Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cruising the Mediterranean - Part 1

So, where does a woman with a mild fear of heights, water and social situations go for a vacation?
Well, on a cruise, of course!  
Throw in a flight to the port when she has a paralyzing fear of flying
and you have a winning combination, my friend. 

Actually, I absolutely LOVE cruising!

My first was in '06 and I was instantly hooked.  I've cruised out of  Texas with Carnival four times to the Caribbean. TE has also done several Caribbean cruises on Carnival, so last year for our first cruise together we decided to try Royal Caribbean from Puerto Rico for  7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean.  We had a wonderful time and found something we both love.

With only a few weeks before TE starts his job, we decided, what the hell... instead of sitting around waiting we would book a cruise on this side of the pond.  I'll recap our trip over the next few posts and try to give you a few cruise tips along the way.

We decided on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Sea for their 7 night Eastern Mediterranean itinerary.  The cruise includes stops in Sicily, Greece, Turkey and Crete with 2 days at sea.

We find cruising the perfect way to travel to several different areas.  You get on board, unpack your bags and wake up each morning with some new, wonderful location to explore.

It's a good opportunity to experience a few places where you wouldn't want to spend more than a day.  And also a chance to find a few places that grab you and implore you to return for a more extended stay. 

Here is my biggest cruise tip:  If you're considering a cruise, make the Cruise Critic website your very first stop.  This website has more information on cruising than you can imagine.  You can read about every cruise line and every ship.  Be sure to sign up for the forums.  They provide a wealth of information from other cruisers.  From details about specific rooms to what to wear... everything you need to know. 

We flew from Heathrow to Rome's Fiumicino Airport.  The flight was uneventful other than my usual heavy breathing and whimpering.  The heavy breathing might have been because I chose Fifty Shades of Grey for my vacation read.  The whimpering was definitely because I HATE FLYING. Have I mentioned that I hate flying?

I almost had another panic attack when I visited the ladies room at the Rome airport.  Yikes, it was stinky and apparently they've cut out the toilet seat budget this year.

We quickly passed through customs and gathered our bags.  Because TE has an British passport, we bypassed the extremely long lines for non-EU passengers.  If you have US or non-EU passport be sure to leave yourself additional time to get through customs. 

CruiseCritic.com also has a Roll Call on the forums where you can meet other people that will be on your cruise.  This is how we arranged for our transport from Rome to the dock at Civitavecchia.  We shared a taxi with two other couples and paid half of what we would have paid for the ship transfer.

I'll share more about our stops and shore excursions in future posts, but for now let's just focus on the ship.  

The Navigator of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's Voyager Class and at 138,000 tons is one of their larger ships.  She carries a crew of 1,100 and sails with 3,100 passengers.  She was launched in 2002 and is currently covering both the Mediterranean and Caribbean during a portion of each year.  

She is a beautiful ship with plenty to see and do.  You'll find lots of space and will rarely feel crowded.

However, we've decided that we  prefer the smaller ships and will likely never cruise on one of the new mega ships.  The smaller ships feel more intimate and it's easier to get to know the staff and other cruisers.  We usually come away with a few new social media friends, but that's harder on a larger ship.   We didn't connect with as many other cruisers as usual.

Some of that may also be due to the different crowd found in Europe compared to the U.S. as well as the locations visited.  We found the Caribbean cruises to be a little more relaxed and festive.   A little more chillin' on a beach versus exploring ancient ruins.  Not worse, just different.

The Navigator is aging a bit, so there is some wear and tear but you really have to look for it.  And some of the decor is starting to look a little outdated.  I believe she is due for a dry dock and some minor updating soon.   But we really have no complaints about the ship or the staff.  The space is engaging and open.  There is always something to do or someplace quiet to hide away.

There are 15 decks and a long promenade running through the center of the ship on deck 5. It's like a floating mall. 

The promenade includes a cafe, shops, a pub and wine bar.  You'll notice the windows above the shops.  You can get rooms with a Promenade view which comes in handy for the parades and parties that they have in this large area. 

We were excited about the pub, but it's one of the few areas that they allow smoking so we ended up only visiting once and increasing our pace as we passed by.  The two beers on tap were Amstel Light and Heineken with a large number of world beers available in a bottle. 

There are several other bars throughout the ship and plenty of places to have a cocktail.   I've mentioned that alcohol pours in the UK are regulated.  Well, let me tell you, they are not regulated on board this ship.  My gin & tonic was more like a gin with a tonic bottle passed over the top of it just for flare.

I'll also mention that while food is included in the price of your cruise, sodas, beer, wine and cocktails are not and they can add up quickly.  The average drink on this cruise was about $10 USD including a 15% gratuity.  When you get on board, they give you a plastic swipe card to use as your room key.  It's also used to charge all of your additional items while you are on-board.  You settle up at the end of your cruise.

If you want to be all responsible and stuff by keeping track of your on-board expenditures, you can use the interactive feature on your TV to check your balance each day.  Or to make things more exciting, you can wager with your spouse as to how much it will be in the end and wait until the last day to see who is closer.   (I'd like to reassure my parents and in-laws that we kept track of our expenditures each day.  ::nodding head::  Definitely. ::shaking head::)

To be continued... Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6


btw... this is not a sponsored post.  If anyone would like to send me on a cruise, then by all means contact me.  I'll be happy to oblige.  

All pics taken by me or TE on the Nikon D90. 


  1. Looks like you have had a fun trip - hope to see more pictures!!

  2. Hee hee. I've totally read these backwards. I went on to their website and I can't believe how reasonable the cruises are! I might consider it on a smaller boat.

  3. Question: Did you get a British Passport? or is it easier just to travel through customs in the EU with your Husband since he has one?

    My wife & I haven't been back to Britain since we got married and I'm worried that while I'm breezing through on my British passport she'll be stuck in the visitors line being harassed by the moronic UK Border Agency like she's been before.

    LOVE these Pictures! Glad you're enjoying your cruise! I can't wait to show my wife the delights of Europe (We've only been to Paris and that was a manic day trip) L

  4. I've loved all your cruise reports--sounds pretty incredible!

    Enjoy the Olympic party!

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