the emotional drain of being so afraid makes you very tired.
We left the church and started walking toward the port. We just walked looking for somewhere to have a late lunch on the way back.
We finally found a little place but it was blocks and blocks away.
Just a quick and simple lunch starting with patat bravas and a club sandwich.
From there we caught a cab back to the port and rested on the balcony where we had a wonderful view of the city.
This was our last formal night and I tried to get a photo but it didn't come out so well.
The next day we had our one and only tender port - Villefranche. Again this was a DIY port and I was getting worn out from all the back to back ports. Tendering was better than other cruises but still a pain and a long wait. However there were no tender tickets, just get in line. Interestingly, right after we anchored, they announced there was no wait. We were at breakfast and by the time we got there, yes, there was a good line.
There is no port security, just a small building, you just walk off the tender boat - through a small area with one person smiling and you are in the middle of town. There was staff there to help with information. We asked if there was any market in town and they directed us up the hill.
Great - more stairs!
We might have walked VERY slowly and taken some breaks, but at the top of the hill and down the street was a small market - we wandered around, sat on the bench and just watched the people. It was my idea of a wonderful afternoon in the south of France.
Our ship in the distance
We walked along the walls of the fort and just had a nice stroll in the south of France, soaking up the atmosphere. This was probably the first time I stopped to think... I wonder what's going on at work and feeling a bit guilty about being so relaxed and laid back - no plans, no timetable, no issues except what to eat for dinner and would we make it to the show that evening in the theater.
Eventually working our way back down to the pier and the shops in the alley just behind the wharf.
We stopped here and had a quick lunch - think it was a ham and cheese sandwich with another Fanta for me and a Coke for Terry.
Terry having lunch - he looks right at home in France but he isn't crazy about me taking so many photos of him at times!
We continued to walk through some of the back streets in Villefranche.
Back on board we had a great view from our balcony to relax and recuperate.
We had a nice sunset but didn't see it all as we headed down for dinner and this time I took my camera!
Dinner that night - I still can't seem to get the hang of reducing the glare on the photos but I guess I'll just keep taking vacations so I can practice!
had the braised beef appetizer and loved it!
Followed by the veal which was good.
This was Terry's dinner but I couldn't find anything on the menu that looked close so I'm not sure what he had - I was more focused on my meal.
The Panna Cotta alla Romana is one of my favorites and I've ordered it a lot!
Our next and last port before debarking was Livorno. We have been to Florence before and we were now over 2 weeks into our vacation so this was another relaxed, DIY port. We got together with some other Cruise Critic passengers and shared a taxi to Lucca. The driver agreed to give us a few hours, then pick us up for the return trip with a short stop to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. These photos help me remember which port was which because on a 16 night cruise, it can all start to blend together.
They had a nice large room at the port with some taxi companies, seating and I think they had wifi but hard to remember. Outside the building was a generous line of taxis and the drivers were parked and outside the vehicles so you could chat before choosing an option.
The view as we drove to Lucca
The driver pulled over so we could take a few photos of the old Roman aqueduct.
More scenery as we drove.
We were dropped off in Lucca and had a few hours to explore, eat lunch and then return to our driver.
First things first... a good coup of coffee and a snack to get us started. We asked the taxi driver which coffee shop he recommended. I really miss good Italian coffee- strong and smooth without being bitter. Terry isn't a coffee drinker so he went with hot chocolate which was also very good!
There was a market which was more like arts and artisans than a craft or food market. There was a gentleman who had belts made however he would size them and punch holes to fit. We got one for Terry and here he is punching the holes and finishing Terry's belt.
Chocolate shop - I could NOT walk past this one.
We saw this place and I purchased an apron for myself as my souvenir.
Customizing my apron
I loved the old stone benches.
More photos of Lucca
We stopped somewhere for lunch - it was nice, good but not memorable. I opted for an appetizer - the cheese plate since I love cheese.
Terry's favorite, spaghetti.
We had a nice day wandering around Lucca - an interesting old walled city that is small enough to be charming without the throngs of tourists in the larger cities.
We all met again at the Taxi and drove to Pisa.
Yup... it's leaning.
After a few photos, we went back to the taxi and while waiting for the others I decided to try one of the truffles I had purchased in Lucca - they were AMAZING and Terry took an unflattering photo of me at that moment but I it was a moment during our vacation that I want to remember so here it is.
We rode back to the Port to face packing our bags for debarkation the next morning.
We almost always self disembark - I don't like the idea anyone can pick up my suitcase and walk away with it and I don't have to repack what I needed in the morning into the other suitcase because my one checked bag has to have all my liquids for the airport security. It's just easier.
Saying though - the elevators were a zoo - one gentleman got very rude and tried to push his way into our very cramped elevator. He yelled at me there was room for me to back up more.
1. there was no room, he couldn't see my suitcase as the elevator was already packed and several of us had suitcases.
2. I'm terrified of heights and this was the glass elevators. Even had there been room, if I get too close, it makes me nauseous and panicky which isn't good in a crowded elevator.
I felt for the guy as we also had to wait over 10 minute for one with room but we were all trying to get to the same place, no reason to be rude about it.
That was my only experience with a rude passenger on the elevator.
Please keep in mind, some of us try to take the stairs as much as possible but if I have to take the elevator, yes I will hug the wall in the front corner to avoid any contact with the glass wall. It's my issue to deal with and I wish people would just walk past to the back - if they don't mind the heights, good for them, they can stand next to the glass.
Civitavecchia - Only bad side about this is it isn't a real port building - a tent like structure and yes, you have to walk outside even if its raining.
Once you get through the room with the luggage, there was ample seating to rest and wait for others in your party.
We shared a van with others to the airport where Terry and I flew to Stuttgart to start the next section of our journey - the Porsche experience.
Terry's photo from the plan flying over the Alps.
The short Eurowings flight from Rome to Stuttgart included a snack as well as checked luggage on the fare we had purchased.
We took a very expensive cab ride to the hotel. We probably should have taken the train, but it was our first day in Germany, we spoke no German and had luggage to drag around so we splurged.
Our hotel, the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin, was very nice!
Our room -
An amazing waterfall shower with two shower heads.
We were a bit tired so we just wandered around to explore the area near the hotel, unpack what we needed and find a quick bite for dinner.
This place was next to the hotel and remembering we are NOT in a tourist area so not a lot of folks spoke English. I was in Germany after all so I can't blame them, I tried the few words of German I knew.
Took us a while at this little shop to realize I was trying to decipher the breakfast menu at dinner time. It was just a little sandwich/soup cafe place. In the end, we just opted for a soda and a German pretzel with butter. OMG, that started my passion for fresh German pretzels
Menu (breakfast I think)
The next morning the weather was a bit overcast and chilly so we bundled up and went looking for breakfast.
We found a small place and tried to order pastries/coffee but again no English for them and no German for me.
Finally they pointed to stairs at the back and gestured for us to go up the stairs. Tentatively I did only to find a nice, large sit down restaurant.
They didn't speak more than a few words of English, but they were so helpful with gestures and just being patient with us.
While sitting, I took this photo - yes it is April in Germany and it's snowing.
The restaurant, later I think I figured out it was this place
Terry's selection - pastry and hot chocolate
The fun part of being in a different country where you don't speak the language - you point at stuff that looks good (thought I ordered a croissant and latte) but end up with a nice surprise. This croissant had chocolate in the middle!
That day we had reserved a Porsche from the Porsche Museum just for one day to drive around the German countryside. My husband Terry is a retired independent Porsche mechanic. He spent years either racing, tuning engines or working on Porsche which is why we wanted to visit Stuttgart.
We took the train to the Porsche Museum where we were to pick up our rental.
Unfortunately, since it snowed that morning and all the rental cars had summer tires, they weren't allowing any rentals out that day. They were very apologetic and offered to move it to tomorrow. But.. we have a factory tour scheduled that day and you have to book those months ahead of time. They didn't have the car we reserved (Cayman) on Thursday but they said they would move it to Thursday, upgrade us to a 911 at no extra cost. They suggested we visit the museum that day instead and they gave us complimentary admission tickets to the museum for the day.
Car rental prices
Porsche Museum entrance and yes, it was still snowing.
Coffee shop inside
This place was amazing!
Some of the cute and quirky stuff is up front - mostly in the history of Porsche. I loved some of the older stuff and yes, I read every sign, watched every video and played with every interactive display there was - except the driving simulator which I deferred to Terry. No way he was going to stand by and watch me drive the racing simulator.
But first... the Porsche fire truck.
Typ 64 - one of the concept car things I think
Skipping ahead about a hundred photos - we got to the part where they had the technical displays. I probably spent more time here than anywhere else - I've listened to my husband talk about this stuff for years. Finally I can see how it works.
This deserves a whole page!
I can't even begin to explore the entire "racing" section as I called it.
After a few hours - we were tired and hungry so we decided to take a break and get some lunch before touring the rest of the museum.
There are 3 places to eat here; the coffee shop, the Boxenstopp; and Christophorus.
The coffee shop only had pastries and a few items and we needed to sit. Christophorus is fine dining that requires a reservation so that left us with Boxenstopp.
We went back down to the first floor and were seated for lunch.
I had a small sized serving of schnitzel - VERY GOOD!
And German potato Salad of course
And Terry's burger and fries
Well fed and rested, we went back to the museum to finish our tour - I'll spare you the hundreds of photos - here is the section toward the end on the more recent cars. Notice they are on revolving stands in the floor - so cool!
They even had a section on "sounds" where you could push buttons to hear the different sounds each engine and part would make. Yes, we played with this for a while also.
Terry took a turn in the racing simulator. Not surprising - he did exceptionally well.
And it wouldn't be complete without a photo of the "pink pig".
A brief stroll through the gift shop on our way out but nothing really struck me - lots of trendy shirts, car models, some stickers but most of it was branded by specialty, not much just general Porsche stuff.
The Porsche dealer is just across the street of course.
And the round about with the Porsche centerpiece and part of the factory in the background.
This would have been such a good photo if it wasn't such a cloudy day and there was nice blue sky in the background.
Looking back at the entrance to the Porsche Museum.
We walked across the street to the dealership - wandered around a bit but it seemed just like all the Porsche dealers we see in the US - except this was cute.
We took the train back to the hotel - rested up after SIX HOURS of touring the Porsche Museum (not counting the time we spent at lunch).
We asked for dinner recommendations - German food, not pricey and this is one of the places the tourist help center recommended. It was a good recommendation!
I had the "Hausgemachte Kässpätzle im Pfännle". It was wonderful - Terry said it was like German macaroni and cheese - just made with spaetzel instead of elbow macaroni. they called them "Swabian noodles" in the English version.
I asked for a local wine recommendation - they gave me this and it was also very good. I could have this every day!
Terry pointing at which wine I had so I wouldn't' forget later.
Link to their Tripadvisor reviews.
Of course we had dessert - Terry's entry was OK but I didn't even get a photo so not sure what he had. I did share mine with him also.
The next day was our Porsche Factory Tour - I was so excited about this one! To see the place where they build the 911s!!
We took the train to the same place as yesterday - by now we were getting confident about navigating the underground city of the train station.
This is the stop where you get off the train for Porsche.
The sign indicating the next train to get back.
My three day train ticket
We go back to the museum to the other line this time.
We are told to wear these stickers.
Then we gathered at the desk indicated in the corner for our briefing. We were told we could either use a locker or hand over all cell phones and cameras to them and they would lock them up. But under no circumstances were ANY phones or cameras allowed inside. They were polite but firm in this policy so I have no photos of the factory. I couldn't even begin to describe how incredible it was without a few pages. The efficiency and automation were an exact science. The production line was never rushed but still worked with incredible German efficiency. There were only 10 or so of us in the tour and they kept a close eye on us every moment.
After the tour, we went back to Boxenstopp for lunch again.
Terry walking in the door on our way to lunch - that is his "it's freaking cold outside" expression.
This time Terry tried the currywurst which he really liked. I am so proud of him for trying something new.
I had the Swabian Ravioli which was so good I really miss that I can't get it here in Arizona.
I don't even remember dinner this evening - there was one evening we just went and grabbed a drink and a pretzel (LOVE the German pretzels!)
The next morning - our last full day in Germany....... we took the train back to the Porsche museum to collect our rental car!
The weather was fine so we were able to do our Porsche drive!
This nice man was going over the car with Terry. When you rent directly from them, they park the car on the front entrance of the museum. There were up to 4 cars parked each day and we now know why... those are rentals. This is our 911 Targa.
They wanted to make sure Terry knew how to drive a Porsche - they had no idea!
They programmed the navigation system to a small town south of us that we thought would be interesting. Unfortunately the kid they sent out to do this sent us to an apartment up north instead. We figured it out after sitting there staring at someone's apartment for a few minutes. Then just went south and started to explore.
Our drive has begun!
Then Terry found roads like this:
We started winding our way through the hills.
And then this happened, yes that is SNOW. There is a reason I live in Phoenix - I don't like driving in snow.
We stopped somewhere - I have no idea where for a pretzel and hot chocolate - that turned out to be lunch.
It did stop snowing while we were eating - so back in the car and a few miles down the road..... no more snow and the clouds cleared up.
We pretty much spent the day just driving around the countryside while I tried not to be a woos and get nervous over Terry driving fast around corners, snow, rain, etc. I am so not a risk taker when it comes to driving.
I understand the thrill of PDK - but still miss the six speed.
Very picture worthy - a 911 with cup holders!!!
On our way back.....lots of rain
Yeah - we didn't get too lost.
Helps that they program Gas and the return location into the GPS.
Random photos of the Porsche buildings as we looked for the gas station.
Finally - as we get gas and go to return the car - it starts to warm up enough to take off our jackets.
Everyone and everything seem tied to Porsche.
This bridge is where the body of the car comes out of paint, crosses the street via this connector on a conveyor and goes to the assembly line. Because they are out of space in the one building, they devised this - we did see some moving across - kinda cool.
We returned the car and headed to the train station for our final train ride back to the hotel - we had to go home early in the morning.
Back to the hotel - we rested before our final trek out for dinner. I am going to miss these pretzels so much.
Walking around Stuttgart for the last time. I thought of my cousin Jason.
Another Brauhaus for our last German meal.
Not sure what Terry ordered, but he liked it.
Mine was a sampler plate and I loved ALL of it!
Even the bread was noteworthy
Somewhere along the way, trying to order a glass of wine, the waiter thought we each wanted a glass of wine. Remember we don't speak any German. So I volunteered to fix the situation and drank both. I was a VERY happy camper by the end of the meal.
My favorite dessert - apple strudel.
Of course being a happy camper, on our walk back to the hotel we found a yarn shop so I had to go in - yes I got more yarn. So many projects now.
The next morning we had to be up and out before dawn as our first flight from Stuttgart to Düsseldorf was at 0640.
We packed, called a cab and went to the airport. I wasn't ready to manage luggage down the steps of the train station in the dark of morning.
Our first flight was a small plane and I can't say enough about German airports. Everyone was incredibly polite, helpful and everything was immaculately clean.
Complimentary coffee and snack on a quick flight of less than an hour.
As we exited the aircraft, the flight attendant had a basket of Lindt chocolates and you could help yourself. I really like Germany (except the snow part)
Düsseldorf airport was easy to navigate, everyone again was friendly and helpful.
I had used miles to book business class and several had tried to warn me against Air Berlin. To be honest, this was a much better flight that the business class on Lufthansa we booked last time which had rude flight attendants, a broken seat and drink orders that were never delivered.
This was our best transatlantic flight of all 3 trips. Although British Airways is second.
My last fanta soft drink along with warm nuts.
Appetizer - the weird jelly like thing didn't look so good but I tried it and really liked it.
German food doesn't always look pretty, but I've learned to try before judging.
Terry's beef dish he like so much he ate it all!
My tortellini in Gorgonzola cream sauce with cranberries - I at it all!
Waiving at my sister and her family as we fly over her house!
And we landed - back in the US at JFK, no more Euros, no more foreign languages to worry about. Just one more flight from JFK to PHX.
But then we got off the plane........
The airport was dingy - seemed dark and dirty. Walking into customs an employee was very aggressively blocking people and almost pushing them to go to other lines. I remember seeing some sort of stain down the front of her shirt and thinking we sure aren't in Europe anymore.
We headed over to global entry and there was one employee there who kept telling everyone he thought the kiosks were down but we could try if we wanted. That seemed to be his only job. We tried, go almost all the way though at they timed out. The employee told us to go to the back of the line for regular customs. I know Global Entry has head of the line privileges when kiosks were down and asked him about it. He again pointed to the back of the very long line. I asked again when that changed until he finally gave it and let us go tot he next available agent.
After customs, we collected baggage, rechecked it again but the employees were just standing there telling everyone to pull their luggage and place it on the belt in such a manner - no porters to help anyone with disabilities, everyone was on their own to place their luggage on the conveyor belt "specifically" as indicated by the 3 employees.
Then we get back into the airport to go through TSA - our precheck wasn't indicated on the boarding pass and the gentleman was pretty much shouting at another couple who didn't speak English to go away and ask someone else. Maybe I was just tired and perceived the attitude but I was so ashamed to be a US citizen at that point. TSA was aggressive in their language and tone of voice in my opinion. without precheck, we headed over to the regular line and cleared security. I still remember it seeming dirty and chaotic after our 3 weeks in European airports.
Finally - on our American Airlines flight to Phoenix - the meal. The Lobster mac and cheese was not so great - rubbery and not much flavor in my opinion but then again, taste buds aren't as active at altitudes I've heard.
Food was served, then they flight attendants disappeared and we sat for a while... the rest was uneventful before landing in Phoenix and getting home. Flight attendants here were much more curt and not as visible as on the Air Berlin flights.
A long trip, a great trip but I will never forget what it was like to experience JFK and the culture shock of feeling like no one wanted to be there or help and the general chaotic nature of the airport.
Together with my husband, we dedicate our vacation time to cruising and exploring new parts of the world.