Rome – Transatlantic 2009 Day 8 – Livorno, Italy

Yesterday was our first full day onboard the Celebrity Solstice, which is turning out to be a fabulous ship. In the morning, we were due to dock at Livorno, Italy. Most folks would be touring Florence or Pisa, Italy. We had arranged a tour through the cruise line to take a bus to Pisa and then have a self guided tour of the town including the infamous leaning tower. However, weather and other circumstances had different plans for us.

Oddly, around 6:30 am, I was awoken to the sounds of the anchor being dropped. Since our cabin is on the bow of the ship, we are quite close the anchor hold. I thought it was quite strange for the anchor to be dropped when we were docking in Livorno. We had a wake up call set for 7 anyways, so it wasn’t a big distraction so I got and started getting ready since we had an early morning tour. Everyone else was soon up.

While prepping, I heard the cruise director come on the PA system, which generally does not play in cabin rooms, so I had to open the door to the hall to fully hear and we were informed that due to weather, some cargo traffic was unable to leave Livorno as scheduled and thus our docking slot was no longer available. So, the cruise ship had diverted to La Spezia about 30 miles North. They also stated that all cruise line tours were going to operate as planned since they had worked throughout the night with the tour operators to make the changes.

The weather didn’t look too good outside. It was dark and rainy, but we made our way to the theater which was our staging area for the tour. Our tour was scheduled for an 8:30 departure. This is where it got interesting. There were a lot of tours supposed to occur. Livorno had the most tours of any stop for the cruise line on this sailing. We were supposed to dock but were tendering and the weather was rough. So they were having a hard time getting folks off the boat. In addition, it was now thundering and lightning with heavy rain and intermittent hail. They were forced to take less and less folks on tenders to ensure safety.

The only real problem here is that they weren’t communicating (and thus managing) the situation very well. There were some pretty upset folks that the cruise ship diverted to La Spezia which I find pretty ridiculous. Stuff happens. Folks need to learn to go with the flow. I had no issue with the diversion whatsoever. The problem, and not a big one, was the lack of communication from the excursion folks during the process. They should known our tour wasn’t going to a make an 8:30 departure and ‘allowed’ us to leave the staging area and come back closer to when they thought we might get a tender ashore. But they were pretty adamant about staying there. Some folks wanted to cancel outright which they resisted. I think since plans changed, they should have offered anyone who wanted it a refund. And they simply should have communicated throughout the whole situation. With some angry folks, lack of communication was just making them madder.

Anyways, about 10:15, almost two hours late from our scheduled start time, the cruise director came back on the PA and said because of the hail, they were going to slow down the tendering process even more for safety. At that point, we decided we would just try to cancel our excursion. We still had no real idea when that might occur. We weren’t mad or bitter, but were just tired of sitting in the theater and would rather go find something else to do. They were good about it and agreed to refund the excursion cost. I don’t know if they realized the problems or if it was the other 30 folks that followed us up to the desk to try to cancel too. Anyways, there was no issue getting a refund. Or course, about 10 minutes after we had done so, they called for our tour. But, we were still happy with our decision.

So, instead, we set out on the ship to get some pictures and video of the area. La Spezia was a nice little harbor and coastal area. It is quite picturesque. The weather was still fairly foul, but was beginning to show signs of clearing, though the temperature was in the 50s.

After lunch, Suzanne decided to take a nap and the kids and I decided to take a tender tour. We call the tender tour what you do when you take a tender ashore and then come right back on another tender. The kids like riding in the tenders (as do I) and you do get a nice view of the area. We said we would do some souvenir shopping in town if there was any place to do so on shore, but folks coming back were indicating that there really wasn’t. The tender ride in was nice. It had stopped raining and the sun was poking out. They hadn’t opened the top of the tender but the kids enjoyed the ride ashore. We stayed on the dock for about 15 mins and there was not any shopping available there so we rode another tender back. This time we asked if we could go up top and they opened it up for us. The view was pretty stunning on the ride back. With the rain stopped and the clouds parting, it was now possible to see the mountains surrounding La Spezia and they were covered with snow – very nice.

In the evening, we visited our new favorite lounge on the ship, the CellarMasters lounge and enjoyed a flight (small tastings) of French Wines. We also registered for a couple of upcoming wine events. One is a wine tasting with Reidel Crystal glasses and you get a set of crystal at the end. The other is a wine connoisseur tasting and meal. It replaces a regular dinner and takes place in the main dining room in a special section, but it’s a different gourmet meal with specially selected wines. There are some pretty special (and expensive) wines included in the tasting – a couple I have wanted to taste just because of their names and how big/good they are ‘supposed’ to be. It seemed like an ideal way to do so.

Dinner was once again spectacular. I enjoyed a very nice cream of corn soup as a starter. Sean had another shrimp cocktail and Suzanne went for the escargot. All of us had the same entrée, which I am not sure has ever happened before. It was chicken ciao bella – basically, cheese and sun dried tomato stuffed chicken breast with a prosciutto wrapping. It was very tasty. As usual for us, late seating continues to work very well – even the kids prefer it to early seating.

After dinner, the kids went to the fun factory while Suzanne and I headed off to karaoke. She went to sing and I went to listen. Suzanne sang Cabaret, On My Own, Girl in 14G and All that Jazz. She did well except for a couple of sour notes in On My Own – likely a bi-product of the earlier wine tasting and wine with dinner. She did well enough to apparently get picked to compete in the Celebrity Starring You promotion later in the cruise.

We returned to the cabin a little after 1:00 am. Sean was still up watching a movie but Savannah was long asleep. We chatted with Boomer and bit and we all retired for the night shortly after 1:30 am. Tomorrow we are scheduled to dock in Villafranche, France. I don’t think there is a ton to do there. Most folks will be either heading to Monaco or Nice. We plan to sleep in a bit, eat lunch and they go ashore. We plan to stay in Villafranche and walk around town and do some shopping.

Be sure to follow our travel exploits on this blog as I try to make a daily update of our Rome and transatlantic cruise.