I woke as the ship docked in Palermo, and we got up to get breakfast at the buffet. Neither of us wanted to eat much in case it would trigger seasickness, and we were both pretty sunburnt at that point. We stopped back at our cabin to grab our stuff, and the cleaning crew was there working. If you want to experience awkwardness, try to get into your cabin while the stewards are in there. I didn’t care at all, but they all scrambled away like they were supposed to be a big secret.
The only problem with the stewards being there was I didn’t want to take the time to put sunscreen on. That was not a great choice!
We got off the ship and encountered people selling tickets for the double-decker bus. We grabbed a map and examined it while we went to the ATM to get cash, and decided to buy tickets since it would drop us off near our primary destination, the Capuchin Catacombs. Also, another day of not walking around a ton seemed really appealing.
We headed up six blocks or so into Palermo and found the bus turistico waitin. We took seats on the lower level of the bus and plugged in our headphones to listen to the tour. When seats opened up on the roof the guide asked us if we wanted to go up there, but we decided to pass since we planned to hop back on and see things in more detail later.
Palermo is much bigger than I expected. It’s old and run-down in a classy Sicilian sort of way.
It took a lot of damage in the war, and a lot of it is still visible on the tops of buildings.
We rode up to the stop nearest the crypts (about halfway around the bus’ loop, at Monreale) and hopped off. We followed the map in that general direction, and finally found a sign pointing the right away (on Via dei Cappuccini, conveniently). We started walking up the hill, and weren’t sure if we had gone too far or not. We saw some old guys sitting outside a car repair shop, so I pointed to the map and asked where the catacombi were. He gave us fairly clear directions in Italian, and I assume he had probably told 40 other tourists the same thing that day.
We went up a ways and took a right, and the catacombs were there a block away on a plaza.
The most tragic part of the catacombs themselves is they strictly forbid any kind of photography. So basically picture a gigantic basement lined with mummies in coffins stacked to the ceiling (displayed so they’re mostly standing up facing you, with some laying down). There are elevated metal walkways, because the floor is all tombs. There are sections devoted to infants and some to the capuchin monks themselves. Everything is in an alarming state of preservation, especially the clothes, and the mummies are shiveled and horrifying and you’re convinced that you’re breathing dead people the entire time you’re there.
It’s fantastic, and it’s only 3 euros.
After the catacombs, we went into the cemetery and looked around. We found remarkably clean bathrooms there with squat toilets, and for the first time I had to use my own kleenex since they didn’t have toilet paper.
We walked back down the way we’d come, and stopped at a Farmacia so Matt could get antacids. (All the rich food was doing us in.) We looked for sunscreen but didn’t see any in the store. We walked through the Porta Nuova and headed to the next bus stop to wait for the bus turistico to pick us up. We were happy to hang out in the shade.
The entire loop on the bus took around an hour, so we decided to ride around and see everything, this time sitting on top. For most of the ride, we had the entire bus to ourselves.
The bus took us through the middle of town, which was packed at midday. Scooters are the way to go in Italy.
We then went out along the coast where we could see the old city wall. There are a bunch of restaurants built right into the wall.
We swung by the main train station, then drove by war-damaged city gates and back into the middle of the city.
We ended up in a traffic jam for no apparent reason. I sat there watching the Sicilian food truck guy working down below. At this point, I was clutching my sweater closed over my dress, so as to prevent any more sunburn.
We passed under the Porta Nuova again, which has part of the Palazzo dei Normanni on top of it.
We then headed back down one of the main streets, hearing stories about the mob hangouts along the way. We got off the bus where we’d gotten on that morning, and went to do some souvenir shopping. We had a much shortened stop in Palermo that day… the ship was only there til 3pm, so final boarding was at 2:30.
We stopped to buy some Sicilian souvenirs, then saw a food market that looked especially good. We were in there for a long time picking stuff out: we got aged balsamic, chocolate, some beverages, and snacks to have on the ship. We bundled up our heavy groceries, and headed back to the port. It seemed like most people had already boarded at that point, because it was after 2pm. We stopped quickly in the duty-free shop in the port building and bought a little souvenir bottle of limoncello to bring home, then re-boarded the ship just as the staff was asking for a count of passengers. It was time to go!
In our cabin, the laundry we’d sent out the previous day was already back. It was nicer than any washing I’ve ever done, and even though we hadn’t requested or paid for pressing, they’d done it all anyway. That service was absolutely worth the money, and our underwear arrived in the nicest arrangement I’ve ever seen:
We went out to our balcony to watch sail-away, work on our in-room beverage purchase (we had a lot left), and have a snack. Crik Crok is my favorite.
Seagulls followed the ship well out into the ocean. I wanted to throw them some Crik Crok, but I didn’t want Ishmael coming to yell at us.
It was sad leaving Sicily. We’d be back on mainland Italy very early the next morning. Cruises always seems impossibly short.
We went for our usual pizza at the Lido deck, then went to the obligatory farewell meeting in the theater, where the crew gave instructions for how to disembark (it was really unnecessary, since the routine is always the same. The main thing to remember is that you have to pack and have your luggage in the hallway before 1am). They then got a bunch of the staff onstage to say goodbye, and I cried. Just like always.
From there, we went upstairs to the Crow’s Nest for happy hour with the pub crawl crew.
After that happy hour was over, we proceeded to the next one at the Ocean Bar. Ronnie was there as usual, and we ordered Wang Wang. We weren’t going to leave without doing that at least one more time. Or twice, since it was happy hour!
We were planning to have dinner in the main dining room again, since we hadn’t been there in a while. The rest of the group didn’t want to change into nicer clothes, so we made plans to find them again later at the club. We had time to kill before our reservation, so we went up to the Silk Den to say goodbye to Ramil. The view from the bar at sunset was excellent, too.
Our table in the dining room was in the back corner, pleasantly secluded. Matt decided to order Chateau Neuf du Pape in honor of the Beastie Boys. I had a really excellent Indian entree for dinner, and we were way too full for dessert or even coffee. We decided to go to the casino next, because we still had some chips we hadn’t lost yet. We got seats at the Fun 21 table, and did pretty well for a while. Once my chips came back to me, I decided to risk it all (I think it was $40) on one hand and lost. It seemed appropriate for my gambling luck on the ship.
We headed to Northern Lights to find the group. They weren’t there yet, but we found some Cruise Critic folks instead. We hung out with them for a while, and then the pub crawl group arrived. Then it was time for dancing, and the theme according to DJ Stylez was “rock it til we dock it”. There were 2-for-1s and reggaeton, and a couple of the girls were dancing on a table. There’s a reason we really loved that group of people!
It was getting late, and we sadly had to say goodbye to everyone. There were hugs all around, and we went to the cabin for our customary end-of-the-evening drink. We still had a bottle of Prosecco that we’d saved, so we had it on the balcony while watching the most bizarre moonrise I’ve ever seen… it was bright red.
We finished packing, and put our bags outside the door right before the pickup deadline.