Christmas Adventure, Part 1: Rome & Cruise Day 1

Knowing that we are moving back to the states this summer, a fire has definitely been lit under us to squeeze in as much traveling as possible.  I had been dying to go on a Mediterranean cruise, and Charlie agreed that it would be a perfect way to see many places in one trip.  We decided to spend two days in Rome before beginning our 11-day cruise.  The vacation was everything we had hoped it would be…and more!

Sunday, December 21 – Rome
The alarm went off at 2:00am to start our journey. Connor woke up excited and talking nonstop. Our flight left Frankfurt at 7:10 and arrived in Rome at 9:00.  On the plane, Connor enjoyed watching Cars with his new headphones and Daddy’s iPad, snacking on the chocolate croissant brought by the stewardess, and finally catching a snooze. A driver was waiting for us after we picked up our bags, and we rode about 25 minutes to our hotel. Luckily a room was ready this early in the day, so we got our things settled before heading out. We walked to a nearby metro station and had a pretty long ride to the Colosseum. It was a gorgeous day, with sunny skies and temperatures that felt like the low 60s.  The line was ridiculously long, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had purchased tickets online ahead of time. There was no way we would have been able to wait in that line!  We walked right in with our tickets and made our way through the sea of people to explore the Colosseum. It was a slow process, since Connor wanted to stop and climb on every single rock we passed :). Eventually we had seen our fill, and walked across the way to Palatine Hill. It was a nice area for Connor to have more freedom to walk and run.  We walked around the ruins of old palaces, and Connor had fun climbing on all the rocks and acting like our tour guide.  Next we wandered over to the Forum, which was crowded.  Once again our little man was busily climbing on rocks, and anytime we would show or tell him something, he would stop and recount the information as our “tour guide.”


Exploring the Colosseum

After a little walk, we saw the monument for Vittorio Emanuele II, my favorite building we had seen so far.  Connor enjoyed some street performers along the way, especially a man playing the cimbalom.  (We didn't know the name of it at the time, but it looked like a giant hammered dulcimer.)  As our walk continued, we went into a church, then saw the outside of the Pantheon, which brought us to an extremely congested touristy area.  We managed to make our way to the Trevi Fountain, which of course was drained and surrounded by scaffolding.  Charlie found a metro stop nearby, and the trains had people packed in like sardines.  Charlie thought he felt someone trying to pickpocket him, but thankfully it was unsuccessful.  Connor had been so sleepy without a nap, and I had been carrying him in my arms so that he wouldn't fall asleep in the carrier.  It was tough keeping him awake on the last stretch from the metro stop back to our hotel!  We went straight into the hotel restaurant for dinner, where we met a young man and his grandmother who would also be on the same cruise as us.  We all crashed early for bed!

Monument for Vittorio Emanuele II


Monday, December 22 – Rome
After a rare morning of being in bed until almost 8:30am, I looked at my email again and realized we had to be at the Vatican Museum by 10:00am.  I had purchased tickets before our trip, and was notified by email that it was closing early because there was a Papal Audience being held that afternoon.  We rushed to get out the door and decided a taxi would be the quickest way to get there.  Our taxi driver dropped us off at St. Peter’s Square, and after a fast 10-minute walk, we arrived at the Vatican Museum.  The good news was that we arrived in time to enter, but the bad news was that we only had one hour to stay inside.  Without any breakfast in any of our bellies, we managed to rush through the museum so that we could see the Sistine Chapel before everyone had to leave.  Connor was content listening to music with his headphones while riding on my back as we walked through countless rooms on our way to the chapel.  People were shoulder-to-shoulder inside the Sistine Chapel, but it was worth the effort to see.  I just wish I had an hour to lay on my back and enjoy the ceiling!  There were many more rooms to walk through before exiting the museum.

Heading to the Vatican!

Beautiful ceilings inside the Vatican…as we followed the sea of people towards the Sistine Chapel!  (No photos were allowed inside the Chapel.)

We walked back towards St. Peter’s Square and found a cafe for an early lunch.  Nothing special to write about, but it gave us energy to continue our day!  The line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica was just as ridiculous as the Colosseum, so instead we admired the Nativity scene in the center of the Square, then hoisted Connor onto my back to start a long walk.  The plan was to walk to a metro station, but by the time we realized we weren’t going the right direction, we were halfway towards where we were headed anyway!  Connor fell asleep on the way and missed the Spanish Steps, as well as the street lined with fancy shops leading up the steps.  The steps were crowded, of course.  We walked up and enjoyed the view from the top.  As we continued wandering, the view just kept getting better.  Connor woke up and we relaxed while he had a snack and ran around, then we stumbled upon part of the Villa Borghese Gardens, overlooking the Piazza del Popolo.  The excitement for Connor after walking down the hill to the Piazza was watching the jackhammer and climbing on the lion statues on the fountain.  After admiring some more buildings, we got some gelato to share (Connor requested strawberry and loved it) and continued walking back towards the Vatican.  We stopped in a souvenir shop, took some more pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica, then decided to attempt the long walk back to our hotel. The map wasn’t so easy to read and it was already getting dark, so when we found ourselves on the wrong street and stumbled upon a train station, we decided to take advantage of the taxi stand and hop into one.  We had dinner at the hotel again, then relaxed in our room for a little while before going to sleep.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Spanish Steps, and the view from the top of the stepsIMG_2879IMG_2881

Enjoying the beautiful views

Mraz Family, look what we found!

Piazza del Popolo (Connor’s jackhammer in the foreground!)

Tuesday, December 23 – Rome & Cruise Day 1 (Civitavecchia, Italy)
It was an early morning for the little man, which meant an early morning for everyone.  We got ready and hopped in a taxi to head to St. Peter’s Square.  From there we took a short walk to Castel Sant’Angelo, which we had passed the day before.  It was initially a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family, then was used by the popes as a fortress and castle. We walked up and around the cylindrical building until we reached the terrace.  The views were worth the trip!

Castel Sant’Angelo

Amazing morning views from the terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo

After walking back down and finding some sandwiches, we took a taxi back to our hotel.  We checked out and the driver for the shuttle we had arranged was already waiting for us.  We rode about an hour to the port in Civitivecchia.  The town was so congested with traffic!  The van dropped us off right in front of the cruise terminal.  We dropped off our suitcases, then walked to the next area to check-in.

Before we knew it, we were on our cruise ship, the Norwegian Jade!  We found our room on Deck 10 and met our room steward, Michael, who was so friendly and helpful.  Everyone was hungry, so we found one of the restaurants for a late lunch.  Oh, the simple pleasures in life:  glasses of ice water automatically brought to your table, and refilled constantly!!  (For those of you who have not visited Europe, that does NOT happen over here.  You normally have to pay for bottled water instead.)  After lunch we wandered a bit to explore the ship.  We saw the art gallery, then went up to Deck 12 to find the fitness center.  We got distracted on the way when we stumbled upon the kids play area.  There was an indoor jungle-gym that was blocked off, and Connor was so upset that he couldn’t go on it.  The fact that he didn’t have a nap today certainly didn’t make it any easier for him to accept the situation.  (Luckily, he would have the opportunity to play there another day.)  We found our way back to our room, unpacked everything, and were pleasantly surprised with the effiency of the room.  Of course the room was small, but there was plently of drawer and shelf space to unpack everything, and racks under the bed to store our suitcases.  The shower stall was actually bigger than ours at home!  Connor had his own pull-out bed right next to our king bed, and we had a patio door opening up to a balcony.

After we unpacked, there was mandatory safety drill.  We had to listen to instructions over the intercom, then meet at an assigned location and watch a life jacket demonstration.  Once that was finished, Charlie went to an info session about shore excursions while Connor and I played in the room.  We met Charlie at the gift shop a little later to look around, then went to dinner at the buffet as the ship set sail.  There was plenty of food to choose from, and needless to say, no one ever left hungry.  We went back to room and I got Connor ready for an early bedtime since he hadn’t had a nap.  Charlie was about to go to the gym while I laid with Connor, but he had a huge meltdown because he wanted to go exercise with Daddy.  Charlie snuggled up with us and Connor settled into sleep, then he was able to sneak off to the gym.  We all had a good first sleep on the boat, and didn’t feel any movement except some slight jostling as we docked at the port early the next morning.

Stay tuned for more about our cruise!


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