When we decided to embark on the Carnival Magic’s Inaugural Voyage and learned about each port of call, I was beyond thrilled to learn that they offered many different shore excursions to the archeological site of Pompeii. Though Luke did not know what Pompeii was or what exactly was in store for him, I did not feel it necessary to confer with him on this decision… we were going and thats all there was to it (a decisive action on my part that is entirely uncharacteristic of my normal laissez-faire attitude to such things).
Luke and I have never been the kind of tourists who are keen to line up for things. We don’t often sign up for things either – not because we are cheap, but because we don’t like the hassle (or even the threat of a hassle in the future). We don’t like crowded spaces, we don’t like administrative annoyances and we especially don’t like dealing with other hassled tourists in similar scenarios. It’s not that we are loners, we are just addicted to finding those special moments where you encounter something new, something novel, something greatly anticipated and every detail of that moment is simply splendid and all your own.
I know we are not alone in this.
I also know that for every other explorer out there like us, there are some things in this world that they will sign up for (and line up for) without any hesitation despite all of the ensuing hassle. For me, one of these things is Pompeii.
And so it was… Within minutes we were signed up for “The Ruins of Pompeii” and I was blabbering on to Luke about every possible historical detail I could recall from my days as a student of art history. The thought of lines and crowds and hot buses did not even enter my mind.
When the day arrived that we were to set out in search of MY Pompeii, and we found ourselves piled into a coach with 50 other cruisers in search of THEIR Pompeii, I was entirely too thrilled with myself to even care that I had to wait in a line or that the couple behind us were engrossed in a loud binge of their various life complaints. My positive attitude lasted for the entire bus ride… and maybe for the first 12 minutes of the guided tour.
But then it hit me. Here I was in Pompeii with thousands of other eager souls all looking to get as much as we could out of our few hours in historical paradise, and it seemed like we were all huddled around the same few sights fighting for a clear shot of a brick wall with our cameras.
And so I made another decision. The tour guide was passionate and informative, but it was time for us to take off on our own. For some of our fellow cruisers this was a bold and daring move that would leave us vulnerable to all sorts of tourist pitfalls… What if we got lost in the ancient streets? What if we walked right by the most significant monument and didn’t even know it? And the worst of the worst in a cruiser’s eyes – what if we missed our bus and ended up not making it back to the ship on time!!!????
It was a risk we were willing to take.
We headed out into the vast area that was once the city of Pompeii, without a map, without a guidebook, without a care in the world. And you know what? It was one of the best decisions I have made on this trip to date.
Rumor has it that upwards of 15 000 people visit Pompeii EACH DAY! But what you might not realise if you stick with your group is that this ancient city is absolutely huge and there are acres of it that the guides don’t get to on their tours. If you dare, you can find yourself completely alone strolling down stone streets, peering into Roman houses, sitting under a shady tree in a vineyard – not another camera, school group, or sweaty tourist in sight. In fact, Pompeii is so enormous I could have easily spent three or four days there and still not taken it all in.
At the end of the day I might only get to Pompeii once in my life, while wikipedia and library books will always be available to me to fill in the informational gaps. Experience was what I was after, and I found it by signing up and then wandering off.