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MSC Cruise

Just a Side Note: As most of you know the reason I came to Italy was to join my boyfriend on the cruise ship he worked on. He paid and we had a great time and even got engaged. A few months later I was contacted by, what I discovered, was ONE of his girlfriends. I considered leaving this post out completely, but I did have a good time and met some great people, so am going to use mostly photos for this entry… I hope you all understand

Finally The Day Arrived

I was so nervous and excited when I woke up and wanted to make sure I got the good shower of the 3 in the hostel. One guy was ahead of me, but he took one look at the bathroom (apparently the location for the previous evenings’ rather intense amorous encounter between 2 fellow travelers, turned to me and said “Screw that, its all yours”.

Perhaps its the years of staying in hostels, or the time I spent managing one and having to clean up things way worse than this. Either way, I went in, used the mop to shift a rather undesirable item into the corner, hosed the already soaked place down and had a shower. Got dressed and went to say goodbye to my 2 friends… who were both naked in her bed totally oblivious to the roommates getting ready for breakfast. It was all rather amusing actually.

Soon it was time to head over to the ship that was literally berthed across the street from the hostel. The MSC Orchestra was HUGE!!

The ship reminded me of the Love Boat in it’s decor, it was so cheesy and almost tacky in some areas. But very cruise ship like.

I had been given a table for 2, in case he got time off to join me which he never did. Of course this meant for a lot of the dinners I was alone, the food was good for the most part, the service a bit slow but the staff fantastic.

I only went to a few of the entertainment shows in the theater, preferring instead to do the dance classes in one of the bars.

Luckily there was great perk to having a boyfriend who was a bartender, he had made sure all the bartenders knew I was coming and to give me free drinks or charge him.


When I met some fellow American’s they also gave them a free drink


I met some great staff, and made some good friends.

Priscilla from Brazil in Entertainment

Ivan from Ukraine, bartender

The American Students

The housekeeping staff were phenomenal, although it was a little weird to find my nighty laid out every night.

I got to try my hand at the slots for the first time since I was 21.

The buffet room had some very strange, and downright sinister decorations.

Over the Salad Bar

Over the American Hotdog and Hamburger section

Over some kind of food

I went ashore twice, once with the Americans in Valencia, to the beach Playa Del Salar.

And once on an actual ship excursion to Tunisia, with and paid for by the now fiance. It was a remarkable place to spend a few hours, but the markets were the most intense, in your face, I have ever been to.

At Port

Part of the welcoming committee

Most of the houses were white with blue doors and windows, very beautiful

Stunning Mosaics



Ancient City of Carthas

Cute Kittens

Essential Oil Perfumes

There were carpets of tremendous beauty and skill, he even bought a small one for my parents


The insanity of the markets in the Medina

On the last night there was the Magnificent Buffet… and so much food!




Slightly Inappropriate, but funny

So Much Food

I saw some incredible views.

And no matter what the outcome was, he and I had some good times, plus the cruise was free.. got to look at the bright side.

Gala Night

Tunisia Excursion


Hanging out during his work hours

The Last Day

Two months later I would discover his 3 other girls. If he had been the man he pretended to be, the man I fell in love with, I would have been happy. Instead I am off on more adventures in Korea and Thailand.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Exploring Downtown Naples

Breakfast Hostel of the Sun Style

Hostel of the Sun had a fairly impressive layout of breakfast. With coffee and juice and tea and toast and cereal and nutella. Now for those of you who are chocolate addicts like me, hold onto your hats. This is the bottle of Nutella they provided us…

One “Small” Bottle of Nutella, One Very Happy Traveler!

Kristin, Jack and I were all meant to get an early start to exploring, but after breakfast Kristin had still not emerged. I went in search of her and found her still fast asleep, she had had a good night at the hostel bar… But she got moving, slowly, fairly soon and I went to hang out with Jack in the common room and wait. We watched part of the mini series ROME. Jack was an archaeological student and so it was great watching it with him as he gave me a run down of the history and annecdotes to the movie.

Finally Kristin emerged, a bit on the frail side, and I introduced them. They both started laughing as Jack had been involved in the drinking last night.

Naples

We all had a few places we wanted to go see and with me in the lead with the map we headed off in search of the famous Veiled Christ. It cost 7 Euro to get in, once again the free aspect of cultural week didn’t work as it was a private group that owned the church.

But once we got in we were astounded. The church was more of a museum with spectacular statues. The Veiled Christ is a marble statue of Christ after the crucifixion and covered with a light veil. It is so well designed that you swear yo ucould actually remove the veil or see it move if he suddenly started breathing.

Veiled Christ from The Alchemical Chapel

San Gregorio Armeno

I collect Christmas Ornaments from every country I go to. That way, one day, hopefully, when I am settled and have my own christmas tree, I can relieve all my adventures one ornament at a time. I had been told that Naples was the place to get my ornament for Rome and the street of the street of the Nativity Scene Makers, San Gregorio Armeno, was the place to go. And was it ever, there were figurines and statues and nativity scenes as far as the eye could see. We found one guy who had a great sense of humor with his figurines:

Oh Captain my Captain of the Costa Concordia

Eventually I found one I liked, a Punch and Judy take on a hot chilli pepper. Each pepper is actually a horn, or corno, designed to ward off the Evil Eye and bring good luck,it is called a portafortuna, “bringer of good luck,” not unlike a rabbit’s foot in the U.S.). Pulcinella (of Punch and Judy) is a masked character who appears in old theater and puppet shows and is known for being an unruly prankster. He is the unofficial mascot of the Naples.

Underground City

After exploring and debating over hundreds of ornaments we went to the Underground City. Jack casually asked for 3 students passes and got me in cheaper. Every euro helps. The Underground City was remarkable. Each level is another time period and it was like walking through the past.

Lunch and the Museum of Naples

We all need some grub and so Jack and I shared a yummy pizza and Kristin had a salad.

The museum was incredible and with Jack as our fearless, knowledgable leader, very informative.

Apparently, this is an Italian Remake of a Greek Statue that Honors the Perfect Male Athletic Shape


Gives a Whole New Meaning to Coffin


Nice A……


Hercules


Atlas


Artwork Removed from Pompeii

Just as Kristin started feeling better, I started feeling crappy and so went to go sit by the front door. I decided to try call the number I had been given for MSC cruises and got the secretary, again, or artfully deflected my call and told me to call back. Sooooo frustrating!!!

Random

As we walked out and up the street an Italian Cop, not looking too friendly, stopped us and started talking and gesticulating in Italian. He kept pointing towards a small car that looked as if it had hit a wall, from the angle we were standing at. We thought he was asking us if we saw it and we kept repeating “No, See”. Which we soon realised sounded like “No, Yes” in Italian. Finally looking very exasperated he took as over and past the car, that was perfectly fine and just parked at a weird angle, through a gate and into a back alley. Thank heavens there were 3 of us cause this just seemed shady. We all expected some Italian Mob gang to jump out and rob us of the 5 or 10 euros we had. Then he pointed up some stairs and at an old wall.

It turned out it was part of the old city wall from eons ago. The markings were unclear but we were leaning towards Greek or even older. We sat up there for a bit and looked at it, until the cop came up to find us, smiling broadly and very proud of himself. We followed this, now jovial cop, back out the gate and he showed us a city map up on a sign board that was half hidden showing secret sites in Naples. Who would have thunk it. Definitely a surprise for the afternoon.

The Mysterious Wall

Just before we got to the hostel we went and had some of hte best Gelato ever and sat in the park watching the locals. Then it was nap time for me as Jack and Kristin went in search of a laundry. They were meant to be back in 2 hrs but got lost and only got back close to 9pm. Luckily in Europe 9pm is just when people start thinking about dinner, so we headed out collecting a few strays along the way, a girl from Germany and an older lady from the US.

Where Pizza Originated… Apparently

We headed to a famous restaurant named Sorbillo, opened in 1935 and reputed to be where Pizza originated… however a number of places claim that in Naples. Of course since it was so well known it was also very popular and it was chock a block full with a crowd waiting outside. It took almost an hour and was almost 10.30pm before we got a table. The pizza was good , but a little greasy. My favorite was still in Rome.

Very Very Happy to get Food as I was Starving!!!


The Crowd


The Birthplace of Pizza???


Good Mates, Kristin, Jack and Me

A Rude Awakening

I had a pounding headache and decided to head back to the hostel with the 2 strays, Kristin and Jack wanted to go grab a few drinks and planned to head back in an hour or 2. After getting lost for a bit the 3 of us managed to find our way home and I went straight to bed.

Around 4.30am I woke up to some rather amorous noises coming from the hostel bathroom down the hall…. ahhhh Kristin and Jack were home 😉 !

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Germany, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Pompeii

I was so exhausted from all of the BS from the day before and the lack of sleep from the night before that I slept right up until Kristin came to get me for our trip to Pompeii. After a quick shower, we hopped on the tram and went to the train station.

Which Platform Exactly???

There were no labels anywhere on the platforms, we had no idea when or where our train would be coming. Luckily a local girl let us know that she was on our train as well and where to stand.

We had about a 30 min wait, normally this would be dull and boring, but not in Italy. Italy comes with platform entertainment in the form of 2 guys arguing and going from ready to kill each other to hugging to yelling, all with appropriate and inappropriate hand gestures. It was brilliant, but you dare not stare too long in case some how you get involved too. Got to love rational calm communication in Italy.

Just at the climax the train pulled up. Of course it pulled up on the opposite side to where we were expecting and so we were at the back of the mad crush to get in and get a seat.

Pompeii!!

It took almost an hour to get there, and since we were under the impression it would take closer to half an hour, we were a little paranoid we were going to end up in Florence or somewhere. Upon arrival we had to decide between taking a bus up Vesuvias or visiting the city of Pompeii. We opted for Pompeii first, as both of us were exhausted (me from lack of sleep, Kristin from outwitting the drunk American who kept buying her drinks) and Vesuvias involved a hike up a rather steep incline.

The best surprise this morning/afternoon was that Italian Cultural Week finally gave us free entry into something, and it happened to be a place I have wanted to visit for years.

The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was partially destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Pompeii was lost for nearly 1700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year. From: Wikipedia

Considering how old it was, that it had been destroyed by a volcano, covered in a pyroclastic flow and brimstone hail down from above… it was in remarkably good shape. It was also remarkably easy to get lost in. Neither of us realised there were maps available and after 2 hours we were utterly turned around. Luckily we came across a map discarded by someone and suddenly it all made sense. We were blown away by just how well the other half of the city had survived.


A Classic Bath


Floor Mosaic of a Dog

We also found the famous castes of people, created by the archaeologists that discovered the city. The realised that certain mounds of calcified lava contained skeletons and one of them suggested poring in plaster of paris and the breaking the outer shell. Inside the plaster of paris created near perfect forms of the beings that had died during the pyroclastic flow. Some of them you can see expressions and folds of clothes.

we decided to do a final trek to the very top of the city, where the cemetary was and on to a very well preserved house that still has some of the most amazing artwork on the walls and a few more castes. Truly incredible.

Here are some more pics as words cannot truly describe:

We Shall Call Him Pompy


The City’s Coliseum Survived Almost Intact


Once Famous For Wine, the Grapes have been Planted Again


View of the City from the Theater


Stunning Artwork that Survived

As we exited the city we realised we had walked around for 4 hrs and were utterly exhausted and famished. We grabbed a bite to eat and discovered the largest lemons we had ever seen.

Ticket Taker

Since it was too late to go up Vesuvias and the weather had turned bad we went to grab the train back to Naples. We just managed to catch it with a few seconds to spare.

Back in Naples we Kristin went to go grab some wine and I went to pick up some ear plugs, just in case the snorer returned to my room, I must say they were the most expensive ear plugs ever, almost 7 euros for a set of 3. Of course buying them means, Murphy’s Law, I won’t need them.

Now comes the fun part. The ticket we had bought should last a couple of hours and cover the train and the tram. Getting on the tram the machine refused to take mine and stamp it. Just as I was trying to stamp it in the other machine a guy, who seemed like he was trying to help, indicated for me to show him my ticket. Instead he looked at it and started saying something in Italian along the lines of this ticket is expired. He grabbed Kristin’s and started saying the same thing, even though hers had been accepted by the machine. He got very pushy and in our face and I just barely managed to get my ticket back. He also demanded a fine and showed us some kind of a dinky badge stating he was a ticket officer.

After harassing us for a few stops we just decided to get off the tram and walk away. We were actually quite nervous this guy was going to follow us. As we walked Kristin fumed, apparently this was the same guy who had harassed her when she first arrived in Naples. The hostel told us later that these guys can demand fines from unsuspecting tourists who do not know how the transportation system works. Apparently we were lucky to get away, as these guys have a quota to meet. So beware, be sure to get the bus/tram/train ticket machine to stamp your ticket when in Naples!!!!

A Movie

I decided to go grab a shower and Kristin went to stake out the TV and put a movie on for us to just chill out for the evening. When I got there I discovered she had chosen “Monster”, with Charlize Theron as a serial killer prostitute. It was rather amusing to watch all of us sit stunned and watch it. It was really good but really dark and none of us seemed able to turn it off, but none of us could have a conversation at the same time.

To counterbalance it we watched a second one called “Hatchiko” about a dog that sits for years waiting for his master to return on the train after he died of a heart attack. So talk about emotional up and down from the intensity of “Monster” to the tearjerker of “Hatchiko”.

Sleep Glorious Sleep

Kristin and I had plans to explore the city the next day, so I headed off to bed. In my dorm room I met Jack, an American archaeology student, and invited him to join us for some exploring in the morning.

And then…. sleep…. glorious sleep…. without a snorer! So now I sit with a box of ear plugs and no snorers in sight! I’ll take that.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel

 

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Naples Bound!!

Italian Train Ride

European living involves going to bed closer to the following morning than the previous evening… Me on the other hand tend to me a bit of a home body and head to bed closer to that evening than night! Am seriously suffering from lack of sleep. Luckily Italy has a fabulous cure, and Kate and I went for a morning tradition of a cappuccino and a pastry.

I was heading to Naples today and after very careful and clear instructions on what to do to get my ticket we said cheers. There are days that I am simply astounded at what good friends I have around the world, now if only I could have them all in the same place.

Somehow, in my diminished state of sleeplessness, I found the train station, got my ticket and found the train. Of course opening the door was a little beyond me, but with some help I got in and got a seat. Hopefully I am on the right train.

I was this close to getting a free seat, but with a minute to go a young man, straight out of a Jersey Shore extra Italian series, sat down next to me placing his numerous bags in such a way that there was no escape. He sat straight back with brillo’d hair, square jaw, huge muscles tattoos, tight white tshirt and blue and white striped pants. I think he was bordering on Guido status.

Luckily he only stayed on for a couple of stops and then I was able to spread out a bit…at least for about 20min till the next person arrived.

Never Know Who You Will Meet

During the last half hour of the trip a guy from Taiwan who is crew on China Air started chatting with me and asking if I knew anything about Naples. He was doing a day trip from Rome during his 3 days off between flights. We chatted about travel and opportunities and he was shocked at how much I had done. It always neat when you meet a stranger and just chat to pass the time.

My Lack of Direction Astounds Even Me

Holding very clear and concise instructions from the hostel explaining exactly how to get to them… I found myself getting lost almost immediately.

The instructions had said to walk to the end of piazzo and take the trolley to the harbor. Once there you essentially turn around, walk 20feet and the hostel is right there. However they failed to mention the huge construction site that now covered said piazzo and completely obscured it. I saw buses and honestly wasn’t sure if that’s what Italians called trolleys. So clutching the address in my little hand I went and tried to pronounce it and ask where to go. The men there were very helpful and soon I was on the bus. In no time at all, and with the help of fellow bus goers I found my stop. But when I turned around there was an old castle, and no sign of a hostel anywhere.

An Unexpected Tour of a Naples Neighborhood

So I headed towards the street, then turned left up a walk way that went passed the castle. Asking a few locals they all directed me in the same direction of straight across the road and then right. I turned right and headed that way, then asked some cops directions, they had never heard of the street or the hostel and had to get out a map to find it. They said keep going then cross the road to the right. This is starting to feel like a rather square circle…

I kept walking, going down some small streets, and, about 20 min later finally saw some signs that matched the map, and there, down a little alley right near the harbor and about a 5 min walk from where the bus dropped me off was the hostel bathed in a glorious light… I swear I heard angels singing. Good lord I think my mom held a magnet to my inner compass when I was born.

Hostel Of The Sun

Hostel of the Sun was set in an interesting location. Prime spot for anyone wanting to be near the harbor or the waterfront, but in a larger office building. You went up an ancient elevator that between the hours of 9 and 1 (or something like that) you had to put in a 5 cent piece (these aren’t made in Italy anymore but luckily the hostel had a supply). Lucky for me I was there during the free time and after about 5 min of trying to figure out how to make it go up I found myself on the floor of the hostel and found the door to the front desk, common area, bar and some of the rooms.

My room was on a lower floor. The English girl checking me in was super helpful and gave me lots of information of where to go and what to do. But before I could explore I had a mission to complete!

My Mission in Naples

Now as some of you may know, the whole reason for my coming to Italy was to join my boyfriend on a cruise, he was a bartender on MSC and was paying for me to come and see him. In addition, I was attempting to make contact with someone at MSC to talk about getting a job with them so that, hopefully, we could be on the same ship. Long distance is a killer.

Now as some of you may realise, writing these particular blog entries has been very difficult for me, as… let us just say things ultimately did not work out between us. For those of you who missed this little piece of news, please refer back to my Love Story entry a few months back, it’s a doozy!!

So, back to the task at hand. My mission for this afternoon in sunny Naples was to go to the offices of MSC cruises in Naples, which just so happened to be around the corner from the hostel.

I got myself tidied up, took a deep breath and headed to the office. As I entered I saw 2 guards, the following exchange is hilarious in hind sight, but at the time…
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, MSC office?
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, I need to speak to someone at MSC please.
Guards: You appointemente!
Me: How, how do I get an appointment??
Guards: you call, you appointemente!
Me: What number, who do I call.
Guards point upstairs… cause that helps me out I guess.

Finally, seeing how distraught I was getting at having been running in circles trying to speak to someone, anyone who knew something about employment at the blasted company, they got someone on the phone for me. Someone who was just upstairs and spoke perfect English and kindly explained that the Naples office only does reservations but I can try call this number. Taking a deep breath I said thank you, wrote it down, smiled (kind of) to the guards and said thank you and left.

I was so unbelievably frustrated, I had spent the first day in Rome playing phone tag with these people and getting no where.
Call this number
No, you call this number
No, you need to call this number (that was the number that just gave me their number).

Now it turned out, the lady from the office I couldn’t enter had given me the first number I had dialed back in Rome. Maybe they secretly tape these efforts and only hire people who are that determined to get on the ship. Or maybe it’s just Italian customer service at its finest.

Time to Explore…

Or not. By the time I got back to the hostel to drop off some stuff and go exploring I felt completely and utterly exhausted. The kind of wave of exhaustion that hits you from your toes to the ends of your hair, emotionally and physically. I had been so certain I would get somewhere with someone at the office so that I could tell my love that I was making progress to be with him… but nope, not to be. At least not yet. I sat on my bed and woke up 3hrs later with a fairly impressive drool stain on the pillow. Guess I needed a wee nap then.

Grumpy the Dwarf

Being on 5 ft (1.5m) and decidedly grumpy, I fear I may have given off the impression of a character from Snow White. But pulling myself together I went in search of some kind of food and managed to get to the store just before closing. After the amazing mozzarella and cherry tomato pizza I had had in Rome, I wanted to see about getting something similar. Apparently, Naples is the home of buffalo mozzarella. I found some cherry tomatoes, a yummy loaf of bread and a small container of buffalo mozzarella balls. I figured I could make some toasted cheesy tomato type thing.

New Friend

As I was sitting exhausted and waiting for my crustini invention to broil, I was joined by a Canadian girl and we soon struck up a long conversation that led to a travel partner for Pompeii the next day. And that’s how I met Kristin… someone who would become a great friend.

After my yummy meal, am now addicted to buffalo mozzarella, a good chat and a hot shower I decided to try be a little social and headed for the hostel bar. The official “Drunk American” guy offered me a free shot. Sure why not. Not to sound like a generalist, but I fear there always seems to be an official drunk guy and he is usually American…or Australian. Luckily for me, the Americans are more generous with free drinks.

I spent the next couple of hours chatting to folks, and being entertained as the drunk American tried desperately to seem cool and mysterious and trying to pick up Kristin. Eventually it just became too painful to watch, I think Kristin (who has a wicked sense of humor) was rather enjoying baffling him at every turn of phrase.

Is That Noise Human

I wanted to try stay awake to the end of my boyfriend’s shift, usually around 2.30am, I made it to 2.40am and then had to go to bed.
As I walked into my room I regretted not going to bed much earlier, I had a dorm room goers worst nightmare, other than bed bugs, I had 2 snorers.

The one was a “nice” light regular snore. The kind you can actually time and get in sync with. But then I had the other kind. The kind made, most often, by a male middle aged hostel goer, who possibly has some sinus congestion. The kind that is grating and uneven and occasionally sounds like he is struggling to breathe. The kind that lulls you into a false sense of peace and then jars you awake just milliseconds from sleep. Not only that, but it was interspersed with groans… Solution attempts were as follows:
– headphones
(I could hear him over the music)
– I went to the front desk and asked for earplugs
(didn’t have any)
– I asked if I could sleep on the couch
(hostel policy not allowed)
– I woke him up
(he apologized and went right back at it within 5 min)

Finally I could see only one dreaded option. THE BATHROOM!

Yup, I grabbed my pillow and blanket and went to the farthest toilet/shower combo I could find. Curled into an uncomfortable ball and fitfully got less than an hour of sleep. Then someone tried to open it and I was just too unnerved to stay.

My final option was coffee, by now it was after 6am and the coffee was on. After a couple of cups, I went back to the room and discovered them packing. Thank the heavens! I passed out!

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel

 

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Travel Already??

Why Make Plans??

My plans for returning home, after recovering from the initial shock of real life, were simple:
-Study for my vet nurse certificate and certified (could lead to more travel opportunities around the world)
-Work for the mobile vet for a minimum of 1yr as promised
-And look for a job that would let me live abroad but still make money.

Simple right??? Not so much. With a budding relationship you just never knew how things might change. But he was continents away in Nepal, shortly to be in Brazil when he embarked for his job on the cruise ship, could I really depend on this thing getting serious?? Well apparently I could. Skyping almost every night for an hour or more and talking about a future life and how much he loved me after 14hrs of work, well that would make any girl’s heart swoon. I was no exception! Barely 2 months after returning home (4 months into the relationship) we were hatching a plan for me to join him for a cruise in Italy (his destination after Brazil) and see where we wanted to go. He planned to pay and spent hours trying to organize a cruise using his discount, it turned out to be more difficult and in the end I had to book but he paid me back the minute I got there.

Why Not Explore…

Since I was flying all the way to Italy, I figured why not take an extra week before and explore Rome. I would also get the chance to see Nicola, the vet I worked with in the Amazon, and Kate, my couch surf host in Australia. During my research I realized that I would embark in Naples, which was a hop skip and a jump from Pompeii, one of my all time dream destinations. Yes, ok, it sounds rather macabre wanting to visit the ruins of a city destroyed by a volcano hundreds of years ago… but what can I say, I love history!

Got To Love Parents!

I was worried about the cost of an air ticket, obviously a year of travel had depleted my monetary resources and with only 3 months of work down it hadn’t increased much. But mumsy came through for me and we were able to use points to get the ticket down to $700 return to Rome.

I think that last month after finally getting all my tickets sorted took longer than a life time. We were both so excited and talked every night. He introduced me to all his coworkers as his “almost wife” and I felt content in his love for me. Not only was I getting a free cruise, seeing friends, and exploring Rome and Naples, there were hints of big questions…. could this trip lead to a future I hoped for???

Italy…here I come!!!

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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