So started several of my conversations with my new husband, complete with funny accents and exaggerated hand gestures. We had just watched Casablanca together, and like the couple we were quoting in the film, we were embarking on a journey to a foreign country. Unlike that couple, though, we were on our honeymoon and taking a cruise around the Mediterranean. It had not even been a week since our wedding in Suisun City, California on April 21, 2012, but that day already seemed a distant memory compared to the excitement at hand.
We had worked very hard at keeping our wedding on a tight budget (about $4,000) so we could splurge on our honeymoon. Of course, we had a lot of help from family and friends when it came to the food, the cake, the flowers, the music, the photography, and well, pretty much everything. We also had a lot of very generous gifts on our Traveler’s Joy account, which made our honeymoon easy to plan and easy to enjoy. The total cost of our honeymoon was just over $7,000, so the gifts we received on Traveler’s Joy helped us pay for extras such as shore excursions, fancy meals, wine with dinner, and taxi fares.
Since Chris and I both work in law enforcement, it is difficult for us to get the same time off for vacation. We chose the seven-day cruise in the Mediterranean because the days of the cruise worked best with our vacation time, and I have always wanted to go to Barcelona, the departure and arrival port city.
We flew into Barcelona on April 27th and spent a couple days taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Our hotel, Hotel 1898, was on the main strip known as “La Rambla.” During the day, we saw people in costume showing off their musical or artistic talents. During the night, we heard jovial groups partying until the wee hours of the morning. Around the corner from our hotel there was a large outdoor market that sold everything imaginable. Walking up the opposite direction, we made our way to La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s lifetime work and the most breathtaking church I had ever seen.
During our short stay in Barcelona, we were also able to eat a bit of the local food and see some of the local art. The first museum we went to was the Picasso Museum, which had a good deal of Picasso’s early work. The second was the museum of Joan Miro, a Catalan artist who made some very interesting and surreal paintings and sculptures. One of my favorite works on display was the mercury fountain created by Alexander Calder.
We left Barcelona the morning of April 29th aboard the Norwegian Epic. As soon as we got on board, we ran around trying to take in all the views of Barcelona before we left. Very shortly after, Chris strangely and persistently requested we could go to our spa mini-suite, even though our luggage had not made it there yet. I thought he wanted to see how big the cabin was, but as soon as we got there I realized what was going on. As I walked in, I was greeted by a dozen roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a bottle of champagne. This was my favorite part of the cruise: the romance package. A cute little card informed me that a couple’s massage, breakfast in bed, tea service for two, canapés on the afternoon of our choosing, and dinner reservations at the French restaurant, Le Bistro, were also in my near future. Chris had done a superb job surprising me—just superb.
Of course, the favorite part of the cruise for Chris was all the food. Most of the restaurants were "all you can eat", so that’s exactly how much we ate.
By May 1st, we were in Italy. That first day we explored Naples on foot, and by the second day in Rome we were ready for a guided tour. We saw the Coliseum and went to the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel was beyond words—literally, we were not allowed to talk once inside. Our last day in Italy was our favorite day of all. In the morning, we went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and its accompaniments. After taking many a touristy photo and wandering through the “VIP cemetery” (as our tour guide familiarly referred to it), we headed out for the Tuscan countryside. We arrived at Fattoria Del Teso, an adorable winery in Montecarlo.
The first thing we did at the winery was wander around outside, snapping photos and looking at the vines full of grapes. We met one of the employees who showed us around the winery and taught us about their equipment and their style of winemaking. Finally, came the authentic Italian lunch served in the barrel room downstairs with, of course, as much wine as we could handle. Did I mention this was our favorite excursion? Lunch included bread, pasta, cured meats and cheese, and biscotti for dessert. Chris and I purchased a couple bottles of wine to bring home and enjoy on our one-year anniversary.
After we left Italy, we sailed for France. We woke up in the morning and went to the top deck for breakfast and Chris pointed out, “It’s not every day we’ll get to have breakfast outside on the French Riviera.” But we wish we could. It was absolutely beautiful. Our first day in France consisted of a trip past Cannes, out to Grasse. We toured a family-owned perfume factory called Fragonard. I love perfume so I drank it all in, and purchased a few souvenirs to bring back, too! Next, we headed up to St. Paul de Vence, a picturesque little fortified city on a hill. The following day, and our last day for excursions, led us to Marseilles. There was much to see, and we saw it all from the window of a tour bus. We were just so exhausted at that point. But we did get out at Notre Dame de la Garde (not THAT Notre Dame) to walk around and see the view of Marseilles from its highest point.
By the end of our honeymoon, we had priceless memories of the new places we had explored together, and the feeling that we had been gone for much longer than just a week and a half. I would definitely recommend the cruise we did to other honeymooners because the shore excursions are plentiful, the amenities are endless, and the food is unbelievable. There was so much to do on the cruise ship that we did everything from playing pool and chilling in the ice bar, to relaxing in the sauna and, yes, watching Casablanca.