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Old 03-10-2013, 04:50 PM   #1
Newfoundland Sailor
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Greece, Turkey & Malta - Here we come - Med July 2013

Let me start by saying I don't blog, I don't write a journal, I don't even scrapbook. But I am a Type A personality that likes to have everything organized and I definitely like sharing things I have found and suggestions I have picked up along the way in my research.

I have done all the organizing I can do before I drive my family crazy. I have written a 30 page itinerary for everyone in my group to cover every day so everyone knows what has been planned, how payments need to be made and emergency contact numbers - I don't think any of them have looked at it....actually I know none of them have looked at it

I think they are all so use to me organizing that it has become second nature to them, and they just assume everything is just so.

So I thought I would share my planning and experience with you.

Let me start by telling you there are 10 of us traveling to the Med for the July 13th 12-day Greece trip on the Magic. The 10 of us consists of 4 different families in three different cabins. Me, DH, DS(12) & DS (4) - My Mum & Dad & a friends daughter (15) - My brother & wife and daughter (1).

Of the 10 of us, only my family and mum & dad have traveled DCL before. And my friend's daughter has never traveled outside of Atlantic Canada. And well my 1-year old niece has never traveled. I should also say that we (my family, my mum & dad) did the 7-day Med cruise on the Magic in 2011 - so the first three ports are repeats for us.

Our itinerary is as follows:
July 13 - Barcelona
July 14 - Villefranche (Nice & Monaco)
July 15 - La Spezia (Pisa & Florence)
July 16 - Civitavecchia (Rome)
July 17 & 18 - at sea
July 19 - Pireaus (Athens)
July 20 - Kusadasi (Ephesus-Turkey)
July 21 - Mykonos (& Delos - Greece)
July 22 - at sea
July 23 - Malta
July 24 - at sea
July 25 - Barcelona

Prior to our cruise, we are staying in England on a "Farm-stay" for a week and then a couple of days in Barcelona just prior to embarkation. We will also be in Barcelona for one day after our cruise (by accident - Air Canada moved our flight back 24 hours after we booked it and called it a minor schedule change) ).
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Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-10-2013 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:51 PM   #2
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Pre-trip

Just a quick not about my pre-trip plans.

We depart for Europe on the 4th of July. Our first destination is a small town in the County of Durham in England (you have to fly into Newcastle and then drive an hour). My 90 year-old grandmother lives there and the family is going to enjoy a week with her.

Joining us in England will be myself and my 2 boys (12 & 4), my brother, his wife and daughter (1 yr) and my mum and dad. We will be all taking separate flight from different parts of Canada Ottawa, Montreal and St. Johns (Newfoundland) and meeting up at my Grandmas.

Because my family lives so far apart this will also be the first time the boys & I will get to meet my little niece since she was born. It is also special because she was named after my British Grandma and it will be their first time meeting as well.

My husband and my friends daughter have to skip England (due to work & a baseball tournament) so they wont be joining us until we get to Barcelona.

My brothers family and mine (me and the two boys) will be staying on a farm near my Grandmas house. The farm cottage is a on a rare breeds working farm and includes animals such as Bison, Elk, Deer, Rhea, Pot-bellied pigs, peacocks, pygmy goats, peafowl, ducks, chickens and quail roaming on 80 acres. Next door is nature reserve with trails and is home to rare plants, butterflies and over 120 different wild birds. The farming couple have already invited the boys over every day to help with the feeding of the non-wild animals (not the bison!).

My youngest will have his 4th Birthday on the Farm. And we have invited all of our British relatives over to the farm for a big Birthday BBQ on the Sunday (as school will still be in session in England at the beginning of July). He has already put in his order for an OCTONAUT birthday which is an English kids show that has just recently started playing over in Canada.

So the best part about this is that Dad will miss the party and I say this is good??? Well, thats because, as my DS says, now he has to have 2 Birthday parties one on the farm and the other on the "big Disney Boat"!

We will be in England for about a week before we head out to Barcelona.

Now once again, Air Canada messed around with our flights from Newcastle to Barcelona and what was once only a two hour layover in Brussels for me and the two boys is now almost 6 hours...ugh. Thats okay though - I have made a plan (you could have never guessed, could you!).

I have researched all the "Flanders Fields" cemeteries in Brussels and I have found a Commonwealth Site only 20 minutes from the airport. So I am going to bring the boys out to see their first real World War Grave site. I think the poem Flanders Fields will have a much bigger meaning for my boys after that! Especially my 12 year old who participates in Remembrance Day every year but I think it is still just something that he reads - not something he gets fully.
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~Heather~



Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-18-2013 at 03:20 PM.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:52 PM   #3
Newfoundland Sailor
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Barcelona

We get into Barcelona on the evening of the 11th (36 hours before we embark). So we basically have one full day in Barcelona pre-cruise. My DH and Friend's daughter arrive the next morning.

I don't know what we have planned for the 12th. No idea.

We decided on staying at an apartment hotel outside of Barcelona. With 10 of us travelling together, we would of had to have at least 4 rooms - maybe even 5 rooms (depending on triples available). This way we only have to have two reservations. We are staying at the Aura Park Aparthotel. The rate is less than $100 per night per room - one which sleeps 6 and the other 4. I think it's a great deal. The reviews look good on Tripadvisor. It is really close to the subway and train lines so getting in and out of Barcelona should not be a problem. And it is close to a shopping centre and grocery store. It also has a pool on the roof! (We are also staying at this hotel for one night after the cruise)

http://www.auraparkaparthotel.com/

I think we might head back to the Dancing Fountains that night....but during the day I don't know.

In 2010 we did the HOHO bus and the subway pass....we saw the sites but it was Hot and almost uncomfortable. We also went to Gaudi's Park (Park Guell) and the Acquarium with a DCL excursion. I also took the boys up to the amusement park on top of the mountain behind Barcelona which they LOVED!!!! And the view is amazing.

My eldest son wants to back to Tibadabo(the amusement park) and my brother wants to see the stadium where the football team plays. I also thought about taking them to the cathedral -- but the lines were soooooo long - I don't know if it is worth it.

Maybe, we'll just do the beach.

Any suggestions on a one day visit to Barcelona where 3 people (and a baby) haven't seen the city and 6 have? Hmmmm

Oh - I forgot to mention - I have cars booked for everyone - there are three different arrival times at the airport -- so I need three cars to bring to the hotel. And then i need one large van to pick us all up and bring us to the port (and then two car booked for the return). I am using Autos Vilar - they were fabulous last time in 2011 and I trust them 100% this time.....and the price isn't so bad either :-).
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~Heather~



Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-11-2013 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:53 PM   #4
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Villefranche

We arrive in Villefranche on Fete Nationale (Bastille Day). It should be very exciting. The last time I was in France on July 14th, I was only 9 years old so I am hoping this will be a real treat.

We have absolutely nothing planned officially for today.

In 2011, when we went to Villefranche my mum took us to Monaco on a private tour. It was her birthday that day and that is what she wanted to see. We used a company called Riviera Premium Tours - and they were fabulous. Anthony even mailed my son's glasses first class after he left them in the van without extra charge or hesitation. Anyway, this time round, no one seems excited about going into Monaco - maybe because it is our first day on the ship or maybe because it is Bastille Day - I don't know why.

So, I have organized a little hike around Cape Ferat - which is a very affluent peninsula of land next to Villefranche where many rich people have bought homes who haven't been able to get citizenship or land in Monaco. It has a great walking trail and I think something fun for the girls to do in the morning...Here is a little write up on it:

"The coastal path in Saint Jean Cape Ferratfollows the limestone cliffs which protected the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula in the olden days. The lighthouse was built in 1827 but was destroyed in 1944 in the Second World War before being rebuilt in 1951. The hike starts in Saint-Jean, a lovely little town which started as a small fishing port but has now become a tourist resort. The walk skirts the whole peninsula and ends back at the town beach. Youll love the wildness of the coast which is only really interrupted by the Cap Ferrat hotel, although it is pretty discreet. While youre trekking, watch out for divers in search of underwater wonders in the sparkling waters and the fishermen patiently waiting for their big catch!"

The hike/walk will probably take us about 3 hours. We might walk out to Saint Jean but take the bus back. I found a good guide that talks about the bus routes - I think it would be easier to walk down the hill from the bus terminal rather than walk up the hill. I remember from last time we were there that the hill was quiet steep.

http://www.tomsportguides.com/Villef...06-20-2012.pdf

I think after our hike we will tender back to the ship - have lunch - and then pick up the boys. From there we will go and explore what Villefranche has to offer and see if there is any military parades or celebrations going on that day. I have my eye out on the town's website because it seems pretty good in listing events that are going on.

Fireworks are a big think on Fete Nationale, but my guess is that we will have departed and be long past France by the time the fireworks start.

http://www.villefranche-sur-mer.org/
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~Heather~



Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-10-2013 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:54 PM   #5
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La Spezia

La Spezia planning has been the longest to come together. We were in La Spezia in 2011 and went to Pisa on our own and DH & DS climbed the tour -the rest of us wandered the area around the Tower and then headed back to the ship

This time around I really wanted to do something different. I wanted to go to Cinque Terre and take a private boat tour. I had even decided which one I wanted to do:

http://www.angelosboattours.com/

HOWEVER,

My youngest son is obsessed with the Tower of Pisa - I think I have heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa every week since he was there in 2011 (he had just turned 2 then). He tells everyone the story about running around the tower at the bottom, with mum chasing him, while my DH & DS were on the 2nd top level. He continuously talks about going back and getting a new statue for his room of the Tower. And then when I asked my friends daughter what was the one thing she wanted to see - it was the TOWER. Now there is no way I can squeeze in the Tower and my Cinque Terre tour....so I capitulated - I gave in - we'll go see the tower. Now I know from last time round in cost about 20 Euros each for the return train and 18 Euros for those who climbed the tower and about 2 Euros for the bus. So doing it on our own was a lot cheaper (especially with 10 of us) than going with DCL. It wasn't that difficult to do last time - just a little long in my opinion - and hot.

DH told me that he wasn't up for the crazy schedule of our last cruise. (It was 7-days of ports all day long with only one at-sea day). So I promised him, he didn't have to go to every port this time especially if he had done it before. He was okay with going back to Pisa if DS-4 wanted him to go but what he really wanted was to sit down as a family and have an authentic Italian meal.

This got me to thinking maybe we could combine a nice meal in La Spezia with a trip to Pisa....that turned into could we have the kids make pizza (like they did on our previous Naples DCL excursion in the restaurant) at the restaurant....that turned into finding a cooking place in La Spezia....which finally turned into a full-on Tuscany Farm Cooking experience with a side-tour of Pisa.

Why the changing thoughts - I couldn't find anywhere close to La Spezia that would return my emails....and then others were so expensive that it would price us completely out. And no matter what I did, I had to try and include enough time in Pisa to allow for a climb. I also thought about the DCL cooking excursion, but everywhere I read - this one was booked at the Platinum/gold level - so we would never get the chance to do it - and besides the cost was $400+ each and was for 18 years and old...

So in the end....I am really really happy. I have ended up booking a full day excursion - all transportation, cooking class (with lunch & wine) and a trip to Pisa with Arianna & Friends (http://www.ariannandfriends.com/). She has sent us a menu to choose our items to cook (and included pizza for the kids as well). It is on a Tuscan farm and looks fabulous. This has now turned into my favourite excursion....

I think we have our items narrowed down - I'll update later when they are finalized. I have to get 10 people to agree - so you know how many times the menu can change

We haven't told the kids the cooking part - we are keeping it a surprise. They know everything else so it will be something to keep them guessing.
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Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-10-2013 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:55 PM   #6
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Civitavecchia

I have been to Rome twice before this upcoming trip - only 2 of our party of 10 hadn't been before - so I really didn't know what to do.

I will tell you that our experience with the actual Port of Civitavecchia was not fun last time. And I said up front that I am not doing this port on our own again this time.

In 2011 the only reason we ended up on our own was because all the excursions we wanted were sold out by the time our booking slot opened up - so I had to come up with a different plan. Last time we prebooked Vatican tickets and a walking tour in the afternoon (and caught the train both ways). This time I was adamant - it was either DCL or a full private tour with pick up and drop off at the ship.

[Last time we ended up walking over 1 1/2 hours through the actual port itself to the Magic because the port was soooooo busy, no shuttles would take us to our ship - it was disastrous]

Anyway, we went thought the DCL excursions, and hummed and hawed...and thought some more. I can't say Rome is my favourite place although I love history. I think the problem is that there is so much to see it is really rushed to try and fit it all into one day - especially the Vatican and the antiquities. So the only person who REALLY wanted to see Rome was my friend's daughter so I sat down with her and went through all of the things to see and do in Rome and she prioritized her list. Her main things were the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. And she wanted to see St. Peter's Basilica but didn't really want to go inside.

She liked some of the DCL excursions, but couldn't find one (especially with the minimal descriptions) that covered off her list.

So I started looking to see if there were any decent private tours that were comparable in price to DCL for two people (me and a 15 year old girl). I know EVERYONE uses Rome in Limo. But I like the use of tour guides that are accredited. But I know that comes with a price.

Anyway, in the end I ended up booking Rudy's Touring Service. I think I got lucky. The price is good, he has excellent reviews, and has been very helpful in coming up with a suggested list of things to see (especially if we skip the Vatican). And the price was the same whether there were 2 of us or 7. So, my mum and dad want to come now, and since my DS-3 (who will be four on the trip) is always talking about going in the broken building with the fighters (aka Colosseum) I think we will bring him....that leaves two more seats for anyone else in our party to change their minds.

Maybe after this trip my view of this port will change - I am leaving my mind open
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Check out my Med Pre-trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3078020

Last edited by Newfoundland Sailor; 03-10-2013 at 08:23 PM.
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Old 06-29-2013, 09:59 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the info...I have been on your thread all night...very helpful indeed...I have a question for you...When you mentioned appropriate dress for Turkey, can you tell me what you believe that would include and what you would definitely advise against wearing off the boat...I am trying to finalize what I will be bringing and this is the one port call I am unsure of?

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Old 08-28-2013, 07:53 PM   #8
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Anxious to hear about the trip!!!!
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:19 PM   #9
darjohn
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Originally Posted by thymed View Post
Anxious to hear about the trip!!!!
Our 13h DCL cruise, but definitely one of the best. Loved everything, but surprised we enjoyed Turkey and Malta as much as we did! :-3
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