For me, the itinerary of a cruise is the most important factor, followed by time of year, then the ship. This year I will be going on my first Royal Caribbean cruise so this is another reason to be excited. Not only will it be my first Royal Caribbean cruise, I will be on the inaugural sailing of Spectrum of the Seas!
For the first time I will be visiting two Middle Eastern countries, which are technically in Asia. This is a new continent for me and I hope to venture further East on future cruises.
During our cruise we will be stopping in Barcelona and Civichiveccia (for Rome) but having visited these cruise destinations on previous cruises we've opted to do these ports on our own.
In Barcelona we will be doing a hop-on, hop-off bus to see the city at leisure and making a special visit to La Boqueria to sample the tapas. Check out my trip to Las Ramblas and La Boqueria from my last trip to Barcelona.
When we port in Civichiveccia, we will not be making the 90-minute journey to Rome but instead will opt to get off the ship for a stroll around the small town and stop for some authentic Italian pasta.
If you haven't already realised, food is always an important part of my travel plans. Sampling local cuisine is one of the best ways I find to experience a destination, so when in Rome...
Having fell in love with Italy during last year's visits to Rome and Pisa, I'm looking forward to cruising to Naples this year. Whilst here, we have planned a trip to Pompeii. We had a fantastic experience in Rome using a local guide and so we've decided to book a private guided tour of this ancient ruin city with an archaeologist. The private tour will be two hours and we've allowed ourselves another couple of hours to explore on our own before heading back to the ship. We can't wait to learn more about this ancient city that was lost but so well preserved
I've never been to mainland Greece and so this next port of call, Piraus (for Athens), is another Mediterranean port I'm looking forward to exploring.
Athens is the birthplace of democracy and the capital city of Greece. First off, we've decided to visit the Acropolis to see the ancient ruins of the Pantheon. I remember learning about the Ancient Greeks at school when I was 9 years old.
We plan to do this trip ourselves as it's a short 15 minute UBER ride from the port to Athens. As part of the skip-the-line entry fee we will get an audio guide so we can learn about the history while we walk around the site.
For lunch we will find an authentic Greek restaurant that serves gyros (pronounced yee-ros). Based on Culture Trip's article on the Best Gyros in Athens, we'll be heading to O Kostas near Syntagma Square.
Our day in Athens will be rounded off with a visit to the first Olympic Stadium of the Modern Olympics. I'm a big fan of the Olympic Games and was lucky enough to get tickets to see Olympic and Paralympic events for London 2012. The Athen's stadium is known as the Panathenaic Stadium. Entry is just €5 per adult, which is unbelievable value!
This is an incredible cruise destination! Petra became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and we're really excited for the chance to visit when our cruise stops in Aquaba, Jordan.
We generally like to organise independent shore excursions but as this port is the last before six sea days, we've sensibly opted to take a tour with the cruise line. This means that if the tour is late returning to the ship, the ship will wait for us! Petra is a 2.5 hour bus ride from Aquaba so although the day will involve a fair amount of travelling, we are anticipating that it going to be totally worth it.
Our shore excursion will offer us a guided tour of Petra to include a walk through the Siq, the 80-meter-tall rock canal, and the chance to see the Treasury and Theatre. The 'red-rose city' is carved entirely out of the rock and dates back to the 1st Century B.C.
We've been advised that we should wear comfortable footwear and be able to walk 6 miles over uneven ground. I'm thinking that we'll need to wear lots of sunscreen and take plenty of water with us on that day as temperatures are expected to average 31°C. The excursion will include lunch so we will be able to try some authentic Arabian cuisine, featuring salads, baked lamb and chicken, fish and vegetables, plus sweets, coffee and tea.
I've read a blog post by Cruise Miss about her visit to Petra to ensure I make the most of my day.
Although technically not a 'cruise destination' our cruise will journey through the Suez Canal, which is an experience we're very much looking forward to and one of the reasons we opted for a balcony cabin. Our cabin is situated on the starboard side. This is apparently the best for views whilst in transit through the canal in the direction we are travelling (from Mediterranean Sea to Red Sea). The cruise ship will be sailing on the Suez Canal across two days and so there will be plenty of opportunities to take in the views from out on deck as well as from our balcony.
The Suez Canal travels through Egypt and is fairly wide in comparison to the Panama Canal; it is sea level so also doesn't have any locks. People who have cruised the Suez Canal have described it as though they were sailing through the desert. This is going to be a completely new experience for me, I can't wait!
The final cruise destination that I'm excited about visiting in 2019 is Dubai. Our cruise ends in Dubai and we have the luxury of staying in this incredible desert city for a further three nights after our cruise.
Top sights we will be visiting whilst in Dubai include the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa; the Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountains.
We have booked an evening dhow cruise of the Dubai Marina, which I hope will connect us to old and new Dubai.
When we discovered that the QE2 cruise liner is permanently moored in Dubai, we've decided we have to take a trip to see this iconic ship. It's now a floating hotel and offers daily tours. You can learn more about the QE2 in Dubai here. Final arrangements are still being made as we are also toying with the idea of taking a sunrise balloon ride across the desert (depending on our budget!). I think this would be an amazing experience and well worth the 5am pick-up time.
One thing that will be interesting during our time in Dubai, will be the start of Ramadan. During Ramadan in Dubai, you cannot eat or drink between dawn and dusk. We've read that some restaurants and hotels will still be serving during the day and we will be able to eat behind blinds and partitions so this doesn't appear to be too much of an issue - we shall see!
How we dress in Dubai during Ramadan is also more conservative. We have been advised to keep our shoulders and knees covered so will be packing appropriate clothes for our trip.
Despite these restrictions during the day, after dusk we are promised a lively atmosphere and the chance to experience an Iftar Party. Iftar parties are held in the evenings to break the fast. Although we will be very conscious about respecting the religious customs during Ramadan, we are hoping to embrace the culture and experience as much as we can.
I love the nature of cruising. There are so many places in the world that I want to see and experience and cruising has certainly enabled me to visit some incredible cruise destinations like Hawaii, Grand Cayman, Pisa and Monaco.
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Laura started this blog to share her experiences of cruising, to offer tips and suggestions for what to do whilst on-board and when visiting destinations. Where are the best places to eat? What should you not miss when visiting a cruise port? What should you wear? She hopes that her cruise blog will help you plan your next cruise and make it the best it can be.Cruise Lifestyle