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Transatlantic trip December 2023 - Days 1 & 2: Boarding and Naples

Cruise Day 1 (Friday, 1 December)

On board, for once, I cheated and rode the elevator with my roll-on up from deck 4 to deck 12 where my cabin was. I tried my card key at the solo lounge door, only to get a red light. Checking my cabin number, it turned out to be a single inside, not a solo cabin. Rolling around the corner and down the long hallway, my cabin had a larger space with lots of storage options, a larger shower. The space on either side of the paired twin mattresses, made up as a king, was quite tight, with a foot-wide bed table under a spot light.

I emptied my roller, and headed downstairs to guest services to complain about the “upgrade” - I would be deprived of the feature of access to the solo lounge, a quiet space (most of the time) where I could get coffee and cake 24x7, and have a space where I could type on the Chromebook as I start the trip report. No sympathy, no satisfaction - they wouldn’t code the key to access the space.

From deck 5 I took the stairs up to the Garden Cafe on 15 to chill out on the pool deck where my mobile phone would have service. While there, I stuck up a conversation with two women from Tampa. (I am horrible remembering names!)

The singles meetup started at 5pm in the solo lounge. My favorite single malt scotch whiskies were no longer offered, so after getting an ultrapremium (which I didn’t really like), I started drinking Johnnie Walker Black. The woman from Chicago I was speaking with didn’t have the drink package, so I got her a margarita. Emir, the NCL host, collected us and took us to Maltings, the whiskey bar on deck 6, and because it was such a large crowd, then moved us to the Bliss Lounge. It turned out there were probably about 120 singles participating on board! Emir pulled about 30 to head to late dinner at Taste restaurant, Several of us, after signing some sheets for activities, decided to head down early, so we were 8 at Taste before 7. Joanne from San Diego, Tim from Alaska, Thomas, Max, Nur of Israel, a guy from Winnipeg, Andy of New Jersey. Dinner of seafood chowder, spinach salad, shrimp scampi and a scoop of stracciatella gelato.

Back to the cabin, my larger bag was in front of the door. I unpacked and crashed, after setting the alarm for 6:20.


Day 2 Naples


Up with the alarm, out the door 20 minutes later, and on the dock at 10 before 7. Sergio, my driver, and I met at a coffee shop, having a coffee and half a croissant before setting off in a large BMW. When I’d visited (off the Epic) in July, I’d missed one of my 8 targeted cathedrals, so we started by heading to Nola.

Front facade, Basilica Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunta, Nola
Basilica Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunta, Nola

The Basilica Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunta was lock at the early hour. Twin turrets bracketed a raised front to the vault of the central nave. Behind was the dome over the crossing. The campanile was encased in scaffolding. No one was on the large square that fronted the church entrance. The cathedral doors, behind an iron fencing of the Palladian porch were all closed. I got about a dozen shots.

Behind gate, facade of Parrochia San Felice in Pinicis, Cimitile
Parrochia San Felice in Pinicis, Cimitile

So we headed out to Cimitile. A small town a bit north, we bumped our way down a cobbled street until the former cathedral (to 1400), now the (Chiesa) Parrochia San Felice in Pinicis appeared down at the end of Vico G. Mautone, behind locked iron gates. A narrow church with a single central entrance, the narrow street afforded no angle to show depth, just the well-attended facade of yellow and white lines.

Facade, Concattedrale di San Michele Arcangelo, Sarno
Concattedrale di San Michele Arcangelo, Sarno

The next destination on my list was the Sarno Cathedral. After about a half hour on back roads and motorways, we arrived at Via Duomo in Sarno. Set in the town center with a short plaza separated from parking, the Concattedrale di San Michele Arcangelo has a Romanesque facade with blue-gray emphasis on pale yellow plaster. A 5-story campanile stands to the right of the single-entry door, reached up 10 steps from the plaza. And, at a quarter to nine on a Saturday morning, it was closed. I wasn’t batting very well that morning.

Our next building is located in Nocera Inferiore. Another half hour ride, we approached the city across flat lands filled with near-derelict industrial space, traversing rough roads pitted with potholes. Once we achieved the old city, situated on the side of the hill, we wended our way, coming to an impressive archway campanile, which was the entrance to a former monastery.

Facade, Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco e San Prisco, Nocera Inferiore
Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco e San Prisco, Nocera Inferiore

The Basilica Cattedrale di San Marco e San Prisco is inside the arch, to the left, and abuts the exterior wall of the complex. Another Romanesque facade, the center of three doors was open. Finally, I was able to visit inside a church. Unlike the exterior surfaces, the interior was clean bright white, Romanesque columns separating the side aisles from the central nave, with simple plaster ornamentation, some of which is gilded. Shrines and chapels lined the outer walls, their surfaces covered in murals. The crossing sits under a dome with windows admitting natural light into the presbytery. At its center, the story of the crowning of Mary in heaven by the Trinity is depicted.

Seemingly, the high altar has been moved, as the cathedra now sits against the rear apse wall, with the main altar nearer the crossing. In the nave, stairs led down to an unlit crypt, so I didn’t explore.

Unique on my list, our next stop was a ruin - aside the ruins of the castle overlooking the town of Lettere. Sergio drove us up a steep hill, single lane switchbacks as we approached the archeological park high above. As we approached, the larger castle topped the crest, with the smaller tower of the ex-cathedral alongside. The park is gated, iron rods set atop in a stone wall. The entry appeared open, so I walked through with my camera active.

Ruins of Ex-cattedrale di nostra Signora della Trinita, Lettere
Ex-cattedrale di nostra Signora della Trinita, Lettere

A large officious male began shouting, and it turned out that, although the mayor had just been escorted into the castle, the park was closed. With blustery winds, I walked up and down the hill along the fencing, getting various shots of the ruined shell of the Ex-cattedrale di nostra Signora della Trinita. (1160-1696)

Front facade, Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunate e San Giovanni Battista, Lettere
Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunate e San Giovanni Battista, Lettere ex-cathedral

We descended into Lettere and found the successor cathedral of Lettere-Gragnano. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunate e San Giovanni Battista had been a cathedral for the period 1696 to 1818. The site was also the Santuario di Sant’Anna. A tall yellow structure, the center door admitted me, while a second closed door was at the base of the attached campanile. Statues of Saints Peter and Paul were in niches a level above the entry.

A mesh screen covered the vault from the entry to the crossing, dimming the appreciation of the coffered ceiling. Thick blocky columns along the nave create alcoves for chapels, the elaborate altars contrasting the simplicity of the nave itself. At the crossing, the main altar has been placed under a dome, with the high altar still further down the apse.

An hour later Sergio pulled into the parking for the shrine in Pompeii. Now part of the archdiocese of Naples, gcatholic includes it in the list of Italian cathedrals, although I found no other references. [Archbishop Caputo is Bishop-Prelate of the Santuario, which could therefore be considered a single-church diocese.] Viewing from the front across a huge plaza, the campanile is free-standing, while the elaborate two-tiered facade of columns and archways welcomes visitors.

Piazza Bartolo Longo, Campanile and Santuario Basilica Pontificia della Madonna del Rosario, Pompeii
Piazza Bartolo Longo, Campanile and Santuario Basilica Pontificia della Madonna del Rosario, Pompeii

Still, this impressive church, the Santuario Basilica Pontificia della Madonna del Rosario (also Santuario della Beata Vergine Maria del Santo Rosario di Pompeii,) is an enterprise run by Dominicans. When I entered, Mass was just concluding in the main worship space. Immediately, another Mass began down in the crypt. The main aisle is dressed in gold with statues, murals filling almost every space.

The vault is a cacophony of religious stories. Domes cover the side aisles, and a huge dome is at the crossing, with a depictions of Our Lady of the Rosary. An ambulatory allowed partial access to the sides of the presbytery. A dark wooden chair, padded in red velvet, has prominent position in the apse, but I was unsure if it was a cathedra.

Having skipped breakfast (other than our coffee and croissant in the port), I suggested that we have lunch before returning to Naples. Sergio knew Pompeii, so took us to a spot alongside the park of the archeological ruins, where I got a few shots from between the trees.

Crossing the street into i Matti, I ordered a diavola pizza (Fior di latte, pomodoro selecta BIO, salame, olio piccante e basilico) with a glass of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC Piedrosso. The pizza was a bit soggy, but had a good thin crust; I enjoyed the wine.

Front facade, Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunate, Napoli
Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunate, Napoli

By half past one we were riding up the main thoroughfare of Naples, the Via Duomo, dodging shoppers and oblivious tourists. Achieving the front of the Cattedrale di Maria SS Assunate, I slipped out with my camera while Sergio looked for a spot to “park”. Sited adjacent to neighboring buildings, set back from the street with a good sized plaza, the Duomo di Napoli has a white stone facade that is almost gothic in appearance. Six steps up from the plaza is a narrow break, and then three steps bring a visitor to one of three the entries. Walking down the central nave aisle, the gold coffering around the large murals in the vault were impressive. The side aisle walls are filled with carved memorials.

I wandered into the Basilica di S. Restituta, remeniscent of the rectangular Roman basilica churches, although the cupola over the altar really caught my eye. Back in the cathedral proper, I was in awe of the mosaic tile arrangements in the floors, and the monumental altarpiece up the stairs to the high altar.

With sail away at 4:30, I was back on the ship at 3. I hung out in the solo lounge, eventually leaving with 6 women for Taste where I had 4 appetizers and the cheese plate for dinner with a glass of cab. Having been up early, I retired early.

Book: Cathedrals to the Glory of God
Cathedrals to the Glory of God

You can purchase your own copy of

(or have me send it as a gift)

Cathedrals to the Glory of God

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