The Norwegian Gem and 6 Different Cities in 7 days
In my opinion there is no faster way to see a number of European cities or landmarks than taking a cruise. Cruises are typically are the scour of the traveling world. But they sure are efficient!
I have been known to look down on cruising. You are on a huge floating hotel with thousands of people. The ship sets sail and passengers sleep and eat through the night. You then “pop” into one location only to stay for at most a day and then re-board to do it all over again.
Granted, a cruise is not the way to do a deep dive into a culture, region, or even city. The time alloted in one place is small so there is only so much you can do.
However, when traveling with kids and taking vacations as part of a regular day job, a cruise can be a real good option. I will use one of our first cruises while on expat assignment in Norway as a case-in-point.
What is Going to Give Us the Biggest Bang for Our Buck?
We stumbled upon the cruise idea when my wife and I were trying to figure out a way for us to see as much of Europe as we could given our budget and time in Norway. We knew we wanted to hit Italy, France, Greece, and a number of other countries.
I worked a busy day job and could not just pick up and go. It dawned on us when we were talking about the cruise we took on our Honeymoon. On that trip we saw a lot of the Caribbean real fast.
Why not do that over in Europe? That stared me off on the research….
The Norwegian Gem and a Mediterranean Cruise
I love to do travel research – most of us probably do. I started with a basic “cruise europe” search which primarily took me to the big cruise ship lines.
The one that stood out for us was the Norwegian Gem on Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). Not because we were living in Norway, but because of their Freestyle Cruising concept.
Most cruise lines through Europe, at least the big ones, visit the same ports. It really came down to which ship and cruise line we wanted. Having been on a cruise on our honeymoon, we knew about the set times for dinner and all that jazz.
With NCL and their Freestyle Cruising concept there is no set dinner time or restaurants. You can choose which restaurant you want to visit and at what time and you do it. No need to worry about what time to be back on board or when break away from the pool. That to us was a huge plus.
As I mentioned, the itineraries on the big ships are usually pretty much the same. The Mediterranean Cruise we chose hit the following locations:
- Barcelona, Spain
- Valleta, Malta
- Pisa, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Naples/Pompei Italy
- Cannes, France
In the span of seven days we were going to be able to visit each one of those places. We flew into Barcelona and spent two days there and then boarded the ship.
Barcelona in Two Days
Barcelona is one crazy city. It almost has a carnival like feel to it. We actually got to spend about 3 days in Barcelona as we hung out before departing on the cruise and then stayed the day when we got back.
Seeing the Sagrada Família was great, as were the people selling everything for turtles to rabbits on La Rambla. Very cool city.
Malta in One Day
Malta was small but very pretty. The highlight for us was taking the horse drawn carriage back to port at the end of the day. A real fun way to get around such an old city.
Funnier was when the horse took a massive horse pee just as we were taking pictures…we still talk about that to this day!
Pisa in One Day
It is my opinion that everyone should visit Pisa at least once. We got to see it and made many a failed attempt to get the picture of the kids “propping” up the tower.
Being so iconic, The Leaning Tower of Pisa was spectacular to see and worth the day trip from the cruise.
Pompeii in One Day
There is something so fascinating about Pompeii – the village that was swallowed up by a volcano 1000′s of years ago.
Everything from the aqueducts to the “mummified” people is amazing – and very touching to see. The horror those people would have gone through as the wave of lava swallowed them tough us, including our kids who were quite moved by the thought.
Cannes in 5 Hours
There is some crazy money in Cannes and the whole Cote D’Azur region. It was also the one place we found a bit unspectacular. We only had about four hours in the area so we know we missed a lot.
Cannes spoke to the downside of a cruise and the ability to explore. There is so much more to see in this region that we did not do it justice. We had time to marvel at the Ferraris and Lambos and the expensive shops, but limited time to take it all in.
That being said, we have been to Cannes and we can say that we have been there!
Rome in One (real full) Day
Who doesn’t love Rome? The history and the architecture is unbelievable. To think about the buildings and life during the Roman Empire was fascinating to all of us. St. Peter’s Square was wonderful and watching Hailey pose in the square was something I will always remember.
Although I don’t think my kids totally got it at the time, as they have gotten older and are studying things like the Roman Empire, they have Rome as a set point in their mind. This has helped them learn because they have the context to draw from.
Cruising and Families
I suspect you can tell that I like cruising as a family vacation choice. It is not traveling in the sense of getting integrated into a culture and uncovering all the intricacies and wonders an area might offer.
However, it is a easy way to get in a lot with limited time. As a working dad, it was important for my wife and I to balance work with seeing as much as we could during our time.
Some other family considerations for cruise travel are:
- Visit and experience a lot of different places in a short amount of time. If you want to see a few different places one one trip it can get you there.
- Retiring to the ship every night was great – wonderful restaurants and fun entertainment
- Swimming and generally relaxing on “sea days” was something the kids relished. They liked the excursions, but really liked the ability to take it easy and not walk a million miles on some days.
- The cruise line takes care of the logistics. You pay for it, but they get you to the attractions and places to see and then get you back. This requires very little upfront planning.
- Good food whenever and wherever you want – each night was an adventure as we tried a new restaurant?
At the end of the day, my kids, wife and I have experienced six of the many historical and beautiful parts of the world and cruising allowed us to do that expeditiously.