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Catania, Corigliano Calabria, Venice and Cofu.

Catania, Corigliano Calabria, Venice and Cofu.

Postby bobbyoscar » 25 Nov 2018 15:49

This is a review of the following ports that we had excursions booked in: Catania, Corigliano Calabria, Venice and Cofu. We did have an excursion also booked in Dubrovnik but this had to be cancelled due to P & O changing our itinerary which then meant that Dubrovnik became a tender port and we could not get off the ship :evil: :thumbdown: .

All excursions that we did were organised by Mirjam Versteegh from Disabled Accessible Travel, a company based in Barcelona. This company was recommended to us by another wheelchair user and we cannot speak too highly of the service and excursions that we undertook. These were private tours so just us two, a guide and driver in a Mercedes Sprinter and apart from Corigliano Calabro which had a split ramp, all others had operated ‘electric’ lifts. All guides were friendly, polite and extremely knowledgeable about their respective areas.

After the initial contact with Mirjam, we were asked what we wanted the focus of our excursions to be so that the tours could be tailored to our specific requirements. We opted for historical and cultural, so no visits to sports arenas for us.

Our first excursion was in Catania, Sicily. I have seen reviews from others stating what a dreadful place it is, how wheelchair unfriendly it is but we didn’t have a problem. We were fortunate that we had a guide who knew her stuff and knew exactly where all the drop kerbs were, she had done her homework!

We were met at the port by our guide and driver and driven into the centre of Catania. En route, we were given a potted history of the area. We parked up opposite the remains of a Greek temple, which we were able to view at close quarters and which our guide was able to tell us about. We then made our way through the ‘High Street’ to the Baroque central square of Catania which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where we saw the symbol of the city, a fountain with a lava-stone elephant with an obelisk on its back.

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We also visited the cathedral dedicated to St Agatha who is the patron saint of Catania and where the tomb of composer, Vincenzo Bellini is located. Our tour took us next to visit the food market which was ablaze with not just fruit and veg but varieties of fish which had been landed that morning. Before leaving Catania, we were introduced to the town’s Chief of Police who came over to talk to us and to apologise that we wouldn’t be able to visit the Town Hall as this was closed due to an emergency meeting.

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We then travelled along the coast to the villages of Acicastello and Acitrezza. Along this coast are lava rocks which legend tells us are the rocks which Polyphemus threw at Homer’s Odysseus. Before returning, we visited the town of Acireale and the Basilica of SS.Pietro e Paolo.

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Corigliano Calabria

This was another port which has received a lot of negative feedback from other cruisers but we loved this excursion. (Our itinerary had to be changed a few days before we arrived due to flooding in the area.)

As we disembarked the ship our vehicle was waiting for us at the bottom of the ramp and after introductions were made we made our way into Corigliano and parked just outside the Norman castle. This area is very hilly and we were very glad to have been driven there. Our guide, Maria, gave us an excellent commentary about the rooms we visited. There was also a lift available for wheelchair users.

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On leaving the castle, we made our way into the countryside where stunning scenery and orchard after orchard of clementine, orange, lemon and olive trees were abundant. We arrived for lunch ‘in the middle of nowhere’ to find we had arrived at a family run restaurant. The time we spent there was just wonderful; friendly, welcoming people who couldn’t do enough for us and amazing food all locally produced. We left with a huge bag full of oranges and clementines freshly picked from their trees.

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We then drove to a nearby Olive Mill which is the only mill in Italy producing organic extra virgin olive oil. The owner gave us a tour explaining a little about the process involved from picking the olives to the bottling, all of which are done on site. We also tasted some of this year’s olive oil which was waiting to be graded as organic, any that isn’t is sold to other producers like Bertolli. I now know not to buy pomace or ‘olive oil’ as chemicals are added to these.

We had had a wonderful time and would very much like to return to this area if we ever have the opportunity to do so.

Venice
We were met outside the Cruise Terminal by Fiorella, our guide for the day, and boarded our vehicle to take us to the Water Taxi Park where we had a wheelchair accessible taxi at our disposal for the day. In order to access the water taxi, Andy had to reverse onto a platform which Nicholas, our driver, stood on to counter balance any movement caused by the wash from other boats racing past whilst the platform was lowered down into the boat.

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We were first taken to the Piazza San Marco (if you are intending to visit this area it’s worth arriving as early as possible before all the crowds arrive) where we explored the surrounding area before being joined by our City guide for a two hour tour of the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale.
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After lunch, Nicholas was waiting for us to take us on a tour of the Grande Canal in order that we could see the sights that we couldn’t access with the wheelchair such as The Bridge of Sighs and The Arsenal.

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We then made our way to Murano where we attended a demonstration of glass blowing

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and had some time to explore before making our way back to the Water Park and then by vehicle back to the ship where Fiorella left us at security. We would love to be able to return someday.

Corfu
At this port we had opted to visit the Achilleion Palace and then a tour of the island. Our driver guide, Philip, was waiting for us next to the ship

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and soon we were on our way to the Achilleion Palace which was built for the Empress Elizabeth and purchased later by William II.
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It is located upon a hill surrounded by cypress trees and other exotic plants and flowers. There were ramps to enable us to enter the property and a lift for wheelchair users to access the upper floor. On leaving the Palace we then spent the remainder of the time on a tour around the island. We saw some stunning scenery but we also saw many deserted half built houses and lots of uncollected rubbish, an island in need of some TLC.

So to sum up, the excursions may seem to be expensive but when compared with the freedom to do what you want to do versus an inflexible cruise company organised excursion where you often can’t even get off the bus or will be cancelled if not enough people take up the option, we felt it was money very well spent and wouldn’t hesitate to contact Mirjam again to arrange more excursions for us.

We had a wonderful time and although Venice lived up to expectations our favourite day was the one we spent in Corigliano Calabria due to the kindness, warmth and hospitality we were shown by the people we met there.

(Apologies for the size of the photos, I have tried to resize but it's not playing ball.)
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Cruises booked:
October 2018 – P & O Oriana - Cadiz - Catania - Corigliano Calabro – Venice –Zadar - Dubrovnik - Kotor - Corfu - Gibraltar
February 2019 – P & O Aurora - Andalsnes – Tromso – Alta – Stavanger
September 2019 - P & O Azura - Malaga -Messina - Mykonos - Piraeus - Santorini - Katakolon - Gibraltar
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Catania, Corigliano Calabria, Venice and Cofu.

Postby grannyM » 25 Nov 2018 17:44

A really lovely review of how much you both enjoyed these 4 ports Glynis. So good to know about the wonderful service from Disabled Accessible Travel company of Barcelona, recommended to you. What a difference to hear of service that was even better than expected. :clap:

Thanks also for posting Andy's photographs which were, as usual, excellent. :thumbup:
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Postby Gillzajoker » 26 Nov 2018 15:04

Wonderful reviews and pics., Glynis. Really pleased you were so well looked after! :D
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Postby Mungo » 26 Nov 2018 20:51

Looks super Glynis! Glad you managed to do and see so much. :thumbup:

A shame about Dubrovnik. You’ll have to choose another cruise that goes there! :mrgreen: In fact it’s on our to do again list as the weather was atrocious when we went! :o
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Postby judgegeoff » 27 Nov 2018 00:03

Wonderful pictures of what was clearly a very special cruise for you, thank you for posting them Glynis. :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Postby Jimmy the One » 30 Nov 2018 19:01

Great review Glynis and the size of the pics were fine pity about Dubrovnik but at least the Venice and Corfu were worth the effort. :thumbup:
Im just a soul whose intentions are good Oh lord please dont let me be misunderstood

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