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January 2010

December 2009

MSC Poesia cruise review and photos


ABOVE: MSC Poesia cruises up the Giudecca Canal in Venice at the beginning of a roundtrip cruise to Istanbul.

Not long ago, we published a 10-page MSC Poesia cruise review, which was based on a 7-day Eastern Mediterranean cruise that we took last October. We've now expanded that coverage with a massive MSC cruise photo gallery

The 241 captioned photos show what we saw during our roundtrip cruise from Venice, Italy. Just as important, they contain practical tips and observations that may be useful if you're cruising to Venice, Bari, Katakolon, Izmir, Istanbul, or Dubrovnik.

The cruise review and photo gallery are part of our Europe for Cruisers site, which focuses on ocean, river, and barge cruise lines that offer port-intensive voyages in Europe.

'Security theater' at Schiphol

mouse at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam

ABOVE: This Dutch rodent, like alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab, had no trouble getting past Schiphol Airport security. (The snapshot was taken before a flight from AMS to London City Airport.)

The term "security theater" is often used to describe screening of passengers at airports. Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport puts on a bigger show than many of its competitors do, with long check-in lines at gates for U.S.-bound flights so that squadrons of plainclothes security officers can bombard passengers with questions like "Who packed your bags?" and "Did anyone give you anything to carry on board?" 

Unfortunately, the recent incident on Delta's Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit showed that the security officers were asking the wrong questions. Perhaps "Do you hate America" would have been more effective--or, in a tribute to Mae West, "Is that a stick of dynamite in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?"

We can now expect even bigger security-theater productions at Schiphol and other airports, thanks to the ill-fated explosive device that Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab reportedly had taped to his thigh. Our suggestion: Require bit players, a.k.a. passengers, of both sexes to wear skirts. Trousers can make it hard to search for contraband, but it's easy enough to check whether a flying Scotsman really is wearing nothing under his kilt.

'Acqua Alta' floods much of Venice

ABOVE: Elevated walkways help tourists cope with acqua alta at St. Mark's Basilica.

Acqua alta, or "high water," has flooded Venice again. The water level on Wednesday, December 23 reached 146 cm, or 56.6 inches--less than last year's peak of 160 cm or 63 inches (which was the highest in 20 years), but high enough to cover an estimated 60 per cent of the city's streets and squares.

Venetians are used to acqua alta, which happens when high tide, low atmospheric pressure, a scirocco wind blowing up the narrow Adriatic Sea, and other factors push water into the Venetian Lagoon, over the tops of canals, and up through drains. It's been a frequent occurrence in recent weeks, so bring rubber boots--or maybe even your trout-fishing waders--if you're coming to Venice soon. For more about the phenomenon, see our illustrated acqua alta article at