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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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).

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Next up, the heart of 678 Ocean Place…

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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…

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

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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!!!

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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…

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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.

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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)…

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Teppanyaki…

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Skyline Bar near the Casino…

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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”.

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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):

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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…

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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 🙂

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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

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Next up… Katakolon (Olympia)…

 

 

 

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 6

Day 6 – Piraeus (Athens)

Woke up quite early this morning, just before sunrise and was very thankful I did. As this trip went on, I felt a new theme in a sense for more than just the cruise but in how these places were effecting me personally… Gratitude… It was a beautiful sunrise this morning just as we were docking in Piraeus, the main port area near Athens. I sat on my balcony for quite some time, drinking coffee watching the sun rising and just relaxing, with the ferry traffic coming and going. We docked at about 6:30am, earlier than our 9:00am scheduled arrival.

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I then headed up to Raffles and ate outside aft, again overlooking the port. This is another favourite place for me on the ship by far! After a light breakfast, I headed back to my cabin, grabbed a few items then ventured out to meet up with my tour. The tour I did here in Athens was through Shore Excursions Group called “Exclusive Athens with Free Time in the Plaka”. We met our tour guide just outside the terminal and boarded a bus to Athens. We did a driving tour of the city, making a few photo stops along the way. We drove by the now mostly abandoned 2014 Olympic venues. Some they are renovating and trying to utilize, others are just now in a state where they’ve been abandoned for too long and are in need of more repair than it’s worth.

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One of my favourite photo stops on the tour was of the Ancient Olympic Stadium, I love history. With Peyongchang 2018 on my mind, it’s crazy to see how far the games have come. This is where I also felt the first touches of Greek mythology come to life. Statues dedicated to Athena, Apollo and Zeus abounded throughout the city.

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After our city tour, we were dropped at the Acropolis and most of the group opted to do the guided tour of the Acropolis. I decided to skip it as I knew one day I’d be back. It was getting hot and the Acropolis had quite a bit of scaffolding around it, so I thought I would just wander the streets of the Plaka. I was so happy I did this. We were each given an ice cold water bottle at no charge after departing the bus, which came in handy let me tell you. The Plaka has some very touristy spots, but there are some spots that are very “local”. I was worried about visiting Athens, as most clients and friends tell me it’s not a nice place to visit, dirty and just not pleasant. I actually had quite the opposite experience.

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Walking and wandering the streets of the Plaka was great. Athens does have a bylaw that no buildings in certain areas of the city are over six stories tall, this is so that where ever you are in the city, you can view the Acropolis. I spent the last while at the Temple of Zeus and the Arch of Hadrian. I did do quite a bit of research on historical architecture before I left for Italy and Greece, so it was awe inspiring to see the different types of columns and just imagining how these massive structures were built in that day and age. The Temple of Zeus utilized a Corinthian style of column, whilst the Arch of Hadrian an smaller version of the same style.

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Arch of Hadrian with the view of the Acropolis through it…

Temple of Zeus by WanderlustJourney.ca

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Temple of Zeus

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After a day in the heat, I had an hour to kill, so I found a rooftop patio and had a beer overlooking the Plaka and the Acropolis in full view.

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It was then time to say “good bye” to Athens and head back to the ship. Once back onboard, I changed into my swimsuit and took a much needed swim in the pool. I bumped into friends in the pool and had a drink with them in the Bier Garten afterwards. After sail away I headed to my cabin and got ready for dinner, I was eating at Windows again. I was again seated at the very back of the ship at the large windows, which was a great view of leaving Piraeus. I was hungry after all the walking I did today, so I ordered two appetizers tonight, a tortellini caprese starter and an order of shrimp pot stickers, my main course was the beef brisket (they had me at Guinness mustard sauce) and a white chocolate coconut mousse for dessert.

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I then caught the 7:30pm showing of the Spirit production cast in “Soul Rockin’ Nights”. It was pretty good, great singing and dancing. After the show, I changed back into my swimsuit and headed back up to the pool. At this time the pool seems to be empty and you can normally get an entire hot tub to yourself. After, I wrapped up and went a deck up to the Bier Garten and had a gin and tonic under the stars, with fading sunlight in the distance. I noticed at this point we were cruising very slowly, many large ferries leaving us in their wakes, next up was Santorini, so it wasn’t too far away. As this was the case, I headed to bed, I wanted to be well rested for the next day. When I got back to my room, a little bear friend was waiting for me…

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Here are the “Dailies” for Day 6 – Piraeus (Athens):

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Next up… Santorini!

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 5

Day 5 – Iraklion (Heraklion), Crete (Greece)

Today I was officially in Greece…

Woke up around 8:00am local time to views of the Island of Crete, the clocks did go ahead one hour last night. I went for breakfast at Cagney’s again, ordering only one eggs benny as two is just too much for me. I did have to deal with an overcharge at the gift shop this morning, so headed down there and got that sorted. How did I notice there was an overcharge? I use the Norwegian iConcierge app when sailing on a Norwegian ship. Once you’re onboard, you can track your onboard account, what’s happening that day on the ship (even get a sneak peek to other activities on other days before you receive the daily), and you can pay to use it to message others.

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After dealing with that I headed back to my stateroom to watch the sail into Iraklion, Crete. It was quite an interesting, busy port, with a historic fort still attached to one end. There were several ferries, and an airport very close, so spent a bit of time watching the planes take off as boats were coming and going while we waited to be cleared by the port authority.

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Cruise ship leaving, plane taking off as we arrive…

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Arriving to Heraklion, pilot boat on it’s way

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Pilot boarding the Norwegian Spirit

Iraklion (or Heraklion), is the fourth largest city in Greece, and is close to ruins of the Palace of Knossos, where my name was first found anywhere, Ariadne. Princess Ariadne helped Theseus to overcome the Minotaur, which to Greek mythology was under the Palace of Knossos. Heraklion is known as Hercules’ city, and is full of history.

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Once off the ship, you board a free shuttle to the port terminal. If you want the best price to get around, I did the public bus. It costs €5 for a day pass. Once you exit the terminal, you will see the small manned kiosk to the left across the roundabout. From here you can take a bus up to the Palace of Knossos. Today was HOT. This is also where the Greece Lonely Planet guide let me down, it mentioned that the entry price was €6 per person in the guide I had (only a year since printed). Once at the admission gates, there was a massive line and the price was €25 per person… Mmmmm nope, don’t need to see it that badly. I got fed up standing in the heat and decided to hop back on the bus to go explore Heraklion. I realized afterwards that this also could have been a “cruise ship day” price…

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I collect Starbucks mugs from all over the world (just kinda started to happen, so I kept going with it), so I found a Starbucks and got a set of two demitasse mugs. I like the idea, as I can grab a mug and sip a coffee with memories of the place I picked them up at…

This is the one place I wished I had actually done a tour. I enjoyed walking around, but it’s just another seaside city. I think doing a wine tour here would have been a lot more fun, heading into the lusher valleys. I had a Greek beer near the end of the pedestrianized road after you guessed it… shopping, and just enjoyed the view in the shade. I found out a bit later that they did have wifi, so again checked in at home. From here the sun was starting to set a bit, so instead of bussing it back to the port, I did walk. It was maybe a kilometre or so to the terminal from here.

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Once at the terminal, I boarded a shuttle that took me back to the ship, where a cool towel and drink were waiting on the gangway for us. Once back on board, I headed up to my room, relaxed then started to get ready for dinner at Le Bistro.

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I noticed we hadn’t left the dock quite yet and walking outside the wind had definitely picked up. I watched the final bit of the sunset on the promenade before my dinner reservation was ready. I was seated by the window and at that time I noticed that we were trying to leave but couldn’t. The wind was pushing us back to the dock. Even mid ship at Le Bistro, I could feel the ship trying to maneuver, but wasn’t going anywhere.

Dinner at Le Bistro was heaven. I had the scallops to start, followed by the most amazing french onion soup. My main course was the beef tenderloin and dessert was a hazelnut chocolate torte. Everything was beyond amazing.

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By the time I finished dinner, we had finally started to move, probably three hours or so after we were originally set to depart. I could tell that it was full steam ahead to keep on schedule. After, I headed up to the Galaxy of the Stars, had a nightcap of a Moscow Mule (in the souvenir tin mug) and listened to the live music for about an hour, then called it a night. When I arrived back into my room, a towel rabbit and my daily were waiting for me…

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Here are the “Dailies” for Day 5:

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Next up… Piraeus (Athens)…

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 4

Day 4 – Sea Day for Me

I loved the pace of this cruise, and one sea day was enough. The NCL Spirit is great. She is an older ship, but she’s a great ship. The staff are beyond friendly and by day four, many of the staff knew my name.

I woke up today at 7:30am, again sleeping so well. After a few relaxing coffees on my balcony I headed up for a quick breakfast at Raffles. I honestly didn’t eat much. I eat more at dinner funny enough, but rarely anything in the morning or during the day. I was the organizer of the Cruise Critic Meet Up, which was held at Shogun at 11:00am. As it was already Day Four, not many actually showed up, maybe 20 of the 45 that had RSVP’d. It was nice to see all the Officers onboard make an appearance and meet the other travellers.

Afterwards, I did get a bit of an appetite and made a stop in Cagney’s for lunch. I had another french press of Lavazza with a starter of Grilled Asparagus wrapped with Prosciutto followed by a Scallop, Shrimp and Artichoke Risotto.

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After lunch, I did a walkabout of the ship, snapping a few photos here and there. Also did some more shopping, picked up my ship magnet (I collect them) and a captain’s hat (ok, it’s a birthday cruise for me, and it was fun hat… ). I went back to my cabin, changed, then ventured up onto the pool deck to get some sun!

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Dining board… Showing where the waits were less/more/completely bookedIMG_0888

Asian influence on the ship as she wasn’t always an NCL ship…IMG_0889

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Blue Lagoon, pub style food, quick bites…IMG_0901

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For being a cruise in August, I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find a lounger. That’s the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship I think, less people to deal with and quite a bit of sun deck space. I did breakdown and buy a couple drinks, usually whatever was the “Drink of the Day” special.

I do have to mention “Galaxy of the Stars”. This forward facing lounge is my absolute favourite place to hang out on the ship. Certain times of the day it seems to always be empty and peaceful. They also do have some entertainment here at night and through the day (check the dailies), but so many times I was able to sit here with a gin and tonic and just enjoy (even do a bit of journalling in the morning here and there).

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Tonight was “Norwegian’s Night Out”, aka Gala Night. I headed up to my room, got refreshed, dressed up and met friends down in Shogun (an Asian Fusion complementary dining option) for dinner. I was not too hungry so I just ordered gyoza (potstickers) and spring rolls. Earlier in the afternoon I received an invitation to attend the Captain’s Cocktail Party. So I excused myself from my friends who went to take in the production show of “World Beat” and I headed to the cocktail party. After a photo with the Captain, I was ushered into the Art Gallery where I chatted with some of the officers and crew. I actually enjoy hearing their experiences and stories about life onboard the ship and their opinions/tips for some of the ports to come. The couple hours flew by with great conversations (as did a few more glasses of prosecco) and it was off to bed for me yet again.

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Here are the “Dailies” for Day 4:

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Next, to the Greek Island of Crete…