I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted last, but I promise I have a good excuse! At least, I think it’s good, and that’s what really matters, wouldn’t you agree? The husband and I have spent the last glorious week on a floating city of relaxation. That’s right, we went on a cruise. I’d never been on a cruise before, and Jamie had been on one previously, so we thought it would be a great way to sit back, relax, and see a bit of the world we hadn’t had the chance to see yet.
We cruised with Norwegian Cruise Lines, which is a relatively new fleet. Our ship was the Gem, which was built a few years ago. Quite a large ship (especially compared to the tiny boats I see around the Amsterdam canals every now and then), and plenty of room to roam around, explore, and get away. We had an inside stateroom, so no windows of balconies, and I must say that I LOVED it! No outside light to wake me up in the morning, no noise coming from the decks above/below, and the bathroom shower was larger than most of the showers I see here in Europe! Basically, I saw no reason to pay extra money for a tiny window or a balcony, when half the ship is a giant balcony to begin with. Yeah, the room was small, but honestly, Jamie and I had no trouble whatsoever, and the money we saved on the room we got to spend elsewhere (i.e. martinis for me).
We did a Mediterranean cruise that left out of Venice, Italy. I’d never been to Venice, but the day we left was not the day to go exploring. We had missed our flight the night before out of Charleroi, Belgium, because the traffic was so bad around Antwerp, so we were frantically trying to find a hotel for that night (and wouldn’t you know it, the hotel we had booked in Treviso, Italy was nonrefundable, so lost money there), as well as a new flight for Saturday morning (the day the ship was due to leave, so once we actually made it to Venice, we had one single goal in mind…GET TO THE SHIP! Once we checked in and were waiting for our turn to get on the boat, the relaxation started to set in. Finally, we were in the right place, and now all I had to worry about was our luggage making it into our stateroom. We got on the ship and I was absolutely amazed at the size of it! The ship was practically bigger than the town I grew up in! Needless to say, the luggage made it to our room just fine, and we set off to find the nearest bar and have some dinner.
We did a ship tour the first few hours we were on the boat. Norwegian ships (at least our ship) have a spa on board, and they were offering a Thermal Spa package for the whole week, so we went for it! Basically, we had unlimited access to the thermal spa for the week we were on the ship. There were specific male/female sides, each containing: a steam room, a sauna, two single-person whirlpools, lounge chairs overlooking the bow of the ship, showers, and lockers. In addition, there was a middle section that was open to both sexes that contained a large whirlpool, a thermal spa (with a huge lounge/reclining set-up in the water, with bubbles that came up around you), lounge chairs overlooking the bow of the ship, and heated lounge chairs made of mosaic tiles. The mosaic tiled loungers and the thermal spa were my absolute favorite, and we were in there every single day. It was about $200 extra for the week, but SO worth it! There were only a limited amount of spaces available, so it was a great way to get away from the kids and the hustle/bustle of the ship.
Our first port was Split, Croatia. I’ve heard great things about Croatia being the new “up and coming” vacation spot for Europeans, so I was super excited. The weather was nice and the town was pretty nice, but overall I don’t think I could spend a week there. It definitely has a lot of history though, so that was an excellent aspect of the stop.
After Croatia, the rest of our ports were in Greece. First, we stopped in Corfu. Unfortunately, it rained the entire day, so the weather made for a less than desirable stop. We did a tour of the town, and stopped in Achillion Palace for a tour, but after seeing palaces like Versailles, I wasn’t overly impressed. They do have about a million olive trees everywhere, so olive oil is very easy to find, and quite delicious from this area, so if you’re looking for some good EVOO, Corfu could be the place for you!
Our second stop was in Santorini. Santorini in one word: stunning. While the skies were overcast, and we didn’t get to see the amazing sunsets we were hoping to see, you could tell that, were the sun shining like it would be during the summer, the beauty would blind you. The traditional white buildings with blue doors and windows were exactly as the postcards promised. The weather was lovely, and once dusk/evening settled in, all the restaurants would light candles and the island just glowed. I really loved this place and it was my favorite of the trip.
Third, we stopped in Mykonos. This is the party island, for sure. Bars and restaurants were everywhere, though not many were open during the early day. We took a bus to Paradise Beach, which is the best beach of the island. The “sand” was more rocky than I was expecting, and it actually hurt to walk across without shoes. But, the water was so clear and blue…so beautiful! Tons of seafood places to eat at, and traditional Greek restaurants dotted the shoreline and the city center, so there was always somewhere to stop for a cup of coffee or a drink/bite to eat. I think it would have been much more lively at night, but it was great to be there during the day when it was relatively quite (plus, October isn’t exactly their “high” season).
Our last stop was Crete. We went into Iraklion town took a bus to Knossos, which was a site of old Minoan ruins. This place was my absolute favorite of all the sites we saw. So much history, and the archaeological site was ongoing and massive! You could hire a guide, but we found the little plaques along the way to be more than satisfactory for an explanation of what the ruins were, and overall, the place was just spectacular. We spent our entire time off the ship at this one site, and I didn’t regret it one bit.
After the cruise, we had a full day in Venice before our flight left that evening. We stored our luggage and headed out into the city to see what it was all about. Jamie wasn’t a huge fan, but I absolutely LOVED Venice! There are no cars; it’s a strictly walking district city. Jamie didn’t like the fact that it was mainly shops and restaurants on the walking path, but I found it quite interesting. After lunch, we set off to take a Gondola ride. This was so worth it! Gondola rides are pretty pricey, but honestly, we felt it was worth the price (100 euros for 40 minutes). You really get to see another side of Venice that you cannot see (literally, it’s impossible) without being in the canals. We saw the home of Casanova, the place where Mozart lived in Venice, and a bunch of other famous places. The architecture is absolutely amazing, and the city is the same as it was 400 years ago. Basically, there’s no more room to build, so there’s no “new” section of Venice. Going through the canals was probably the best part of Venice, though I would gladly go back to see Murano island (home of Murano glass), and to actually go into St. Mark’s Basilica (which we didn’t have time to do).
So yes, this is why I’ve been so poor about posting lately. The hubby and I needed some serious R&R, so we’ve been throwing our cares to the wind and checking out the Med. (not to mention eating amazing food, drinking amazing cocktails, and being general sloths overall). I have friends visiting from the States who will be here on Tuesday, so I’ll be sure to post more about our trips while they’re here. It’s always nice to see some of these places through fresh eyes, so I’ll try to give you all some of their perspectives.
As always, thanks for reading!