Spain – Alicante & Valencia

The last two stops of our Trans-Atlantic Crossing were in the cities of Alicante and Valencia along the southern coast of Spain. They were little slices of paradise, each one beautiful and special in their own way. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours ashore in each city, which merely whetted my appetite to explore more of this amazing country.

Alicante, Spain

After several weeks of rainy, overcast skies and sloshing, whitecapped seas, we were treated to a warm and sunny day in Alicante, a coastal city of about 300,000 people. From the moment I got off the boat I was in love. It was only a short walk from the port to the city, where we came across an ornate marbled promenade that tracked the coast for a mile or so. Just off the promenade were beachside restaurants where people sat enjoying paella, sangria, and sunshine. Nearby, an ancient castle stood on a hill overlooking the entire city.

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While the cruise offered several tempting shore excursions, we chose to simply wander around and enjoy the beautiful weather. I loved all of the colorful, pedestrian walkways and the random art installations. Our walk included stops at a couple quirky shops, a grocery store to buy some wine to share with our table mates (you can bring up to two bottles on board), and an enjoyable visit to a local market.

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I’ve already mentioned how much I like grocery stores, but markets are even better. There’s something about the craftsmanship on display that makes each booth special. However, my favorite part is watching the shoppers. Watching the locals visiting all their favorite stands, I like to pretend that the market is my market, too. What color shopping tote would I have? Which stall owners know my name? Do I get my usual, or ask for a recommendation for something new? It might be a bit silly, but it’s a fun way to feel a part of the community, if only for a little while.

 

The limited amount of time we had in Alicante wasn’t nearly enough. Due to our limited budget, we didn’t get the chance to try out any of the local delicacies, nor did we climb the hill to explore the castle. This is one of the downsides to cruising, that each stop isn’t enough time to really get to know a place. Thankfully, we’ve got the time to come back and visit.

Valencia, Spain

Thankfully, our time in Spain wasn’t completely over. We had one more stop in the nearby city of Valencia. If our time in Alicante was too short, then it was way too short in Valencia. The city hosts a population of 2 million people and is packed with things to see, experience, and eat. Once again, the weather turned poor on us, cutting our exploration time down even further, so we didn’t even see a fraction of what Valencia has to offer.

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Although we were dying to see the beautiful and modern City of Arts and Culture, we were limited to the port area due to rain and high transportation costs. However, it did clear up long enough to enjoy the feel of solid ground underfoot before our last day at sea. Needless to say, we are planning to return to Valencia as soon as we can so that we can see all this beautiful city has to offer.

Journey’s End

After 14 days on the ocean, we finally landed at Rome’s nearest port, Civitavecchia. After all is said and done, I am still very happy that we took the cruise instead of an airplane. We met some amazing people, ate some great food, and got some much needed exercise, relaxation, and peace of mind. It was a little more expensive than flying, but for all we got to experience, it was definitely worth it. The boat pulled into port, and it was time to for our European adventure to begin.

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And what a way to start! As soon as we landed, we hefted our backpacks and said goodbye to the ship, then hopped on a bus into town, hiked to the nearest train station, rode the train into Rome, then finally got on another bus, this one taking us overnight to Germany, all so that we could reach our next house sit THE FOLLOWING DAY. It was a hectic adventure, but more on that next time 😉


Gibraltar, United Kingdom

Our arrival at our second port of call (after the Azores) came with a bit of unexpected advice: “Don’t mention Brexit.” This was a bit confusing until we remembered that Gibraltar, even though it’s located at the southern tip of Spain, is controlled by the United Kingdom. Still, we weren’t quite sure why this would be a subject to avoid. Without internet, we had to ask around to get the scoop, which led to a lot of uncomfortable mumbling and few answers. The boat pulled in to port, and we stepped off into this stormy climate (both literally and figuratively) to explore the tiny yet strategically important territory of Gibraltar.

Map of Europe, highlighting Gibraltar. Collage of Rock of Gibraltar, monkeys, and the city of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar, UK

As mentioned, Gibraltar is a British territory located at the southern tip of Spain. This territory has changed hands many times over its long history due to its strategic importance. This is the place where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean. Gibraltar overlooks a major world shipping route – half of the world’s seaborne trade passes through this strait. Therefore, in times of conflict, controlling the naval traffic through this area is of great importance.

Border Between Gibraltar and Spain - The Places We Live
Border Between Gibraltar and Spain

The Territory itself is only 2.6 square miles in area. From the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, we could see it all plus the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco, and Spain. Ownership has been a point of some contention in modern times. The English captured the territory in 1713, and signed a treaty with the Spanish granting them ownership in perpetuity. Since then the Spanish have asserted their claims to ownership, which have gone nowhere. The Gibraltarians themselves have been given the chance to vote on leaving to rejoin Spain, but the people have voted to remain in the UK.

Rock of Gibraltar Cannon - The Places We Live

Brexit

This makes Brexit a bit of a spiky subject in Gibraltar. The ~30,000 residents of one of the most densely populated areas of the world benefit greatly from the UK’s inclusion in the European Union. For one thing, it makes trade and movement across the Spanish border much simpler. 82% of Gibraltar’s population came out to vote for the Brexit referendum, with 96% of them voting to stay. Needless to say, they’re worried about the coming transition. It’s to this environment we arrived as clueless tourists, ready to wander the picturesque streets, take pictures, and climb to the top of the famous Rock.

♦ Thank you LegTravel for helping us book this cruise! ♦

Rock of Gibraltar

Our adventure today takes us to the top (-ish) of the Rock of Gibraltar, also known simply as “The Rock”. Our table mates all opted to take the cable car up, which in retrospect was probably the right decision. We chose to walk. The walk from the port to town was nice. It took us through Casemates Square, which was packed with shops and restaurants and had a lovely pedestrian way leading off of it.

Casemates Square, Gibraltar - The Places We Live

The Walk

We began the climb from one of these little side paths. At first it was quite nice, with gently slanted sidewalks and short flights of steps. The path was lined with houses that had been built against the side of the hill. It was a delightfully dramatic scene. But, as time went on, our moods turned sour.

It wasn’t that the walk was too challenging, but that everything just started going wrong. First, the sun moved behind a cloud and it started to get chilly. Next, we realized we had to pay to walk up The Rock (£5) and pay again if we actually wanted to see anything once we were at the top (£13). Then, the wind started to blow. A little ways further, some road construction and poorly placed signs caused us to get briefly lost and double-back. Then the rain started, and we decided to call it quits.

The Rock of Gibraltar Stairs - The Places we Live

The Top-Ish

However, we did see the Moorish Castle… from the outside (once again, you had to pay to go in). It is a relic from 711 CE, when the Moorish ruled over Gibraltar. There wasn’t much to look at, but the view around it was amazing and we even got a shot of our ship in the background! Although not visible in this particular picture, we also had the pleasure of seeing some of the local Barbary macaques. They’ve been roaming freely within the nature reserve for years.

Gibraltar Moorish Castle - The Places We Live

All Aboard!

After a challenging day on land, we had a challenging evening on board. The weather was less than ideal for cruising. We received a letter in our room after dinner letting us know that they would be shuttering our window in case of water damage (see the pre-shuttering video below). We were able to avoid motion sickness, but had some trouble remaining comfortable in bed. I had to wedge myself between pillows to keep from rolling around. Haha! Otherwise, the journey was a pleasant one and we were eventually able to get some good rest before our next stop in Alicante, Spain!



Ponta Delgada, Azores

The first stop on our cruise from Miami to Rome was Ponta Delgada in the Azores. We were about 1,200 miles (1,930 km) southeast of Canada and 850 miles (1,360 km) west of Portugal. The Azores are pretty much in the middle of the freaking ocean! It was crazy to look out on an endless ocean before going to bed and wake up on land the next morning. After a quick breakfast, we headed off the boat to enjoy some solid ground and a beautiful day in Ponta Delgada, Azores.



The Azores

The Azores are a collection of nine volcanic islands and is an autonomous region of Portugal (similar to Puerto Rico and the USA). Although it is usually pretty cloudy and wet, the temperatures are very mild year-round, at an average of 70° F. It makes for a good agricultural economy focused on dairy products. Cheese seemed to be the must-have item at all of the shops and the local supermarket.

Map of Europe highlighting Paris and the Azores. Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal. The Places We Live

São Miguel

Of the nine islands in the Azores, we ended up on São Miguel (St. Michael in the national language of Portuguese). The island is bisected by many geological faults, giving it a lot of interesting geographic features. One of the most famous is the Lagoa do Fogo, a crater lake in the center of the island. Many of our friends on board took the tour to see Lagoa do Fogo and I was very jealous. We, instead, wandered the streets of Ponta Delgada… which was also nice, but maybe not as nice.

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Photo by Sylvain Cleymans on Unsplash

Ponta Delgada

At less than 70,000 residents, Ponta Delgada is still the economic capital and largest municipality in the Azores.  Although Ponta Delgada is surrounded by volcanoes and volcanic fissural systems (linear vent), the last eruption  on the island was in 1880. In contrast, walking in the city-center, we were completely unaware of the volcanoes that had created the islands. Instead, we found ourselves in awe of the quiet town and distant rolling hills covered in greenery.

Jen and Josh Explore the Azores

It was a rainy and cloudy day, so we opted to forgo our planned exploration of the crater lakes. Instead, we hopped off the ship and hit the town. The city center was a lovely collection of old buildings that had been repurposed to hold Burger Kings and McDonalds. Steps away from the city center, the old buildings showed more obvious signs of decay and disuse. It felt like a city that had been abandoned and only recently rediscovered. It was eerie, yet peaceful.

Buildings in Ponta Delgada, Azores

Finally, we wandered through a couple of tourist shops and farmer’s markets, before walking out of town towards the more local grocery store. As I’ve mentioned before, I love walking through foreign grocery stores. The thing that set this one apart was the large collection of local cheeses (at a quarter of the price of the gift shops). We didn’t try any of the cheese, but did pick up a case of soda (cans cost $3.25 on board). And that about wrapped up our exploration of the Azores. Although a short visit, it was nice to touch solid ground again and see a new place that neither of us have ever been to before. I hope we can make it back some day to enjoy some of the natural beauty of these lovely islands.



The Nine Sea Days of Our Ocean Crossing

This is a long post outlining our lives during the NINE sea days during our Royal Caribbean Atlantic Ocean crossing.

At the end of March, we set sail from Florida to Italy on an Atlantic Ocean crossing onboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas. It was a 14 day journey that included nine days at sea, as well as stops at the Azores, Gibraltar, Alicante, and Valencia. When I told people we were doing this, the first question was almost always about the large number of “Sea Days”. These are days that are spent entirely at sea. What does one do at sea? Did we get sick? Did we feel scared? All of this and more coming up after this message from my affiliate link. *Cue the theme music!

What’s Included In the Ocean Crossing?

The standard cruise ticket is nearly all-inclusive. It included our room, transportation, entertainment, and food. Our ocean crossing room was as advertised and included a twice-daily cleaning by our floor steward. Transportation from Florida to Rome was complementary, but port transportation is our responsibility. Entertainment was included except for a long list of specialty events that require a small fee. The free activities are pretty much anything one might do at a summer camp or a retirement facility. Everything else, like Sushi Making Class, Spin Class, Wine Tasting, and Mystery Dinner Theater, all come at an extra cost. The final category is food, which is pretty straightforward. The complementary food does not include alcohol, soda, or premium coffee (though black coffee is plentiful). It also excludes “Specialty Dining”, which on our boat included Chops Grill (steak house), Giovanni’s Table (Italian), Izumi (sushi), and Chef’s Table (I didn’t even look at the menu after seeing the prices).

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas. Saturday, March 30, 2019. At Sea. Day Two. List of activities and events happening on board during the sea day.

Each evening, our steward left a schedule of events for the following day. It also included some information about our location, the weather forecast, opening times of the various venues, and daily health and safety updates. For travelers of the Organized persuasion, I suggest packing a highlighter to more easily navigate the sea days. Just be sure to schedule in some nap time. There is nothing like getting rocked to sleep by the waves.

Breakfast

Anyone who has ever roomed with me knows that I am a prompt eater. I am hungry from the second I wake up in the morning and it is best for all of those around me that I eat immediately. This is why I almost always opt for on-board room service in the morning. Although room service is always an option, it is only free at breakfast. I order us a pot of coffee, orange juice, and pastries. We often ate breakfast in bed while watching the pre-recorded British game shows. Our favorite shows were The Chase and The Tipping Point. They are both dumb, but in all of the right ways.

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Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

There were a couple of times during our ocean crossing that Josh was willing to risk his life to put off breakfast long enough for us to walk up to a different breakfast option. One option is in the formal dining room. We had the option of sitting with other people or by ourselves. Due to my “condition” we usually found it best to eat alone. In addition to the buffet tables, the formal dining room also had a new made-to-order menu each day. The other option is the Windjammer Cafe. It is the informal buffet on the pool deck that offers a lot of great options. In addition to the obligatory coffee and juice, I often made myself a yogurt parfait paired with some sliced meat and cheeses. Josh preferred the heavier options like pancakes, eggs to order, and hash browns.

Onboard Fitness

After breakfast, Josh and I would part ways for our separate fitness routines. For sea days, I enjoyed taking a few laps around the track on the 12th deck. As the second highest deck, the 12th deck running track offers amazing views and high winds. I enjoyed the nice breeze and direct sunlight for my morning walk. At 9:30AM, I joined a few other passengers for Morning Stretch, Poolside. By 10:00AM, I was grabbing one more cup of coffee and heading down to the 6th deck for Progressive Trivia.

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas Stairs

Josh was a little more dedicated than I was. During his morning workout, he would hit the complimentary gym. The gym is also on the 12th deck, but located inside at the front of the ship, with a big glass wall that provides an awesome view of the ocean. Once he finished his workout session, he would climb the stairs back to the room on the 2nd deck, shower, then climb back up to the 6th deck to meet me for Progressive Trivia. Although climbing stairs was not a scheduled part of our workout, it was a daily… no, hourly part of the routine during our ocean crossing.

Trivia

I’ve found that a large percentage of the people who cruise enjoy trivia. The ship’s entertainment staff has taken notice over the years and has packed the schedule with opportunities for us to show off our sick skillz… and by “our”, I of course mean “Josh’s”. First of the day was the 10:15AM Progressive Trivia. This was THE trivia event of the ocean crossing cruise. The sessions were daily (sea days only) and the scores were cumulative over the length of the ocean crossing. We had a team of six called The Imperfect Strangers. We lost pretty miserably, but overall had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other’s company.

Jen and Josh holding their Imperfect Strangers team trivia certificate. Progressive Trivia held over the nine sea days.

While Progressive Trivia was general trivia questions, there were other themed trivia quizzes throughout the day. We often enjoyed the 1:30PM Visual Trivia after lunch. As the score wasn’t cumulative, we regularly switched up our teams among whichever of our new friends was closest when the questions started. There was also 4:30PM Afternoon Trivia, which I usually slept through (nap time), and finally, 7:00PM Music Trivia. We were picky about the Music Trivia and only attended on the days where we liked the theme. My two favorites were 80’s Music Trivia and Color Music Trivia. In both of those, we placed second.

Lectures and Learning

One of my favorite onboard activities during the sea days are the dance lessons. They are rarely traditional lessons about the counts and steps, but instead a choreographed dance. Josh and I enjoyed new dances in tango, merengue, and line dancing. The tango was our favorite, as it was taught by the stage dancers from the night before. They were amazing performers and we loved the seriousness of their faces and movements.

Sea Days Boat Competition - The Places We Live

Royal Caribbean has done a great job over the last year in adding more learning activities to their entertainment lineup during sea days. From their Lecture Series, I enjoyed water color lessons from a professional artist, the history and culture of Alicante by a professor of history, and a lecture and demonstration of classical music by an amazing pianist. Even our entertainment director provided some great lectures with one of the best star gazing experiences I’ve ever had and two rounds of Italian lessons (he was a native Italian). Throughout the cruise my belly was full and my brain enriched.

Try my favorite language learning app, Duolingo!

Lunch

Although we tested out the formal dining room for lunch a couple of times, I definitely preferred the flexibility of the Windjammer Cafe. I usually had either iced tea or lemonade to drink then eyeballed my way through the buffet counters, which included sections for sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, breads, soups, carved meats, fruits, and vegetables. My favorite was the international option, which rotated daily. Throughout the ocean crossing, I had paella, curry, tacos, and sausages. They were all delightful and a nice way to mix up our usual lunch routine.

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Photo by Kaitlin Dowis on Unsplash

The other special bit about lunch was that I decided it would be our indulgence meal (as if they all weren’t). Each day after lunch, I would visit the dessert buffet and collect the top three best looking dishes. We would move into our faux French, food judge voice and rank the desserts from top to bottom. I would by lying if I didn’t say it was the highlight of my day.

Leisure Time

I was rarely impressed with the afternoon entertainment offerings on the sea days. Instead, Josh and I would often enjoy a post-lunch round of “I’m Better Than You”, where we rotated from activity to activity competing for pre-nap-time dominance. First up was a round or seven of ping pong. Next, a game of mini-golf. And finally, a verbal round of “I think today is the day you should climb the rock wall”. I lost nearly all of the games every day: hence the verbal round of rock climbing. If I had won the verbal match, it would have fully made its way into the rotation.

Royal Caribbean Ocean Crossing Leisure - The Places We Live

After getting killed over and over again in our games of skill, it was time for a nap. We don’t usually take naps, but there is something about being on a cruise boat that makes even non-nappers want an afternoon snooze. To top it off, we traveled through several time zones throughout the ocean crossing, requiring the loss of one hour almost every sea day. That sort of daily time shift can really mess with a person’s sleep patterns.

Post Nap Cocktails

We were a bit groggy when we woke up around 4:30PM. This was when we buy our single, pre-budgeted drink. The price for beers start at $7.25. The cheapest cocktail is the Drink of the Day, which runs for $8. Both are way out of our price range, so we agreed to limit ourselves to one or less per day. I liked to grab the Drink of the Day after my nap and sit in the central bar to listen to my favorite on-board band, Rosario Strings, two guys playing guitar and violin. They played a little bit of everything, from classical music to current pop. It was an excellent way to wake back up before dinner.

Booking a cruise? We booked through LEG Travel.

Dinner

Although the Windjammer and other restaurants are open for dinner, I prefer to spend my dinners in the formal dining room. It is a great opportunity to enjoy quality food and company. We were booked to enjoy dinner at 5:30PM each day at table 38. We met our seven other table mates, head waitress, and secondary waitress on the first day and continued to eat with them each day throughout the ocean crossing.

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Our head waitress Olena was from Ukraine and our other waitress Ju’an was from China. They were wonderful and attentive. I enjoy having the same wait staff each day, if for no other reason than to have one friend on staff. I know if something went wrong or if I needed anything, there were at least those two women that I felt comfortable enough to go to.

Dining Table Mates

Our table mates made for more great connections. There is nothing quite like walking through a new “town” and already knowing a few people. We stopped and asked about their scores each morning at trivia and asked about their thoughts on the show each evening before bed. It was like having friends included with our trip!

I could go on and on about our table mates, but I’ll keep it short. We sat with a couple from the USA who had interesting stories about living abroad for work. Another couple was from New Zealand and traveling full-time through their retirement. We enjoyed talking to them about their travels as well as their travel book, Off Our Rockers. The table also had two teachers from Canada, one of which killed us in trivia on a regular basis. Finally, a woman from the USA who was traveling solo and had all of the inside information. She was a book of useful knowledge (did you know Royal Caribbean has shareholder discounts?!). We could not have asked for a better group of people to enjoy our socializing time with.

Stage Shows

After dinner, it was time for the show. Each evening, a stage show was hosted by the Entertainment Director. Most of the time, these shows are really hit and miss. However, I was very impressed with (nearly) all of the stage shows on this ocean crossing. There were a few of the usual Broadway-esque performances done by the onboard performers. Otherwise, the majority of the performances were unique and reached for outside talent.

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I was particularly fond of these outside performers. They included a couple of comedians, tango dancers, singers, a pianist, violinist, magician, and juggler. Josh and I were big fans of the pianist, who was not only an excellent musician but a great showman as well. We also really enjoyed the juggler. His jokes weren’t to our taste, but his juggling abilities were beyond anything I had ever seen before.

Late Night

Because of the near-daily time change, we often went to bed shortly after the show. But the rest of the boat partied on into the wee hours of the night. One of the evenings, I watched Bohemian Rhapsody by the pool. Not only is it an excellent movie, but I was given a blanket and pillow for my viewing pleasure, which made the movie under the stars a little extra special. Another night, we participated in The Quest Adult Game Show. It is a new specialty of Royal Caribbean that mixes scavenger hunts and In the Bag. We were more than a little embarrassed by the end, but had a great time. Here is a video I found on YouTube. Although it was not the same one we went to, it was very similar:

Ports of Call

When were weren’t enjoying the sea days surrounded by the ocean, we were parked at a port of call. Most of the time, the boats park in the late morning and stay until the early evening. This doesn’t leave a ton of time to explore, but it does create an opportunity for us to feel the land under our feet. For this crossing, we sailed from Miami to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Gibraltar, two ports in Spain (Alicante and Valencia), and finally to the nearest port to Rome, Civitavecchia.

Alicante Spain - The Places We Live

Royal Caribbean is there to help with anyone needing travel arrangements. There are plenty of shore excursions to keep passengers busy while in port. We did not take any of the excursions and instead opted to just walk around. I like to leave after breakfast, come back to the boat for a free lunch, then head back out for a little bit longer before coming back for dinner. I’ve already paid a lot of money to eat onboard, I’m going to take full advantage of it! Thankfully, entering and exiting is very easy. We were able to come and go at our leisure… and didn’t even go through customs (more on this later).

I hope I have painted a good picture of our life onboard. Next up, our first steps into Europe during the first port of call: Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal!




Come Sail Away

After six months exploring the Eastern Hemisphere, six months and 10,000 miles in the USA, we are now on our way to our next big adventure: Europe!! But why live the life of an every day European traveler when there is a chance for me to make things more complicated? Rather than fly to Europe, we opted for a 14 day, trans-Atlantic cruise. That’s right, we’re on a “mother f*cking boat!” sailing from Miami, Florida to Civitavecchia, Italy.

I Put My Toes in the Water

It has been on my bucket list to do a “crossing” for quite some time. But, given our somewhat precarious financial situation, that in itself might not be a good enough motivation for actually doing it. So, here is my financial break-down of why cruising was actually a super clever idea:

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  • We had obligations scheduled at Mom’s house from March 7 to March 28.
  • Mom doesn’t have internet at her house, so we can’t make any money.
  • Our first European house sit was booked in Germany for April 13.

With these facts in mind, it was challenging to work out the perfect financial balance. We needed to move on from Mom’s house ASAP so that we could make money (we work online, after all), but we didn’t want to show up to Europe too soon and have to pay expensive EU prices. What’s a girl to do? Make a spreadsheet, of course!

Beyond the Sea

Let’s say we were to fly to Europe on the 28th. Thankfully, flights from Orlando to Frankfurt are really quite affordable at an average of $400 one-way. That brings us to one full day of travel and a loss of $800, leaving us with 15 days between landing and our first sit. Assuming we stayed in Germany for that time, we would make an average of $20 per day by working online for 14 of the days. However, we would also have to spend an average of $50 per night on a budget hotel and $25 for food. Without any entertainment or inter-city travel, that puts us at +$280 for work and -$1080 for living expenses. Altogether, we’d be looking at paying a minimum of around $1600 to fly and stay in Europe.

Now let’s look at checking off my bucket list idea of cruising. The price for two tickets for an inside room for 14 days was $1,768. That includes room, transportation, food, and entertainment. It does not include internet or the $28 per day gratuity charge. Thankfully, we saved up $200 of on-board credit from our credit card reward points. This brought the final cruise bill to $1,960.

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In conclusion, it was definitely more expensive to take the cruise than it was to fly, but not by much. However, by doing the crossing, I was able to tick an item off my bucket list, eat delicious 5-star meals, see nightly shows, visit two new countries, and make a ton of new friends. I’d say it was 100% worth the extra $350.

Just A Dream and the Wind to Carry Me

With my calculations complete, we opted to forgo the usual flight to Europe and instead booked passage on a ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas for 14 days from Miami to Rome’s nearest port, Civitavecchia. The crossing took us through a total of nine sea days along with stops in the Azores, Gibraltar, Alicante, and Valencia.

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Ocean Front Property

There were some early issues with our bookings which led us to getting a different room than the one we’d originally booked. We ended up down on the second floor, directly across from the crew’s quarters. It was so far off the beaten path that there was only one set of stairs that led to it rather than the usual two. On the positive side, we got a lot of exercise from climbing up to the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth floors. We had a port-hole window, which was nice, but when the seas got rough (and they did), our window had to be covered by a steel plate, essentially turning it into an inside-cabin, which often sells for nearly half the price of an outside cabin.

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That said, the room itself was actually quite nice and comfortable. After spending several months in the van, it felt really spacious. We had a bed, two night stands, couch and coffee table, TV, desk, closet, and bathroom. The bathroom wasn’t big enough for two people, but had plenty of space for one person to comfortably move around.

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Eating Cake By the Ocean (Actual Cake)

It is well known that cruises are all about the food. Though I disagree with the “all about” portion of that statement, I can’t deny that food plays a really big role. We almost always ordered coffee, orange juice, and assorted pastries through the free room service each morning. There were several options for lunch, but we most often visited the buffet. The buffet always included meats and cheeses, salad bar, hamburger and pizza station, a rotating international foods station, and a dessert buffet. For dinner, we opted for the 5:30 meal time in the “formal” dining room. We shared a table with eight other people and were served delicious three-to-five course meals.

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Full Time to Floatin’

The ship had a lot to offer as far as entertainment. Each night, I received a schedule of the following day’s events and activities. Every night I went through it with highlighter in hand to plan out the next day for maximum fun-ness. The scheduled daily entertainment included trivia contests, scavenger hunts, and wellness activities. Each evening there was a scheduled stage show. My previous cruises told me that only 50% of the shows are any good; however, this particular ship provided excellent stage entertainment. I was floored with all but two of the 13 shows. For the late evening, there was karaoke, dancing, and adult-themed games.

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In addition to the scheduled activities, there were magazines and board games, pool tables, ping pong tables, rock wall, mini-golf course, video-game arcade, movie theater, pool, shuffle board, shops, bars, and more. Needless to say, we did not get bored on this trip! On the contrary, we lost some weight taking yoga and dances classes, and made a name for ourselves as the Sudoku and chopsticks masters (long story).

I’m Sailing Away

I’m so glad we opted to take a ship across to Europe instead of fly. It was an amazing experience I will never forget. We ate delicious foods, met amazingly talented people, and saw new places. I love trying new things, especially when it comes to transportation and travel. Join me as I recall our adventures at sea over the next couple of blog posts. Stay tuned. Europe is coming!

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