January 28, 2012

European Honeymoon Cruise, Part 1: The Beginning

If there's one thing I love to write about on this blog, it's my travel experiences. Each new place and experience leaves a lasting impression on me, in deep and meaningful ways.

If you've ever clicked on my Travel Page, you might have noticed that I listed two sections as "to be shared at a future time." That's because both of those trips {our honeymoon and my semester abroad in France} occurred at a time before I started this blog.

So, in order to work towards completing my Travel Page and just because I have some really good stories to share, here we go....


To say that I'm a lucky girl is a huge understatement. When Matt was my then-fiancĂ©, he saved up a lot of money so we could have a "dream" honeymoon. Since we're not believers in buying things on credit,
we wanted to make sure we could pay up front for whatever honeymoon we chose. Matt is a really diligent saver, so he spoiled me with this beyond-amazing honeymoon.

Matt really wanted to go to Europe for our honeymoon, and see multiple countries at that. You know me...Europe is always calling my name, but I was leaning towards a tropical honeymoon just because it seemed easier to plan. I had traveled quite a bit throughout Europe already by that point, so I was very familiar with how time consuming it could be to plan a multiple-city/country trip, and that because of my experience with travel-planning, I would be the one who'd need to organize everything. But with working full time and planning a wedding full time, I knew it was just out of the question for me to take on that responsibility. That was the point when I told Matt that I really thought the only reasonable way we could plan for an extensive honeymoon in Europe was if we booked a Mediterranean cruise. Really, no planning was required! Matt loved it.

Matt took over from there and did the research, and lots of it; we wanted to make sure we got the most for our money. Matt looked at different cruise lines and destination points and then always came back to discuss the options with me. We were just about to book a 10-day Greek Islands cruise {which would have been amazing} when Matt found a 14-day, west to east Mediterranean cruise for the same price! We booked that one immediately and the cruise line arranged our airfare for us.

We were all set for a dream trip: a two week cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines with stops in Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey.

Here was our ship:

After our wedding, we flew on Iberia airlines {a Spanish airline} to Madrid {for a tiny layover} and then on to Barcelona, the city from which our cruise ship was departing.

We arrived in Barcelona on a Sunday morning, and since our cruise ship didn't leave until 6 pm, we were going to walk around the city for a few hours. I felt completely confident in this because I had spent 6 days in Barcelona during my semester abroad. I was familiar with the layout of the city and was armed with my map from a few years earlier.

But then, near disaster.

We had arrived to the Barcelona Airport and were in the baggage claim, waiting for our luggage. We got one suitcase, then another, and then we waited. And waited. And waited. My second piece of luggage did not appear.

I was absolutely panicking inside. I had one of my suitcases--the one that didn't truly matter. I had the suitcase in which I had packed my shoes, purses, jewelry, and swimsuits. The missing suitcase had everything else--my toiletries, my make-up, my undergarments, and most importantly, ALL my clothes. Really, this whole situation was a huge "shame on you, Deanne" moment. I mean, I am a seasoned traveler after all. I knew better than this. I had totally set myself up for disaster. How could I have been so dense to have packed all of my essentials in one suitcase?

After it became quite clear that my second suitcase was nowhere to be found, I approached the Iberia desk in the baggage claim area. The lady there was kind, though her English was not very good. I explained my situation to her and she assured me that despite the fact that we were going to be on a traveling cruise ship, they would be able to deliver my suitcase to me {in two to three days, no less}. I, however, was less certain that this was realistic.

I walked away feeling doomed. I was without all of my necessities. The only clothes I had were my very-casual traveling clothes that I was wearing and I knew that I wouldn't be able to buy all the things I needed aboard the ship. Some items would be available on the ship, but at an incredibly steep price. And this was my honeymoon. And what would I have to wear when we dined on board at the fancy restaurants, the ones that required fine attire?

I sat down and cried. Matt tried to reassure me, but I think he too, knew that it was a precarious situation, trying to trust the airline to take the time to track down our cruise ship at whatever port we happened to be at {in another country, no less} and deliver my lost baggage. In an effort to comfort me, Matt suggested that we try to find out what happened to my suitcase--where it was.

I went back to speak to the lady at the Iberia counter. I asked her if she could check to see where my suitcase was at the moment. {I really should have asked her this the first time around}. After a minute or two of clicks with her mouse, she informed me that my suitcase was in Madrid. She further noted that it was being loaded onto a flight to Barcelona at that moment.

HALLELUJAH! We walked away from the Iberia desk with the flight information for the arrival of my little lost suitcase. We knew we'd have to wait around in the baggage area for a few more hours, and in that, we'd be sacrificing the time we had planned to walk around the city, but it was all going to be okay.

We sat for a few hours in the hard, plastic chairs, watching a movie on our portable DVD player and trying not to doze off despite our severe jet-lag. Finally, we saw a screen displaying info for the arriving flight from Madrid, and we stood waiting at the baggage carousel. Then, I saw it--my suitcase! We had it, and all was well again.

I couldn't stop praising the Lord for watching over my suitcase and making sure we got it. We were both so delighted and had a skip in our step as we boarded the charter bus to take us to our cruise ship.

Here we are that very evening, dressed up to go to dinner, but first stopping off to admire the view from the back of the ship:

Our next day on board would be a "day at sea." We had several of those during the two-week trip, and we loved those days. We slept in, ordered room service, lounged by one of the many pools, and enjoyed all the many amenities the ship had to offer.

Cruise ship dining is absolutely wonderful. Nearly nothing is as delightful as a five-course gourmet dinner!

If you've ever cruised before, you know that many ships will have the cabin crews fold the guest towels in one's room into fun animals {and a new animal every day, no less!}. We always came back to our room after dinner to find the ship's program booklet for the next day along with some delicious dark chocolate after-dinner mints layed out on our bed.

One of the things we loved best about Norwegian cruise lines is their "freestyle dining." Guests are not assigned to a dining room and table where they dine each evening. Norwegian ships have so many, many restaurants to choose from. One could almost dine at every restaurant and not have to repeat! The specialty restaurants were especially lovely but did require a "reservation" of sorts; one just had to call from one's room in the morning to put in a name and time. Examples of restaurants were: Le Bistro French restaurant, Tsar's Palace, Chin Chin Asian restaurant, Sushi Bar, Tango's Tapas restaurant, Mama's Italian Kitchen, Cagney's Steakhouse, Sky High Grill--and this is only to name a few!

The time aboard our Norwegian Jewel ship was almost as lovely as the ports of call...although nothing can quite compare with the beauty and grandeur of multiple European cities.

I will share all about our on-land adventures in the coming days, so check back soon! Up first: ROME!

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