Searching for The Maltese Falcon
Friday, May 18 Rome to Celebrity Reflection
We woke up to a sunny morning. We had arranged with the hotel
for a car and driver to take us to the cruise port, which is
a city called Civitavecchia, about an hour and a half from Rome.
The driver arrived exactly on time.
We had an uneventful drive to Civitavecchia, and arrived exactly when the driver
predicted. From the arrival of the limousine in front of the
cruise terminal building through check-in and onboard the ship
took only ten minutes
. Amazing! On some of our previous cruises this
process took almost two hours.
Our ship, the Celebrity Reflection, appears huge from the pier.
Every previous ship we have been on (all 3) have appeared huge,
but this is definitely the biggest we have been on.
It's supposed to hold about 3000 passengers and 1000 crew
members. That's big. Not the biggest, which is supposed to hold between 5500 and 6800 passengers.
There aren't many hotels
that big. There are a lot of towns
We were handed a welcome aboard drink as we got onboard
but we could only gulp down a sip because about ten steps further on a woman crew member told
us that we weren’t allowed to take the drinks on the elevator.
A little poor planning there. I guess we could have just stood by the elevator and
finished our drink, but we were in a hurry to see the ship, and there were more people
coming behind us wanting to get on the elevator.
Since it was lunch time, we went up to the buffet.
It was very impressive. There were a large
number of "stations" with different choices: A hot food station, with several interesting
choices including a person carving roast beef to order, also stations for
Indian, Mexican, Asian, pizza, a pasta bar, a salad
bar, a sandwich bar, cakes and pastries, ice cream, and more.
Everything looked scrumptious. I tried a
small sampler of several things. All were delicious.
At least at this point, the buffet seems better than on any of our previous cruises.
We explored the ship,
which is very modern, spacious, and impeccably clean, and then went to the mandatory muster
drill. By law, all ships must do a muster drill before they leave on the cruise. In our
experience, some cruise lines are more stringent about the drill than others.
After finding our muster station, we had to wait a while and then they showed a
silly “spy movie” on some video screens to explain safety and then two crew members demonstrated
how to put on a life jacket. This was a pretty tame muster drill.
Afterward we went back to
the buffet where I got a thin sliver of cheesecake which was quite good. Donnie
got two scoops of ice cream (ka-ching!). The ship started sailing while we
We explored the ship a little more and then we went to the
Sea View Lounge at top forward which is supposed to have a nice view forward, but
the place was sort of dead and boring so after a little while we went back to our
stateroom to change and we discovered complementary canapés
and some fresh fruit, along with a bottle of bubbly. We had booked something
called an "Aqua Class" cabin and these were some of the perks that came with it.
The ship is
very well designed and has a slightly younger crowd than we saw on Holland America and seems
much more upscale than Norwegian or Princess. There is a Tiffany store
onboard, also Michael Kors, Bulgari, Omega, Levian,
Givenchy, Prada, YSL, Christian Dior, Furla, and Kate Spade. Definitely upscale!
No Ferrari dealership though or we might have made a purchase.
There are a lot of bars. One just serves Martinis, but the bar surface is
cooled and is covered with a thin layer of ice. That would seem like an interesting
idea, except that the martini glasses have long stems so the cold never actually
reaches the drink. Oops.
Another perk for "Aqua Class" guests is a special dining room just for us, called Blu.
(That is not a typo. At least not mine. Why is it now "in" or "cute" to name things
with misspelled English words. Lyft? Give me a break.)
We went there for dinner. Despite the name, it was very classy looking
and the service was impeccable.
Time for a small digression... For most of my adult life, whenever I have had to give
someone my last name, to a hotel desk clerk for example, they almost always didn't have a clue
on how to spell it, or even pronounce it. Then later in my life, Lenny Kravitz became famous.
Many times now, when I give my last name, the other person remarks "Oh, like Lenny!".
I usually answer just yes, but occasionally mention that he is a cousin. This is true
His grandfather and my grandfather were brothers. His father was a white Jewish guy, like
my Dad, his father's first cousin. I don't know if Lenny considers himself Jewish. I've never
Often this gets a reaction like "Really?" and I explain
it as I just did. The first time we showed up at Blu, at the hostess station where
we had to show our plastic cruise ID cards, the hostess, a very sweet hispanic lady named
Miriam noticed my last name and we went through the usual back-and-forth. This time however
it had an amazing effect. Every time we entered Blu after that, Miriam recognized us immediately
and said "Hello Mr. and Mrs. Kravitz" and was most friendly and helpful and even remembered our
room number which she had to enter into her computer. Every time.
We had an excellent meal, which we had at Blu almost every time. Our servers were two young women,
one a hispanic lady named Edith (my mother's name) and the other an unusually tall Thai woman, whose name
badge had a very long, extremely unpronounceable name. She and Edith both said to use her nickname that everybody
called her, "Meow". They were both very helpful and friendly and "Meow" was funny. On our previous cruises we had
often encountered crew members who seemed friendly but it alway somehow appeared phony, like they were told that they
had to greet everyone and ask how they were. On one cruse it was very obvious. Crew members you passed in the hall
that were mopping or vacuuming or performing other non-guest-related tasks would alway say "Hello. How are you?"
It was obvious that they had
to do this. This bothered me. On this cruise, when someone greeted you
or spoke to you, you somehow
knew that it was usually genuine. Edith and "Meow", who were are servers almost every night in Blu, along with Miriam,
were genuinely nice, friendly people.
Tonight we happened to sit next
to a couple from New York, an amazing coincidence.
Then we found out that she was from Manhattan and he was from Glen Oaks, Long Island.
Donnie was born and grew up in Manhattan, and I grew up in Glen Oaks. Talk about
The woman talked up a storm, almost forgetting to eat, but it was a pleasant dinner anyway.
Today the weather was perfect and so
far it has been a perfect day.
Saturday, May 19 Messina & Taormina Sicily, Italy
We awoke to a nice sunny day. We had a very good breakfast in Blu which included fresh squeezed orange
juice, a first for any cruise we have been on. Very Nice.
The ship pulled into Messina about 9:30.
We had read before the trip that many
people recommended taking an excursion to the hilltop town of Taormina, which
was about an hour away from Messina, so we had booked one. We went down to the ship's theater which was the meeting
point for all excursions. The entire handling of the excursions was very efficient and well done. As you entered
the theater you showed your excursion tickets to a crew member who then handed you a numbered sticker to wear, the
number being both the group you were in, the number your group would be called by, and the number of the bus you
would be riding. After waiting for our number to be called, we were told to walk down two flights to the gangway.
On some other cruises the whole excursion process was very poorly handled and chaotic. It would turn out
that almost everything on this cruise was done very professionally and efficiently, with no chaos.
We took the bus for a one
hour ride to Taormina.
Taormina is a little hill town with a very narrow winding road up the
side of the cliff to get there. The buses had some difficulty making the
very sharp turns and switchbacks. Taormina has one main street with lots of little side
alleys. There were many shops, restaurants, and tourists. Too many.
The sun disappeared as soon
as we got there. We had three goals: take lots of pictures (hard to take good ones with no
sun), have a slice of thick crust Sicilian pizza (Only one place had it.
All the others had thin crust pizza and so we think
it isn’t authentic, so we passed on it), and have some cannoli
which is supposed to be a Sicilian invention. We walked
slowly along the main street looking for picture opportunities and
gelato shops and the best place to have cannoli.
We found a shop that
sold all kinds of brightly painted Sicilian pottery, and Donnie bought a
little pottery donkey cart, hopefully not
made in China. We reached the end of the main street and
turned toward the Greek Theatre but you had to buy tickets to go in and
we decided we didn’t have enough time to explore it properly.
point, happily, the sun came out. We went to a nice little bakery near the
pottery shop, found a table outside and ordered two cannoli. We also
wanted something cool and refreshing to drink. Donnie tried to order
iced cappuccino but the young waitress shook her head. No iced cappuccino, I guess. She suggested
in a mixture of Italian and a few English words that we order
coffee granita. When it came, wow! It was the best cannoli we ever had and
the coffee granita was a real, strong, sweet, Italian coffee slushy. Fantastic!
walked slowly back down the main street towards the excursion meeting
point, but Donnie had to get a gelato fix before we got back on the bus.
(are you still keeping count?)
We took the bus back to the ship. After dropping off stuff in our stateroom
(there were canapés and more fruit again) we had a light snack in the
buffet. There was a surprising selection of food at an off hour which was very impressive.
We walked 3.7 miles
today. Donnie was disappointed. We had dinner at Blu again.
The service not very good this time because they sat us at a table that Edith and "Meow"
weren't handling. The food was
OK but I wasn’t very hungry.
I have to admit that Taormina was a disappointment. I had read online a large number of comments
on what a lovely place it was and not to miss it. It was a lovely place if you like shopping. Too many
stores, not really much to see or photograph, except the Greek theater which we decided we didn't
have time for. I wonder if Messina would have been a better choice.
Sunday, May 20, Valletta Malta
We watched the ship pull into this medieval city. Everything was made of
yellow stone. It was mostly cloudy with rain threatening.
Today is the big day! I'm going to search for the Maltese Falcon today.
I already have the perfect place for it in the living room. We
started on our exploration about ten AM but as soon as we exited the
gangway it started to rain heavily, so we went back aboard and relaxed
for a while hoping that the rain would stop. About 11:30 the sky looked
a little clearer so we went back out to Valletta Malta.
The city is on a high plateau, way above the dock, and we wondered how
to get up there. The only way we could see was to walk up a steep winding
street with a lot of cars. Instead we followed a bunch of people leaving
the dock area, hoping that they knew where they were going.
Eventually, we came upon
an elevator to take us to the town proper or we would have had a very tiring
walk up. It took us directly to a nice
garden area which was right next to a gate into the old town.
It was still pretty cloudy as we walked around town. After a
while the sun did come out. Once again, the touristy area was full of
shops, a lot of them the usual global corporate chains, which annoys me.
Why should I travel halfway around the world to buy the same junk I can
get in my local mall? Not only that, but these corporate giants are forcing out
the "Mom and Pop" businesses that at least had some charm and unique items to sell. End of Rant.
At one point during our meandering, we came to a line of cars
parked in the middle of a street surrounded be ropes. They were all
Ferrari's. There was a sign that they belonged to
members of the Maltese Ferrari Club. Walking a little further, we came to a plaza full of beautiful vintage cars.
the Malta Concourse d’elegance. There were Ferrari's, several Jaguar
E-Types (My favorite car of all time. Wish I had owned one.), Aston Martins, Fiats, Rolls-Royce’s, etc. It was wonderful.
There was even a red 1965 Austin-Healy Sprite! I once owned a 1970 MG Midget which
was the same car as the Sprite except for minor cosmetic details.
It was lemon yellow, which turned out to be a very appropriate color.
It spent most of its short life in the mechanic's shop.
Later we had a snack in a
very large outdoor cafe: Maltese “pasties” (No, not something worn by certain female
performers; Pastry covered meat pies meant to be held in the hand.) and lemon Granita. We made
our way back to the elevator and trudged the long walk back to ship, arriving
onboard about three. Valletta was more interesting than Taormina, but I don't
think I took too many good pictures there. I am glad that we visited, especially
since it adds yet another country to our list, one that most people will never visit.
If it weren't for this cruise, we probably wouldn't have either.
There were canapés and fruit in our stateroom again. It's a nice touch, but we don't have the
appetite we used to, and if we eat the canapés, we might not be hungry for dinner.
They are small, and so we do try them if they look like something we might like.
Donnie didn’t get a gelato fix today, however she
didn’t go cold turkey but settled for an ice cream shot in the
afternoon (keep counting anyway). Later we went up top to watch the sail away, and then we had a
simple dinner in the buffet. The warm apple strudel was great. The pastries and cakes on this
ship ore numerous, varied, beautiful, and very good.
found the Maltese Falcon! I’ll bet Sydney Greenstreet has cornered the
market. Another 5 miles
today. Not too shabby.
Monday, May 21, At Sea
We awoke late, probably because we lost an hour due to time zone change. Since
it's a day at sea with no early morning excursions, it doesn't matter. After breakfast in the
buffet we went on a “galley” tour. We have been to two of these
on previous cruises and they were interesting. The one on the Island Princess
was the most impressive since the galley they showed us was huge and
it was on two floors (oops, I mean decks) with an escalator for the waiters
to get to the dining rooms. This one started out with
the Hospitality Manager introducing all the various Head Chefs
and other people. He had a strong German accent and tried to be funny
but he wasn't really. This took a lot of time.
Then we spent a lot of time waiting for our group to be
called to go on the actual tour. The galley tour was pretty short.
We learned one interesting fact: this ship has sixteen galleys!
The rest of the sea day was spent finding places to chill out or exploring the ship or eating
or whatever. Celebrity cruise line seems to have fewer activities on sea days
than some of the others we have been on. Holland America had some very
good guest lecturers. At one point we went back to the
room and while I hung out there Donnie said she wanted
to go to the buffet and bring back something to drink but she came
back with ice cream. (ding, ding!) We had
dinner in Blu again and sat next to another nice couple from north England. We have
met a lot of people from the UK on this cruise. It seems like there are more
people from the UK than from the US.
Tuesday, May 22, Mykonos Greece
It's a bright sunny morning. We awoke early and looked out balcony door.
Amazingly there's an island out there
with lots of white buildings. We must be at Mykonos.
After the usual showers, etc. we decided to skip
breakfast and head out early.
Unbelievably the time from when we got off the
elevator to when we were on the tender was less than a minute.
There were no tender tickets to wait in line for, no waiting for numbers to be called,
no big line waiting for the next tender. Maybe going out early had something to do with
it, but it was not that
early, it was about 8:30.
We took a very,
very windy and bumpy tender ride but it was short. The tender was really a local
tour boat, not one of the ship's lifeboats. It was much more comfortable than a lifeboat,
which were used as tenders on some of our previous cruises.
We walked around a lot of amazing
Mykonos. It was indescribable: beautiful, incredibly clean. wonderful.
As we walked, we saw store owners or employees out sweeping streets in front of
their shops, wiping down benches, cleaning windows. Since everything
in a thick, white, glossy paint it was already very clean looking, but they were wiping it
off before the crowds arrived.
We went to see and photograph the iconic windmills.
About ten thirty we wanted to have some "breakfast" so we searched
for a nice cafe/restaurant with outdoor seating and a nice view. Donnie
suggested one right on the harbor, which she picked because the
seats had comfortable looking cushions. Why not? We sat and ordered Greek coffee and baklava.
I had set a goal of having genuine, authentic baklava in Greece, and now we were doing it.
The Greek coffee was like Turkish coffee, which
means that it is strong and thick, and you have to be careful
about the finely ground coffee at the bottom. Oh, and the baklava was the best baklava I ever had!
Donnie said that the baklava that her grandmother made was better, but I have
to take her word for that.
After the windy morning we had beautiful weather in a beautiful place. The day so
At one point we went into a local bakery.
It was below street level, down some narrow, awkward steps in an
old room. The baked goods looked delicious but we weren't hungry and we aren't allowed to bring
any food onboard the ship.
We walked around taking gazillions of pictures. We found out that there are 400 churches
on the island, most very small.
We decided to have a late, light lunch. Again, we wanted
something authentically greek. Restaurants were offering everything from
hamburgers to pizza, (which, sadly, a lot of tourists were eating)
but we found one that looked more authentic.
I had wanted to try something called "Cheese Saganaki" which I had read about. It's
fried cheese. Since I wasn't very hungry, I decided that Saganaki sounded a bit too heavy, so
I had something that the English
“Piquant Cheese Salad” which turned out to be more of a cheese spread. I think now
after some research online that
it was a cheese called Kopanisti which is mainly made on Mykonos. It was spicy but good. I'll
still have to try Saganaki if I ever see it on a menu at home.
Donnie had grilled octopus, which she loves.
By this time there were high
clouds diminishing the light and we were tired so we took the tender
back to the ship. After we dropped our stuff in our stateroom, Donnie
had her daily ice cream (bing!). We went back to the stateroom to rest and we
found some canapés
again. Donnie liked tonight’s canapés. After resting some, we went and
checked the menu at Blu and got some tea and lemonade and went to relax
in the library. It was a wonderful day. Mykonos is very touristy and commercial
but manages to be attractive nonetheless. It is a little bit artificial. There were
many of the modern high-end corporate chain stores, inside the old-Greek-style buildings.
The streets, on first look, appeared to be made of flagstones with wide grout fillings between
them, everywhere, but when you looked a little more carefully you saw that the "grout" was
painted on and had nothing to do with the shape of the underlying stone. It was a bit
of fakery. We did walk a little outside the "touristy" area and there it was a little less
clean and new.
We had an excellent dinner in the
buffet instead of Blu this time. I have tried the Indian dishes several times in the
buffet and they have been very good every time. Donnie had ice cream for
dessert of course (bing! bing!).
When we got back to our stateroom, there was a
message on room phone that our “on our own” excursion we had booked
in Pompeii was canceled so we had go down to the
Excursions desk to rebook the guided tour excursion.
Today our iPhones indicated 4.8 miles walked and
29 floors of steps climbed. The latter must
Wednesday, May 23, Rhodes, Greece
After we left the ship we walked into the Virgin’s Gate in the medieval wall and entered the
very old city of Rhodes. The city is full of old stone buildings with modern shops and
restaurants inside. Unlike Mykonos these buildings aren't
new construction disguised to look old. These are
old. The tourist area was very clean,
but the residential area, not so much. As usual, we walked around taking lots of pictures.
Once again we walked all over, took lots of pictures, etc. We had gyros for lunch
in a terrace restaurant. This time they weren't very good. The restaurant was
in a very
We walked a bit more after lunch and then went back to the
ship to collapse. We happened to walk through the buffet. One station had
genuine-looking Spanish tapas so good looking
that we had to have some. They were great! Then we went to one of the bars
called the Passport bar. Donnie had an
excellent mojito and I found the one bartender who knew how to make a
"Painkiller". We had tried this cocktail for the first time many years ago
on the Caribbean island of Tortola, where they make the Pusser's Rum which is supposed
to be one of the key ingredients.
We had liked it. The one I had today was pretty good too.
We went to dinner at Blu again. about eight. It was more crowded than when
we went at earlier hours. Donnie had soup and Meze (middle-eastern small dishes).
Unfortunately, I had squab that was so tough I
couldn’t even cut it. I only had a couple of bites, and they were hard
to get. This was a major disappointment, since everything we have
had to eat so far on the ship has been very good.
Today's score: 5.9 miles walked, 17 floors climbed.