Sunday, November 4, 2018

Livorno and Pisa, Italy


We purposely scheduled an afternoon tour for today so we could sleep in and sleep in we did. Boy, we slept last night. As soon as I hammered out yesterday's blog post on my phone I went back to the cabin and took some Tylenol PM and was sound asleep by 7 pm. Other than a couple nighttime bathroom trips, I didn't wake up until this morning when room service called to see if they could switch out our mini bar. (Hmmm...privacy sign on the door has room service calling to ask if they can come in, but on Caribbean Princess the privacy sign on a door meant the ladies on the balcony next to us could keep smoking on their balcony undisturbed. Seems there is a bit of inconsistency in policy there if you ask me.)

By the time hubby got dressed (he's a super slow dresser) we barely had enough time to grab his coffee at Coffee & Cones and make it to the buffet before breakfast was over. Something to know about Coffee & Cones - they don't have regular coffee there, only specialty coffees. And something to know about the buffet - they don't replenish food when it's getting close to the end.

Since we weren't sure how we'd be feeling after Rome we waited until we got onboard yesterday before booking this tour. We decided we needed easy so we chose the trolley tour of Pisa. Knowing we won't ever get back to Italy we needed to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And needed very little walking. This is the first time hubby has used a cane and he is having a hard time getting used to it.

Livorno is a working port and you can't just walk off and do your own thing right from the terminal.
Today we had a Looney Tunes ship nearby.
You must take a shuttle to get out of the port area. It costs 5 euros for the round trip ride. Since we had a purchased tour we didn't need the shuttle as it picked us up at the terminal. I use the word "terminal" but it's more like a warehouse from the outside.
We were picked up outside the terminal/warehouse and rode the coach for the half hour ride to Pisa. That is where we were transferred to the trolley for a ride to a restaurant for some snacks. Coffee ice cream and choice of beverage. Red or white wine, water or soda. (If you wanted to purchase an extra bottle of water it was one euro.) Restrooms were free for our group.
Look at the size of the lemons!
There were a few minutes to shop in their gift shop before heading on a walking tour. The walking tour was optional and some stayed behind. We joined the tour for a little while but then decided we weren't sheep and peeled off from the group, took some photos, and headed back to the meet-up spot to sit and wait.
From one side it almost looks straight.
Nope. It really is the Leaning Tower of Pisa!


We then all boarded a trolley for a little tour of Pisa. While the tour description from Princess didn't match our actual tour today, it was still a good day and we had spectacular weather. Our trolley wasn't open air so the pictures aren't perfect. But still a beautiful city.
Beautiful sunset on the way back to the ship.
The terminal had free wifi so once we got back to the ship I grabbed my computer and headed back out  to get to work. All aboard is at 6:30 and with the tour arriving back at 5ish I had to get busy fast Thanks for your patience as I work at adding pictures back in for yesterday's post today. I don't like not being able to add photos as I go but that's how it looks like it'll need to work this trip. Again, thanks for your patience.

Off to France tomorrow!

Found out the number of Platinum and Elite passengers on this ship: 1700! Whew.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Crown Princess Transatlantic Cruise, Embarkation Day


When we got out of the car at the port today I only had one thing to say to my hubby. 

I didn't know we were driving on the Autobahn. 

Our driver, the one the Princess rep at the hotel recommended, was a speed demon. At one point I glanced at the speedometer and saw he was driving 150 kilometers per hour. I do believe that equates to around 90 miles an hour. And he spent most of the time on his cell phone. And for a while it was raining hard. But we made it to the port with no injuries to us, any pedestrians or animals, and no vehicle damage. So I guess it was a good day. 

And now I can say hello from the Crown Princess!  We have two weeks ahead of us on the ship. 

Our Itinerary

Embarkation was super fast. Pull up to the port, hand off the luggage, walk into the new terminal, go through security, head to check in and board the ship.
Beautiful view from the ship.
We had a Superman ship nearby.
There are 800 in transit passengers so the lines were short, the buffet was relatively empty, and muster drill seating was plentiful.

Speaking of muster, they dismisssed the rows one by one. We've seen that on some but not all of the other Princess ships. But this one was a bit strange. Usually when ships dismiss row by row disabled passengers are allowed to leave first. Not here. Disabled passengers were the last to be dismisssd. Hubby and I were the very last ones allowed to leave the theater. I'm not sure how that will work in a real emergency. And yet again at this muster drill we had people on their phones and tablets during the entire drill. Guess some folks just won't take it seriously until someone gets hurt. Muster personnel try to stop them but finally give up. We've also already seen someone vaping on deck with no concern from the crew. Like so many things, rules aren't really rules but merely suggestions.

A couple other things of note...
There is no Elite line at the Passenger Services Desk. Probably too many this cruise. My card wouldn't work so I was in that wonderfully long line. Also, the evening Platinum/Elite/Suite lounge has been moved to Club Fusion to handle the extra Elite load.

There are more kids on this cruise than I thought there would be. Maybe I am noticing them more because they are loud. We had a screamer at Passenger Sevices and a crier in the buffet.

Guess who I ran into at the buffet? None other than Vickie from Vickie and Bernie Travel. Nice to see her right off the bat.

I won't be posting the Princess Patters this time around as we have several sea days and a limited number of Internet minutes. Need the officers? Here ya go:
Pictures will also be few and far between as well until we get some good on-land internet. I'll add pictures back in as I go along.

Right now we're sitting on Promenade deck waiting to push off. What do we have on tap tomorrow? How about the Leaning Tower of Pisa?! See you then!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Random Thoughts About Life

It's 2:30 am in Rome (7:30 pm at home) and since I can't sleep I guess it's as good a time as any to start my Rome wrap up post share some random thoughts about life.

This really has been a thought provoking few months. While yesterday (or was it the day before? I've lost track of my days!) I said never again would we fly overnight or fly such a long distance, I already started scheming (that happened at 1 am this morning) of ways to get us back here. Fly Boise to New York. Stay a few days. New York to Reykjavik and stay a few days. Reykjavik to Rome. Hubby wasn't going for it, though. Darn. I think Rome was a one and done for him. This was his trip, his must-see place, but the huge crowds and the walking and the fear of falling and the stamina issues have him quite a bit hesitant of heading out this far again. 

This is a new life for him. He was always confident in his actions, independent, walked fast (well, as fast as someone with cerebral palsy could), and never, ever, considered himself handicapped. But after his kidney failure he never regained all the strength and stamina he had beforehand. And since his kidneys are only at 60% capacity and will never get better, we are learning to live life differently. I've taken more of a caretaker role lately. I'm okay with that, but it's unfortunate that at 58 he sometimes seems like he's 78. I'm guessing if not for his camaraderie with crew members we probably wouldn't be cruising anymore. He loves the workers on the ship. Absolutely adores them. As a former high school teacher, I think being on the ship makes him feel young again with all the conversations and fun he has with the young crew members.

Each time we head out on a new trip we send a photo from our location to the group of crew we've come to know so well. We sent out our Rome picture a couple hours ago and so far we had Mariana from Mexico City tell us she just got a job at the JW Marriott and thanked us for our support and the letter of recommendation we wrote for her. We had Jelena from Serbia tell us how much she loves us and if she and her boyfriend decide to stay in China that we will have to come see her. Mou and Neville from India sent us a picture of themselves in Sydney and said they hope their next contract is in the US so we can come to see them on the ship. Clary has a picture of all the Kit Kats we sent to him on his ship in Japan and told us about his friend who works on the Crown. Niranjan said he can't wait until we (he calls us his mom and dad) get to the Grand next month to see him and told us about his best friend on the Crown. We heard from Sainor from Honduras who found out he might be getting a promotion and Sheila from Nicaragua who just finished her contract and got to go home to her little girl. Sandesh said he is now working night room service on the Crown so we've made plans to eat late a lot these next couple weeks. Sundar just joined the Sea Princess this week. Marcelino and Joffrey are still working together in the bar on the Grand. Sid is off in Saudi Arabia working at the hotel so he can make enough money to get married. Rushi is still recovering from his terrible bike accident. Renjith's baby is growing so big and he sent us his family's formal pictures - with his baby boy wearing the outfit we bought him. 

That's why we cruise. Not for the ports, not for the ship life, not to be treated to unlimited food. It's for the crew. And that's why hubby gets himself up out of bed everyday and makes the most of the day the best way he can. Some days are good days and some days aren't. Some days his frustration is at its peak and some days he is more able to just go with the flow. 

Like I've said before, each trip makes me wonder if this is the last. I think we're getting there. My role has evolved over the course of our lifetime. I've always been the planner, thinker, organizer. The one who makes sure we get where we need to go. But now I've added in making sure he is set and comfortable. Like with the hop-on, hop-off bus for example. I would have picked a different bus company with several routes, and probably made my way onto each route, but I knew how much energy he had in him. So we chose the one closest to the hotel with the fewest stops. I helped him climb the step onto the bus and found him a seat downstairs. I opened up the headphone packet, uncoiled the headphones for him, plugged it into the headphone jack, got it to the English channel, and made sure he had a safe spot for his cane before I headed upstairs. I don't mention all of that for any reason other than to document where we are at this point in our lives. We now walk slow, stay close, and keep things simple. I'm okay with that, but I'm not certain he is. I'm sure he's struggling with having to come to grips with the fact that he might actually be handicapped

But he puts one foot in front of the other (actually, one foot drags - it's called foot drop and that's what the doctor says is causing the falls) and gets up and dressed. We've seen things we never could have imagined we'd ever get to see. We've done things we never could have imagine we'd ever get to do.

It's been a great run. And if this is it, so be it. I'm so very grateful for this life we've been given. Life is flippin' amazing, isn't it?

A Full Day in Rome on the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus


Boy, what a day. A good night's sleep prepared us for a full, information-filled, photo-filled day. We decided the best way to tackle the city was to do a hop-on, hop-off tour. We use hop-on, hop-offs quite a bit in other cities. They are easy for hubby since he can sit downstairs and listen to the narration while I can head upstairs and take the pictures. We typically do the entire loop first without getting off, then do a second loop where we do the hopping off. That was the plan for the day as well. But with us, like usual, plans change. And that's okay.

There are several bus companies that run throughout Rome. We chose the one requiring the least amount of walking to get to - the one that has their stop across the street from our hotel.
Right out our hotel window
We rode the entire route. There was so much to see and learn. 

Some impressions...it is busy here. Not just dozens of people or hundreds of people congregating in the touristy areas/sights but what looked like thousands of people. When hubby saw the lines inside and around the Colosseum he decided there would be no hopping off the bus today. It was difficult to get any photo without tons of people in them. Lots of cropping had to happen on these pictures!
Even a bird had to get into the picture.
Streets are wide in some areas and buses and taxi and motorbike drivers are moving in and around each other. And the roundabouts? Whew. Glad I wasn't doing the driving. Other streets are super narrow and I still can't figure out how they all shared the road.
Motorbike anyone?
There are sights we couldn't see from the bus that would require walking but hubby wasn't up to it so we skipped those. But we were surprised how close some of the sights were to the main roadway.  
Amazing that this is where chariot racing used to occur
We saw several bookstores set up along the streets. Our daughter would be in love.
Can you tell what that is in straight in front of us?
That's the Colosseum. The bus drives so close you can't get the entire thing in the picture.

Unless you're paying a pretty penny for a tour specifically for the disabled, much of Rome is off limits for the mobility challenged. Just looking at the steps made us a bit sad and made us realize we should have come here when we were younger.
We had expected the weather to be colder. We had no rain today (yay!) and didn't really even need much of a jacket. Leaves are changing and fall is here, though.

Like Vickie from Vickie and Bernie Travel mentioned, there is a large security presence. Vickie and Bernie are also in Rome right now and are pretty darn adventurous. Check out her blog here to find out about their activities.

When we saw these vehicles we thought our bus was parking for a stop. Nope. We were waiting our turn to get through the area. They are there to keep vehicles from plowing through the area. So stop at the planters, veer left, pull forward. Veer right to get around the first vehicle. Stop. Veer left to get around the second vehicle. Veer right to then carry on.
We encountered it elsewhere, too.

After doing one loop on the bus we got off to go the restroom back at our hotel room. We planned on getting back on the bus so I could get more photos but gee whiz, I had plenty. We decided to get a better feel for things in the area around our hotel. We stopped in a couple shops by didn't buy anything.
Look at the fun pastas.
We should have investigated restaurants a bit more. Trying to limit the cobblestones and uneven ground left us with few options. While we thought tucking down a side alley would lead us to a tasty adventure, it didn't. Left food on our plate even.
Probably should have gone down this way instead.
After an afternoon nap we decided to check out the terminal again. When we came in yesterday it was pouring rain, the place was crammed with thousands of people, I was dragging luggage, and the hawkers and panhandlers were bothersome. It left us with a not-so-stellar impression. Today we found there was an entrance/exit on the same street as our hotel. Dang! It would have saved us some time and energy if we knew about it yesterday. Oh, well.
It's a big station with lots of people. 
And again lots of panhandlers/beggars. Usually you can wave them off or tell them no and they move on. Not here. Stand in line to pay for anything and they don't leave your side. 
Yep, gelato twice today. Might as well when in Rome, right?
We were surprised the terminal didn't have any seating anywhere. Couldn't even find a bench out and about around our hotel either. Hubby usually has to take break when we're walking and he didn't get the chance today. He was a trouper though and made it through. Two and a half miles for the day between cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, and solid ground. Good job to him.

Back at our hotel, I spied out the window something that just might be the Vatican?

Tomorrow we're off to meet up with the Crown Princess. Our hotel is one of the hotels Princess uses for cruise passengers so we considered booking the Princess bus to the port. But when we spoke to the rep today she suggested a private transfer. For about $10 more we could get a car for just the two of us that will drop us off in the port area. After the struggles hubby has had these last couple days getting on and off buses with the airport to Rome bus and the hop-on hop-off bus, he's glad he's not climbing up and down those bus steps again. Between our last go-round in Florida with his falls, the flight issues we had on our way here, and then the struggles getting around Rome, this has been an eye-opening last few months. And not in a good way. But we're still plugging along and thankful to be able to do what we can!


The Friday 15

Today's Friday 15 - those 15 items I get rid of each week - is mostly a list and not photos. Before we headed out of town I sent a bunch of things on their way without taking photos.

To my daughter went two pair of pants, one sweatshirt, two Christmas ornaments from upcoming tutorials, four stuffed fabric pumpkins and one candy corn trick or treat bag from the tutorials earlier this month, and one rope toy for her dog. That's 11.

To our neighbor went a fidget mat that I made. These mats help soothe the anxiousness that comes from patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They also are helpful for kids with autism.
A tutorial for this will be coming up on November 6.
That makes 12.

And three little sweeties had to go back to Simply Cats. I've been fostering another bunch of baby kitties for them. Goodbye to Pink, Christina, and Maya.
And that makes 15.

Want to know more about fostering cats? Check out the video I made for Simply Cats this summer.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

First Day in Rome

First of all, let me just say...A 12 hour non-stop flight is just too dang long for us. Cerebral palsy boy and rheumatoid arthritis girl just can't do it. We flew Delta from Boise to LAX. Then Delta partnered with KLM who partnered with Air Alitalia. So it wound up being an Air Alitalia plane for the 12 hour LAX to Rome overnight flight. Those seats are tight and close with no legroom! Add in the two folks who sat in front of us reclining their seats all the way back the entire time and it was a miserable trip. The guy sitting in front of me must have had a seat that was a little off because when he reclined his it smashed into my knees. I could not move my legs at all. Ever. And in the reclining position the top of his seat came within just a few inches of my face. Seriously. Maybe six or seven inches away from my head. The whole flippin' flight. Along with hubby being squished by the person in front of him, his TV screen wouldn't turn off so he had a glow in his face all night.

Then there was the baby who was crying. And the restroom I wound up in with no toilet paper. Oh, yeah, and the flight attendant who was gruff and stern and downright rude to passengers (not to us, thank goodness), raising her voice, pointing her finger. Then there was the one who kept coughing in his hand as he was pouring beverages, including my water. I'm going on record right now - if I get sick it is because of him.

And shall we talk about the wheelchair assistance issues at both LAX and Rome? We won't, but we had problems both places.

All those things rolled into one day made us come to a decision.

Never again. Never again will we take an overnight flight. Never again will we take a long flight. Our bodies can't do it. The amount of physical pain the last 24 hours has caused? Unbearable. So we won't be attending that wedding in India. We won't be visiting Australia. And Norway just got taken off our must-see list.

But we're in Rome. Not sure it was worth what we endured, but maybe after the Tylenol PM kicks in and the morning comes we will have a bit more clarity. After taking the Terravision Bus (only 5.30 Euros when you buy the ticket ahead of time -  a great bargain) to the Termini Station we I dragged the suitcase across all those darn cobblestones to get to our hotel. In a drenching rain. In fact, it's been nothing but drenching downpours since we arrived.
A rainy bus ride
We're wet, our clothes are wet, inside the backpack is wet, and the suitcase is in pretty darn wet as well. Clothes are stripped and we have our pjs on - at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Rainy view out our hotel window
We did collect a stash of snacks from the plane (it was too uncomfortable to eat much) along with our two protein bars so we have a boring, mostly unhealthy dinner.
First night's dinner in Rome.
We are desperately in need of some rest. We'll regroup tomorrow and hope to make a better day of it.