Cruise Ship: Carnival Freedom
Cruise Destination: Mediterranean
Cruise Dates: August 2008
Guest Contributor: Paul Kinney
Pre-Cruise Time in Rome
We left Denver the morning of August 22nd for our flight to Rome connecting through Chicago on American Airlines. We were about an hour late leaving Denver which caused us a little anxiety about the scheduled hour and one-half layover in Chicago. Perhaps thankfully, the flight to Rome was also delayed over an hour so connection time was more than adequate. Arriving in Rome the next morning at about 9:30 a.m., we retrieved our bags almost immediately then called the transfer company to see whether our pre-arranged ride to our central Rome hotel could be re-booked (assuming that with a nearly 2-hour delay our driver would not be waiting). To our very pleasant surprise, the driver was still waiting with a name placard sign welcoming us to Rome. We had prearranged transfers between the airport and our hotel, then to the port, back to our Rome hotel, and finally back to the airport after the cruise with Rome Cabs, owned by Stefano Costantini (email: , website: www.romecabs.com ). We can't say enough good things about the punctuality, service, and friendliness of Stefano and his drivers. After arriving at our hotel, we quickly freshened up, unpacked a few essentials, and hit the ground to begin seeing Rome, starting of course with a celebratory glass of wine at a nearby trattoria.
Our hotel, Albergo Cesari (www.albergocesari.it) was absolutely fabulous, located on a quiet pedestrian-only street about 2 blocks in either direction to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. We had heard how noisy or uncomfortably small Rome hotels can be, but we experienced neither at the Cesari. The windows were new, and had sound- and light-eliminating shutters that made the room perfectly dark and quiet for sleeping. Beyond that, the room was large, the bed very comfortable, and the bathroom quite clean. The hotel was well maintained, always clean, and the hotel staff was extremely helpful and friendly. We will definitely go back to Rome and will stay at this hotel if possible.
The best way to see Rome is to do two things: put your walking shoes on and sit a lot. While that may sound contradictory it allowed us to both "see" Rome and to "feel" Rome. And I think one must do both to fully experience the city. As a crow flies we were not more than a mile from our hotel to any of the biggest sites of Rome including the Vatican and the forum/Coliseum. And walking allowed us to discover some hidden palazzos, incredible churches, awesome gelaterias and other great "finds" beyond the major attractions. Now with respect to sitting, having a glass of wine or cappuccino allows a visitor to slow down to the Italian lifestyle long enough to actually breath-in the beauty or to visit with other travelers or residents at a nearby table. We met some incredibly nice people from Italy, the U.S. and many other countries, some of whom we exchanged email addresses for later contact.
Our second day in Rome (a Sunday) was spent exploring and touring the Coliseum, Forum, Pallentine Hill and the Capitoline. It's hard to comprehend the extent and majesty of what ancient Romans built by looking only at a few standing pillars or shards of buildings. But it is nonetheless spectacular. While most, if not all, of the area can be explored alone, we joined a tour of the Coliseum and of Palentine that allowed us both to skip the long entry lines, and to gain a great overview of the Forum. A little earlier research through Rick Steve's website as well as an overlay book that we purchased helped us fully explore the key areas of ancient Rome. After returning to our hotel for a quick shower and change of clothes, we did our own "la dolce vita" stroll around the Pantheon area where we discovered the Rotunda restaurant. We had one of the most enjoyable and romantic meals of our lives, made better in part, by the great service of our waiter Roni. We returned to this restaurant 2 more times during our pre-and post-cruise visits to Rome.
If anything might be considered the low-point of our trip, the following day's visit to the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica would qualify. Not that we were disappointed to see the art, antiquities, and grandeur of the Vatican - because it is spectacular - we were just surprised by the crushing crowds and circus-like atmosphere at a place my wife dearly thought might be a meaningful spiritual experience. Growing up Catholic and attending Catholic school, she had dreamed of seeing her church's epicenter. We had pre-booked a tour which allowed us to bypass the 4 block line waiting for tickets. However, it nonetheless was subject to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in every room of the museums. Seldom was there a time to stand and marvel at a piece of art or sculpture. This was best epitomized in the Sistine Chapel, where several hundred visitors were herded into the chapel, were constantly reminded to be silent, were disallowed from taking photographs (because the Catholic church had sold sole photo rights to the company restoring Michelangelo's paintings as part of the contract), then were herded out again after 10 or 15 minutes for another herd to be allowed in. It's a site not to be missed, but perhaps not to be repeated either.
Page 2 > > More of Carnival Freedom Mediterranean Cruise Review > >