Jul
28
The dogs of Pompeii

This story has a very happy ending, but we’ll start with the bad part. Apparently 1/3 of the ship wanted to do the half-day tour of Pompeii (or Pompei as the Italians say–why do we need another i?). So, without telling us anything in advance, Orient Lines split the tour into 3 large groups which were later split into at least 5 groups of about 40 apiece. They did this without any consideration for the fact that people in different cabins who are travelling together might want to go on shore excursions together. We got our tickets after the shore excursion office had closed for the day, so I woke up early to be there right when it opened at 7. I asked if we could switch to be with T&J, and in a voice filled with “aren’t you so stupid” the woman told me that the separations were just for the tender ride and that we could join any tour group we wished on the dock. Naturally this wasn’t the case on the dock, where the workers continued trying to shoo us along as we were attempting to ask about changing groups. Ellen finally got through to someone who thought that saying “uhhh…” and walking away was a valid response, but eventually we got her to speak to us and reluctantly agree to let us wait for Ted and Joelle’s boat. Incidentally in our new group was a woman who tried to do the same thing, and she was denied permission. I didn’t think “shut up and color” was supposed to be part of a cruise vocabulary, but I’ve heard it several times from Orient.
Anyway, enough about them–on to Pompeii. Our tour guide had a hard time making a complete sentence without saying “uh” 10 times (like me in Spanish) but she was very fun nonetheless. She narrated the gorgeous ride along the coast just enough to keep us entertained without being annoying. At a little after 9 we got to Pompeii, where the weather was super hot and the cold water was only €1 a bottle (still $2 from the ship).
Pompeii is amazing, and a 1 1/2 hour tour or even a whole day can’t do it justice, but it was nice to be with a tour group because almost nothing is labeled. If we did it on our own we would have wanted an audio guide, but they were the annoying ones you need to hold to your ear like a phone rather than the easy to wear headphones we had in Monaco.
Let me warn you that if you bring children on your tour, they will hear about and see the famous phalli of Pompeii (which would have made a great title for this entry, or as Dave Barry likes to say, a great name for a band). Apparently brothels in Pompeii were indicated either by a raised phallus carved into the street like an arrow which pointed to the brothel’s door or one just sticking right out of the building. As far as we could tell, all of the tours made a point of ending at a brothel where you can see a picture “menu” of acts that were available. It’s not horribly graphic, but if you’d be offended by drawings of what prostitutes did nearly 2,000 years ago, this is a good time to break off from the tour and explore on your own or head for the exit. Apart from the brothels, which didn’t bother us, we saw a good deal of ancient Pompeii that was so well preserved when it was covered by volcanic ash in 79 A.D. It seemed very well laid out, with chariot streets, sidewalks, and fountains to bring everyone fresh water. Later on the ship we learned that it is quite easy to get to Pompeii by train and spend the whole day there if you like, but it was nice to put someone else in charge for the day after everything we did yesterday in Rome. After the bus ride back from Pompeii, we finished our day walking around Sorrento before riding the shuttle down to the tender dock. Our next stop is a late (~1300) docking into Valletta, Malta, and we’ve been told to watch that one as it’s the most beautiful port on the trip.