May 27, 2013

22 Cruising Lessons...

A few weeks ago we had had the amazing opportunity to take a 'bucket list' type of vacation... a luxury cruise including stops in Italy, the Greek islands, and Turkey. Yes it was a WOW of a trip for sure... from a guided walking tour of Pompeii to a Segway tour of Malta to a gondola ride in Venice, we played tourist to the hilt... and loved every minute of it!

Here's what I saw and learned about cruising and travel...

1- It's not the wisest idea to read The Wheat Belly diet book on a plane going to Italy, home of pizza, pasta, and focaccia...

2- It is possible to eat healthy and exercise regularly on a cruise ship, though it is not the norm; as an Australian passenger said to me at the buffet on day one, "You come on as a passenger, you go home as cargo."

3- Being under 50 makes us "young"...

4- While the Amalfi coast is breathtakingly gorgeous, the town itself is not a hub of excitement; it has one big church and a dozen tiny pizza shops. And a place that sells dirty aprons.

5- Italian drivers are proudly crazy, from the taxi driver who speeds and weaves to the limo driver whose brakes didn't exist, to the bus driver who could lead a film called 'mountain terror'...

6- Our first tour bus driver looked amazingly like the Lorax.

7- Italian men smoke lots of cigarettes and wear lots of scarves. At least one of these is bad.

8- A Segway tour is an amazing way to experience a new place... will do again for sure. And I only fell once. And crashed into other people twice. Oops.

9- Yes, reading the fact-free suspense novel Pompeii at 4 AM the morning before touring Pompeii counts as doing your research.

10- The only fully restored building in Pompeii is a brothel.

11- In case visitors to Pompeii do not already know where the brothel is, there are penis signs on the roads to point (yep) you in the right direction...

12- With three long airplane flights in each direction, I got caught up on lots of movies; Streisand's The Guilt Trip is bad, The Hobbit is long, The Bourne Legacy is too obsessed with missing Matt Damon, and Oz The Great and Powerful is more fun than I expected. As for Hope Springs, no one needs to see Meryl Streep go down on Tommy Lee Jones in a movie theatre. Blech.

13- At one point my husband looks over at me and says "Your iPad is your top priority" --- uh, wrong, that top priority would be Alfred.

14- In our eagerness to see and experience everything, we booked too many excursion to churches and excavation sites. At some point eyes glaze over, which seems disrespectful to all the people and history that have been there before us.

15- In Turkey we saw impressive looking fake Rolex watches and fake Louis Vuitton handbags. In  stores named Genuine Fake Watches and Genuine Fake Handbags.

16- This is the cruise ship pool at night. The ship was awesome, and with 2800 passengers and 1200 staff it was like a small city at sea. The idea of bigger ships -- and there are way bigger ships out there -- seems like way too much.

17- Much as I am happy to cross seeing the Acropolis off my bucket list, it is such a crowded tourist cash grab at this point that it was not a highlight. In hindsight, disappointing.

18- Surprisingly, there is no Acropolis WiFi.

19- Crocs with socks are ALWAYS a bad look, even on a cheesy looking tourist in a faraway land.

20- "Old town" Chania in Crete has a Sephora and a Curves... so I am thinking not really as traditional old-town as they market to tourists.

21- We have had good tour guides and we have had bad tour guides, and then for 5 very long hours in Crete we had a really bad tour guide... hello and goodbye Irena. Sure you can tell us over and over again we need two weeks to see Crete, but you couldn't make it interesting for five hours. Yawn. And I say this with love...  go right now and choose a new career.

22- In Venice our tour guide told us that the gondoliers in Las Vegas sing, but the real ones in Venice don't. Not so... ours sang, and whistled and acted as tour guide. And was easy on the eyes too. Amazing ride through the back 'streets' and the Grand Canal of Venice. Awesome.

Next year, on to Antarctica....!