Ports of call: Italy

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It's one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. And no wonder - Italy has something for everyone. And I do mean everyone!

Love history? Art? Architecture? Shopping? Wine? Fashion? Yes to all the above? Italy has it in spades.

Are you more of an alpine lake fan? Or perhaps gondolas on a canal call your name? Yup - all of that in Italy. Cliff-clinging villages? Check. Etruscan hilltop towns? Check. Italy has it - and much, much more.

There are so many ways to visit this favorite destination of mine - city stay, escorted tour, rail tour, and cruise are just a few options. I am just back from one of my favorite ways to see this beautiful country, via Mediterranean cruise.

Our adventure, on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, included three stops in Italy - Naples, Civitavecchia and Livorno.

I love cruising - unpack once, with your floating hotel moving your from place to place, spending a day in some incredible destination. But with Italy offering so much to see, what can you do to make the most of your day in port?

I just happen to have a couple of suggestions!


I've got to be honest - I don't find Naples all that scenic in and of itself. I know it has a pretty "old town" district, and we did enjoy our afternoon walk through this area, but on the whole, I completely understand why the vast majority of cruisers use Naples as a jumping off point for more scenic and charming destinations.

And oh, what scenic and charming options you have!

Pompeii - this doomed city was our choice for this day in port. Mt. Vesuvius still looms over the ruins, but what has been uncovered - still just a fraction of the original city - is glorious! Homes, businesses, temples - you really get a feel for what everyday life must have been like in the shadow of the volcano.

Amalfi Coast - worth the full day in port! Glittering and charming towns climb the cliffs from water's edge as you wind around the coastal road from Sorrento through Positano and then on to Amalfi Town itself. And I do mean "wind around." The tour bus drivers should get hazard pay from having to do battle with vespas, taxis and other assorted tourists along the way!

Incredibly beautiful scenery - it's something you should see!

Capri - I'll have to wait until my next visit to the area to see Capri, but many of my fellow travelers came back raving about the beauties of this island sitting just off the coast!

I'll get there! I'm determined!


This modern port city makes no claims of being anything other than it is: The closest sea and rail access point for Rome.

Rome - One of my favorite cities in all of Italy. Your cruise line will offer tons of options to see the city - escorted city tours, Vatican only tours, hop on/hop off, walking - phew!

If you've not seen Rome before, I will recommend doing a "panorama" tour for a first visit - something that will let you see a little bit of Rome's most famous and historic sites (Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, etc.). Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, it's also not even remotely possible to see it all in a day - but this kind of tour will give you an idea of what you want to see when you come back again. Because you're going to want to come back again!

If you have been to Rome before, as I have, you may opt for something that gives you more time on your own. We took the cruise line-offered "express train" excursion, which offered nonstop rail access to the station nearest the Vatican. Once there, we had six hours to explore on our own.

We had a wonderful time revisiting some of our favorite Roman destinations - the lovely Piazza Navona (and the FABULOUS gelato shop just off the square!), the Pantheon, Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica. It was a lot of walking, but well worth it!

Orvieto - If your tastes run more to Etruscan towns than Roman splendor, don't miss this classic example! But be prepared to walk. And walk. Uphill. Seemingly the entire trip. But I'm told it's well worth it!


Another port town that stands as a jump off point for other, more famous destinations…

Cinque Terre - Love, love, love these five charming villages! After a scenic 90 minute drive from the port, you spend your day walking through quiet and quaint towns that cling to cliffs below terraced vineyards. 

And after the crowds of Rome the day before, it's almost surreal to be in towns with few cars and just a few hundred people.

You'll walk from one town (Manarola) to another (Riomaggiore) and then take ferries to two others (Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare).  One of the towns - Corniglia - doesn't have a port.

It all makes for a colorful and very beautiful day!

Florence - If you've never been here, you need to go. So much to see!

Again - I will recommend a tour, if only because it allows you to jump the long lines at the Academy to see the statue of David. The historic parts of Florence are a manageable and beautiful walking distance. The Academy isn't far from The Duomo, which in turn is close to Signoria Square and the Pontevecchio - you get the picture.

You may also choose to arrange only transportation to Florence and then spend the day at the fantastic Uffizi Gallery. Florence is filled with world-class museums and galleries!

Shopping is great here - lovely leather goods, along with gold jewelry are just a few things Florence is known for.

Pisa - You owe it to yourself to see the Leaning Tower up close, but other than that…

I don't mean to give it short shrift, but I find Pisa to be incredibly touristy and not very clean. Not a ringing endorsement, to be sure.

The Tower is very cool, and so are the other buildings in Miracle Square, but you may get tired of being bombarded by sellers of fake Gucci and Prada bags very, very quickly. I know I did.

These days, all the cruise lines have their shore excursions available to preview online, so you can see what kinds of options you're going to have in each port long before you get there. You can pre-book your shore excursions through the cruise line, or you can work through private shore excursion companies like Shore Trips, who sometimes have additional excursions to offer - or at least more private ones.

But be warned - if your cruise line approved excursion is late returning, they will hold the ship for you. If you are on a private tour, or sightseeing on your own, and miss "last call?" You'll find yourself waving as your ship sails away. Don't let that discourage you from exploring on your own - but make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back onboard.

Next time - the French Riviera!


Some fun things - including Italy!

Italy's Great Cities Plus London -- March 11 - March 22, 2011

From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

Last Call!! And only 8 seats left!

I have to release any seats not yet spoken for to the tour company by November 10, so if you've been thinking about joining us, give me a call or drop me a note at rosanne@travelationonline.com.

Also - I have a lady in her 30s who is looking for a traveling companion, as well as a lady in her 60s. If you have been thinking about the trip, but didn't have anyone in particular to travel with, give me a call for more information!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Add in two nights in London as we make our way back home and you have four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, Romeo & Juliet’s Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:

Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy -- Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome -- Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome -- Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgement. Continue to monumental St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence -- Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence -- Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistery's heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo’s celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice -- Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet’s Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice -- Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark’s Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

 Day 9 Venice / Rome -- A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

 Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London -- After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London -- A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels! You might also consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore London at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

 Day 12 Depart London -- Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be lower since it's not a peak travel season.

You can see more information and a map of our Italy itinerary at my agency site, www.travelationonline.com. I hope you come with us!

Come to Cabo!

A couple of nice all-inclusives are on sale!

The rates below include round trip air from Phoenix, four nights accommodation as noted and airport transfers. Since the hotels are all-inclusive, all meals and beverages are included in the rates, along with tips and non-motorized water sports! The rates are valid for travel in November (away from the holiday weekend), December (same here) and January!

Check these out:

Royal Solaris Los Cabos -- $709.00 per person, double occupancy!

A pretty and relaxing beachfront property near charming San Jose del Cabo!

Temptation Los Cabos -- $709.00 per person, double occupancy!

Check out this new adults-only resort!

Air taxes are additional, currently running around $90.00 a person. All rates are based on two people traveling together.

Hula in Hawaii!

One of my favorite budget-minded properties in Waikiki is having a terrific sale!

Sheraton Princess Kaiulani -- From $799.00 per person, double occupancy!

The rates include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights accommodation and airport transfers. They are valid for travel in December (away from the holidays) and January.

The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is in a great location - right next to the International Marketplace and right across the street from the Westin Moana Surfrider. A sister property to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, you can use the terrific restaurant and beach facilities there!

Beach vacations or escorted tours, we do it all at TravelationOnline! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes (602, 480, 623), call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!