10. Summary, Tips & Recommendations
These are just some random notes about the trip and some advice for travelers.
Summary: We had a great time and can highly recommend Orient Lines for your vacation.
Books: We brought two of the Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides with us, Rome and Barcelona & Catalonia. Both were excellent and we used them extensively in Rome and Barcelona. Our friend Chris Quay sent us some of the books she used on her tour of Italy. Baedeker's Italy came in very handy, since it has entries for just about everyplace in Italy. John Kent's Venice was also cool, a unique way to look at the city.
Cameras: Before the trip, Chris bought a Sony Cybershot DSC-S50 digital camera. It was great to have a digital camera since you can see the pictures right after you take them. He ended up deleting a lot of pictures that didn't come out. You can take a lot of pictures until you get one you like. Chris played around with lowlight pictures until it came out the way he wanted. Bring as much memory as you can afford. We got around 180 pictures of good size onto a 64Mb memory stick, but it would have been nice to have another one!
We also brought along our trusty APS camera and shot about nine rolls of film!
Money: For a wedding gift, Chris Quay gave us some Italian, French and Spanish currency. This very cool gift came in handy to get us started as we entered each country. Unlike previous trips, we didn't bring any traveler's checks. At every stop on our trip, Chris was able to use his ATM card to get money, and he got a good exchange rate too. It was never a problem, though we probably should have brought some American dollars, since the casino on the Crown Odyssey only took dollars. Also, we ended up tipping our steward and our waiters in the weaker European currencies. I'm sure they would've preferred dollars for their tips, which make a large percentage of their earnings. The introduction of the euro will be great for trips like ours where we visited three different countries--only one exchange needed.
Transportation: Though we always went in huge motor coaches, we were amazed at the small cars we saw everywhere. If you see the parking situation, the benefit of a small car is obvious. Also, we calculated the price of gasoline in Rome at around $4.50 a gallon.
Language: Everywhere we went, people spoke English. It was actually sort of depressing, going into a little shop to get some ice cream, ready to practice your Italian, and the little old lady behind the counter says, "One scoop or two, honey?" Of course we never went "off the beaten path," but it appears that all of the young people in Europe speak English better than most Americans.
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