For those of you that follow me on Twitter or Facebook I've been on a wonderful vacation since August 24th, when I left Des Moines and headed for Barcelona, Spain to catch the Carnival Magic for a 9 Day Cruise of the Mediterranean. In this post I'll share a bit about my experience on-board and at the ports. This cruise is my 7th Carnival cruise in the past few years, and I have to say that this year was a bit of a unique experience between the ports of call and the crew/options available on the ship, all of which were very good things!
Getting There and Getting Aboard
Now, this is where most of you are expecting my rants about how Delta delayed me, lost my bag, or committed some other act that added a little excitement to my trip. Amazingly I have NOTHING to say about the trip out to Barcelona other than it was the most seamless of any trip I've had recently which was great. I setup the trip to have a day in Barcelona before we boarded the Carnival Magic for the first day, that way if I had any airline issues I'd have some time. I booked the hotel through Carnival and overall the hotel was clean, the front desk staff was nice, but the beds were downright horrible, so I didn't get much rest while here.
In the day before I went around and took some Pictures of Barcelona, and then when we went to get on the boat I took some more as well as pictures from the boat. Getting on the boat was another seamless process, we got to the port a bit early due to the number of people in town and had to wait a little bt, but were on the boat quickly and easily.
Onboard the Magic
The Carnival Magic is Carnival's newest cruise ship and I believe it is one of the largest, if not the largest of all the ships. From my experience in past cruises I have to say that the ship itself is now my favorite. From the improved layout, new venues, and new offerings it really makes for a nice onboard experience. Being a technology geek one of the things I really appreciated were some of the technology enhancements that they added including the new Fun Hubs as well as improved in-room systems for viewing your ship card, dining room menus, and upcoming activities.
But I think the most important thing that made the onboard experience truly something to remember was the Cruise Director, John Heald. John is the Senior Cruise Director for Carnival is is just downright funny, he has a great personality and an incredible sense of humor. Since starting the cruise I've started to read his blog, and I have to say he really does add to the experience on board.
Overall everything was great on the ship, with the only exception being some spotty connection issues with the WiFi in my room, but they were still looking into this as I debarked this morning.
Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
Our first day at port was in Livorno, Italy and I went on an excursion that first went to Pisa and provided access to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then continued on to Florence for the remainder of the day. You can see pictures of Pisa and the Tower as well as a separate gallery of pictures from Florence.
Now, I have to say that this was a great trip ashore, and against my best judgement I opted to climb to the top of the Leaning Tower, all 294 stairs, it was a great experience and provided a great view, but I'll say I felt the pain for the next two days after. In Pisa there wasn't much else to really do in the area that we were in other than the tower/church/baptistry but it was still enjoyable.
We finished the day with Florence which was really nice as we got a tour through town, saw the original place where the David statue was placed and a ton of other great things.
Rome and the Vatican
The second day at port was another amazing tour, this time it was the "Angels and Demons" tour. This was a very aggressive walking tour through various places in Rome, a nice lunch at a small restaurant, and finishing with time at the Vatican. A truly great experience, and all pictures can be found here.
With so many things to do in Rome it was hard deciding exactly what I was going to do, in the end this excursion took me through to a number of places, but I need at least 3-4 more days to see all of the things I wanted to.
After two days of "go go go" action I decided to take Naples a bit more leisurely and just got a few nice pictures from around town. In retrospect, going to Pompeii would have been the best choice here based on the feedback from other guests, but the nice relaxing day was really good too.
This port and the activities on shore were most likely my favorite of the entire cruise. I took a tour that went up Mt. Etna to 6,600 feet, then ended with a wine tasting at a local vineyard. Mt. Etna was a truly beautiful place and some of the best pictures of the week came from there, and the Vineyard was really good as well. You can see the full collection of pictures from this day here.
Palma De Mallorca, Spain
The next port was Palma and again I opted to spend more time around town then actually going on any set excursion. This port was the one and only place that I've ever had a complaint when off a cruise ship. Getting back to the boat was a nightmare with only two buses to bring people back and no lines, so people were left to their own devices and it got pretty ugly there for a while.
However, I have to say that walking around it is really easy to see why Palma is considered "Europe's Florida" as I've heard a number of people comment about in the past. The pictures show you exactly what I mean, in this group of pictures as well you can see a nice size comparison between the Carnival Magic and a Disney cruise ship that was parked nearby.
This was the last port of the trip and again I just went to shore and wandered around. Again another very nice town, I don't have any specific pictures from this port loaded, but it was a nice place to visit.
Overall this vacation has been truly wonderful and I hope you have enjoyed hearing a bit about the trip and viewing all of the pictures I have taken. If you like seeing travel posts like this please be sure to share your comments below and I'll be sure to do similar things for future vacation travels. Now it is time to get ready for my departure to the US tomorrow morning!