As I am graduating university in December and hopefully starting a job thereafter, I wanted to take a special break for my last school holiday. Back in March, my mom started looking into what would be reasonable as well as something new and exciting. She was able to find a cruise that went to exciting cities that we hadn’t been to and was entirely reasonable. After we booked it my friend kind of jokingly said “I want to go” and I said well then come and she was like really ok. Then my mom mentioned that her mom should come because they’ve been friends for 35 years thinking she would never say yes and then she did so my mom was ecstatic, and made a few calls to the travel agency (Amex) and found out the boat had a special offer that day for people who had already book that if they invited 1 or 2 more people for free (because it was one of the last ships of the season, so they wanted more people to spend money on the boat). Then they upgraded us from balcony to a mini suite and then like a month before the trip we got upgraded to a two bedroom family suite which was absolutely perfect.
Friday, October 20th
Fly to Venice- the morning of the 20th I flew to Venice as the cruise started there on Sunday 22nd.
Water taxi- the airport is on the mainland so you can either take a taxi in over bridge or the water bus which is a short walk from the airport and then walk to your hotel. I had three bags with me because I was sending stuff home with my mom so it wasn’t really possible for me to take the bus. Instead, I grabbed a taxi, and they gave me a combo price for taxi & water taxi ( €120 so not cheap at all).
Boscolo Venezia - as usual, we chose to stay at a Marriott, and the Boscolas are part of the autograph collection so one of the nicer division. The hotel is right on the canal on one side and the ocean on the other which means you can take a boat directly there. The hotel has all the elements of Venetian style and is incredibly ornate with lots of red and green, as well as marble, interesting frescoes and large Murano glass chandeliers. A very luxurious hotel, for the most part, though it did feel a bit dated at times as the hotel is old and authentic it has a funky configuration, with some split levels that the elevators don’t go to so you may have to take a flight up or down the stairs from the nearest floor.
Boat to San Marco square- my mom arrived a few hours after me so once she got to the hotel and settled in we decided to go to the hub of Venice, San Marco square. The hotel told us they had a free boat service there since it was on the other side of the city. The boat docks on the ocean side of the hotel, so they walk you through the gardens which are just beautiful and so unexpected, and they go on and on ( it is the only Venetian hotel with a private green area of more than 2000 sq.m). The boat goes around the city in the ocean rather than through the canals and takes about 35 minutes, so it's actually faster to walk.
San Marco square- as I said it’s the hub of Venice and the main tourist area, and houses St Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace, as well as famous cafes such as Caffè Florian. We got off the boat and walked through the square and visited the expensive shops on the streets behind the square. Then we began to wander around, making sure to take in the little local stores before putting into the GPS where our hotel was and start walking back there (only takes 30 mins so if you're up for it you may as well walk). On the way back we found a healthy pizza shop and picked some up to eat at our hotel while we waited for our friends to arrive.
Saturday 21st October
Breakfast- when we woke up we want to go out for breakfast (the hotel has breakfast, but we wanted to explore). We walked to the street where we had found the pizza the night before (about 15-minute walk) and sat down at a cafe - Italian breakfast is not my favorite it’s really just French pastries with extra sugar on top.
Walk around- after breakfast, my mom and I walked around a bit, and our friends walked to the hotel briefly. Shortly afterward we met them in San Marcus square and had some gelato. My mom and I went back to the hotel, and our friends walked to the Ponte dell'Accademia and had lunch by the water.
Tour- I had booked a tour through Viator at 2 for the San Marcus basilica and the doge palace. The tour allowed us to skip the line ( which looked at least an hour long even in the middle of October). We were given a very detailed tour around the square, before going into the basilica itself. The decoration was beautiful and very elaborate. As well as this, we were taken into the Doge's Palace which we probably wouldn’t have gone to see otherwise and is very interesting. (The Doge was the chief magistrate - they never had real power and were elected for life). The tour took 3 hours and required lots of walking and stairs so by the end we were hungry, to say the least.
Dinner- we wandered back again and unfortunately I was so hungry I didn’t have the patience to find a great restaurant, so we end up just sitting at a restaurant that was easy.
Gondola- when in Venice, take a gondola! Of course, we had to do so my mom insisted it be at night and since she was the only one who had been to Venice we listened and went along (the gondolas are expensive €80 during the day and €100 during the night for 35 minutes) with it. Despite how tired we were, after a few minutes we all admitted what a fantastic idea it was. The views were stunning and seeing the reflections of light and buildings on the water was beautiful.
Morano glass tour- once again I had arranged a tour through Viator where they picked us up at the hotel and took us to Morano to watch a glass blowing demonstration. Which was a fantastic thing to see and it was just us, so we got to see it up close and personal. The Masters take at least ten years to qualify, and one of their last tests it to create a perfect horse sculpture in under 60 seconds. Our guide had suggested we go across to Burano which is famous for its lace and the colorful houses, so we took the water bus over there and then back to a stop near our hotel.
Cruise- we took a water taxi from the hotel to our boat in the early afternoon - as the boat boards from 11 am, you really don't want to be there right when it opens as that's when it's the most crowded. though It turned out when we got to the dock, there was a special boarding area for us and a concierge who walked us through faster. We also knew that any bag checked wouldn’t be delivered for maybe hours, so we only checked one bag and had carry on for everything else.
Unpacking -like I said most of the bags don’t arrive until late since they have to deal with 2,000+ bags, but we had our carryons, so we were able to unpack those bags and then look over all the information about the cruise and walked around to get familiar with the boat.
Teppanyaki- I love Teppanyaki normally, so we made a reservation at the Teppanyaki restaurant on the boat. Which was just a 2 pushed together tables in the back of the sushi? The teppanyaki wasn’t the usual selections of food, and the teppanyaki entertainment was a little bit overboard even for Teppanyaki.
Walk- Monday was our first full day on the cruise, and it was our latest docking at 11. But that meant we were able to get our steps in around the walking deck and eat breakfast at the restaurant that was only open for breakfast and lunch for premier which basically meant it was table service rather than a buffet (a little fresher) and just less crowded.
DUBROVNIK, CROATIA- for Dubrovnik we had planned an excursion with the boat. for boat planned excursions they have you go into the theater and call out different tours then have you get a sticker with your tour number.
Tuk-tuk- the tour was a Tuk Tuk so outside the boat they had a few and they took between 4-6 people which worked out perfectly for us because it meant it was private and the Tuk Tuk drive was terrific. He told us about the history of the area, as well as his own experiences of recent Croatian history, and took us to a few viewpoints that were just amazing. The tour then included a walking tour with a lady at the old town, but after a few minutes, it was clear she was repetitive of what he said.
Old town wall- we most wanted to go around the wall of the old town so after leaving the tour we entered the old town where we immediately saw the ticket office for the wall. The wall has some serious stairs to go up and down but is just perfect it take between 1-2 hours though you can exit early at a few places and there are cafes you can stop at up on the actual wall at places.
Old town- finally we wanted to go through the center of town so we walked a bit down the middle before heading back on the boat.
Boat- once we were back on the ship we decided to walk around deck 7 (rather than 13) because it’s not only bigger and with a larger circumference, but also there were fewer people and obstacles to deal with and a great view of them pulling out and the sea.
Italian restaurant- we made a reservation at the Italian restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful with amazing windows of the sea. But its one of the two restaurants on board you have to pay for but it's not really worth it. (It's not bad just with so much free food choices it doesn't seem to make sense why you would go there instead)
Band on the run- after dinner we went to the 70s themed show of band on the run. My mom and her friend had a blast reliving their hay days.
Tuesday 24th Kotor, Montenegro
Breakfast- since Montenegro is just down the way from Dubrovnik we got to Montenegro at 8 am so we had breakfast brought to our room.
Tour- we booked another tour through the cruise, so we had to do all the meeting stuff. The boat docks right at the gates of the city, so we just walked in. The tour started by showing us around the old town.
City wall- The tour was really of the city wall. The wall takes about an hour and has some fantastic views from the top and along the way. But the hike isn’t easy - I wouldn't say it's super hard but it’s an old wall with rickety stairs on one side and the other side is steep with loose rocks.
City- after the walk, we still had some time, so we looked around the town before heading back to the boat but the city is so small we didn’t really feel the need to see much more.
Walk- the boat left at 3:00 so after getting back to the ship we walked around as they pulled out. Kotor is tucked in at the end of the Bay of Kotor, so it’s a long trip out to sea with beautiful views of the mountains.
Spa- since we got back to the ship early in the day we had arranged manicures. This ended up being a great decision because the spa has beautiful views out to sea, although the moment we left the Bay of Kotor and met the sea, we noticed a big difference in how rocky the ship was. Drinks- Tuesday night was the fancy night on the ship, so they had drinks for the VIPs. Then for dinner, we were about done, so we just did room service.
Town- the boat arrived early at 9 am in a small port town called Katakolon. As we had arrived early we wandered around the shops before meeting our guide at 11.
Tour- the guide finally picked us up and drive us to Olympia which took us about 30 minutes. At the site, we met up with a guide who gave us a comprehensive tour of the site showing us what the different remains would have been. We had just missed the torch lighting ceremony which had happened the day before, in preparation for the Winter Olympics. Overall it was an interesting tour, although the guide wasn’t our favorite.
Lunch- the tour dropped us off in the town, so we grabbed lunch at a cute very local place before looking around.
Dinner- after getting back on the ship we end up grabbing a food from the cafeteria type restaurant.
Breakfast - the boat dock at 7 am so we arranged breakfast in our suite before getting off to meet our private guide.
Tour- once again we had arranged a private guide through Viator. We got off the boat at around 8, and she was waiting right there for us with a sign then she took us to the car. We drove from the port town into the city (about an hour during rush hour)
she then proceeded to show us around Athens starting with the Olympic stadium and proceeded to show us around the town.
Parthenon- after the car tour we came to the Parthenon what we have been waiting for all day. Our guide took us around showing us everything.
After she took us down near the Parthenon to a small street with adorable local restaurants and cafes where we had a bite before finishing at the shops, and the driver drove us back to the ship.
Port town- we had a while before the ship departed, so we walked towards a church near the dock and thought about walking around a bit but felt there was nothing worth going to see.
Ship- on the ship we thought that since everyone was off in Athens, we should take advantage of the empty boat and beautiful weather to play on the slides and relax in the sun before the next day at sea when it would all become crowded.
Dinner- after a full day we made a reservation at aqua the other fancy restaurant on the ship. Which was perfect as we had great views pulling out of the city.
Spa- I started our lazy sea day at the spa with a massage which was magical (ridiculously expensive) and then later in the day I had my hair blown out.
Lay in- most of the day we end up wandering around and walk and resting which was the perfect addition to the go go pace of the trip.
Dinner- for dinner we made a reservation for Versailles and asked for a table by the big windows but were told it was first come first seat so my mom made sure to get there at 5:15 and get a table.
Tour- we docked again at 8 and had previously booked a tour through the boat, but after reading that it was going to last 8 hours, we decided to try and find something else. The boat offered another tour for 5 hours, but again we figured it was too much and instead opted to just get off the boat and find people who were offering tours at the door (we'd experienced this at every other stop).
Cab- we quickly found a driver who said he would drive us to the falls for 150 euros and we could stay 3 hours.
Falls- it takes about 45 minutes to get to the falls. The cab dropped us off at the top where we bought tickets, and you can take a shuttle bus down, but since it was early and a bit before the buses started, we figured we walk the 800 meters down the hill. The hill was steep with a rocky trail with great views. At the bottom, there’s a trail around all the beauty of the nature. The path is pretty easy going in a loop around all the different waterfalls and over the creeks, and through the woods, every part of it is beautiful and well worth the time.
Cab- we took the shuttle bus back up the hill and met our taxi who take us back in town to see first the remains of a Roman Coliseum.
Old town- we ended again in there old town which right off the port. The driver dropped us in front of the town gates where you walk under the city (this is frequently used as a Game of Thrones set) through the wall with merchants and then up into the beautiful city and the square of Diocletian's Palace.
Dinner- our last night on the ship we ate at Aqua again and enjoyed the final views pulling out.
Sunday 29th Venice
Walk off- my friend and her mum had an early flight at 11 after docking at 8, so we wanted to make sure to carry our bags off rather than have our bags picked up and then getting them off the boat. There were lots of people lined up but we got off and our friends were able to catch a bus and got to the airport in plenty of time while my mom and I took a water taxi to the hotel.
Walk- since it was early in the day still and they didn’t have a room ready we got to walk around Venice more and just explore after dropping our bags off.
Shops- with the extra time we wanted to revisit the places we hadn't had time to see the first time. We had kept on walking by Fondaco Dei Tedeschi the department store is located in the center of Venice and as my mom said it's the Venetian version of Liberty of London with the classic Venetian style with a modern aspect. The store has a fantastic collection of luxury goods (i want it all). As well as the best-looking souvenirs on the ground floor. We also visited the restaurant AMO in the grand atrium for an early snack (we wanted lunch, but it was 11). Finally, check out the views from the windows as its situated right on the grand canal and in front of the Ponte di Rialto.
Dinner- our final day we spent after exploring the town hanging just in the room and eating room service.