It was an early morning start as I disembarked the stunning Carnival Vista in Naples at 7 a.m. On the quayside waiting for me were the Cruising Excursions team, with an easily identifiable sign and busy checking off the names of other travellers that would be joining me on my ‘Essential Collection – Pompeii, Sorrento & Positano View‘ tour, as well as the other excursions taking place that day. After a short wait outside the main cruise terminal in Naples, we were escorted to our coach parked a short distance from the main gate.
Our group of around 25 people, departed for our first stop on our eight hour tour, Pompeii. The 45-minute journey offered great views of Mount Vesuvius looming above us. During the journey, our tour guide Daniella, told us a brief history of Naples, the geography around the city, how the pizza was invented here, and how the Margherita Pizza came about.
On arrival at Pompeii, we queued for around 15 minutes as we purchased tickets to enter. These weren’t included in our £57 tour, but tickets were just €13 for adults, free for under 18s and EU students between the ages of 18 and 25 with a valid student card get discount. We entered via the Piazza Esedra entrance and our first stop was to see the Caserma dei Gladiatori (Barracks of the Gladiators) This was once where Roman Gladiators would train before public fights. Situated just to the right was the impressive Teatro Piccolo, still complete with its marble floor and decorative statues. Although one of the smallest theatres in Pompeii, it is one of the best preserved and would have played host to musical performances, rather than theatre shows.
We continued our tour walking along the Via Stabiana, which would have been one of the main roads lined with shops in 79AD. Occasionally, we’d pass a line of giant blocks on the uneven stones, which made up the road. Our guide informed us these would have been used by pedestrians to cross the road, so they did not have to step in any waste water or anything else flowing along the streets. There was just enough room in-between the blocks for carts to travel through and the wheel grooves can still be seen today!
We then turned right along the Vicola Del Menandro and entered Casa del Menandro, a grand house, named after a poet whose painting can still be seen on the walls to this day. It is not know who the owner used to be, but by the size of the house, which takes up the size of almost one city block, it must have been someone really wealthy. The house features original paintings, ornate floor tiling and a private washroom, very rare in those days. There is even charred remains of the original timber beams, as well as skeletal remains.
Carrying on, we next ventured to see Terme Stabiane. The grandeur of these former thermal baths are still clearly visible to this day, with impressive decorative ceilings beautifully preserved. The baths featured a frigidarium, tepidarium and calidarium. It was amazing to see the pillars of bricks that once helped circulate hot air underneath the main floors. The next room we walked into, I was standing face to face with a Roman woman, almost frozen in time, looking helpless as she bowed her head in her arms awaiting her fate.
The final stop on our tour of the Pompeii ruins was a visit to the Foro. This would have been the main square, home to markets, temples and the court-house. It would have been the social heart of the city, and that is still true to this day as it was one of the busiest areas filled with tourists.
Leaving Pompeii, our coach took a scenic coastal drive to Positano on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. There was a mixture of sheer terror and amazement among travellers as the coach made its way round tight twists and turns on the edge of the cliffs above the glistening sea some 400 feet below. The view looking down at Positano from a cliff-side viewing area during a short photo break was incredible.
After quickly passing through on our way to Positano, the next stop on the itinerary was the beautiful coastal town of Sorrento. We had a two hour lunch break here, so of course you can’t come to Italy, especially Sorrento, without eating Pizza! I found a great little restaurant, called Divina Sorrento that had a small outdoor seating area overlooking a beautiful garden. Prices were very reasonable and the food was delicious, with fresh local ingredients and wine for that authentic Italian experience. After lunch, I had a great ice-cream (which melted faster than I could eat it thanks to the scorching hot sun) and walked around the quaint streets of Sorrento, in addition to admiring the views of Mount Vesuvius and Carnival Vista, MSC Opera and Oosterdam in Naples.
After, it was time to head back to the ship. The coach finally arrived back just before 4 p.m., allowing plenty of time before the all aboard time of 7.30 p.m.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Our tour guide, Daniella was brilliant and very knowledgeable, answering any questions our group had. I would highly recommend Cruising Excursions, not only are they considerably cheaper than most cruise line’s excursions (a similar excursion with Carnival was over $110, compared to the £59 with Cruising Excursions), but they also guarantee to get you back to the ship in time, plus if for some reason your ship doesn’t dock, you’ll be refunded!