A couple of weeks ago, Paul and I found ourselves on a 7-night Mediterranean cruise. Sounds a little luxurious for the regular backpacking itinerary, right? I think so too. The trip was a gift from Paul and his brother to their parents for their 25th wedding anniversary. Lucky for me, I got to tag along!
It was my first ever cruise and I have to admit that after a full week of full on luxury it was damn hard to go back to backpacking! I already miss the buffet and the soft comfy bed…
Our journey at sea started in Barcelona and we quickly acquainted ourselves with Liberty of the Seas. The ship was more than I ever hoped for and more. Paul and I saw a documentary on cruise ship operations not long ago and even then seeing the real thing blew my mind. I was amazed by the scale of production – from the number of staff and crew on board to the amount of food that was prepared and also the set that was built for the acrobats show. As you can tell, I was mightily impressed! In fact, I was so impressed that I told Paul I wouldn’t mind living and working on a cruise ship for a six month contract. That boat seemed like such a happy place.
There were a ton of activities on board every day – towel folding demonstrations, scrapbooking workshops, belly flop and sexiest men onboard competitions, salsa dancing lessons, fitness classes etc, etc. More often than not I couldn’t find enough time in a day to attend all the activities I’ve circled on my itinerary. All of that on top of having to find time to get off the boat to actually explore the various ports of call.
For our specific itinerary, we stopped in Marseilles, Villefranch (Nice), La Spezia, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Naples. The prices charged by Royal Caribbean for the shore excursions were exorbitant and so we found our own way and made our own plans. Most of the time we opted for something simple like exploring just the immediate towns we were in or taking a short train ride into the nearest town. My absolute favourite port was La Spezia (Italy), from where we caught a ferry to the picturesque Porto Venere. In 1997, Porto Venere and the nearby cinque terre, with their colorful hillside villages, where named world heritage sites. The village was incredibly stunning and my photos here don’t do it any justice. Paul also took a refreshing dip in the chilly waters of Bryon’s Grotto.
One of the more popular ports on our route was Civitavecchia, which was about a 90min train ride from Rome. Since I was just in Rome with my sister a couple of years ago, Paul and I decided to split up for the day where he took his parents to town while I stayed behind to enjoy the boat. I think overall the excursion went well but it was unfortunate the Trevi Fountain was under massive restoration and was barely visible behind the scaffolding.
I wish I could tell you more about the port of Naples but I didn’t get off the boat that day either and it was bliss. To be honest I really enjoyed being on the ship without the crowds. I also enjoyed my pre-dinner buffets. I probably ate more during the 7 nights on the cruise than one month on the road but at the same time I was probably the most active since I made it to the gym every day. So it all evened out!
In the evenings, after we’re done exploring the ports and/or the ship, our activities were more routine. Our dinner hosts Veldon and Dwane were incredible and their service and attention to detail were top notch! After dinner we made our way to the piano bar where David Curtis Mutter kept us entertained until the wee hours every night. If you haven’t already, you can read about how he made my dream come true here.
Going back to dinner,, we had two formal nights. After 10 months of wearing the same clothes, I was pretty excited to wear something other than hiking pants. I never thought I’d say this but I also really missed my make up. Before the cruise, I think the last time I wore eyeliner was in Hong Kong back in December! It was also really nice to see everyone all dressed up and looking sharp. Paul and I didn’t buy too many of the professional cruise photos but we did set up my tripod one night and did a mini shoot with our formal wear.
Favourite Port: Porto Venere. I had never heard of this place until the day before arriving. I’m so glad we came because it was so picturesque and so pretty. Small town feel as we explored the village.
Biggest pleasant surprise: One of the scrapbooking classes pretty much had zero attendance but I walked away with a free scrapbooking kit which I will be very happy to use once I get home!
Biggest disappointment: Volleyball. We tried to show up twice for the volleyball activity and they were booms both times. I can’t believe that on a ship with 3000 people there wasn’t at least 6 (let alone 12) who wanted to play.
And that was it! Our seven-night cruise was short and sweet. If we stayed any longer I’m afraid we wouldn’t be able to continue backpacking lifestyle. Getting a chance to experience my first cruise was great but it was also a nice to see and spend time with family. Up to now, we’ve been away from home for more than ten months! In a few days Paul and I will be in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where we start the South American leg of our journey. Just three more months left!!!
Don’t forget to visit the Gallery for or Cruise pictures!