Messina, Taormina and Mount Etna as well as some ship observations

Before I get to the fun/destination part of this post, here are a few more observations about onboard life.

Yesterday, while we were in Rome, a large part of the ship’s passengers got off and another group got on. As I mentioned earlier, this three-week cruise we are on is actually three one-week cruises stacked one on top of the other. It is actually four one-week cruises (starting in Istanbul). The very large group that got on board in Rome was much louder and party-types than the group that got off. For that reason has become a more raucous ship. Something we did not expect from Viking. Kathleen was awakened a few times that first night by the person above us talking loudly and walking heavily. We would have called down to Guest Services, but we couldn’t tell if the noise was coming from directly above or one of the staterooms on either side of it.

This brings me to going back to the Main Dining Room. Our new friends Corky and Larry said they had an outstanding server, and if we came to dinner with them, we would have amazing service. They were right. They have a waiter (whose name I believe is Joku0) who takes great care of them. Not only that, but we met THE wine steward. We asked him if he was the ONLY wine steward on board, and he said he was not. There was one in Chef’s Table and in Manfreddis, but he told us, “I am the only one in THE Restaurant. Therefore, I am THE wine steward.” But we still did not have that great an experience. The food was “fine” (we still had much better in the World Cafe), but the noise was off the charts. Corky and Larry are not overly quiet people, but I thought I heard about half of what they said. And my friends know that I am not exactly a quiet guy, but Kathleen had to ask me to repeat a couple of things—and she was sitting right next to me. I felt like you needed to shout to be heard, and obviously, so did everyone else. There is no sound deadening when the room is full, and it was slammed.

Back to our previously scheduled port excursion tour, on Thursday morning, we woke up in Messina, Sicily. Or I should say Kathleen did. I woke up REALLY early (even for me) at 4:45, so I could see us sail through the Strait of Messina. The last time I sailed through this strait, we were in a storm so bad that waves were breaking over the top of our 13-deck ship (Celebrity Century). I had never heard that being there to take pictures as you go through was that great, but the cruise director RAVED about it the night before, so I decided to get up and get out there to take some photos. 😴

Yup, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here is the only photo I took that morning that I would even think about bothering with. Not sure why I am even showing it to you.

See what I mean? I should have stayed in bed. But that’s OK because the day got a lot better as we were booked to head down to Taormina and then up to Mount Etna.

Messina is a pretty nice port to sail into. It doesn’t take long, and there are lots of things to take photos of if you are on the right side of the ship. Since we would be on our excursion to Taormina and Mount Etna for the rest of the day, this was my only chance to get some shots of Messina. Here are those pics. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Beautiful Taormina

After breakfast, we headed down to get on our “luxury motor coach” to tour Taormina and Mount Etna. The drive was most interesting with a bunch of tunnels to pass through, some very tight curves that our driver did an amazing job of negotiating and just beautiful coastal scenery to see. After about an hour’s drive, we arrived in the beautiful mountainside village of Taormina. It reminded us a lot of our previous trip to the Amalfi Coast. Lots of beautiful villages above cliffs that lead down to the sea. You will see that when you check out the Taormina photos below.

Besides a beautiful Italian village, Taormina is home to a huge Greek theater set on the side of a cliff that dates back to 301 AD. It is still in use today, as you will see from the photos. I am amazed at how many of these open-air theaters built almost 2,000 years ago are still being used. We saw one on the side of the Acropolis that was even older and was hosting a Sting concert the night after we were there.

To learn and see more of our Taormina experience, check out my pics below. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

On to Etna

After about two hours in Taormina, we were back on our “luxury motor coach” to head upwards to Mount Etna. If we had thought the first part of the trip was a windy road, we had seen nothing yet. This was the most amazing piece of “luxury coach” driving we had ever seen. I am still not sure how our driver negotiated some of the turns he did. We finally wound up at the highest point that “luxury coaches” can go. There were a couple of restaurants, a few gift shops and the bottom station of a gondola ride to the top of the volcano.

Etna was not erupting when we were there (thankfully), but she was letting off a lot of steam. And we did see plenty of lava lands and craters. Our first stop at the top was for lunch, where we were served a nice lunch with appetizers, pasta, bread and wine. It was all great, and they offered us much more than we could possibly eat. Especially when you are on a cruise. Some of it suffered from having been prepped way too early in the day, but it was all “fine.” I forgot to mention that the restaurant we ate in had displays showing that it had been rebuilt twice after being burnt down during Etna’s last two eruptions.

After lunch, we had a few minutes to shoot some photos before we were back on the “luxury motor coach,” and we drove about a mile or so away, where there were five smaller craters that opened up in previous eruptions. We had the chance to hike up and take photos. Kathleen stayed on the bus while I did my usual run-around thing, snapping away. Here are the pics I got as we approached Etna and at the top. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That was our day, and it was a long one. Took the “luxury motor coach” back to the ship, got on and collapsed. Quick dinner in the buffet and off to bed after another couple of Downtons.

I feel like a person living on the brink of a volcano crater.  —Agnes Smedley


9 thoughts on “Messina, Taormina and Mount Etna as well as some ship observations

  1. Susan MacGregor

    Umm, I am afraid to ask about the quotation around Luxury Motor coach. Thinking it was a yellow school bus 🙃 🚌 Enjoying your review of the ports, curious what our dining experience will be like when we board in 2024 for our Northern Lights cruise.

    1. Susan, the “luxury motor coach” is because all the paperwork says that. Never bus so I just thought it was funny. Plus, we did a private tour in Cinque Terra that was just six of us in a van and it was heaven. More about that in couple of days.

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  3. Nicole Porter

    I am looking to book an excursion just like this and wondered if Mt.Etna was worth seeing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It was actually pretty cool but we weren’t up there as long as I would have liked. If I were doing it again, I would choose Taormina and skip Etna to do it another time. Or do a private tour that we had more control over where we went and how long we were in both places. We spent a lot of time getting 30 people on and off a bus. We were really only at Mt. Etna for about 90 minutes and 60 of those minutes were spent eating lunch. And that was long lunch because they had to feed about 150 people as there were four buses. There was a cable car that we could have taken. If I were planning it again, I would do a private tour with about 6 people. We would do Taormina in the morning, have a quick lunch and then spend the entire afternoon on Mt. Etna.

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