Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disney Mediterranean Cruise: Civitavecchia & Rome

Today was the day that I felt excited and sick. We would be doing Rome on our own. No Disney guides, no private transportation, no Rick Steeves, at least not in person... Well I guess there are some things to be thankful for... This was the port of call where I had done the planning and the research. This was the stop that we had the highest expectations for. I mean it's Rome for goodness sake! How many times had my 12 year old watched the Lizzy McGuire Movie and sang along with Hey Now, Hey Now... How many times had my father probably seen Roman Holiday or some other black and white dinosaur of a movie on TCM? We are talking the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon... And we are trying to do it by ourselves, with two kids under the age of five... We were either courageous, or delusional!

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife had done most of the research and planning for our day in Villefranche and Monaco, so this one was mine. I read dozens of trip reports on the DIS boards, studied up at AllEars, and visited countless other websites. But then like manna from Heaven a fellow DISer posted about her website/podcast Cruize Cast I went to the site and saw that they were sharing their experiences doing ports on your own, and low and behold a couple weeks later they did an entire podcast on doing Rome on your own just for me (at least that is how I felt)! They took you through the entire day step by step, and their information was spot on! They planned out a much fuller day than we would be able to do,, but they important stuff was there! I bet I listened to it five times before we left, and at least once on the flight to Barcelona.

We planned ahead and pre-ordered breakfast from room service. We knew it would be a very full day and we wanted to get off the ship early so we never felt worried about getting back to the ship on time.

***On a bit of a side note... I heard more announcements for certain parties to call or visit guest services around departure time on this cruise than all of our 6 previous ones combined!***

We ate and got off the ship pretty early. It was nice that we didn't have to tender, but we did need to catch a shuttle bus to the entrance of the port. That was no problem and before we knew it we were walking to the Civitavecchia train station. I can't remember what time we arrived, but there was a short wait for the next train into Rome. Soon our train had come in, and we boarded. The train ride was about an hour and twenty minutes in the main station in Rome, Termini. We were lucky that we had boarded pretty early, because many people on the train did not have seats for the entire journey into Rome. From Termini we took the metro (a bit of a hike, but very well marked, and my wife was able to grab an espresso) two stops to the stop for the Colosseum, aptly named Colosseum.

Now I am a seasoned metro traveler. I've ridden the rails in Washington, New York, London, Barcelona, and some other big cities, but I have never experienced anything like stepping out of the Colosseum metro station. When you step out into the daylight you look up and there it is, what you have seen on TV and in movies so many times... The Colosseum in all her ancient glory. And what is the first thing that pops into my head?

"Wow having a metro stop this close to the Colosseum must have made it really easy to come see the gladiators!" Please hold the applause until after the post...

We were smart and pre-paid for our entrance online... we paid a little extra for the convenience, but after seeing the line it was money well spent. We buzzed by the stand by line like Fast Pass holders and soon we were in the Colosseum looking for our sons shoes... Just like Audrey Hepburn right?

Per Cruize Cast's recommendation, we had downloaded Rick Steeves' audio guide for the Colosseum an we had enough iPods for everyone ages 12 and up, but it was tough to follow because he wasn't very clear where we should start. My Mom seemed to continually be saying, "oh that is what he was talking about" throughout the tour. I never even bothered to start mine. It was really neat to be there, but when it really hit me that we were in Rome was after we came out of the Colosseum and saw the rest of the ancient city. Before my research I couldn't have told you anything about the forum, but here we were standing at the base of the Colosseum, looking at it. Just like people had said, pictures just can't do Rome justice.

Our next stop was the Trevii Fountain. I had my map, and I was ready to lead the way! I had
read that there were some good places to stop for a quick lunch near the fountain, so we planned
on eating somewhere close to there. The walk was a little longer and not as direct as I had thought, and it was a pretty hot day, but we got there eventually (probably about a half hour later). We saw signs for a McDonalds, but never saw it, so we trudged on looking for the fountain. We walked down an alley and it suddenly appeared in front of us! It wasn't as out in the open as I had thought it would be, but it did not disappoint! The gellato and Coke Zero that we got there didn't either! We all took turns fighting through the crowds to toss our coins in the fountain, and I treated everyone in ear shot to my rendition of "Three Coins in a Fountain. " As we all tossed our coins in I wondered what they would think when they found our Romanian Bani in there!
At this point we were all hot and sweaty, so rather than walk to the nearest metro stop, we decided that we would hop a cab back to Termini station. After talking our cabbie into loading all 7 of us into his Peugeot, we were on our way. He was worried about the local police seeing his full car, so he dropped us off around the corner from the station, right next to a cafe. So we stayed and enjoyed a couple of Roman pizzas in the shadow of the train station.

After eating we started our voyage back to the ship. we were able to decipher the schedule to figure out when the next train to Civitaveccia was, but figuring out which platform was more of a challenge. We found the platform just as the train arrived, and we hopped on and grabbed our seats.

We got back to the ship around 6 o'clock. It's all a blur, but I think we grabbed a snack from Pluto's Dog House, took the kids to their respective clubs, showered up, and went to dinner.

There was a real sense of accomplishment after today. We did it... To Rome and back, with two little ones. We enjoyed the day, but I on't think that any of us would say it was our favorite day of the vacation. We were so happy that we did it, and found Rome to be awesome. But I don't know if it lived up to the (maybe unfairly high) expectations...

Next stop, Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii and the kidless excursion!

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