The next stop on our Mediterranean cruise with MSC Cruises was Naples and as the ship was not arriving until lunchtime we had an opportunity to explore more of the ship. The Aqua Park pool area was a sea of orange towels with every sun lounger occupied by bikini bodies, pulsating music and entertainment in full swing at one end. Not really our scene but it was good to see groups and families having fun and enjoying the sunshine.
The one thing I really wanted to visit while in Naples was Pompeii and as the boat was only in Naples for the afternoon we booked the MSC cruise excursion. There were around fifty in our English-speaking group and the coach took half an hour to reach Pompeii, with our guide giving us some information about the city of Naples on the way.
I hope you enjoy the video about our day in Pompeii below
The town of Pompeii was buried by ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and although the excavated site is now one of the major tourist attractions in this area, a third of it still lies underground. The volcano remains active and it seems only a matter of time before it erupts again, since the guide pointed out the lava flow on the slopes from the eruption in the 1940s. Excavations started in 1748 when the contemporary account of the eruption by the ancient historian Pliny helped to locate the site under 22 feet of ash.
Despite the large size of our group, the guide managed us very well although I could have done without the shopping opportunity at the ‘coral factory’, the main benefit of which seemed to be the use of the bathrooms. We entered the site through the Marine Gate, which was originally very close to the sea, since the coastline was altered by the eruption and is now further away. This is where the villas of the wealthy were built on the city walls, their walls painted with expensive red and yellow that can still be seen.
From here, visitors from the port could walk up the stone paved street to the market to buy wine and olive oil, which would then be carried back to their ships by slaves. The guide pointed out the white marble stones embedded in the road, which acted like cats-eyes to reflect the moonlight and illuminate the way, as well as the niches where burning torches would be placed on dark nights.
We reached the Forum, where the most important public buildings were located, such as the Senate, the Palace of Justice and the major temples. Surrounding the open area were columns and pedestals that would have originally been bases for the many statues of local politicians.
Nearby was the wool factory and laundry, where in the days before soap, urine was used to clean the woolen robes, with conveniently placed terracotta pots placed nearby where men could relieve themselves. Apparently the streets of Pompeii were pretty smelly as the sewage system could not cope with the size of the population. After the eruption survivors could just see the tops of the marble columns sticking out of the top of the ash and they dug tunnels down to ground level and took the marble to build the new town.
Further on we saw a building that had some faded frescos where a couple of plaster casts of the victims of the eruption were on display. One of the figures was wearing a belt and the guide explained that slaves would often wear a belt or collar with the name of their owner.
We visited the Roman baths with separate areas for men and women and large marble containers bearing the names of the politicians who had donated them. There seemed to be a recurring theme that politicians would donate items for public use that served as advertising for their re-election. One of the largest houses was the House of the Faun, owned by a wealthy merchant who had not one but two gardens behind the main living quarters.
Next was the Lupanare or brothel – named after the she-wolf, since the prostitutes would make a howling sound to attract their customers. On the walls were erotic scenes that formed a kind of ‘menu’ for customers that are now in the museum in Naples.
At the end of the visit we exited past the Marine gate again and were guided toward the Limoncello shop, which once again provided a useful bathroom stop as well as an opportunity for a free sip of the local Lemon liqueur and to shop for other souvenirs.
We really enjoyed the tour of Pompeii although it really did need a guide (or the use of the audio-guide if visiting independently) to explain the stories behind the stone and brick walls and streets. I was slightly disappointed that we did not see more frescos, mosaics or artifacts from the site as these are on show in the Museum at Naples.
The coach took us back once again to MSC Splendida where we had had dinner tonight in the Santa Fe Tex-Mex restaurant. Additional charges apply in this specialty restaurant and we really enjoyed our Marguerita and perfectly cooked rib-eye steak, which brought back happy memories of our Texas holiday a couple of years ago. The restaurant was surprisingly quiet, although it suited us, as the rest of the ship is very busy. Tomorrow, we arrive at Messina in Sicily and take another excursion to Taormina.
Tips for visiting Pompeii on a cruise excursion
- Take water and a snack as there is only one café inside the site and little time to stop, so you may be hungry before you return to the ship.
- Take a hat and wear sun screen, especially in the summer months as the site is hot and dry with not much shade.
- The coral shop and limoncello shop provide useful bathroom stops as the only other toilets within the site appeared to be at the café, although there are other public toilets immediately outside.
Excursions Options in Naples
We chose the archaeological walking tour of Pompeii (4 hrs, £45 Adult), but an alternative is an excursion to the crater of Vesuvius (4 hrs, £42 Adult) with a view of the beautiful Gulf of Naples. You can also explore Naples’ famous Posillipo district, (4 hrs, £35 Adult) with time for shopping, or take coach transfer inland to the Royal Palace of Caserta, a UNESCO World Heritage site (4 hrs, £39 Adult). Also popular is the ferry or hydrofoil transport to Capri Island (4-4.5 hrs, £65 Adult), where you’ll ride a cable car to explore Capri’s historical centre. Watch the MSC Video about the Pompeii excursion.
Other articles in my Mediterranean Cruise series
Join me on a week’s Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Cruise
All aboard at Barcelona – Day 1 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Palazzo and Gelato in Genoa – Day 3 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
A day at sea and back to Barcelona – Day 7 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Thanks to MSC cruises who hosted Guy and Heather’s Mediterranean cruise. Heather and Guy travelled on MSC Splendida from Barcelona on a 1 week cruise calling at Genoa, Marseille, Naples, Messina, Tunis. Prices for a similar cruise start at around £700 per person. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website or follow them on Twitter @MSC_Cruises_UK or on the MSC Facebook page.
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