Norwegian Cruise Line to the Mediterranean

10 November 2011

Day 40 - 48: Saturday, July 10th - Monday, July 18th 
As a graduation present from our aunt and uncle, we graciously accepted the offer of accompanying my aunt on a Mediterranean cruise. Our mom was happy to join, and we all boarded the ship bright and early on Saturday morning.

Holly and I were thrilled to round off our European adventure with a very fun, not-so-backpacking travel experience. We were excited to wind down our budget trip with a break from shared-room hostels, co-ed bathrooms and budget meals. And all of the luxuries of a cruise were more than what we could have bargained for.

With our cruise, we added three more countries to our agenda and toured Croatia, Greece and Turkey with our family.

In Dubrovnik, Holly and I signed up with an independent kayaking tour and paddled with a group to a beautiful cave. Along the way, our guide thoughtfully pointed out a nude beach. It was one of those instances where you know you shouldn't look, but you kind of want to. And before you know it, curiosity gets the best of you and you realize you've been staring for a bit. The ratio of men to women was about 30 to one, while the ratio to old men to young men was about the same. Just a little warning if you're on paddling through the Adriatic Sea...

Our next port, Athens, truly surprised us. The whole city is almost entirely covered in white stone, marble and other materials. White covers the ground, walls and roofs of everything! It's incredible. We took a tour around Athens with a few other American and Canadian families. We saw the Olympic stadium, the Parthenon, Acropolis, New Acropolis Museum and the changing of the guards. And of course, we fit in some shopping too!

Izmir, Turkey was yet another port of call for our cruise tour, which took us to Asia for the first time in our lives. Another tour was in store for us here, which our mom kindly organized for all of us. We toured with the same families as the day before, which provided us with good company. Izmir was fascinating. Our guide drove us to the uncovered city of Ephesus, once an ancient Greek city and later a lucrative Roman city. Despite the incredible heat and humidity, there were thousands of visitors at Ephesus. We made our way through the site with our guide educating us on the evolution of the city.

Following this visit, we toured a rug factory. Women are sent to school at a young age to learn how to weave rugs. They continue their weaving over the course of their lives and become faster and faster. Although our family disagreed with the principles of their employment methods, it was hard to dispute how absolutely beautiful the Turkish rugs truly are! A few families were were with shipped some rugs home while the rest of us enjoyed some apple tea.

Our final port of call took us to the quaint city of Napflion, Greece. We loved this place! We chose not to trek up the thousands of stairs to the top of the city, and enjoyed the city by walking the marble streets while window shopping. Okay, some of us purchased a few things for friends and family such as Greek olive oil with rosemary -- a necessary staple in our kitchen.

The cruise capped off our trip beautifully. We couldn't have been more pleased with our seven-week experience in Europe. Upon arriving home, we learned that we traveled under budget, spending less than $4K on our entire tour. Can't complain about that!

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