We were able to include a cruise on this trip. We had previously sailed with Royal Caribbean and had a positive experience. We booked an 8-day cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The cruise included stops in Croatia and The Greek Islands as well as mainland Greece. We booked over a year in advance and were able to reserve 2 inside rooms that connected. The set up of this allowed us all to be together if we left the connecting door open and unlocked, giving us plenty of space to sleep and all be together without having to reserve one of the largest rooms which is what we would have needed to sleep all 7 of us.
We have taken five cruises on varied ships including Carnival, The Big Red Boat (Disney’s predecessor), Disney, and Royal Caribbean. We slept in inside cabins on all of the trips. The inside cabins are not only more reasonably priced, but also the dark and quiet were beneficial for sleeping – which we have found to be the only time we are in our cabin. There is really so much to do onboard that spending time in the room was not a priority.
Trip Day 17
Cruise Day 1
We left Venice … packed up and again 7 people with 7 pieces of luggage and 7 backpacks walked back 4 blocks, catching two water taxis and walked a mile to the ship in the only other thunderstorm which stopped promptly as we boarded!
Boarding included documents check and luggage scan; they tagged our luggage and it was later delivered to our room.
We explored the ship, found our rooms and changed into swimwear for a poolside sail away. We sat poolside (first swimming on the trip) and the kids ate ice cream!! and drank strawberry kiwi juice while Scott and I drank our own Sailaway celebratory drinks.
Music played and for the first time on this vacation, the adults were both completely relaxed as for the next week we didn’t have to be responsible to find (or make) meals, plan any adventure, or drive anywhere!! We were ready to sit back and enjoy.
We had scheduled the late dinner time and upon arrival, we found we had a table set for 9. We were lucky to have two wonderful table mates, teachers from Connecticut. They were so wonderful to the kids and fun friends onboard!!
We had the chance to be adventurous at dinner, as each night we were offered an appetizer, main meal, and dessert choices. An interesting fact when cruising, generally people order one of each – BUT multiple offerings can be ordered and we took advantage of this with appetizers and desserts so we could try the delicious choices!
For example, we tried snails for an appetizer though none of us wanted a full appetizer of snails so we ordered one for all of us to try and then ordered individual appetizers for each of us (salad or soup etc). We finished the night with some of us watching a movie under the stars on the pool deck while the rest of us joined a dance party!
Trip Day 18
Cruise Day 2 – Croatia
We slept well and woke to a new country. That first day, we visited Dubrovnik, Croatia. It’s a beautiful walled city that we were able to see while walking on top of the entire wall! We had signed up for shore excursions at each of the ship’s ports. We decided that with seven of us it would not be very easy to coordinate this time off the ship on our own and as we were in these exotic ports, we did not want to miss the opportunities to see the amazing sites each place had to offer. We were picked up at the dock by a charter bus for a city view – the orange-roofed walled city against the backdrop of the turquoise blue Adriatic Sea was unforgettable.
We were then bussed to the city for a guided walk atop the wall. The walk was warm and crowded and unfortunately we were unable to fully enjoy the tour as when we were separated from our guide by more than 10 feet the headphones that we were to use to hear the guide didn’t have reception…and with the crowds and even with just our group, it wasn’t possible to remain within 10 feet of the guide.
Our youngest made several friends this trip- many of the adults we met were enamored with her personality and her eyes… one woman actually came up to her and washed her face (as the walk was hot) and fawned quite a bit over her. She quite enjoyed the attention. The guided part of the tour aside, it was an enjoyable walk on an ancient wall and we were glad to have had that opportunity.
When we returned to the ship, the kids again enjoyed unlimited ice cream ( it’s vacation, right?), the refreshing pool, and the challenge of the rock wall.
The littlest tried duck at dinner and we again ended the night with a dance party!
Trip Day 19
Cruise Day 3 – Corfu Greece
Our first Stop in Greece was the Island of Corfu and we spent time at the beach swimming in the Ionian Sea. The water temperature was cooler than I’d have guessed it would be but that didn’t stop anyone. We had signed up for the excursion on the island to the beach – which ended up as a much needed relaxing day.
We walked along the beach where we all noticed a few things…
- It was apparently a top optional beach.
- And for most of the little’s – it was a clothing optional beach. Seriously I was laughing to myself a bit when I saw a little one playing naked in the sand nothing anywhere except a pair of underwear on his head!! Obviously protecting his head from sunburn.
The big kids were able to play at a blow-up jumpy, floating obstacle course in the water which they loved!
Back at the ship? Yes, pool, hot tub, rock wall, ice cream, and drinks. I even rock climbed !!! Fun food for the night was banana rum soup. The kids were adventurous in their choices and it was fun to try so many new things.
Dance party again and a magic show to end the night.
The kids have met some friends and it has been great for them to not only have some time with other kids but also a cool chance for them to learn about other cultures. One found a friend from Wales, another met a friend from Ireland, and the littlest found a friend who is English living in France near Paris.
The kids club on board has been a blessing for all of us. The kids have enjoyed different activities focused on their individual aged groups and spending time with new friends and to be honest having some time away from each other. The adults have also enjoyed calm adult time to relax and connect.
Trip Day 20
Cruise Day 4 – Santorini Greece
According to my daughter, the most stunning place in the world and also where she is moving to when she’s old enough. This island is well known for its whitewashed cliff villages with views of the blue Aegean waters.
We had the busiest day of the trip but it was just too amazing to miss anything! We had signed up for an excursion to hike the volcano and swim in a hot spring. We were told this was the largest caldera and possibly the eruption was responsible for the lost Atlantis! It is still geothermally active! The hike was warm but the kids all managed well.
We followed the hike with a small sailboat ride to a hot spring to swim to and in. I sort of love the attitude we encountered there – one of being responsible for your choices. No waivers to sign, but several reminders to assess our own abilities.
To get to the hot spring, we jumped from the ship and had to swim about 100 yards through some fairly deep and cold water without life jackets !! I can’t even imagine anything similar in the US, the kids loved it! The water was crystal clear and gorgeous!
We got back to port and just couldn’t imagine not seeing the town of Oia… the beautiful white city with blue roofed churches pictured in every Greek island travel brochure. Our dinner table mates agreed and we were able to rent a boat for the 9 of us to sail to the city. It was just beautiful, the boat ride AND the city.
When we returned to port, in Fiera, we had one last adventure, we took a tram ride up the cliffs to the city of Fiera where we shopped and enjoyed Greek froyo. Mmmm
Back at the ship, we enjoyed the pool, dinner, and a hot tub under the stars. These activities are perfect ways to end tour days as we simply return to the ship and dinner and entertainment is ready and available to us.
Trip Day 21
Cruise Day 5 – Crete!
Today we got to kayak! We signed up for an excursion and were bused to the beach. We had a quick lesson from our guide who was a dead ringer for Bradley Cooper! And then set out in groups of two.
The adults were paired with the littles, 2 of the kids went together and the third was paired with another shipmate. I was with the littlest and we had a bit of a time as she didn’t quite have a rhythm and her paddle mostly just hit my paddle. We made up an alternative to row your boats called row row row your kayak and decided that we should take an abbreviated ride. We did get to see fish and hold a spiny sea urchin (kids named it “fluffy” – lol) before heading back to the beach to swim.
Included with this excursion, we also got to eat a delicious Greek lunch right on the beach It was prepared for us and included with the excursion including Greek salad, falafel, kebabs, wine, and ouzo to finish up.
And we finished the night with swimming, rock walking, dinner, and drinks.
Trip Day 22
Cruise Day 6 – Athens
Wow!! We docked in the city of Piraeus which for all we could tell was just an extension of Athens… which was enormous. Home to 40% of all the Greeks in Greece.
We toured the Acropolis with the temple of Athens, and also toured the temple of Zeus and the Olympic stadium. All of it was amazing. Everything was marble; all the things- the buildings, statues, even the ground!
This was a favorite for many as they had learned so much about the ancient Greek history in school. Seeing it in person made it all come alive for them.
The visit was a whirlwind, I wish we’d had more time there. I felt that a lot on the cruise excursions. We’d been spoiled doing this trip with a car- getting to stop and go as we pleased. The ship excursions were an easy way to see so much in such a short time but I felt like we needed more time and I’d love to go back!
Back on board, we had our first major mishap of the trip, Scott got in a vicious sword fight with a pirate (or he slid on the pool deck landing on his elbow; Potato/ po-tah-to). Lol He ended up with 3 stitches and a round of antibiotics. We had never been to the infirmary on a ship before but found they are quite prepared even having an OR available. The staff was very helpful.
He handled it well and we finished the night with ice cream, drinks, rock climbing medals, and dancing.
Trip Day 23
Cruise Day 7 – Olympia
We started the day with our last excursion- a tour to ancient Olympia. The site of the first Olympics. The site was far less crowded than the Acropolis and we were able to get much closer to the ruins.
The kids even got to start at the marble starting line and race across the field. We also saw where they ignite the flame for every Olympics.
We next ate lunch at the beach before swimming in the beautiful waters.
(So far we’ve had lamb stew in Iceland, schnitzel and beers In Germany, goulash in Czech Republic, apple strudel in Austria, pizza pasta octopus and wine in Italy, and as of today baklava and the other Greek foods including wine and ouzo in Greece! Mmmmm)
However, swimming lead to the second tragedy of the trip. Our oldest two kids found a jellyfish and after touching it the oldest rubbed his face and had a burning puffy reaction!! The guide applied some medicine (what? Foreign guide (not dr ) applying some foreign meds… it would never happen in the US) and we visited the infirmary for the second time in 2 days! The staff was again very helpful. He was fine after about an hour but it looked awful and he was in some serious pain during that time.
After resting and recuperating we enjoyed cards, drinks, dancing, and dinner.
Trip Day 24
Cruise Day 8 – Last Cruise Day
We finished the cruise with an easy sea day consisting of yes…swimming, eating, drinking, Rock wall climbing and dancing.
We were finishing up the cruise and preparing for a driving day through Italy to Switzerland with plans to stop along the way near Lake Como.
On a side note… we were on an English speaking cruise, and the cruise director asked for people to cheer at their nationality. I can only remember/come up with 9 primarily English speaking countries. USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and South Africa. (though including staff there were 55 nationalities aboard!!).
A quick shout out to Royal Caribbean – When we checked in, we found that we were given adjoining but not connecting rooms. When we discussed this with customer service we were given a voucher for all of us for 25% of this cruise price for use on another cruise. I have to give all props to Royal Caribbean for this as this discount allowed us to book another cruise for almost no charge (it was shorter and closer to home in the Caribbean) but still, an almost free cruise to cover their mistake in our booking was much appreciated!!