It’s Saturday and we’re at Civitavecchia. This time we’re not going up to Rome. We’re doing a shorter excursion to Tuscania this afternoon, which should be a gentle coach ride to the destination, a gentle guided stroll round it, some free time, and some gentle wine and food tasting. This sounds good – it’s very hot today, with an expected high of 28 degrees. Rome is going to be hard work today, especially for people on long excursions.
There are at least seven ships in port today. As well as Ventura, there’s Independence of the Seas, Legend of the Seas, MSC Orchestra, Costa Mediteranea, a Star Clippers ship and Silver Wind. That’s a significant load for the port, and more significantly for the transport resources – I think the trains are going to be busy.
We berthed initially at about 7am, but the captain then announced that the ship would have to move. I was on deck during the move which was quite short – just a few yards forward to get us closer to Indy. However this was done very slowly and carefully, and took about 15 minutes. Indy was at one end of the berthing line, and MSC Orchestra was at the other, with a big space between them, so I think our captain simply put Ventura in the middle of the gap to get the early excursions off quickly, and then moved her to her proper position afterwards. While this manoeuvre was being done I could see Costa Mediteranea being held outside the port until her berth was available.
This morning we walked into Civ. There were shuttles buses running, but with so many ships in port there weren’t many per ship so there was quite a queue – several buses’ worth, we thought – so we walked. The last time we were here we’d walked to the railway station, and our recollection was that it was only 10 or 15 minutes to the port gate, but maybe we were berthed further out this time because it 25 to 30 minutes to the town. It was very hot, too, and we were quite uncomfortable. So we had a glass of sparkling mineral water in a very Italian cafe in town, then walked along the recently finished sea front promenade to a gelateria we remembered, just opposite the station, and had excellent gelati. Then we strolled back to the dock gate, from where we got a shuttle back to the ship.
Over lunch we had a conversation with a couple of employees from the spa & gym. There was a young man with a ‘Personal Trainer’ badge, and a young woman dressed in the spa outfit. They told us a bit about the way they work. They’re on nine-month contracts, with Steiner (the spa company) and not with P&O. When they sign a contract they don’t know what ship they will be on, or even necessarily what line. Usually they spend the whole contract on the same ship, but they can be moved to a different ship at very short notice. If someone has to leave, Steiner may decide that the best way to fill the gap is to move someone from another ship, and that’s that – off they go.
This afternoon we were on an excursion, ‘Taste of Tuscania’. Tuscania is a small historic town in the Lazio region some distance from Civitavecchia, so we had a good drive there through the Italian countryside which looked well-tended and attractive. On the way we had some local produce from an agri-tourism site, the Casale Bonaparte. This consisted of a snack of locally-produced nibbles and a glass of wine. It was very enjoyable, especially the food, which we ate out in the garden under a sunshade – it was very hot out in the sun, 28 degrees or higher at that time. There was a retail opportunity and Val bought a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and a bottle of local extra-virgin olive oil. Then we drove on to Tuscania. In the end we only had an hour there. We were crocodiled into the old town, shown a couple of things, and then left to our own devices for three-quarters of an hour, so it wasn’t a spectacular visit. But the town was pleasant enough and the sun had gone behind some clouds so it wasn’t as hot. It was very quiet however: late Saturday afternoon is probably the week’s quietest time, almost all the shops were shut. Then we drove back to Civ.