Rome, Italy

Part of our cruise package included 2-nights in Rome before our cruise.  Princess arranged for us to stay at the Royal Santina Hotel.  The location of the hotel was convenient to a nearby train terminal and the main terminal for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus tours. There was also a large selection of shops and restaurants within comfortable walking distance.

Our hotel in Rome – the Royal Santina by Best Western

The staff was friendly, helpful and professional. The hotel itself seemed dated, small and just not very comfortable. The rooms did have a cool ‘mood’ feature though – you could choose what color you wanted the room to be and LED lights in the glass walls of the bathroom would make the whole room glow.

Our room was tiny.  So tiny that the chair at the desk, next to the bed was unusable – because it couldn’t be pulled out – because the bed was taking up most of the room.

One of our travel group had some challenges with power/converters and appliances and the staff bent over backwards to assist them – so that nearly made up for the lower quality accommodations.

When we checked in, there was a Princess representative there to help us:

She was also as accommodating as possible – trying to help us with our questions and concerns.  There was a bit of a language barrier, but for the most part she was great.  We also enjoyed the breakfast provided by the hotel each morning.

Breakfast at the Royal Santina

 

We were together, but ‘doing our own thing’ in Rome.  Adam’s parents arrived the same day we did, but were staying in other hotels in the city.  They actually changed to a second hotel after their first night there.  Murray and Adam and I opted to take the Hop-on/Hop-Off bus tours around the city so we would be able to see the most popular attractions.

This is where the location of our hotel came in very handy.  We were able to embark on the bus about a block away from our hotel.   The Big Red Bus is like a lot of other “Hop-On/Hop-Off” buses we’ve taken in other locations.  With your ticket they give you a set of earphones to plug in at your seat.  You choose your language and a recording tells you about what you are driving by.  You can get off as many times as you’d like and hop back on again when you’re done with the sights – for the duration of the time you purchased the tickets.  We opted for 48 hours because we would be there for 2 days – but you can also purchase 24 hour tickets.  What the brochures don’t tell you is that air-conditioning is not very common on these buses.  We rode one that had it and many that did not – and did I mention how hot it was?

Lucky us!  It was in the high 90’s and the humidity was nearly as high!  It was a little rough getting around in that heat, but we got lots of exercise and a good work out!

After our breakfast, we headed over to the bus terminal and purchased our tickets:

Our ticket to the Big Red Bus!

Adam and Murray examined this contraption while we awaited our bus. It said it could make calls AND send Faxes – but it wasn’t clear how you’d scan your fax.

Soon our bus arrived and we were ready for our Roman holiday adventure – in the heat!

The first bus arrived and it had air-conditioning, but we opted to ride on the second level – little did we know what a rare thing we were passing up!

At first – while the bus was moving, it was cool and pleasant on-board.

Our first stop was the famous Coliseum.  Murray had not been inside before, so we wanted him to have that experience – it’s a pretty impressive structure!

We had just arrived and were about to go get into the long and hot line.

The holes on the outside walls are where the marble used to be attached. It was looted to use in other buildings.

The view from inside.

The view from the upper levels. Adam and Susan were here in 2013 and they told us they were about to enclose the floor again and use the site for concerts and events – but perhaps they changed their minds because it looked exactly the same all these years later.

We visited the famous Trevi Fountain.

According to Wikipedia: The Trevi Fountain (Italian: Fontana di Trevi) is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini and several others – completed in 1762. Standing 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide,it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. The fountain has appeared in several notable films, including Roman Holiday, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the eponymous Three Coins in the Fountain, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and Sabrina Goes to Rome.

We all ended up at Trevi fountain at different times.

We tried to meet up with Steve and Bonnie at the fountain, but we had a little trouble with communicating – Steve was using the WiFi on their bus – but it must have been a slow connection so sometimes we would get messages long after he actually sent them.

We decided to ‘hang out’ at the fountain a while longer to wait for Steve and Bonnie – and we grabbed a bite to eat at a local cafe – they had very yummy spaghetti!

After Trevi Fountain we were tired and still jet-lagged so we headed back to the hotel. and took a nap.  Later we woke up and took a walk with Murray around the hotel area. Looking at gift shops and a local market.  We also got some very yummy gelato.

The next day we met Bonnie and Steve again for breakfast, and then Adam, Murray and I headed out for Day 2 on the Big Red bus.  It seemed even a bit hotter this day and we didn’t get lucky enough to find the air conditioned bus.  We went to Vatican City and visited the Vatican Museum.

Adam and Murray on our way to Vatican City. There were a lot of pan-handlers in this area!

We learned from our bus driver that there is a dress code to go into the Sistine Chapel.  I didn’t remember this from the last time we were here.  My shorts were too short and my shoulders needed to be covered.  I purchased two scarves so I would be properly covered in the Chapel.

My lovely scarf that I had to wear in the Sistine Chapel

It was a bit crowded!

The fountain in the Vatican City square area.

I think I took a better photo of Murray than this – but it must have been with his camera, cuz I couldn’t find it in our photos! (Sorry Murray!)

The view of Rome from one of the windows in the Vatican Museum.

The ‘animal room’ at the Vatican Museum

You’re not supposed to take photos of the famous ceiling in the Sistine chapel – I have NO idea how this ended up in our photos…

After we left the Vatican Museum – we took a taxi to the hotel where Adam’s parents were staying and we also met Bonnie and Steve there – we all walked to a nearby restaurant where we had a lovely dinner.  Then Adam, Murray, Bonnie, Steve and I walked back to our hotel (I think it was about a mile).  We embark on our cruise tomorrow!

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We like to keep a daily blog of what we did each day – so we don’t lose track of the details before we get a chance to put together the photos and such.  Below is our blog entries for the days in Rome – think of above as the highlights and below a little more detail.  The blog is probably a bit boring for anyone other than us!

July 25th – We arrived in Rome – jet lagged and tired.  We walked a very long way from the gate to the baggage claim area – and our luggage arrived shortly after we did.  We breezed through customs and headed through the exit.  There was a fellow there with our name on a piece of paper – he was to be our driver to our hotel.  We waited a while for some other passengers – and when they arrived, we set off for our hotel.  While we waited for the others – our friend Murray texted us that his flight had also landed – he was going to the same hotel as us, but was not on our shuttle.  Personally, I was a bit disappointed by the shuttle service – they had us drag our own luggage across the airport parking area to a small SUV – and the wheels on one of my suitcases were acting funny – so I struggled quite a bit.  In the past when we’ve had princess transfers – they scooped up our luggage and took care of it for us.   So we were off to a bit of an unpleasant start.  We drove through Rome traffic for about 45 mins and arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Royal Santina.  We had a similar experience with our luggage here – we had to struggle with it ourselves (I know that sounds terribly spoiled, but we paid for an elevated experience and felt rather unimportant).  The hotel staff seemed unorganized but friendly, and soon we were given our key – and a fellow took our luggage to take to our room.    We went upstairs to the 8th floor and entered our room and were somewhat disappointed.  It was a very small room – attempting to be modern with glass walls around the restroom – that had LED lights you could change the colors of, but the room was TINY  – there was a desk pushed up against the wall with a chair under it  – but you could not use the chair because the bed prevented it from being pulled out.  The view was of a maintenance courtyard – and it seemed like the air conditioning didn’t work  After a while we figured out it was working – just very low air flow so it took a long time to cool off the room.

The bonus of this trip is that we had family and a family friend joining us.  Adam’s parents would be arriving in Rome from Venice soon, Adam’s sister, Bonnie, and her husband Steve had arrived a day before us and were in our hotel, and Murray arrived around the same time we did  and was in the same hotel.  We all decided to use ‘WhatsApp’ phone app to keep in communication because we had read it works well in Europe.  We met up with Murray because our plan was to start our exploring right away.  The good thing about the hotel was the location – it was about a block away from a main transportation terminal.  We got tickets for a “Hop On/Hop Off” bus and started our tour around Rome.  It was very hot and humid. In fact – Rome was having a heatwave, and the two days we were there – broke local records for hot days – lucky us!  The first bus we embarked was air conditioned, but we had no idea how rare that was until later.  We took the bus to the Colosseum.  The lines were fairly long, but Murray hadn’t been inside before and we felt it was worth the wait. After about 2 hours at the Colosseum, we got back on the bus and continued to tour the city.  Bonnie and Steve texted us that they were headed for Trevi Fountain and we decided to go there too – so we attempted to meet there.  We hopped off the bus and took a walk through several alleys and streets to find ourselves at a very crowded Trevi Fountain.  We looked for Bonnie and Steve and tried to text them – the conversation got a bit confusing and we determined that there were delays in when messages were being sent because Steve was on WiFi – so even though we waited a while in the area – by having a lunch in a local café (really good pasta) we didn’t end up meeting.  After Trevi fountain, we were hot and tired, so we got back on the bus and went back to our hotel. We took a little nap and then got up and went for a walk with Murray in the area around the Hotel.  We found a yummy gelato store, and had gelato…then we explored a local market, and a few mini-marts and souvenir shops – and chatted a bit before heading to bed – we were still fighting a bit with jet-lag.

Day 3 – July 26th.  We had breakfast in our hotel Lobby – and met up with Bonnie and Steve and we shared our experiences from the day before.  We all agreed we were not thrilled with the hotel, especially since we knew that other Princess passengers were in much nicer properties.   After breakfast Adam, Murray and I planned on getting back on the “Hop On/Hop Off” bus for more touring – but first we explored the big terminal building.  They had designer shops and a lot of interesting smaller shops but we wanted to get our day started before the heat set in too much.  We headed out to Vatican City and the Vatican Museum.  When we arrived, we learned there was a dress code to enter the Sistine Chapel, and I wasn’t dressed correctly – my shorts were too short (didn’t cover my knees) and my shoulders were exposed.  So I had to purchase two scarves to cover up.  The scarves ended up being nice mementos of the trip so it wasn’t a huge problem.  I got both of them for $10 (US).  Our bus dropped us off about a mile away from the entrance to the museum, and we had a set appointment time  so we had to rush a bit through the hot streets. We arrived on time and walked through the museum exhibits.  For some reason there was also some Egyptian artifacts on display – so we enjoyed those as well.  We spent about 30 minutes inside the Sistine Chapel admiring the paintings and beauty.  I am still recovering from double hip replacements in the past year, and am still regaining strength and stamina – so I go over heated and a bit over sore – so we opted to find and take a taxi from there – instead of walking a mile back to the bus (and to be honest didn’t really remember how to get back to it!).  By then, we had plans to meet Adam’s parents at their hotel – so we took the Taxi to their hotel.  We met in the lobby and shared stories and waited for Bonnie and Steve to arrive and then we all walked together to a nearby restaurant for a nice dinner.  After dinner – we walked about a mile back to our hotel, and headed for bed since we were still a bit off kilter with time.

On to Embarkation Day!