It’s been 10 days since we returned from Italy and things are finally getting back to normal… at least for me.
Mrs. DTG went back to work the day after we returned and the boys went back to school the day after that. Our daughter was off of school last week and we also had a family visitor in town.
Now, the house has returned to the quiet I’ve grown accustomed to.
In all, we had a great family vacation. Fortunately the kids’ school schedules lined up and we were able to spend nine days traveling around the western Mediterranean, the bulk of which was a weeklong cruise around the Italian, French, and Spanish coasts.
Because of its low cost and great itinerary, we chose a Costa cruise out of Savona, Italy, flying into Milan and taking a train down to Savona. The ship docked in five ports with one full day at sea. We were in each port for between 9–11 hours, which meant five long, and sometimes rushed, days of sightseeing.
Our ports of call included:
- Marseille, France
- Barcelona, Spain
- Palma de Mallorca, Spain
- Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
- La Spezia, Italy
I won’t go into detail about each place, but instead will outline some highlights and disappointments of our trip. We didn’t do a ton of research on each destination beforehand. I prefer to go freestyle and just wing it.
- Spain: Both Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca were beautiful. I was surprised at how clean and open Barcelona felt for being a relatively large city. Palma de Mallorca is in a class of its own. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
- Cinque Terre: While in La Spezia, we took a short train ride up to Cinque Terre, a series of five picturesque villages along the Italian coastline. Walking through those towns felt like being in a postcard.
- Cathedrals: Pictures do not give you a true appreciation for the size of some of these cathedrals. Both the Duomo di Milano (Milan) and the Sagrada Familia (Barcelona) are absolutely massive. We didn’t get a chance to go inside Sagrada Familia, but the Duomo di Milano seemed to go on forever. Extremely impressive. The other day, I went by a cathedral near our house that now looks tiny in comparison.
- Daily Step Count: I walked over 32,000 steps in Barcelona alone, a personal record! Other days averaged closer to 20,000. We definitely worked off whatever calories we consumed on the ship!
- Rome: Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked we got to see the Coliseum, Pantheon, and other ancient Roman sites, but I did not care for the overall vibe of Rome. It was just too hectic and not my style. We’re glad we left the kids at the Kids Club on the ship that day. It would’ve been chaos with them. We didn’t have enough time to go inside Vatican City, though we saw Saint Peter’s Basilica from the outside, and that’s probably the only reason I’d want to return to Rome.
- Breakfast: I love breakfast and was looking forward to chowing down on some freshly made omelets. But being an Italian cruise, the buffet-style breakfast only had breads, pastries, and fruits – a continental breakfast. If you wanted a hot breakfast with eggs, sausage, bacon, etc., you needed to go down to the restaurant. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a bit of a surprise the first morning and the system they had in place was a bit of a cluster. After that, we adjusted and it was fine.
- No free water at dinner: Along the same lines as the previous comment, water was not provided in the restaurant during dinner (it was available at the buffet, just not the restaurant). If you wanted to drink something with your meal, which I presume most people did, you had to buy it. The €3 for a bottle of water each night wasn’t a deal breaker but more of an irritant, especially the first evening.
Expectations management sums up our disappointments pretty well. If you know what you’re getting into ahead of time, it’s no big deal. The initial surprise is what gets you.
Prior to this, we’d be on at least a half a dozen or so cruises, primarily to the Caribbean and once to New England/Canada. As you’d expect, those all had a distinctly American vibe. This cruise, on the other hand, was a complete cultural immersion. All announcements were made in four languages (Italian, English, Spanish, and German) and sometimes a fifth (French). It was amazing listening to the cruise director and other crew members switch from one language to another without missing a beat.
For the five of us, we spent roughly $2,500 over the nine-day trip. This includes airfare, the cruise itself, one night at a hotel, train tickets, pizza, gelato, and other miscellaneous costs. In total, we visited nine cities in three countries. Aside from a cold and rainy day in Marseille, the weather was perfect. The main downside, it was exhausting!
At the end of the day, was the trip worth it? You better believe it.