Wednesday, 15 September 2004 – Sorrento

We woke up at 7:00 for our second day in Sorrento. We had talked to a few people the night before who had been on the Pompeii tour and had a good time. I checked at the tour desk to see if there was room on that tour for this day. There was, and I signed us up. We would leave the boat just after 8:15. Chris and I ate breakfast from the buffet on deck 10, then headed to the Windows lounge to meet for the tour.

We were soon on the tender heading for Sorrento. Once there, we were directed to shuttle busses that would take us up the cliffs and to our tour busses. During the shuttle bus ride, our guide, Roberto, introduced himself and handed everyone stickers with the number "3" on them. We would all be riding bus #3 to Pompeii.

We reached the parking lot with our tour busses and boarded bus #3 with about 30 other people. Roberto used the bus P.A. system to tell us the drive to Pompeii would take about 45 minutes. He then began pointing out various sights in Sorrento as we drove through. Our trip took a little over an hour. The extra time had come in due to very heavy traffic in Sorrento as well as a detour due to road construction. The traffic was extra heavy because this was the first day of school for children in Sorrento.

Roberto filled the time between sites with small jokes, many of which played on the Italians’ legendary lack of a sense of time. Phrases like "three Italian minutes" were common.

Our driver dropped us off near the entrance to Pompeii where we had a toilet stop, then headed into the city.

The day was sunny and hot. Pompeii was dusty, but fascinating. During the two-hour tour, Roberto guided us along the ancient Roman streets. The streets had also been the drainage system for Pompeii. Even though the Romans had built sewers in other cities, it was not practical in Pompeii due to the volcanic rock underneath a couple of inches of soil. The streets ran between curbs that kept rain and waste water in the street channel. There were raised stepping stones that pedestrians had used to cross the street at regular intervals. On many of the streets, we could see the ruts worn into the stones by iron-rimmed cart and chariot wheels.

Roberto showed us temples built to worship Apollo and Jupiter. We saw the ruins of large and small houses. One of the city’s baths had survived the eruption of Vesuvius with its roof intact. We walked through the excavated building with its multiple rooms. When the bath was operating, there had been a cold room, a room with wet heat, and a room with dry heat. During our tour, all of the rooms were warm. After the bath building, Roberto showed us shops that had lined the street and took us by a bakery, complete with 5 millstones.

Our last stop was at a brothel in the city’s red light district. There were five small rooms in the building’s ground floor, each with a stone platform that had served as a bed when the business was operating. Paintings high on the walls showed various positions the patrons could choose from. Many of the customers had been sailors who did not speak Latin. The paintings allowed them to just point out what they wanted. There had been more rooms on the second floor of the building, and the women who worked there could use the upstairs windows to lure customers.

On our way toward the exit, Roberto stopped by a stone trough with a fountain spigot (not running, of course). He told us that slaves and poor citizens had used troughs like that one for bathing and it had also been used to water horses. People could drink water from the spigot. In fact, Roberto showed us two places on the stone that had been worn smooth. The smooth spots were each about a foot on either side of the fountain. They had been worn by people putting their hands on those same spots when leaning out to catch water in their mouths.

Our return trip to Sorrento was faster, because there was less traffic. Our tour bus took us to a spot where we could catch a free shuttle back to the marina. When we got there around 1:00, there was a shuttle waiting, so we got on. We noticed that the bus seemed to have parked in such a way that many scooters and at least one delivery truck were unable to leave their parking spaces.

The schedule said the bus would leave at 1:20. At 1:15, the bus was full, and the driver got on. He moved the bus about five feet, so the delivery truck and some scooters could get out. Then the driver got back out and went up the sidewalk where he continued to eat a sandwich. Five minutes later, with the bus packed even fuller of passengers, the driver squeezed back on and we made the short drive back to the marina.

Chris and I caught the next tender back to the Diamond and headed straight to Deck 10 to get lunch. We were starving. After a quick lunch, Chris got her book and headed to poolside to read. I tried to read for a few minutes, but I felt too wired to sit still. I changed into my workout shorts and headed to the gym. There I rode an exercise bike for 25 minutes, then cooled off with a walk around the track. The exercise helped a lot.

The ship set sail at 4:00, heading farther south toward Sicily, our next port. Dress for dinner that night was formal, and there was a "Captain’s Cocktails" reception at 5:00. We went back to our stateroom just after 4:00 and got cleaned up and dressed for the reception and dinner. I wore my suit, and Chris wore an Asian-themed shirt and pants outfit. We both looked smashing.

At the reception, there was a receiving line where a photographer took our picture in front of a Titanic backdrop. Then we were presented to Captain Broomehall, and another photographer took our picture with him. We got a glass of wine and found seats with Sandy and Mike. We chatted with them about Sorrento and Pompeii. About 10 minutes later, another couple walked up, and Sandy and Mike introduced us to them. Their names were John and Liz, and they were from Baltimore. Just then, a travel mate of Mike and Sandy’s showed up and whisked them away to dinner.

We chatted with John and Liz for a while longer, and then the four of us went to dinner together. We sat a table for eight, where we were joined by Brendan, the ship’s Art Director, and another couple, named Mark and Susan. Brendan’s job was to show and sell art on the cruise. He told us about an art-appreciation talk he would be giving the next morning, and an auction that would take place in the afternoon. We were sitting too far from Mark and Susan to learn much about them.

At all of the dinners on the ship, wine was included with the meal. Whenever the level in our glasses got low, a waiter came by to pour more. It was very easy to just keep drinking, and that’s what we did that evening. By the time dinner was over, we were full from the good food, and more than tipsy from the wine.

Since the ship was at sea, the onboard casino was open. I had been wanting to try blackjack with real money, so we went back to our stateroom and got cash. Back at the casino, Chris and I both fed $5 into the slot machines and the money was soon gone. Ready for higher stakes, I bought $100 worth of chips at the blackjack table and took a seat. Most of the time, I bet the minimum $5 per hand. Occasionally I would double-down or split my hand. Unfortunately, the house was having a very good night. The dealer was getting killer hands, like showing a 6, then getting 20 or 21 on her hit. All the players were losing and I was no exception. I managed to make my stack of chips last about an hour before they were gone. I saw others lose a lot more than that while I sat there.

Chris had watched me lose for a while, but did not find it very interesting. While I continued to play, she wandered down the hall to the Windows lounge. There she saw four entertainers singing and dancing to show tunes.

When my money was gone, that was enough for me. I found Chris and we headed back to our stateroom. It was about midnight by the time we got to bed.

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