Is a Mediterranean Cruise Worth It?

Palma Cruise Ship

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

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.

Highlights

    • 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.
Cathedral in Palma

Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (La Seu)

    • 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.
Manarola Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Vernazza Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

    • 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.
Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Sagrada Familia – to give you an idea of its size, a red double decker bus is parked right in front of the cathedral

  • 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!

Disappointments

    • 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.
Coliseum Rome

Coliseum 

  • 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.

A New Job and Vacation Prep

River in Cambridge

Have you ever looked forward to something for so long that when the time finally arrives, you almost can’t believe it?

That’s how we feel right now.  With the kids off of school next week, we’re heading out on a much anticipated vacation.

On Friday morning, we’ll arrive in Milan for a Mediterranean cruise that’ll introduce us to parts of Italy, France, and Spain.  The itinerary is truly amazing.  If you follow us on Twitter, be on the lookout for pictures over the next couple weeks.

Despite my best intentions, my posting schedule continues to be erratic as I seem to miss a post every other week.  Every day I’m surprised at how busy I am not working, in the traditional sense. Continue reading

What’s Next for Ditching the Daily Grind?

fall-pumpkins

First off, to our U.S. readers, we’d like to wish you all an early Happy Thanksgiving from the UK.  As a family, we’ve been blessed and have a lot to be thankful for.  This is our first Thanksgiving since leaving the states.  We appreciate the family members who have already made the effort to visit us all the way across the pond!

That being said, there’s no doubt the last few months have brought a whirlwind of change into our lives.  Mrs. DTG graduated from physical therapy school.  I quit my full-time job.  We moved from Texas to England.  We became a one car family.  Our daughter started school.  The list goes on and on.

During all this chaos, I did a lot of thinking.  I wondered what  I would do now that Continue reading

Time For Another Move

lynford-arboretum-arch

Just as we were settling into a nice routine, it all came to an end.  We’d spent the last 23 days in temporary lodging, a 952 sq ft apartment on base.  Sleeping was a little tight because of bed sizes/configurations, but we had all the essentials.  It was nice and we got comfortable.

Until yesterday, that is.

We moved out of temporary lodging and into our new house.  While we should be ecstatic, Continue reading

Recapping Our First Week in England

England Houses 2

We’ve made it through our first week in England… and what a week it’s been!  Between traveling, finding a place to live, and figuring out how to get around mixed in with a few work responsibilities, we’ve been nonstop.

It took about 20 hours from the time we left the house in San Antonio until we arrived at temporary lodging on our new base.  The bulk of this time was a nine hour flight from Dallas to London.  The in-flight entertainment options were lacking, so thank goodness for the free drinks.  A couple glasses of wine and Mrs. DTG was out!

At the end of the day, we were all completely exhausted.  Fortunately, the kids did awesome which made our lives a lot easier and less stressful.

Every day we’re getting more and more comfortable Continue reading