My Travels by Robin Gorman Newman
August, being my birthday month, and a "big" one this year, having turned 50, I decided that I wanted to do something especially memorable as a family.
And, as one of my "direct" friends put it.........it's time to cross something off your "bucket" list.....so you can move forward and make room for other things.
I debated long and hard and ultimately decided that this was the year I wanted to visit the Greek Islands. How best to do that with a 7 year old in tow? It felt like a very big idea and trip, but I was ready to go for it!
I had taken a Costa cruise years ago (with Marc and my dad), before becoming a mom, and wasn't entirely sure it was something I yearned to do again. But, one day I was reading a conventions and business magazine featuring a write-up about Norwegian Cruises which caught my eye. They were promoting a new ship and its capacity to accomodate corporate meetings. Something about it struck me (in a good way), and I decided to explore the notion of taking a cruise. After some online research and asking around, it became evident that a cruise is a great option for a family, especially with a young child.
Checking our calendar and pouring through lists of foreign ports, and establishing priorities of "must visits," we contacted Jenny Reed of http://www.ourcruiseplanner.com/ and booked a cruise for 12 nights on the Ruby Princess. It was a trip of a lifetime. My son's first overseas trip, and our first voyage abroad since becoming parents....so it's been over 10 years. I discovered this when I dug up some old Frommer's and Fodor's guides in our basement.
Jenny was very patient and a big help with all the details and worked with us to add on a few days before and after the cruise to stay a bit longer in the ports of arrival and departure.
With major anticipation, we prepared for weeks. Packing, making lists, boarding our bird and beta fish, etc., etc. So much work when your plan is to go away and have fun. Isn't it always like that?!
Bauer Venezia (above - water entrance pictured) for two nights before boarding the ship, and I'd highly recommend it. It was lovely and well-located. The room was spacious and comfortable, and the buffet breakfast on the outdoor patio overlooking the canal was a treat. I wanted to bottle the feeling each morning we ate there. And, particularly special about the Bauer is their new program just for children and families. We were excited to take advantage of it and took a two hour private city tour with an English-speaking guide named Silvia who specialized in taking children around to enjoy the sights. She was lively and knowledgeable, and knew what would appeal to a child. The Bauer children's program also includes outings like: A Perfect Venetian Crime - a special crime mystery tour of the Doge’s Palace; Workshops at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana and a Tour of the Venice Natural History Museum, visiting the Tenùe Aquarium, the Specialized Library, Searching for Dinosaurs, Stone Creatures, and The Path of Life, accompanied by an English-speaking guide.
Ruby Princess (pictured above.) It was quite a sight when we first saw it arrive as we toured Venice. Its grandeur took your breath away. We took a water taxi from our hotel to the ship, and from that moment on, we felt well taken care of onboard. We enjoyed most of the ports, in Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Greece. Favorites, aside from Venice, were Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini in Greece and Kusadasi in Turkey (great shopping...surprisingly.)
It was scorchingly hot and sweaty, and that part was a huge challenge, especially with all the walking we did. But, on the couple of free days at sea, we got massages at the Lotus Spa and reclined by one of the pools, and it was wonderful to relax, read, be served cold drinks and look out at the water. To me, there's not much more mellowing than having the opportunity to be near a body of water...and you can't get much larger than the Mediterranean Sea.
Seth had a blast in the kid's program (Princess Pelicans) where he was well-supervised and engaged. We took him off the ship for certain excursions, but other days, when we felt it might be too much for him, he was just as happy to remain onboard and play with other kids. He loved the bunk bed in our room with a balcony, despite the fact that he fell out one night (luckily didn't get hurt). And, the special tour of Navigation Bridge was interesting, and we got to meet the captain and learn how a ship operates.
Marc and I particularly liked Movies Under the Stars....when we had a chance to watch a film on a huge outdoor movie screen, while laying on a lounge chair after dinner by a pool. They'd come around and serve you cookies and milk and popcorn. And, one "date" night, he and I had dinner at Sabatini's....a specialty Italian restaurant on the ship that was not included as part of the regular cruise...but we'd recommend it.
The ship was massive, and the cruise was sold out (over 3,000 passengers) , yet it didn't feel over-crowded. Embarking and disembarking was relatively smooth, and we enjoyed the tours we chose, especially when we had the opportunity to be on an air-conditioned bus for a bit.
The Ruby Princess featured a Piazza-style atrium, casino, four duty-free shops, Lotus Spa and fitness center, The Sanctuary, sports deck, wedding chapel, children’s and teen’s centers, disco and observation lounge, nine-hole putting course, golf simulator, library, Internet Café, art gallery, and more. So, there was something for everyone.
After the cruise, we spent one night in Rome at the Hotel Artemide (a good choice). It's on a popular (lesser priced) shopping street and walkable to many sights. I always enjoy Rome, and we visited Trevi Fountain, saw the Coliseum, Piazza Navona, ate gelato at Tre Scalini, shopped, etc. It was a full day before we flew home....exhausted (and with bad colds) yet fulfilled and chockfull of memories and stories of a trip that none of us will ever forget.