Cruise 2012 Pictures Day 1

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Photos Saturday 14th July 2012 - Day 1

Messina Arrival

The alarm went off at 8AM as planned, although I woke up a bit before that. The plan was to have breakfast at 8:30AM in Silhouette then gather for excursion at 10AM. The Silhouette breakfast was not great. Oily scrambled eggs and small toast, and very weak tea. I was still hungry afterwards. So we went up to Oceanview. This was so much better! We ate more at the buffet which had a big selection of breakfast foods. We also got a good view of the ship arriving at Messina.



Views of the toe of Italy from the Straight of Messina. 180 degree panorama of Messina as we approach the port.



About to enter the harbour at Messina. The view from the room after docking. 180 degree panorama of Messina after docking.




Oh yes! We are definitely in Sicily now! Renée giving a sun lounger on Deck 15 forward a try. Looking back to the harbour entrance and along the straight. Me on Deck 15 forward with the port of Messina behind me.

Drive to Mount Etna

We went to Celebrity Central for 10AM after docking to gather for the Panoramic Sicily trip. We were assigned numbered stickers, and when we went ashore we simply found the bus with the same number on it. A guide held up a lollipop board next to the bus with the same number on it too which also helped. Another sign of how well organised Celebrity are. The bus trip along the autostrada past Taormina was fun. There were lots of tunnels and bridges as the terrain was rather hilly, while the coastline was never far away to the left. Maritzio the guide was very bubbly and chatty and kept us entertained with many local facts and lighthearted jokes. Then we turned off the autostrada and set off along a windy narrow road up into the lower slopes of Etna, which was awesome! First we wound up through various small towns and villages. Then we headed up through the countryside. As we got higher the climate changed rapidly. It was also a nice sheltered microclimate. As a result tropical, desert and temperate plants were all growing together. Bananas, prickly pears, sweet chestnuts, vineyards, etc. Lower down plants had long since finished blossoming while higher up they were still in spring blossom. We also followed a 19th century lava flow up and eventually we cleared the tree line.





The row of numbered coaches on the shore by the ship, waiting to take people on the many different excursions. Driving along the autostrada was fun! The first shot of Mount Etna as it looms into view. A view of Taormina before the autostrada dives underneath it in a tunnel. A more majestic view of Etna from the autostrada.





Ascending the narrow windy road through towns and villages on the lower slopes. Vineyard. Chestnut forest. Looking back along the coast after we clear the tree line. The toe of Italy is clearly visible on the horizon.

We stopped at a viewpoint at about 4000 feet for the last best view of the smoking summit.




Looking up to the smoking summit. Apparently some of those peaks were created in April, just 3 months ago. The landscape and topography changes frequently around here. Panorama looking downslope towards the sea. The winding ribbon of tarmac we just drove through the 19th century lava flow. Renée and I below the smoke of Etna. 3 shot panorama of the view towards the summit.

Silvestri Spent Craters

Then we carried on to Silvestri at 6000 feet. We first stopped at a place for refreshments. But there was nothing I could eat there! Atleast Renée found a nice sandwich. I just had a slice of lemon cake. I also bought a bottle of water to increase my capacity ahead of Athens. It was nice and cool up there but not cold enough to need the fleece. After 30 minutes we drove over to the craters themselves (the source of the 19th century lava) and spent a little time there before returning to the bus. I so wanted to carry on to the summit! I also noted the fresh lava flows just 10 years old and many places here and the road had to be rebuilt after that eruption. We did a circuit around the the rim of the closest crater. Here you could see the line of the craters running vertically up and down the volcano, almost like shirt buttons on a chest (as described by the guide). While I was there I also picked up a few lava rocks. Black and red ones caused by different oxidation states of the iron in the rock.




High up the Broom is still in full spring blossom. A 360 degree panorama taken by the refreshment place. The black lifeless looking fresh lava was laid down just 10 years ago. Many buildings and the road were destroyed in that eruption, then rebuilt since. Looking across the 10 year old lava to the main Silvestri spent crater. Looking up towards the summit. We are right under the plume. A ski lift can be seen for the winter months. Apparently you can ski here as late as June.






Looking around from the side of the Silvestri spent crater. What an alien landscape! Views into the pit of the Silvestri spent crater, as well as the tourists lining the path around rim. Looking up past more flank craters towards the summit.






Looking down you can just make out the coastline of Sicily looking towards the Southernmost point. Looking back towards the refreshment place. Other spent craters below the main one. A panorama of the main Silvestri spent crater from a small hill to the side. A closeup of the lava rubble that I was standing on. a mixture of black and red rocks, the colour depending on how oxidised the iron content was before the lava solidified.

Drive To Naxos

The trip down was just as fun. Back down to the villages below. I enjoyed watching the many butterflies including a Painted Lady and many other blue, yellow, red, white and stripy white ones. They were present even at 6000 feet. I saw a big swallowtail fly over the lava at one point. Eventually we stopped at the Jewel factory that looked more like a posh house. I was rather bored but atleast there were biscuits to satisfy my hunger for a while. Then we stopped at Naxos on the coast where an ancient lava flow had reached the sea. By now a migraine was kicking in. I thought I had left my pill box on the ship! Curses! As we headed back to the ship it got worse. But it failed to spoil the trip thankfully.





Another look at the blossoming broom above the tree line. In the distance a paraglider was soaring. Apparently they can launch from near the top of Etna and make it all the way to the coast. Passing through a pretty town on the way down. Behind us the summit of Etna continued to smoke spectacularly.





Pictures taken near the jewellery factory. The jewellery factory looked more like a nice residential mansion. Back on the autostrada heading towards Taormina and Naxos, visible in the mid distance. Apparently this wall in Naxos is the oldest wall in Sicily.





At Naxos an ancient lava flow goes all the way to the sea. Here we found a nice sculpture and views across the bay to Taormina to the North. Taormina from Naxos. A beach at Naxos.


Back at the ship we rested after I made a beeline for migraine pills, and we changed to meet at Joseph's cabin for 6pm for champagne on his 80th birthday. Then we all went down together to Silhouette for supper. I was very hungry after not having a proper lunch... Meanwhile the ship set off out of Messina along the south coast of Italy. The cod goujons starter was more like a small spicy fish cake. The trout was ok but rather small. Atleast the bread was delicious again. The table was set up with confetti and a banner for the birthday. The chocolate lava cake for afters was delicious. Then a nice birthday cake arrived with candles and decorations - a Victoria Sponge with icing. I had 2 pieces. Sugar overload! Unfortunately this brought the migraine back a bit. Oops...





The birthday table laid out in Silhouette. Enjoying the meal. Visible from centre left clockwise: Joy, Joseph, Arlett, Jane, Renée, Mike, Gemma, Natasha, Lisa, Amanda, Robert. Gary was off shot between Joy and Robert. The birthday cake being brought over by Louis and candles blown out by Joseph. Happy birthday!

Meanwhile Renée had gone to Celebrity Central to get Bingo sheets. Just before 8pm I took some cake on a plate there for her and we went to play Bingo. I felt rotten but had fun still. We had to get an X (Celebrity logo) to win and stand up if we were one away on a board. Several people stood up and eventually I was one away on one board so I stood up too. I whispered to Renée that I needed B11 to win. Guess what the next number was? B11! I won! I was given just under $200 on my expense account. So drinks were on me. First I took the cake back to the room to save for later. We then headed to the Lawn Club bar as it got dark. I took some twilight shots of the receding Mount Etna and we had drinks. My migraine started to clear properly too at last.


A long exposure of Mount Etna in the deepening twilight as we cruise away into the Ionian Sea. The 'X' Celebrity logo lit up in the night on the engine exhaust funnel.

At about 9:30PM Natasha and I went to the Solstice Deck 16 and got a good view of the night sky including Mars, Saturn and the Milky Way heading out of Sagittarius. My Starmap iPhone app came in useful there once I got it to work. We went back to the Lawn club for 10PM. Renée and I then returned to our room to retire for the night. Back at the room we also found an invitation to the Senior Officers' Cocktail Party on Friday night. Nice!

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