Once we made the decision to stay in London longer, we started planning a Mediterranean cruise. There are so many places we want to visit in Europe and thought this would be the best way to see as much as possible without all the hassle of flights and hotels.
This was our first cruise and it was bitter-sweet considering my parents were planning on joining us and had to cancel due to my dad’s health. We weren’t prepared for how rigorous and exhausting it would be so it was probably a good thing they didn’t try to make it this time around, but we sure missed them! We scouted out plenty of wonderful places to take them to when they come to visit though.
Rome was our starting point. We boarded the ship and checked in to our state rooms. The boys were anxious to explore every inch of the enormous ship after they hit the buffet line. The little boys pretty much had the water zone to themselves since there were very few kids aboard (one of the perks of going when most kids were still in school). They loved running through all the spraying contraptions, swimming in all the pools and warming back up in the hot tubs.
We were greeted by characters from DreamWorks movies – Madagascar, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda – which was fun for the little boys. They had parades and appearances throughout the day.
The self-serve ice cream machine was stationed right next to the kid’s area which was dangerous. I stopped counting how many they consumed. I was glad when it ran out of cones for a while.
The older boys were anxious to see all the cool activities on board. Their favorite was the Flo Rider, a surfing simulator that was fun to ride and hilarious to watch others wipe out on. Cade was a little too light and the water kicked him back pretty quickly, but it was fun while it lasted.
There was no shortage of entertainment. With a giant rock wall to climb, 3-D movie theater (we saw Sherman and Mr. Peabody), miniature golf, basketball, karaoke, ice skating, an arcade, kid’s club, and all the pools – the trick was finding enough time to fit everything in. We only had one and a half real sail days to take advantage of everything since we spent the majority of all the others sightseeing at different ports the entire day and came back just in time for dinner and evening entertainment. My biggest complaint was not having enough down time to enjoy the ship and just relax. I just didn’t want to waste our time at port to do it.
Nothing like starting the first day stuffing our faces. We had Johnny Rockets all to ourselves for dinner with endless amounts of burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes. Jace was so thrilled to have root beer and a chocolate shake at the same time!
After dinner, we watched the beautiful sun set on the Mediterranean Sea. Then we checked out the main pavilion of the ship, which makes you forget you’re actually on a ship, and listened to some live music before checking in for the night.
Day 2: Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii
First thing in the morning, we met our private tour guide, Fabio (who was Fabulous!) in Naples and were whisked away on an extremely packed adventure. We opted to book private tours at each port so we could customize our sights and have flexibility with children. It’s the only way I’d do it!
We boarded the hydrofoil and boated out to the island of Capri. The beauty of the Marina Grande was incredible – like stepping into a fine painting. The lush mountains, colorful stacked architecture lining the cliffs, warm ocean and Italian charm was picture perfect. It was my favorite stop of the cruise. Truly stunning!
From there, we hopped into a convertible type taxi to make our way up the most narrow, winding and steep roads to the top of Capri. Here’s a look from above at how crazy the roads are here. I don’t know how drivers maneuver the way they do.
Once we got to the top, our tour guide talked us into taking a single person chairlift up the steep mountain to the top of Mount Solero. I held Jace tight on my lap and we all made it up to the top of Anacapri to take in the most breathtaking views ever. At nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, the view of the Faraglioni (famous arched rocks) and water below was amazing. The blue grottos are a big attraction here, but we didn’t have the time to see them this trip. Just another reason to come back!
The boys spotted a lizard and we later learned about a rare blue lizard that can only be found on the Faraglioni.
I could have stayed and enjoyed the view all day, but we were on a time crunch and made our way back down, taking in the picturesque views as we ascended down to Capri again.
Cade and I took a moment to explore and shop while the others stopped to get a little snack. There wasn’t enough time to do everything we wanted, but we had fun in all the little shops and bought some lemon candies, lemon soaps, a scarf and marveled at the beauty all around us. Inhabited since the Roman era, there’s so much more to see and learn about. It’s an awesome place just to walk around and explore.
This part of Italy is known for their Italian limonis, which are the hugest lemons you’ve ever seen! More like the size of a cantaloupe.
Cade found a stray dog before meeting back up with the guys. We loaded up on a funicular, which is like a trolley train that took us straight back down the mountain. We’re experiencing all sorts of transportation today.
The Piazetta is Capri’s famous square, or heart of the island with darling cafes, a small cathedral, town hall and other quaint structures overlooking a gorgeous view. Though difficult to say goodbye to Capri, it was time to load up on a ferry boat to check out Sorrento next.
Our tour guide had a taxi van waiting for us to take us around Sorrento. We were ready for lunch and he picked a terrific Italian restaurant for a quick bite. Nathan has been begging to go to Italy, just for the food and he wasn’t disappointed in the pizza. Tyler started his seafood linguine kick here after having one of the “best meals of his life!” It really was so delicious! This is where we fell in love with Italian green olives.
We took a few minutes to browse around and explore the Piazza Tasso and all its beauty.
Can I retire here please? It’s all so romantic and charming. It made it hard to leave, but we had one final destination for the day.
Our taxi driver drove us down the Amalfi coast to our last stop – Pompeii. I knew Tyler would love this since he has a fascination with history – the older, the better, and this is such a unique piece of ancient world history preserved like no other. Our guide led us throughout Pompeii sharing its unusual history and pointing out what everything was. Once an ancient Roman city founded in the 6th or 7th century, it was completely devastated in 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and completely covered the city with over 20 feet of ash. It’s believed around 2,000 people died from ash, extreme heat and collapsing structures. The city was basically abandoned and forgotten for 1.500 years with no evidence of its presence until it was discovered in 1748. The first excavations were to extract valuable art for the king. Many decades and excavations later, the city was uncovered, much of it intact and preserved all this time.
We walked through the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre where performances and gladiator games drew crowds. The original markings on the stone seating were still visible.
We walked through several homes, all having a large water collection at the entrance with an open roof to catch rain water. Many homes had original frescoes and beautiful, intricate tiled floors. Knowing the lack of technology at that time made it that much more impressive to see their skilled architecture and artwork.
Our guide showed us the skeletal remains of early scientists who were poisoned by toxic gas they released when opening a sealed room centuries later.
Seeing the remains of some of the victims in their original form was disturbing. The people were quite a bit smaller than average adults today and you could see their reactions or efforts to save themselves.
We walked through the bulk of the 44 acres that has been uncovered. Twenty two still remain under ash, not likely to ever be unearthed. It sure made me wonder how many hidden civilizations are underground throughout the world. We saw bakeries, homes, gardens, restaurants and so much more.
This is a typical “snack bar” that would sell different food in the large ceramic pots. Their “McDonalds” as our guide joked.
The boys (and Lynn) had reached their limit. The sun was hot and Nathan was happy to find what appeared to be an ancient Lego block to rest on.
Our awesome tour guides dropped us off just in time to take off on our next adventure.
Though completely worn out, we cleaned up and decided to try the dining hall for dinner. Our waitress was so incredible and it felt fantastic to be waited on and brought course after course. The boys LOVED ordering whatever they wanted off the menu. Thankfully they are adventurous eaters – even trying escargot (and liking it).
After way too many calories consumed, we finished off the night watching the phenomenal sunset and called it a night. Good thing tomorrow is just a cruise day because we have zero energy left. What a day!