by Michael Walter Smith
This month if I may with your endurance, give details of a weeks Mediterranean cruise I thoroughly enjoyed on "Costa Pacifica" departing from Valencia on Wednesday 4th October.
Our first port of call was Cagliari, (Sardinia) Friday 6th, offering the option of a number of excursions or as I did, taking the free shuttle bus to the harbour entrance for a wander around town. Obviously one can stay on board if desired to take advantage of the ships facilities – you must remember though that the shops on board are only permitted to open when at sea and on departure from ports visited, though other amenities are open including restaurants and bars.
On Saturday 7th, we berthed in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome where there were again options for a number of shore excursions - including one to the Vatican museum, St. Peter's, the Coliseum and the Forum, or again as I did having had visited Rome previously, took advantage of the shuttle bus to port exit and commencement of shopping area.
On Sunday 8th, we arrived at Savona, Italy. Here I took advantage of an organised tour of Monaco / Monte Carlo and can honestly state, it was one of the best excursions ever. A well stocked picnic bag was provided on leaving the ship at 8 am to board transport - there were several coaches for the tour but for English speaking passengers and French, we were allocated a vehicle with a courier escort, being proficient in both languages. All extremely well organised, we were soon comfortably seated for the 2 hour journey to the Principality of Monaco.
The coach was expertly driven, firstly on a motorway through wooded mountain scenery, passing by villages deep in valleys or perched on mountain sides. Throughout, our courier was giving expert commentary, based on the regions and industries so even the journey was enjoyable.
Arriving in Monaco our group was led through the Principality, about 10 minutes only, again accompanied with excellent commentary by the courier. This led past the church where Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier were married, on returning to the coach later we were able to enter and view their tombs, as well as previous Royal family going back many years. Outside opposite the church was a board with a picture of the wedding.
From the church we proceeded to the square where Grimaldi Palace is prominent. The current Prince and family are resident, with armed guards on sentry duty. A further highlight of this tour was to be present at precisely 11.55 when there was a changing of the guard - spectacular hardly describes this, with drums and bugles accompanying the new guard marching from the barracks to the palace entrance, and the guards being relieved marching back across the square in likewise fashion. A wonderful sight.
We were allowed about 30 minutes to admire the beauties of the square and palace including spectacular views from the ancient city over to the elite Monte Carlo. A small number of classy souvenir shops were available - looky looky persons not permitted in the Principality!
Following the 10 minute return walk to our coach we were then driven into Monte Carlo including a section of the Formula 1 circuit. Alighting for 45 minutes, giving time to walk to the main Casino. Being Sunday this was closed but an adjacent gambling den was open - would not be allowed in to bet on the 5€ in my possession! Hotels and famous shops were seen - including many Ferraris and the like.
The return journey included travelling on the coast road alongside the famous bays and beaches prior to re-joining the motorway heading back to Savona, arriving nicely in time for dinner on board. An excellent day trip with glorious weather, one of the best taken and having travelled a fair bit during my lifetime, this would match anything previous - and highly recommended for anyone given the opportunity.
The following day, Monday the 9th, we arrived in Marseille and not an organised tour but travelled on a shuttle bus (a minimal charge this time) and, recommended by a couple also travelling on the bus, we took a land train that travelled along the sea front ,past pavement cafe's. An island could be seen just off shore immortalised by Alexandre Dumas in the 'Count of Monte Christo'. This 20 minute trip ended at a church (Notre Dame) on a hilltop with views over the city and sea. This transport runs approximately every 20 minutes with the return journey ending near the boarding point for the shuttle bus trip back to shipside.
On Tuesday 10th, we berthed in Barcelona and although excursions were available I stayed on board where, to my pleasure there were many ship activities being performed nearby.
On Wednesday 11th October we arrived at 8.30am to disembark and to join our coach for the return journey to Torrevieja, where my car was parked.
In summary, an enjoyable weeks cruise on a relatively modern ship, enjoying all facilities on board with good food and excellent professional entertainment, performed in the theatre – there were also a number of bars.