Saturday, 13 August 2016

August 5, 2016 – Naples/Pompeii Excursion

We woke up at 6:30 AM today and had room service for breakfast as we dressed.

Sunrise over Mount Vesuvius.

We met at 8:00 AM in the theater and split into various tours. This was our first tour on this cruise and we were apprehensive after our experiences on our last Costa Cruise last year (see blog entries from 2015).

We took a bus ride of under 30 minutes from the port of Naples to Pompeii. Our first stop was the usual “tour” of something we could buy. This time it was cameos. We went to the bathroom and ditched the tourist trap and looked at stands we had glimpsed outside of the bus earlier.

We then met up with the group at the appointed time and walked to the admission gates of Pompeii. There were tonnes of people lining up to go through the gates, but because we were on a tour, we could go through quite quickly.
A ripped figure greeted us.
Panorama of the Entrance Gates.
The day became hotter. We had a speaker set that went around our necks and into one ear, so that we could hear the tour guide speak even when we were at the back of the group. This was a good system and a definite improvement from our tours with Costa last year.

April and Bill both love ancient history and archaeology and have both always wanted to see Pompeii. They were both excited to glimpse the ruins. We never thought that we would end up at Pompeii on a cruise tour, but it doesn’t matter—we made it.

The Forum.

The guide was really funny and had lots of good anecdotes about ancient times and knew the site well. He spoke English well, too. He told us about the various street signs, sidewalk markings, showed us the bodies of a dog, teenager, and child, the brothel, the bathhouse, a bakery, shrines, the House of the Faun, and pointed out mosaics and frescoes.  It was fascinating, but scorching hot and the sweat was pouring off all of us as we walked around some of the huge site.

Weights and measures for goods.
Old jars.
Poor Fido.
Teenage angst.

Street signs with style.

Magic eye floors.
Mount Vesuvius admires its creation.
Bathhouse fresco.
Bathhouse decorations were ornate.

A cow brazier for the bathhouse donated by a political hopeful who had a brand that he wanted to promote.
Ceilings were ridged so that condensation wouldn't drip on the heads of the occupants of the bathhouse, but instead roll down to the sides.

Advertising isn't new either. This guy had people for hire for moving things.
A man on the wall working looks tiny compared to the ruins.
Mount Vesuvius was very visible on this clear day.
This penis stone on the street indicated the direction to the brothel.
The Forum.

Bread oven at a bakery.

House of the Faun.

Dead palm trees look like pillars.

Beautiful floors.

There were a few Americans on tour, but we are definitely the minority on Costa—we figure it must be 95% Italian on board.

We only saw part of Pompeii, obviously, as it is a huge site that covers 120 acres. The best story we heard from the guide was about an emperor who decided to create public toilets to harvest urine to use in the laundries as it contains natural ammonia. This was a good trade at the time because people wanted their robes extra white—and senatorial candidates were willing to pay for it. The emperor’s son was supposedly embarrassed by how they made their money. His father asked his son if the money smelled bad. His son said no. The emperor then replied that money never smells bad no matter where it comes from.Still true.

We left the Forum, seeing it for a second time, as we had entered there. We returned to the touristy square where we went to the bathroom (we had to pay, of course), and then bought a piece of Margherita pizza each. It was really good—especially after the Costa food. We downed some weakly carbonated water and rejoined the group to walk to the bus and drove back to port and boarded. All in all it was the best Costa tour we have ever had (this was our fourth).

Naples is a busy port.
We arrived back at the room and took some pictures from our deck.

Naples from our deck on the ship.
Vesuvius glowers over Naples.
Seagulls followed the ship from Naples into the sea, some of them catching food tossed by people on the decks.
There was  note left for us by the tour office asking them to contact them between 4 and 6 PM. This is never a good sign. The last time we received a note like that, our tour to Monaco was cancelled (last year, see blog post from 2015). We figured that our tour to Monaco tomorrow would be cancelled as well.

We ordered room service and ate while we listened to Harry Potter. April worked on catching up on the blog, while Bill went to investigate the tour issue, because he could not get through on the phone. April had terrible stomach pains again and was in no condition to go to the tour office.

The "artwork" in our room is seriously weird including a porcelain tile version of the roofied woman in the embrace of some guy and copper wire shoes and crown and bikini.
This is in our bathroom.

The tour was indeed cancelled and Bill was only able to speak with the manager after two attempts where he was told that there was nothing that could be done. After describing the situation to the tour manager (and describing how we were outraged at the same thing happening to us the year before), a creative solution was negotiated whereby we would be able to take the French tour with a 30% discount. One of the biggest issues on this ship is that line staff are not taught to put the customer first and do not think outside of the box to find creative solutions to problems. When the default response is “no” it only infuriates customers.  We were both satisfied with this solution, as we can both understand a good deal of French, and in any event we were just looking for a way to get to Monaco where we would be guaranteed to not be left behind by the cruise ship.

We went to sleep eagerly anticipating finally getting to Monaco.

Sunset over the Mediterranean.

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