Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Secret To Being A Tourist In Venice In July

Whenever you see a crowd, walk briskly in the opposite direction.

Venice: Stuck On The Hilton Molino Stucky

Signore Giovanni Stucky built a molino (mill) on Giudecca Island in the Venetian Lagoon. What an entrepeneur!

Although he was a very successful businessman, he managed to get bumped off by an employee. Rumors continue that Stucky's attentions to the employee's wife had something to do with it.

In any event, Hilton turned it into a luxury hotel and it was a great place to stay, in particular with our suite upgrade, even though we had to time our trips to Venice proper in accord with the Hilton boat schedule.

Monday, July 30, 2012

To Venice By Boat - Naturally

Once off the plane, it was a fairly long trudge out to the passenger ferry we'd reserved and paid for in advance. It turned out to be a 90-minute trip (to get there quickly via a water taxi is obscenely expensive), but between naps we enjoyed the views along the way.

There's Something About Venice

Yes, we were delayed in Munich but that's okay.

Our first sight of Venice from the plane was magic...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

JFK Overnight July 2-3

Sheraton JFK and the view from our window...

A pleasant stop at a United Club the next morning before we fly out to BRU...

Retrospective: Our Mediterranean Cruise

Westin Wall Centre YVR in Richmond BC - a pleasant upgrade...

Waiting for our flight in YVR early the following morning - what a lovely airport it is.

Wenatchee Birthday Weekend

Riley's Fifth Birthday...

The Birthday Girl gets to blow the train whistle...

And then react to the sound...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Seafood Reunion In Bellevue Washington

We wandered down to Bellevue last night to meet up with some friends from FlyerTalk.

We found a $99 rate at the Sheraton Bellevue and spread the word, enabling some others to pick up the room for the same price.

We met up in the lounge and shared some wine a couple of us had brought along before going out for an excellent dinner at Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar.

A good time was had by all, but now we're back in Birch Bay, awaiting the arrival of two grandchildren and their parents tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Airports To Avoid During Contagions

11-Year-Old Brit's Free Flight To Rome

An 11-year-old boy boarded a plane from Manchester to Rome on his own without a passport, tickets or boarding pass.

He mingled with families to get through checks in Terminal 1 on Tuesday. He was found mid-air on the Jet2 plane after passengers became suspicious.
There are some embarrassed folks in the British travel industry today - and apparently even a number of suspended employees.

We're sure none of our grandchildren would try this trick, with the possible exception of two-year-old Blane.

You can read the BBC's report of the escapade here, but please don't read it to Blane.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Airline Apology Letter Of The Day

Here is the e-mail reply from American Airlines to a couple who each pulled shards of broken glass from their mouths while eating dessert during a flight.

Dear Caldwell:

Thank you for contacting us regarding your recent flight.

We are sorry to hear about what happened on your flight 1521 on June 13 from Chicago to Tuscon (sic). We have reported the incident to our catering department about the glass in your ice cream that you received in First class, for internal investigation and handling. We have also sent your feedback regarding how the flight attendant handled the situation to our VP of Flight Services.

We are sorry that we can not (sic) compenate (sic) with cash but hope the 15,000 bonus miles into your husbands (sic) AAdvantage account shows our gesture of goodwill for the situation.

Mrs. Caldwell, it was a pleasure to asssit (sic) you and your husband.
The "Caldwell" in question is the wife. Her husband is a physician who happens to be the son of the late novelist Erskine Caldwell, the author of Tobacco Road.

We found this in an interesting and humorous Chicago Tribune column written by John Kass.

You can read the entire column, Unjust desserts leave bad taste in fliers' mouths, here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wenatchee: Clowning Around With L-Bow

We managed to meet up with two of our grandchildren and their parents in Everett and gave Jake and Taegan a ride over to Wenatchee for their cousin Riley's birthday party.

We watched Jake, Taegan, Riley, Blane, Avery, Peyton, and Lily all have a great time at a park that features a volunteer-operated miniature railway. They and the other guests all enjoyed a couple of train rides and each of us rode along on a trip. Riley was thrilled to sit in the engineer's seat and blow the whistle at the end of the day.

Another spectacular highlight was L-Bow The Clown, who put on a great performance despite the 90-degree heat.

This may be one of our last visits to Wenatchee, since Riley and Blane will be moving to the Mount Vernon / Burlington area this summer, in anticipation of their daddy's new teaching job at a high school there. At that point they'll be living about 40 minutes south of us.

When grandchildren move from Alabama to Central Washington to almost next door, Grandma and Grandpa can be best described as thrilled.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Home Sweet Sehome

We made it. We were off the plane shortly after 6:00 p.m., picked up our car, drove down to the border through light traffic and were waved through in less than two minutes, putting us home by 7:45 p.m.

Of course, that's 4:45 a.m. Sunday in Europe, so it's off to bed early.

A Promising Start To Our Travel Day

A friendly and helpful agent in the LGA United Club near the C gates has booked us to an earlier flight to Chicago. That flight has been delayed for nearly two hours "awaiting crew" (along with no fewer than three other UA flights here) and she's booked us in exit row.

That should allow us - knock on wood - plenty of time for our onward connection.

United may be filling their planes but we suspect they are either consolidating some flights or, more likely, just "don't have enough planes," as we heard one employee say to another last night.

The club is pre-security, a reminder of more innocent days. A camera here shows the length of the line, which doesn't look too bad this Saturday morning. At any rate, we're enjoying one last slurp of thoroughly mediocre coffee in the United Club before proceeding through security.

Our Empire State Building View from LGA

We can spy the Empire State Building some miles in the distance by peering out the window of the LGA Courtyard by Marriott. Much closer is the airport itself, just across some sort of freeway.

We must have slept at least four hours, which is better than none at all.

It could be another, ah, interesting travel day since the plane that's to fly us LGA-ORD is currently running a couple of hours late on a red-eye LAX-PHL. From there it flies to ORD, and from their to LGA. If, of course, UA swaps planes it could be to our benefit but we only have a brief layover in ORD before flying on to YVR so any significant delay could mess us up.

We're looking at options but can't do too much until it's clear we're misconnecting.

The thought of seeing all of our grandkids tomorrow at a birthday celebration really motivates us to want to arrive in YVR in enough time to drive four hours tomorrow morning, and we'll have to see how it all plays out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Bed At Last

The flight left a little after midnight and wasn't much more than 35 minutes in the air. We waited about as long at IAD (eight hours) as we did flying from Brussels.

To cap things off in a minor way, our gate-checked bags had to go to a carousel because the employee said "It's an American gate and I don't have the code to unlock the baggage chute."

We waited 15 minutes there but at least our bags came out.

Then, to brighten the day, we called the LGA Courtyard by Marriott for a pickup and the driver arrived within about seven minutes.

It's time for some serious sleep, 25 hours after we awoke in Brussels yesterday morning.

The New United Airlines: Lies, Incompetence, Or Just Bad Weather?

We're still sitting in IAD but now we're awaiting a flight to La Guardia that leaves at 10:00 p.m. In the meantime, strange events have transpired.

We received several text messages and one e-mail indicating a variety of potential departure delays, but a consistent arrival time of 9:22 p.m., indicating that our 5:15 p.m. flight would have departed at 8:00 p.m.

After dropping by the very pleasant LH Senator Lounge in Terminal A, we sat at the gate as the somewhat indifferent agent offered a variety of excuses for the delays over a period of 30-40 minutes. First it was "air traffic control," along with the "incoming aircraft is delayed."

She then added "we're waiting for crew, and once they arrive we'll start boarding."

You don't have to be an expert to realize that those excuses don't quite fit together, do they?

Finally, after one last phone conversation, she announced matter-of-factly that the flight had been canceled and directed customers to an already long line at "Customer Service."

We were impressed that she didn't waste our time with any kind of explanation, much less sloppy teary-eyed apologies. In fact, we thought we detected a hint of a smile as she watched the desperate customers scurry toward the queue.

We called the 1K Line and an agent told us there were seats on the 10:00 p.m. flight but for some reason he couldn't assign seats. He said he would talk to a supervisor. The next thing we knew, we were directed toward another phone number. The agent who answered seemed surprised and told us this was an internal help line for employees but offered to help.

He called us back and arranged seats. He said we were both on the upgrade list. Brian perhaps didn't get across that we were entitled to upgrades for this flight, and Kathy, who printed out boarding passes at a nearby kiosk saw that Brian had been upgraded and she hadn't.

She called the 1K Line back and a female agent told her that there were no more seats available in F. We took the train back to Terminal C, from where our flight departs, and Brian asked a concierge to look into it. After several minutes of typing, she printed out new boarding passes. We are now both in F seated next to each other.

United Airlines has adopted the SHARES computer system formerly used by Continental Airlines. Most employees will quietly agree that it is an inferior system to the one that United used in the past.

Maybe we should add "inadequate computer system" as a third alternative to lies or incompetence.

We realize we're far better off than the poor folks who may still be standing in line, but the last few hours haven't revealed United Airlines at its best.

On the other hand, as we were finishing writing this, we've gotten one more text message. This one tells us that our new flight will now be departing one hour and 27 minutes late.

It's going to be a long evening.

Update: We did speak to another United Club employee. In the process of printing us out meal vouchers she said there have been a lot of weather problems the past few days. We can understand that bad weather in one location has a ripple effect on plane and crew availability elsewhere, but the fact remains that the "rolling delay," especially when followed by a cancellation, is the bane of fliers.

Feeling We're Back As We Get Felt Up

We had a great flight from Brussels to Washington-Dulles. The food was far inferior to that of Oceania but we expect a lot of that over the next few days as we go through "withdrawal."

Our seats were across from a couple about our age, on their first retirement trip with a daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild. They'd planned to see Russia but she fell and broke her leg. Since then, they fought to use their "medivac" insurance to be flown to Belgium, where a doctor who had previously performed hip surgery on her would have the expertise they desired.

They spent a lot of money out of their own pockets and will now fight the insurance company to be reimbursed for $20,000 or so. It puts things in perspective.

Our arrival at IAD was smooth, other than an too-common delay as the pilot first waited for staff to wave them in, and then wait for staff to open the door.

Our Global Entry whisked through an already short immigration line within two minutes. Then, of course, there was the TSA line.

We didn't have a long wait and then we opted out of the X-Rays. The woman had to give "the speech" to Kathy as our possessions disappeared through the luggage X-Ray. Brian walked through the metal detector and remarked sardonically, "Gee, I didn't set it off."

We both endured our searches, Kathy seething while Brian made cheap jokes. We're now sitting in a United Club wondering when our flight for LGA leaves. We've received a text message and an e-mail saying the flight is delayed for three hours, a second text message that conflicts with the first, and a United Club concierge saying her computer states there could be some delay. What a confusing mess this merger seems to be at times.

The one small bright spot is that, after Kathy couldn't check in online for tomorrow's LGA-ORD leg, the same agent checked in and her upgrade into F cleared. We're seated separately but it's not that long a flight.

We're thinking we've had just about enough of airports for awhile.

BRU: Brussels Airlines Lounging

We enjoyed a pleasant continental breakfast at the hotel this morning, and then caught a tram to the Midi train station with a minimum of confusion. Brian bought tickets while Kathy looked for the right track and we were up on an escalator and on a train within 10 minutes of arriving.

It took us less than an hour to travel from our hotel to the airport and we're happy we stayed at the Four Points. That 58-Euro rate was hard to beat in any case. Even with the transportation costs it was a good deal and allowed us to get at least a small feel of Brussels.

Despite lines, we arrived at the Brussels Airlines Lounge in time to sit for an hour and use the one-hour-free Internet. the lounge is crowded and somewhat too warm for our tastes, a situation we're well used to in Europe.

We fly BRU-IAD in C (business) and then onward from Washington to LGA, La Guardia being a short hop on a Regional Jet. We notice with mild annoyance that we've lost the exit row seats that we selected months ago on that short flight. United continues to have computer problems, and many members of FlyerTalk have reported being arbitrarily bumped out of the seats they selected, usually for less desirable ones. This of course has happened before to us and must occur quite often.

In any event, we're looking forward to arriving in Vancouver tomorrow night after spoiling ourselves with a one-night layover in New York.

It's been a great trip but we're looking forward to seeing our grandchildren again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bustling Brussels

We said our good-byes to the crew of Riviera and took a taxi from the pier to the aeroporto for 35 Euros, including a tip. It's actually a fairly long ride and this driver, while fast, was sane, unlike one we encountered on our last such ride.

At the airport we bumped into a very nice young Belgian couple we'd met playing table tennis on the ship. We were able to guest them into the Star Alliance Lounge and we relaxed there before boarding our Brussels Airlines flight.

We ended up with an empty middle seat and the flight of about two hours was quite pleasant.

One thing we learned about the Brussels Airport: It's an incredibly long walk to reach the baggage carousels, including a ride down a couple of escalators, walking and moving sidewalks under a runway (as far as we could tell), and then escalators back up to the other terminal where all of the baggage is distributed. More than once we thought we were lost.

We said Au Revoir to Win and Elisa and bought train tickets into the city, hopping aboard just before one departed. We stopped at the Central Station and grabbed a taxi to the hotel rather than trying to figure out the trams.

There are some beautiful buildings and we were surprised at how very busy some of the streets look with throngs of pedestrians - a little like India in terms of the crowds but then again quite different.

We're staying at the Brussels Four Points by Sheraton at an extremely attractive "Star Picks" rate of 55 Euros. For us that also includes breakfast and free Internet, so it made it well worth while to spend 30 Euros return for the train, 11 Euros for the taxi, and tomorrow a couple of Euros to ride a tram back to the train station.

We're now off to spend our last evening in Europe for awhile, and will probably try some Belgian beer at the source. Not a bad way to wrap up this trip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All At Sea

We've enjoyed a great sea day on the 12th and final day of our cruise. We only had some 350 nautical miles to cover between Marseille and Barcelona, so we've been chugging along at around 11 knots for most of the day. What a smooth ride.

We were quite victorious in the trivia contests we attended most days, in partnership with a lovely couple from San Jose California.

Today we were the decisive victors and earned enough "Big O" points to buy ourselves new t-shirts, along with a baseball hat for Brian and a visor for Kathy. It averages down the cost of the cruise as well, doesn't it?

Tomorrow morning we disembark to Barcelona, take a taxi ride to the airport (hopefully not as crazy as the last one) and fly as far as Brussels, where we overnight.

It's a relatively leisurely trip home, to follow up our leisurely cruise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lost And Found in St. Tropez

Our final ports these past two days have been St. Tropez yesterday and Marseille today.

St. Tropez, as famous as it is, didn't hold a lot of interest for us, due to the crowds. Even throngs of rich people can be annoying. As we traveled by tender to shore, we saw for the second time in our lives a huge yacht with a helicopter on the back. There were many other vessels almost as large.

We decided to try to find a sentier, one of the walking paths we've enjoyed many time on previous visits to France. After picking up an inadequate map from the tourist office (they wanted to sell us a town map for two Euros and we declined out of principle).

We got lost and walked overland before finding a beach and a sentier. After stopping for a lunch of pizza (pretty good, on one of those graham-cracker-like crusts), we walked up and down many steps and hills adjacent to some pretty decent drop-offs. We eventually stopped at another restaurant for a beer and some directions. One young waitress spoke English and told us there was a bus stop at the top.

No schedule was posted but we waited there for over an hour. Brian returned to the restaurant and asked that a taxi be called. Some time later a black van drove up to sweep us in luxury the five or six miles to St. Tropez for - gasp - 40 Euros. We said Non, merci, and the driver drove off in a huff (or maybe it was a Mercedes).

We trudged up the hill and there we found a bus stop with a schedule posted. Aha, there are only four buses a day and the next one was coming in 14 minutes. As we waited, we figured out which stop we thought was the best. The bus rolled up on time, it was free no less, and off we rolled toward St. Tropez.

The expert travelers' final mistake of the day was picking the wrong stop. We soon realized we had another 45 minutes of walking in front of us.

We finally made it back aboard at about 6:40 p.m. after walking probably 10-15 miles in total. To reward ourselves for that, we included dessert in our suite when we ordered in a lovely dinner from the Jacques Pepin specialty restaurant. The good news is that we're able to walk that far and feel fine the next day, although we do admit to some sore muscles.

Today we took the free shuttle to Marseille and wandered around its old port for an hour. It's the second largest city in France after Paris, and an hour was long enough for us on a hot July day. We retreated to the ship, where we've relaxed, played mini-golf and shuffleboard, and are now heading to the Captain's Reception for returning Oceania cruisers.

Later, it's dinner in Toscana, and tomorrow a full day at sea before landing at Barcelona Thursday morning.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sailing In Circles - And Loving It

The water is still choppy and the Captain tells us that the wind in St. Tropez is still blowing 30-40 knots, making it impractical to load tenders for trips ashore.

For the time being we're sailing in circles awaiting the next weather report. The ride itself is very smooth and we enjoyed a game of shuffleboard on the top sports deck aft before lunch. We also ran into J.R. Lustig, the Assistant Cruise Director. We've sailed with J.R. at least twice in the past, once when he was acting Cruise Director on a transatlantic and he's invited us to join him in the Grand Dining Room tonight.

He's an absolutely terrific guy and we're looking forward to dining with him. Fortunately, he caught up with us on our way into the Grand Dining Room for lunch, so we contented ourselves with fairly light soups (gazpacho for Brian and a Thai soup for Kathy) and the Jacque Pepin signature Salade Nicoise with rare tuna for our main course. It was far superior to the Salade Nicoise we ate in Nice (or perhaps Menton) some years ago, while also leaving us room for dinner.

This afternoon we continue to sail around as all of the Oceania folks hope for the wind to calm down as predicted, and no doubt plan other contingencies if it doesn't.

We don't envy them their responsibilities, and are much happier with the challenge to entertain ourselves on this beautiful ship this afternoon.

A Change Of Plans

We awoke to the announcement that we weren't anchoring off Monte Carlo after all.

The swells were too high to allow people to enter the tenders safely for the ride to the dock and we're now on our way to St. Tropez France. A disappointment to all those with tours planned - and a loss to the company - but we've seen Monaco before and will look forward to St. Tropez in a few hours.

It's another example of why we wouldn't want to be in the travel industry ourselves.

Friday, July 13, 2012

No Foghorn in Leghorn

We just docked in Leghorn Italy, or Livorno in Italian. No foghorns needed here today - at just before 8:00 a.m. it's already 73 degrees F here, and will hit 90 later, both here and in nearby Pisa. The destination for some on our ship, Florence (Firenze in Italian) is predicted to hit 94 degrees today.

We've been to Pisa and will look forward to spending a couple of days in Florence at some future point, when it's less hot and less crowded.

We will enjoy another relaxing day aboard Riviera after walking around Livorno for awhile today.

Last night we ate in Polo, the specialty steak house. It was as good as ever. Kathy enjoyed her foie gras appetizer and main course of lamb chops, and Brian liked his jumbo shrimp, followed by pancetta-wrapped veal.

Of course, another fringe benefit of getting bumped up into a 450-square-foot suite is that we can order as room service meals from any of the specialty restaurants. Tonight we've been invited to dine in the main dining room with two of the ship's officers (the second purser and the head of housekeeping - no captain's table for us), and that will be our first evening meal in that location.

We're very fortunate to have spent time in many of these destinations already so we don't feel the need to push ourselves to fight the crowds and heat of mid-July.

Civitavecchia: The Rodney Dangerfield Of Ports

Civitavecchia is a port that gets little respect. It's the port for Rome, and that's its only claim to fame. We took a train from here in November 2001 while cruising with six members of Kathy's family.

Since we spent a lovely three days in Rome in low season only last year, we decided to simply wander around the town for awhile. We're happy we did. Once we got away from the busloads of tourist heading off here and there, we found the streets uncrowded as we strolled here and there.

The local tourism representative on board recommended we stop by one of the strangest statues to be found in any city. At least 20 feet tall, it's a realistic representation of an iconic photo: the American sailor in New York City hugging a girl as he applies a passionate kiss. Once we have time, we'll have to determine why the Italians chose to display this symbol of their victors' celebration.

We bought a few modest gifts as we walked through an open-air market. Shortly thereafter, Kathy found herself a free - and quick - WiFi signal and she caught up on e-mail and Words With Friends.

From there it was back to the ship by shuttle bus, where we'll plan to spend a lazy afternoon hanging out at the pool.

Not a bad way to spend Friday the 13th.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Day Along The Glorious Amalfi coast

We're just back aboard after a great day riding buses. Who could believe that?

Well, if you've ever visited the Amalfi Coast you would.

We hopped aboard one of the first "open" tenders to go ashore this morning. Despite a slightly annoying wait in the rocking lifeboat, and a quite annoying ten minutes sitting on the port's free shuttle bus with the engine off (beggars can't be choosers), we walked ten minutes to the stazione and bought all-day bus tickets for seven Euros each.

The first bus was full but we caught the second one 30 minutes later and enjoyed a breathtaking ride from Sorrento to Amalfi via Positano. We'll post photos once we've returned home.

We learned that our bus passes allowed us one ride on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, an open-topped creation that took us up to Ravello, one of the most beautiful little spots in the world, one that we'd visited with Greg and June just a few years ago.

Lo and behold, it wasn't hard to find the same restaurant we'd eaten in that day, Il Figli di Papa, and Greg and June will be happy to learn it was just as good today. As well, they offered quick and free Internet so Kathy was able to download a couple of hundred e-mails to her iPod Touch.

Between lunch and a few minutes strolling around, it was time to board the bus back. We were lucky to get on quickly enough to have seats. We transferred again at Amalfi, once more finding seats (how the locals must hate tourist season). Brian is enough of an old-fashioned guy that he offered his seat to a young Italian woman who possibly first thought he was inviting her to sit on his lap. Fortunately for him, she wasn't insulted by his paternalism and sat next to Kathy. Riding around the curves and switchbacks on these buses while standing is the closest Brian has ever come to skateboarding.

We feel quite clever by getting off the bus down the near the port. We walked down the locally famous one hundred steps and reached the port on foot within a few minutes. A tender was boarding and we were back in Riviera's air-conditioned comfort just about 6:00 p.m.

Cooling showers and one gin-and-tonic later, we're feeling we accomplished a lot today, even if some folks would say all we did was ride buses.

Just wait 'til you see the photos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anchored off Taormina Sicily

We anchored right on time this morning not too far off Taormina. The actual location of our anchorage is a small settlement called Giardini Naxos,a a small port few miles from Taormina. We waited until open tenders were available. Before that, the organized tour groups were getting off, followed by passengers picking up tender tickets and waiting for their turn.

It was a surprisingly bumpy out where the ship is anchored, but we got into calmer water as we approached the small dock, sheltered by a large breakwater.

All we did was to walk around for an hour or so. Kathy was on a mission of looking for a free Internet signal, or one we could buy in a restaurant for the price of a cup of coffee but no luck. Maybe tomorrow...

We retreated to our air conditioned ship before the temperature got any warmer. The forecast warned of temperatures approaching 100 F today, and we don't need that. From our balcony we have great views of Mt Etna, hazy but with smoke billowing at the summit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Corfu Quicky

Another country, another walled town…

We’re docked at Corfu Greece and we jump off the ship as soon as we can to beat to beat the heat that’s predicted.

We walk around the old time of Corfu for a couple of hours and buy some present for grandchildren before we board the ship.

Tonight is the Captain’s Reception and free drinks flow freely for a couple of hours. We dine in our suite tonight and look forward to docking in Sicily tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dubrovnik's Old Town

We're now on our way to Corfu Greece after docking earlier today at Dubrovnik Croatia, our first time in this country.

We were among the first off this morning and shared a taxi with another couple to the old walled city, spending a couple of hours wandering around, listening to an audio guide on our iPods that we'd bought before the cruise.

We caught an Oceania bus shuttle back to the ship, just as the temperature was getting really warm.

The temperature in Corfu Greece is predicted to approach 100 degrees F tomorrow, so we'll make another short day of it.

We ate dinner tonight in Jacques, the French specialty restaurant. Kathy enjoyed her duck a l'orange and Brian savored his lobster thermidor.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sailing Away From Venice

We spent our last full day in Venice exploring the Riviera. The ship is so much larger - and decorated in much more modern pastels than the smaller Oceania ships - that it's almost as if we're sailing on a new cruise line. Our suite itself is quite wonderful, with a walk-in closet and separate generous tub and shower.

Kathy ironed all of our clothes yesterday as Brian shuttled them between our suite and the laundry room at the other end of our deck, so we each did our part and we're now wrinkle-free - at least our clothes are.

We've already spent a lot of time on our balcony, docked as we were to catch the afternoon shade in Venice.

This afternoon we enjoyed the spectacle of sailing out of Venice. Once a couple of tug boats backed us out of our berth and turned us 180 degrees, we sailed up the Giudecca Canal past the Hilton and then past the entrance to the Grand Canal. It was a full hour of amazing views after leaving the dock before we got to open water. Those photos will have to wait until we're on a connection less costly than the ship's Internet and we took more than a few.

Last night we dined in Red Ginger, the Asian-themed restaurant. While enjoyable, it didn't quite blow us away. The watermelon and duck salad is already well known and it was a novel taste sensation for us.

Tonight we dined in our suite, choosing prime rib (Kathy) and rib-eye steak (Brian) from the Polo. That's certainly a wonderful benefit for passengers in suites, and we intend to take full advantage of it.

The weather is a little too warm for our tastes, but we notice it's hot back home too. We're certainly not complaining.

We're looking forward to a couple of hours in Dubrovnik, Croatia tomorrow afternoon, another new country for us.

Not a bad way to spend early July.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Mysteries Of Italian Internet

We check out of the Hilton Molino Stucky today and board Riviera, which remains docked in Venice for another night before setting sail.

The hotel has experienced serious Internet disruptions over the past couple of days. Their provider is SwissCom, a large company we've seen in other places. Last night the ethernet connection was working beautifully and we were able to upload photos here. This morning it's out but we're surviving on a weak wirelss signal for the moment.

As Hilton Diamonds we get free Internet, but the problems will be doubly annoying for folks who are paying a rather outrageous daily amount for the service.

Internet aside, we've really enjoyed our stay here.

Yesterday Brian asked a concierge for information about the vaporetto voucher we'd bought for one-way transportation to the cruise terminal. The woman called the company and apparently managed to persuade them to allow us to board at the hotel dock with our voucher rather than with tickets, which would require a boat ride back to San Marco. Our name will supposedly be made available to the captains of boats running around noon.

That makes us feel special but we'll see what actually happens today when we try it.

Hilton Molino Stucky: Rooftop Views

We've gone for a swim in the rooftop view two afternoons in a row. Yesterday it was deserted and today it was crowded by an influx of cruise ship passengers. The building only stretches to eight floors, but it still commands some of the best views in Europe. And in the distance we could see the "O" displayed on the smokestack of our own cruise ship, Oceania's Riviera, already in port, and our home for 12 nights starting tomorrow.