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  #91 (permalink)  
Old May 9th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollerdonna
Kuki, I know what a scare that must've been with the allergic reaction!
It happened to me last summer at work, and thank goodness we had Childrens' Benadryl in the medicine cabinet, I drank 1/2 bottle of the stuff after I had a severe reaction to Mangos of all things!
I now carry Benadryl with me everywhere, and pack it in the 1st aid kit for every cruise!

donna
RD, I can relate the first time I just tasted mango, my throat closed up from swelling. Needless to say I always carry benedryl and the spray for bug bites and hives. Allergies can be a mystery but thank God for Benedryl!!

Kuki, did you ever find out what made him get the reaction? I know my last cruisethey had mangos in so much, I had to constantly ask about it.
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Old May 9th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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May9- Livorno (Florence) – Freedom
Livorno is most definitely a commercial shipping port, and it’s one port of call where it’s not that simple to just go off your own without and organized tour of some sort. There are some taxis as you come off the gangway, and there were even a couple of tables set up for rental cars (I noticed a Hertz sign). Someone who took a taxi to Pisa told me the cost was 150 Euro. The ship tied up dock side at about 8:45 AM, and all aboard was 6:30 PM. For a port with so many tour options, it’s a very short day.

We had organized an optional excursion to Florence, through Florida based Port Promotions (www.portpromotions.com), rather than a Carnival shore excursion. Carnival is one of my favorite cities, and in the short time we had available it’s almost impossible to see or do enough to satisfy me.

The tour started out just a bit rough as I had some difficulty finding the guide who was to be meeting us. I made a phone call, and he was there within a few minutes. In these situations the guide should be there waiting to meet us, rather than us waiting for them.

Other than that blip to start off we enjoyed Lucas (pronounced with a silent S). He has a delightful personality, and informed and entertained on us during the travel, both to and from Florence.

I had actually wanted the tour to go straight to Florence, and only stop at Pisa for a photo shop if time allowed. Lucas decided we should do Pisa before heading to Florence, because morning traffic to Florence would be bad. Pisa is interesting to see, but access is a bit difficult because buses must park quite a distance away, and though there’s a shuttle to the Square, it’s busy and somewhat infrequent… so Lucas had the group walk.

Though everyone had been forewarned that a Florence tour requires quite a bit of walking, for some in the group the amount of walking required today was quite difficult.

After our short visit to Pisa, we drove to Florence, and arrived in the center of the city about 1:00, and went to a lovely restaurant that Lucas has chosen for us. It was nice, because it was small, intimate and for only our group. The problem was the group was antsy to see Florence. So, even though the food was good… after departing the ship at around 9:45, the Florence part of the tour didn’t begin until 2:00. With having to be back onboard by 6:30, and 1 ½ hr. travel time back to Livorno, sadly time was just too short, and particularly with a rather slow moving group.

Mrs. Kuki and I parted with the group before the lunch was over, and we were informed when and where to meet the group for the return trip. Kuki Jr. and Shira left before lunch, as everyone in the group was told they could do, if they wanted to go explore on their own. We’ve all been to Florence before, so didn’t feel the need for a guide.

At the restaurant the group was joined by Lisa, who would be acting as the guide for Florence. I didn’t continue with the tour, but those in the group who did said she was very sweet to them.

The last time we were here the ship didn’t leave until late in the evening, and this tour would have been perfect, if we’d been able to stay in the city and tour until 6 or 7 PM. The time crunch just made things move much too fast. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to book this private excursion again with Port Promotions, but given the same time restraints, I’d recommend making it a Florence only tour, and perhaps even skip the organized lunch, and include time for people to grab a bite on their own during some free time. On the positive side, we had a full sized comfortable and roomy coach for just the 33 of us who booked this optional tour.



Our bus pulled up immediately adjacent to the gangway (Lucas joked they were ready to drive everyone to their cabins) just minutes after 6 PM., so those who had early dinner could have gone straight to dinner if they chose to. So the return timing was excellent. I have little doubt those who experienced Florence today for the first time are longing to return to spend more time in this exceptional city. And in the end I think those who participated realized just how ambitious an undertaking it had been to try and fit so much into such a short time.

A side-note and kudos to Lucas and Lisa… as we were ready to head to the bus to return to the ship, we came across two passengers who had become separated from their Carnival sponsored tour. They were an elderly couple, and they were struggling to move around. Lucas offered to bring the couple back to the ship with us, and Lisa was assisting the man who was having some difficulty walking. Lucas called someone involved with Carnival’s tours, and said he’d bring this couple to the ship, but for some reason was instructed to leave them behind to wait for someone from Carnival’s tour company. I felt bad leaving them behind to stress.

Some of our group also got separated from Lisa and Lucas during the tour portion. However before we set out Lucas had given everyone a slip of paper with his cell phone # on it, so they were able to find some help from a young local lady, who called Lucas for them. Then, since giving directions to them in English, this young woman actually escorted them to the meeting area. What a wonderful, shining example of local hospitality and human kindness she was!!

Tomorrow morning this cruise ends in Rome. Some passengers will be leaving the ship for early flights home by 6 AM. Therefore there was not much going on out and about the ship tonight. No shows in the showroom, no jazz trio playing in the Habana Bar. Brad Alexander was entertaining again in the Piano Bar, but to a pretty sparse crowd tonight. There was a “Bathrobe Bash” planned for the disco tonight (since all bags had to be put out for pick up), but when I strolled by about 10:45, there were only a few people there.

I hope through the last 26 days of cruising, on both Carnival and NCL, my reports have informed you, and entertained you. Please forgive the grammatical errors, and what may seem like pointless thoughts, but I have been writing each of these reports, usually late at night, “live”, and on the fly, without a “safety net” (That is no editor to help bail me out).

I do have some final thoughts about the cruise, some of the “interesting occurrences”, some of my fellow passengers, and how Carnival might better attempt to address the concerns of these atypical transatlantic cruises. This is our second transatlantic sailing with Carnival, and though different situations arose, there were many similarities in some of the issues concerning appropriate activities for the demographic they draw. If I have some down time during our two night stay in Rome I’ll continue with my thoughts then. If not, I’ll certainly write some concluding thoughts when I get home… after another 72 time zones of travel, and 48 more times for the airlines to lose my luggage.
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Old May 9th, 2008, 08:20 PM
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A Pullitzer is in your future my friend...:) Thanks for the memories..Enjoy your Roman Holiday!
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Old May 9th, 2008, 10:43 PM
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Oh Kuki, I am so happy. I am going to spend a week in this area in November before our Transatlantic. I can't wait. Your reports are so encouraging. Any other suggestions or recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old May 10th, 2008, 10:29 PM
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whew what a long day. disembarked midnight eastern standard time 6 am Rome time. Flew to Atlanta, had a gate change at the last minute, arrived in Cleveland at the Hotel for a nights sleep at 9:15. A long day but I am happy to be home so I can relax. I hope everyone makes it home safe. I enjoyed meeting new cruisemates and visiting with past cruisemate. Had a great time. Took over 1500 pictures to put on discs. Very nice places to see. I will go back. I do know that I will fly first class for a long trip like this again. ( I here they were served onion soup in first class!! ) Inside Joke. I will post pictures as soon as I get caught up on home life.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 09:15 AM
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Kuki thanks for a wonderful review. We have longed to return to Italy since the day we returned home a year ago. Your reporting really brought back some wonderful memories of our trip.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 12:25 PM
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May10-Get the Heck Off My Ship- Freedom
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that there’s never been a cruise before that Cruise Director Todd Wittmer wanted to end as much as he did this one. Today it ended, but not without a bit more chaos to supply Todd with a little more indigestion.

Legendary Journeys, a Florida based Travel Agency had a group of between 1000 and 1400 people (depending on who’s numbers you listen to) on this sailing. The majority of those in the group were senior citizens. I’m sure many in the group were very nice people, but there was a very vocal portion that was unhappy, likely before they even joined the ship. The company offered a very well priced package for this cruise, combined with a land tour in Italy post-cruise.

I have no factual information on any of this, but there were reports from people we spoke to on the ship, who were booked with the company, who seemed to have many complaints, even before they boarded the ship. From a group perspective, I didn’t see where this particular group affected the cruise in the ways a group that large might be expected to do; they weren’t closing lounges for group cocktails party etc. But from my previous days reports you can see at least some in the group did affect the cruise quite a bit.

From the very little of the organization I saw during the cruise, they seemed fairly organized for tours the group were doing, as well as for debarkation this morning. Everyone in that group had actually placed their luggage in the hallways the second last night of the cruise, before we got to Livorno. It was taken off that day for transfer to their various hotels, so today, those in the group simply had to leave the ship and board the bus numbers to which they had been assigned, and there were plenty of people working as people exited the ship, to direct them to the buses they had been assigned to. It’s not simple to move 1400 people anywhere.

However, there’s no accounting for how little people pay attention to instructions, and how uncooperative they are willing to be. For example, just this morning, during the debarkation process, Todd would announce “Legendary Journeys Luggage tags 5, 8, 13, 15, 18, 23- you can debark the vessel, as your buses are here”. Then we watched as a group wearing #9 head to the gangway

At one stage Todd was “begging” people to stay away from Deck 0 until their luggage tags were called. Seems many people in the group just felt they should leave the ship whenever they wanted to. Of course, what they were going to do once they got off and had no buses to board, so had to stand around and wait didn’t occur to any of them. They just wanted to get out into the hot sun, with no place to sit so they could complain some more.

These folks give “Florida seniors” a bad name, though it must been a very pleasant past two weeks in Florida, with all the crotchety ones sailing with us.

We had arranged an optional, and very inexpensive, transfer to Rome or FCO through Port Promotions, and I has requested a 9 PM disembarkation time for everyone choosing to travel with us. So, naturally at 7 AM our luggage tag color was called. The night prior I told everyone I saw that our transportation would not be arriving until 9 AM. But today, when the luggage tag # and color was called, there were still a few that left the ship anyway… only to find that no one was there for them, and no bus to take them anywhere.

I disembarked at 8:30 AM to make contract with our drivers, and gathered those in the group into a specific area where I told the drivers we would be. And this part of the organization went quite smoothly.
CruiseMates folks obviously don’t pack light. We had a full sized coach, with only 33 passengers, but not enough room in the luggage holds for the luggage, so we were forced to pile some into the empty seats on the bus.

This particular transfer was more complicated than usual, as we had arranged for each passenger to be dropped at the hotel they booked, resulting in 9 different drop-off points. It was handled with patience and care, and though more slowly than some would have liked, with the aid of a van meeting us several times along the way to transport some of the people to hotels located on streets that the big coach couldn’t get in to, everyone was delivered to their destination. Including one lady who had booked Carnival transfers, but thought she was with us. Many thanks to Julio and his son for their patience in handling a complicated transfer; ultimately, they did a great job for us! And thanks to Port Promotions for finding them for us.

We’re spending just two nights post-cruise in Rome along with Kuki Jr. and future Daughter In Law, Shira. I had booked the St. Regis Grand Hotel, and what a GRAND hotel it is! One of our rooms was ready but the other would have to wait an hour, so we just dropped all or our luggage in the one room and headed out to explore Rome.

We’ve all been here before, so it was really just a long walk for us, with window shopping, and a stop for lunch. In the rush, I forgot my camera back at the hotel, so pictures will have wait until we set out again tomorrow. By the time we’d finished lunch, and strolled some more, Mrs. Kuki and I began the trek back to the hotel, but “the kids”, with “young legs”, were willing to continue on their own, so off they went.

By the time Mrs. Kuki I got back to the hotel our room was ready, and what a magnificent “Italian” room it is. I’ve posted some pictures in the photo galleries…titled Rome.
This story keeps going and going…. But I will get back to some final thoughts about the cruise, after Rome.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 01:39 PM
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Rome -Hop 0n-Hop Off Bus, Without the Bus
A Special Day!

Mrs. Kuki and I slept in this morning. We couldn’t have helped to have a great sleep in the luxurious bedding of the St. Regis. However, we knew the breakfast room only served until 10 AM, and we made it just in time to have a wonderful breakfast, with fabulous breads and breakfast pastries.

Then we set out to tour Rome. We did the Hop-on Hop-off Bus, but we left out the bus. We hopped on and off our feet all day; no taxis, no metro, no buses. And we covered a lot of ground! But it proved well worth the effort, and more, as we were rewarded with a spectacular accidental surprise that we’d have never stumbled across if we hadn’t just been wandering. We’d left the hotel about 10:30 AM, and we walked back into our room at 6 PM, totally exhausted, and totally delighted!

The kids had slept until much later than we did. About 1 PM I text messaged them letting them know we were at Plaza Navonna, after having already visited Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, and trekked through much of the central area of Rome. They had earlier mentioned the “best sandwich store” in Europe, which they’d read about, so I asked if they wanted to meet us there for lunch. They agreed to meet us there so Mrs. Kuki began to search for it. As we searched the kids arrived, and eventually we found the location together, but the restaurant was closed, as it was Sunday.

All of us were disappointed, but the disappointment was soon to turn to delight. The four of us stumbled around looking to choose another spot for lunch from the multitude of restaurants, cafes, bars and Trattorias available.

Our choice ended up giving us the most lovely “real Italian” afternoon. We stumbled into Trattoria Der Pallaro. It’s located at #15 and 16 on the small Largo Del Pallaro, just off of Via Dei Chiavari – which is just a bit south of the Plaza Navonna.

As we attempted to be seated we were told there’d be a 20 minute wait for a table outside. We almost walked away to try another spot, but decided we’d sit indoors.

You enter the restaurant through the cluttered, busy, and hustling kitchen, before entering the seating area. It was Sunday afternoon, and the place was busy! Soon we found out we were the only non Italians in the restaurant. The rest were locals coming for their Sunday meal out. We knew this spot had to be authentic when we saw a large table of Priests among the diners.

We spoke no Italian, and no one there spoke any English. We sat for a bit, wondering why we hadn’t even got a menu, until one of the waiters came by and made a “hmm?” sort of motion. We responded with a “mmm!” sort of motion, and before you could say “chow”, the feast began.

The first round was the presentation of a huge plate of antipasto ( prosciutto, salami, olives) as well as a bowl of cooked lentil, and some sort of potato or ground vegetable balls. It was delicious, and I could have left the table satisfied after eating just the antipastos.

But that was just the beginning… which was followed by enormous bowls of Rigatoni pasta in a cheese sauce that blew my socks off! The taste was amazing, but the portion so large I couldn’t finish it. The waiter did look at me rather oddly when I he removed the dishes, and saw I hadn’t eaten it all. I motioned that I was too full, and he smiled… because moments later he was delivering large portions of veal, along with a battered eggplant dish, and hot, freshly made crisp potato chips.

I sampled the veal and the chips, and they were outstanding, but I was already so stuffed I simply couldn’t eat any more. I was kicking myself for eating too much of the antipasto, but I had no idea we were attending an Italian Sunday Feast.

To make matters even worse, after the veal entrée, they served home-made dessert pastry.
All of this, including a large jug of wine placed on the table, a bottle of water, and two cokes cost a total of 100 Euro for the FOUR of us! That’s about $160, but without doubt the best value deal I’ve had for a meal in all the travels I can remember.

It was so delightful to experience an authentic Italian afternoon meal, in such down home ambience, in what was obviously a real Mama and Papa restaurant operation. I was just sorry there was a language barrier so I couldn’t communicate with the chef (Papa) and Mama and the rest of the family to thank them, and tell them how much we all loved the experience.

It was even more special to me because today is the last day of the vacation we’ve been sharing with my son Judd, and our future daughter-in-law Shira. Yes, once we all get home, there’s no doubt we’ll get to spend lots of time with them, but they’ll be starting new jobs, and starting new lives, and trying to settle in to what will be their lives. And we’ll be back to doing what we do in our lives.

But this, being our first “family” vacation together, will always have a very special place in my heart! We were able to forget about the stresses of day to day life at home; forget about what problems and challenges await each of us when we get home; some which we’ll share, some which we’ll all have to deal with individually. While I know there’s many, many happy moments ahead of us (because they really are two wonderful young people), sharing today’s experience will always be dear to me… with many thanks to Mario Fazi, and the family at Trattoria der Pallaro.

If you get to Rome, do your very best to visit the Fazi family. It may also turn out to be your surprising highlight of your visit to Rome.
There are pictures of our day in the Photogalleries… titled Rome.
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=4713
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Old May 11th, 2008, 01:51 PM
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Default Thanks again for the Great Reports

Kuki, thanks again for the great reporting. You must feel very blessed to spend time with Kuki Jr. My son lives in Nevada now and we are lucky to see him twice a year. I think we need to plan some type of family trip..
They grow up very fast as you and I know. I am thinking back to all you luggage issues. I am not sure how you can maintain your sense of humor. You mentioned grammatical errors in your last post. I had to laugh no one makes more errors than me. Looking forward to NOLA. I have been looking at the New York to South Beach trip, that sure looks good. To bad it conflicts with our Hawaii trip. Maybe next year. Mike
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Old May 11th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Kuki -

The Legendary Cruises organization was also on the Rome to Miami Transatlantic journey last November - three of our dinner companions were booked with them and they had nothing nice to say about the organization.

Sadly, Ernest passed away last week - we received the word from his son. Still, he enjoyed a final vacation with his bride and son during the Transatlantic and we were a part of it.

Rest in peace, Ernest.

Just rest, Todd.

Jon
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Old May 11th, 2008, 03:38 PM
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thanks for the story Kuk.. as a newcomer to Cruisemates I enjoy reading about peoples adventures. I was checking on your trip several times a day and am a little bummed its over. I am sure you are ready to end it but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your experiences.. having never been to Europe it kind of gave me an idea of what to expect.. keep on writing my friend, you have a real knack for it. Hope we hear about future trips soon... have a safe journey home!
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Old May 15th, 2008, 12:50 PM
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A truly amazing virual cruise for me Kuki! (yes, it was almost as good for me as it was for you) I miss Europe and the great food and small side streets where you never know what you will find.

Hmmm I think after my Panama Group... I might have to do Europe next fall... the wheels are turning...
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Old May 15th, 2008, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuki
May10-Get the Heck Off My Ship- Freedom
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that there’s never been a cruise before that Cruise Director Todd Wittmer wanted to end as much as he did this one. Today it ended, but not without a bit more chaos to supply Todd with a little more indigestion.

Legendary Journeys, a Florida based Travel Agency had a group of between 1000 and 1400 people (depending on who’s numbers you listen to) on this sailing. The majority of those in the group were senior citizens. I’m sure many in the group were very nice people, but there was a very vocal portion that was unhappy, likely before they even joined the ship. The company offered a very well priced package for this cruise, combined with a land tour in Italy post-cruise.

I have no factual information on any of this, but there were reports from people we spoke to on the ship, who were booked with the company, who seemed to have many complaints, even before they boarded the ship. From a group perspective, I didn’t see where this particular group affected the cruise in the ways a group that large might be expected to do; they weren’t closing lounges for group cocktails party etc. But from my previous days reports you can see at least some in the group did affect the cruise quite a bit.

From the very little of the organization I saw during the cruise, they seemed fairly organized for tours the group were doing, as well as for debarkation this morning. Everyone in that group had actually placed their luggage in the hallways the second last night of the cruise, before we got to Livorno. It was taken off that day for transfer to their various hotels, so today, those in the group simply had to leave the ship and board the bus numbers to which they had been assigned, and there were plenty of people working as people exited the ship, to direct them to the buses they had been assigned to. It’s not simple to move 1400 people anywhere.

However, there’s no accounting for how little people pay attention to instructions, and how uncooperative they are willing to be. For example, just this morning, during the debarkation process, Todd would announce “Legendary Journeys Luggage tags 5, 8, 13, 15, 18, 23- you can debark the vessel, as your buses are here”. Then we watched as a group wearing #9 head to the gangway

At one stage Todd was “begging” people to stay away from Deck 0 until their luggage tags were called. Seems many people in the group just felt they should leave the ship whenever they wanted to. Of course, what they were going to do once they got off and had no buses to board, so had to stand around and wait didn’t occur to any of them. They just wanted to get out into the hot sun, with no place to sit so they could complain some more.

These folks give “Florida seniors” a bad name, though it must been a very pleasant past two weeks in Florida, with all the crotchety ones sailing with us.

We had arranged an optional, and very inexpensive, transfer to Rome or FCO through Port Promotions, and I has requested a 9 PM disembarkation time for everyone choosing to travel with us. So, naturally at 7 AM our luggage tag color was called. The night prior I told everyone I saw that our transportation would not be arriving until 9 AM. But today, when the luggage tag # and color was called, there were still a few that left the ship anyway… only to find that no one was there for them, and no bus to take them anywhere.

I disembarked at 8:30 AM to make contract with our drivers, and gathered those in the group into a specific area where I told the drivers we would be. And this part of the organization went quite smoothly.
CruiseMates folks obviously don’t pack light. We had a full sized coach, with only 33 passengers, but not enough room in the luggage holds for the luggage, so we were forced to pile some into the empty seats on the bus.

This particular transfer was more complicated than usual, as we had arranged for each passenger to be dropped at the hotel they booked, resulting in 9 different drop-off points. It was handled with patience and care, and though more slowly than some would have liked, with the aid of a van meeting us several times along the way to transport some of the people to hotels located on streets that the big coach couldn’t get in to, everyone was delivered to their destination. Including one lady who had booked Carnival transfers, but thought she was with us. Many thanks to Julio and his son for their patience in handling a complicated transfer; ultimately, they did a great job for us! And thanks to Port Promotions for finding them for us.

We’re spending just two nights post-cruise in Rome along with Kuki Jr. and future Daughter In Law, Shira. I had booked the St. Regis Grand Hotel, and what a GRAND hotel it is! One of our rooms was ready but the other would have to wait an hour, so we just dropped all or our luggage in the one room and headed out to explore Rome.

We’ve all been here before, so it was really just a long walk for us, with window shopping, and a stop for lunch. In the rush, I forgot my camera back at the hotel, so pictures will have wait until we set out again tomorrow. By the time we’d finished lunch, and strolled some more, Mrs. Kuki and I began the trek back to the hotel, but “the kids”, with “young legs”, were willing to continue on their own, so off they went.

By the time Mrs. Kuki I got back to the hotel our room was ready, and what a magnificent “Italian” room it is. I’ve posted some pictures in the photo galleries…titled Rome.
This story keeps going and going…. But I will get back to some final thoughts about the cruise, after Rome.
Kuki,

My transfer to my B&B ended up working just great so the little van trips really helped us all out (thanks). I got to the B&B and made my Vatican tour right on schedule with even time to spare for lunch and I walked there.

GREAT JOB working with them for us.

Just as an FYI, the LJ disaster continues. Go the the board on CC and will see that the problems with the hotels are or should I say were big issues. One guy I know never really said to much about LJ to me and I forgot he was with them until now where he posted and said his so called 5 star hotel was a dump.

I think you are 100% correct that Todd probably went and had a few Bloody Mary's or Screwdrivers after the group was finally off the ship. As noted I am sure there really were some fine people in that group but many tried hard to ruin the cruise for a lot of people. Let me say I didn't let it get to me and I had a fantastic cruise and left with a better feeling about Carnivals newer ships than I thought.

There is one thing for sure, we were all blessed with incredible weather throughout the cruise and even in Rome. I just could not believe how calm the seas where for a TA.

Vince
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Old May 17th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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Default Lessons learned

I was on this cruise and learned a lot.

The main thing I learned is :

I am a very lucky person to live in america and be happy and smile and laugh and talk to people all the time. The people I met in europe (for the most part) did not smile, did not laugh, did not talk except to tell me to GET out of the way!, and were horribly miserable all the time. I am a happy person and love life. I would rather spend my money in the USA than put up with that treatment. I loved the cruise tho; best cruise ever.!

kim
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Old May 21st, 2008, 12:48 AM
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Hi Kuki!
It was great meeting you and your family! I decided to go and search your posts out so I could read your review and basically re-live this cruise. I had a fabulous time (missed my hubby and kids) but had some really great times with my family and friends. Even though there were few people my age on board, there was always plenty to do to occupy time.
Thanks for your blogs, they were great!
Take care!
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Old May 28th, 2008, 01:34 PM
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Hi Kirsty....

It was great meeting you as well! Particulary since I've got to know your folks so well over the years.

I've been asked to bring the virtual cruise report to the top again, as people going back to re-read details were having trouble finding it.
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