We were very much looking forward to the third day because after the break neck pace at which we toured the day beforeAnd they call this room service! in the hot sun, we were ready for something a little more relaxing. Because we had to leave our ship early, we ordered room service, which we woofed down and then went to the theater to await in disembarkation with the other folks in our tour group. This day we were arriving at Livorno, Italy and from there it was easy to get to Florence and Pisa, but we had selected something a little more relaxing which was a wine tasting in Tuscany excursion. That just sounded great to all three of us. I remember there’s a movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun” and the setting was just beautiful so I was excited about being able to be there myself. I have to say that this whole cruise was a dream come true because I had never been to any of the places that the cruise docked and it just felt incredible to be standing in those places. Even though our tour guide the day before had us on a forced mThe Hills of Tuscanyarch through Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo, just to be there was amazing. It was places you had seen on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” or in “James Bond”. I know that the movie “The Transporter,” (I believe at least the second one) looks like it was set in that area, the French and/or Italian Riviera.

We were looking forward to wine tasting in Tuscany described in our excursion book as traveling through the Tuscan countryside and visiting a small vineyard that produces wine, which made the region famous. Wine is never in short supply on Italian tables. The country produces some fine wines and Tuscany is the place where wine is tradition. It goes on to say,A Beautiful Field of Sunflowers “driving through the Tuscan countryside, you will admire the soft rounded hills, the medieval architecture of the village, and the silver green of the olive trees mingling with the dark green of the cypress trees.” How awesome does that sound? That’s what we thought, too!

We left on what was to be a four-hour excursion. We got off the boat and boarded our tour bus and departed on a very relaxing drive through the Tuscan countryside. That was one of the biggest draws of this excursion. It was absolutely beautiful. On our drive out to the farmhouse in the Italian countryside, we passed fields of sunflowers which I didn’t realize were grown there, rolling hills, very old homes kind of like almost something that came out of a fairytale, and medieval looking churches. We finally arrived in the rolling hills in the countryside of the farmhouse we were to visit and there were tomatoes growing in the yard, a fabulous vieLook at all the variety!w, a very idyllic setting, and of course vineyards. We entered into the winery which really looked like it was a building attached to the house and we saw the vats where the wine was stored and the daughter of the family gave us a description of how the various wines were made. The tour wasn’t very long, but it was pretty neat just to learn about wine making on a small scale. One of the most fun parts of this excursion, as you might imagine was the actual wine tasting itself. There were a number of sliced meats, something similar to salami but without the peppers, salami and ham and all kinds of cheeses and breads and olives and then on the table were various bottles of the wine. One of them was called Trebblano and another one was called Montecradoblanc. All the wines available from the small winery were on display in the dining room area where we had our wine tasting and our snack. After our wine tasting we were free to wander the estate for a little while and then back on to the bus for the ride to the cruise ship and back through the countryside.

On the way back to the ship, because it had been such a relaxing day and the views of the countryside were so beautiful, a lot of the folks on the bus tended to take a littleViews from the ride nap. It was just too fascinating, so I felt like a compulsive picture snapper, but it was just so amazing to be there that I wanted to capture all I could of that experience. We didn’t buy any wine because we didn’t want to have to deal with taking it home in our suitcases because as you know there’s so many restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take on to the airplane.

That evening we had made reservations to experience intimate Italian dining (in the words of the cruise ship) at Portofino. On the cruise ship you could have the regular dining and I think I mentioned before you could go upstairs and have the buffet. They also had two specialty restaurants, which had a $20 additional fee to eat there, but promised to offer an upscale meal and exquisite service. We decided to try the Italian restaurant while we were in Italy and in fact the meal was fantastic. I’m really frustrated for the foodies out there that I didn’t keep better track of the food, but you couldn’t take the menus out of the dining room and I didn’t have any way to keep track of all the various meals we had. For the next one, I will probably just take a little notepad and jot down some notes because part of the fun of cruising is the fabulous meals that you have on ship. Click here for an example of a menu from Royal Caribbean on international sailing. Every day when you got the little daily planner that I mentioned before, it would tell you what the dress was for dinner, so it might range from casual, smart casual, formal, like that. Well we set the standard that we always wanted to be smart casual at the very least, so we looked very spiffy as we went to dinner at Portofino’s.

Anyway, back to the story, we went to Portofino’s for dinner and it was absolutely fabulous. By the way, everyCheers! evening you could tune in on the TV in the cabin and watch a video about port and shopping information for the next day’s port, so what we would generally do is turn that on as we got dressed for dinner so we would know what to expect the next day, what kind of things to look for, and even what things to look out for. It was a very helpful way to prepare for the next day because our next day we arrived at Civitavecchia, and from that port we were going into Rome, so we really wanted to be prepared for that trip.

That evening there was a Salvador Dali art exhibition, a show by a guy named Gorony Thom and he was hilarious. He was sort of a comedian juggler and when we looked at his posters we thought, “Oh, boy, lame” but it really wasn’t. He was hilarious and we had a lot of fun with his show. He really was a hoot. After that we went to play a game called the “Finish that Lyric” game show up in the Colony Club at 10:30 p.m. and there was also dancing with the hits that started at 11:00 p.m. up in the disco, and karaoke fun time at 11:15 p.m. Karaoke was, as karaoke is anywhere, pretty amazing and for the most part pretty awful and pretty funny. We then realized we had a long day ahead of us in Rome, so we headed down to the cabin to get some rest for the next day.

Just to give you a sense of some of the activities that take place on the ship, we of course didn’t go to all of these: there was a gathering for solo travelers, a Pictionary tournament, they showed the movie “Harry Potter 5” in Spanish as well as the “Bourne Ultimatum,” there was British TV trivia for the passengers who were from England, a honeymooners reception, a digital camera sale, and an adult shuffleboard tournament that evening. There was always a lot to do and as I mentioned before, starting at 5:30 p.m. there were nine different varieties of music available to passengers.