Friday, May 10, 2024

Both The Journey and the Destination

When it comes to cruising, it is as much about the journey as it is about the destinations. 

Approaching Ibiza

I was reminded of that on our recent western Mediterranean cruise as we sipped room-service-delivered, piping hot coffee each morning on the balcony of our cabin watching some new port of call come into view. 


Morning coffee brought to our room at no extra charge 

Those coffee deliveries rank high on my 'feeling pampered' list and are among the reasons I so like cruising. But I am usually so focused on the vastly differing destinations that we are heading to -- both new and old favorites -- that my tales focus on them and not the ship that gets us to them. Yet, with cruising, the ship and its amenities are as important as those ports of call. 

Onboard the Oceania Vista

Our Mediterranean cruise was a rather last-minute travel idea for us. We decided to take it only three weeks before the sailing. We can do that because among the pluses of expat life is the ease of getting to other European countries.  Getting from Athens to Civitavecchia, Italy from where the ship departed was a three-hour journey; two for the flight and an hour for the shuttle from the Rome airport.


We chose this cruise because it would take us to four countries in 10 days, giving us an introduction to some new places and a refresher course of others. We'd not have more than a day in any one place, but long enough to get a feel for it and decide if we would one day return for a longer stay. 

Oceania's Vista, our ship, barely a year old

Oceania's Vista ship, barely a year old, was repositioning back to the Mediterranean for its summer season from the Caribbean where it had sailed last winter. It is one of the larger ships in Oceania's fleet, accommodating1,200 passengers and a staff of 800 who hailed from 51 countries.


We selected the 10-day segment based on the ports of call, price and our previous experiences with the cruise line. Oceania and its new ship didn't disappoint. Our standard class stateroom was simply spacious. Suitcases were stored under the bed after clothes were put in the large closet and the room's many drawers. Another plus for cruising is that we unpack once. No hauling suitcases from city to city, through airports and train stations.  

Our floating home for 10 days

Its bathroom was as large as that of a luxury hotel and the shower was so large that it could have accommodated several people.

Our cruise was a segment of the longer repositioning cruise that had started in Miami, Florida. It ultimately ended in Trieste, Italy, several days after we departed the ship in Malta.  Many of our fellow cruisers had been on the ship since it left the United States and stayed on until Italy.

With nearly a week of sea days spent crossing the Atlantic, those cruisers had time to take advantage of the educational and enrichment activities on board: among them, brushing up on computer skills or creating art in a dedicated studio staffed by two Artists in Residence. Several took advantage of the large culinary arts center where one could sharpen culinary skills under the guidance of the chef. 

With a port of call each day we had no time to indulge in any enrichment pursuits on board. We had plenty of culture and history indoctrination with our explorations.


Entertainment options included performances by a string quartets, singers and pianists. Shows took place each night in the ship's theatre, lectures on ports of call were held, and late-night dancing and music was regularly offered. A casino opened for gaming as soon as the ship entered international waters. 

Sun seekers at pool side

For the sun seekers there was a pool, and hot tubs, running track, a putting green, and a popular bocce ball court.  

One of three rooms that make up the ship's library

One of the most impressive amenities (especially for us, who live in an area without English language bookstores or libraries) was the ship's expansive, three-room library located next to Barista's specialty coffee shop. It was one of the most beautiful -- and well stocked -- libraries that we've ever seen on a cruise ship.

Medical center on board - well equipped and staffed

Of course, since it played prominently in our cruise experience (see my last post), I must note, the ship also has a well-equipped and staffed medical center. While one never expects to need it, it was great having it there when we did. (Medical care is not provided without cost. A visit to the doctor was $150US, medicine an additional $30US.)

Formal dining room is but one of many dining options

'Wining and Dining' is always a highpoint of cruising for us, and we had more options than we knew what to do with on this ship.  

Sail away happy hour Livorno Italy

Specialty restaurants including a steakhouse, Asian and Italian, were available at no extra charge (other cruise lines do charge for the specialty offerings). The days of dressing up and heading to a big stuffy cavernous dining room are over on this cruise line.  We could choose when and where we ate, whether to join others or to eat by ourselves. Casual dining or formal dress was up to us.

The ship offered a 2-for-1 Happy Hour each evening in several of its lounges and bars that brought the per glass price of drinks down to a reasonable rate ($14 to $15 was the average per glass rate for wine on board). 

Morning in Malta

Cruising isn't for everyone. And it is good we don't all like the same modes of travel. But for us, it is an easy and cost-effective means of having an introduction to places that would require a lot of time, effort and planning to get to otherwise.  Sometimes, as in this case, it was a quick but comprehensive get-away.

Thanks for being with us again.  We hope wherever and however you are traveling this spring and summer that you will have smooth sailing ~ and that you'll be back with us again when I write about the need for the tastes of travel~

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Barcelona ~ The Tripping Point

One minute he was walking next to me. Then he wasn't. 

He was laying on the sidewalk. 

Las Ramblas - Barcelona

And not just any sidewalk, but one found in one of Barcelona's more famous areas, the tree-lined Las Ramblas. 

Elegant buildings line Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas, was laid out ages ago along the city's medieval wall. It is lined with stately buildings completed in the 18th century and is one of the more popular tourist destinations in this Spanish city; although its popularity is a bit diminished these days by the warnings issued to visitors about pickpockets and touts who roam the area.

Oceania Vista

Our stop in Barcelona was mid-point in the 10-day Oceania cruise we had begun in Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.  We'd made two stops in Italy and two France on our way to Spain.  Those ports of call had been a delightful mix of ship-sponsored tours (two outings came as part of our cruise benefits) and taking off on our own, which is our favorite way to explore when cruising.

Approaching Cinque Terra

One of our ship's tours was a small boat trip from La Spezia to the Cinque Terra in Italy. . .

Garden at Van Gogh's asylum - a trip highlight

. . . another was a motorcoach tour from Marseille, France into Provence with a stop at Van Gogh's asylum just outside St. Remy.

A visit with friends and tour of Lucca, their expat home

In Italy's Livorno, we headed off on our own, catching a train to Lucca, where we had a delightful visit with American expat friends of ours who graciously spent the better part of a day showing us around their adopted city. 

Entrance to Nice's train station

We'd also hopped a train in France, again on our own, and traveled a short distance from Villefranche where we were docked to spend a delightful Sunday roaming the streets of Nice before catching the train back.

We'd opted to 'do' Barcelona on our own as well. We strolled the length of Las Ramblas in the morning, we spent time exploring neighborhoods and the Gothic Quarter and were making our way back to the ship's shuttle bus in the early afternoon via Las Ramblas when we hit. . .

The Tripping Point

The culprit was a curb. Plain and simple. 

An old curb that had been rounded and worn smooth by time and footsteps; the kind that has a surface as slick as ice.  And we watch for those things. Living in Greece we've been trained to recognize streets and sidewalk hazards. We know that centuries-old European cities have walking surfaces worn smooth over the ages. But The Scout was also keeping an eye on approaching cars as he stepped off the curb. . .and it took him but a moment to go from upright to lying flat on the sidewalk.

In retrospect, there are two good things about his fall. First, was the immediacy with which people came running to help. Could they help him up, could they summon an ambulance, could they stay with us? We were surrounded by willing helpers. Not like the US big cities where passersby often ignore pleas for help. We've seen time and again people offering help in European cities but this time we were on the receiving end of the kindness. 

Several men -- from nearby businesses and a couple of taxi drivers - helped him get to his feet.  Three young women in their late teens wanted to call an ambulance and wouldn't leave us until he demonstrated he was able to walk, if slowly, to the shuttle bus. One of the taxi drivers offered to drive us to a hospital.

The other good news was that he didn't break a hip, leg, arm or head.  

However, the bad news was that he cracked or broke a few ribs and bruised his sternum.  

Visiting The Ship's Medical Center

A cruise 'first' - the Medical Center

Over the last couple of decades we've taken many cruises, and we've been fortunate in never having seen the inside of any of the ships' medical centers. This was our introduction to that cruise ship amenity, and I am happy to say, this one was nothing short of amazing!

There were three patient rooms, one intensive care unit, two medical assistants and a doctor.  The medical center is equipped with defibrillators, external pacemakers, pulse oximeters, an ECG, thrombolytics and lab equipment.  

"We even have a morgue," noted the doctor as he pointed to a door off to the side of the reception area. 

Modern well-equipped medical center on Oceania's Vista

The Scout was examined and prescribed some heavy-duty pain pills.  The doctor offered to make on shore hospital referral that day or subsequent day if symptoms worsened. (They didn't).

Smooth Sailing

Climb every fortress - Ibiza our last stop

The Scout
wasn't about to miss out on the remaining ports of call, and we logged almost as many steps with each stop after his tumble as we had before - and that equates to several miles of walking each day.  

This promenade was flat in Alicante, Spain 

The cruise segment ended in Valletta, Malta. We'd sailed some 1,837 nautical miles around the Mediterranean. We spent a day and night in Valletta. The shortest distance we traveled was 85 nautical miles between Livorno and La Spezia, Italy and the longest was 665 n.m. between Ibiza, Spain and Malta. The cruise segment we had booked was part of a cruise that had started in Miami, Florida and would end after another 10-day segment in Trieste, Italy. Several hundred passengers were doing the full 35-day trip.

Setting sail from Ibiza, Spain 

We've been back in Greece for a week now. And Greek Orthodox Easter Week is upon us. The Scout is still moving gingerly.  We've reapplied for our residency permits so no more travel or cruises outside of Greece for a while.  But we've got some great memories and other stories from the cruise that I will be telling you about in the next post.  

Until then safe travels to you and yours, watch those 'tripping points'!









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