Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 7&8 - Sicily

Day 7 - today, Chris had a quick early meeting before the ship made it to port in Taormina, Sicily.  This was another tender port, so we parked offshore and used the lifeboats to get to shore for our excursion: Castemola and Taormina.
Sicily is beautiful, quaint villages built on the hills.

We followed this cruise ship to a few ports, it was interesting with its sails.
Our tour guide loaded us on a motor coach, which began a slow, steep incline up twisty narrow roads.  We were heading to the mountain-top village of Castemola.  The drive was harrowing, as the roads were only wide enough for one car to pass through at a time, and a huge motor coach just about didn't fit.  A few times, oncoming traffic had to stop and back up to a wider spot in the road to allow us to pass.  Eventually, we made it up to the top.  The views were amazing!

Views from the top - Castemola with views of the volcano Mt. Etna in the background.
See the drop off???!

Castemola is a picturesque town, with lovely shops and homes, and it's also very tiny.  We took about half an hour to explore it, then sat down at a cafe and ordered the local specialty: Vino Alla Manorla, a sweet almond wine.  It was FANTASTIC.

When in Italy, order gelato too.

Along the rocks supporting the town, capers grew.  It was so fun to see the different edibles being grown.

Volcano selfie.
Sicily was the first place we'd encountered that looked like a storybook.  Beautiful buildings, beautiful views.  The nicest location so far!

Mt. Etna elevation: 10,990 ft - the largest active volcano in Italy.
The namesake of Castemola, the remains of a fortress on top of the mountain.
From Castemola looking down the hill to Taormina below.  It's a larger town on the shore.

After exploring Castemola, we got back on the bus and drove down to Taormina, where we had time to shop and eat.  In the above picture, Chris is eating his swordfish and salmon pizza.  We stopped in a shop and bought carry on sized almond wines to take home!

We rode the bus back to the ship and ate dinner.  I was feeling a bit seasick, and interestingly enough it started on land.  Some people we talked to said they felt the same way, worse on land than on the water.  To me, it seemed like the land rocked back and forth under my feet a bit!  But a dramamine and some soup made it all better.  :)  We watched Sicily fade away as we sailed off into the Adriatic sea toward Greece!

Day 8 - today was our only full day at sea, so we had no ports of call.  Chris had meetings all day, so I indulged in breakfast room service, then I got around and found a quiet deck chair and read my book.  It was a windy day, so I ended up back inside to finish my book at a table by the window.  We met up for lunch, deciding to go to the main dining room.

As it turns out, they were having a champagne lunch for returning cruisers, but we had no idea and crashed the party!!  LOL.  We had free champagne and were given commemorative Nieuw Amsterdam drink coasters.  We were put at a table with a nice couple from Australia, who also didn't know about the lunch, so we laughed and visited with them.

Chris had to go back to meetings, so I went and took a nap!  :)  When he returned, we dressed up in our cocktail attire for gala formal dining night, which was nice.  Afterwards, we went up to deck 11 (observation) for a cocktail party organized by Northwest Anesthesia Seminars, who were presenting Chris' lectures.  While we were there chatting and drinking more champagne, a storm was brewing off the port side.  I was facing the windows while chatting, and saw lightning strike several times.

Suddenly, the wind blew up (65 knots per the captain's report = 75 mph) and caused the ship to list heavily (18-20 degrees) to starboard.  Glasses slid off tables, most of the bottles in the bar crashed to the floor and shattered, and furniture slid about.  Many passengers were at dinner, and we later heard reports that guests toppled out of chairs and rolled down the steeply pitched floor, suffering lacerations and at least a couple broken bones. 

The captain turned into the wind and slowed the ship to 1 knot, and the listing improved.  We were all terrified for a while...afraid we were going to have to go to lifeboats in cocktail attire!!!   LIKE THE TITANIC!!!  Where's the violin players??!!!

The ship took some water damage, lost a cabana, and broke a lot of stuff.  A LOT.  But all is well.  Crew members said they'd only experienced listing like that maybe once before.  Quite exciting.  We were also told that at 40 degrees list, the ship cannot stay upright and would sink.  WHEW!  That's enough excitement for me.

But here we are looking snazzy in cocktail attire:

The gang right after the listing accident.  Still jittery!

Saying a prayer tonight, thankful for our safety!

Tomorrow, Greece.

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