Cruising

I am far from a cruise expert but thought I would blog about our family’s experience cruising. Before we booked a cruise I did my research.  There are many cruise lines.  We wanted to cruise the Mediterranean and ending up picking MSC because they let kids sail for free when staying in their parents cabins.

 

We certainly did not go on a cruise to eat good food. We knew going into it that food made for masses  usually = not good.  We tried to stay away from the buffets but actually enjoyed our sit down dinners. I would say it was a noch above Chilis but worlds apart from Jean Georges.  It was more about the experience of being with our kids and enjoying what the cruise had to offer.

 

Most of the cruise lines have clubs for the kids, usually starting around age 3.   My kids had a blast enjoying late night dance parties and costume parties.  Since we were sailing an Italian Cruise line most of the guests were Italian. Luckily the kids club attendants spoke Italian and English, but my son ended up translating for the German speaking kids.  What a great experience for kids.
If you sail in the off season the club may not offer all the services offered in the on season. Make sure to ask the cruise line what is available if you are sailing off season.

There is only 1 upside to kids sleeping in your cabin, they are free, at least on MSC.  Everything else is a downside.  Most cruise lines only allow 4 per cabin.  A few cruise lines have family rooms up to 6. If you have more than 2 kids, your best bet is getting adjoining rooms, which in my opinion is better anyways. Next time we will for sure upgrade to 2 rooms.

 

The Ports. We consider ourselves independent travelers and prefer to navigate alone, but if unfamiliarity to language and cultures makes you nervous, I would recommend going on the Ship Excursions. The upside to this is you have all the events planned for you and security of someone else being your guide. But the Excursions can be quite expensive. For Example, we chose to navigate through Athens on our own. We hired our own taxi for our family for 6 hours and paid under 100 Euros, the same excursion would have been over 500 Euros for our family.  We ended up at every site the tour bus went to but for a fraction of the cost.  If you want to save time and money, do your research on all the ports before sailing. Some things I found useful were:

1. Having our own GPS loaded with International Maps
2. Location of the Port to Rental Car companies
3. Research main sites in the city to maximize your port time
4.Don’t forget passports
5. Read reviews from local restaurants
6. Have a day pack and guide book
7. Learning a few key survival words in the language also helps

I thought cruising was a great way to travel with kids. It offered the best of both worlds. Fun for the kids and relaxation for the parents. Especially if all of your kids are old enough to enjoy the kids club.  During the day we were able to explore different countries, not always exciting for kids, but exciting for parents. And in the evening the kids were excited to be back on the ship. I give 2 thumbs us for family cruising.   

Life on the Ship

I love this picture, if only the ocean smell could come with it. We really enjoyed the evenings on the deck.

Ahhh, a well deserved vacation. Time for us all to relax………well maybe a little hard with a baby but we will do our best to relax.

Life on the pool deck- lounging and relaxing- well as much as you can with a baby 🙂

Enjoying our meals together.

That’s a big plate of pasta for such a little girl. Every evening the floor was a complete disaster after little Miss mess-maker was done with her dinner.

And we always have one who falls asleep after only a few bites to eat.

A Galla Evening. All dressed up for the evening.

 

We were lucky and got a really great dinner table for our nightly dinners.

The beautiful sunset views were amazing.

Out on the deck. After dinner every evening the kids center had fun activities planned for the kids. So we’d drop of the kids and then put the baby in her stroller to sleep and go hang out in the lounges.

Awaiting the kid’s disco to start. The boys learned some fun dances. The main language on the boat was Italian. Some of the kid’s staff spoke English but not German, so our kids became the designated German translator for all of the German kids.

The Toscano (Purple) Lounge was our favorite. It was just 1 floor below our cabin and we’d hang out here regularly.

Nap Time for everyone—-I love this picture even though it is blurry. Jacob took it of us and obviously we are all totally out.

The afternoons on the deck were great to enjoy the sunshine together.


Ahoy Mattie – The last night the boys had a huge pirate party with all of their friends they had made. It lasted until mid-night……so fun for the kids.

The baby wasn’t old enough for the kid club so when the boys were out having fun, the 3 of us were hanging out together.

If the kids weren’t in the club they were in the pool or hot tub. The boys enjoying some time in the hot tub. I would say a cruise was the perfect family vacation. The kids enjoyed the ship so much they did not want to go to shore.

 

Santorini, Σαντορίνη

Santorini is like a magical city perched on the side of a volcano surrounded by a giant lagoon. We had to take smaller boats into the island . The waters were rough and it was quite an adventure. Once on land there were only 2 ways up to the village, a donkey or a cable car. We took the cable car up.
Most of the village was white with blue accents, beautiful. It was so fun to explore.
A snapshot in-front of a cool blue door
I loved all the blues. We hiked along the ridge of most of the city. It took about an hour.
Daddy and his little girl. Traveling with a baby can be very tiring…she does not seem to appreciate all the beautiful views.  HA. Nap time can be difficult to manage etc. We have found taking a backpack to carry her in has helped with the naps. Oh the joys.
It’s nice when the kids can help take pictures

 

The lone donkey.  The boys were really excited about taking the donkey down the hill. There had to be about 75 donkeys lined up and down the path.
Enjoying the ride down.
A little unsure at first, the donkey was a little freaked but they both settled into the ride.
I would recommend the ride up the hill and then you can enjoy the walk back down. It is nice to entertain the kids too and less complaining about walking up the hills.
You can see our ship in the background.

We set up our tri-pod and managed to get a family photo. It was a shame we only had a day on this beautiful island. We would love to go back and rent a home to stay longer and enjoy the views, culture, and food. Hopefully soon.

Bari

We fell in love with Bari. Maybe it was the weather, or the relaxed atmosphere, or the food, or the sea, or the people, or Italy, or just a mixture of it all but Bari was great.

Wandering the streets of Bari was fascinating. We’d heard you’d see people in their homes making pasta but didn’t really think we’d see almost everyone in their home making pasta. All the doorways had a little curtain on it and we could see the Italian woman at work.
Here the orchetti is drying outside the doorsteps of each home. One of my favorite dishes has always been an Orchetti dish Jason makes. I was so excited to try it in Bari.
We found a perfect little restaurant. The orchetti was amazing. But there was more……

We devoured these fried, salty, dough balls. Who would have thought? We loved them so much we tried to order them again but ended up with this…..

I guess fratelli and fratella sounds too similar. After a few hand jesters to our neighbors table the waiter figured it out and brought us some more. They were so delicious.
Josie loved the fried dough. If you look closely she is saving a piece for latter behind her ear 🙂
Eatting gelato with a baby strapped to you = A crazy baby
What a beautiful day.

Buono Viaggio

 
We embarked on our first family cruise and had an awesome time. 
 
Here’s a little map of our cruise route in the Mediterranean.
 
Note Jonah’s distressed look.  A few hours after we arrived on the boat they had a safety drill. Poor Jonah had not a clue what was going on.  I looked over at him with his life jacket on and he had tears in his eyes. I asked him what was wrong and he said “Are we sinking now?” Oh, poor boy.  I explained what was going on but he was still a little unsure and said “oh, are we crashing now?”
 
Embarking from Venice. The boys were so looking forward to this vacation. They talked about it constantly and had a count down. They were so excited.
 
Josie was not a fan of her life jacket. 
 
Small and cozy. Good thing we didn’t spend much time in our room. 
 
We spent most of our time relaxing by the pool when we were at Sea. {Ports to follow}