The ninth day was spent in Messina, Sicily. Once again I had no big plans for the day, except to get off the boat, walk around and shop a bit. Those plans didn’t really go over well. When we got off the boat it was about 11 or so, and we had been forewarned that siesta was alive and well in Sicily, so we had better get to the action before 1. It didn’t matter… nothing was open at 11 either.
Messina was one of the few ports that was right downtown in the action, we didn’t have to take a shuttle anywhere. So we just started walking in the same direction as all the other people until we came upon a Cathedral. Much to my enjoyment, there was no entrance fee, so we walked in. It was absolutely amazing, I mean the kind of cathedral that makes you want to actually go to church. The ceilings were one massive work of art, as were the mosaics, the silver alter, the wooden carvings. Everything was stunning and meticulously maintained.
As we stepped outside into the plaza, the bell tower began tolling and we got quite the show. I videotaped a part of it, little figures were coming in and out of the tower on a circle and the music - Ave Maria - really added to the whole scene. People just stood and stared, it was the prime example of how music adds emotion.
After the “show” was over, we decided to just keep walking around waiting for anything to open. Instead, we happened to see the dome of something and decided to try and make it up to the dome. After quite a hike - we had to climb up and over a tree that had fallen down - we made it up to the top of the hill to Cristo Rey (?) not having any idea what it was, we went inside. We still don’t know exactly what it is, but it did offer the best views of the port and of “the boot” portion of Italy.
The way we got up there was clearly not the way we could go down, so instead we took a nice stroll through the sketchy side of town, passing all kinds of shacks pieced together with corrugated plastic. It was quite a site to see. Before too long we were back on the main streets, wishing something would open. Luckily, it wasn’t long before we passed an open “bar” if you will, that served gelato alongside any alcohol you’d like. What a dynamic duo? Those Italians… they know what they are doing. I had some gelato - chocolate chip I think, and could finally say ciao to Italy. That was on my list to do, since you can’t seem to walk 10 feet in Italy without passing a gelato shop.
We got back on the boat (since everything was still closed) and found ourselves with a spare 4 hours. So naturally, I walked over to the spa. Luckily I was able to sneak in a massage and mini facial. We hung around on the back of the boat watching the sun sink into the water until dinner time.
And then Dan gave me a volcano.
Here’s how that happened… The Captain of the ship agreed to take a small detour past the island of Stromboli where an active volcano had been erupting recently. The Cruise Director told people around 9:00 or so to go up on the open decks as we would be driving past the volcano. We were in the middle of dinner, so I didn’t want to go. Dan went up to check it out and said he couldn’t see anything, but that I should go look. I didn’t really want to because I figured in the middle of the night, there was no way I could see anything, but Dan forced me to go.
Up on deck, you could see the lights in the village and not much else. I wasn’t sure where to look so my eyes just trailed off. But then, way, way up high, a little spark flew and people “ooohed” like crazy. Before too long, I could make out the outline of the volcano - it was gigantic. I had been looking at least 100 yards too low. About 2 minutes later, a sizeable spray came out of the volcano, lasting about 30 seconds. Then some of the lava flowed down the side, all the way to the water. It was at that point I noticed how close the boat was - within 150 yards I would say. That was intense! And of course, I didn’t have my camera because I had come from dinner and had to go right back to dinner.
When I got back down to dinner, Dan was waiting. I could hardly contain myself, as I smiled from ear to ear telling him about what I had said.
And when I was done, he said “you’re welcome.”
Day ten was our “fun day at sea”. We slept in late, and then spent a majority of the day sitting out under the sun reading. A very relaxing day, indeed. The only note of interest is that Dan made a friend.
I had just asked Dan from a few lounge chairs away if my pictures had finished uploading. The older man next to me started asking me if I was using the onboard internet, and wasn’t it terribly slow? I began telling him about using the data on my phone to make a hot spot and he started asking some questions about where I was from, etc. With all those questions come the inevitable “what do you do” and “who are you here with” type questions. Once I mentioned that Dan was an engineer, that was it - the guy (whose name is Joe) just kept talking to Dan and drinking with him. When the waiter bought another round, he had accidentally charged it to our account instead of splitting it up. So Joe said he would find Dan and buy him a drink because he had to go to dinner.
Dan and I both got a little sunburned, as neither of us thought to bring sunscreen. But that was pretty much it for Day 10, and it was nice.
Day 11 got off to a rough start - we had no interest in getting up and then, I lost my card, which is the only way on and off he boat. So after I got a replacement and we finally got down to the port, we found out that we had to pay to get out… so we went back into the ship to gather everything we might need for the very short day we had in Palma de Mallorca.
With my cameras and our bathing suits, we paid our way out and arrived via shuttle at the Cathedral. Again - you had to pay a fee to see inside, and we decided that it wasn’t worth it to spend the beautifully sunny day inside when there were sandy beaches and the Mediterranean so close by. So we stopped in a few shops to pick up some souvenirs and then walked down to the beach. The funny thing about Palma de Mallorca is that its one of the very few places on earth I have been to, that is exactly as I imagined it would be. Big worn wooden doors and beams against a smooth plaster wall, accented with beautiful ironwork and colored with bright pink hibiscus. Palm trees, the hot sun and the teal blue color of the water - it is a beautiful place.
It was 12:30 or so, and Dan didn’t want to be in the sun long, since his sunburn did not go away like mine had. So around 2, after a nice swim, we headed back to the ship. We had just sat down to lunch on board when Dan’s new friend Joe found us and sat down with his friend.. Dan. They bought a few buckets of beer and chatted us up about their lives back in Cincinnati. They were quite amusing, these two old retired guys. They were telling us about their grand “regatta” race they had organized in their condo association. Apparently they had talked it up to the other residents for weeks before showing up with their remote control boats. Within minutes of the start, however, all of the boats were either crashed into something or ruined. One man’s boat (which had required some advance reengineering) had started to go down, so he put on his full waders and chased after it.
We ended up having to part with Joe and Dan to go to the Past-Guest reception to secure our free drinks, but they made for an interesting afternoon. After the reception, not much happened. It was a very calm night, we made our way through the Balearic Islands, which are really amazing by the way, and as we moved I couldn’t get over how calm the water was. I mean seriously, it looked like glass… like Columbia lake first thing in the morning before anyone gets on. I must have taken 10 pictures of the water to show how smooth it was.
We went to dinner where I finally was happy with one of our meal options: filet! I don’t know why they waited so long, but it was worth it.
After dinner we had one more to-do before heading back to the cabin. Can you guess what it was?
We made a deposit on our next cruise.