Cruising

3 01 2015

spiritI did it. I finally went on a cruise. Yup, the big ship.

For years, people had told me “you’ll love it”, “you won’t feel the waves” and “it’s the only way to travel”.  Motion sickness and boats has always been an issue but with a life-time supply of Gravol and motion bracelets, I boarded the Norwegian Spirit in Barcelona for a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea.  Sailing from Barcelona, our destinations included Toulon, Florence, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Izmir, Athens and Venice where we stayed an additional 3 days.

Back to the waves.  Everyone on board was awake at 1:30 a.m. on the first night.  Yup, 25 foot swells.  My first thought was to curse everyone who told me I won’t feel a thing but I survived. Finding your sea legs does take a few hours. Cruising offers the opportunity to meet a lot of new people.  How can you not in a floating city?  Those we met and shared our days and adventures were wonderful.

Being a novice, I booked the tours offered by the cruise company. I wouldn’t recommend it. While you do see a lot, you get hijacked to stores you wouldn’t normally spend so much time at like the leather factory in Florence, the Cameo business in Naples or the rug seller in Istanbul. Each comes with a sales pitch and in my opinion, the time is better spent exploring the cities you’ve traveled all that way to see. In Istanbul, I skipped the rug store to explore the market and ended up being served apple tea by the owner who wanted to know why we didn’t come in to his shop.  He did, however, offer two camels for sister. As tempting as that was, I kept her. With the exception of a fantastic meal in Sorrento, the tours take you to boiler-plate restaurants where you’re rushed in and out in record time.

I didn’t like lining up to get off and back on the ship. I didn’t like paying a king’s ransom for a bottle of wine at dinner. If you buy wine or liquor off ship, the staff kindly store it for you until the end of the cruise. You’re at the mercy of their drinks pricing for the duration.

Many we met have cruising down to a fine art having sailed more than 20 times. They booked private tours (for the same cost as the cruise line) and saw much more. Would I recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines?  Yes I would. The staff and service was first rate but do your homework and book a private tour.

Cruising provides a buffet of cities and islands to sample providing the option to choose where to return. I’m returning to the Amalfi coast this summer.  I know what I’m in for – spectacular beauty, history, cuisine and exploration.  But at the end of the day, cruising is not for me.  I like to explore by taking a local bus or train. The freedom of walking and exploring is more important.  That’s just me.

 

Norwegian Spirit

Norwegian Spirit

 





A look at Florence

3 01 2015

Michelangelo. Dante Alighieri. Machiavelli.

Looking for history, art and architecture? Florence is for you. I visited on a day trip while on a Mediterranean cruise but it was enough to get a taste of this beautiful city and to know I want to return.

The architecture is incredible and the same goes for the statues and art. The Duomo is there along with the Basililca di Santa Croce. Well worth a look. The Ponte Vecchio is cool but it’s all gold shops so bring your wallet if that’s what your after. Artists sell their paintings everywhere. The main square, ringed with shops and restaurants, is the place to take a break and do some people watching.

Time is needed to see it all. But even a day trip will leave you wanting more of this incredible city. I didn’t have time to visit the Uffizi Gallery. Next time.

Basillica di Santa Croce, Florence Italy

Basillica di Santa Croce, Florence Italy

Florence Italy

Florence Italy

Florence Italy

Florence Italy