Posted on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 by Peter Knego
In this restored Sea Treks blog, originally posted in 2007, Peter Knego wraps up a fantastic twelve night sailing on Princess Cruises’ then-new EMERALD PRINCESS with visits to Mykonos, Naples (for Capri), Civitavecchia (for a Tuscan countryside tour) and Livorno (for a visit to Cinque Terre). Gorgeous sights and a spectacular array of cruise ships, many no longer in service, are captured on the way.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2007 unless otherwise noted.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007:
At 9:15 AM, unexpectedly, the familiar, rocky shores of Mykonos came into view. The EMERALD PRINCESS was nearly two hours ahead of schedule, forcing Celebrity’s soon-to-arrive GALAXY to take the anchorage.
Shortly after noon, we took Princess’ free shuttle to town. Our first stop was a taverna, where we ordered Greek salads and a fresh chicken gyro plate. I spent time at an internet cafe while Doug walked through the maze of cobblestone streets in Mykonos town.
After returning to the ship, Doug soaked up the sun in the Sanctuary, his favorite part of the ship: “It was easy to escape the crowds and noise at the Sanctuary, a plush oasis on Deck 17 above the spa. The $10 charge for morning or afternoon visits was worth every penny. The most popular chairs were those in the sun. Lunches were delightful in the shaded areas.”
I set up shop in a corner of the WiFi-equipped Piazza. The three deck tall space was buzzing with activity. The cafe was filled with ice cream, pastry, and coffee connoisseurs, and the adjacent Vines was a haven for those hankering an afternoon glass of wine or a nibble of seafood. A violinist intermittently played from the terrace between the panoramic elevators, sharing the limelight with body balancers (cirque-like dancers) and stilt walkers.
At 6:00 PM, the EMERALD PRINCESS pushed away from the quay and turned to the west to clear the harbor, then continued southwest on her course towards the Strait of Messina. We enjoyed a spectacular bottle of Veuve Clicquot on our balcony as the colors in the sky deepened and the sun sank into a violet patch of clouds. Our neighbors just aft were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a romantic balcony dinner.
A very low key dinner in Horizon’s (fantastically fresh penne arrabbiata) was followed by a sampling of each of the EMERALD PRINCESS’ entertainment venues. In the Princess Theater, soprano Philippa Healey sang a selection of familiar Andrew Lloyd Weber tunes, accompanied by the ship’s orchestra and a string quartet. The Wheelhouse Bar featured the more jazzy stylings of the Fantasy Duo and Shuffle Club. In Crooners, piano man Brett Cave sang a range of songs from Elton John to Billy Joel and John Lennon.
The extremely talented Elite Showband literally rocked the house in the Exporer’s Lounge, turning the dance floor in a mellow mosh pit throughout their energetic and engaging set. Club Fusion hosted a number of options, from a Disco Party to a Marriage Game Show and a concert by True to Life, another one of the ship’s musical acts. In the sophisticated setting of Adagio, a pianist played selections by Cole Porter and Gershwin while we sipped potions and savored olives.
We gladly added an hour back to our clocks as we retired very late yesterday evening.
Thursday, May 24, 2007:
The final sea day began with breakfast in Horizon Court (enhanced by a cappuccino), then it was off to the bridge with members of the press group.
Captain Giorgio Pomata greeted us and answered questions about the EMERALD PRINCESS, his illustrious career, and his first passenger ship, the lovely FAIRWIND (ex SYLVANIA).
Since then, I have been sitting in the Piazza, adding photos with the help of a fellow California-based writer, Maryann Hammers. Soon, I will have to head to the gym, then back to the cabin to organize my chaos. We have visitors coming to dine with us on the balcony at 7:00 PM as we enter the Strait of Messina, en route to Napoli.
Just as I prepare to sign off, a freshly baked cookie and glass of milk are delivered to my table by a smiling steward. I suppose the gym will have to wait…
Part Four: Thursday, May 24, 2007, ctd.:
We enjoyed some quiet time on the balcony as the EMERALD PRINCESS neared the eastern Italian coast, passing a small cargo ship and several ferries during the course of the afternoon. Occasionally, the faint outline of mountains were visible on the far horizon. At one point, we were amazed to watch two very large sea tortoises swimming toward the ship, then diving under the surface as they neared.
I needed to either take a nap or work out, so chose the latter, returning to the cabin around 6:45 as two of EMERALD PRINCESS’ dining staff arrived to set up our private balcony dinner. We had just entered the Straits of Messina, and the outside temperature had risen noticeably, bringing with it a wild wind. Two friends soon joined us out on the terrace as the stewards served our drinks and courses. We spent the next few hours enjoying animated conversation, lavish treatment and delicious food as the two stewards worked beautifully around the elemental challenges of wind and space limitations.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Despite all the indulgence of the prior night, this morning I felt quite good when I awoke to find EMERALD PRINCESS maneuvering sternward into busy Napoli. The NEW FLAMENCO (ex SPIRIT OF LONDON, etc.) lay aft of us on the western side of Stazione Marittima. Entering the harbor in the golden morning haze were ISLAND ESCAPE (ex VIKING SERENADE, etc.) and the exquisite OCEANIC. When we disembarked, we found OCEANIC’s former fleetmate ATLANTIC directly across from us on the eastern side of Stazione Marittima, looking quite spruce as MSC’s MELODY.
We herded together at the end of the pier with several tour groups onto a jetfoil for Capri. For one very brief second, the former Home Lines ships could be seen together as the craft sped into the Bay of Naples. Ahead, the obtuse “M” of Vesuvius loomed above a thick mist. Soon, Capri’s dramatic cliffs were soaring high over our bow. The marina was teeming with freshly disgorged visitors as our boat joined a line-up of similar vessels on the quay. We were led by our guide, Peppe, into small buses for the zig-zag ride up the face of the mountain to Anacapri. Capri’s hairpin turns and precipitous ledges are legendary, but must really be experienced to be believed.
Once at Anacapri, there was an option to go via chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro. Either a lapse in judgement or an overwhelming desire to be with my friends found me joining them on the lift. It was a fascinating if somewhat unnerving ten minute ride over verdant gardens and mustard-covered hillsides to the top.
The spring blossoms had released a potent perfume in the air, made all the more mystical by a creeping fog that rose straight up the face of the massive cliff. Gulls would circle in the upper portion of the clouds, then disappear with a dive into their endless white mass.
Soon, we were back into the heart of Capri, enjoying lunch at a hotel, then off for a short walk to the Augustus Gardens and their incredible views of the cliff-y coastline and neon-blue waters. There was time to wander the promenade of La Piazetta, shop, and get a gelato before taking the Funiculare down to the marina for our jet boat ride back to Napoli.
By the time we returned to Stazione Marittima, ISLAND ESCAPE and NEW FLAMENCO had left and OCEANIC steamed out of the harbor as we boarded the EMERALD PRINCESS. I set up my laptop by the Pizzeria on Deck 15, keeping my eye on MELODY, which sailed at 6:00 PM. At 7:00, EMERALD PRINCESS was churning her way from the historic Art Deco terminal and heading out to sea.
We swam for a bit in the current pool on Deck 16, then went to Cafe Caribe for a simple dinner (which consisted of salads and some Indian food offerings) before retiring early. The final sprint in a marathon of long days on tour had begun.
Ah, Civitavecchia! One of the least scenic ports in the world, but always a ship spotting paradise. I managed to crawl out of a groggy sleep onto the balcony as EMERALD PRINCESS entered the breakwater shortly after dawn. Behind us, RCCL’s NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS posed in a golden sunlit 3/4 bow position, awaiting the completion of EMERALD PRINCESS’ pivot in the turning basin before she would replicate the same maneuver outside the harbor and back into her berth across from us. The two giant white behemoths would be Civitavecchia’s harbor sentries for the day. Further in, Regent Seven Seas’ pleasant-looking SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER, Star Clipper’s five masted ROYAL CLIPPER, and the ultra-gorgeous SEA CLOUD formed an interesting lineup along our quay.
Having seen Rome and all of its monuments, Doug and I chose Princess’ excellent excursion to Tuscania, the magnificent gardens of Villa Lante, and lunch at scenic Lake Bolsena. On the long, pastoral drive, the late spring meadows were filled with brilliant red poppies, complementing the silver green canopies of the olive trees.
We were back at the ship by 5:00 PM, which allowed me to capture the departures from the terrace above the wheelhouse on Deck 15. The SEA CLOUD, a floating dream with her glowing woodwork and schooner lines, seemed to be making full speed as she raced past us at 5:30.
The SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER was next, emitting a few plumes of impatient diesel exhaust while the outbound ferry NOMENTANA overtook her. The VOYAGER swung into the basin and made her way past us in the wake of the SEA CLOUD, which was now well out to sea, backlit in a patch of gold, courtesy of the late afternoon sun. Finally, like a Jules Verne vision, the colossal NAVIGATOR thrust away from her berth and into the Tyrrhenian, following the still visible, southbound CLOUD and SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER.
As the EMERALD PRINCESS cast her lines, the inbound Knud E. Hansen-designed MOBY FANTASY took on the pilot. We passed each other just outside of the breakwater, where the EMERALD turned northward for her slow journey to Livorno. The intense program of full day excursions was beginning to take its toll, so we had a relatively low key dinner in Da Vinci, savoring Princess’ consistently top notch service and excellent cuisine, before retiring early.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
At 5:30, I checked the bow cam on channel 47 and parted the curtains of our verandah to see if any passenger ships were joining the EMERALD PRINCESS in Livorno. I must admit I was almost relieved to see that we were the only game in town, allowing me to crawl back to sleep for another hour before it was time to muster for our excursion to Cinque-Terre. With over two thousand passengers headed off on tour each morning, I am impressed with how quickly we have been dispatched on our various excursions, entailing a minimal amount of waiting and queueing up.
Livorno is possibly the world’s least attractive port, but once outside the city limits, the true beauty of Italy awaits. Our bus raced north along the Tuscan highway, through a vista of farmland, villages, and even a distant view of Pisa’s famous tower and duomo.
After an hour or so, we turned west toward La Spezia, a port known to ship enthusiasts as the final resting place of many great ocean liners, from French Line’s LIBERTE, Italia’s GIULIO CESARE and LEONARDO DA VINCI to Siosa’s IRPINIA. The busy scrap yards were eliminated decades ago and now La Spezia is being restyled into a tourist-friendly destination where a huge marina and redevelopment are in the works. Anchored in the tranquil bay, I was surprised to see the THOMSON DESTINY (ex SONG OF AMERICA). Although the waters were calm in sheltered La Spezia, it was still too rough for the Cinque-Terre excursion boat, so the bus took us to our first destination, Manarola, winding through the terraced mountains of Liguria and several scenic villages. After our frenetic, harrowing minibus ride on Capri, the meandering, precipitous drive felt tame.
Manarola, like the other four villages of Cinque-Terre, is built around a church and city square that lead down cafe-lined streets to small marinas. From Manarola, we proceeded along “Lovers Walk”, a promenade cut into the basalt seaside cliffs, to Riomaggiore, where we caught the coastal boat to Vernazza. Here, Doug and I went into a local deli, bought a brick of parmesan and a freshly-baked roll and devoured it by the water’s edge.
From Vernazza, it was off to our final stop, Monterosso, where we had lunch (salads and fresh pesto pasta) and wandered the pastel stucco-fronted streets until it was time to hike back to the coach to Livorno.
I watched our sail-away from the elliptical machine. The ship had begun to move a bit by the time we arrived at Adagio’s for cocktails and our final dinner at Sabbatini’s. It was another beautifully presented marathon of antipasti, a fresh chicken broth soup with vegetables, mouth-watering cheese ravioli in truffle sauce, main courses (I had the truffle chicken: tender, juicy perfection), and dessert (with accompanying aperitifs and coffees). Our table for six laughed the night away, although there was an underlying tinge of regret that we were nearing the end of our journey together.
Several of us lingered on at Skywalker’s, then walked past the remnants of the champagne waterfall in the Piazza before calling it a night.
Monday, May 28, 2007:
Another dawn awakening, this time to a howling chill on the balcony. In the distance, behind several rocky promontories, lay bustling Marseilles. A few large ferries would soon overtake us and head into the harbor, where I could barely make out the upperworks of Orient Line’s handsome MARCO POLO (ex ALEXANDR PUSHKIN). I donned the camera bag and climbed up to Deck 16 to watch as the pilot boat came alongside. However, instead of proceeding to the harbor, the EMERALD PRINCESS rode the swells for a few moments, turned away from the coast and slowly moved out to sea. I returned to the cabin for the rest of my sleep-in, which lasted until a very indulgent 11:00. Finally caught up on my REM deficit, I awoke a second time to find the ship listing to port and watched as huge plumes of mist sprayed outside our balcony. With some pizza margherita and a cappuccino on Deck 15, I watched the white-veined growlers from the glass-enclosed midships pool area. The officer of the watch announced we were in a Force 9 gale with occasional gusts at 10 and 11. Nonetheless, the EMERALD PRINCESS took the seas smoothly, with the occasional fishtail and a few head-on rattles as she plowed forth.
It is now 2:00 PM, and the seas have calmed considerably. I am sitting in our cabin, listening to Nina Simone’s “Feelin’ Good” and looking out past a deep blue vista to rugged Cape San Sebastian and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Our EMERALD journey is almost at its end. Plans include lunch, some time on deck, possibly the afternoon trivia quiz, maybe a short workout, lots of packing, hesitant “good byes” to newfound friends over cocktails and dinner, and a short sleep before disembarking the ship at Barcelona tomorrow.
End Of EMERALD PRINCESS Re-Trekked
Very special thanks to: Julie Benson, Karen Candy, Michelle Colligan, Martin Cox, Judy Cuervo, Rob Distefano, Rhiannon Erickson, Maryann Hammers, Caroline Klein, Bianca Le Moeul, Deborah Marsh, Karen McColl, Generoso Mazzone, Doug Satterblom, Michael Travell
Dedicated to my dear friend Doug Satterblom, who is greatly missed…