Our Mediterranean Adventure

So, I have a confession to make, but first let me say this, theTravelsketcher and I have always been independent travelers. Once we decide where we want to go, we read about the area, determine what appeals to us, make our own reservations, and see the things we want to see, on our own. We have been frequent travelers in our 35 years of marriage, and have taken only a few tours in that time. Some of our favorite trips have included hiking in national parks, renting a car in foreign countries to escape the large cities in order to visit little known areas where the crowds are minimal, and traveling in the off season to avoid crowds. We have always traveled light and often relied on public transportation to get around, hauling our own luggage through train and subway stations in various cities around the globe.

Fast forward to the “golden years” which includes arthritic joints and a slower pace, and it’s getting a little more difficult to haul a suitcase up and down multiple flights of stairs in busy, hectic train stations. We realized that we needed to modify our method of travel, and thus, the idea of a cruise began to creep into our thoughts.

Until a few months ago, we were completely against even considering a cruise, and have even been quite disparaging about them. However, we have friends who have taken cruises and found them to be quite accommodating to independent travelers. That is how we found ourselves aboard the Norwegian Epic on October 23rd, leaving Barcelona for an eleven day cruise of the Mediterranean.

When we first saw the ship moored at the port in Barcelona, we seriously began to question our decision; the ship is MASSIVE!! It holds 4,000 quests and 2,000 crew members and has pools, bars, restaurants, shops, a library, barber shop, day spa, bowling alley, casinos, theaters, and of course, the obligatory shuffle board deck. I heard it said that cruising is for “newlyweds, the well fed, and nearly dead”, hmm.

The atmosphere reminded us of Las Vegas, a place that neither of us enjoys, at all. However, there are quiet places on the ship to enjoy, and our stateroom was quiet and tranquil, and we enjoyed sitting on our deck watching the water glide by. One evening, as we left port, we saw dolphins playing in the wake of the ship; that was a highlight!

Our cruise included stops in Cannes, Livorno, Naples, Messina, Malta, Corfu, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, and Civitavecchia, our disembarkment location. Unfortunately, the weather was too rough to tender to Mykonos, so that port was cancelled. The ship was docked (rather than anchored off shore) in all but two of the ports we visited, making it simple to get off the ship and visit the highlights close by. In Naples, after disembarking, we walked about fifteen minutes and found an interesting section of town, and some delicious pizza.

Castel Nuovo, Old Town Naples

Similarly, in Messina, on the island of Sicily, it was a quick walk to the Duomo di Messina from the dock. Here we enjoyed a leisurely six hours of wandering, a delicious lunch, and photo and sketching opportunities for me and theTravelsketcher.

Sketch courtesy of theTravelsketcher

Messina at sunset

Our next stop was Malta. We made the mistake of booking an excursion here. We wish we had simply walked off the ship and explored Valletta on our own. We will probably return someday since we feel like we missed out on some of the best Malta has to offer.

Early morning in Valletta

Leaving so soon?

Thankfully, we had not booked an excursion in Corfu, and we were able to explore Old Town on our own.

The view from our stateroom

We thoroughly enjoyed Corfu and are considering visiting again for our anniversary in just a few weeks.

Athens was our next stop. Our excursion here was basically a bus ride to the base of the Acropolis, and then a ride back to the ship. We had six hours to explore on our own; which was enough to see the Acropolis and Plaka, the neighborhood nearby.

It was such a thrill to visit The Acropolis! Even though it was packed with tousists, it was a highlight of the trip for me.

Fira, Santorini

Oia and Fira on Santorini are charming, picturesque villages, but, sadly overrun with tourists. It was difficult to find good locations for photos because it was so crowded.

As I mentioned above, the final stop, Mykonos, was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, so we had two days at sea to get to Civitavecchia. The crew did a great job of keeping everyone entertained. We enjoyed a blind wine tasting one day which was educational and fun.

There are several things we like about Norwegian, the most important is that they treat their employees well. Every crew member has their own cabin, no roommates. We thanked one woman for her help and commented on how hard everyone works, and she started crying and gave us each big hugs. In addition, we met some lovely people and had some delicious meals.

All in all it was a good experience, and we have booked another cruise for January; on a much smaller ship. We now know what works best for us while in port, and how to enjoy the independent travel that we crave. We won’t become regular cruisers anytime soon, but is a good way to visit a multitude of locations in a short period of time, and then determining which locations appeal the most for future vacations.

As always, I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment if you’re so inclined.

Wishing you grand adventures,

Tricia

24 thoughts on “Our Mediterranean Adventure

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  1. I love your photos of the clock tower in Sicily and your photos in Corfu is simply stunning! I really hope you get the opportunity to return to Malta one day and spent a good couple of hours in Valletta (and the smaller seaside villages). We are not cruise ship enthusiasts, but like you said, as we get older, our ways of exploring new places might change (mostly to make it easier on our bodies I suppose). And as I said to Terry … we will not say ‘never’ 😉. And even while you travelled on a cruise ship, your photos are still beautiful (and you made wonderful memories) – that’s good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, I appreciate your comments! Corfu is really pretty; it reminded us a little of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. Terry mentioned that you really enjoyed Malta; I hope we get to see more of it someday. Thanks again for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, you certainly saw a lot of beautiful places within a short period of time! I really love your pictures. I’ve only done a couple of cruises but I liked how you could see a few different places at a much lower cost and the food was always fantastic and the cause of the ‘extra baggage’ I brought home. But on the other hand, I didn’t like the Vegas feel of the casinos on board and the pool party scenes all day long. It is definitely a different kind of travel experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting how our travel styles change as we get older, isn’t it? For me, it’s been a transition, as I’m going from budget traveling to more luxe traveling. Cruises aren’t my thing, but they’re definitely convenient for mobility and seeing many sites in one go. Your time along the Mediterranean looks lovely, and I’m glad you got to see Malta and much of Greece. Hope you continue adventuring, wherever you go!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally understand your reticence about cruises, we have had the same feelings about the prospect. But there’s a time and a place for everything, never say never, and so on. Your post certainly makes me think it’s something we would consider one day. The room looks cosy and having that little balcony overlooking the sea cannot be bad. Your ship was indeed an absolute beast, did it feel crowded when you were strolling around? In any case, it looks like you had a whirlwind trip, crossing off some very impressive places. I love that Messina sunset shot, a wonderful bleeding of colour and shade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly; never say never. Our room was a nice little oasis from the crowds and chaos. The common areas were quite crowded in the late afternoon and evenings, but that was dependent on the activities and shows going on. But overall, it didn’t feel over crowded. I’m glad you enjoyed the sunset shot. Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you, my husband and I are totally against cruises (too many people), but I can absolutely see their appeal and they do give the ability to see multiple places in a short space of time whilst travelling in comfort. Maybe one day we will opt for a cruise as well – I’m glad you had a great time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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