I was up early as usual and was so happy to not see rain as we arrived in La Spezia. I was really worried about rain today but it looked to be a great day for our trip to Manarola in Cinque Terre.
We met up for breakfast and then were escorted off the ship by a butler. Guests are not permitted to walk through the port area in La Spezia and need to ride a bus to the entrance. The butler walked us straight to the front of a line for the bus. The lines were not too bad early if you had to do it yourself but it seems like the concierge pushes using an escort if you ask about anything.
Our plan was to take the ferry to Manarola instead of taking the train both ways. Although the ferry takes longer, we thought it would be more enjoyable to see the coastline from the ferry. It was a nice, easy trip with a few stops before ours. We soaked up the views and took lots of pictures and videos.
I picked Manarola to visit out of the five villages mainly for a restaurant I had been following on Instagram. I found it through my iFit trainer who did a walking series in Italy. We had some time before our reservation so we took a leisurely walk though the village stopping for photos and visiting a Church. It seems like an amazing place to spend more time and I hope to return soon to try out some of the hiking trails between villages. After seeing this place on my workouts, it was so amazing to actually be there.
We made our way to the top of the village and found our restaurant for lunch, La Regina di Manarola. This place is another stunningly gorgeous restaurant. We picked a wonderful seat on the terrace with amazing views. The music playing was perfect and it felt like a dream. We started off with some amazing cocktails which were so fresh tasting and delicious. For our starters, we had to get Cuore Ligure, burrata with homemade pesto heart which I had seen many people order over the months I watched their Instagram. We also sampled the Caprese Tricolore which was buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes. Both cheeses were amazing and the tomatoes were great as well. We all chose pasta for our lunches. Joe and Ammie had Scoglio “al quadatro” which was spaghetti with mussels, clams, shrimp, and cuttlefish. Chris opted for Dalla Sicilia with Love which was tagliolini with red prawn tartare, prawns bisque lime and pistachio granola. I decided to order Le trofie della Regina, trenette pasta with homemade pesto sauce. Everyone was very happy with their choices. My pesto pasta was phenomenal and I cleaned my plate. We had a lovely red local wine with our lunch. Before dessert, I made sure to powder my nose so I could take the obligatory mirror selfie I had seen so many times posted. Chris and I shared the Mamma Mia Che bei limoni! (Home made lemon cake) and Joe ordered the Il Vero Cannolo Sicilano (cannolo with ricotta from Sicily, topped with pistachios and chocolate). Both desserts were outstanding! Our dear friends treated us to this fabulous lunch as an anniversary gift. This is yet another meal set in such an idyllic location that I know will be hard to forget. I felt so blessed to be here on my anniversary and with our wonderful friends.
Full from our delicious lunch, we ambled back down through the village. We found the train station easily and with a little effort purchased our tickets and found the platform. It was a little tricky but we did ok and actually had plenty of time before the next train to La Spezia. The ride was very quick and the ferry was a nice choice in the morning. The walk from the train station is a bit further than the ferry as well but I enjoyed seeing a bit of the town as well as getting some more exercise. We took the shuttle bus back to the ship from the terminal and decided to relax and get ready for the evening when we returned as tonight we planned to renew our vows.
Chris had a surprise when he stepped into our cabin. It was decorated for our anniversary. I had brought decorations from home and asked the butler if he would decorate for me. He did a great job and added some extras like the towel swans, chocolate heart, and bottle of Prosecco. Of course Chris had to have a surprise for me as well. After a phone call, he left the cabin and returned with the biggest bouquet of roses ever! It was crazy how big it was and I had no idea where to even put them!
When we were all dressed, Ammie and Joe met us in our cabin as I decided I wanted to renew our vows on our balcony. Ammie had prepared such a sweet ceremony and it was so intimate and romantic to reaffirm our commitment and love for one another. Cruises are so special for us so this truly was the perfect location. After the ceremony, of course it was time to celebrate and we headed to the Champagne Bar.
The Champagne Bar is a very nice lounge area on the ship. We were excited to try it tonight as they also serve oysters and caviar for an additional charge. Chris and Joe ordered oysters and caviar and told me to pick a bottle. I decided to go with one of my favorites, Veuve Cliquot. The waiter convinced me to try the Rich one. He had said he had a passenger who had both and said it was much better. I decided to trust his recommendation. The service was fairly slow even though the lounge was not busy. The champagne arrived first and after our toast, I was shocked by the sweetness. It definitely was not the type of champagne I prefer as this tasted like Asti Spumante. Upon a deep dive, I learned this was designed to be served over ice and with other ingredients. I’m not sure why they would sell this by the bottle. If I would have looked this up then, I would have sent it back. The server was definitely lacking the knowledge about wine I have experienced on other cruise lines in this type of bar. The oysters were good but only came with mignonette and Ammie missed having it with cocktail or horseradish. The caviar was decent quality especially for the price but there was not enough blini and it was not served with a mother of pearl spoon. It was not quite the elevated experience I would have expected from a champagne bar. If it were, we probably would have returned there another evening and spent more money. Our dear friends picked up the tab for us as another gift. They really spoiled us today!
We decided to have dinner tonight in the Yacht Club restaurant as it has the more elegant atmosphere than the specialty ones and we were dressed up. We all started with the asparagus with puff pastry for an appetizer. It was good but nothing special. Joe and Chris had paccheri pasta with pesto as another starter and it was very good. Ammie had a French style salad and I had the carrot ginger soup. My soup was so very bland. It tasted like plain puréed carrots. We all ordered from the “always available” section with Ammie trying the salmon and everyone else filet mignon. I was very disappointed with my choice. It was very, very rare and I ordered medium rare but even worse was the smell and taste. I had flashbacks of my steak from the airplane with the aroma. The quality of the meat was very poor. I might have ordered something else but it took a long time for him to return to check on us. The waiter had given us French fries for the table we did not order and that became my entree. Chris left most of his steak as well on his plate. I was really expecting the meal to be on par with the fantastic steak I had in the Haven on NCL. It was more disappointing as well with the timing being our anniversary. Dessert was chocolate soufflé for all except Ammie who chose ice cream. The soufflé was decent but not great as mine was a bit undercooked. It was not the celebration dinner I imagined but thankfully we had a truly celebratory lunch earlier in the day.
We went to our usual spot after dinner for a drink and to listen to some music. I thought we might dance but it was violin music. It made me feel pretty tired listening to this style music in combination with the cocktails. Chris and I decided to enjoy some cabin time. Joe and Ammie went out to the Masters of the Seas pub and said the musician was very good. Tomorrow, is Civitavecchia and since we have all been to Rome, our plans is to have a “sea day in port” and enjoy the Grandiosa with fewer passengers on board.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.