At the Port of Rome, The “Fix” is In


Don’t get me wrong. Cruise ships and their itineraries are fantastic. A floating hotel that gives one a “taste” of many locales while providing a taste-turned-into-trough experience on board. Reliable, economical, and popular until you try to navigate shore excursion options. Then the fantasy fanaticism boards your brain.

With the launching of the latest Mediterranean Monster, Royal Caribbean “Harmony of the Seas”, Civitavecchia Port, the cattle call-of-call for Roma, has become a maze of money-grubbing madness. It is easy to assume thatHarmony, the largest cruise ship ever built, capable of accommodating the population of Rhode Island, has nudged the official and native service providers into a litany of lies worthy of Pinocchio. Ok, let’s be nice and call them “Fraudulent Information Biases”. Here we go. My list of FIBS.

FIB 1.  We are the only provider that is credentialed and legal.

While that is true for the cruise lines, there are stellar companies that do a better job at a better rate for smaller, even private, groups. And they are legit as well.

FIB 2.  No one can pick you up at the pier anymore. Increased security.

Easy for us to blame Daesh, Obama, The Pope or your travel agent for this misconception. But it just ain’t so. Companies that have the appropriate permits and passes can stand vigil at the dock with your misspelled name on their sign, ready to spirit you away. This beats the time-consuming Cruise Shuttle mosh pit that is offered to a central meeting point where less credentialed, less expensive, and less reliable pirates wait for you. Note: as of May 1, Civitavecchia has limited van size to 8 passengers or less, clobbering those great 16 seat vans that people loved for sharing a deal and social giggle. Cruise Companies, 1 – Native Nautical Experts, 0.

FIB 3.  There are Fees and Check Point Charges.

While credentials, access permits, and the ZTL camera clowns are a reality, no legitimate company on or off the boat should list or mention them. The cost for a tour/transfer should be inclusive, free of a la carte scams designed to confuse and fleece passengers.

FIB 4.  There is no reliable mass transit available.

The train from Civitavecchia to Rome is quick, cheap, and reliable. Yes, one must consider strikes and other such Roman messes. But, all in all, you get what you pay for. This is good for the gambler; wander-lust waifs and you cheapos who booked the cruise with “points’ in the first place.

FIB 5.  Cruise products and “at the pier” service providers are the only option.

My personal recommendations are the talented, honest and capable people who wait for you at the “Meeting Point” like a pack of day laborers. These are the most qualified and versed patrons of the Peninsula. They avoid lines, crowds, and cheesy tourist lunch joints run by someone’s “Uncle”. With Wi-Fi, Apps, and cell phones, these drivers and guides can be locked in at a good price that will double the experience while cutting the fee. Just get off the boat as soon as possible and catch the first wagon train to the rendezvous.

FIB 6. We are the only people who can keep you safe.

Stop. Pick up your newspaper (or go online). Read the headlines and the “above the fold” part. You are safer in and around Italy than you are on a golf course.

So, use the ship products. They are a great extension of the services and amenities that make the cruising travel option an unbelievably popular choice. Or, lock in something private through pier or meeting point purveyors. Even ride the rails.


Better yet, just let me know and I’ll meet you. We’ll do an Otis Redding salute on the dock of the bay, umm, sea.


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Tom was born Thomas James Shaker on August 13, 1952, to Mary Katherine Christopher Shaker (daughter of Italian immigrants) and Mitchell Francis Shaker (son of Lebanese immigrants) in the town of Niles, Ohio. He is the fifth of eight children. He scored the lead role in his kindergarten play Frosty the Snowman and never looked back. Throughout his 12-year parochial education, Tom mixed high academic marks with countless arts, sports, and student government activities. This culminated with his becoming a participant, then counselor and finally consultant to the National Association of Student Councils (NASC) and its affiliates in Ohio (OASC) and Pennsylvania (PASC). Tom also was selected and participated in the Buckeye Boys State leadership conference sponsored by the State of Ohio. He continued these activities as he prepared for undergraduate school. Entering Kent State University in September 1970, Tom immediately became involved with activities surrounding the tragic campus shootings the previous May 4. He was a founding member of the Candlelight Vigil Committee and continued to work with the Centre for Peaceful Change. From 1970-74, Tom produced many theatrical works off campus while performing in university theatre department plays. He was inducted into three honoraria and given the Senior Service Award. Tom graduated with countless student activity, government and Arts credits highlighted by his work as the publisher for the Chestnut Burr Yearbook and Kent Stater Campus Newspaper. Tom earned his AEA Actors' Equity Association Card (the union for professional stage actors) in the summer of 1974 as the third cowboy from the left in Oklahoma and fourth Buddhist from the right in The King and I. He was accepted to Akron University Law School, attending in the fall of 1974. But, the draw to the arts was too strong and he left law school to continue his main pursuit, the stage. Tom spent 1975 as a teaching consultant for the Portage County Schools, filming and coaching teachers on classroom presentation and speaking techniques. He began his Masters Degree program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, autumn, 1976. Again Tom graduated with high marks and a series of honors in spring, 1978, most notably serving as President of the Michigan Union. He also worked on a graduate school scholarship as a counselor in the University Admissions Office. Tom simultaneously spent those years in Ann Arbor battling Hodgkin's Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer that warranted his regular sessions of MOPP Chemotherapy throughout his academic tenure at the U of M. With diploma in hand and a clean bill of health, Tom moved to Detroit and spent twelve years distinguishing himself as an actor, director, producer and Edu-Tainer. He earned union membership in Screens Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Announcers (AFTRA). His countless commercial, industrial and film credits included national spots for General Motors, the voice for Cadillac and a role in Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy. He also formed his production company, staging dozens of musicals including Fiddler on The Roof, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma…and touring schools with creative interpretations of classic works from Shakespeare to Aesop to Dickens. His Edu-Tainment company created an improvisational concept called Storybuilding where student stories and ideas were brought to life before the entire school assembly of their peers, thus building creative writing interest, literacy skills, and self-esteem. He even developed a school outreach program for McDonalds Corporation and actually portrayed the character Ronald McDonald for the dozen years he spent in Detroit. He also served as a board member for The Ronald McDonald Houses (RMC) in both Ann Arbor and Detroit and was a consultant to Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities (RMCC) at Hamburger University in Oakbrook, Illinois. Broadway had always been beckoning. In 1991, Tom moved to NYC and spent another decade in countless film, television, theatre and Edu-Tainment projects. Productions included Law and Order, Ransom, 15 Minutes, Die Hard III and a critically acclaimed showcase of his original musical Birdsville ,(adapted from the Aristophanes farce), staged at the Kauffman Theatre on 42nd Street. In 2000, Tom travelled to Rome, Italy in search of his Italian heritage. A two-week vacation turned into a change of continents and he is now a dual citizen commuting between The Eternal City and The Big Apple. He is Dottore Shaker in Italy, Director of Performing and Visual Arts Education, consulting at Sapienza Roma I University and Link Campus University. He is also a member of the USO committee in Rome, serves as a volunteer warden for the American Embassy, and is a past president of the American International Club of Rome (AICR). He has spent countless hours on various sets and sound stages including Cinecitta, “Hollywood on the Tiber”. Mel Gibson selected Tom for the role of Eyepatch in The Passion of the Christ. Then, the Cinecitta Jerusalem of Gibson became the Roman Forum for HBO and Tom was cast for recurring appearances in the drama mini-series, Rome. He is the Court Lictor in the episode titled Spoils. In Italy, Tom is writing his books, At Home in Rome, 24 Hours in… and Italy with Tom Shaker. He is scouting for his documentary Film "Kissa Grandpa" and producing/singing an album of new jazz standards with his band, "Tom and the Cats", featuring his original tunes, Bella Roma and Italiano-Americano. He has produced and recorded the album, Giggin’ with God, in the Vatican City studios. Tom has completed principal photography for the first fifteen episodes of his International media project, Where in the World with Tom Shaker, Rome 360º, the Churches. He has completed the pilot for his wine series, In Vino Veritas, as well. In Paris, France, Tom co-wrote, shot and starred in the TV series, Forget About It (Fugedaboudit), the story of a bar/diner owner and his screwy clientele. The show was accepted and showcased at the Hollywood Film Festival in December 2012. Works in Progress include: • In Vino Veritas / 30-minute episode series about wines of the world • 24 hours in… / a look at Piazza, Square and Centers around the Globe • Post Production, Rome 360º, Season I • Pre-Production, Season II, Rome 360º, March 2013 • Episode and distribution development for Forget About It 2016 will see the completion of his latest screenplays, The Siege of Malta and Roma Rewrite. Finally, Tom keeps busy in Italy lecture-guiding friends, colleagues, and referrals around the entire boot and islands.

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