Sea Cloud arrived alongside the small cruise terminal at Salerno shortly after sunrise. Our expedition leader gave the morning announcement to rouse the guests: we would depart after breakfast for the much-anticipated visit to Pompeii. Our coaches took us up and over the steep hills behind Salerno, and in just a half-hour we found ourselves at the entrance of the vast archaeological site. It was immediately clear that we were not the only visitors to Pompeii today.

Our guides deftly moved our groups into the remains of the ancient port city, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius on that fateful August day in 79 AD. We entered the city gates and arrived in the gymnasium where gladiators were known to have trained. Adjacent to this, we viewed the well-preserved remains of an odeon and much larger theater. From there, our guides made judicious choices of which roads, shops, houses, and baths to visit; they gave us the full experience of the city while avoiding the many other visitors to the site. It was only toward the end of the visit that we really joined the throngs — but this made sense as we were in the forum, the gathering spot of the ancient city.

Thrilled and tired, we returned to Sea Cloud and enjoyed another wonderful buffet lunch. Later we met our local guides again, this time for a low-key walking tour of Salerno. This was a much different perspective on Italian cities than we received in the affluent and rarefied Taormina and Syracuse. Rather, we could appreciate the everyday life of Salerno’s inhabitants as we wandered the narrow alleyways and roads of the city’s medieval center. The interior courtyard of the Duomo and its decorative colored stonework was the endpoint of the guided tour. From there, guests continued to explore on their own; some returned to the ship, while others continued wandering the area. Three adventuresome guests joined staff members David and Jess in climbing up the pine-covered hill behind the city to reach the castle ruins overlooking Salerno.

We sailed at 18:00 in search of the perfect sunset at the tip of the Amalfi Peninsula — and during our cocktail hour we found it. Afterwards we sat for a beautiful set-table dinner on deck. The evening was not over, as we then enjoyed the rousing salty songs of the famed Sea Cloud Sea Shanty Singers. Guests and crew together joined in the customary party, and danced late into the evening!