The following post is written by Laurie from the Boscov’s Travel Operations Department at the company’s headquarters. Laurie recently sailed aboard the Norwegian Epic on a European tour and shares her travel adventures that she booked through Boscov’s Travel.
I am very excited to share my “European Family Adventure” with all of you. My parents are avid cruisers and were eager to share a trip to Europe with both my of children and myself while they were active enough to really enjoy it. To be honest I was a bit nervous that my kids were too young to really appreciate all this amazing experience had to offer. Alexa is 12 and Zachary had just turned 9. We left Philadelphia on a direct flight to Barcelona Thursday evening. Much to my surprise the flight went remarkably fast after a movie and a few hours of sleep we were ready to land. My nervousness subsided the moment we met our driver at the Barcelona airport to take us to the hotel. Zachary became instantly engrossed in the Spanish language and was trying to learn every Spanish word possible from him in the 20 minute drive. Despite the language barrier he did everything to make us feel welcome and was very excited to share his country with us.
Our vacation began with a 2-night pre-cruise stay in a hotel located right on Las Ramblas which is the most famous main street, located in the heart of Barcelona with more restaurants, cafes, and shops than you can imagine. We loved walking around this area soaking up the architecture and local culture by trying tapas, paella, gelato and of course you can’t forget the sangria. During our stay we did a Double Decker Bus tour of the city as well as a trip to the local aquarium. We booked a Flamenco dinner show which was really fantastic as well. I highly encourage the pre-night stay to enjoy this beautiful city and I also think it helps to adjust to the time change.
Sunday morning arrived and it was time to board the Norwegian Cruise Line Ship, Epic. Check in was flawless and easy to do. I really enjoyed the layout of this ship as it was a bit different than others I have cruised on. It was raining so the water slides would have to wait until the sun came out. The kids managed to occupy their time at the bowling alley and the arcade located in the O’Sheehan’s Sports Bar which would come to be one of our favorite spots. We did make reservations to do the Cirque Dreams Show which was one of the ships highlights. Although the dinner portion wasn’t rave worthy the show was really fantastic!
Monday was a day at sea to relax before we arrived in Italy. My Dad and I had to check out the Epic’s Ice Bar, where they graciously gave you parkas and gloves so you are able to enjoy your cocktails in a balmy 11 degrees. You tend to drink faster than normal because it’s a little chilly, but to see a bar and chairs all made out of ice was really cool. We both were glad we took the time to try it out and it was worth the cover charge!
Tuesday morning we arrived in Naples, Italy where we had our first shore excursion to the spectacular Sorrento and Amalfi coast by land and sea. The boat ride was picturesque and walking around the villages was so neat. Of course we got to learn a bit of Italian from our tour guide too.
Lunch was located in a greenhouse filled with beautiful flowers and lemon trees that I couldn’t get enough of.
Wednesday we arrived in Rome, Italy, where we had a full day excursion with sightseeing at the Colosseum and throughout Vatican City. The expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is an understatement. This tour was pretty intense, as it was hours of walking, sightseeing and learning. Alexa studied the Colisseum in 6th grade Social Studies so this was a once in a lifetime field trip to say the least. I am not sure who was more excited, her or the tour guide, as she was asking a million questions. Once arriving at the Vatican, we learned we had missed the Pope speaking earlier that morning as he does a service every Wednesday morning for the public. Seeing the inside of the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking and my favorite part was looking around to see the different emotions of everyone there. There were people praying, singing, crying, and those that were just in pure awe of the beauty.
Thursday brought us to our final day in Italy where we toured Florence and Pisa. This was my favorite port of the trip. The bus ride through the scenic Tuscan countryside on the way to Florence was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The green hillside vineyards with tall Cypress trees were just beautiful. Once arriving in Florence I instantly fell in love with the cobblestone streets lined with cafes and tiny shops. The walk along the Arno River (photo below) was also the highlight as the scenery was just beautiful. We had a traditional Italian lunch followed by the most delicious espresso.
Next we were off again, for a bus ride and a tour of Pisa. Pisa – in my opinion – should be no more than a few hour stop but it was certainly something I am happy we had the opportunity to see. You arrive in what looks like a residential neighborhood and you see this immense leaning tower. Pretty surreal!
Thursday we arrived in Cannes, France, my second favorite port. My family has a love of boats and water so to see this beautiful French city on the water with yachts and sailboats, we were in paradise. We were lucky enough to be there during the Cannes Film Festival which was very exciting. We did a city tram tour which enabled us to see so much of this area. For lunch we enjoyed the best pizza we have ever eaten, which seemed ironic being in France versus Italy.
Our final day was in Marseilles, France, which again is a beautiful seaside port. We took another tram type tour which allowed us to get a taste and feel of this picturesque little town. Of course we couldn’t leave France without enjoying our last cone of gelato.
I truly believe that a cruise was the best way to experience all of these unbelievable destinations. As much as we loved our time spent on the ship we truly used it as a floating hotel. I don’t believe there is any better way that you can explore 3 different countries, cultures and languages all in 10 days. The shore excursions tend to add up but they are truly worth it for the experience. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. I also don’t recommend traveling to Europe on a diet, as the culinary experience alone is amazing. Now that we have had a taste of Spain, Italy, and France we can’t wait to go back.
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