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Old 06-16-2013, 07:58 PM   #31
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Where did you fly from on your first leg?
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Old 06-16-2013, 08:11 PM   #32
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I am loving your trip report!! The pictures are amazing and your girls are beautiful!! Thank you for all of the information...we leave in a few days for our 12 day med cruise and your tr is just what i needed to help me get through the rest of the week! Thanks again!!
No problem. It's been fun to re-live the trip. Have fun your 12-day Med!!! We wished our 7-day was longer
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Old 06-16-2013, 08:11 PM   #33
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Where did you fly from on your first leg?
LAX, and we bought the one-way tix in Aug 2012 so about 10 months prior to the trip (in case you were wondering about ticket prices).
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Old 06-16-2013, 08:12 PM   #34
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Day 11 -- Portofino, Santa Margherita (La Spezia)

Our original plan was for DH and I to do Lucca & Pisa with the kids. Everyone else would go to the "Adults Only" DCL excursion to Florence & Pisa. After reading the description of Lucca, it was apparent that I would not be able to walk 1.5 miles and keep pace with others in the group. I sadly gave up the idea of going to Lucca and felt lost about what to do.

About 2 weeks before the cruise, I turned on PBS and saw Andrea Bocelli giving a concert in the Portofino main square. It was a beautiful concert, and the backdrop was gorgeous. "Maybe we'll go there" I said half-heartedly to myself.

I forgot all about Portofino when I started researching doing Cinque Terre on our own. However, the distance from the port to the La Spezia train station made me hesitate. I literally had no plan for La Spezia until we got on the ship. When my dad realized that he couldn't walk very much either in his condition, I went to the Port Adventures desk and signed us all up (the B-team haha) for Portofino & Santa Margherita. The Port Adventures CM said the location was lovely.

We went into this day with zero expectations. And what a day it was. Unlike the prior day, a DCL Port Adventures CM accompanied us on this trip to make sure no one got left behind. Portofino was like a living postcard. I think it was on this day where my mood lifted, and I really felt like I was in Italy. The heat and humidity also began to help alleviate some of the pain. The picturesque setting is something I will never forget.

Portofino:















Santa Margherita:











La Spezia port promenade:



We returned to the ship early enough to enjoy the 6:30 pm show, dinner and a relatively early night's sleep. Tomorrow would be "The Big Day" (ie Rome).

We squeezed in a few pics with Italian Mickey and Italian Minnie before calling it a night. Ciao Ciao!




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Old 06-16-2013, 09:12 PM   #35
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I love your pictures. Cute kids as well.
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Old 06-16-2013, 09:43 PM   #36
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I love your pictures. Cute kids as well.
Thanks

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Old 06-17-2013, 08:48 AM   #37
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Day 12 Rome -- A Perfect Day

How We Planned
DH and I had been to Rome once before for 3 days. This was SO helpful during planning because I actually knew where the sites were and logistically what would make sense. The hard part was accommodating all of our impaired mobility issues. We couldn't walk too much all at once. We couldn't do too many sites since the kids needed potty breaks. Also, planning for Rome was tricky because there were things I definitely knew I did and did not want. For example:

1. I did not a want a car for the day --- I know many people hire a driver and are driven around and shown the sites, but I did not want this. The traffic in Rome is notoriously slow, and we already knew that we wanted to focus on the Colosseum and the Vatican. Those 2 sites alone take up 5-6 hours of time. I didn't see the point in paying for a minivan for the day just to have the driver sit around for 6 hours waiting for us. That being said...

2. I wanted to do the "Underground Tour" at the Colosseum -- this tour just opened up a few years ago and for a very small tour fee, it permits access to the underground and stage portion of the Colosseum. The English tours are given at very specific times--times which are not released until a few months prior to the tour date.

3. I wanted to have a tour guide in the Vatican. Although my family does not usually prefer having tour guides, I knew from experience that a guide in the Vatican was necessary. There are so many lines, doors, access corridors and elevators that only a guide can go through. With our limited time in Rome, access was essential.

4. We have to stop at Trevi Fountain. My kids needed to throw coins in the fountain. How else can we ensure that they'll go back? Plus, my family has been to Caesar's Palace WAY too many times. They needed to see the real Trevi Fountain and not just the one next to Abercrombie & Fitch in the Forum Shops. Walks of Italy was the only company that I contacted who allowed this extra stop without a fee. I tipped the driver extra based on what the fee would have been.

I contacted the usual companies recommended on here (Rome Cabs, Rome in Limo, etc.) Truth be told, they were all great. Problem? We have an odd number of 9 people. Everyone wanted to charge me for 2 cars, totaling over 1000 Euro for just driving! This is without guides, without admission tickets, etc. I know I talk about budgeting alot in this TR, and here's why. My brother (and his wife) and my husband and I were splitting ALL costs 50/50. Although my parents and my aunt were set on paying us back, we just couldn't let them. We needed to find savings everywhere and still have a good time. I contacted Walks of Italy and was able to get roundtrip transfers in a minivan, and 20% off their listed price from a promotional code posted on their blog.

DIY Route? --- There are lots of DIS'ers who did it the old-fashioned way, the way I used to travel to Europe: DIY. This means you get on a train, and you do it yourself. In fact, this is how we did Rome the first time we went. Our problem this time? Well, we're a band of invalids. I honestly couldn't walk 3 blocks without taking a break. Having been to Rome before, I also knew that it was another 45 minute train ride from S. Pietro station to Termini, then we had to go to metro the Colosseum from there. Why waste time? I checked the Port schedule for our Rome day it looked like at least 5 ships would be in the Port that day. Competing with thousands of other people trying to get BACK to the ships? No thanks.

A Happy Surprise
In the midst of my frenzied planning, I found a tour that would be more fitting for me personally: the Scavi Tour. The Excavations office of St. Peter's currently allows very limited number of tours down into the necropolis under St. Peter's Basilica. The following is an excerpt from catholiceducation.org.:

What we know today as St. Peter's used to be called New St. Peter's to distinguish it from Old St. Peter's, the basilica built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, over what he and everyone else understood to be the grave of Peter, prince of the apostles. Despite his absorption in planning the new imperial capital at Constantinople, Constantine helped with the construction of his magnificent St. Peter's by carrying twelve baskets of earth to the site, one for each of the twelve apostles. For more than a millennium, Old St. Peter's was one of the focal points of the Christian world, a pole toward which Christians' internal compasses naturally pointed.

By the second half of the fifteenth century, however, Old St. Peter's had fallen to rack and ruin; the decision was made to pull it down to make way for a new basilica. The building of New St. Peter's, which would eventually include the world's largest dome and the fantastically strong foundations needed to support it, took 120 years and absorbed the attention of twenty popes and ten architects, including such legends as Bramante, Michelangelo, and Bernini. The building's changing design, the execution of those designs, and the fund-raising necessary to support such a vast project caused a lot of controversy, and contributed in at least an indirect way to the Reformation. Amid all the confusion and construction, little was done to explore the tomb of St. Peter. It was simply assumed to be where tradition and Constantine had sited it. "New St. Peter's" was thus built without any systematic excavation of what was underneath Old St. Peter's.

When the workmen began lowering the floor of the undercroft to accommodate the tomb of Pope Pius XI and renovate the grotto space, they discovered a series of tombs that, on further examination, seemed to be part of a kind of necropolis, complete with walls, streets, benches, funerary monuments, and so forth. Much of this had been disturbed or destroyed when the ancient Vatican Hill was leveled by Constantine's fourth-century builders, but a fair amount of it was still intact. While World War II raged across Europe, Pius XII quietly authorized a full-scale archaeological excavation of the area, which continued throughout the 1940s.

Digging under the papal high altar of the basilica was something like peeling an onion or opening one of those nested Russian matrushka dolls. Eventually the excavators found a shrine, the Tropaion (the Greek word for trophy or victory monument): a classic structure with columns supporting what may have been an altar, surmounted by a pediment. The floor of the Tropaion, which has an opening delineating the boundaries of the grave over which the monument was built, defined the level of the floor of Constantine's basilica. At the back of the Tropaion was a red wall; exposed to the elements, it began to crack, necessitating the construction of a buttressing wall to support the whole structure. When archaeologists unearthed the buttressing wall, they found it covered with graffiti. And it contained a secret, marble-lined repository. One piece of graffiti, decoded, seemed to say, "Peter is [here!]"

Thanks to long delayed renovation plans, the need to accommodate Pius XI's tomb, and the curiosity of Pius XII (who seems to have been intrigued by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1923), archaeologists eventually unearthed a small city of the dead beneath the foundations of Old St. Peter's, which had been incorporated into New St. Peter's as supports for the colossal new structure. There had been, evidently, a vast pagan burial ground on the Vatican Hill. At some point, Christians began to be buried there. The central grave that defines the Tropaion is surrounded by other graves, which radiate toward it. Thus it seems that the remains of St. Peter, which would have been among the most jealously guarded relics of the ancient Roman Christian community, had been buried, perhaps immediately after his death, perhaps a brief time later, in the Vatican Hill necropolis: secretly, but with sufficient clues to indicate to pious Christian pilgrims the location of Peter's tomb. Perhaps the remains were, during persecutions, moved to a less risky place and then reinterred. Perhaps the Tropaion was part of a Christian complex that, in calmer times, was used for baptisms, ordinations, and funerals. Perhaps, before the Tropaion was built, the grave itself was used as a site for small Christian gatherings in the dead of night.

No one knows for sure. Archaeology isn't algebra; it yields probabilities rather than certainties. But reputable scientific opinion today holds that the excavations under St. Peter's in the 1940s originally undertaken for an entirely different purpose did yield the mortal remains of Peter.


Contacting the Scavi Office
Forum posts on TripAdvisor say that you must contact the Scavi (excavations) office at least 3 months prior to your desired tour date to request a tour. The process is opaque. You can either email or fax in a request. If you receive a reply with a tour date, then you're in. If you don't receive a reply, then it means that the Scavi office did not assign you a tour. They don't like it if you call in asking about your request because there are only a few administrative people who work for the Scavi office, and they still work manually out of a handwritten appointment book. Sometimes you will receive a reply within a few days, sometimes within a few months.

For me, my 3-month mark fell right when the Vatican was preparing for the election of the new Pope. I emailed them about one week prior to the Papal Conclave. I wasn't surprised when I didn't even receive an automated reply back. My SIL faxed in a request for me. I tried emailing from another email address. "Stop harassing the Priests." DH said. "They're kind of busy at the moment." OK. Sorry. I'll give it a rest. A week after the fax request was sent, I received a reply. We were granted a tour -- but the time conflicted with our Underground Tour schedule AND our Vatican tour. The rest of the family decided to do the Vatican museum tour, and I would do the Scavi Tour alone. I would also miss the Underground Tour. It didn't matter, I was excited and grateful for the opportunity.

What Actually Happened
Perfection. It actually happened. Our Rome day was perfect. I had planned it so that there wasn't much room for error. Everything had to happen right on time. Since Baby Ems did so well in the nursery during our Palo dinner, the CMs suggested that we leave her there for our Rome day. We dropped her off at 8:00 am exactly (along with a line of other parents dropping off babies). I missed her terribly during the day, but it was way too hot for her to have been with us on our long day. We left Rome at 4:45 pm and got back on the ship at 5:50 pm. Picked up Baby Ems and we were poolside by 6:00 pm. Here was our schedule:

Pick up from Port 8:00 am
Quick Stop at Trevi 9:15 am
Drop Off at Forum 9:30 am
Enter Colosseum 11:30 am
Colosseum Tour 12:00 pm
**Lilpooh108 (me) cabs to St. Peter's at 12:00 pm
**Scavi Tour at 1:30 pm
Vatican Museum Tour (Walks of Italy) 2:00 pm
Return Pick Up 4:30 pm

Rather than summarizing our day, you can see it in our pictures. By the way, I do not have pictures of the Scavi Tour. Pictures are not allowed. I will say though, that if you have the opportunity to do it, please do. It was amazing and humbling at the same time. It was also a special moment for me that day, as I wanted to say a prayer for my family's health. My dad ended up not doing the Vatican tour as it would have been too much walking for him. The Scavi office allowed him to come on the tour with me when I checked in. Somehow it just all worked out. Being able to walk through the Necropolis, to see St. Peter's burial site, to see the chapel where the Pope prays, was breathtaking, humbling and amazing.



























Tips/Recommendations
1. Walks of Italy gave us a great guide for the Vatican and an awesome driver for our transfers. I didn't take the tour with my family, but I met the guide (Alessia) outside St. Peter's. She was VERY punctual and OCD (just like a DIS mom would like). She watched our stroller while the family went inside St. Peter's to meet up with my dad and me. She walked us to Galleria Savelli for a potty break and coordinated the meeting with the driver. She literally did not leave until we got in the van. She was great, and Walks of Italy was great to work with. Our driver, Luigi, was also amazing. He gave us his cell phone and said we could call at any time during the day if we wanted to get picked up early, etc. He also coordinated well with Alessia. I was frankly surprised at how professional and coordinated these two were. Check out Walks of Italy's blog for promotional codes.

2. Scavi Tour -- I really really recommend that people take the time to do the Scavi tour. There is virtual tour on the Vatican's website. Please note that the Scavi tour is NOT the same tour as the one that allows you to see all of the past Popes' tombs. That level is one level above where the Scavi tour takes place.

3. Underground Tour -- The Colosseum sells this tour directly through its ticket vendor online. There are also tour companies that give this tour. We opted for the Colosseum's tour as the timing worked out better for us.

4. If your DCL Rome day is on a Wednesday, check the Vatican website to see if there is a Papal Audience that day. If so, either go to the Vatican really early, or go really late. Either way, you will NOT be able to get into St. Peter's at any time before 1:00 p.m. So if you're using the Rick Steve's trick to get into St. Peter's by exiting through the group door, keep in mind that the group door could very well be closed if you don't time your museum visit correctly. St. Peter's square is also insanely crowded during and immediately after the Papal Audience (I got to St. Peter's square at 12:45 pm and the crowd had just dispersed). Plan your route and potty breaks accordingly.

5. A special thanks goes out to Angel Tours. I didn't use them this time, but I did the 1st time I was in Rome as a "walking" tour through the Vatican. Angel Tours hires art history students studying in Rome. All of their guides are native English speakers. Originally, Angel Tours was going to send us a guide to walk with us the entire day (for a very reasonable fee). Because we ended up wanting to do the Underground Tour and the Scavi Tour, we didn't have the need for an all-day guide. If this is something you're looking for, contact Tatjana at Angel Tours. She initially helped me plan an itinerary and was very communicative throughout the process.

We ended our Rome day well ahead of schedule. Captain Hook greeted us on Deck 1 when we got back on the ship Such a great way to end our day.


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Old 06-17-2013, 09:08 AM   #38
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Love the pictures! The one of the spiral staircase is particularly good.

I forgot to mention above, we also had Andrea at Palo. We had him on the EBTA three times and requested him for our brunch on the first sea day of the Med. His coworkers all were giving him a hard time as when I put in the request I asked for "Andrea, the boy." I was just differentiating between him and the woman, but they all started to call him that. I should have put asked for "Andrea, the man."
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:16 AM   #39
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So enjoying your trip report -- and to think you weren't even going to do one! The idea of the personalized autograph book is fabulous -- if only my DD's (13 and 16) weren't too old for this (although DD16 did pose with all the princesses last year). Your girls are incredibly cute and look a whole lot like mine did at that age.

Love the description of your day in Rome and the photos even more... We are using Can't Be Missed Tours in Rome and the following day also in Pompeii/Sorrento/Amalfi. They meet us in the train station on the way to Rome but it's mostly walking in the city. I have some concerns about my BIL who is developmentally disabled and may not have the stamina or interest to walk in the August heat. We'll just have to see what happens.
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:47 AM   #40
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Love the pictures! The one of the spiral staircase is particularly good.

I forgot to mention above, we also had Andrea at Palo. We had him on the EBTA three times and requested him for our brunch on the first sea day of the Med. His coworkers all were giving him a hard time as when I put in the request I asked for "Andrea, the boy." I was just differentiating between him and the woman, but they all started to call him that. I should have put asked for "Andrea, the man."
Thanks! My husband took that picture! I'll give him the compliment

And we LOVED Andrea. He was so charming and polite. Now I'll remember him as "Andrea, the boy." He did seem young, right? He was talking about his mother visiting him when we got into La Spezia.

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So enjoying your trip report -- and to think you weren't even going to do one! The idea of the personalized autograph book is fabulous -- if only my DD's (13 and 16) weren't too old for this (although DD16 did pose with all the princesses last year). Your girls are incredibly cute and look a whole lot like mine did at that age.

Love the description of your day in Rome and the photos even more... We are using Can't Be Missed Tours in Rome and the following day also in Pompeii/Sorrento/Amalfi. They meet us in the train station on the way to Rome but it's mostly walking in the city. I have some concerns about my BIL who is developmentally disabled and may not have the stamina or interest to walk in the August heat. We'll just have to see what happens.
Thanks for the compliments! About the heat and walking....you might find it easier to cab from place to place. If you take a taxi from a taxi stand (not just a taxi sitting around on a curb), they will use the meter and it's not too pricey at all.

I had one guy try to rip me off by telling me that it was 25 Euro from the Colosseum to St. Peter's. I kept walking to the taxi stand it was was 12 Euro for the fare, and the cabbie tipped himself 2 Euro Really, he just looked at me, pointed at the meter and counted out 2 euro for himself. I was like, "Alrighty, then."

Since you'll have a walking guide with you, you won't get ripped off at all. It was hot when we were there, and it's only June now.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:17 AM   #41
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Thanks! My husband took that picture! I'll give him the compliment

And we LOVED Andrea. He was so charming and polite. Now I'll remember him as "Andrea, the boy." He did seem young, right? He was talking about his mother visiting him when we got into La Spezia.
He had such a baby face! But he said he was almost 32. I tried to hide my shock


ETA I didn't ask his age, he told me when we were laughing about "Andrea, the boy."
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:50 AM   #42
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I did the Scavi tour back in 2007 during my 10 days of Italy self tour. It was amazing and still pretty undiscovered! I think then they only let 100 people down there a day...not sure if the same limits are in place.

I need to go back and do the Underground tour at the Colosseum. That sounds so cool!

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Old 06-17-2013, 12:20 PM   #43
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I am enjoying your updates so much!! Your daughters are BEAUTIFUL!! You all are wonderful parents to expose your children to such wonderful trips. Our girls are both grown and we have enjoyed sharing many adventures with them over the years.

Your pictures are wonderful and I cannot wait for more updates!!
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Old 06-17-2013, 01:15 PM   #44
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I did the Scavi tour back in 2007 during my 10 days of Italy self tour. It was amazing and still pretty undiscovered! I think then they only let 100 people down there a day...not sure if the same limits are in place.

I need to go back and do the Underground tour at the Colosseum. That sounds so cool!

Jill in CO
Our tour group only had 13 people in it, and I know that they only allowed 8-10 groups per day. Our guide said that to date, only 1 million people have toured the Necropolis since the 1970s when it was open to touring. It was such a fascinating and humbling experience.

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Originally Posted by cforsythe View Post
I am enjoying your updates so much!! Your daughters are BEAUTIFUL!! You all are wonderful parents to expose your children to such wonderful trips. Our girls are both grown and we have enjoyed sharing many adventures with them over the years.

Your pictures are wonderful and I cannot wait for more updates!!
Thanks for your kind words! I actually have super cute pics of my kids but I don't want to post them b/c I'm scared of weirdos on the internet lol. So far I've only posted ones where my DD#1 is not looking directly at the camera. I don't mind as much posting pics of the baby since she won't look the same in a few months anyway.

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He had such a baby face! But he said he was almost 32. I tried to hide my shock


ETA I didn't ask his age, he told me when we were laughing about "Andrea, the boy."
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Old 06-17-2013, 03:27 PM   #45
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Day 13 Naples -- Baby Ems v. The Sleazy Guy

After a fantastic day in Rome, we were on a Vacation High. You know, the one you get when everything just goes right. Well....our driver in Naples would send that high crashing down.

Ok ladies, you know that guy in the bar? You know, that one. There's always that one guy, in the bar, whose wife and kids are at home, but he's all greasy looking sitting by himself in the bar, looking to pick up chicks? Yea, that guy. Well, that guy was our driver in Naples. UGH. ICK. HEEBIE JEEBIES.

Let me start off with a disclaimer: We had a GREAT TIME in Pompeii and in Positano. Unforgettable. Beautiful. But the entire day was sort of hijacked by The-Sleazy-Guy. Let me get all my gripes about The-Sleazy-Guy out of the way. The-Sleazy-Guy showed up late, so I had to ransack my diaper bag to figure out See Amalfi Coast's phone number. Then The-Sleazy-Guy yelled at me for grabbing extra things out of my diaper bag because he needed me to hurry up and get me out of the car, since he decided to drop us off at Pompeii by parking in an illegal spot. Then The-Sleazy-Guy took us a tourist trap restaurant where he: (1) gets a commission; and (2) a free lunch without telling us that this ginormous waste of time would cut our Positano time to 1 hour, and that we'd miss Sorrento.

Oh yea, and The-Sleazy-Guy told me that he has a baby mama in England, with a kid who refuses to speak/learn Italian and whom he only sees once a year because "the kid is British." I had to sit next to him for 9 hours of my life, listening to the sleaze.

I'm sad to say that we booked with the highly-rated "See Amalfi Coast." I can't recommend them based on our poor experience. But hey, the bright side is we saved some money compared to going with DCL. Yay?

Phew. All that is out of my system. Did I mention I had a great time in Pompeii and Positano?

Pompeii was very interesting, but a bit underwhelming after seeing the Roman Forum. We LOVED LOVED LOVED Positano and squeezed in so much in our 1 hour. We found a cute little bar/lounge in the last 20 minutes overlooking the sea and had the best gelato and espresso break in the most beautiful setting. On the walk back up to the van, I bought a souvenir porcelain turtle in 7 minutes.

Baby Ems avenged us against The-Sleazy-Guy by throwing up in his van (take that, Sleazy-Guy!) But we are kind people and we made sure she threw up on us instead of his seats (I'm like, Evil-lite).

Here are some pics of our wonderful day (really, it was wonderful):

Pompeii








Positano


















We returned to the Ship, and it was Pirate Night. Our dining team was super enthusiastic and we had a great time. Some obligatory Pirate Night photos:


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