Thomas and Diane Sugg

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by Harumi Okochi.
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July 2007

Hello, friends.

Do you remember Dr. Thomas Sugg, who wrote 'The Miracle Sword Part U' for this page 6 years ago?
I asked him to write about his wonderful cruise of this spring.

I hope you will enjoy.

30 APRIL-14 MAY 2007

Thomas Sugg
Virginia Beach, Virginia

My wife, Diane, and I recently completed a 14 day cruise that departed from Barcelona, Spain, on 30 April 2007 and returned to Barcelona on 13 May 2007. It had been our wish for some time to visit Italy and this cruise matched our wishes perfectly, in addition to visiting the French Riviera and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Our trip began on 25 April as we flew from Norfolk,Virginia to Barcelona, Spain via Washington, DC and Frankfurt, Germany. We arrived in Barcelona the next day as scheduled and took a taxi directly to our hotel located on Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a tourist paradise as the length of it is filled with shops, mimes, markets, banks, restaurants, and an endless mass of people. The street is filled with people from mid morning to late evening.

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Barcelona Hotel
Las Ramblas
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Las Ramblas Flower Shops
Las Ramblas Mime

A sight not to be missed is the covered public market located on Las Ramblas. It has vendors selling most any food item possible.

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Barcelona Market
Fruit Vendor
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Pork Vendor
Nut Vendor

Barcelona is a vibrant, bustling city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Its economy is driven by industry, technology, shipping, and the arts. It is, also, the capitol of the Catalan region of Spain.This area is well known for its famous artists including Picasso, Dali, Gaudi, and Joan Miro just to name a few.

Our next two days were free days as we did not board our cruise ship until Sunday. On Friday, a colleague and friend of many years who lives in Barcelona, Dr.Jose Carriere and his wife, Montse, took Diane and me on a day excursion to visit medieval villages north of Barcelona along the Costa Brava.

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Tom and Carriere's
Medieval Village-Spain

After a delicious seafood lunch we continued our journey to the coast to see one of their favorite summer retreat coves.

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Costa Brava-Spain
Costa Brava-Spain

Saturday was spent touring the city on a hop-on/hop-off open-air bus. We found this an excellent way to see the most in our limited amount of time. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me this day, but unforgettable sights included the Gaudi Familia Sagrada (still unfinished), the Olympic Site, Montserrat, the aquarium, and so much more.

Sunday we boarded our ship,The Brilliance of the Seas, and settled in for the cruise. The ship was beautiful, the staff very attentive and helpful, and our stateroom cozy, but comfortable.

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Tom and Diane
Brilliance of the Seas
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Stateroom Abroad Ship
Dining Room Companions

The ships  dining room service was excellent.The menus always offered a large variety of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.The food presentation was very nice and the food quality was excellent. There was always food service available somewhere on the ship 24 hours a day.

On Tuesday, Day 3, we awoke to find our ship tethered in the bay of Villefranche, France. Villefranche is a small, cozy bay on the Cote DAzur of France. We were tendered ashore by the ships boats to shop and tour for the day. Diane and I chose to take a tour of the coast to see the village of Eze and Monte Carlo.

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Villefranche, France
Ships in Villefranche Bay
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Villefranche Pier
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Tour Bus Guide-Villefranche
Monte Carlo, Monaco

Day 4 we arrived at the port of Livorno, Italy. We had planned an intensive day of touring to see Florence and Pisa. Even though we departed the ship in heavy rain, our enthusiasm to visit these majestic cities was not dampened. The bus ride from Livorno to Florence took a little over an hour. By the time we arrived in Florence the rain had stopped.

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View of Florence, Italy
Tour Guide in Florence

Our tour guide was excellent in giving us a walking tour that showed us the most in our limited time in Florence. A highlight of the tour included the famous door panels of one of the Baptistery doors designed by Ghiberti and described as so beautiful that they must be the Gate to Paradise.

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Ghiberti's Door
Baptistery Door-Florence

In this same plaza are the Cathedral Dome designed by Brunereshi and the beautiful Bell Tower designed by Giotto.The Cathedral is built of multi-colored marble and was designed by Michelangelo. Florence is truly the Renaissance City.

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Cathedral Dome-Florence
Bell Tower-Florence
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Florence is a city filled with sculpture.Most famous is the sculpture of David by Michelangelo.The Uffizi Gallery contains works of the Renaissance masters. The entire city is a repository of the art of the Renaissance masters.

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Florence Sculpture
Copy of Michelangelo's David

The famous Ponte Vecchio still stands after these many years as a bridge across the Arno River. Now it serves mainly to accommodate gold merchants selling to tourists.

Ponte Vecchino-Florence

The church of Santa Croce is where the tombs of some of Italys most notable citizens can be found. There you will find the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, and Rossini.

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Galileo's Tomb
Dante's Tomb
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Machiavelli's Tomb
Rossini's Tomb

We departed Florence after lunch to visit the city of Pisa. Here we visited the Baptistery, Cathedral, and the famous leaning Bell Tower.To see the tower leaning at such as angle leaves one wondering how much longer it can remain upright!

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Baptistery, Cathedral, & Tower-Pisa
Leaning Bell Tower-Pisa

Our next day was spent cruising as we sailed for Split, Croatia. This was a much needed day of rest after two high energy days of touring. Enroute to Split we passed near the active volcano island of Stombolini, Italy. We saw smoke coming from the volcano, but no eruptions.

Active Volcano-Stombolini, Italy

As we approached the southern tip of Italy we passed through the Straits of Messina. This passage provided a wonderful view of the Italian mainland on the east and Sicily on the west. The strait was very busy with ship traffic.

 Our arrival in Split, Croatia, the following morning was met by heavy seas that prevented the ship from running tender boats with passengers to the Split pier. The Captain elected to bypass Split and continue on to Venice. I did not hear any complaints about this as it meant that we would have more time in Venice.

 Venice is a very special place of beauty as it is a city of islands connected by canals and bridges. The ships approach through winding sea lanes and finally into the main shipping channel to the city is breath-taking. The ship remained in Venice for two days so that we might enjoy as much as possible.

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Approach from Sea-Venice
Entering Venice
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Venice, Italy
St. Mark's Square-Venice

The lower right picture is of St. Marks Square----a major highlight of Venice with the Cathedral, Bell Tower, and Doges Palace.

The main public transportation in Venice is the Vaporetto, a water taxi that travels the canals making scheduled stops. Gondolas are mostly a tourist attraction. The many bridges over the canals make walking exciting and challenging------exciting because you get a close up view and challenging because walkways are not laid out in straight lines or blocks.

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Grand Canal Boat Traffic
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Lovely Bridges Over Canals
Rialto Bridge over Grand Canal

The famous Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal is a hustling, bustling street of shops.

On our first day in Venice, Diane and I chose to take a tour of the main attraction of Venice---St. Marks Square to visit St. Marks Cathedral, the Bell Tower, and the Doges Palace. The early rulers of Venice were called Doges and they ruled with total authority. The palace was very impressive in design and decoration. Connected to the Palace was The Bridge of Sighs by which the condemned walked to the adjacent prison.

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St. Mark's Square
Statue in Square
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Doges Palace & Prison
Doges Palace Courtyard
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St. Mark's Cathedral-Venice
Fresco above Cathedral Door

On our second day in Venice, Diane and I decided to tour on our own. So with map in hand we boarded a Vaporetto for St. Marks Square. From there we set out on our day of discovery and had lots of fun finding our way through narrow streets and across unmarked bridges. Along the way we found the ultimate mens store, a place called The Ferrari Store. Diane found happiness in the Murano Glass stores and visiting the street art vendors.

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Diane-Grand Canal
Gondolier & Passengers
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Murano Glass Shop
Street Artist-Venice
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The Ferrari Store-Venice
Ferrari on Display

We sadly bid farewell to Venice and sailed away for our next port of call in the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik, Croatia. We knew very little about Dubrovnik other than that it had been heavily damaged by Serbian forces during the 1990s Civil War. The historian aboard the ship told us that Croatia had the highest literacy rate (98%) and the strongest economy of the Slavic States. On arrival in Dubrovnik the next morning we found a lovely coastal city that had been almost completely restored to its pre-war state.

We thought that the best way to see this city was to take a bus tour of the area followed by a walking tour of the walled old city. Dubrovnik was quaint, clean, and very tourist friendly. We can understand why this area is being developed for vacation and retirement living. Highlights included the gated entrance to the old city, the city square with a statue of St. Blaise protecting the city, and the Bishops home.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia
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Gate to City-Dubrovnik
Town Square-Dubrovnik
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St. Blaise-Patron of Dubrovnik
Walled City of Dubrovnik

As we sailed from Dubrovnik for a night and a day of cruising, we were treated to a beautiful Adriatic Sea sunset.

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Adriatic Sunset
Adriatic Sunset

On the morning of Day 10 of our cruise we arrived at the port of Naples, Italy. We had arranged the services of a driver/guide to give us a day excursion to Sorrento, drive the Amalfi Coast to Positano, and tour Pompeii on the return drive to the port of Naples. We departed at 7:30 AM with our guide, Stephen, and returned exhausted at 6:00 PM in time to make the ships sailing time.

Once we were out of the heavily congested Naples traffic the ride became very scenic. During our stop in Sorrento we walked narrow shopping streets, visited a Lemonciello factory/store, visited a marquetry factory/store, toured a church with beautiful marquetry doors, and enjoyed a stop for a cafe latte.

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Marquetry Church Doors
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Produce Vendor-Sorrento
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Shopping Lemonciello Factory & Store
Tom Enjoys a Cafe Latte

Driving south from Sorrento, we began the tortuous, twisting turns along the narrow road adjacent to sheer cliffs falling into the ocean below. This is the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The beauty was awesome. After a lunch stop, we continued our drive along the coast stopping to see the Emerald Grotto, then continuing on to Positano.

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Amalfi Coast
Lunch on the Amalfi Coast
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Emerald Grotto-Amalfi Coast
Overlooking a Seaside City

From Positano we drove north to Pompeii where we were met by our guide, Genaro, a retired university professor, who escorted us through the excavated ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii was destroyed by volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 69 AD as reported by Pliny the Younger. Genaros thorough knowledge of Pompeiis history gave life to the ruins as he explained the purposes of various structures while telling us about the culture and life style of that period.

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Diane & Genaro at Pompeii with
Vesvius in Background
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Excavated Pompeii
Excavated Remains-Pompeii

 That evening we sailed from Naples to the port of Civitavecchia near Rome. The ship remained here for Days 11 and 12 of our cruise. Diane and I departed the ship that morning for a bus tour of Rome. We left the bus tour at midday at St. Peters so that we could remain in Rome that evening. That afternoon we toured the Vatican then finished the day with a great dinner at a small local Hostaria. The next morning we were awake early for a walking tour of Renaissance Rome. After a quick lunch of tasty pizza we boarded a train for our return to the ship. We had a glorious two days of visiting Rome.

 As you would expect, the abundance of historic antiquities in Rome is overwhelming and impossible to cover in two days. We enjoyed Rome very much. We did visit Trevi Fountain and perhaps will return someday. Here are a few images of Rome.

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St. Peter's Square-Vatican
St. Peter's-Vatican
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Swiss Guards-Vatican
Vatican Museum
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Bernini's Fountain of Triton

 Day 13 was a day of cruising as we returned to Barcelona to complete our itinerary. It was a much needed day of rest after two full days of touring Rome. Also, it was a day to pack our bags for midnight pick up outside our cabins and a day to say goodbye to staff and newly made friends.

As we departed the ship early on the morning of Day 14, there was excitement in the air as we hurried about to find the departure brow of the ship and locate our transfer busses to the airport. It was also a time of busy activity for the ships staff as they prepared the ship to begin a new cruise that evening.

During our flight home we reflected on the many exciting places that we had visited and the marvelous antiquities that we had seen. Being somewhat seasoned travelers, we know that these are our memories to enjoy and that we should not expect friends and family to necessarily share our excitement. You see, we understand that during our absence there will have been new and exciting events that family and friends cant wait to share with us, e.g., new babies, new homes, promotions, raises, new refrigerators, illnesses, and any number of things that are equally as important as hearing about our trip.

I hope that you have enjoyed this journey with Diane and me. It certainly was fun for us and we definitely would recommend it to you. As they say in Italy,

Thomas Sugg

Thank you so much Tom-san.
I hope someday I can also visit those beautiful countries.

Dear readers, thank you too for visiting this page.
Please read the following pages by Tom-san and Diane-san.


Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of

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