Saturday, 23 July 2016

Vista Vacation: Roam in Rome

Isn't that a super fun play on words?!

The boyfriend was super excited to be back in Rome, but I was a little less enthusiastic. We had stayed in Rome for four days during our last European cruise about a year and a half ago. Rome was by far my least favourite city in Italy. I guess it was a combination of aggressive street vendors, mediocre food, and busy, crowded tourist destinations that turned me off. Especially since we headed to Venice right after, and I truly fell in love with it. I wanted to stay on the Vista when we docked in Rome, but since I had been picking most of the excursions during this cruise, I let the boyfriend have Rome. He chose Rome-On-Your-Own.

Rome-On-Your-Own with Carnival is basically a $70 bus ride (round trip, and per person) to and from Rome. Now I'm not sure how much it would cost with a local tour company, but whenever we decided to do excursions, we always stick with the ship. I know many will disagree on this with me, but we personally feel safer knowing we won't be left behind if the excursion runs late. Sure, we may end up paying more, but it's better to be safe than sorry. I don't recommend Rome-On-Your-Own to someone who hasn't been to Rome before. Rome is a big city. It's overwhelming, and while everything is within walking distance, it is a challenge to get to know the city in eight hours. You really do need prior experience to be able to get around the city smoothly. Rome is an hour and a half away from Civitavecchia. Once we were dropped off in the city, we wasted no time in purchasing a one day pass for the red City Sightseeing HOHO bus. We didn't want to spend all day walking around, so this was the most efficient way to go.

Rome is a city we know well. After our four days there, we knew the tourist areas like the back of our hands. So naturally, during this second visit, we knew we had no problem in hitting all the major tourist sites.


Stop #1: Castel Sant'Angelo. Castel Sant'Angelo was our first stop during our first trip to Rome. Admission was free, since it was the first Sunday of the month. Castel Sant'Angelo was initially commissioned as a mausoleum, but it was used as a fortress by the pope. Today, it is a museum. We weren't interested in re-visiting the museum, so off we were, on our way to St. Peter's.


Stop #2: St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. We were in Rome during a Jubilee year, so St. Peter's Basilica was very busy. However, foot traffic moved smoothly so it didn't feel crowded at all. There were friendly volunteers in yellow vests directing traffic and answering questions. You can see all the wooden gates that that have been put up to direct traffic. We also noticed they had installed metal detectors on the edge of the square (not pictured) - not sure if they were permanent or temporary during the Jubilee, but they definitely weren't there a year and a half ago! After a few pictures and about fifteen minutes of debating (fifteen minutes was actually the wait time to get in St. Peter's), we decided not to go in. We felt that there would be more crowds inside during the Jubilee. We headed back towards the HOHO bus stop by Castel Sant'Angelo, but not before stopping for a cappuccino along the way! We absolutely love the cappuccinos in Italy, so we make an effort to stop for one wherever we see a coffee shop.


Stop #3: Trevi Fountain. Last time, the Trevi Fountain was under construction. We were disappointed but we did what all tourists do - we threw a coin over our shoulder to ensure a visit in the future. What do you know!? Here we were. I'm not sure what the Trevi Fountain looked like before the renovations, but with water in the fountain, it was gorgeous. It was also very crowded, so it was very difficult to get a picture of the entire fountain. We tried our best, but unfortunately, if you want a full shot, you'd have to get a postcard... or maybe we'll just have to come back sometime in the future on a less busy time and day! It was noon, and we were a little hungry, so we decided to share a cup of ice cream from the same store we visited last time. We sat in front of the fountain eating our ice cream, but the sun was on full blast at that time of the day, so it was melting fast. Be sure to sit down and take in the view if you visit the Trevi Fountain. It's truly stunning!


Stop #4: Pantheon. The Pantheon was close by, so we decided to walk over for a brief visit. There was a small queue outside, and a guard was monitoring the number of people being let in. We waited for about five minutes. After admiring the Pantheon, we were starving, so we grabbed a couple of pizzas. I wished we had time to sit and eat a proper meal, but we were short on time! Pizza in Rome is charged by weight, and it's quite expensive. Two medium sized slices costed us over €7.


Stop #5: Spanish Steps. Rome is playing jokes on us! The Spanish Steps were closed for restoration during this visit. We had some fond memories sitting on the steps, so we were sad to see that it was closed. The Spanish Steps are surrounded by upscale merchants, like Prada and Gucci. We didn't have time or funds to shop, but it's a fun area to window shop in, and definitely very crowded during the day! We walked around the Spanish Steps, and I passed by a cute store called Blue Sand. The prices were affordable and the clothing seemed well made. They have some very nice, classy pieces. I ended up purchasing a dress, which I wore to dinner that evening.

Now, remember that HOHO bus we had taken twice thus far during the entire day? We finally made it to a stop near the Spanish Steps after my shopping stop. It was about four - five stops to our meeting point with the motor coach. The problem was the next stop was a train station - and 30 minute break for the driver. Now these busses come by every 5-10 minutes, so I didn't understand why we couldn't hop on a bus that had been at the train station for 30 minutes already. Maybe not all drivers took a break? We had such a hard time communicating with the tour guide on the bus, so we gave up on the bus. The meeting point looked like a walkable distance, so we asked how long it would take us to get to the meeting point. He said twenty minutes. We had an hour to get there, so we decided to walk. If you are doing Rome-On-Your-Own and you are planning on taking the HOHO bus, be aware of this break! There are many other HOHO buses in Rome, and I definitely recommend doing some research prior to choosing one. Last time around, we chose the Roma Cristiana bus, which had significantly less stops than the red bus, but it was less expensive.

We definitely took the road less travelled. There was not one tourist in sight. I had downloaded an offline map of the area on Google maps the night before - I highly recommend doing this - so we were following the shortest route, and it was only a brief twenty minute walk. We were on quiet street with a lot of cars, but no pedestrians. As we rounded the corner, we spotted the Capitoline museums. Finally, we were in familiar quarters.


Stop #6: Roman Forum. We didn't quite get to the Colosseum. It was within view, but I really didn't want to miss our bus! So close, yet so far. We had an amazing tour at the Colosseum last time, so we really didn't need go again. However, our tour was also extremely uncomfortable. It was melting hot, and we were completely exhausted after the tour. As we walked along the Roman Forum on the street, it was starting to get really hot. We still had 25 minutes, but we were getting thirsty, so we turned around and walked towards the bus. Luckily, there was a Carrefour across the street, so we grabbed a few drinks and a snack before boarding the motor coach. All the passengers on our coach arrived before 5 PM, and we were the first out of three buses to leave on time. It was another hour and a half to the port... Nap time!

Now our cruise director, Matt, had warned us about Rome. It is challenging to get in and out of the city on your own. Many cruise passengers miss the train returning to Civitavecchia, so this port usually has the most ship runners. During the last cruise, two passengers were left behind. When it came to sail away time, we were missing about seven (or eight?) people. We were on our way to dinner, but we stopped by deck 5 to see if there were ship runners. Many passengers were watching on their balconies as well. Ten minutes after sail away time, a family of four arrived by shuttle. Twenty minutes later, a bus with two more people arrived. We were getting hungry, so we left for dinner. Sail away time was 8 PM, but we didn't actually leave until after 9 PM. One of our head waiters told us the ship will usually wait for all the passengers to return. There is more paperwork for the captain to fill out if they leave behind passengers. I'm never did find out if everyone made it back on the ship, but I sure hope they did.

Tonight was another two entree night for me. I guess they figured out I really liked mac 'n' cheese since I'd been ordering it every night! When I ordered tonight, one of our head waiters gave me a full entree size plate of mac 'n' cheese! I'm not sure what the boyfriend had for dinner. We can't remember to be honest, but we only have pictures of yet another fish plate. I can't believe I had fish everyday, I don't even like fish that much! On the other hand, the tuna tartare appetizer was amazing! For dessert, we shared a fruit plate, and I had the apple crumble, and he had the creme brûlée.





We had two new comedians on board the Vista, Steve White and John DiCrosta. Another confession, we cannot remember if John Dicrosta was funny or not but I do remember he went off topic - a lot. He would start one story, and jumped to another story, and never finish the original. His jokes were completely scattered. Oftentimes, he often started to laugh so hard, he could't finish his jokes. I didn't enjoy him that much. Steve White, on the other hand, was hilarious!

We did pretty good right? Granted we didn't enter some of these stops, but we were there! If you interested about our first trip to Rome with more details, you can read it here.

I'm so glad we visited Rome again, and I'm even more happy that we got to see the Trevi Fountain in all its magical glory. Kudos to the boyfriend for making this decision! Rome is an amazing city, and there is so much to see and do, you can't possibly do it all in one day. It's one of those cities you have to visit at least once in in your lifetime. I hope you enjoyed our reading my review... I certainly had fun writing this entry. Next up is Livorno - also known the port of Florence and Pisa!

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