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Mediterranean Cruise, day one: Rome, Italy

After a direct redeye on Delta from Salt Lake City to Paris, a quick jump on Alitalia delivered us to Rome. We took advantage of a Holland America Line (HAL) transfer to the four-star Hotel Londra & Cargill. The property is tucked away in a quiet, residential corner of the city near Piazza Sallustio. To give you a sense of scale, it’s a 10 euro / 10 minute cab ride to the Coloseum. The staff was incredibly friendly, breakfast was included in our rate, and it was the perfect respite for one night of jet lag recovery. I strongly recommend pre-cruise extensions, even if it’s only for one night. Do not underestimate jet lag, seasoned globetrotter or not. We were able to meander around Roman ruins under a full moon, eat a delicious meal (though anything other than the multiple rounds of airplane food we’d been subjected to for 15 hours at that point would’ve been a king’s feast), and fall asleep soundly by 9:00pm. If you sail with HAL out of Rome, know that the Londra is their partner property for extensions and you will be well taken care of. HAL personnel staff a reception table in the lobby to answer any questions you may have and the hotel porters handle your bags for your ship transfer. Easy breezy. Circadian rhythm reset. A quick and comfortable 18 hours in Rome.

Warm. Humid. Full moon. Cobblestone streets. Monuments and ruins around every corner. Thousands of years of history. This is Rome. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Warm. Humid. Full moon. Cobblestone streets. Monuments and ruins around every corner. Thousands of years of history. This is Rome. © 2014 Gail Jessen

The Hotel Londra & Cargill earns its four stars with beautiful design and exceptional service. © 2014 Gail Jessen

The Hotel Londra & Cargill earns its four stars with beautiful design and exceptional service. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Without hesitation I recommend you book the pre-cruise extension and enjoy the Londra, as the locals call it. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Without hesitation I recommend you book the pre-cruise extension and enjoy the Londra, as the locals call it. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was certainly built for and by architecture buffs. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was certainly built for and by architecture buffs. © 2014 Gail Jessen

The port of Civitavecchia is 90 minutes outside Rome, so prepare for a jaunt to the Noordam. Our transfer bus was comfortable, air conditioned, and conveniently arranged by HAL. I actually quite like seeing the surrounding areas outside the city centers in which we spend most of our time as cruise ship passengers. Once we made it to the very-industrial Civitavecchia (albeit with gorgeous ruins and half a castle, because Italy), embarkation ran smoothly. I haven’t confirmed that the Noordam is sailing at full capacity, but if that’s the case, there are 1,918 passengers accompanied by 620 crew members. With 11 decks and 14 passenger elevators, embarkation is no small feat. We were fortunately through the entire process and relaxing inside our Deluxe Verandah stateroom in less than 30 minutes. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom within 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes after that we were unpacked, settled in, and off to lunch in the Lido Restaurant.

Holland America's staterooms (our room shown here is a  Deluxe Veranda) are considered the largest in their class. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Holland America's staterooms (our room shown here is a  Deluxe Veranda) are considered the largest in their class. © 2014 Gail Jessen

My first experience of the ubiquitous buffet was a pleasant one. I need to eat gluten-free and the staff at the grill station were polite and happy to accommodate. They scrubbed the grill surface, retrieved fresh fish (not dredged in seasoned flour) from the kitchen, and a few minutes later I was enjoying my flounder. Similarly, the staff at the salad station accommodated with pure olive oil and balsamic vinegar, steering me clear of the gluten-filled salad dressings. In my daily non-cruise life I receive a wide range of reactions when I tell waitstaff about my gluten allergy, ranging from ignorance to overt visual annoyance. The Lido Restaurant crew didn’t miss a beat and handled it all with a smile. The other positive note to report about the Lido is that for the first 48 hours, the staff serves the passengers. After that window of time the buffet returns to self-service. When I was cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage in May (Princess, not HAL), an outbreak of Norovirus ripped through the ship. The staff at that point served passengers in the buffet and a number of people were quarantined. It’s savvy that HAL allows a two-day window to assess if anyone brought Norovirus or other illness on board before setting people lose on communal food. Savvy indeed.

After watching a pink sun set on a crystal blue Mediterranean, we had dinner in Noordam’s Vista Dining Room. Gluten accommodations continued and the staff was pleasant and well educated about the limitations. I enjoyed the “Citrus Delight” which describes itself as “glistening oranges, pineapple, and graprefruit with an autumn-scented cranberry apple vinaigrette.” I can’t say I’ve ever eaten anything described as “autumn-scented,” but it was lovely. My entree was a Mediterranean chop salad with grilled chicken, see also: My ongoing mission to consume as many Kalamata olives as possible. Everyone at my table ordered prime rib and report that it was cooked to the perfect temp.

A modern nod to the infamous Dutch floral motifs, the Nordaam's interior design is slightly royal...and slightly funky. © 2014 Gail Jessen

A modern nod to the infamous Dutch floral motifs, the Nordaam's interior design is slightly royal...and slightly funky. © 2014 Gail Jessen

This never gets old. © 2014 Gail Jessen

This never gets old. © 2014 Gail Jessen

Tomorrow the Noordam docks in Naples. Jen and I plan to take a local commuter ferry to Capri. It’s not one of HAL’s sanctioned excursions, but we feel confident navigating the experience on our own. Come back tomorrow to hear how we fared. You can also follow along in real time on Instagram and Twitter @fourthirtyam, hashtag #livevoyagereport. The Noordam Mediterranean Explorer Live Voyage Report landing page leads you to each day’s post.

I hope you’re enjoying your virtual vacation. Until tomorrow…bon voyage,

gail

Mediterranean Cruise, day two: Capri, Italy

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