Self Love, Gratitude and My Morning Routine

As you might have already read, on my trip home from Venice this past October was definitely a time for me to reflect on my life in more ways than one (click here if you missed this post). Many people have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day, however all of these reminders of love really wanted me to write something to help some in regards to having a more positive attitude during this time of year. Whether you’re married, single, in a relationship, in a complicated relationship or whatever your status is, we all crave happiness and love in our lives. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my life so far, is that no matter what, you need to love yourself first, practice gratitude and have a true understanding of what makes you happy. If you miss these vital steps, you can lose yourself in a relationship, or worse off, never find that place of true contentment.

On New Year’s Eve, I performed a very powerful intention setting ceremony which was very sacred to me. I wrote out my intentions for this year on a piece of paper and at midnight I rolled it up with some sage leaves and smudged my apartment and all my crystals with it, putting my intentions into the universe. One of my intentions for this year is to fully practice self love.

My Path to Self Love

I’ll be totally honest, I have huge self image issues. I’ve struggled with this for years now. You won’t find a photo of me on my Instagram, I prefer to take photos of the beautiful places I visit than to be in any of my photos. It’s something I’m working on, on a daily basis. I feel I’ve made huge strides with this since practicing self love and daily gratitude, but it’s a work in progress. Being grateful has a huge impact on your path to finding self love and acceptance. I want to clarify, self love is not being selfish. It’s coming to an awareness of what you truly have to offer, who you are as an individual and you are fully aware of all your faults and failures, after all, you are just “human”. Self love is about being the best you and standing up for your truth. It involves understanding your body’s presence, limitations and need for nourishment, exercise, rest and rejuvenation. You need to strive to practice self love daily.

My morning routine is my way I make this a daily practice and priority.

My Morning Routine

Every morning I wake up at 5:30am. I make my way to my living room, sit on my yoga mat and meditate for ten to fifteen minutes. Immediately after my meditation, I write in my journal. I always start off with “Today I am grateful for…”, and from there I let my gratitude and thoughts for the morning flow. After journalling I do thirty to forty-five minutes of yoga to completely “wake up” my body and get ready for the day. I recently started a ketogenic diet again (I love how I feel on a keto diet overall, more in a new post soon), so after yoga and a shower I make myself a keto latte (steamed unsweetened coconut milk with a couple shots of espresso), sit at my dining room table and organize my day ahead of me. My morning routine helps me with stress levels, making sure I’m starting the day with intent and focus, and keeps me grounded.

Self love is so important. Creating this mindset along with gratitude is key for being a successful person in all aspects of your life. Find your rituals that speak to you. This could be going for a walk, doing a cross fit class, setting time in the evening for a relaxing bath, reading a book or sitting in silent meditation. These are examples of practicing self love you can do on a daily basis. It’s about finding a self love routine that helps you accept, forgive and focus on you.

How do you practice self love and gratitude? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Love and light,

Ariane

 

 

 

My Guide to Venice, Italy

I heard a quote once about Venice:  “Visiting Venice is like eating a box of chocolate liqueurs in one go…” (author unknown).

Now it might not be just like that… It depends if eating an entire box of chocolates makes you sick or not lol. But I do understand the decadence the author might have been referring to…

Venice is luxuriously self-indulgent.

I envy any true Venetian who calls this incredible city “home”. The art scene in Venice rivals any museum, the city itself you could argue is an open-air museum and art gallery on display for the world to admire. Venice captured my heart.

Where to Stay:

Venice is expensive. I’ll be honest though, spend the money, it’s worth it. Some of the hotels you can stay in here are incredible, impeccably pristine and are an experience in themselves. Venice is not as large of an area as you may think. The alleyways and crowds can make getting from point “A” to point “B” a little longer than usual, but wandering the streets of Venice is part of the romance of this place.

Hotel Ca’ d’Oro – 3 Star – Located near the Cannaregio area of Venice, this 3 star property is great value. It’s about 15-20 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, 7-10 minute walk from the famous Rialto Bridge and Market. Hotel Ca’ d’Oro is clean comfortable and reasonably easy to get to by Vaporetto (nearest station is within 5 minutes).

Santa Chiara Hotel – 4 Star – I booked this hotel solely on location on the way back from my cruise. It’s across the street from the People Mover to the Cruise Ship Terminals and across the bridge from the train station. It’s one of the only hotels on Venice that you can physically drive to. The buses to and from the airport also depart and arrive right behind the hotel, as well as several different vaporetto stops, so for location and ease it’s amazing. The service of the staff and rooms are amazing as well. I booked a Deluxe Canal View room and it didn’t disappoint. It’s been recently renovated, the rooms are very well appointed and a deluxe breakfast buffet was also included.

Hotel Danieli – 5 Star – This hotel is a Venice classic. Featured in so many films, once you stay here, you’ll understand why it’s a must. Part of the Starwood hotel brand, Hotel Danieli has the most perfect of locations, located mere steps from St. Marks Square and the Doge’s Palace. The restaurant here is incredible and overlooks the Grand Canal.

Other hotels to note: The Gritti Palace, Hilton Molino Stucky, JW Marriott Venice and The Westin Europa & Regina.

Where to Eat:

When you visit to visit Venice, “foodie town” is probably not what you are thinking. Sure Venice probably is in the place you want to have certain Italian foods if it’s your only stop in this amazing country, however Venice has amazing gastronomical offerings available to it’s visitors. Venetians have a very different way of living, but they’re definitely doing it right. Typical Venetian breakfast would be your cappuccino and cornetto (as with most of Italy). Lunch could be a slice of pizza at a local bakery, a Panini or even a calzone from one of the small bakeries you’ll find along one of the winding pathways. Remember, any good restaurant doesn’t need to have waiters outside trying to get you to sit down to eat with a “free glass of wine” or a “tourist menu”, all the good places are already busy.

Venice is known for its seafood and still to this day there is a fish market at the Rialto Market every Monday, definitely something to check out. Most cantinas and restaurants send their chefs every day to get local produce, fish and other daily finds for amazing daily creations and specials.

But early evening/late afternoon, is strictly for cicchetti. Cicchetti is similar to tapas, it’s a variety of small bites that you enjoy with a glass of house wine or as Venetians call it “umbra”, which literally translates as a glass of “shade”. Usually when ordering cicchetti, you can have an entire meal with a couple glasses of wine for under €20 per person. For dinner Venice boasts some of Italy’s best restaurants. In Venice you can find several Michelin star restaurants, and several restaurants that cater to the locals which in my opinion are just good. 

The local drink of choice, that depends where you go. As mentioned, house wines in Venice are amazing whether you choose white or red. However with Venice’s location to the DOC and DOCG areas (regionally protected wines) means the prosecco here is super fresh, crisp and reasonable. Check out Al Prosecco to try some amazing local prosecco by the glass in this hip wine bar setting. Also, Venice is the birth place of the real Bellini. Make sure you try this very refreshing cocktail at least once. I enjoyed mine whilst watching people go by near Piazza San Marco.

Some of my favourite restaurants in Venice include Ristorante Wildner which is located on the Grand Canal near San Marcos Piazza, walk along past Hotel Danieli near the San Zaccaria vaporetto stops, you’ll find this amazing restaurant. They had a delicious 3 course meal for €25 including a starter, main and dessert. For Michelin star dining, try Il Ridotto behind Hotel Danieli in a small piazza. I tried their tasting menu and it was INCREDIBLE! They also own a trattoria right across in the piazza, called Aciugheta. I had a pizza, Aperol Spritz and a few glasses of wine here for lunch after trying Il Ridotto for dinner one night. Good atmosphere and great selection of local wines. For cicchetti, favourite of many locals would be Cantina do Spade near Rialto, and Al Timon in Cannareggio.

What to see:

Venice is one of those magical places where you want to get up early to take advantage of the true local life or what’s left there of. Venice at sunrise overlooking the Grand Canal is one the most beautiful moments that I’ve ever experienced. Simply wandering the alleyways of Venice (and getting lost) is something that you definitely need to do. Taking in the sights, the smells, the atmosphere and truly the soul of this place. Sometimes that’s the great part of travelling. While wandering the streets of Venice I turned the corner and came across a gentleman playing the violin on the steps of a church. I stood there, for a few minutes, peering through an archway, whilst the locals went about their daily life. Again, one of those moments I was so happy to have come across. It can be easy to get lost in Venice, however follow the signs to the nearest popular points of interest (yellow signs on most buildings pointing the way down alleys to Rialto, San Marco, and other popular areas of Venice).

For museums, Doge’s Palace, St. Marks Basilica and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum were my favourites. I also wandered the area around the Accademia which is near where the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is located.

I also did trips over to Murano, Burano and Torcello. You can do a guided half day tour, which I did, however I revisited all the islands myself with vaporettos (the ferry system in Venice). Torcello holds most of the history of Venice, as this was the first of the islands in the lagoon that was inhabited when Treviso was invaded (more on Treviso in another post soon). Burano, is know for its beautiful lace making and colourful houses. It’s a stunning fishing village that you want to visit in the early morning or early evening once all the tour groups have left. Murano is the island of world renown glass. True Murano glass is still made here on this island and crafted by amazing artisans. I did purchase a few pieces, just be sure that you are buying from a reputable shop as some do sell glass from China.

Another thing to do whilst in Venice is to try to take in a performance at the opera (or at least try to do a tour of the opera house). It’s one of those things that truly gives you a glimpse of life into Venice’s luxurious and opulent past.

If you’re looking for a great local tour option, check out Urban Adventures. They offer some great small group tour options in Venice. I love Urban Adventures as they are typically food based tours and are also run by in the know locals, so you get a true taste of what local life is like in the place where you take a tour with them. They take you places that not many tourists go, so it’s very well worth it!

How to Get Around:

So as you may know their are no cars on Venice proper.

So getting around involves walking or taking water transport of some sort. There are multiple water transport options. To and from the airport you have the Alilaguna ferries. Around Venice and to the other islands, you have the vaporetto system (run by ACTV), which is very similar to city buses just on water. You can also hire private boats (water taxis) to take you from point A to point B in VIP style. Water taxis are by far the most expensive way to get around Venice when it comes to transport.

Finally, you then have the very touristic water transportation of gondolas. A gondola ride can cost you upwards of €80 for an hour and is not typical a mode of transportation anymore, but really just a tour of the canals. It’s still a beautiful way to enjoy Venice’s past and see the city from a different angle.

I did do a lot of walking around Venice, but found it very nice to use the vaporetto system. I would highly suggest buying the pass for as many days is you feel you need it, as it is a better rate, however you can buy a 24 hour pass (also a pass with the bus transfer to and from the airport). You do need to validate the pass before you get onto the vaporetto, you will see a validation machine, which you just hold the RFID embedded pass in front of until it goes green and beeps. If you failed to validate your vaporetto pass (ACTV pass), you can be fined. The passes are good for all ferries and vaporettos with ACTV, so day trips to the other islands of Murano, Burano, Torcello and Lido are all included.

Honestly I LOVED Venice. Italy to me as a country feels like home, but Venice even more so. My Great Grandfather is from the Veneto area, so I feel a connection to Venice. I can’t wait to come back here.

I know over-tourism is a problem, the “No Grandi Navi” (No Large Ships) debate is still strong, however after visiting, it seems the vaporettos and water taxis create more of a wake and waves than the large ships. Cruise ships at that speed really create no wake, but it’s a big debate. Where I think the true problem lies is the large amount of cruise ship passengers and tour groups that just visit Venice for the day only. I can see the frustration, I myself got frustrated with one tour group in an alleyway, I guided an elderly “nonna” past them whilst they took up the entire space, not being considerate to the passers by. These passengers also don’t necessarily support the true local businesses. The true locals who own restaurants, artisan shops and stores are being left out to the street vendors who hawk products made in China where they buy a magnet or a tacky tourist bag with “Venezia” written across it. I know this is a whole other conversation, but I think it comes down to being a conscious traveller. We do our best to support local at home, we need to strive to do this abroad as well.

I hope you are able to visit Venice for more than a day, it’s truly an amazing, romantic and unique city.

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you! Please contact me if you’d like more recommendations.

Happy travels!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Coming Soon – Cruise Port Guides

I was going to write and post a few reviews of my past couple cruises (cruised Alaska in September and just recently returned from another Mediterranean cruise in October), instead I want to write something different.

The one thing that I found a bit of trouble with in doing my own research was finding updated information on cruise port information, what to do and see without taking a tour off the ship. Experience local living as much as possible and see things on my own.

So I’ll be putting together some cruise port guides over the next few weeks of some of the port cities and towns I’ve visited and information I found helpful in getting the most out of my visit.

Stay tuned!

Why another trip in Italy changed me…

Coming home from my last trip in October felt very different from the rest.

Ok, I might have said that with every trip I’ve come back from recently, but this time it was different… I didn’t feel like I was coming back “home”.

Home can be different for everyone. For most people, home could be to build a life and strive to build a home for their families, etc. Home is where most people’s families, children, pets, lives are. Home is a very powerful concept. For me, leaving Italy this past trip was hard, I felt like I was already home. I was going back to a life that was just a means to an end. Driving back to my apartment once back in Vancouver, it just seemed “off”. Especially coming home to another yearly rent increase sitting in my stack of mail.

Life in Vancouver has really changed let’s be honest. It’s expensive AF and it seems less and less is being done about it. As someone who lives off of one income (proud of it), if things continually keep going the way they are, I can’t afford to live in this beautiful city anymore. I won’t be able to live comfortably (live without stressing about paying rent that’s astronomical, etc). So it was time to make some shifts and look within.

So flashback to me sitting in the Venice airport, I honestly did not want to get on my flight. I was dreading leaving this place I found so much peace and sense of home in the craziness that is Italy. As I was wallowing in my sorrows that boarding time was approaching and how any thoughts of making a run for it just wasn’t plausible, a woman beside me pulled out a journal and started to write “Today I’m grateful for the amazing trip I’ve just experienced”. I literally wanted to cry. The Universe had just given me a huge wake up call in more ways than one in that moment. I started chatting to the girl beside me about how I couldn’t help to have read what she wrote and how it really touched me in that moment. She explained she was going through a messy divorce and had gone through a miscarriage a few months prior and this trip was her healing gift to herself. Since her miscarriage, she had been recommended to do a “gratitude journal” to help her through it. She said it saved her life. It helped her be strong when her husband left and start rebuilding a life that she was proud to live. Next surprising thing which helped her, yoga. Yoga everyday. She said it helped keep her mind clear and able to focus on what’s happening and be present.

It was so amazing chatting to her. I believe the Universe puts situations and people into our lives at the exact moment we need to learn, hear or heal. This was that instance for me. On my flight out of Venice, I made a promise to myself to start a personal wellness challenge on the first of November. First step was to start a gratitude journal. Second step was to implement yoga everyday.

Now I’ve done yoga before and love it, but can yoga everyday really make a difference? Yes, yes it can. It does give you clarity and helps your physical body as well. Since doing yoga pretty well everyday, sometimes twice a day, I can honestly say hand on heart, that I’m so much less stressed, I’ve lost weight and feel physically stronger than going to the gym. I look forward to yoga and cherish my time on the mat.

But it was a few days ago that it really all fell into place. I woke up at 3:30am with what I wanted my long term goals to be. I spent a few days researching and thinking, then getting a bit discouraged. I wanted these ideas to work. So a few days later I journaled about being grateful for my experience in Venice and how I wanted to manifest my dreams. I very specifically wrote out what my long term plans are and what my intentions in regards to manifesting abundance moving forward. Then I headed off to my Yin class. After yoga I listened to a podcast (Rachel Brathen, love her) about manifesting abundance and putting trust in the Universe. I also wanted to work on focusing on living my life out of a place of love, not on what I have had to overcome (death, loss, etc), so I purchased a beautiful large piece of Rose Quartz and some Jade that afternoon. Later that night, right before I was about to go to sleep, someone had shared a quote for that day, it read “The Universe is saying to you today: Trust that your desired results will be manifested into fruition in your life and all is going to Divine right order. Stay balanced, grounded and focused. Love yourself more”. Ummmmm… Okay! So accurate for that day it was scary and the acknowledgement that I was working towards the right goals was amazing.

So here it is…

I’m now on a journey to become a yoga teacher, I also want to host healing wellness retreats around the world and eventually purchase an agriturismo property in Italy where I can have a yoga studio on the property in a restored barn to host workshops,  retreats and weddings. That’s it. I don’t know if it will happen in five years or fifteen. But I’ve got the clarity and the goal. I’ve got something I’m now consciously working towards.

Pivotal moments happen in our lives, we just need to open our hearts and minds to the prospect of the blessings they can bring.

This blog will change a bit, I’m excited to continue writing about the amazing places I got to see and experience this past trip (Paris, Venice, Montenegro, more of the Greek Islands and Croatia) and continue to give advice on countries I visit in my travels along the way in the future, but I’ll also focus more on my journey as well.

I hope you’ll continue reading and stay tuned for expressions of interest for a few wellness retreats starting in 2019 and 2020.

With love and light,

Ariane

Norwegian Bliss Christening Celebration Cruise ~ May 30th to June 2nd, 2018

I was very grateful to have been personally invited by Norwegian Cruise Lines to take part in the brand new Norwegian Bliss’ christening and four day celebration cruise on May 30th, 2018 out of Seattle, Washington.

Honestly, it was an amazing experience. I had watched the Bliss from her steel cutting ceremony, through her entire build. So being onboard, especially for her christening was a proud moment for me.

The Norwegian Bliss was my first mega ship, all other ships I have ever sailed on had a maximum capacity of 3200 guest, the Bliss has an almost 5000 passenger maximum. She broke the record for the largest passenger ship to ever sail through the Panama Canal and now to sail to Alaska.

Day 1

I arrived at Pier 66 in Seattle quite early, at about 9:30am. I used www.cruiseseattleparking.com (Republic Parking Northwest) to park conveniently right across the street from the pier. The lot also has a skybridge attached to the pier for easy access.

IMG_4558

IMG_4559

Once there I lined up to check in, as there were quite a few VIP guests and events, boarding was delayed a bit, but I was onboard by 11:30am.

I headed up to my room, cabin 14116. It was a beautiful balcony cabin (thanks NCL!). It was really well designed and loved the colour palette.

IMG_4731

IMG_4733

Once settled in, I headed to Taste for lunch with a celebratory glass of wine. The food onboard was really good. Then it was time to start exploring the ship.

IMG_4560

I can’t believe the feel of this ship. With over 3100 onboard, she feels half empty, or like a small ship even. She’s designed so well that I never noticed any crazy crowds! After muster, I headed straight upstairs to the Observation Lounge where I was to be for the christening events. It was a great experience and had a lot of fun and bumped into several other travel industry friends. It was great to celebrate all together and toast to the Bliss and wishing everyone who sails on her health and happiness.

IMG_4575

IMG_4902

IMG_4903

After the christening it was time to relax for a bit back in the cabin and get ready for a special dinner I was invited to by my Norwegian Cruise Line Business Development Manager. I ate dinner in the beautiful Manhattan Room, one of the main dining rooms on the Norwegian Bliss.

IMG_4594

IMG_4595

IMG_4596

IMG_4597

IMG_4598

IMG_4904

Everything food wise was AMAZING! After dinner, it was time to check out the sail away party that was moved to the Atrium instead of the pool deck. I partied the night away until about 11:30pm, then headed back to my room, where I found my daily for tomorrow, an invite to a cocktail reception tomorrow evening and a mouse in my coffee cup…

IMG_4605

Day 2

If you’ve read my other cruise blog posts, you know I’m an early riser. This gave me an amazing advantage on this ship during this preview. I was able to see and get some great photos of places without anyone…

IMG_4606

IMG_4607

First stop… Starbucks… Yes, it is a proper Starbucks and you can use your Starbucks Card here to collect Stars, however you cannot redeem rewards onboard.

IMG_4641

This is the main Atrium, where guest services is located, Starbucks and a great sitting area. Upstairs you see The Local, a great bar with a bowling alley (yes, a bowling alley).

IMG_4613

IMG_4614

IMG_4615

Next up, the heart of 678 Ocean Place…

IMG_4617

IMG_4618

IMG_4619

IMG_4620

IMG_4621

IMG_4623

IMG_4625

IMG_4630

IMG_4632

IMG_4633

IMG_4634

IMG_4637

IMG_4638

IMG_4751

IMG_4753

IMG_4754

After my walk, it was time to relax for a bit, so I did that in the gorgeous Observation Lounge…

IMG_4643

IMG_4646

As I was relaxing, I noticed a few spouts of water in the air, we were following two humpback whales!

IMG_4647

IMG_4652

IMG_4654

The Observations Lounge is one of my favourite places on the ship by far! Checked out more of the ship, had breakfast at Savor (eggs benny), then toured the pool decks and the Haven Suites.

IMG_4658

IMG_4726

IMG_4727

IMG_4728

IMG_4896

After, I headed down to the Bliss Theatre for the Partners First Executive Presentation, where the President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines spoke to us about the Bliss and the future of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

IMG_4781

It was the Seafood Extravaganza up at Garden Cafe, so I had to take part in some Alaska King Crab and Lobster…

IMG_4786

IMG_4788

I went back to the Atrium as Wyland (who painted the hull of the Norwegian Bliss) was signing posters. I’m a geek like that, so I did get one lol…

It was time for energy in the form of sugar… So I tried Coco’s…

IMG_4748

IMG_4784

I tried the Tiramisu Coupe, and it was as good as it looked…

We then heard an announcement that the rumours were true… Pitbull was onboard and he was going to do a motivational talk with us… Back to the Bliss Theatre…

IMG_4799

IMG_4798

He’s honestly a great speaker. But it was time to get ready for a cocktail party I was invited to in the Observation Lounge, followed by dinner at Taste.

IMG_4802

IMG_4804

IMG_4805

IMG_4806

IMG_4808

IMG_4809

Tonight was Jersey Boys, it was such a great show! It does have a bit of swearing (quite a few f-bombs), but it’s such a great show and the cast was amazing. The entire last song was a standing ovation. By the time the show ended, I was beat…

IMG_4810

IMG_4812

Such a great day exploring the ship, followed by a perfect sunset with a glass of prosecco on my balcony…

Day 3

5:15am I was wide awake…

Had an amazing sunset, well this morning’s sunrise was just as beautiful…

IMG_4814

Grabbed a Starbucks then watched us sail into Victoria from the Garden Cafe.

IMG_4815

After breakfast and once we were docked at Victoria, it was time to try out the go carts onboard. They. were. awesome! Totally worth it!!!

IMG_4816

IMG_4817

After my carting session, I wanted to grab a few photos of the ship as it was really hard to get any in Seattle… On my walk along the breakwater I had a friend show up…

IMG_4837

IMG_4845

IMG_4846

IMG_4826

I didn’t spend much time off the ship as I can see Victoria whenever I want as I live so close, I didn’t want to waste any precious time so I headed back onboard.

Once onboard I wanted to try a couple of the specialty dining restaurants as most weren’t open to us due to all the special events onboard. So I was able to try “Q” for lunch.

IMG_4608

IMG_4609

IMG_4847

IMG_4848

I ordered the platter, but was so hungry I dug in before taking a photo… Oops…

On to dessert… A macaron, Grand Marnier Cupcake and a cup of Gelato later… Relaxed on the Waterfront for a little while, then again went to walk it all off (or waddle, not sure, but needed to move)…

IMG_4853

IMG_4854

Teppanyaki…

IMG_4852

Skyline Bar near the Casino…

IMG_4765

IMG_4760

IMG_4761

Sugarcane… Home of my FAV mojitos onboard, seriously try the Raspberry Guava and the Pineapple Coconut, even a classic mojito from here is HEAVEN!

IMG_4762

IMG_4763

IMG_4764

Eventually my feet got tired again, I hit my daily walking target by noon everyday on this cruise haha! So I relaxed in the Atrium while Wyland was painting, it was so amazing watching him paint. I think I actually picked up some tips for our next sip and paint that I may want to try out. It was so nice just listening to the jazz music and enjoying an artist at work.

IMG_4859

IMG_4870

It was then time to hit another cocktail party, then enjoy my last dinner in the Manhattan Room…

IMG_4766

IMG_4767

IMG_4769

IMG_4907

IMG_4871

Again, sorry, no food photos.. I was hungry…

After dinner it was time to try out the other production show called “Havana!”. It was good, costumes and dancing was great, but the Jersey Boys was better.

IMG_4877

After Havana! it was time for bed… It was an amazing cruise preview. Upon arriving back to my room I had a few extra goodies waiting for me so I did a “swag” photo of all the moments I collected this cruise…

IMG_4880

Day 4

A very sad day… Disembarkation day is never a happy day for an avid cruiser… I loved this ship, I can’t say enough about the staff and how beautiful the Bliss is. I was off the ship by 9:30am and sadly scanned my cruise card for the last time and dragged my luggage down the gangway…

Until next time Bliss, until next time…

A huge “thank you” again to Norwegian Cruise Line for the personal invitation to be apart of this special cruise. It’s something I’ll never forget and beyond grateful for being onboard for all the celebrations. I can’t wait to be back onboard on September 8th when I cruise to Alaska for the third time.

xoxo

WanderlustJourney

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 11

Day 11 – Naples, Italy

Today I celebrated my birthday in one of the most beautiful places on this planet… The Amalfi Coast.

IMG_2091

We arrived into Naples quite early, just after 6:30am. Had coffee on the balcony, taking in what today meant to me, I was grateful. Grateful that I was spending my 32nd birthday here. Grateful that I had the chance to re-start my life the way I was able to on my terms. Today was exciting and both sad. Excited that I would be seeing the Amalfi Coast, but sad this was the last full day of my cruise. After coffee, I had breakfast down at Cagney’s. After, I headed downstairs to depart the ship and meet up with my tour. I booked “Explore the Amalfi Coast” tour though Shore Excursions Group. There was about 20 of us all together, I lined up first and grabbed a window seat on the right side of the bus when looking out the from window (when getting on the bus, sit to your left), this is the best view of the Amalfi Coast as it’s on the right side as you travel.

Driving towards the Amalfi Coast, we passed by Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius while listening to Marco our guide give us a history of the area. We then entered some crazy long tunnels to eventually arrive at Sorrento. We did a stop at a limoncello factory, did some tastings and I bought a small “Sorrento” ceramic mug. I was more interested in the view of Sorrento and taking in it’s beauty.

IMG_3899

IMG_2086

We then continued on and arrived to the Amalfi Coast. The drive is incredible. It’s stunning. The roadway winds along the mountain, as the cliffs go straight down to the water, many hundreds of metres in some spots below. We continued on to Positano, where as we arrived, the entire bus sang “Happy Birthday” to me. This was honestly the best birthday ever. Positano was beautiful. I’ve wanted to come here for years and it took my breath away. I honestly can’t wait to come back here.

IMG_3904

IMG_3908

IMG_3910

The ceramics from this area were also equally as stunning. I was on the hunt for an olive oil pourer and I knew I would be able to find one today. We stopped for lunch just on the other side of Positano, at a restaurant over looking the water, perched on the cliffside. Lunch was included and consisted of bread, salad and a bowl of fresh made pasta (the pasta was a specialty to the Amalfi area). We sampled some of the olive oils with lunch and fell in love with a lemon infused olive oil (we are in the land of lemons), little did I know this was going to change my kitchen decor once I got home lol. I purchased the lemon olive oil as it was just so good.

IMG_2095

 

IMG_1421

IMG_2098

We continued on to the town of Amalfi, this is where we had the most free time. Some opted to go out on a boat tour, I just wanted to wander. I headed into the main square where I found a limoncello maker on the corner, right beside the Cathedral. I walked in and was immediately welcomed. I spent quite a bit of time here learning about limoncello and speaking to the son of the family run business. They not only sell limoncello but some beautiful ceramics which I found my olive oil pourer! I bought some Crema di Limoncello (please try this limoncello, if you don’t, you’re missing out!) and a few bottles of regular limoncello for gifts for friends.

IMG_1429

IMG_4547

IMG_1428

Heading down to the water, I stopped for some gelato at Savoia, which apparently has the most amazing cakes as well. Tip: Wear a swimsuit under your clothes! I waded in the water for a bit, it was so inviting and warm, it was really the only time I actually swam in the Mediterranean! So many said they would have loved to have gone in, but they didn’t have their swimsuit. Dried off  just in time to meet the bus to continue on to Ravello.

IMG_2097

IMG_2096

This entire area is gorgeous. I can’t wait to come back and actually spend a week or longer here. The Amalfi Coast is where my great-grandmother is from before she moved to Scotland to marry my great-grandfather. It was so nice to have that deeper connection to this area. Unfortunately there were quite a few forest fires in the area, it did hinder slightly the blue skies, but it was still beautiful weather nonetheless.

IMG_3912

IMG_3913

IMG_1452

Instead of back tracking, we found out that tour buses (even the smaller ones) are only allowed to travel eastbound on the Amalfi Coast highway. It’s so narrow in places that it would be too dangerous. So we went over the mountains to head back to Naples. It was such a great trip. I totally recommend it! I am actually doing another Mediterranean Cruise in May 2019 and will be doing a similar tour again, this time spending more time in Positano and Sorrento.

Once back onboard the ship, I entered my room to it completely decorated for my birthday. It was such a nice surprise! I had another two bottles of prosecco, one from the Captain another from the Hotel Director and a huge cake! My towel animal was also a turtle (this one and the elephant towel animal was my favourite).

IMG_1461

IMG_1463

I caught the “Farewell Show” tonight and it was great to see the final goodbye from the staff. Upon leaving the theatre, it was nice that the Hotel Director and other officers greeted me by name and wished me a “Happy Birthday”, honestly I can’t say enough how great the service was on the Spirit!

IMG_1469

IMG_1468

I then had my last dinner at Windows with friends, again staff singing Happy Birthday and shared my cake with everyone who wanted a piece (it was huge). We all sadly said our goodbyes, I headed back to my room and regrettably packed. I tagged my luggage with my “priority” tags and placed my bag outside my cabin door.

The next morning, I had my last breakfast at Cagney’s and said my goodbye’s to all the staff. I picked up my luggage from the Priority area off the ship and boarded the shuttle to the port entrance. I took another shuttle to the train station and bought a €5 ticket back to Rome. This was almost the same train that I paid €16 for on the way here, just made two or three more stops. Once back at Rome, I checked into my hotel (Hotel De Petris) and headed out for my Vatican tour.

This cruise was amazing, the itinerary was incredible. Yes the ship is older, but I still would sail on the Norwegian Spirit again in a heartbeat. I loved the staff and the size of the ship. You could easily make friends and bump into people again and again. Nothing felt too busy. Food was very good, didn’t really have a bad meal anywhere.

I can’t wait to travel with Norwegian Cruise Lines again in the future!

 

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 10

Day 10 – Messina, Sicily

Today is my last day of year 31. It’s been a heavy year, but it’s ending on an extreme high. I couldn’t be more grateful for spending my birthday away and experiencing such an amazing cruise. We arrived into Messina just after 7:15am and ate breakfast at Raffles. After, it was time to head down at catch my shore excursion, Exclusive Taormina and Messina from Shore Excursions Group. Once we were all on our bus (about 10 of us), we left the port and got a bit of history on Messina before we got onto the motorway which consisted of over 68 bridges and 39 tunnels to get to Taormina. As we arrived, Mt Etna came into view, still erupting and smoking in the distance.

IMG_1995

IMG_1998

IMG_2002

IMG_1999

IMG_3863

IMG_3862

We had a walking tour of Taormina, then had a bit of free time wander and enjoy the local foods, Cannolis and Arancini. Taormina was beautiful. I really enjoyed walking around this village, you can really sense you were in the land of the “Godfather”.

IMG_2079

Walking back to the meeting point, I noticed that Mt Etna had really got quite active since we arrived earlier.

IMG_1378

I ended my visit in Taormina on a high note with more gelato, then enjoyed the relaxing drive back to Messina. Once back in Messina, we did a driving tour of the town, then ended at the church near the cruise port. I thought the bell tower was really interesting. It had a full astrological chart on the side with the moon phases and what chart we were in. It was really neat!

IMG_1383

After, I decided I was going to head back to the ship and enjoy the pool for the last time. There was only one more full day left of my cruise! It was so nice to relax and cool down after a few busy days. With only one sea day on this itinerary, I take the relaxation where I can…

I had saved a bottle of wine for today, so I opened it on my balcony for sail away out of Messina. It was nice to just sit on my balcony and just enjoy. As we sailed through the Strait of Messina, two dolphins put on a show right beside us. So good!

IMG_1392

IMG_1395

IMG_3898

I then took in the performance of Tre Amici. It was their second performance onboard this cruise, however I missed it the first time and was told I had missed out. They were AWESOME! Kind of reminded me of an Il Divo performance. Honestly the last two songs brought tears to my eyes, they were amazing.

After the performance I headed to Le Bistro to use some onboard credits. I had the Napoleon de Legumes and a Creme Brûlée for dessert. It was so delicious.

IMG_1398IMG_1399

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 10:

Next up… Naples, Italy!

 

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 9

Day 9 – Valletta, Malta

I woke up early and made myself some coffee, opening the balcony door was like hitting a brick wall, even at 6:45am it was hot and muggy. First time on this trip I felt the heat this early in the morning and the mugginess. I was actually somewhat surprised that it didn’t seem like there was too much humidity with the heat (which was great) on more days of this cruise, it seemed quite dry the air most of the time, except for today.

I ate at Cagney’s this morning, had my french press of Lavazza, followed by Tahitian Vanilla French Toast with Mascarpone and Berries. Soooo good…

IMG_1209

This morning we were also able to pick up our passports, it was recommended that only one person from each cabin go to pick up the passports at Shogun. Once I had my passport, I headed upstairs to the Galaxy of the Stars to attend the Captain and Officer Q & A session. There was an interesting handout on the mechanical and operational facts of the Norwegian Spirit. As the session was wrapping up, you could tell that Malta was a busy port. The captain even mentioned it, there were so many ships anchored and on approach just like us into Malta.

IMG_1210IMG_4118IMG_4119IMG_4120

Only one ship can enter and leave the port at a time, so the queue was starting. After the session finished, I headed up to Deck 13, outside at the very forward of the ship to watch sail in. As NCL also sells to a European market, I found out that Malta is an optional staring and disembarkation point. It was great to chat to a few Maltese families as we were approaching for their tips of the city (they were disembarking here today).

Sailing into the Valletta harbour was stunning.

IMG_3782IMG_1982

There is so much history here, the forts, bastions on both sides and just the way you sail in, you can tell that this was an important port and it was impressive.

Once docked, this was another port that I was wandering on my own (no excursion booked). I walked to the Upper Barrakka Lift, just down the street from where we were docked. It costs €1 per person to ride up, free to ride down. At the top, you are in the public gardens of Valletta and on one of the historic bastions over looking the harbour. I took some more photos from here and stumbled upon an info plaque of some of the movies that were filmed here, very interesting.

IMG_1983IMG_1224

After, I started to head towards the downtown core, as I wanted to catch a historical film about Malta. At the movie theatre complex downtown, there is a film called “Valletta Living History”. There are other films that play around Valletta that are similar, however this one was close to where I was. I thought the film was quite good, gave me a great historical lesson before I really started to wander around.

Valletta is gorgeous. It has an intriguing appeal to it. You can tell that the architecture had changed over the years to make concessions for those who arrived here. The built in balconies for example were added when the Arabs took over as the women were not allowed to be really seen in public, by making the balconies a built extension of the homes, they were able to sit there viewing the outside life without trouble.

IMG_1984

I do try to stay true when it comes to souvenir purchases, and here on Malta, it’s silver filagree and lace. I purchased a beautiful silver filagree ring for a pretty good price of €12 from a jewelry store (don’t trust what they sell on the streets from vendors). There are several local jewelry stores along a street on the way to another of Valletta’s main attractions, the Church of St. Pauls Shipwreck. So according to history and the Bible, Paul was shipwrecked here in Malta on his way to Rome. This church is home to a few of the relics. As this is a church, be sure that if you do enter, you are dressed appropriately and are respectful. They are also very strict on the “no photos” rule. At this church they claim to have the pedestal that John the Baptizer was beheaded on, and a wrist bone of the Apostle Paul.

IMG_1990

I then weaved my way back to the main centre of Valletta, taking many photo stops along the way. Malta’s history ended with the British not too many years ago, signs that the British were here last were scattered in the ways of bright red letter boxes and telephone booths.

IMG_1987IMG_1989IMG_1988

Valletta was beautiful, but it was time to hop a dgħajsa (a traditional boat) for the ride across the harbour to Vittoriosa (Birgu). It costs €2 per person and is quite a fun ride across. Once on the other side, it was clear that it was more residential than touristic. It was beautiful to see how the locals lived, slightly jealous. I found a cute cafe in an alleyway and relaxed with a beer and a water. It was very hot and I had been going since we arrived in Valletta, the movie theatre did provide some air conditioned relief, however it was time to rest the feet too haha.

IMG_3786IMG_3785

I walked around Vittoriosa, taking photos of some of the unique details of some of the homes. It was stunning to see some of the buildings, being over hundreds of years old some of them, in pretty good condition still. I took the dgħajsa back to Valletta, where we had to linger a bit as the Seabourn Encore was coming into the harbour to dock.

IMG_1992IMG_1991IMG_3783IMG_3788

After, I decided it was time to head back to the ship and grab some food. I wanted a change, so I ate in The Garden Room, a midship MDR. I started off with the Lime and Dill Shrimp, followed by the Grilled New York Steak with Potatoes Au Gratin, then Apple Pie for dessert.

IMG_1290IMG_1293IMG_1294IMG_1295IMG_1297

After dinner, I went up to the Bier Garten to watch sail away out of Valletta, taking in the fantastic night views. Sailing out of Valletta was a highlight, it was so beautiful.

IMG_1994IMG_3789IMG_3790

It was another busy day in the sun, so I was off to sleep getting ready for Sicily tomorrow.

IMG_1389

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 9 – Valletta, Malta:

IMG_4115IMG_4116IMG_4117

Next… Messina, Sicily…

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 8

Day 8 – Katakolon (Olympia)

I woke up this morning quite early, about 6:30am. I’m a bit strange as I sleep with the curtains wide open in my balcony stateroom, so the natural light wakes me. I also wake up sometimes in the middle of the night to beautiful starry skies and just take it all in. I love travelling and I love cruising. We arrived into Katakolon just after 7:00am, its a very small, quaint (and lush) town, right near where we docked.

IMG_3973IMG_1143

I went up to Raffles and has a light breakfast at the aft of the ship and noticed another ship sailing towards us in the distance. So far we’ve been lucky. We had just us docked in Livorno, us and an MSC ship in Cagliari, just us again in Heraklion, us and 3 ships in Athens (Seabourn, Celestyal and Princess) and just us in Santorini. As I finished my meal, the Royal Princess came into full view. We were able to get off the ship before the Royal was docked and I knew we had the advantage… it was going to get crazy here by this afternoon…

I did book a shore excursion here, I did the Exclusive Ancient Olympia tour though Shore Excursions Group. Our group was about 14 passengers just from the Spirit, so once we were all there, off we went (thankfully ahead of the Royal Princess guests). It was about a 45 minute drive stunning drive through the Greek countryside to Olympia. I actually really like Greece, it’s a beautiful country. It has quite a diverse landscape as well. Very much reminded me of the Okanagan Valley here at home in British Columbia, just with more olive trees 😉

IMG_3781

Once we arrived in Olympia, we parked and were each handed a bottle of ice cold water for our walk. We walked to the gate of the archeological site and were given the opportunity to use the washrooms before we started off (thank goodness as on the way back we found out they were no longer in service as they got back logged once the big excursions arrived), “eww” I know, but it’s reality haha…

Our guide did an amazing job of walking us around the site, stopping under trees for shade whilst explaining the history of the Olympic Games and the sites we were walking though. She had diagrams of what the buildings would have looked like back in the day and how far they needed to excavate to reveal the site we were walking through today.

IMG_3992

I was also thankful our tour was here when it was, we were one of the first tours here, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves for the first hour and a half (which was amazing for photos), then the cruise ship tours arrived just as we were sent on our way for free time.

IMG_1146

The hill in the distance shows how far down they had to excavate to uncover Ancient Olympia

IMG_1151IMG_1149IMG_1153IMG_3981IMG_3978IMG_3986IMG_1168IMG_1160IMG_1179IMG_1180IMG_1185IMG_3775IMG_1971

We also got to see the place where the Olympic Torches are lit before the Summer and Winter games. I was here in August and they would be lighting the torch for the Pyeongchang Winter Games at this very spot in October. Humbling…

IMG_1164IMG_4006IMG_3998

It was so neat to wander and see the different types of architecture and it’s evolution and additions through the years this place was used. The stadium here is actually the very birthplace of the metric system and units of measure as we know it. The measurement of this stadium became the measurements of a “stade” about 600 feet or 180 metres.

IMG_4027IMG_4023

IMG_3776

After numerous photos, we had some free time to explore the village of Olympia. So, back to the favourite pastime… shopping. I needed some new shoes badly. A few of my shoes had been tattered from the walking and cobblestones by this point (one pair broke within the first 250m of walking in Rome), so shoe shopping I went. Looking back, I should have bought the store. I found a brand of shoes called Parex. Amazingly comfortable and lightweight. I bought a pair on the shoe sale rack for €25 and am now fully regretting not buying a suitcase full. They are honestly the most comfortable and durable pair of sandals I’ve ever owned. I can’t wait to go back to Greece this October and literally buy the stores out. After shoe shopping, magnet shopping and a gelato later, it was time to board the bus back to Katakolon.

Once back in Katakolon, we were dropped near the port, however I walked to the town to check it out as I wasn’t ready to board just yet. This was our last stop in Greece, so I was still on the hunt for a couple more souvenirs aka Ouzo. I headed into a cute store closest to the pier and bought some Ouzo, along with a “Greece” magnet. I did find more of the Parex sandals and shoes in a couple boutiques here too, but didn’t buy another pair (again, full of regret)… Along the waterfront of Katakolon, there are plenty of restaurants and bars offering fresh seafood to ice cold beers (with free wifi of course), so I grabbed a chair, ordered a Mythos and checked in with home.

IMG_1193

Heading back to the ship, the line was quite long while waiting to board. They had an issue with one of the check in security computers, so it was one line in for about 20 minutes. The staff did try to help by handing out ice cold towels (ice cubes still attached) and cold drinks which helped as we waited in the hot sun. I was actually surprised that the Royal Princess departed before us, even though she arrived a good hour after us.

Once back on board, I changed and headed for the pool and relaxed for awhile. I was in a journalling mood today, so that night I relaxed in Galaxy of the Stars for awhile listening to the live band, sipping a refreshing gin and tonic as we sailed out of Katakolon. For being such a great lounge, I was taken back by how empty it was sometimes. After enjoying a beautiful sunset, I had a light dinner in Raffles and called it a night.

IMG_1195IMG_1197IMG_1199IMG_1200IMG_1201IMG_1202IMG_1207IMG_1208

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 8 – Katakolon:

IMG_4104IMG_4105IMG_4106

Next up… Valletta, Malta!

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 7

Day 7 – Santorini, Greece

Visiting Santorini has been a place on my travel bucket list for years. I woke up again before sunrise as we were sailing into Santorini. I was so excited!

IMG_1901

I wanted to be one of the first ones off the ship as I knew the gondola up was going to get full very quickly, so I went down to Cagney’s for breakfast at 7:00am, had my french press Lavazza and one eggs benedict. After breakfast, Karin (the concierge) informed myself and another couple that the first tender was ready to accept passengers. We were then escorted downstairs, past everyone that had lined up for the tender (we didn’t even need a priority tender card), and walked onto the first tender in front of the line. Upon arrival to the gondola, I noticed another error in the Greece Lonely Planet guide, it said the gondola was €5 round trip. Its actually €6 each direction, so €12 round trip. It wasn’t a long wait as I was on the first gondola ride up.

IMG_1022IMG_3842

At the top, once in Fira, it was time to rush to get to the public bus stop, I only had an idea where it was, so I did miss the bus by five minutes which was slightly annoying. Here is the map of Fira, the red dot is the top of the Santorini Cable Car, the blue lines are the easiest walking route, yellow dot is where the bus station is located (it’s about a 10 minute walk):

IMG_4073

So I had a bit of time to kill (about 35 minutes), so I walked around that immediate area. As it was so early in the morning (about 8:00am), there wasn’t a whole lot open, so went back to the bus stop and waited for the bus to Oia to arrive. The bus arrived and I’m glad I was early as the crowd had tripled in size waiting for the same bus. I scrambled onboard and grabbed a seat. The ticket agent came onboard and took our €1.80 for a one way ticket to Oia. Not a bad deal. About 20 minutes or so later, we were in Oia.

I can’t describe the complete beauty of this place. It’s absolutely stunning…

IMG_1902

From the bus stop, its a block into one of the main streets, where you can just wander and take in all of Oia’s magnificent views. I was so glad I did Oia this way, I was here ages before most of the crowds from the ship. I think we lucked out anyways as it was only our ship here, with a few day tours from a ferry I believe. I was shocked I was able to get so many photos with NO ONE in them 🙂

IMG_1907IMG_1908IMG_1903IMG_1909IMG_1914IMG_1916IMG_2175IMG_3730IMG_1920

This place is honestly incredible, I knew it was going to be beautiful, but this place took my breath away around every corner. I did buy a few souvenirs here and after a morning of really walking around, I worked up an appetite. I found a really cute cafe with a balcony overlooking Oia with incredible views. It was called Lotza Restaurant. I ordered a bottle of sparkling water (I needed it at this point, it was again a hot day) and Tzatziki, followed by a Greek Salad and a Spinach Pie. The food here is AMAZING, just like the view from the patio! I’ll be going back here this year in October during my next Mediterranean Cruise!

IMG_3733IMG_1917

It was then time to start wandering back to the bus stop to head back to Fira, I was so glad to have just wandered Oia. I really got to relax, take my time and take in the atmosphere here. I would have hated to be ushered around like in some of the ship tours I saw. I found a few cute boutiques on the way back to the bus, and did buy a few knick nacks.

IMG_3737

On the bus, I paid my €1.80 and stared out the window, totally melancholy, taking in the wondrous day I just experienced. Again, so grateful…

Once back at Fira, I walked back to the gondola, however still had a bit of time to kill. I found a bar with a view, this time of the bay with the Norwegian Spirit anchored below and free wifi. I ordered a beer called Volkan, a local beer made here on Santorini. It was really refreshing and great tasting! I’m normally a wine drinker, but this trip seemed to be more beers haha…

IMG_1123IMG_1924

It was then time to head back down to the ship. I boarded the gondola, again reminiscing of the perfect day I had. The tender line wasn’t too bad, I was actually expecting worse, perhaps because it was only us in port today. Once back onboard, I went to my room and changed into my swimsuit and headed to the pool and went swimming. About an hour later the ship sounded it’s horn, probably a 30 minute warning to passengers already not onboard that we were leaving soon. As we raised anchor, I headed back to my stateroom and watched our sail away from my balcony. I opened another bottle of prosecco and “cheered” Oia as we sailed by, thanking the universe for such a great day…

It was then time to get into my white cocktail dress (it was the “White Hot Party” tonight), and head to the Latitudes cocktail party. Again it was nice to connect with the officers and some of the other guests. Had a couple more glasses of prosecco and a glass of white wine to go, where I met up with friends again to watch “Mistika” Magic Show at 7:30pm. I thought it was going to be tacky, however the show was great! I actually really liked it! We then went to the Garden Room (another MDR) and had a late dinner. I had a spring roll to start, followed by a primi of carbonara then my main course of chicken cordon bleu. I had an amazing tiramisu for dessert.

IMG_1126IMG_1128IMG_1129IMG_1130

It was then time to head up for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Signature “White Hot Party”. As soon as I got upstairs, I honestly was beat. It was a long day in the heat again, and the tiredness hit me full on. I stayed for awhile to enjoy the music and a bit of the party. Then it was time to call it a night…

IMG_1135IMG_1138IMG_1131

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 7 – Santorini:

IMG_4069IMG_4070IMG_4071

Next up… Katakolon (Olympia)…