Andrew and Laura

2011 Italian Cruise On The Epic Cruise Ship

Day 1 Sunday 26th June

We flew out to Barcelona to board the Norwegian Epic cruise ship. We have State Cabin 11096 with a balcony. I unpacked & we settled in to explore the ship.

We ate at the Cagney’s Steakhouse restaurant onboard, steak of course which was delicious and hopefully all meals on Epic will be of this standard.

Later on we had booked tickets for the Blue Man Group at the Epic theatre, which was fabulous and so very different from any other show we have seen.

They play music & spit paint from their mouths to form paintings as they play. The drummer had paint spraying out of the drums as he played, all weird stuff but well worth a watch. Afterwards we went for a little play in the Casino, always such fun! And so to bed…..

Day 2 Monday 27th June

We could have a lie in this morning as we are at sea all day. I booked an hours Thai massage at Mandara Spa for 10.45am – very relaxing, but incredibly expensive – won’t be going there in a hurry again!!!!

We booked up some of the tours during our cruise today to ensure we saw everything that we wanted to.

Later on we had lunch at Spice H2O which is an adult only part of the ship where you can eat, sunbathe & just relax with no children around, before exploring a bit more of the ship.

Went for a drink at the ice bar, had to wear special thick jackets that they provide before you enter, unfortunately I didn’t think about the fact that I was wearing sandals, resulting in absolutely frozen feet! The cocktails we chose were gorgeous & were served in ice glasses so were incredibly cold. There was a polar bear sculpture in ice which was great, no photos as Andrew wasn’t going to risk taking the camera in.

We ate at Taste this evening, a nice restaurant with lovely views of the ocean.

Decided to spend the rest of the evening at Fat Cat Blues & Jazz Club where we watched Slam Allen singing. Really enjoyed the show, he has a lovely rich voice, so we bought his cd before we left at the end of the show.

Day 3 Tuesday 28th June

We docked at Liverno and transferred to Florence for the day. The first thing we saw there was the incredible Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore which is utterly stunning and looks like it’s made from papier mache in the distance. We wandered down the Piazza del Doumo taking in the sights.

We eventually found the statue of David in the Piazza della Signoria {although the original we discovered later is in the Galleria dell’Accademia!}

Ponte Vecchio was next, a fantastic bridge with apartments on both sides leaving room for 3 arches in the centre where you can look out over the river Arno.

We walked down by the river a while and found a little wooden statue of a woman, but can’t find any information on her.

We had a fabulous lunch sitting outside at Frescobaldi Wine Bar, the most amazing wine too. We enjoyed their own bottled virgin olive oil so much that we bought some to take home with us. This was confiscated on our return to the Epic & will get it back as we leave the ship – do they think we are going to drink it?? We know that we can’t buy alcohol to drink onboard, but this is ridiculous!

In 1787 the Medici Lions were moved to Florence, and since 1789 they have flanked the steps to the Loggia dei Lanzi at the Piazza della Signoria, we had to go and visit them, they have such sad faces.

Piazza della Repubblica was our next stop where the Antico Centro della Citta is situated within the square are coffee shops, bars and market stalls to wander around and the galloping horses to ride if you’d like.

It was time then to head back to the ship before it set sail without us, I’d love to come back here and explore a bit more thoroughly, it’s been a wonderful day!

We had a great Chinese meal at the Shanghai restaurant this evening before going down to Fat Cats for the jazz & jam evening. And so to bed….

Day 4 Wednesday 29th June

Up early, as we are off on the Rome Highlights tour today, so excited!

Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana was the first building of note that we saw, a modern looking building with beautiful arched windows and a fountain beneath it. We then saw the lovely Colosseum, but unfortunately only from the coach as we drove passed it!

Our first stop was the Trevi Fountain, which was constructed in 1762. It is traditional to turn your back to the fountain, and throw a coin from your left hand over your right shoulder to ensure that you will return to Rome.

The area was thronged with tourists, the Pantheon known as the temple of all the gods which was a Roman temple is now a church. It was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. Its date of construction is uncertain, because Hadrian chose not to inscribe the new temple but rather to retain the inscription of Agrippa’s older temple, which had burned down. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening to the sky. Almost 2,000 years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings mainly because it has been in continuous use throughout its history. Another fantastic building, but the crowds really stopped us from getting a proper view of it so all I saw was the outside & the photos that Andrew managed to take.

We stopped next at a little cafe for a lunch of parmigiano & pizza.

The Vatican was the next stop on our tour, the queues to get in were miles long with no shelter from the sun at all. The building and the square are beautiful and the guards uniforms were something to behold. Sadly we decided that we were too hot and thirsty to queue any longer after an hour or so, we retreated to a cafe for a drink & cool down in the shade of some trees.

It was time then to return to the ship, no Vatican or Colosseum tours this time, we will have to return.

Had a drink at the Waves Pool bar before getting ready for dinner. We decided to try the Moderno Churrascaria restaurant tonight, choose the vegetables that you want with a veritable feast of meat.

They just keep bringing more meat of every conceivable type, cooked in so many ways until you are so full that you have to say no & waddle back to the cabin to have a lie down & recover.

And so to bed as we are knackered & full & have another early start in the morning.

Day 5 Thursday 30th June

My birthday in Pompeii – how amazing is that????

But first to Sorrento which is very pretty and quaint but so incredibly full of tourists which all of the shops hers cater for. Didn’t find any individual little shops here. The views from the top over Sorrento are lovely though.

We were taken to a farm on the outskirts of Sorrento for lunch which grows olive and lemon trees, the groves there are beautiful. Their buffalo mozzarella which we were shown how to make is amazing, as is their olive oil.

Onwards to Pompeii at last which is so so beautiful and has a wonderful tranquil atmosphere. I absolutely loved this place and did not want to leave. We followed the guide touring the baths, the amphitheatre etc soaking up the atmosphere all afternoon.

Back onboard we ate dinner at Cagney’s again before spending some time in the casino & on then to Fat Cats for another evening listening to Slam Allen. It’s been a wonderful birthday & I’d love to visit Pompeii again to learn more.

Day 6 Friday 1st July

Another lie in this morning as we are at sea all day today. Spent some time in the pool & sunbathing, reading & generally taking it easy.

We ate lunch at La Cuchina Italian restaurant, then had a wander around the Art Gallery before going up to sunbath & watch people trying to mock rock climb.

Later on we ate dinner at the Garden Cafe, before heading to Fat Cats for some more jazz, then the casino to round off the evening.

Day 7 Saturday 2st July

We have arrived at Mallorca so time for a walk around Palma today, we saw several lovely windmills with 6 sails instead of the 4 that we see in Britain. Took some photos of the lovely Lantana flowers en route to the river. From there we walked through a lovely park with a pyramid style sculpture and a very pretty fountain.

Went up to the La Seu Cathedral for a closer look as it is beautiful, couldn’t go in as there was some sort of service going on.

We wandered around a lovely outside sculpture area opposite the cathedral, from where we could see the docks, but couldn’t find a name for it. We took lots of photographs of the different sculptures, the steps leading to the sky, the 3 breasts etc.

It was time then to return to Epic as we are cruising overnight to Barcelona!

We ate at the Taste restaurant this evening then went to our last Fat Cat show, followed by a last visit to the casino. All packed and ready with suitcases outside to cabin for collection and so excited to be returning to Barcelona for a couple of days before we go home!!

Day 8 Sunday 3rd July

Barcelona, Barcelona!!!!

Andrew had booked us into the Gaudí Hotel so we checked in, dropped off our stuff & had a look at our sweet little balcony – it’s only 6am.

Fantastic views over Barcelona including the National Art Museum, The Olympic Stadium’s white sculpture and lots of rooftops & peoples apartments.

Then we went off to wander around my favourite European city.

We bought tickets for the tour bus as usual, then the Sagrada Familia Basilica was the first place to alight of course. Unfortunately the queue was so long that we sadly turned away and decided to go to Park Güell instead. We enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around this beautiful and so familiar park.

Back on a bus we passed the Rotunda and La Pedrera and alighted near Casa Batlló to go and have sushi for lunch a bit farther along the street.

After lunch it was time for a siesta as we hadn’t stopped since 5am. Later on we went for a walk to La Rambla and found a cafe for a drink. We wandered down towards the water to walk to Port Vell for dinner on Luz de Gas, our favourite restaurant which is a boat. Had fabulous Tapas there including their amazing tomato bread and crème Catalan for pudding. Meandered happily back to the hotel looking at all the sculptures that we see on this walk. A last look at Barcelona at night from the balcony and it was time for bed.

Day 9 Monday 4th July

This morning after breakfast the manager of the hotel showed us to his terrace where we could see the lovely Gaudí roof terrace opposite this hotel, think it may be Palau Güell – the first building that Gaudí designed.

We went to the lovely Sagrada Familia, but the queues were phenomenal again.

We decided to explore the lovely Casa Batlló instead which is utterly fabulous inside and out. We had coffee on the terrace before going up to the roof where the chimneys sit on what is said to be a dragons back. It started raining as we reached the top but we explored it anyway. The whole building is stunning, I would love to live in a Gaudí building as his architectural ideas are beyond anything I have seen anywhere.

Sadly we are running out of time here so we tried the Sagrada Familia one last time and managed to get in this time! The first time we were here was in 2002 and there were only 3 stained glass windows installed then, two mainly blue and one orange. Now the windows are are all in place, some stained and others in plain glass. The columns are finished, so much work has been done over these years. They are still saying that 2030 will be when it is entirely done, I wish I could see it then without all the cranes in place. It still has the etherial quality of an indoor forest and such a wonderful atmosphere. We went up the tower of course to see the doves and the view over Barcelona as you cross between the two towers and look at the lovely steeples on the roof before descending the famous staircase to the ground again.

It’s time to collect our suitcases from the hotel now and take our flight home, I hope we will return soon.