Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Cruise Diaries: Day 2 - Monday 20th May 2013 - Messina & Taormina, Sicily

Overnight we've been sailing down the Italian coastline from Civitavecchia.  As we eat breakfast in the ever-packed Windjammer, we sail through the Messina Strait.  On one side, Reggio Calabria, the 'toes' of the 'boot' of the Italian map, and on the other side, there's Sicily.  We dock right in the city of Messina: a change from the usual bleak industrial ports.  Here's the view from the ship.

More of Messina later, as we've pre-booked a ship's excursion to the beautiful little town of Taormina which is just a 50 minute scenic drive away. 

Yes, it's full of tour parties, but immediately on arrival in Taormina (after ascending the lift from the bus parking) you feel the magic.  And what a view over the bay...

As you can see, it's a bright, warm sunny day.  The temperature is in the mid 20s which is just perfect and not unbearably hot.  Shortly after arrival, it's pizza time! Yes it's quattro stagioni, what the hell, I'm on holiday :)

There's a good selection of eateries near the little cathedral square.  Which eventually leads to the Corso Umberto, the town's main street where you can find lots of clothes shops, souvenir shops, gifts and antiques, and the ever-present local specialities limoncello and (pictured below) marzipan fruits.

One local speciality which was top of my to-do list in Taormina was Cannolo alla Siciliana.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, soooooo....

Yes, it may be a bit of a tourist trap but Taormina is such a lovely little town that it won us over almost immediately with its magic.   It's definitely a must-see on any Eastern Med cruise itinerary and it's convinced us that we must return to Sicily sooner rather than later.  Our four hours passed far too quickly and it was soon time for us to get back on the bus and return to Messina.  Oh and one more thing...if you visit Taormina you also get a sneaky peek - or should that be peak - at Mount Etna.  On this particular day the sky was a bit hazy but here it is anyway.

Back into Messina, and around an hour and a half before we had to be back on the ship.  We went for a little walk around the city, which was strangely quiet despite being rush-hour, grabbed some quick souvenir shopping and had time for a coffee in the shadow of the impressive cathedral with its distinctive tower and astronomical clock, before making our way back to the ship.

We make sure we're up on deck for sailaway. Most areas of the ship seem to be noisy, with music being pumped out at all times and the din of chatter everywhere you go.  But with 3200 passengers that's to be expected.  So it was a treat to hang out on that little quiet spot on Deck 12 at the back of the ship.  Then it was back to our stateroom to get ready for dinner.  Among the items for dinner tonight - an Italian speciality, Arancini (rice balls).

Tonight's main attraction was the 70s disco party on the Royal Promenade.  I believe this event takes place on all the Royal Caribbean cruises and never gets old :)  Yes it's an excuse for the staff to dress up in 70s gear and Afro wigs whilst the passengers party on down to the 70s hits.  The grand finale is a Village People medley of (appropriately) In The Navy and the legendary YMCA followed by a "love train" conga line up and down the Royal Promenade. 

A great way to end a great day, and tomorrow we're all at sea!

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