2010-06-07 Mediterranean Cruise Honeymoon
Had a fantastic time. So much to see but so little time. Lots of pictures are up, so feel free to browse.
Some interesting thoughts about europe:
- Europe is expensive
- Credit cards are NOT accepted everywhere - especially for tours
- Smoking is everywhere. Restaurants even have a smoking section
- Europeans eat Dinner late
- Gotta pay to use the public toilets - up to 1 euro 50 cents
- Most toilets don't have seats
- I'm in love with both Paella and Sangria
- Day 0 - Arrival in Barcelona
- Day 1 - Barcelona & Start of Cruise
- Day 2 - Cannes
- Day 3 - Florence/Pisa
- Day 4 - Rome
- Day 5 - Naples
- Day 6 - Sea Day
- Day 7 - Venice
- Day 8 - Venice
- Day 9 - Dubrovnik
- Day 10 - Corfu
- Day 11 - Sea Day
- Day 12 - Sea Day
- Day 13 - Return to Barcelona
- Day 14 - Flying Home
- Overall Cruise Experience with Royal Caribbean
After a long plane ride we arrived in Frankfurt on the way to Barcelona. Unfortunately for us we had to go through security screening there. The Canadian Maple Syrup we bought for Tim had to get tossed. Not a good first experience in Frankfurt
We arrived in Barcelona around 10am, got our luggage, and grabbed a cab to take us to our hotel (Tryp Apolo). We arrive at our hotel around 11am and I was expecting to not be able to check in because we're so early. Fortunately they had a room ready so we got it with no wait. The room was a bit small but apparently that's the norm in Europe. After our trans-atlantic flight we were both exhausted and decided to have a quick 2hr nap before exploring our surroundings
We roamed around the port area and Las Ramblas just taking in the atmosphere. A good friend of mine was flying in from England so we went back to meet him at the hotel at around 5pm. He checked in and before we left we made a reservation at a restaurant the hotel Concierge recommended. We headed back to Las Ramblas consume sangria. Two pitchers of Sangria later we picked ourselves up and grabbed a cab to our Dinner reservation.
Dinner was a 3 hr experience and it was awesome. We had lots of Tapas, had a bottle of wine, then had a massive plate of Paella. Yummy. After dinner we grabbed some ice cream for Kat then crawled into bed. Apparently Katrina woke up at 3am because there was a crowd of people in transition from the bars to the late night clubs. These people are serious about their partying
The next morning we wandered around some more in Las Ramblas and found a nice breakfast place for coffee and food. We spent the morning with Tim and dropped him off at the Metro so he could catch his flight back to London. We went back to the hotel, checked out and headed to the boat
Boarding a ship that holds 2300 passengers takes a while but it went smoothly. When we made our booking Dad recommended a room with a balcony and we found a good price. Fortunately for us the Cruise line decided to upgrade us to a Junior Suite. This thing was bigger than the hotel room in barcelona. We had a couch, a chair, a balcony with deck chairs, and even a walk in closet. We were definitely spoiled. We headed up to the WindJammer restaurant for a buffet lunch.
We met up with some of the Cruise Critic people in the Sky Bar as we set sail on our adventure. We had to cut that event short because we had the 6pm seating for dinner. There are three choices for dinner -
- 6:00pm seating
- 8:30pm seating
- Anytime dining
After Dinner Rebecca (one of the Cruise Critic People) let us know that they had an opening on their first 3 excursions because one of the couples just never showed up. We jumped at the chance to get private excursions as we'd be able to see much more things than if we tried doing it ourselves. They ended up being cheaper than the boat excursions.
Dinner wasn't quite enough for both Kat and myself so we decided to have a small pizza at midnight (Skyview Restaurant). If we continue to eat like this we'll have to get rolled off the boat by the time the cruise is over.
Cannes was a tender port so we had to take a shuttle from the Cruise ship to the port. We joined the line early to get our #1 tender ticket and it took about 20mins to get to land. The poeple on this excursion were Rebecca, Tony, Matthew, Eileen, Chrissy and us. We waited for our excursion guide (Katrine) and after 10minutes Rebecca decided to call to find out what was the delay. Apparently she was hanging out at the wrong pier waiting for us. That was the start of the Comedy.
We jumped into Katrine's van and headed out of Cannes for our excursion. We were going to Eze, St Paul de Vence, Monte Carlo and Monaco. Nice was having some celebration and the traffic in that town was ridiculous so we didn't go there
Eze was really nice and at the top of the village we paid to get into the Exotic Garden which had some excellent views of the coast line
We explored Monaco on foot and had a tasty Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil and olive oil sandwich for lunch. We checked out the Casino and did a lap around the formula 1 track. There was a car show going on by the coast line and they had a Red Evolution MR on display. Needless to say this was a highlight for me
Katrine then returned us to the pier so we could pick up our tender but unfortunately it was the wrong one. Laughter ensued because this was the same place she waited for us in the morning. It only took us a couple minutes for her to get us to the right pier :) Katrine was a really excellent tour guide and gave us a gift when she dropped us off at the port.
We got back to the ship in time for dinner - I had Steak and Kat had crab and mushroom ravioli.
The same set of people set off on this excursion. Our guide for this leg of the trip was Paulo. Quite a different experience from Katrine. He was dressed in a suite and was more of what you would expect from a tour guide, but he wasn't as fun as Katrina. We started off by going to Pisa to beat he crowds and then heading to Florence.
We stopped off at a beautiful spot overlooking Florence to see the bronze copy of Michelangelo's David. Lots of photos here. We made it to Academia at 11am skipping the long lines as Paulo took care of reservations for us. The Statue of David is truly an amazing piece of work. Even though you weren't supposed to take photographs inside I managed to take a couple pics of this amazing statue
The next stop was the Uffizi Gallery. Unfortunately we didn't get a guided tour but we definately should have. The sheer volume of artwork in this place is amazing but after a while it starts blurring together. I guide would have helped filter out the ordinary stuff so you could focus on the extra-ordinary
Got back to the ship and had dinner (what did we eat that day?). We skipped dessert because there was a Honeymooners get-together arranged by Royal Caribbean. They had cake, champagne and Mimosas. There were 53 honeymooner couples on the cruise !!
Our excursion guide for today was Stephano Costantine from Rome Cabs and we had the same people on this tour. We drove into Rome and stopped by Palatine Hill to get our tickets. Stephano took us right to the entrance and bypassed the massive line of people. Avoiding lines is very important when you're severely time limited..
Took some pictures of the Roman Forums then we went off to the Pantheon. It's one thing to explore ruins but to be in the Pantheon walking on the same floors that Emperers walked was pretty amazing.
Our next stop was Trevi Fountain. I wasn't expecting such a large fountain. We took more pics, threw our coins into the fountain, and then made our way to the Spanish Steps.
The Spanish Steps were a bit under-whelming compared to the Colosseum. We walked up the steps, taking lots of pics, then headed off to lunch.
Stephano had a reservation for us for lunch at L'insalata Ricca where we ordered pizza and beer. After all that walking the 1/2 litre of beer didn't last very long.
We had a guided tour of the Vatican with (insert name of guide here). The next stop was Vatican City and we had a tour guide (name?) to take us through the Vatican. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
This tour was arranged by Donna Cusimano so we had her family with us (Donna Joe Angela Alex Gina) along with Rebecca, Tony, Eileen, Chrissy and ourselves. Our excursion guide was Ginaro from Rome-in-Limo and this guy looked like he was in the Mafia. We went directly to Pompeii and Luchia took us through the city. She was excellent and you could tell she was very enthusiastic about being there.
Positano was the next stop. Our tour guide didn't seem to have any plans about lunch so we forced the issue and ended up eating at Buca di Bacco on the beach in Positano.
We went along the Amalfi Coast and stopped off at Emerald Grotto. We took an elevator down from the coastal road, paid our entrance fee and entered the grotto. We boarded a small boat and everything was quite dark. I was busy looking for the tunnel that would get us out of the small entrance room into the grotto but alas there was no tunnel. The entire tour was 1 room and it took under 4 minutes. I think the laughter that ensued was well worth the entrance fee.
We had some extra time so we went to Sorento before heading back to the ship
We got up early, had breakfast, then headed to the pool where we spent most of the day.
There was a Meet and Mingle put on by Royal Caribbean for the Cruise Critic people at the Hollywood Odyssey on Deck 13. Got a chance to meet everyone that I was chatting with on the forums previously
This was the first formal night of the cruise so out came my Brown Suit and Kat wore a black and purple dress. Katrina had Escargot to start and the Seafood Bruschetta as the main course. I had the Lobster Bisque to start and sliced beef as my main
I thought it would be fun to use public transportation to get around Venice. I had done some research previously and had a general idea of where I needed to go and what I needed to buy. Some other cruise people decided to follow my lead. We walked from the cruise ship to the people mover, then to Piaza Roma where we purchased our 24hr vaporetto pass. We jumped on Vaporetto #1 which took us to St Mark's Square - much more cost effective than to use the Ship's arrangements.
We had a 3pm reservation to avoid the lines for Basilica di San Marco. I walked up to the front of the line, presented my reservation (it cost 2 euro to make reservations online). The usher at the front directed me to join the line. 2 euro wasted lol. Fortunately the line was very quick so we didn't wait long at all. We checked out the museum first and went on the balcony overlooking the square. Beautiful photo opportunities there. The 4 horses were outside on display but they were copies. The original bronse horses were inside the museum and I took pictures of them
The church was amazing. The architecture everywhere was beautiful. We picked up some trinkets then headed to the Bell Tower to get a nice view of Venice.
Got lost walking around, stopped off for beer and bruschetta and then did some more walking. Kat felt the need to use the bathroom so we headed to the nearest Water Closet (public bathroom). We found it but it had closed 15 minutes previous. Katrina went to a nearby restaurant to see if she could use their bathroom and she was promptly shewed out of the restaurant. She had a bit of a breakdown after being treated so rudely and we went back to the restaurant where we drank beer and they let us use their bathroom so all was well
We were looking for a really nice piece of Murano Glass to take back to Canada and found a wonderful piece. It was a swirl design and had the carnival colours done by Archimede Seguso. It was a pricey piece but it was so nice we decided to get it.
We looked on the Grand Canal for a nice restaurant to eat dinner. We found one that offered free Bellini's to get us to eat there AND they had free wifi. We sat down, drank our Bellinis, had some wine, had seafood spaghetti, then headed back to the ship. Got back around 10:30pm and went straight to bed. All these excursions are exhausting and by the time you get back on the ship, all you want to do is sleep.
We went to Doges Palace for our Secret Itineraries tour. When I made the reservation I requested the 9:55am tour but I guess that was full because the receipt I had showed an 11:30am. Since we had to get back to the ship at 1:30pm and the tour lasts 70mins that was really cutting it close. To say Katrina was stressed about the timing was a bit of an understatement. I figured we could just start the tour and leave a bit early and make it back to the ship on time but she wasn't having any of it. I asked the ticket agent if we could switch to the 9:55am tour but it was full. We put our names on the stand-by list for the early tour. Fortunately someone didn't show up for the tour so we were able to squeeze in.
Tonight was the 2nd formal night so I busted out the black suite, black shirt and red tie. Katrina wore her black and red dress to match. We both had the crab and shrimp salad to start, Katrina ate the Seafood pasta and I had the beef. Tasty tasty tasty.
After dinner we attended the Masquerade ball althought we failed to purchase masks in Venice so we didn't participate. Was really fun to see all the formal wear and people in venetian masks
A quite note re transportation - I found out after the fact that there was a free shuttle bus from the port right into St Mark's Square. The Cruise ship never mentioned that but why would they. They are more interested in you spending money on their transportation.
We chose to explore Dubrovnik without a guide. We exchanged some euros for local currency (kuna is 7:1 exchange rate) then we grabbed a local bus for 8 kuna to the old City. The posse today included Donna, Joe, Angela, Alex, Gina, Eileen, Chrissy, Connie, Jerry and ourselves. We walked on the wall around the city and took some amazing photos. Gina only lasted half the walk so Donna took her down from the wall and waited for us at the exit. It was ridiculously hot but there was a nice breeze up on the wall which made it bearable. We had lunch at Pizzeria Ferfeto. We chose to go inside because they mentioned they had A/C. Apparently in Dubrovnik, A/C means "thick cool walls + fan". At least the pizza was tasty and the beer was cold.
After lunch Donna and Connie decided to check out more churches and the rest of the posse decided to lounge on the public beach nearby. The water was fantastic and refreshing but the beach was a bit awkward to walk on because of the stones. I guess i'm so accustomed to nice white sandy beaches. We got some drinks at the bar by the beach and ouchie were they expensive - 10 euro each for a Pina Colada and a Mud Slide. We met up with Donna and Connie at 4pm and took our public transportation back to the ship.
In the dining room we had Samosas and onion focaccia as our appetizers and Thai Shrimp as our main course.
Donna had arranged this excursion with Daily Cruises Corfu. The captain of the Nautilus for our boat excursion was Lakis. It was an amazing day just relaxing and swimming. Lots of wine (maybe too much wine for some /cough Kat) and the food was amazing. We had home made bruschetta, sausages, lamb, chicken and Fish. Lakis was an excellent host and treated everyone like family.
I had the lamb for dinner and Kat had the Quiche
After Dinner we went to the Love and Marriage game show on board. They had three seats available, one for the oldest couple, one for newly weds, and one for something else. The oldest married couple in the room was about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. All the newly weds stood up and had to kiss each other. The winner was chosen based on audience applause. We came in second :(. The couple that won practically had sex with each other in their seat. The oldest married couple got all their questions right and won the grand prize. Can't quite remember what it was but the other two couples got a bag of Royal Caribbean junk.
Since we spent so much time in the sun the day before, we stayed out of the sun today. No hanging out by the pool for us.
Tonight was the last formal night so the Brown Suit came out again and Kat wore her black and white zebra style dress with red shoes.
We did take in the headliner show - a fusion of Opera, Pop, and Classical Music
Got up early to get good seats at the pool. Was cool and windy so wasn't a pleasant day for hanging out by the pool. We took a break and did some packing, had lunch, then went back to the pool
There was an ice sculpting demonstration and in 20minutes the chef made a really nice fish
Katrina took part in a Dodge Ball tournament but even with her extensive experience she wasn't able to make the podium.
We attended the farewell show put on by Royal Caribbean and even went to the Farewell Dance Party afterwards
We got off the boat at 8:40am, got our luggage pretty quickly, then went outside to grab a taxi. The Taxi line was tremendous and we didn't get to Hotel Medinaceli until 10am. We checked in then headed to pick up our Hop on Hop Off Bus tour tickets.
Our first stop was Sagrada Familia and it was incredible. The outside was filled with detail. Kat wasn't that interested in going inside but she knew I wanted to check it out. The inside has to be even more incredible than the outside.
Park Guel was our next stop and it was another amazing place. The architecture of this place was outstanding. We walked all the way up top, then across to a Cross with an amazing view of Barcelona.
We took the Montjuic Cable car and checked out the castle at the top of the hill. More amazing views of Barcelona.
Our hotel concierge recommended 7 Portes restaurant so we went there at 7pm. It's a swanky place and we started off with a pitcher of Sangria and then had Paella for 2. Very tasty stuff and I would go back here in a heartbeat.
Got up bright and early to head to the airport. I figured that since we were getting to the airport at 5am that the lines wouldn't be that long. I was incorrect. We had plenty of time and boarded the plane without incident.
Unfortunately we had a bit of an incident in Frankfurt. Katrina was tired of sitting so she was standing up with our hand luggage as we waited to take the bus to our plane. She let go of the small suitcase and both it and the hand luggage came crashing down to the ground. In the hand luggage was our beautiful murano glass piece that was now in several pieces . . . What can ya do, accidents do happen.
We arrived back into Ottawa at around 4pm. While waiting for immigration this old lady just walked passed 7 poeple in line, including us. I didn't see her but Kat pointed her out to me. I guess she felt she was more important than everyone else so I called her out. She "apparently" didn't speak any english but some people are just ignorant to the world. Colin was waiting for us outside and took us home. We were exhausted but struggled to stay up till 10pm so as to minimize jet lag.
This was an amazing trip and I thank my Dad for giving us such a wonderful and memorable Wedding Present
Our overall experience with the ship was excellent but we did have some issues/concerns:
- overpriced bottled water ($4) when leaving for excursions
- Fresh orange juice cost money
- no local knowledge of alternate transportation for ports . . ie public transport
- wifi - slow (wireless b), poor coverage (not available in rooms) and very expensive
- pricey excursions
- They needed another outdoor pool. Was dificult to get a chair unless you got up very early
- scrambled eggs from the buffet were terrible, but you could get fresh scrambled eggs made at the omlet station
- Yogurt was too sweet
- Disembarcation - went quickly but our bags weren't in the right area. We had purple tags but we found our luggage in the orange area.
2010-05-22 Got married
Check out the pictures in the photo section of the site