Mike and Renée
Cruise the Med to the Holy Land
November 4-17, 2007
I must admit that the four busy days of touring in the Holy Land and Egypt made us ready for two days at sea. Unfortunately the first sea day was rainy and the seas got pretty rough. A lot of people missed dinner at the second formal night.

However, the second day at sea was beautiful, with calm seas and nice weather. We enjoyed cocktails on deck before trying the Mexican buffet. Then we separated for the various shipboard activities.

We enjoyed many hard fought Trivia games during the course of the cruise. Today we won once again. Here is our winning team with our prizes, Princess caps!
The comedian on the ship said, "Ports are things that come between meals!" Our final port of call was Split, Croatia. Here we took the ship's tour, Dalmatian Countryside. We had a beautiful bus ride along the Adriatic Coast and up into the rugged mountains.
We stopped at a small restaurant nestled into a mountain valley for a snack of local smoked ham, sheep cheese, olives and wonderful fresh baked bread, along with a bit of wine. They had a musical group playing, and soon we all joined in singing, "Que Sera, Sera!"
The chief attraction of Split is Diocletian's Palace. This is a beautifully preserved building made with massive stones. It is rather darkened and certainly gives an idea of living in the late Roman Empire.
Our wonderful cruise ended in Venice. Disembarkation was very fast and easy. Many people had transfers to the airport, or transfers to hotels in town. We choose to book with our travel agent through IC Bellagio for a private water taxi transfer, tour of the hidden canals of Venice, and walking tour of Venice. This was an excellent option and worked very well. We were dropped off at the Hotel Violino D'Oro, a great choice. It is a three star hotel, reasonably priced for Venice, modest but very clean and comfortable, a little gem of decoration. It is located on the Campo S Moise, next to the gondola landing, across the canal from the beautiful church of S Moise, and only a block from St. Mark's Square. Incidentally it is half a block from Gucci, Versace and Prado, too!

We then stopped just off St. Mark's Square for pizza, and spent the afternoon exploring Venice, touring St. Mark's Basilica, and of course for the ladies, shopping!

That night, we ventured out into the moonlight, made the short walk across the bridge and past the canal, and strolled through St. Mark's Square again. It was chilly in Venice in November, but very nice weather.
We had booked tickets through the concierge of our hotel for "Carnival the Show." It is in a small theater just steps off of St. Mark's Square. We started with a nice buffet of Venitian finger foods, lasagna, meatballs, chocolate mousse and other delicacies. Then the show began. It is a live action/multi media presentation of the history of Venice, through the eyes of a family of mask makers. It is beautifully done and extremely interesting. I would firmly recommend this performance on your first night in Venice for the great overview of the city's history it gives!
The next morning was our most exciting experience in Venice. Again through IC Bellagio, we had booked the cooking lesson from Peccati de Gola. Although it was expensive, this was a truly wonderful Venitian experience! We were met at the top of the Rialto Bridge by Chef Sebastiano, and began our day with a trip to the local market where we shopped for the ingredients for our lesson. This wonderful place has food of every sort, and Venitians are very particular about fresh food on the table. Here we picked up vegetables, olive oil, cheeses, and especially a duck boned for us by the butcher.
We then went to a lovely apartment overlooking the canal. Sebastiano pointed out the view, which seemed just like a Canaletto painting. Here we had our private cooking lesson. Sebastiano ran through the whole repretoire of dishes, from asparagus and potatoes through to the chocolate mousse. Of course pasta was included, wonderful ones which we got to stuff and shape, called "Bishop's caps." The main course was the duck, stuffed with sausage, rolled, basted with butter and herbs, and browned to a crisp delicacy.
The proof of any meal is in the eating. It is so delectable to sit down to a perfectly cooked meal, made from the freshest possible ingredients of the highest quality. Every morsel melted in the mouth. It was accompanied by fine local wines and was truly a memorable experience.

After our delicious lunch, we were picked up by water taxi by our great guide, Roberta from IC Bellagio, for our classic "Three Island" tour. We motored across the Lagoon of Venice while Roberta gave us information about the history. Our first stop was the island of Torcello, where we toured the old cathedral, much older than St. Mark's.

Then we visited the island of Burano, with its beautiful painted and colorful houses, for a demonstration of lace making.

Our final stop was a private visit to an exclusive glass factory on the famous island of Murano. We saw the glass blowers at work on their fascinating task. Their skill, acquired by years of apprenticeship, is marvelous. Then we visited the large showroom where we saw glass of all kinds, from art pieces and chandeliers to more common glassware and glass animals.

This was an absoultely fantastic cruise. We enjoyed it in every way. The Royal Princess is a fabulous ship! The itinerary is wonderful. Our tours, both through the ship and with indpendent operators, were perfect. We saw so many famous and impressive sights. We love to talk about our cruises. Contact us at TheHalls@bully4.us

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