I know it’s been a few weeks since I returned from my cruise with my family around the med but since we’ve been back it’s been pretty nonstop with work, family, and friend commitments alas here I am come to update you on the goings on’s.
The holiday consisted of my Mum, 3 brothers, sister, boyfriend and my brothers girlfriend and though we all get on really well I was a little concerned as to whether that would continue to be the case when we were stuck on a boat together for 7 days.
For the first 3 days we stayed in an apartment in Rome that I found on Airbnb (LOVE Airbnb). It was located in a quiet residential area in a private gated apartment block. I chose it for it’s relatively close proximity to the centre of Rome (just a short bus ride away), it’s size (was spacious and slept 8 people), and it’s elegant and stylish décor. All 8 bedrooms had a ensuites that matched the colour scheme of the rooms. The floors were all marble and the apartment had some very beautiful and original features and a spacious balcony where we could all relax after an evening out and about. Perfect.
After a long day walking around Rome looking at the neverending architectural gems that Rome has in abundance such as the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica, it was a much welcome respite from the noise and chaos. I was in awe of the stunning architecture in Rome but I must say (and I’m very disappointed to say), that I wasn’t in awe of the people. At all. We had some very unpleasant and frankly racist experiences from the Romans that left us all shocked and upset. Being a black family I figured that perhaps we might get the odd look (which you kind of get used to after a while) no matter where you go in Europe even in England where we were all born, but I didn’t expect to be made to feel so unwelcome by the Italians.
Despite the fact that we were clearly there as tourists visiting from England to spend money in their country and immerse ourselves in their culture and food they didn’t seem to care. In their eyes because we were black we didn’t deserve any hospitability, decency or friendliness and they were extremely rude and aggressive towards us. This went on for the entire time that we were in Rome and it was very uncomfortable. It was particularly upsetting as I was travelling with my 2 little brothers (who are in their early twenties), and I didn’t wish to expose them to this kind of hatred.
But on the other hand the experience we had with the owner of the apartment we stayed at was quite the opposite. She was a beautiful, warm, kind, wonderful woman and she made us feel very welcome indeed. She exuded warmth and goodness as such she made the experience very pleasant for us all. As I believe good experiences are worth sharing I would invite you to stay with Beatrice if you are looking for somewhere lovely to stay in Rome with a warm and hospitable host.
You can see the apartment here: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2414713
After Rome we hired a mini van to take us (and our many items of luggage!), to the port of Cittavecchia where we were due to pick up the ship that would be carrying us onto Florence, Cannes, Majorca, Barcelona, Naples and back to Rome. Although I hadn’t personally sailed with the Norwegian Epic myself before I was very excited for my family as I knew that they were going to absolutely love it. Cruising holidays offer so much more in terms of variety and excitement and if you choose your ship wisely you can find cruises that cater to your specific holiday requirements no matter what your interests or age is. As our travelling party ranged in age from 23 to 59 I wanted to find a ship with lots of personality.
And personality we found.
Unbeknownst to me at the time of booking, The Norwegian Epic is infact the 5th largest cruise ship in the world (after the Royal Caribbean’s Allure, Oasis, Quantum and Anthem of the Seas), carrying over 4,000 passengers and almost 2,000 crew. It boasts the largest spa at sea and a one of a kind ice bar serving up vodka drinks inside a bar made completely from ice. It also has a water park, 2 theatres, 6 bowling alleys and is the only cruise line to have cabins for solo travellers (or people who want there own rooms like my mum, sister and 2 brothers) just to mention a few. When we caught sight of the ship in port it really was a sight to behold. When Ian and I went on the Celebrity Equinox last year which in it’s own right was a very big ship, we felt that it was huge, but this ship was much bigger then that! Golly Gosh.
Needless to say my family just could not believe all of the facilities on offer (and most of them were free!)
My little brother was so amazed with the fact that there was a pretty substantial video arcade onboard that he spent the first couple of days holed up in there dosing himself up with games. My older brother was very impressed with the gym which was vast and had every type of exercise equipment imaginable with 360 degree views of the ocean and beyond. It was surprisingly peaceful and dare I say relaxing? working out in that gym. I was starting to understand why my brother began waking up at 7:00 am in the morning to use it.
As for my sister, Mum and I, we were most intrigued with the spa, which was very stylish with some of the most breathtaking views on the ship. My brother, my boyfriend and my older brothers girlfriend was looking forward to sampling the fine culinary treats in the various restaurants on the ship and we were very pleased to find that the standard of the food in the complimentary restaurants was pretty good, in particular the breakfast where they served the most amazing waffles I’d ever had with caramel and banana sauce and whipped cream. Divine!
The ship had so much to offer in the way of entertainment that I was quite concerned about how I would manage to get off! – All I wanted to do was stay on and party!
And talking of parties, the NCL Epic even had a nightclub on board. And the nightclub on the Epic really was EPIC. I simply could not believe that such a sound system had been installed on board a ship. When we were in the nightclub it was almost impossible to tell that we were anywhere but the West End. Wonderful stuff.
Our first stop was Florence, well, they advertised it as Florence but the port was actually in Livorno (we soon found out that Florence was infact an hour and a half away which I thought was very cheeky of them). In the end after all of the walking up and down the overcrowded and overheated streets of Rome I couldn’t bare the thought of getting yet more modes of transport to get to the centre of Florence and I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing the leaning tower of Pisa so Ian and I had a stroll around the town of Livorno on our own before making our way back to the ship to take advantage of the fact that almost everyone had gotten off. We sunbathed, had a well deserved afternoon nap, ate Mr Whippy’s and went on the 3 water slides (twice). Fun was had! When my family returned from there trip to Livorno they reported that they’d had a wonderful time and was really glad they went. I was really pleased we hadn’t gone, but I was happy that they’d enjoyed themselves so much.
The next stop on our adventure was Cannes (and by this time I had decided that I was beginning to get into this cruising lark). Cannes was what I imagined it to be and more. Pretty. CLEAN (so very clean!), Glamorous. Abundant (shops, restaurants, galleries). And interesting.
Exploring Cannes like it needed to be explored just wasn’t possible in a mere few hours but we browsed the shops, looked on in awe at the mega yachts in the harbour (the Cannes film festival was on when we were there), had lunch at a wonderful little bistro and picked up a few gifts for friends and family. I loved Cannes. I kind of knew that I would but being there just confirmed it for me. I would most definitely be returning for a long weekend away.
Since being back my boyfriend has found a beautiful apartment in Cannes (on Air bnb naturally), and he is taking me there to celebrate my birthday in August. YAY!
We had less time in our next destination which was fine by me as it was the least interesting place on our itinerary to me: Palma Marjorca. I’m not a big fan of the Brit infested Spanish Islands (not including Ibiza which I love). My very first trip abroad was to Tenerife (not my choice), and it was exactly what I had imagined if not worse. You couldn’t move for Brits Abroad, and we all know what they are like: Classless. Loud. Drunk and Leary. Not the kind of environment that I wished to be around. Only badly executed food was on offer and everything looked cheap and nasty. Of course I knew Majorca wouldn’t be anywhere near as tacky but it still wasn’t somewhere I wished to spend much of my time however I did want to try out one of there beaches there as I’d heard that they were very nice.
As soon as we got off the boat at the port in Majorca we enquired about the bicycles that we’d heard you could hire to cycle around the town on. Unfortunately they had all been taken so we resigned ourselves to jumping in a taxi to the nearest beach instead. The beach was reasonably long and was packed full of locals and Europeans. And it looked very inviting. We changed into our swimwear, got some drinks and began the enjoyable process of soaking up the searing sun.
It soon got very hot indeed so Ian and decided that we were going to brave it and go for a swim (we hadn’t bought any towels with us). I prompted Ian to go in first to do a temperature test as I wasn’t sure that I would be able to bare going into sub zero temperatures. He went in and even he had to admit that it was colder then he had ever known. BUT he went on, once you get used to it it is very refreshing. It took him a long while to convince me that it was worth it, and when I dipped my toe in I felt cold such as I’d never known. EVER. It was magnificently, tremendously, stupendously, UNBELIEVABLY cold. I really was not sure that I could go any further as my entire foot was now NUMB with the intense pain of the cold. So intense was it that it took me a good 10 minutes just to disperse the feeling of numb. And that was just my foot!
When I immersed my whole body I could have gone into shock such was the pain, but after the pain came exhilaration. The water was crystal clear, super clean and the waves were gentle. It was glorious. Not a stone, nor a slither of seaweed was in residence and I was enjoying myself so much I never wanted to get out but all good things come to an end and soon enough it was time to give up this good thing to experience another good thing: A delicious meal back on the ship.
Barcelona was another place on my list that I was excited about visiting as I had yet to go there and it had always sounded very intriguing. When we arrived I was immediately struck by how well the city centre had been layed out. It didn’t feel overcrowded at all though I could clearly see that there was a large number of tourists milling about there. The market stalls in the centre of la ramblas were selling lovely handmade crafts, plus there were street performers and lots of lovely looking restaurants and shops. Barcelona was in stark contrast to Rome, as we were treated very well by everyone we met, there was absolutely no hostility or hatred directed at us. It seemed like it was a very vibrant and multicultural, cosmopolitan city and it had a wonderful atmosphere that I took to immediately.
I found some beautiful handmade fans on one of the stalls and bought 3 – 2 for myself and one for my friend Diana with a matching notepad. I fell in love with the amazing architecture there, in particular the Gothic Quarter, where we visited the phenomenal Gothic Cathedral. When it was time to go home I was most upset – there was some much left to explore!
I enjoyed the short time we spent there so much that I told my family it was one of the nicest cities I’d ever visited and they were equally impressed with it.
Unfortunately we never had the chance to eat there but I will be going back to Barcelona in 2 weeks time with a friend (lucky me!) so I will definitely be taking full advantage of the nightclubs, beaches and restaurants and I can’t wait!
The following day was our one and only “Day at Sea” which meant that it was a day of travelling. The ship wouldn’t be anchoring at all that day.
This was a welcome respite for me as I was very keen to wake up a little later, use the gym, sample the spa, sunbathe on desk and go on the water slides again. Because we were spending most of our time exploring the ports we weren’t able to take full advantage of the shops facilities and I was knackered with all of the walking. I really enjoyed our day at sea and got into my relaxation process with gusto.
The last stop on our adventure was Naples. I wasn’t very interested in Naples when I saw it on the itinerary but the nearby Amalfi Coast and Capri DID pique my interest however they were both quite a distance from Naples so in the end we just decided to leave our trip to the Amalfi coast and Capri to a later date. We just wanted to have a walk around the town. My sister had disembarked at Naples as she was due to attend a wedding there the following day so it was just the 7 of us now.
Naples was similar to Rome I thought – the architecture was similar, the roads were just as busy with lots of crazy Italian drivers that didn’t seem to adhere to road rules, but Naples was much less glamorous then Rome, less impressive, and quite a bit rundown if I’m perfectly honest. It also had a pretty heavy police presence. Another thing that we were realising was that if you wanted to shop then you needed to do it early – like before 14:00 as most of the shops both in Italy and Spain closed for a siesta between 14:00 and 16:00. I was finding this siesta lark quite annoying as I was used to being able to shop whenever I so chose (within reason) and it seemed that everytime we would turn up somewhere to do some shopping all of the shops were starting to close. It happened to us in Rome, in Florence, Barcelona and now Naples. V annoying.
Aside from the fact that the city itself wasn’t very inspiring and the shops were beginning to close, I still managed to get myself a pair of sandals and 2 bikini’s so in the end it became a very successful shopping trip 🙂
On the day of our permanent disembarkation of the Norwegian Epic it was very sad indeed as none of us wanted to leave. If I had my way I would stay on the ship for at least another fortnight, alas it wasn’t to be, we had come to the end of our holiday. At breakfast we even spoke about the possibility of us hiding somewhere on the ship undetected. Desperate times.
My holiday cruising around the med with my family was a wonderful, precious experience I doubt ‘ll ever forget. So much love and laughter was had it reminded me in the most sweet way of just how much I LIKE my family not to mention love them. Wonderous times.