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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Venice

Wow, Venice! What can I say?

It is probably the easiest city in the world to be a productive and enchanted accidental tourist. We spent two days and one night in Venice and it was sublime in every way. But let's start from the beginning (hum: "I very good place to start")

The day before arriving in Venice I delivered my enrichment program entitled "Venice and the Fourth Crusade: The Doge, The Money and the Knights". This picture captures me right after the program. The medal around my neck was conferred on me as a consequence of my investiture in the Patriarchal Order of Mar Gregorios (an Orthodox knighthood order). Lesson 1: When you have a credential that supports your onboard talk always use it. In any event, the talk went well as I described the historical tensions that existed between Venice and Constantinople and the whole context which gave rise to the tragedy of the Fourth Crusade. Lesson 2: Your destination lectures onboard should always strive to help make the place come alive for audience members. I show my customers and client how to do this in my critically acclaimed program: Speak on Cruise Ships: 8 Easy Steps To A Lifetime of FREE Luxury Cruises. If you have not already invested in yourself by investing in this program, what are you waiting for? Time is of essence, cruise lines are booking next year's enrichment speakers right now.

Speaking of the Fourth Crusade, here Jamey and I are on the the terrace of the fa├žade of St. Mark's Basilica. We are standing under copies of the famous four horses that were originally plundered during the Fourth Crusade from Constantinople. The originals were displayed here until the 1980's when they started to develop effects from pollution. They still are on display just inside the church near this terrace.












Here's a great shot of both one of the horses and the St. Mark's Campanile (bell tower). BTW the horses are obviously quite ancient. In fact, the horses were long displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. I'll bet this photo sells quite well on the stock photo sites. Check out lots of ways that I make money when I travel at www.TravelMakingMoney.com .













Another great shot (if I have to say so myself). This shot was taken from the Rialto Bridge down the Grand Canal at dusk. Honestly, it is difficult to take a bad photo in Venice.












This is the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge connects the Doge's Palace and the prison. It was named this because crossing it meant you were either going to prison or to the executioner. Thus, the condemned usually let out a long sigh as they crossed this bridge. Notice the Gondolier in the canal. As I took this photo he is singing (in Italian, of course) to young lovers sitting forward... ahh, I love romance.













The Bridge of Sighs is actually a two-way street. Here Jamey stands on the left side of that street within the bridge. There is a similarly sized passage coming back that other direction.
















Here Jamey and I are on the second floor of Doge's Palace in front of an open window which overlooks the courtyard. Notice the onion shaped domes of St. Mark's in the background.












Here Jamey stands in the "Golden Staircase" in the Doge's Palace. The Doges of Venice were interesting cats. They were elected heads of state of Venice. They were elected for life but did not have absolute power. In fact, the division of Venetian power was quite diffuse, shared between many committees. In any event, the Palace is gorgeous.














The St. Mark's Campanile.














O.K. So I love my name.














The church of Madonna della Salute (Our Lady of Good Health). Notice a portion of a pontoon bridge. The remaining spans of the pontoon are dismantled and floating opposite the church. Every November 21 the Venetians celebrate a "festa" honoring the Madonna for delivering them from a plague. This is the time when the pontoon bridge is assembled and a procession from St. Mark's square crosses over the Grand Canal led by the Patriarch. As you can see, like the rest of the Venice the church is beautiful.












A photo of St. Mark's square taken from the aft of the ship as we cruised by. Man, I love being an enrichment speaker - come join me. Notice the thongs of people, I'm sipping Earl Grey and honey.










Grass is a supreme rarity in Venice. I captured a little of it in this photo. Is the grass always greener?











Please understand that you are always welcome to comment of the content of this blog. I hope you are enjoying it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Naples / Pompeii

Naples was the second port on our Med cruise. It's such a short distance between Livorno and Naples that we pulled into port about 5am. I watched from the deck as we did. It was such a peaceful, gentle process. The city was just starting to wake up and the glint of the dawn was barely visible on the horizon. It was sublime and surreal at the same time. BTW it was my second port and I still had not been scheduled to speak. God... I love being an enrichment speaker! Why not join me?

Naples was special for me because the ancient ruins of Pompeii are just on the other side of Mt. Vesuvius, very close to the city.

For those of you who don't know, I was raised in a predominantly Italian family. Both of my mother's parents came from the old sod and I was extremely close to my maternal grandfather who I lost when I was 12. What made Pompeii so special to me was hearing my grandpa tell fabulous stories of his own travels there as I was growing up. So for me to tour Pompeii years later was to create a kind spiritual connection with my grandpa. I know it sounds weird but the feeling and "connectedness" was palpable to me.

We booked our excursions through the shorex office and I'm glad we did. Our guide was excellent having been a guide for many National Geographic writers and photographers.

Pompeii is an ancient Roman city in the shadow of Vesuvius which is still a potentially active volcano. Here I stand in the excavated amphitheater. They have plans to make this an active venue again. Isn't that wild? The first act slated for the grand re-opening (2 millennium later) is Andrea Bocelli.

Here's a little history of Pompeii I lifted from WikiPedia. "Along with Herculaneum, its sister city, Pompeii was destroyed, and completely buried, during a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days on 24 August 79 AD."

"The volcano collapsed higher roof-lines and buried Pompeii under many meters of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with 2,571,725 visitors in 2007, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

What is so cool is that the houses were all built on a zero lot line. Some of the places were quite palatial too. Here Jamey and I are standing in the House of Faun. "The House of the Faun was named for the bronze statue of the dancing faun located, originally, on the lip of the impluvium, a basin for catching rainwater; it has been moved to the center of the impluvium, as you can see in the picture to the left. Fauns are spirits of untamed woodland creatures, which Romans often connected to Pan and Greek satyrs, or wild followers of the Greek god of wine and agriculture, Dionysus." This statute is a copy. The original, picture below, is in the Naples Archaeological museum.




We spent the morning touring Pompeii and we were back to the ship by lunch. This worked out quite nicely because we beat the crowds in the morning and we made it back to the ship, had lunch and struck back out with plenty of time to explore Naples on foot. We walked from the ship to the Naples Archaeological museum (about a mile one way). My big tip for you is that no trip to Pompeii is complete until you have also toured the museum.

Why?

Because most of Pompeii's great treasures are housed there including this faun statute.








Another characteristic about Pompeii is much of it was covered in mosaics. Here I stand between mosaic columns that were found. It is absolutely pristine work when you see them this close.













Another thing I was surprised to learn about Pompeii was the shear number of brothels they had. There was about one every other block. They weren't difficult to pick out as they always had symbols like this affixed to the exterior.

Apparently, the ancient Romans were very nature loving including all aspects of sexuality. The archaeological museum also has an impressive exhibit of the sexually charged art that was found throughout Pompeii. Fascinating.





Naples produces an excellent slightly-sweet liqueur called Limoncello made from the rinds of lemons like this. I had to get a picture with this as this was picked from the bunch of the largest lemons I had ever seen.











On our walk from the ship to the museum I snapped interesting looking photos along the way. Like this alleyway leading to a church.

















I was amused to see this sign for a Coffee shop as I live relatively close to the Mexican border.













This was cool too. I live in Corpus Christi, Texas which is where Eva Longoria is from and where she got here start in modeling. I saw her face all over Europe in ice cream ads like this. The ads reminded me of home. It was also a reminder that great things can come from small starts like Eva herself.










The museum also has a bunch more great art that did not come from Pompeii like this ancient Roman replica of a Greek statute.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pisa & Florence


By popular demand, I will be posting pictures of our recent Med cruise and side trips as I have time to upload and annotate them for you.

It was by any one's standards a trip of a lifetime. But as a cruise ship speaker you can do this type of trip every year or every six months if you wanted. That's the beauty of it... the whole deal is set up to allow you to trade your talents for luxury cruises anywhere in the world. It's exciting and I am glad you are plugged into the source that can help make it happen in your life, the Speak on Cruise Ships program.

For those of you who don't know I traveled with my 13 year old son Jamey. He's a great child and this trip created father-son memories that neither of us will ever forget.

We were on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Sea which sailed from Barcelona, Spain. Our first port was Livorno, Italy. Livorno is a port in Tuscany which is closest to Florence and Pisa.

For this port I purchased a shore excursion entitled Pisa and Florence On Your Own. I am a fairly intrepid traveler but because of the distance of these cities from the port and the limited amount of time, I decided it best to at minimum arrange my transportation to and from these cities with the shorex office.

We disembarked the ship about 7 am and boogied over to Pisa. Pisa was once a great naval power whose rivals were Genoa and Venice. Unfortunately, their power waned when the Arno river, which passes through the town, silted over. In Medieval days the Arno was Pisa's only access to the Mediterranean and a naval power without access to a port isn't really a power anymore.

In the glory days, however, the people of Pisa built a great church to which they later added a bell tower or a campanile. Fortunately for Pisa's future fame the architech chose a marshy site to place the campanile and by the time the first three levels of the tower was built it was apparent that the tower would forever have problems with its now familar lean. The architech was disgraced and ran out of town and efforts were made as the tower was finished to correct the problem. To no avail.

In these pictures you can see just how far out of true perpendicular the tower is. In this second picture I do my own impression of the lean.

Over time the tower leaned more and more to the point where it was feared that it would topple over. Consequnetly, officials closed the tower to foot traffic and tried to correct the problem. It took years but through a process of cables and reinforcing and counter-balancing the foundation with lead engineers were able to decrease the lean to what is was measured at in the 19th century. Officials also re-opened the tower and for those who wish to climb to the top
(and pay 15 euros) it is open.

The campanile is Pisa's main attraction although it does have a major university whose most famous alum is Galileo Galilei. We spent about 75 minutes which was not nearly enough but it was on to Florence...

Florence is a remarkable city also on the Arno river. In many ways it was the epicenter of the Renaissance mostly due to the patrimony of the Medici family. The Medici's were a powerful banking family (who were later Princes of Florence) and they commissioned some of the greatest works of art in Western culture. Works like David by Michelangelo and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambolgna, the baptisery bronze doors designed by Brunelleschi (shown below) and so much more.

I really appreciated the Piazza della Signoria which is a L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is a splendid outdoor (and free) gallery of some of the best Renaissance sculpture.

The various eye-catching statues in this square include:

At the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, a copy of David. The original by Michelangelo is being kept at the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts.



The "bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo I" by Giambologna (1594)

The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575)

"The Lion", referred to as "il Marzocco" with a copy of the "Florentine Lily", originally made by Donatello (copy)

"Judith and Holofernes", by Donatello (copy)

"Hercules and Cacus", by Bandinelli (1533)







Just off the the Palazzo Jamey and I stopped for a bite of pasta (of course). It was quite yummy. This is a photo of the table in front of us where some pigeons were helping themselves to scraps of bread left by the previous diners.

I thought it was a cool photo.









Here I am with the Ponte Vecchio in the background. This is the commercial bridge that spans the Arno river. Jewelry shops line the brige all the way over.











One of the projects we were working on during the trip is a video program covering the details of speaking on an actual cruise. For some of the program notes for this video check previous posts.

Here I review video we shot in Florence. Apparently, I was pretty happy with it.

Now if you still haven't joined the family at Speakers Cruise Free Coaching Club what are you waiting for? http://www.speakerscruisefree.com/cruise-free.html

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cruise Ship Speaking: Wrapng Up, Signing Off, Following Up (Part 4 - Lessons Fron an Actual Cruise)

As a cruise ship speaker you will be speaking most every sea day. Sometimes you may skip a sea day but it’s only because you were doubled up on another day. For example, on my recent 12-day Med cruise there were 5 sea days and two of those days I was doubled up (having one presentation right after the other) and ended only presenting three of the twelve days. Life is good. This is not the norm but it can happen.

After you wrap up your onboard presentations your cruise will come to an end. You knew it was coming. And on the last day you will sign off the ship. There is nothing special about this you’ll just get off the ship like all the other passengers.

In the day or two after the cruise the cruise director will review and report on all the passenger evaluations. He or she will also do their own report based on his or her own impressions and that of the staff, like for example the activities coordinator we talked about in part 1 of this article series. If you have performed well and in accordance with this article series and my Speak on Cruise Ships: 8 Easy Steps to a Lifetime of FREE Luxury Cruises program (http://www.speakerscruisefree.com ) you will no doubt have received positive reviews.

When you return home you should always send a little gift to whoever booked you. It need not be a lavish gift, but a little something like chocolates, flowers or a plant. I use a wonderful service that will allow you to send beautiful hand printed greeting cards as well as lovely gifts VERY reasonably. You can check out the service and send a free card at (http://www.sendoutcards.com/dhall ). This is my gift to you. (Note: if there are no gift accounts available when you try, email me at Daniel at SpeakersCruiseFree dot com and I’ll set you up personally.)

If you are ready to schedule another cruise contact your cruise contact and set it up (but wait until after your gift arrives). It is quite likely that your cruise contact will call you to thank you for the gift. This is a great opportunity to schedule something new.

Well there you have it the whole cruise speaking process from beginning to end I hope this article series was informative for you. After this last Med cruise I am convinced more than ever that cruise ship speaking is the best gig on the seven seas. I hope that I have been an encouragement to you because in fact I know that if you want it you CAN have it. Get started today. Carpe Diem.