So, we decided that we wanted to go on a cruise over Christmas so we could be away on Christmas Day. That didn’t turn out to be what happened, but we were glad that it didn’t. We had a whole rigmarole in the days leading up to the cruise and while we were on the cruise, but that is for a different post. All I will say (and Jamie agrees with me) AVOID COSTA CRUISES AT ALL COSTS!

We went to bed at a grandpa time of 6pm so we could be up for 2am and ready to leave by 3am. We had to be at the airport for 5am. Sat Nav man took us almost through the heart of London. Bad sat nav man. He’s grounded now! We made it to the airport in plenty of time and we did all the usual check in, security, passport control procedures. Jamie decided to ask if there would be room on the flight for us to have a row to ourselves. Turns out there was. Woohoo! We flew from Heathrow to Nice. It was a nice flight – until we got to Nice and thought we were gonna land on water. Here is a picture of the airport in Nice.

Nice France Airport Runways

We got in safe and sound and were met by a Costa representative and waited for a couple of hours until the coach was ready to leave for Savona.

Fast forward to getting to Savona and embarkation and setting sail.

The map below shows the ports that we visited on our cruise. If you want to see what we did on each day, click on the tabs and there will be some pictures and a bit about what we did.

MapMarseilleBarcelonaPalermoRome
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Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
So, our first stop on our cruise was Marseille. We decided to book the shuttle bus from port to the centre of town. Good job we did as it was quite a distance. What we didn’t plan on, was 45 minutes of slow driving through construction. It was a 4.5 mile journey. The construction on the way should have been a sign of things to come. The whole town was being worked on and it didn’t make it the best place to visit.

We were dropped off by the shuttle bus and we decided to head in a direction where we saw signs for ‘Centre Ville’ – or town centre. Turns out, we were heading in the wrong direction to where we needed to be. We were trying to find out where the Christmas market was.

Far Too Steep Steps

We climbed up several flights of steep steps not knowing where we were going. We got to the top of these steps (slightly red and breathless), and found out that there was still a bit of a hill to climb. We climbed that hill and came to some steps to our right. We were totally lost at this point. We saw a letting agent that had the Union flag in the window, so I decided to ask in there if they knew which way to head for the market.

The gentleman came out and told us that we needed to head back down the steps (easier going down the steps right!) and turn left and follow the road all the way along to the market. We had acquired a couple of lost Americans that followed us till we had reached the end of the long road. We finally reached the market (after making a couple of twists and turns).

This was the sight that we were greeted with when we got to the market. It was an awesome market and I think all of our senses went into overdrive at that point. Where to turn, what stall to see, what to look at in the market. HELP! Luckily, Jamie has the sense (quite often unappreciated by me) to start at the first stall and walk down each aisle in turn. I would’ve gone from one end and wandered to the other end and criss-crossed like that.

Marseille Christmas Market

Yummy Crepe

We decided that after about 40 minutes of walking round the market that we were a little hungry. We found a stall that did crepes with chocolate. They were every bit as yummy as they look! We continued to look around the market for a little while longer
A word of warning
There don’t seem to be any toilets around the Viuex-Port area of Marseille. We had to go to the tourist information office. The only ones around were located in a shopping centre there. We were so grateful for them – even if there were queues to use them.
We were under the impression when we left the ship that the shuttle bus back to the ship wasn’t until 4:30. We had seen all we wanted to, so we sat inside the shopping centre for an hour or so more. We then looked in the supermarket they had there. After that, we decided that we would head to where we were dropped off to wait for the bus. On our was back, we came across the road train in the picture. I think it would have been a good way to see Marseille.

Marseille Road Train

When we got back to the shuttle bus stop, we found that there were 3 buses there already and that they ran back to the ship every 30 minutes. We sat in the shopping centre for nothing! We could have come back and got to the ship a lot earlier. C’est la vie as they say in this part of the world! All in all, minus the construction that seemed to be on every corner – we had a good day in Marseille.

View all the pictures from Marseille
The next port of call was Barcelona. If you ask Jamie, I always said that Spain wasn’t somewhere that I ever wanted to visit. There was just nothing appealing about it for me. Jamie said that I would like Spain (she has been to Majorca before). I still wasn’t convinced – until Barcelona. I fell in love with Barcelona – so much so that it is on my bucket list. Jamie kindly reminded me that she said I would like Spain. Jamie – you were RIGHT! Our aim here was to find the Christmas market too.

Barcelona

We were dropped off at the World Trade Centre of Barcelona by the shuttle bus. Thankfully this was only about a 10 minute journey. We decided to do what we usually do and found a hop-on-hop-off bus. We found out the tour was 2 hours on each line (2 lines in total). We took this shout overlooking Barcelona. It was about this time that I fell in love with the city. It is old and new all mixed together. Not in a ghetto way like where we live either!
As we were going round on the bus, there were so many old and beautiful buildings. The one in this picture is the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Buildings like this were all over. We passed by the football ground of FC Barcelona – for which the J will be happy seeing pictures of. We continued on the tour and took a drive down Avinguda Diagonal. It was lined with palm trees.

Catalonian National Art Museum

Placa de Catalunya

The next part of the tour took us by Plaça de Catalunya. What a nice square this was. There were a couple of fountains and an ice rink that was there for the winter. We decided to get off here as this is where we needed to change for the market – we had to take the other line to get there. We went inside the ice rink and we saw quite a few people taking pictures of people skating. I asked one of the officials who they were and he said they were some of the national ice skaters of Spain.
After we had looked around the rink and the square, we decided it was time to get the bus to the market – which was shame as it would have been nice to see more of the square. Grrr to time constraints!

We got the other line and after about 10 minutes we reached the market – which happened to be where the cathedral was too. We used the wisdom of Jamie and walked up and down every aisle of stalls. The offerings here were very different to the offerings in Marseille. The figurines here were of Tió de Nadal and pooping people. I’ll leave you to read up about it. Just click the link to the Wikipedia page of it (CAUTION: Contains swear words – seems to be part of the rhyme/song about it).

Catedral de Barcelona

Once we looked around the market, we decided to head into the cathedral. It is an awesome building. This picture doesn’t do it justice. The inside is amazing. It has separate chapels around the wall for various saints. We were also able to take a lift up to the roof. If you are going to Barcelona and see the cathedral, it is well worth a trip to the roof. The panorama is amazing. After we came down from the roof, we had a look round for a little bit longer and then decided we should head back towards Plaça de Catalunya.

On our way back, we found a little bakery and got some pastries. They were really delicious. We then found a supermarket – we like to look around supermarkets in different countries (we like to bring pasta home with us) – and had a look around and got some drinks and some pasta. We then headed to the hop-on-hop-off bus to head back to where we needed to pick up the shuttle bus. Barcelona was my favourite place on the whole cruise. It won by a mile! Well worth visiting.

View all the pictures from Barcelona
The next stop on our cruise was Palermo in Sicily. We were so glad to get into port. We spent a whole day at sea with not a whole lot to do in that time. The company put on entertainment, but it was as rubbish as the company itself.

Jamie and I spent some of the day on the top deck enjoying the sun and the gentle breeze – minus all the smokers and people getting in our way. Wherever we seemed to sit on the ship, people would always come and stand right in front of our sun loungers – even if we were the only ones there! It was a massive pet peeve of ours!

We were super excited when we got on shore and solid ground. Thankfully the port was right on the edge of the city, so we didn’t have to go far to do anything. We were greeted with touts offering us all sorts of sightseeing trips. There was a taxi offering a 2 hour guided tour of the city for about €90. There was a horse drawn cart offering the same. We politely declined – only to be met with people from the same company offering the same deal. We were glad when we saw that there was a hop-on-hop-off bus available.

We asked the lady how much it was and she told us and then wouldn’t give us a map of the routes unless we bought the ticket from her! Tut tut!

We got out of port and the first thing we noticed was the sheer amount of traffic and tooting horns. The drivers there are crazy! They had police keeping it all under control though.

Teatro Politeama

We finally found a hop-on-hop-off bus stop and we were glad that there was a bus there ready. We got on and the bus was already full. We didn’t care though as we like this way of seeing the places that we visit. From being on the tour, the city seems deceptively small. It is far bigger than it seems from maps. One of the buildings we passed was the Teatro Politeama. We would have loved to have seen more of the places we passed, but we had less than 5 hours in port so there wasn’t much time to do anything but the tours. It was a shame, because Palermo looked like the kind of city that you could spend hours in.
We took in some more of the city. The architecture of the city is amazing. Wonderful wherever you looked. This building is the Teatro Massimo. This picture doesn’t do it justice at all. The old and new buildings were mixed well together. It is the playhouse of Palermo. You can see anything from opera to ballet on the bill.

Teatro Massimo

Boat Statue

Further along the tour, we passed this statue. I’m not quite sure what it’s about, but I thought it looked pretty cool. I’ve tried to Google about the picture, but I can’t seem to find out any information about it. If you know, please post a comment.
We carried on our journey and about 30 minutes into it we passed the cathedral. We both wanted to stop and visit it, but the dumb time constraints meant that we couldn’t. The building looked truly magnificent. There was something going on there, but we couldn’t figure out what it was.

Palermo Cathedral

We finished that tour of the city after about an hour and we were then shepherded off the bus and asked to take a ticket for the other route. Our ticket was then called and we were herded back onto the same bus and practically got the same seats. We were on this one for about 30 minutes and we were lucky that the last stop was the port. We were stuck in traffic for about 10 minutes for part of it. We were both so ready to be out of the traffic!

We headed back to the ship – only having seen Palermo from a bus and no supermarket goodies in hand either!

View all the pictures from Palermo
Our last port to visit was Civitavecchia – we had to dock here for Rome. This was the only place that we had booked an excursion. The excursion was a sightseeing visit of Rome. We couldn’t decided whether to stick with that tour or book one from the ship. We stuck with our original plan and were glad that we did.

We were worried that we were gonna miss the tour bus as the paperwork said 7:30 pick up and we didn’t disembark for the day until 9am. Luckily, they waited for us.

We didn’t think we’d make the 10am time either. The queue for the shuttle bus to the port entrance was long and people were queue jumping. We did make it and the guide managed to find us. We shared the trip with 3 people from a ship that had been following us round. Turns out, they were uppity and not all that interested in Rome. We didn’t care, we paid good money and were gonna enjoy it. I think we sufficiently made them mad the whole time. Stupid people. Enough about them.

The guide took us up close to the places on the itinerary. It was a really good way to get around.

Foro Romana

Our first stop was Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Kings Palace. They are impressive structures. We climbed the steps (all 1 million of them – or it seemed that many) of the hill and went to the back of the building and we got a great look at the Foro Romana (Roman Forum). It is impressive that the Foro Romana is still standing. We then headed back down (holding on to each other for dear life as the steps were steep) to the bus.
Our next port of call was the Colosseum. We couldn’t park right up next to it, but that was OK. We stopped on a hill just across the road. It is hard to describe the magnitude of it. It is an impressive structure. Sadly we didn’t have time to go inside and see it. We had to settle with walking around the outside of it. That was still impressive. We were hungry at that point and each got a huge sugary ring doughnut. They tasted good – not sure if they really were or whether it was the hunger. We headed back to the bus to go see more of Rome.

Colosseum

Fontana di Trevi

Another of our stops was the Trevi Fountain (which I maintain should be called Trevi Waterfall since it is more of that than a fountain – but whatever). It was another impressive sight. I was expecting something larger than it actually was. I had it in my mind that it was a fountain in the middle of a square. We went down to the edge and did the traditional tossing of a coin into it. After we had done that, we found a gelato shop. Jamie had said that she wanted gelato from Rome. It was quite tasty. Different to ice cream. It’s hard to describe how. You just need to try some. Jamie and I commented how cool it was that we were in Rome and at places we had only ever read about or had seen on TV.
Our next stop was to Piazza di Spagna to see the Spanish Steps. Jamie and I climbed all the way to the top of the steps. The view from up there was impressive. The one thing I didn’t like was the touts that didn’t take no for an answer. You have to be firm with them and they will leave you alone.

Spanish Steps

Pantheon

Another of our stops was to visit the Pantheon. This was a truly impressive structure too. Rome seems to have a theme of impressive structures. One thing I did notice was how cold it was inside. Not only do the doors not close, but it actually has a hole in the roof. There were puddles on the floor from where it had been raining earlier in the day. It is hard to describe how amazing it was there. It’s somewhere you should definitely go see if you are in Rome.
This was our itinerary for Rome:

1. Piazza Venezia
2. Colosseum
3. Fontana di Trevi
4. Piazza di Spagna
5. Pantheon
6. Piazza Naverno
7. Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City

We asked our tour guide if he knew of any supermarkets in Rome and he said that he would stop at one so we could go in and get some pasta. We were almost back at the ship when he stopped for us and we went in and Jamie was acting like she was on a trolley dash in the pasta aisle. The guide came in – we think at the request of the 3 stupid people on the bus. We got back to port and he took us right to the ship. We were sad that we didn’t get to see as much of Rome as we wanted to.

Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain that you will come back to Rome. We should both be going back since we both tossed a coin in!

View all the pictures from Rome