Sunday, April 1, 2018

Day 4 Malta Mediterranean Cruise MSC Meraviglia 7N Genoa Civitavecchia Palermo La Valletta Barcelona Marseilles

Day 4 of our 7N Cruise on board the MSC Meraviglia out of Genoa.  Today, we arrive at the sunny island of Malta.  It is really an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!  The day before, the ship was in Palermo, Italy.

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia,and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya.The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of just under 450,000, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area. Malta has two official languages, which are Maltese and English. However, the Maltese language is also regarded as the national language of the island.

Malta's location in the middle of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British have ruled the islands.

Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese of Malta is claimed to be an apostolic see because, according to Acts of the Apostles,[St Paul was shipwrecked on "Melita", now widely taken to be Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta. However, article 40 of the Constitution states that "All persons in Malta shall have full freedom of conscience and enjoy the free exercise of their respective mode of religious worship."

Don't miss the sail i, as you get gorgeous views of the harbour.  As the weather was slightly warmer, we had our breakfast at the Pool area, to enjoy the breeze and the sail in!

There was another MSC ship in port that day, it was the MSC Orchestra!  Here is a wonderful view of the Orchestra, from our cabin.  We were docked behind the MSC Orchestra.

Short video of the MSC Orchestra.

The Plan - Do It Yourself Excursion
This was our second time in Malta, the first was with MSC Preziosa two years before this cruise.  We decided to adopt the same mode of transport.  We would walk off the ship to the waterfront area, and look for a taxi company, and hire a taxi to bring us around for a few hours.

We disembarked and made our way to the waterfront.  As we walked out, I noticed a warship leaving port.  It wasn't big, probably a patrol boat belonging to the Maltese Navy.

MSC Meraviglia looked huge. 170,000 GT thereabouts.  4th largest cruise ship in the world, at time of launch.

Finding the Taxi company was very easy.  Once you get to the waterfront, there are several operators (including HoHo buses) trying to get your business.  We looked for the stand that sold taxi tours, bought ourselves a ticket for a 3 hour tour (70 Euros) and headed to the waiting area to hop onboard the first taxi that was waiting.  The driver spoke basic English, but that was good enough for us.  Don't expect an eloquent driver who can speak to you like a professional tour guide.

Last time round, we wanted to see the Blue Grotto, which we did.  It was a lovely boat ride.  You can see the report from my last trip on this page.

But since we had done the Blue Grotto already, we decided not to do it again.  Hence, we only got a 3-hour taxi booking, instead of 4.  This time round, our first stop, Rotunda of Mosta. The Parish Church of the Assumption (Maltese: Knisja Arċipretali ta' Santa Marija), commonly known as the Rotunda of Mosta (Maltese: Ir-Rotunda tal-Mosta) or the Mosta Dome, is a Roman Catholic parish church in Mosta, Malta, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. It was built between 1833 and the 1860s to neoclassical designs of Giorgio Grognet de Vassé, on the site of an earlier Renaissance church which had been built in around 1614 to designs of Tommaso Dingli.

The design of the present church is based on the Pantheon in Rome, and it is said to have the fourth largest unsupported dome in the world. The church narrowly avoided destruction during World War II, since on 9 April 1942 a German aerial bomb pierced the dome and fell into the church during Mass but failed to explode. This event was interpreted by the Maltese as a miracle.  Here is a short video of the inside of the Rotunda.  Admission was free.

Malta Air Museum
After the Rotunda, at first the taxi driver brought us to this glass museum and souvenir shop, which we had been to before.  So we didn't go in, but instead chose to visit a nearby Malta Air Museum.  I spotted the Air Museum on the last trip, but we didn't have time to go.  But this time round, we shan't miss it!

I made many short clips of the museum.  Here are some of them.  The prized exhibit would be the a Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane.

Also, this Douglas Dakota C-47 Skytrain, which played such a prominent role in the Normandy Invasion. 

You could enter the cockpit of this BAC One Eleven British Short Range Jet liner from the 1960s.  Fascinating stuff, all the analogue equipment.  Reminds you that the digital era is very recent indeed.

To be continued!