Traveling: Avoiding the Ugly American Label

Hello, please, excuse me, thank you, and goodbye are the most important words when traveling. If you can learn those four words in the native tongue of the country you are in, you will have a successful trip.

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Traveling: Carnival Breeze, our Mediterranean home

We made it! After a very long (9 hour) plane ride, during which I might have received around 3 hours of sleep (and poor Kurt didn’t sleep at all) we arrived in Barcelona right after 9am this morning. The airport is stunning, with lots of open space and made almost of all glass. There is even courtyards outside to relax. We easily make it through customs and get our luggage, then quickly find the Carnival cruise transfer to the pier. I am very pleased at how easy and smooth everything is, and our bus ride to the pier is less than 20 minutes. Although the airport is on the coast, and obviously so is the pier, the way there is pretty much through an industrial area. So we didn’t get to see much of Barcelona, but we’ll remedy that in 12 days when we come back!

Spain from the Plane

Spain from the Plane

The ship itself is humongous. We are on deck 7 in an inside room. We immediately come into our room at 11:30am when we board the ship and I go to sleep. Little did we know, we are not supposed to be in here yet! We kind of sneak around the Carnival people and go up the elevators…well, the cleaning crew starts freaking out and knocking on the door. I am already asleep and Kurt tells them so, but they insist on taking our ice bucket to sanitize it. Never did get it back yet…but that’s okay, I did get another 3 hours of sleep!

Carnival Breeze dinner table at Blush

Carnival Breeze dinner table at Blush

After our safety drill, we semi-explore the ship. It truly is a beautiful ship, and so many people are enjoying it already. Somehow, our dining reservations get screwed up. We are supposed to have late dining at 8:15pm, but on our sail and sign cards, it says 6pm. We realize that this is a blessing in disguise, as we have a lot of early mornings, and if we have late dining, we wouldn’t be finished until 9:30pm, which is when I’d want to be in bed if I have to wake up at 5:30am to be ready by 7am. Plus, we receive one of the best tables, at the exact end of the ship, against the window, with a panoramic view of Mediterranean. We are seated at a four person table, but our waiter says no one is scheduled to sit with us. So we get an awesome table to ourselves at the better time. Thank goodness for mistakes in our favor! Kurt has the spring rolls for a starter, which sweet and sour shrimp as a main dish, while I have cream of sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons and a flat iron steak. Dessert is the glorious warm melting cake, with vanilla ice cream. I do not even like chocolate and this dessert is just a warm, gooey, heavenly mess.

Sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons on the Carnival Breeze.

Sun ripened tomato soup with herb croutons.

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake from the Carnival Breeze

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

In all, today was sort of a blur, but we did get some good food and views at dinner. Hopefully this headache I currently have goes away, and tomorrow we’ll be having fun in Marseilles, France, with a visit to a winery and to Avignon to visit the Palace of the Popes!

Traveling: Europe Cruise 2012

Being teachers, Kurt and I get the pleasure of having almost two months off during the summer. Because I run a tight budget and we live frugally during the year, we’re able to take a trip each summer. Kurt and I were discussing the possibilities for this coming summer, from a week in Disney World to a cruise out of New Orleans. As I’m checking out cruises, I curiously start looking at cruises in Europe. While scrolling through the many wonderful ports and attractions, one catches my eye – a 12 day cruise out of Barcelona. The more I explore it, the more intrigued I am. Half jokingly, I start looking up airfare. $1300? Ha ha…no. I push the thought out of my mind…or, try to at least. That night, all I could think about was this cruise. I had mentioned it to Kurt, and though he was interested, he was very doubtful about the cost.

The next day, I made a decision. I was going to call the annoying cruise guy that calls me EVERY time I log onto their website and see what kind of deal he could get me. Right off the bat, he gave me an airfare/cruise deal…of $6200, more than what I could do separately. No thanks! I bemoan to him that it’s way too expensive and he asks if their are any other cities I could fly from, since certain cities have deals. I mention Orlando…cha-Ching!!! They do have a deal…one I couldn’t pass up.

So, I booked the cruise! It sails out of Barcelona, with it’s first stop in Marseilles, France, a place neither of us has been. We’re thinking of doing an excursion to Avignon and seeing the Papal Palace. We then head to Livorno, Italy, where we’ll take an excursion to Pisa (having done Florence in 2010). The next day, we have an overnight stay in Civitavecchia, Italy, where it’s only a 90 minute ride to Rome. Though I’ve been there three times and Kurt’s been there once on our 2010 trip, he only got to do Vatican City and the Coliseum, since we were only there for half a day. This time, we’ll get to do all the things he missed. We’re thinking about even getting a hotel room to get the full experience and not have to travel back to the ship.

Our next stop is Dubrovnik, Croatia, another new place. I’m probably most excited to visit this place, not only because it’s in Eastern Europe, a gorgeous seaside city, and extremely old, but it’s also the filming location of my favorite television show, Game of Thrones.

We then head to Venice for another overnight stay, a place which I visited ten years ago, but Kurt has yet to see. We finish the trip in Messina, Sicily. We plan on doing an excursion to Mt. Etna, an active volcano. Kurt is terrified of heights, but how many opportunities do you get to go up into a volcano? I’ve never been to one, so this is truly exciting. I’m already looking forward to the photos I can add to my power points for World Geography.

We opted to spend an extra day in Barcelona since neither of us has been there either. Kurt has a cousin that lives there, so we will hopefully get to spend some time with her.

The best part is that through careful planning, this trip will not set us back monetarily at all. We are very fortunate to have such great jobs that allow us to save and have the time to travel. Though if all goes according to plan, this might be our last big trip for a few years…we’d want to wait until our kids are old enough to appreciate the places we’d take them. And maybe by next summer, we’ll have one. And I think he or she will be worth the wait.