Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
Additional photos by Manos Angelakis
Viking Mediterranean Cruise
Can one ever get enough pampering? Take a Viking Cruise and find out!
True to their advertising, a Viking cruise is a sybaritic experience bar none. Our most recent Mediterranean Cruise on Viking Star began in Barcelona, Spain, made multiple stops in the French Riviera, Monaco, Italy, and ended in Rome. It was short enough, 8 days, so if one wanted to add extensions on either end, time or culture-wise, it would not overwhelm. The concept of introducing new destinations and cultures and getting you from place to place in absolute luxury is what makes Viking so appealing. The ship is not a destination in itself; it is a way to explore new or even repeat destinations, in comfort with knowledgeable guides and without the hassle of packing and unpacking, changing hotels, or spending valuable vacation time navigating plane and train schedules and delays. And most important, you share your experience with like-minded people, interested in the same things that you are, so it’s an easy way to make friendships and travel buddies.
As is usual with Viking, they coordinated our flights with both the ships departure and arrival itinerary as we chose to enjoy the cruise without adding additional stops. On the day of arrival, arrangements were made to collect us from the airport and drive us directly to the port where the staff was waiting to greet us and at the end of the cruise we were driven from Civitavecchia our port, directly to Fiumicino, Rome’s airport, for our flight home.
The ship was scheduled to be docked for two nights in Barcelona so we could take advantage of our floating hotel and visit the city with the included tours or on our own. We also added one of the many offered optional tours; an evening of Flamenco. It was held in the Spanish Village, including dinner of local foods and guided transfers.
The Spanish Village is an outdoor museum which was created for the Barcelona International Exhibition of 1929, as a showcase for the various architectural styles found throughout Spain. Although it was built as a temporary exhibit, it has proved to be so popular that today it still stands and is a must-see on the tourism circuit as well as a draw for locals to frequent its many restaurants, shops and entertainment venues.
While we sailed to our next port of call in Marseille, France, there were plentiful activities on board to keep us occupied - a full services Nordic spa and exercise venue including a beauty shop, an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, workshops, musical entertainments - and informed by visiting lecturers and resident historian Dr. Michael Fuller, PhD.
Fashionable Monte Carlo was our next stop and we chose a tour by bus of the famous Côte d’Azur among the many offered excursions.
We left behind tiny Monaco to move on to our next stop, Livorno, Italy, and an opportunity to visit the city of abundant delights and the heart of the Renaissance, Florence. There were so many options to choose from, so Manos opted for an opportunity to visit a winery he had not been to before for a “Tuscan Wine Tasting” and I selected “The Renaissance Treasures of Florence”.
I had a glorious day wandering the winding streets and enjoying the spectacular architecture of this amazing city after visiting the Uffizi Gallery and the Academia (of Fine Arts) /Gallery and seeing up close and personal Michelangelo’s immortal statue of David.
Michelangelo had a special relationship to a block of marble. He “knew” what forms wanted to be released from the stone and this partnership produced some of the most divine sculpture the world has even been gifted with. Close examination of the statue reveals that David’s right hand is larger than his left to indicate he is holding a stone ready to load in the sling held in his left hand. He is positioned for action with his brow tensed with concentration for the battle that is to ensue. These are details that Michelangelo used to convey David’s intent to the viewer that “has the eyes to see”.
No matter how jaded a museum goer one is, one cannot help but be staggered by the works hanging one after the other at the Uffizi.
Botticelli, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt; it is sensory overload that few other museums in the world can match. Exiting the museum to see dozens of students lining up for perhaps their first look at this amazing art, knowing it was life changing for many of them, added to my immense pleasure and I could only imagine the pleasure the Medici derived from commissioning many of these treasures.
On our meanderings, we passed the magnificent Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which is the fourth largest in the world and perhaps the most beautiful topped by Brunelleschi’s grand Dome. The intricately designed exterior was fashioned from 3 colors of polychrome marble; white from Carrara, pink from Siena, and green from Prato. Nearby is the Baptistery adjacent to Giotto’s Bell Tower.
Still docked in Livorno, next morning we woke to a downpour and drove to Pisa in the pouring rain. Just as I gave up on getting the de rigueur shot of the leaning tower against a sparkling blue sky, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and the sun came out. As this was my first visit to Pisa, I was surprised to hear (from our local guide) that the city had been developed by the Medici family as a tax free port for their trading projects, a fact unheard of in the 16th century. At that time Pisa was on the banks of the Arno but shifting sands and silt buildup now places the city 6 miles from the River. The city was extremely progressive for the time, welcoming nationals from other countries as well as Jews who were known for their trading expertise.
While great care was given to the construction of beautiful buildings, less care was given to the infrastructure supporting them. Sadly the marshy land so close to the river could not support such massive buildings and construction was halted for 80 years until a stabilizing method was developed. Of course this just put a band-aid on the problem and not only the Bell Tower but the Cathedral and Baptistery also are slowly sinking… strangely in opposite directions due to the shifting ground. Modern technology has halted the problem… for the time being.
Our last stop in Italy was Rome’s port, Civitavecchia. Most of our fellow travelers opted for visiting Rome for a few days but as tempting as it was we ended our Mediterranean Cruise on the Viking Star and bid adieu to all the friends we had made until we meet again.
For information on the many destinations, cruises and schedules Viking offers, visit:
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