Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Disney Mediterranean Cruise: Naples, Sorrento, and Pompeii

The next stop on our jaunt around the Med is Naples, Italy. This was one of my most anticipated days of the vacation! Today we would be leaving the 3DisKis with my parents, while my wife and I set of on a Disney excursion named "Timeless Pompeii & The Flavors of Sorrento." This would be a great way for my parents to get some quality time with the grand kids, for the kids to get some quality time in the clubs, and for us to have some quiet time.

When we first started planning this vacation one of my first stops was the DIS's coverage of their Mediterranean cruise, "Magic in the Mediterranean". They had hours of content, and hundreds of photos covering their trip, and they have have always been a very trusted source for planning any Disney vacation, cruise or otherwise. While going through their abundance of videos I came across two that really peaked my interest... These were the videos that made us decide on our excursion!

We had been warned on embarkation day that we would be getting into Naples a little later than planned, and that some excursions would have later meeting and departure times. Ours was one of them, so we got to sleep about an hour longer than we originally thought we would.

As we have always experienced with Disney excursions, getting off the ship and on our way was very easy! After our day in Rome on our own, we very much appreciated the hand holding and ease that came with a booked port adventure! We boarded a large tour bus, and soon we were on our way.

Our first stop would be Sorrento, where we would have about an hour and a half of free time before heading to a local farm for lunch, and then we would finish our day with a guided tour of Pompeii.

We winded our way through the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and made our way to Sorrento. We disembarked the tour bus at a store where they specialize in making inlaid wood furniture, but it was pretty much a very large tourist trap (although a nice one) shop. I bet there were 5 or 6 cruise tours all in this place at one time. We saw a quick demonstration about how they make the furniture, and we headed for town.

We walked around town for a little bit. It was pretty, but most of what we saw were your typical shops with things geared for people on vacation, and there were tour groups everywhere! We came to the waterfront, and saw a long drive with a sign for a spa. There was a guard gate and a private property sign, but we figured that since they were advertising a spa they would allow pedestrians in. So we walked down the driveway. What we stumbled upon was an amazing boutique type hotel that had been voted one of the world's top 500 hotels by Conde Nast, The Excelsior Vittoria. we walked in and asked the concierge if there was a cafe, and he guided us out to a beautiful terrace overlooking the water! It was just us and one other couple out there. It was so quiet and restful, unlike the "outside world" just a couple hundred yards behind us! We enjoyed mineral water and a lemon soda with some mixed nuts before we headed back to the tourist trap to catch our bus. This was one of the highlights of our vacation! we were maybe there for 30 minutes, but we knew that we wanted to return in the future.

We re-boarded the bus and headed for the farm. Now being a city person, seeing the actual farm was not high on my priority list. Having a homemade lunch at the farm made from things grown fresh was! Plus I had seen the video, and the rave reviews from the DIS gang, so I was ready to see some cheese making!

Well, it turns out the we did not go to the same farm as the DIS gang... The tour was kind of interesting, but it was really just an overview to buy time while they prepared our lunch. And the lunch was a disappointment. The anti-pasta they served was pretty good and definitely fresh, but the pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta was boring and bland. The eating area was outside in the shade, but there was no air circulating so it was hot and uncomfortable. We did eat with a very nice family from New Jersey, who tried to sell us on Disney Vacation Club. It was nice to talk with fellow Disney geeks.
Now we were off to Pompeii. We we highly encouraged to take a nap on the bus ride, but we were some of the few who did not. Our tour guide woke up the sleepers about 15 minutes before we got to the site to give us some instructions, and more interesting facts about the region. She explained that this would not be the most in depth tour of Pompeii, but we would hit the important parts, and some things that she found especially interesting. i should say that our tour guide was awesome! I hate that I can't remember her name, because she was so personable, and she did such a great job with everyone.
I wasn't sure what visiting Pompeii would be like. After all, i
t is the site of one of the most famous natural disasters in the history of Earth. It was very interesting to be there. It wasn't a living history experience like I have been so used to growing up in Virginia and visiting Williamsburg, and Jamestown. There weren't people reenacting what life was like at the time of the eruption, it was just a lot of ruins. Some were in good shape, some were unrecognizable to what they used to be. This is where having a guide made all the difference. She was able to point out things that you wouldn't even look at, or know what it was if you did. One of the examples that comes to mind were "streets" of Pompeii. There were huge stone blocks going through the middle of the streets, and grooves running to each side of them. Well the stones were to cross the street without having to step in the sewage that would have been flowing down the street, and the groo
ves were actually for lining up the wheels of the chariot so you could drive over the blocks! There were several others too.
After a shot of Limoncello it was back on the bus one more time for the ride back to the ship. Despite the disappointment of the farm, the excursion was still a great success. It was really nice to have Disney handle all of the logistics for the day. We are now totally sold on doing shore excursions! At least for ports where there is a need to venture out further. I also thought that if this $150 per person excursion was this good, I can't begin to imagine how great an entire Adventures by Disney vacation must be! I definitely see one in our future, and if we do another cruise where the ABD add on is available--and all the kids are old enough-- I will seriously consider it.

As good of a day as this was, and as much as we enjoyed it, there was a downside to our excursion. Because of our late arrival, and awful scheduling by DCL we were unable to attend the Castaway Club party for Gold and Platinum members. The party was scheduled for 5:00, and we didn't get back on the ship until 6:00. Why DCL decided to schedule it on a port day is beyond me. Especially a day where so many people would be going outside of the immediate docking area for the day. I understand that these parties are usually held on sea days, and since there is only one sea day on the 7 night Mediterranean itinerary it would be a busy day, but it just seemed to me like this party had become less and less important to them. The quality of this event has gone downhill over the last few years. I had hoped that when they only opened it up to Gold and Platinum members (no offence to Silver members) they would ramp it up again, but they didn't. It is very disappointing.

Sorry for the rant... So that's it from Naples. Up next, a day at sea. Hang on, this one is about to get interesting!

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