I’ve been on three cruises in my life. All three were in the Caribbean and I was younger and not so well-traveled, so I had few expectations when we decided to book a cruise for my sister’s visit and our fourth official “family vacation.”
We had two requests for destinations: Greece and Croatia. There were no cheap flights to this region and after our stressful 11 days in May traveling Italy, we needed a change of pace. We figured a cruise would be the best way to fit those countries into one week of travel. I was thrilled we found an itinerary that included not only Greece and Croatia, but also Montenegro, one of those up-and-coming countries I could only dream of getting to someday. So we picked this weeklong trip with Norwegian Cruise Line, which started in Venice and sailed to Kotor, Montenegro; the Greek islands of Corfu, Santorini, and Mykonos; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.
In general, it was the calm yet exciting experience we needed. I had some complaints with Norwegian Cruise Line, some of which I may reveal later on, but I’ll save most of them for their post-cruise survey and just take the time here to reflect on the general cruising style of travel for the Mediterranean.
So here are the positives:
- We went to five cities in one week! Six if you include Venice! I’m still in shock by how much we got to see.
- Not to sound like an ugly American but being surrounded by mostly English-speakers and having it be socially acceptable to speak to the extremely friendly staff in English was one of the most comforting feelings. Yes, a large proportion of Europeans speak English, but for once I didn’t feel out of place the way I feel in Germany. We made friends with fellow Americans and spent entire afternoons in the hot tub socializing. I never get to socialize that much, so that really boosted the experience.
- Having food available basically 24/7. We didn’t have to wander around at 7 a.m. trying to find an open coffee shop or at 8 p.m. searching for a restaurant with available seating. You can’t beat only being an elevator ride and stroll down the hallway away from dinner after a long day of sightseeing.
- Waking up and being in Dubrovnik (see cover photo for reference). This is just one example because we arrived to Dubrovnik around 6:30 a.m. But I can’t express how easy it was having someone else do all the work, as in not having to lug our suitcases to the train station or spending two hours waiting for a flight at the airport. Even for Santorini we didn’t arrive until 2 p.m. so we got to spend the whole morning by the pool.
- This kind of goes along with the point above, but arriving to these places via boat was a perfect way to appreciate the landscape. It was exciting as we pulled into each port–everyone flocked to the top deck of the ship to see the view. The dramatic hills of Montenegro and the little white houses of Santorini’s towns on top of the volcanic rock got me in the spirit to explore.
Of course there were some negatives:
- The hardest thing to cope with was recognizing that our time at each port was limited and there would be no way to see everything in just a few hours. This was a major change for me, considering my trips usually last a minimum of three days. But I learned to accept that this trip provided a taste of each city/island and that I could return if I so desired.
- In addition to our time being limited, we were constantly waiting in lines. Waiting to get off the ship. Waiting to get on the ship. Waiting to ride the cable car up to the top of the cliff in Santorini. Waiting for shuttles into town. Yes, I am annoyingly impatient, but it was really frustrating that we could spend an hour or two of our port time in lines.
- The food. I was not a fan of Norwegian’s food. First, in comparison to what we had on our last cruise with Carnival, I was disappointed. It tasted fine, but the options were pretty basic wedding-like entrees like chicken piccata or pork chop. But more importantly, I am a self-proclaimed food snob and always eat at top-rated restaurants when I travel, and it can really change my perspective of a city’s culture. On top of that, because we had such little time in the ports, I barely got to try any food outside the ship (I didn’t buy a single bite in Kotor or Dubrovnik), but I will say the few things I did try in Greece have me planning a trip back to eat more.
So I guess the five positives outweigh the three negatives and I would have to recommend this itinerary, especially to people coming over from America who want to fit in several countries while still feeling the comfort of home. For me living here, it wasn’t the ideal travel style, but I’m grateful I had the experience and it was certainly a VACATION. I never use that word to describe my trips because let’s face it, sightseeing and getting around in foreign countries is stressful (but always worth it of course).
Plus, I fell in love with three more countries so no complaints there! Stay tuned for posts about each individual port, I have some wonderful photos and stories to share.