Waking at 8am was painful. I had a very hard time sleeping, because I was paranoid about the fact that I’d gotten seasick on the previous cruise, and because the movement was different due to our cabin location: we were rocking head to toe, rather than side to side. Because we were right over the engine/propeller, too, there was a weird vibration.
We showered and went upstairs for breakfast. The ship was in code red for the first two days, meaning that you couldn’t serve yourself at the buffet; they had servers instead. (That seems to be a standard safety measure to help ensure there’s no foodborne illness on the ship.) I had gruel (swiss-style muesli: my favorite!), coffee, bread and cheese. Matt had pancakes and bacon. We went to get on a tender boat around 9:15, and boarded right away. At the dock in La Spezia, we overheard someone giving directions to the train station, so we figured out what she was referring to on the map and headed that way.
It looked to be a good distance away, and it was. We weren’t positive we were going the right direction a couple of times, but there was a pair of guys from our ship walking purposefully in that direction, so we felt like we were probably headed the right way. We finally saw the train station up on a hill, so we climbed the stairs and went to the ticket office. There was a train to Cinque Terre on the tracks, but we were too late to board it; the lady told us the next one was in 40 minutes. We bought a train pass and decided to go get coffee while we waited.
We went back down the stairs and headed back toward the main street in La Spezia. Passing other people from our ship, we could see the panic on their faces as they noticed us going the other direction. I considered reassuring them that the train station was indeed straight ahead, but it was pretty funny not to.
We stopped into a cafe that advertised they were a Juventus bar, and ordered espressos. We weren’t sure if it was OK to grab a table based on what we paid, but we played the tourist card and sat anyway to look at the map and train timetables. We then headed back to the train station and went to wait by the track where it was arriving. We noticed people stamping their cards in the validation machine, so we did the same.
The train arrived, or at least we thought it was the correct train. Everyone stood around looking confused and asking questions. We finally decided it was right and boarded. We ended up in a car with an incredibly annoying Mormon guy who was talking about Jesus with a couple he’d just met, and his large very flamboyantly stupid family.
We had decided the way to do Cinque Terre would be to ride to the last of the five towns, Monterosso, and then work our way back. We needed to leave time for the Via dell’Amore and catching the train back to La Spezia, so we worked our timing out backwards according to the train schedule. We arrived in Monterosso in about 20 minutes, and hopped off. We crossed the tracks and went down to the main street in town, which ran along the ocean.
It was unfortunately overcast that day, but it was obvious how amazing the towns were regardless. We walked down to the far end of the main street to get down to the beach.
We touched the Mediterranean for the first time ever, and picked up a few pieces of beach glass.
The Monterosso giant overlooked the town and the beach. He’s seen better days.
We wandered around in a neighborhood, then back out to the main street and down to the other end of the beach. It must be insane there in the summer. The beach was lined with little changing rooms people can rent.
We went back up to the train station and took the next train to Vernazza. It had suffered the worst in the mudslides that hit Cinque Terre the previous year, and had only just reopened to tourism within the past few weeks.
There were still signs of damage everywhere: mud on the sides of buildings, creeks running down the street, and a beach full of dirt and construction equipment. It was still incredibly charming, though.
We decided to get lunch at a pizza place right by the port. We got a table on the patio, and ordered beer and pizza. Despite having to eat it with a way-too-blunt knife (this would also become a trend), it was excellent.
We stood in line forever to use the single squatting toilet in the restaurant, then headed back up to the train station. We saw more damage along the way.
We figured we wouldn’t have time to see all five towns, so we skipped Cornelia. (This executive decision was based on the fact that the town was a 317-step climb from the train station.) We got off a double-decker train in Manarola and headed directly to the Via dell’Amore.
We paid our admission and headed off on the Lovers’ Walk. We had come prepared with a lock with our names and wedding date on it. The tradition is to secure the lock to a fence somewhere along the walk, and throw the key into the sea.
A little way down, we found a very nice spot. It was far less covered in locks than the areas closer to Riomaggiore. Plus it was on an actual fence, and the olive grove behind it was full of poppies. I liked it.
We took the keys with us, since there was no place to throw them. Further down the walk, we encountered the fences that were completely packed full of locks. There was an overlook there, so Matt threw the keys into the ocean. Now we’re stuck with each other!
Our cruise had originally been scheduled to dock in Portofino, but had to change because of Italian port regulations. I’m not at all sad that we got to visit Cinque Terre instead! It’s gorgeous.
There’s a tunnel along the way where people have written their love for each other and everything else on the walls. Some of them are awesome.
We reached the other end after 20 minutes or so. The exit led us to the train station at Riomaggiore.
We still had some time before needing to head back to La Spezia, so we took the tunnel into Riomaggiore.
We stopped into a souvenir shop to pick up a few things, then went across the street to a bar advertising happy hour. We ordered a couple of Negronis (which ended up being Campari spritzers, but whatever), and the server brought us a massive array of snacks as well. We hung out for a while, took advantage of their sit-down bathroom facilities, watched Italian battle raps on TV, and then headed back toward the train station.
We arrived back in La Spezia around 3pm, and headed back in the direction of port. All the shops that had been hopping that morning were already mostly shut down; I’m pretty sure businesses there aren’t really open on the weekend unless there are tourists in town.
Having spent more than a day in Italy, we decided that everyone in the country smokes and owns a small dog. Seriously, they’re everywhere.
The tender boats were still running for another half hour or so, but we were definitely toward the tail end of people leaving La Spezia. We got right on a boat and rode back to the ship. After reboarding, we stopped at the front desk to get my room card fixed, because it had been demagnetized. (After doing this three times over the cruise, I finally realized that it was the huge magnets holding my purse closed that was doing it, not my phone.) While we were waiting in line, we read in the news roundup that MCA had passed away.
We dropped our stuff off at the cabin and headed to Explorations Cafe to play canasta (which I won, because I’m so awesome). We took advantage of happy hour there, then went up to the Lido deck when it was time for the ship to leave. We left a little late, around 5:30pm. On the way out of port, we passed a bunch of oyster and mussel beds in the harbor.
After we were out to sea, we went back to the cabin to change into formal clothes. We found the first of our awesome towel animals there waiting for us!
We went up to the Silk Den for awesome cocktails, and met the bartender Lawrence who really, really wanted to sign us up for things. We told him we’d think about the pub crawl, and he said he would put our names down just in case, with no commitment. We were actually becoming convinced at that point, because it was $20 and included four drinks, which is a really great deal on a cruise.
After that, we headed down to the theater to take part in the champagne toast with the captain. We got our champagne and took seats to watch the crew introductions. After that, we stayed for the nightclub-themed musical, which was cheesily entertaining. We then headed to the dining room to put our names in for dinner. The host gave us a buzzer and said very apologetically that it would be 45 minutes, but our table was ready within five.
We were led to a table upstairs along the railing. The dining room was decked out in extra-fancy fashion, and photographers were roaming around taking photos of everyone. We ordered Manhattans, and my dinner was fruit soup, salad, and brown butter squash fusilli. Matt had crab legs. We ordered coffee, but no dessert. (There’s rarely room for dessert, no matter how careful you are about eating.) Our waiter insisted on bringing us cake and singing, so we finally told him he could sing if he didn’t bring cake. He brought a friend over and they serenaded us, and he said it was an Indonesian song wishing us a long life.
A few drinks in, and Matt was making plans for meeting the captain. On a previous cruise, we’d learned how to greet the captain in Italian (“buena sera, commandante!”), but this captain was Dutch. Matt decided on “stille nacht, commandate!” He then started listing off things that Kenny G and Jay-Z had in common. The people at the next table over were not entertained by our attempts to not fall off our chairs laughing.
After dinner, we headed to the piano bar. It was packed, so we went to the sports bar at the casino instead. I found a drink menu I hadn’t seen before (in German), and it had an old fashioned on the menu. I ordered that, and we sat watching sports (which is sad when you have a 7-hour time difference from the US…we were hoping to see the Kentucky Derby, but they didn’t know what it was when we inquired about it), and marveling at the old guy across the bar, who we were pretty sure was actually the most interesting man in the world. From there we went to the club, since it was again happy hour there. There we saw a dude who looked very much like Leonardo diCaprio (we’d see him pretty much every night thereafter), and his crew of friends.
Again, we got some to-go Manhattans for the cabin, and headed back for the night. We filled out the room service breakfast order for the next morning, and watched some cruise ship TV before bed.