Costa Firenze Postcard #9 – Barcelona & Disembarking

Last night onboard is always a slightly sad one as you have to say goodbye to all people who you have made friends with over the cruise. Once again the crew that served us have been exceptional and made this cruise so enjoyable for us.

We arrived in Barcelona to find five other ships already in port, Regal Princess, Disney Magic, Celebrity Edge, MSC Meraviglia and on the other side of the bridge Seven Seas Explorer. All in all, a very busy port today.

This morning we needed to vacate the cabin at 8:00 but after speaking with our steward he kindly allowed us an extra hour so we could go and have breakfast. We made the decision to self-disembark so we didn’t have to put our cases out last night, for us it makes things just that much simpler. We were off the ship and in the taxi to the airport by 9:30, checked in and through security by 10:15. I also spotted a sign saying mask wearing is now optional inside the airport so another indication things are returning to normal.

One other thing I forgot to mention, there are now two new stamps in my passport, entry and exit from Spain, I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Our thoughts are now turning to our next cruise in December and we are also considering another Costa one next April.

 

Costa Firenze Postcard #8 – Marseille, France

I know it’s probably against the rules but we retired early last night as we were both feeling pretty worn out. I think being as it was 10:30 should just allow us get away with it. Today was our last full day onboard Costa Firenze again all of a sudden it has gone really quickly. This was our third time here, once we never got off, and the last time we took the shuttle into the marina, the latter is what we did again today.

However as a curved ball the drop off point had changed to the opposite end of the marina but it didn’t stop us from walking up and down both sides. One of our objectives today was to visit the Savon Soap museum and shop to pick up some of the vegan soap Nicole uses. It’s not a very big museum but very interesting to learn how it’s made, a process that hasn’t changed in hundreds of years.

After getting our exercise, we returned to the ship for lunch and to spend time out on the top deck. Before I settled down, I took a stroll along the port access road to see and get some photos of Celebrity Beyond who has been tied up behind us all day. I hadn’t realised that she still has some traditional balcony cabins alongside the Infinite Veranda cabins.

We also had a rematch of crazy golf and Nicole has improved considerably, but not just enough. Drinks at Bella Bar followed by packing, a quick drink at Lounge Della Moda and then down to dinner for the last time on this cruise. We have had a great time back onboard Costa Firenze and are already in discussion about another Costa cruise next year.

Costa Firenze Postcard #7 – Genoa, Italy

Yet another great MDR experience last night and the vegan menu for Nicole just seems to get better and better. After our meal we wandered around the ship, stopping off for the occasional drink but what was really great to see was all the live entertainment with passengers dancing at several locations around the ship. One of the lounges (Viareggio) was packed and it was the first time we have seen this being used on either of our cruises. Things are returning to normal at last.

We arrived at Genoa at 9:00 today and today our plans involved a bit of walking finishing up with a vegan lunch. We spent a night here pre-cruise a few years ago and really enjoyed it so it was nice to revisit some of the locations. We also sought out Porta Soprana, which was a gate in the old city walls and built in 1155. For some reason or another we seemed to have overlooked this last time.

We also wanted to find a little gallery shop where we had spotted some work by an artist called Manuela Compri that we really liked last time but didn’t purchase anything, today we put that right and it will go with all our other travelling art treasures in our downstairs loo. We also used the Happy Cow app so Nicole could have a vegan lunch, there were only two places listed and the one we selected was 5 minutes from the gallery and a great choice as the food was delicious. Even staying in the shade as much as possible it was still very hot to walk around which is why we have been limiting our time ashore to just the morning. Today was no exception and we arrived back onboard around 12:30. The old cruise terminal with the Costa Firenze is a great blend of old and new.

When we arrived back in our cabin, we found our steward had been busy and left us a pair of towel animal swans with a heart shape in the centre

 

We spent a bit of time out on the top deck before changing the order around a bit to accommodate sailaway. Being as it was much later than the previous ones, we showered early, got ready for dinner then went out to find seats at Lounge Della Moda. Our Captain likes to reverse in and go straight out so it makes for the perfect sail away location even if tonight we were 25 minutes late.

Costa Firenze Postcard #6 – Civitavecchia, Italy

One of the reasons for taking this cruise was to celebrate my birthday and last night in the dining room I was totally blown away by the thoughtfulness of Costa’s crew. Unbeknown to either of us they had organised a cake in the dining room but not just any cake, this one was vegan so that Nicole could enjoy it with me. Even to the extent of writing Happy Birthday on a piece of chocolate which came on its own plate. Wow, is all I can say. If anyone from Costa ever reads this then I would just like to say thank you so much, this one small gesture made my cruise.

So, to today and Civitavecchia, not wanting to make the trek into Rome, we decided to look for something local that just took up the morning and found some Roman ruins up in the hills just a few kilometres out of town. After finding a taxi, we negotiated a fee to drop us off and give us a couple of hours to explore, then pick us up later, in hindsight one hour would have been enough but it was nice to have a casual roam around.

The ruins are called Terme Taurine and are the remains of what was once a former Roman bathhouse complex. A fair bit of restoration has been done to preserve parts of the original remaining structure but it does look quite authentic while giving you an idea of what it looked like in its heyday. It took up most of the morning which meant that once done we could head back to the ship to enjoy the facilities. Back onboard by 12:15 so after lunch, we headed for the top deck for some quiet R&R with much of the ship seemly gone to Rome. Our daily routine pretty much followed the previous few days with drinks at a Della Moda then back to the cabin to shower and get ready for dinner. We have been told that with today’s fresh intake of passengers, the ship is sailing with just under three thousand but strangely enough, it doesn’t feel like it.

Costa Firenze Postcard #5 – Palermo, Sicily

Another great MDR experience last night and I even treated myself to a couple of desserts for the first time this cruise. If it wasn’t for the fact crew are still wearing masks, then this is the nearest we have been to cruising being back to normal.

So, today is my birthday and we were in Palermo, we arrived just before 8:00 and immediately spotted Resilient Lady tied up in another area of the port, not long after that we were joined by MSC Seaside.

Our destination today was the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo which contains the largest collection of mummified remains in Europe, in total there are some 1,284 mummified and partially-skeletonized bodies. Since being made aware of it a few years ago it has always intrigued me and today was our first opportunity to visit. It’s actually quite a macabre sort of place and does highlight your own mortality.

Photography is prohibited so if you want to see what it is like, I would suggest a Google image search. To get there we decided to get a Tuktuk for the outward journey and then walk back. The trip was great fun and a bit like a James Bond car chase at times, even to the extent of taking a short cut through a car park and squeezing through almost non existent gaps in the traffic

Having discovered the route and taken into consideration the heat we renegotiated a fee with our driver Paulo, to hang on and drop us back at the cathedral which he was happy to do for an enhanced figure but what the hell, he has missed out on so much over the last few years so we were happy to do our bit for the local economy.

Our walk back took us along a straight route back to the water’s edge and it was then a simple case of heading towards the ships which could be seen from some distance away.

Once back on board we showered and changed, grabbed a bite to eat before spending a couple of hours in the sun. At 3:00 we made our way down to Lounge Della Moda for sailaway and a few drinks. It’s not been so hot today but I have struggled with the heat a little bit, at least it’s only been 32°C and not the forecasted 40°C in the UK.

It’s been a lovely day albeit a bit on the warm side. It’s so refreshing now to have the sea breeze as we sail away from Palermo.


Costa Firenze Postcard #4 – Cagliari, Sardinia

Our MDR experience after changing it to first sitting was a vast improvement. In fact it was almost a polar opposite with 60% of tables around us empty. We had time to chat with the waiters and also a lovely couple on the next table from Latvia who are on their first cruise and loving every minute. After dinner we had a wander around the ship and stumbled on the 90’s disco party in the Piazza Della Signoria in full swing, it was great to see so many people enjoying themselves and all ages joining in too. We also caught 15 minutes of the show in the theatre which was called “Leonardo the Genius”. There were some great voices and visual effects on show.

We even found ourselves on the upper decks and took a stroll around. There was a lovely breeze which after the very hot day was very welcome.

This morning we arrived in Cagliari around 7:00 and as soon as we had eaten breakfast we left the ship to take a walk up to the Parco di Monte Urpinu which is on a hill with some great views of the surrounding area. It was a 30-minute walk in the heat but the views were well worth the effort.

Along with the views, there is a bronze statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron Saint of Italy. It was a lot easier going down that’s for sure but I think I may have sweated out a good litre of fluid during the process, my t-shirt was soaked.

Once back onboard we took a quick shower before grabbing a bite to eat followed by a couple of hours in the sun. At four, we made our way to Lounge Bar Della Moda for late afternoon drinks and get good seats for sailaway. It doesn’t get busy this time of day and is potentially one of the ships best kept secrets.

Costa Firenze Postcard #3 – Sea Day

The ship is so much busier than our cruise last January, it’s great to see it full of people all enjoying what it has to offer. Along with ourselves, a lot of Spanish passengers embarked yesterday and the second sitting in the MDR was quite chaotic as you would imagine, the downside for us is our table with the waiters serving us were also looking after a large family group of 19 all on one extended table. They were very hard work for our waiters and as a consequence we received very poor service. It took over an hour for Nicole to get her first vegan course by which time I had eaten 2 of mine. Not a great start and our waiters were very apologetic, they said if we would like to move to first sitting then they would do their utmost to give us some proper service. Unfortunately they are only playing the hand they have been dealt with and really should only have been looking after the large family group and nobody else. Wanting to give them a second chance we spoke with the restaurant manager and got moved to first sitting. Fingers crossed tonight will be a big improvement. What did come as a surprise last night was Nicole was handed a vegan breakfast menu to choose from. Now that is a first and Nicole was delighted with the selection. I will go into more detail about this when we get home with photos and details in the Cruising With my Vegan Wife section of the blog.

We both slept really well but were awake fairly early so decided to go for breakfast as soon as the MDR opened. Stopping off enroute for a view over the ships wake. Nicole’s breakfast surpassed expectations and for some bizarre reason the portions were way too much. They even brought me 4 fried eggs instead of 2 so rather than waste them I managed to find room for them. Both feeling rather full we walked a few circuits of the jogging track before finding a couple of sunbeds.

It was nice to see the lido pool roof open too, the last cruise it was closed the whole time. It looks completely different when open and almost looks like a different ship altogether.

The water slides are extremely popular which is great because last time we were onboard they were closed completely the whole time. For lunch, Nicole had sushi while I went to the buffet for a salad and some grilled chicken.

The afternoon was very lazy spending a couple of hours on the sunbeds before the heat got too much and we retired to the Lounge Bar Della Moda for some shade and a few drinks. It’s been a perfect sea day.

Time to go find out if our MDR experience will have improved……

Costa Firenze Postcard #2 – Barcelona & Embarkation

Our morning consisted of breakfast at the hotel which was really good, there was even plenty for Nicole to eat as well which was a result. We had to check out at midday so went for a walk along La Ramblas down to the marina. Although it was 10:00 in the morning it was still reasonably busy but not too busy.

 

We walked past the Columbus Monument and took note he was pointing toward the ship.

 

A big circular walk brought us back to the hotel where we had a quick shower and packed our cases ready for embarkation. With 4 hours to kill we took a stroll up Rambla De Catalunya and sat for a while in one of the bars and watched the world go by where some Padron Peppers & Gambas helped pass the time. At 4:00 we were back at the hotel for pickup by taxi to take us to the cruise terminal. We had an embarkation slot of 4:30 but were there a good 15 minutes before. Embarkation was slick and quick and we were onboard in about 20 minutes after all the paperwork was checked. Our cases arrived before muster and Nicole had us unpacked in record time.

 

Muster was the same as last time but this time in just 2 languages, Spanish followed by English. We made our way to the Lounge Bar Della Moda to find seats for sailaway at 7:00. It was a great choice and not half as busy as we were expecting.

Tomorrow is a sea day so I will try and post a little more than today, embarkation day is always a bit of a rush.

Costa Firenze Postcard #1 – The Journey to Barcelona & Pre Cruise

This morning started with a 15 minute walk to the end of our street to the bus stop where we caught the 4:17am Airport Shuttle to Bristol Airport. Costing just £7 return and with a journey time of just 30 minutes it was a real no brainer. The airport was a different ball game, with long queues for security it took the shine off our great start. It’s the first time for me flying out of Bristol and the airport was extremely busy, I can’t say I was too impressed with the experience but it was a nice not to have to drive to Heathrow or Gatwick.

Our Easyjet flight departed on time and it was lovely to see out over our local area as we took off. We acquired masks for the flight because Spanish law states on all in coming flights passengers should wear them, however we were in the minority, with only around 10% actually putting them on, even after being reminded to by the flight attendants over the PA. If I was to say it was full of hen party and stag do’s then you will get the picture. On arrival at Barcelona we then had to navigate the Covid Pass screening which took a good 30 minutes followed by passport control which was another 30 minutes. We eventually arrived at the baggage carousel to find ours was the last case. Sat there all alone on a stationary carousel. Our taxi to the hotel was not without jeopardy too but we did arrive early and in one piece. Our hotel (H10 Universitat) came as part of the package is nicely located and within easy walking distance to most things and will be comfortable enough for just the one night.

After checking in at our hotel we set off to get our antigen test done for boarding. It was a 30 minute walk in really hot sunshine but within an hour of the test we both received a negative test results so will be able to board tomorrow with everyone else. Is it €80 well spent or just ticking boxes?

For lunch we used the Happy Cow app so Nicole could eat something vegan, we selected a place called CactusCat which was a really great choice. Catalonian vegan tapas which I thoroughly enjoyed too. Back to the hotel for a quick shower before setting off again for vegan gelato at Parallelo which was recommended by the CactusCat owner. It didn’t disappoint and it was well worth the 20 minutes walk. The fact there was a queue out in the street which should give you some indication of how popular and good it was. By early evening we were both feeling pretty jaded so finished our day off with a couple of drinks on the hotels rooftop bar. Tomorrow, our boarding time is 4:30 so will try and find something to do until then and thankfully it won’t be such an early start.

 

 

Costa Firenze Western Mediterranean Preamble

We have done variations of this itinerary a few times and this time it appealed to us for a few reasons, those being the weather, the ship, my birthday and the short flight from our local airport of Bristol to Barcelona where we will stop for one night prior to embarking.

This cruise all came about following the impact of the ever-shifting sands that Covid has produced with regard to travel. We have moved, cancelled, and rebooked just about every trip we had planned and one such cancellation provided us with an opportunity to take this 7-night cruise around the western Mediterranean and reunite with Costa Firenze.

Since we started cruising, we have only ever sailed on four ships more than once, Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Eclipse & Norwegian Epic. Never though, have we sailed on the same ship, back to back in the same year with a return home in between. As a recap, our last cruise was back in January for Nicole’s birthday, when we flew to Dubai and cruised on Costa Firenza and now for my birthday, we will rejoin her in the Mediterranean for my birthday so it will interesting to compare the two experiences.

Our itinerary is as follows:

Date Location Arrival Departure
Saturday, July 16, 2022 Barcelona, Spain 7:00 PM
Sunday, July 17, 2022 At Sea
Monday, July 18, 2022 Cagliari, Sardinia 7:00 AM 5:00 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 2022 Palermo, Sicily 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Wednesday, July 20, 2022 Civitavecchia, Italy 8:30 AM 7:30 PM
Thursday, July 21, 2022 Genoa, Italy 9:00 AM 7:00 PM
Friday, July 22, 2022 Marseilles, France 9:00 AM 7:00PM
Saturday, July 23, 2022 Barcelona, Spain 9:00 AM

As luck would have it, the same cabin was available that we had last time so being as its location suited us really well, we decided to book it again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

To get on board in Barcelona, we need a negative result from an antigen test within 48 hours of boarding, it should be simple enough to get done and something we will arrange when we get to Barcelona. What is giving us a bit of anxiety is COVID infections continue to rise in the UK and we could find ourselves in the position where we leave the UK negative and then test positive in Barcelona. This current spike is all down to the Omicron BA.5 variant that is now dominant in the UK. It’s particularly good at immune escape, causing a sharp increase in reinfections in people in spite of vaccines and natural immunity, particularly over the past few weeks. Just what we need on the run-in to our little trip.

If it all goes to plan, you will hear from us again from Barcelona with news of a negative test result, so fingers crossed that everything goes to plan. ?