Keith Johnston

Our Week on the Royal Princess
I have always said the cruise life may not be for everyone, but everyone should try it at least once. To generalize, the service is usually exceptional, the food is well prepared with great selections, the facilities are top notch. It is a great way to see many different places within the same itinerary and just a taste of some places may help you decide future travel plans.

Our week on the Royal Princess had us visit five ports in four countries, each port offering a unique experience.

Cartagena, Spain
Our first stop was Cartagena, Spain. A fairly small city, we were able to take ourselves on a self guided walking tour of a few of their historical highlights like an ancient Roman theatre and amphitheatre. The good walk earned us a cold beer. We found a little outdoor patio where we could get a bucket of five beer for $6 Canadian. Back to the ship for some pool time, a glass of wine on our balcony while the ship departs, and a nice meal to end the day.

Gibraltar, UK
Gibraltar, surprised us a little. We had connected with two other couples (both from California) prior to the cruise through the site, Cruise Critic. One of them took the lead by arranging a tour for seven of us to enjoy "The Rock". The 3.5hr tour was excellent with highlights like the Europa Point, St. Michael's Cave, Great Siege Tunnels, the 100 Ton Gun, and more. However, the real highlight was a visit with the Barbary Apes. About 250 of these protected creatures reside near the top of Gibraltar. They are very comfortable with people and maybe even help themselves to your shoulders or your food. We were lucky to visit while a couple of newborns clung closely to their mother.

Marseille, France

We did not have anything planned for the second largest city in France, so we decided to take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour. It was about a 75 minute tour through the Old Port or Vieux-Port area of Marseille. Nice views of the opera house, churches (including the Notre-Dame de la Garde), the forts that once guarded the city, and so on. Following that we spent some time on the beach before heading back to the boat.

Notre-Dame de la Garde, in Marseille, France

Genoa, Italy
The plan for this stop was to be the first off the ship at 7:00am and catch the 60 minute train to Monterossa. Monterossa is the first of the five villages known as "Cinque Terre". This area of the Italian Rivera is as picturesque as you will ever see. Maggie and I sort of blindsided ourselves by accidentally taking on the most difficult hiking trail in the region. The 3.5km trail linking Monterossa to Vernazza was as challenging as I have ever taken. We would gladly walk the annual Cancer Care 20km walk any day. However, the hike rewarded us with a beautiful view of Vernazza as we walked down the last hill. We enjoyed a nice lunch before taking a quick boat ride back to Monterossa, where we could catch a train back to Genoa.


Livorno, Italy
Our final stop was Livorno. Livorno is the gateway to the beautiful Tuscany region of Italy. Again we ventured out on our own and caught the train from Livorno to Florence. The first stop along the way was Pisa. Your train ticket to Florence gives you six hours to get there and have the ticket remain valid so many people stop first in Pisa for 60-90 minutes to visit and photograph of course the Leaning Tower of Pisa, as well as the Cathedral and the Baptistery.

From our brief couple of hours in Florence, the "birthplace of the renaissance",  this is one beautiful city. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is a sight to behold. Pictures struggle to describe this masterpiece, commissioned in the late 1200's.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
We would encourage you to click on the links throughout the page to learn more about these great landmarks. We have many great pictures to this point and will work on ways to share them.

It was a wonderful cruise this past week and given the 2000 year old history at some points, a real contrast to previous experiences on Caribbean cruises for example.

We are in Rome for the next three nights. We are staying in a great little apartment in the Trastevere, on the West Bank of the Tiber River and just south of the Vatican.

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