In 2009, my husband and I embarked on a 12-night Western Mediterranean cruise that took us through Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Dubrovnik.
In the summer of 2012, we're heading back...only this time, our three kids will be joining us, and it will be a 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise that will have us sailing through Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
This blog is a chronicle of our cruising experiences - the good, the bad, the ugly. It includes a day-by-day journal of what we did, how we did it, what we did right - and what we didn't do so right.
Not only do we use this to "remember" our adventures, but our hope is that our story will assist others in their own planning.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Day 2: Cannes
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
After going to bed the night before at 12:15 am, but not falling asleep until at least 1:15 am, I was feeling pretty dog tired when out of a beautiful dreamless sleep, a constant and annoying noise kept sounding in my brain. At first, I was able to ignore such sound, but after repeated blaring, I struggled to some sort of consciousness to figure the source out…it was the ship’s fog horn…and it couldn’t have been any later than 5:30 am…and it kept blowing…and blowing…and blowing…. WTH?? Is this normal? Why would the horn blow at such an ungodly hour….? Unless…per chance…there IS fog???? Well, wonders of wonders – I eventually got up out of bed, peeked out the balcony, and saw fog so thick you could have sliced it up and served it for breakfast.
I have to give kudos to the captain for steering a boat through such fog…I don’t even like driving a little small sports car. He did slow down quite a bit…we were all but crawling…which gave me tremendous piece of mind, as I kept having visions of Titanic going through my head, wondering what would happen if we plowed into an unseen rock or something in that fog. All I kept thinking was, “Maybe I should get dressed, because by golly, if we have to abandon ship, I am NOT wearing my pajamas – I need to dress in layers! And grab my jewelry!”
Rest assured, the captain guided us through safely, earning his paycheck for the day. We pulled into Cannes around 9:30 am – and what a sight to see…absolutely beautiful….
After dragging myself out of bed, and getting cleaned up for the day, I head off to the Concierge Lounge for breakfast – the smoked salmon was absolutely to die for…very tasty…and I top it off with a chocolate donut. Salmon and donuts – what a way to live, huh? I am not a big breakfast person – I am never one to eat eggs or waffles or pancakes – so the Concierge Lounge is just perfect for me. Hubby manages to get up at 9:15 or so, and heads to the Windjammer where he has oatmeal and toast….says he was disappointed in the food selection, and once again, does not disappoint us in his selection of probably the worst thing in the dining room.
While Hubby is away gnawing on his stale toast and chewing his lumpy oatmeal, I sit on the balcony and enjoy my breakfast, and then leave a note for Alston, our “Phantom” cabin steward. I leave my formal dress out to be pressed, and I request 2 copies each day of the Compass, as well as fresh ice each day. (Our bathroom water runs warm – I need cold water. We were NEVER able to get cold water out of our bathroom sink the entire cruise). I request two copies of the Compass as I want to mark one with the highlighter, and I want to bring one copy home for scanning. TIP ALERT: My sticky notes I took with us provide an invaluable means of communication with Phantom Alston, as I found out throughout the cruise.
We have arrived in Cannes. Glimmering between St. Tropez and the Italian border, the sun-drenched shores and Mediterranean waters of the French Riviera form the backdrop for this fabled playground of the beautiful and wealthy. The Riviera, often referred to as Cote d' Azur, with its beautiful beaches and pleasant climate, has developed into a major tourist resort.
Cannes, population of 78,000, was one of the first tourist resorts on the French Riviera. Millionaires give their bank accounts a workout in Cannes' splashy cafes, plush hotels, and cushy couture boutiques.
Cannes is a tender port (and the only one on this cruise), and tendering begins around 9:45 am or so – and although we have priority tender tickets, Hubby doesn’t show back up from the Windjammer until 10:20. It apparently took him awhile to swallow that lumpy oatmeal. We head down to Deck 3 where there is a long line of people waiting – and we get to go to the front of the line. Priority tender tickets will do that for you.
After arriving at Cannes, we walk up the red carpet (seriously) and are met immediately by Michel Legrand, our tour guide, from Revelation Tours, with a sign saying “Odell Party.” I feel so famous.
The link for Revelation Tours is HERE. I highly recommend Michel, as you will see from the following review. Tell him Sherri says hi, if you ever use him!
Erin & Bryan are already there. We wait for Andrea and Jim and their kids, Rae and Joey. They get off the tender around 10:50 am and so we load up in Michel’s van and hit the road.
We begin by heading to St. Paul de Vence – down the highway for several miles and up a winding road. St. Paul de Vence is an enchanting medieval city that is northeast of Nice. Michel talks the whole time – giving us a complete history of the area….he talks and talks and talks – and never runs out of things to say. He drops us off at the Golden Dove Hotel, a place where famous artists would stay and sometimes pay for a room or a meal by doing a painting. Michel said that Picasso once had lunch at the Hotel and doodled on his napkin….Picasso eventually asked the waiter for his bill and the waiter said that Picasso could leave the doodled napkin as payment. Supposedly Picasso replied, “Young man, I only want to pay for my meal…I certainly don’t intend to pay for your hotel.” Arrogance, much?
Michel drops us off at 11:45 am in St Paul and asks that we be back at the van at 12:45. He has given us a map of what to see and key points of interest in the town. We walk through the quaint tunnels and passageways of this village and I expect Belle (from “Beauty and the Beast”) to come walking out singing at any moment. Laundry is hanging from the windows; flowers are blooming – it is lovely. Here's Hubby and I on the streets of St. Paul de Vence.
We walk to the top of the village and find the cemetery where the artist Marc Chagall is buried.
Chagall, who passed away in 1985, was one of the most successful artists of the twentieth century. As is the tradition, we leave a stone on his grave.
We’re back to the van at the appointed time and hit the road again, where we do a quick drive through of Nice on our way to a scenic overview of Monaco.
Here's another shot of Monaco - showing some of those twisty, windy roads that Monaco is famous for.
I had told Michel that I wanted the “shot of a lifetime” that would win photography contests and he said he knew just the spot – a place where the tourists didn’t go and would require a bit of a climb, but if we were up for it. Well, duh! We head to a place called Dog’s Head (I’m not making this up) where we park, climb up a rocky, steep path-
– and are presented with a view of Monte Carlo and the sea above the clouds.
We are at about 7,000 feet…and then disaster strikes. No, we don’t fall off the cliff – although Michel was very worried that one of us may do that! But – a cloud rolls through…obscuring the view. And so we wait…and wait…but the cloud was stubborn and refused to yield, and so I didn’t get that shot of a lifetime, but I sure have a great story.
We hike back down the mountain and come across some old ruins that were damaged in World War II. Michel explained that what we are seeing is not "graffiti" - but "street art."
We then head down the mountain and traverse on the same road where Princess Grace was killed in 1982. We later visit Princess Grace's tomb - but no photos were allowed there.
Michel is again talking, telling us story after story – history, culture, jokes, trivia – he is a walking encyclopedia. We stop briefly at the exact spot where Grace Kelly and Cary Grant had a picnic in “To Catch A Thief.”
We pass old forts, old monuments, quaint towns and houses, olive trees, orange trees – it’s almost sensory overload.
We end up in Monte Carlo where Michel drops us off in front of the Grand Casino and tells us we have about 40 minutes to explore.
We go inside the Casino and have to check our camera – no photos allowed. We walk into the Casino/Opera House lobby and gaze in wonder at the beautiful ceiling. We find out it is $10E a piece to get inside the Casino and you must have your Driver’s License or passport. Well, our passports were taken at embarkation, and so we were fortunate to even have packed our Driver’s Licenses, but we decided it wasn’t worth $20E to spend 10 minutes inside the Casino. TIP ALERT: Pack another form of photo identification as you will need it in some ports. We stroll back outside and see the Café de Paris and the Hotel de Paris.
After we get back in the van with Michel, we drive through the streets of Monte Carlo along the same route that the famous Grand Prix takes – the marks are still on the road. We get to “old” Monaco where we get out once again at 3:00 pm and are given until 3:45 pm to explore. Hubby and I go into the National Cathedral to visit Princess Grace’s tomb – she is buried inside next to Prince Ranier – there are flowers on her grave. We go in front of the Palace at the exact time that a changing of the guard is taking place – that was cool. The flag is raised which means Prince Albert is inside. I waved at his window – I’m sure he saw me. We then buy some chocolate orange gelato, which rates a 7.8 from me- it was pretty good –
and walk through the beautiful Japanese Gardens and find a park bench to sit down, relax, and enjoy our gelato.
Michel is right on time to pick us up and we now head to the medieval town of Eze. Easily one of my favorite places. Michel drops us off at 4:00 pm and we have until 4:45 pm to explore the castle/fort ruins. I feel like a rat in a maze – it is a virtual labyrinth of passageways and tunnels and stairs and grottos – you can’t get lost but it is sure fun to explore!
Perched in an "eagle's nest" at the height of an imposing and superb cliff, the village of Eze and its light ochre church can be seen from afar.
Small narrow roads, archways and superbly restored stone houses, shady squares, refreshing ancient fountains... we were soon seduced by the marvels of Eze. The village is so beautiful, it's hard to believe we had not stumbled onto a movie set... !
After buying some French soap in Eze, we get back in the van and then drive down the Grande Corniche road through St. Michel on the way to Villefranche. Awesome scenic views – hear the story behind the village of “Village who pays no taxes.” We drive back through Nice and stop and see the houses of the rich and famous, including Elton John, Tina Turner, Bill Gates, and Bono.
At some point, we drive past Villefranche. It's beautiful.
We’re all getting pretty tired at this point, but not Michel. He is still talking. He says that tour guides are told 2 rules: the 1st rule is to always know where the nearest bathroom is located. And the 2nd rule is to know when to shut up. He says he never really learned the 2nd rule. True! But he really is a charmer – and a smooth talker…very French!
We drive through Cannes down the main street where he points out the famous sites that are related to the Film Festival…and then drops us off at the port at 6:55 pm.
We have to wait in a bit of a line to get on a tender ship, and it is easily a 10 minute tender ride back to ship. We get off and go through security and it is now 7:20 pm. Yikes – we have MTD reservations at 7:00 pm with our CC friends – and so we run up the stairs to Deck 5 and rush up to the desk, where Erhan smiles and says our friends are waiting for us….which they were!
Delightful dinner – I had crab cake as an appetizer as well as shrimp cocktail. Both are very good. I then had cheese tortellini for my main course and I thought it was tasty – and not overcooked, like some pasta dishes are. For dessert, I had the Chocolate Fondue but I am not sure why they call it fondue as it is really chocolate mousse.
I don't remember what Hubby had - but I do remember he didn't enjoy it. He really needs to start ordering what I order. It would really make his life more enjoyable if he would just do what I say. Sigh.
We all tell stories of what we did for the day and compare notes on excursions. It sounded as if we had one of the better excursions with Michel and Revelation-Tours.
Dinner ends at 8:45 pm – and because the Abba Elite show (a tribute to Abba) was at 8:15 pm (and only one show again – what’s with that? What happened to 2 shows???), we missed it. So, no review. Oh well - I can always listen to Abba on my i-pod. Hubby and I said our goodbyes and then headed to the Thermal Suite in the spa. We relaxed while lounging on the heated chairs and watched the ocean going by out the window. It was past sunset but not too dark – so it was peaceful and relaxing. We were the only ones in there, so it was really quiet.
We headed back to our room at 9:45 pm – and my Formal dress was waiting for me, pressed…I had my 2 Cruise Compasses I had requested; I had our Meet & Mingle invitations; Hubby had his tuxedo; and we had chocolates!!! No towel animal, though, darn it. My little “prompt” to Alston must have worked – although I still have yet to meet this guy.
Impressions: 5-Star review for Michel Legrand; he was wonderful and really made France come alive for us. Service in the dining room was pretty good – although I continually have to tell my assistant waiter, Phumza, that I do not eat bread and will never eat bread – and yet she continues to ask me each time if I would like bread. Food is good – especially if you stick with seafood or pasta.