Sunday, February 18, 2018

Day 3 Palermo Mediterranean Cruise MSC Meraviglia 7N Genoa Civitavecchia Palermo La Valletta Barcelona Marseilles

Day 3 of our cruise!  This morning, the ship would dock in the Italian Port of Palermo.  Where is Palermo?  Good question.  Palermo is a city in southern Italy, and capital of the autonomous region of Sicily.  The city has a long history (more than 2,700 years).  More on wikipedia.  Turns out that Palermo is a common port of call for cruise ships.  We were first here 2 years ago on the Preziosa.  Now we are here again on the Meraviglia.

Here is a video of our ship sailing into port. Thank God that it was a beautiful day and that the seas were calm.

Breakfast - Top Sail and Yacht Club Restaurant
This morning, we headed to the Top Sail lounge for some coffee and pastries first, before going to the Yacht Club restaurant for the mains.  It was very quiet in the Top Sail lounge, and we got our drinks very quickly.  The seas were very calm, what a relief!  Here is a video. You will find me playing with a piece of tart on a small bowl that looks like a ship.  Ok, I like goofing around.

Breakfast - Yacht Club Pool Area
After breakfast, we headed up to the Yacht Club pool area, and discovered that they were serving a breakfast buffet there too! Awesome.

Reserved Cabanas for Royal Suite
While walking around the Yacht Club Pool area, we saw the reserved Cabanas for the Royal Suite passengers.  Pretty cool!  It is a nice perk, but unfortunately the weather wasn't very warm during our cruise, so we didn't use it.  Video below gives you a glimpse of the cabana seats.

The plan today was to take an MSC Shore Excursion - Santa Rosalia Grotto & Modello.  All aboard time for Palermo was 1630hrs.

We Set Off! 
We received our excursion tickets the night before (after booking through the YC Concierge). We were informed by the Yacht Club concierge to wait at the Concierge in the morning at a certain time, and then the butler escorted us off the ship.  We didn't need to assemble at the area for non Yacht-Club passengers.  What was very cool was that we were the first to arrive at the bus, and hence I could snag front row seats (with the best views).  We had to wait on an empty bus for about 10 minutes before the rest of the tour group arrived.

And so, we set off.  The bus was full.  The local guide was a middle-aged lady called Joanna, who conducted the tour in English and German.  Here is the video of the bus leaving the port and heading towards Mt Pellegrino.

Our first stop was to go up Mt Pelligrino.  The views going up were fantastic.  We had a great view from the front row seats on the bus.  Fortunately, the roads were still relatively straight, and we didn't have to go through many bends that would have made us bus-sick.  I noticed many cyclists going up and coming down.  There was a good cycling community here!

St Rosalia Grotto
It didn't take us very long to reach the St Rosalia Grotto, I think max 30 minutes from the cruise ship.  Once we got there, all the passengers got off the bus, and followed our tour guide up to the mountain cave where the shrine was built.  Take note, there is a fairly long flight of stairs, with no lifts.  So if you can't climb stairs, then this excursion may not be suitable.

We didn't spent too long at the St Rosalia Grotto.  The tour group was punctual and all of us were back on the coach on time.  So as the coach headed down, we went to the next stop.  The streets of Palermo was quite crowded as you can see in the video below.  Our 40 seater coach navigating very tight streets. Well, Palermo does have a rustic feel, though the place does look a bit impoverished.  Some call it the 'Old World'.  Sorry if this comment sounded rude, but I can't help get that feeling that this place hasn't been progressing as fast as some other places in the world.  China is one such example of super fast progress.

Congested Streets - Palermo, Italy

Our next stop was a Chinese Palace (Palazzina Cinese).  Didn't do much there, just took some photos.  It did strike me, however, that Chinese influence had spread very far and wide indeed.

We also visited Mondello, which is a small borough of the city of Palermo in the autonomous region of Sicily in Southern Italy.  It had a nice beach.  In summer, you could rent a house here for a few weeks, just to chill.  The problem with our tour, however, was that the coach dropped us off very far from the main center.  It took a good 15 minutes just to walk in.  Not sure why the coach couldn't bring us right into the center.  Because we were short of time, we couldn't see the center much. Oh well.  Here is the video.

Last Stop - San Lorenzo Mercato
Our last stop was at some marketplace - San Lorenzo Mercato.  Later on, I checked up its website.
We were given a bit more time to roam around this place.  Some of the tour participants grabbed a quick bite here.  The food looked to be reasonably priced.  Here is the video.

Back to ship
So, it was time to head back to the ship.  I have two more videos of the journey back. The first one shows the bus taking a ride through the central commercial street of Palermo.  This front of bus footage will give you a good idea of what the city of Palermo looks like.

And, we are turning into port.  See how big the MSC Meraviglia was!

Thanks for following along!

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