Multigenerational Cruise to the Mediterranean
Posted on 07/14/2019 | About Barcelona, Spain
We are traveling as s group of 22 to Barcelona for a few days, then 12 nights sailing on the Vision of the Seas visiting amazing ports in Croatia, Montenegro, Italy, and France.
Day 1: The Challenges of Travel, traffic and missed flights
The first two days have been a challenge, weather induced traffic jams, a less then competent bus driver and a strictly enforced bag checkin cutoff time. All conspiring to force 9 of us to stay behind with the luggage and travel a day later. While the 13 others jetted off to Barcelona.
Due to the tardy and poor driving of our bus transfer driver, I had the bus company hold the bus until we could figure out our options. Delta did a good job getting us accommodated on the next flight to Barcelona.
So the nine of us collected our 24 bags 18 large checked bags, 8 small rollers, and several backpacks and loaded them back on the bus and headed to Jamaica (Queens) to our hastily booked hotel.
All was not lost, the night ended on a high note with amazing pizza delivered at 11pm, NY Pizza is the best. The nine of us devoured the pizza and laughed about our predicament, then head to bed for some much needed sleep.
I spent most of the night making adjustments with the ground handlers in Barcelona. I can’t say enough great things about https://barcelonadaytours.com/ they have been absolutely amazing accommodating our constantly changing itinerary. Still providing the scheduled tours for the travelers who where able to get there on schedule. While last minute providing transportation for 9 travelers with 18 large bags. Not an easy feat on a Spanish holiday weekend. I managed a couple of hours of rest, hopefully I will be able to sleep soundly on the plane.
Day 2: Last nine depart for Barcelona
We checked out of the hotel and headed to the airport via two Uber’s and one Lift.
With 24 total bags the logistics of getting the bags and people to the airport was challenging. Thankful The two Uber’s were on time and helpful, we loaded two thirds of the luggage and passengers as we waited for the Lift driver. This is where the hilarity continued, our Lift Driver drove by the hotel and keep going, never to come back. So we canceled and ordered another Lift, and this time the driver Sergey made a speedy arrival and got us to JFK quickly. Amy my stand in right hand l had already made contact with the supervisor Collin who helped us the night before. He made arrangements for our excess baggage fees to be waived. We got checked in and seats assigned. We headed though security without issue and headed to Shake Shack for a great lunch.
This left us with a with 6 hours too our flight, or so we thought. After lunch we learned our flight had been delayed three and a half hours giving us nine hours to wait. Not ideal, but our luggage was checked in, we were fed and it looked like we would be on our way around midnight.
One of the benefits of a 9 hour wait in an airport is the incredible quality of people watching. From the 4 year old pulling the fire alarm, to the multitude of travelers running to gates, the incredible diversity travelers. Then theirs the attire, from full parka to scantily clad, sprinkled with happy, sad and angry travelers. The ebb and flow of travelers as the waves of flights depart. Another bonus of JFK being America’s Gateway is the incredible plane spotting opportunities of the airlines that you don’t often see elsewhere in the US.
It’s now 7 pm, and we have been in the airport for just under 7 hours with close to 5 hours from our departure time. The strain is starting to wear on all of us, we are all exhausted and just want to be on our way. The last 9 are still being really being good troopers. We’re all a bit punchy and using our time to plan some fun pranks on the traveler that made it on time.
Part two Success!
After, a missed flight, and a 5 hour flight delay, the last 9 are off to Barcelona. While the delayed 9 are making our way to Barcelona. The group members who made the original flight have been treated to a Barcelona City tour, featuring Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and much more. Day two in Sitges they toured the incredible Montserrat Monastery.
In the meantime the Delayed 9 arrived in Barcelona and were whisked off to our Hotel Melia Sitges offering an excellent location with fabulous sea views.
Later this evening we had a wonderful dinner in Sitges Marina at the lovely Pizzeria del Puerto.
The rest of the evening was spiced up with a stroll around the harbor and beach ending at the Melia Sitges, where we witnessed a moving celebration of acceptance.
Day 3: Sitges and Sail Away
Today some took the morning to explore the historic center of Sitges, where we were so lucky to experience the preparations for Corpus 2019, this flower dominated celebration is a must see. The detail and commitment required from the town to put on this celebration is stunning.
Midday and we’re off to Barcelona to board Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Sea. Our transfer went like clockwork and we are quickly boarding, ready to begin our 12 day Odyssey around the Mediterranean. Sail away was beautiful, the Barcelona port is one of the easiest ports to cruise from.
Day 4 & 5: Days at Sea
After the ups and downs of the first 3 days, two straight days at sea were a fortunate bonus. Everyone recharged in their own way, spa, gym, casino and shows were all utilized.
Some of the group took a fun and tasty Sushi making class that also served as lunch, We all loved it!
The main restaurant on the Vision of the Seas has been nothing short of spectacular. Meals are super tasty, service is very good all with better then expected quality. Breakfast in the main dining room also has been excellent.
The one disappointing aspect of the dining service is the Windjammer Buffet, food options are repetitive and average at best. Sadly free coffee is mediocre at best. The Staff is wonderful everywhere on the ship, making the journey even more pleasant.
Day 6: First Port of call: Split, Croatia
Today we took a private tour with our local guide Ante of the 13th Century Island town Trogir and Diocletian's Palace (filming location for GOT) in Split. With some free time to Stroll Split and dip our toes in the Adriatic Sea.
Trogir was a stunning 6 acre island of winding paths, 13th Century architecture and visual enlightenment.
The fourth century Diocletian's Palace is reason enough to visit Split. The palace has been continuously inhabited for 1700 years, located on the waterfront, it’s an integral part of daily living with shops, restaurants, apartments, mixed in with artifacts including a 3000 year old Egyptian Sphinx.
Then there’s the waterfront, offering spectacular sea and mountain views.
On our walk back to the ship, we took a detour to the beach, to take a dip in the Adriatic Sea. Beaches in Europe tend to be pebbles, this beach was a combination of pebbles and cement with tons of umbrellas a couple of cafes, restrooms and its on train stop.
Coming from the East Coast of the US, the shocking clear the water is very awesome.
Day 7 & 8: Overnight in Venice
The weather so far has been hot and spectacularly clear, in Venice it has been no different.
We started our visit to Venice with a controversial but spectacular sail down the Grand Canal to our docking location Pier 110.
We disembarked and met our guide Charia for a walking tour of Venice and inside visits to St. Marks Basilica and Doges Palace.
We set off on a water taxi to St. Marks Sq to begin the tour. It’s an incredibly hot 96 at 10:00AM as our guide led us through St Marks and Doges Palace, both are spectacular visits.
The craftsmanship in the Basilica and views from the Bridge of Sighs in Doges Palace are both reason enough to visit Venice. We then took a short walking tour through the winding paths of Venice to Rialto Bridge and the Iconic views you get from the top.
We then made our way back to the Gondoliers for a Gondola ride around Venice. Yes it’s very touristy, but not to be missed.
After the Gondola, some headed back to the ship by water taxi, others shopped, and we wondered the paths to see what treasures we would find. I highly recommend you just wonder in Venice, the little treats of beauty are bountiful, the crowds dissipate as you wonder away from St. Marks Square.
We ended the evening with a lovely dinner at Al Vecio Pozzo Ristorante, enjoying lobster with pasta, tiramisu, and iced coffee.
We then took a leisurely stroll back to the Vision of the Seas as the sunset on a very hot but rewarding day.
On day two in Venice we explored the non touristy neighborhoods of Venice enjoying a Venetian breakfast of coffee and pastries.
We ended the morning with some retail therapy before taking a water taxi back to our ship and our next port of call. One thing I know, 2 days in Venice is not nearly enough, but it gives you enough time to realize you’ll be back.
Day 9: Kotor and Budva, Montenegro
I can’t think of a better way to see The Kotor region of Montenegro, then arriving by ship. The breathtaking views from Kotor Bay are top 5 in my travels. As you sail to Kotor your mind wonders to how can I retire here, or when can I get back to this paradise, and you still haven’t gotten off the ship. Montenegro is a mountainous country with sparkling beaches, 9th Century walled villages, small manageable cities with gleaming apartment buildings and a multitude of 4 & 5 star accommodations. If you like the beach, hiking, boating, fishing, or history Montenegro is a must do.
We started our tour with a drive over the mountains to Budva to see the 9th Century village, along the route we stopped for pictures overlooking a breathtaking beach and a High End resort island charging $3000/night.
We then transferred to speedboats for the real highlights of the tour. We cruised the coastline to Our Lady of Rocks Church located in the middle of the bay. Built in the 14th Century at the intersection of the bay.
The views from the church grounds are unforgettable, as mentioned earlier, top 5 in my lifetime of travel. We finished the day with a waterside late lunch with local wine and beer.
The weather as it has been since we arrived in Europe is hot, but Humidity today is low making for an excellent evening sail from Kotor.
Day 10: Day at Sea
Today is the last sea day on our cruise, before we enter a grueling 4-day stretch of full day excursions.
I spent the day in the sun, soaking in rays, putting laps in on the walking track to satisfy my watch’s activity prodding.
We finished the night with a group dinner in Izumi, the Japanese restaurant onboard enjoying sushi and cooking our main courses on Hot Rocks. We also had the added bonus of great views as we transited the narrows between main land Italy and Sicily while another excellent sunset bestowed us with great beauty.
Day 11: Amalfi Coast and Pompei
Today was the highlight for most of the Guests, and a very special day for me, our guide today is my longtime friend Marcello, as we traveled the coast road from Salerno to Positano stopping for amazing views, offering blissful dreams of return, and caves filled with nativity scenes.
Our first big stop today was at the Frantoio Garglulo Olive Grove and processing facility. Our host gave us a in-depth tour of the olive and lemon groves, we learned about farming olives and lemons and oranges. Did you know you can graft orange trees onto lemon trees, providing year round fruit, 3 lemon and one orange harvest. We then made our way to the production facility to see how the olives are pressed, followed by an olive oil tasting, which was then followed by serious purchases of oil by most of our guests. I personally may have gone a bit overboard on my purchases :)
Then we were off to a real highlight, I don’t think any group member will forget. When touring with Marcello, one of the biggest highlights is a classic scratch Italian lunch, with all products sourced within 1 mile of the Restaurant.
We started with pitchers of red and white wine, copious amounts of prosciutto, tomatoes, mozzarella, roasted vegetables, followed by pizza and Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta, by this time we were all ready to burst. Then the main course arrived with three different pastas, olive oil and zucchini tossed with homemade noodles, gnocchi in a simple, but so good tomato sauce, and a divine walnut crusted cheese ravioli, each pasta was the best I had ever had.
We weren’t done. Next we had three decadent desserts.
We still weren’t finished, next up were three varieties of Lemon Cello, Lemon, Apricot and Anise(Black liquorish) All excellent, the group was split on Lemon or Anise being the favorite. One thing I know, I’m glad I wasn’t driving.
Off to see the striking ruins of Pompei, the vivid picture presented by our guide of the history and what took place in Pompei when Vesuvius erupted was mesmerizing as we strolled the ruins. We all certainly worked off our lunch and drink. Did I mention it was just under 100 degrees and we just came from our massive lunch.
Sunset Sail Away tonight was spectacular as we sailed past the island of Capri
Day 12: Rome
We are on day two of a four day stretch of day long excursions, but for most of our group, these four days are the reason they are here.
Our day got off to a slightly delayed start due to a miscommunication with our tour provider, getting us to Rome very close to our scheduled time to visit the Colosseum, turned out not to be a problem, as the Colosseum was packed and under capacity controls. Fun fact, the Colosseum is only able to admit 3000 guests into the arena at anyone time. We ended up being delayed almost an hour, even with our skip the line tickets.
Next our guide drove past some of the amazing history of Rome, as we made our way to the Trevi Fountain, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Rome. After snapping pictures and contributing to the cause, by tossing a few coins into the fountain, we grabbed takeaway slices of pizza, and gelato before making our way to the main event of the day.
In all my visits to the Vatican, I had never been fortunate enough to be dropped off right at the entrance to the Vatican Museum, as we did today compliments of our driver Francesco. We met our guide Anna and we were off to see the Museum.
Did I mention its 98 today and the Museum is not air conditioned, its July and the beginning of European family vacations. These circumstances made our tour a little more grueling, but the sights we saw offered nonstop ohs and ahhs. After a couple of hours in the Museum we made it to the Sistine Chapel to view Michelangiolo’s masterpiece. In the last few years, air conditioning and excellent lighting have really improved the viewing of the ceiling in the chapel.
After contemplative viewing, we headed through the side door for groups and direct access to the St. Peter’s Basilica again a must see when you visit Rome, no matter your religious views. After exiting we wound our way around the Vatican City, viewing the Swiss Guards and marveling at how intricately intertwined the Vatican City and Rome are. In the gift shop selling everything Vatican, one of our guests discovered he miss understood the pickup point for his backpack, our guide explained where we needed to go to retrieve the bag, I contacted our driver, he picked us up and we retrieved the backpack without incident.
A few personal beliefs about visiting Rome on a cruise. Rome is amazing but not really suitable to visit in one day from a ship. Ideally you would spend three to four days in Rome to adequately see the city and really enjoy your visit. This also holds true for the Venice and Florence stops in Italy. If you really want see these three destinations, please plan accordingly. For our guests this is their first time in Europe, and for this reason, a cruise is a great way to sample destinations, that you really want to comeback and really see.
Day 13: Livorno Florence and Pisa
As been the case our whole trip, there’s not a cloud in the sky, the sun is shining brightly and its 95 plus again today, the conditions are relatively low humidity, but its still hot!
We took the shuttle to meet our guide Stefani, loaded the bus and we were off to our first stop today Pisa, where we all tried to help push the leaning tower back into position. When visiting Pisa take a little more time then just snapping a picture and running off to your next destination. We took an hour to tour the grounds, and Duomo, have a coffee and Gelato and some quick dress shopping for the young ladies.
Due to the incredible heat, a few members of our group decided to take taxi back from Pisa, and enjoy the day on the ship.
Off to Florence where we encountered a major traffic jam creating a fortuitous trip through the beautiful Tuscan countryside arriving about 45 minutes late in Florence. Stefani did a masterful job leading us around the streets of Florence to see the most important sights, all while keeping us at a pace we could all handle.
I may have not mentioned that we have a group of travelers from 12 to 78 years young, some with mobility issues, Stefani handled this like a pro and we all had a great day, she even bought us Gelato in her favorite shop.
We fished the day with a picture overlooking Florence.
Florence is my favorite city in Italy, offering easy access to Tuscany and Cinque Terre. Ideally you would spend 3 to 4 nights in the Florence area.
Day 14: Marseilles, Avignon and Wine Tasting
Today we got off to a rough start, we had to take a 20 minute walk to our bus, as port rules don’t allow for private tours to access the pier area. Their was a bit of complaining but all was well when we boarded our ice cold bus. Our first stop today is wine tasting, as we drive to the countryside the views of the South of France are spectacularly beautiful, even from the motorway.
Everyone really perked up when we entered the Chateau Fortia Vineyard, did I mention this part of France is spectacular? We took a tour of the winery learning about the Chateau de Pape appellate, visited the cellar and then the main event, tastings of Chateau de Pape, White (Very rare) Traditional, Cuvée and Reserve, each offering was excellent and more buying commenced.
Then we were off to Avignon to visit the old walled city, you could take days walking the narrow streets, visiting shops, cafes, restaurants and visiting the Papal Palace. Did you know the Pope spent 30 years in the South of France due to conflict and wars in Italy.
Some shopped, some took time for a traditional French Lunch, then it was time to head back to the ship for the last time.
It’s Lavender season in the South of France, providing beautiful vistas, and great smells.
When we got back to the port, we had a pleasant surprise, due to a sea breeze the temperature had dropped to a pleasant 80 degrees, from 95 in Avignon. This produced an enjoyable walk back to the ship, and some last minute shopping port side.
After boarding the ship we were treated to a 4th of July Celebration with cake, champagne and a balloon drop during a lovely rendition of the national anthem.
Day 15: Barcelona Homeward Bound
We all meet this morning at 7:45 to disembark one last time and head home via Delta to JFK, our flight has been uneventful and we are arriving a surprising 70 minutes early. By NYC standards, traffic was light for the ride home, from our spectacular holiday.
This trip provided some challenges, but as a group we overcame the bumps to have an amazing vacation. We saw and experienced so many amazing locations, enjoyed excellent culinary treats, and collected a lifetime of memories.
Multigenerational Travel provides some challenges, but the rewards reaped are far more significant.
About the Ship: Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Sea, was a spectacular host for our group. She may not be the newest latest greatest thing, But the Vision of the Seas provides comfortable accommodations, outstanding dining and service, you won’t soon forget. Give the old girl a try, she just might wow you, as she did me!
If you would like information on how we can make you travel dreams come true. Contact us at email@example.com
Side note: The group gifted me with a new group leader flag, that I put to good use. I didn’t use it at the Vatican!Stop into the office to see it framed for posterity :)