Monday, February 11, 2019

Been There Done That…Athens, Greece

I have a Mediterranean cruise booked for the fall that will once again leave from Piraeus, the port city located within the urban area of Athens, Greece. I’ve been to Athens several times before, staying anywhere from a day to several, pre-cruise.  I’m at the point where I’m searching for some new things to see…places that don’t make the original “bucket list.” Here’s what I’ve found and plan to add to my itinerary.

Lake Vouliagmeni (Sunken Lake): Located just outside the city center, this is a small fresh water lake fed by underground currents seeping through Mount Hymettus. The lake is mineral rich; potassium, calcium, iodine, natrium…minerals known for the relief they give to hurting bones and muscles, eczema, headaches, arthritis and other ailments.  In addition, schools of small fish will approach swimmers and feed off of their dead cells, a practice that may seem a bit gross or weird, however there are many spas in the city that will charge for such a treatment!  Because of the year-round comfortable water temperature as well as the surrounding amenities (beach chairs, changing rooms, restaurants) Lake Vouliagmeni is thought of as a year-round spa visited by both locals and tourists.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Been There Done That…Venice, Italy

Venice is such a magical city I don’t think I will ever tire of visiting. Should it be included on any of my future Mediterranean cruise itineraries I’m happy to wander the city’s maze of alleys time and time again, yet it’s always fun to seek out a spot to explore that I’ve never been to before.  Here’s a few “off the beaten path” destinations I’d like to share from a previous visit.

Burano:  I’ve taken a water taxi to Murano many times in search of a lovely piece of glass, but never made time for neighboring island, Burano.  I rectified that on a recent “girlfriend trip.” Burano is a fisherman’s island with brightly colored houses lining its boat-filled canal. It is said that houses are painted in this manner because it made it easier for returning fishermen to find their homes in the thick fog of the lagoon.  Strolling the streets is a photographer’s (and tourist’s) dream! My friends and I admired the lovely lace in the shop windows and made time for a leisurely lunch of fresh fish over just as fresh pasta! Exploring Burano is a wonderful way to spend a day.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Been There, Done That...Florence, Italy

Is your Mediterranean cruise stopping in Livorno again?  You’ve already visited all the major sites in Florence, made side trips to Pisa and Lucca too.  No worries, there’s still some great places in Florence to explore that you may not have known about.  Here’s some suggestions.

The Oltrarno District

I always try to put aside some time for shopping when I’m in Florence. Strolling from booth to booth
at the San Lorenzo leather market, window shopping the jewelry stores along the Ponte Vecchio, and of course those chic designer shops! However, on my last trip to Florence this past October I was introduced to the Oltrarno district of Florence, just over the Arno, where lots artisans and independent workshops are located. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this area! Here you will find artisans carrying on the genuine tradition of their ancestors; creating marble paper, handmade shoes, mosaics, ceramics, gilded wooden frames and so much more. There is nothing I enjoy more than chatting with the artist, taking a picture together, then bringing home his or her wonderful design.  A perfect souvenir from another amazing Mediterranean cruise!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Been There, Done That…Rome, Italy

Every city has those iconic sights that every traveler makes it a point to see on their first visit.  But what happens when you return to that city for the second or third time and you’ve already checked off the highlights on your bucket list?  Here are some of my favorite places that are a bit off the beaten path in Rome. 

Roman Aqueducts
My husband, a civil engineer, says the construction of the aqueducts in Rome (300 BC to 200 AD) was one of the most remarkable feats of ancient engineering. Consisting of conduits, tunnels and
pipelines, aqueducts used gravity to bring water from far-away springs and mountains into cities. The large arched stone structures that we associate with the systems were built to maintain an appropriate water height when the system crossed a valley or other land that dipped in elevation. To view a large, well preserved section of such a structure in Rome, we headed to Parco degli Acquedotti, located 5 miles outside Rome’s city center. It is just so amazing to see these beautiful ancient structures still standing! Although we had a driver for the day, you can get to the park using public transportation; take the metro line A to Lucio Sestio or Giulio Agricola and from there it’s a 15-minute walk into the park. The park itself is lovely, a nice place to step away from the hectic pace of a Mediterranean cruise. Even better, bring a picnic lunch!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Cruise Ships to Look For in 2019

Who doesn’t love a new ship?  Here’s the 2019 line-up that we’re all looking forward to!

Spectrum of the Seas (4,246-passengers): In June 2019 Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, a ship custom built for the Chinese market, will start sailing from Shanghai. This is the first of the Quantum Ultra-Class which will debut a new private enclave for Golden and Silver Suite guests, including keycard access, a private elevator, dedicated restaurant and lounge, exclusive amenities and access to The Balcony for sunbathing.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Unlocking Perks on Royal Caribbean With "The Key"

What onboard amenities would you be willing to pay for that would take your cruise vacation experience from good to great? How much additional are you willing to pay?  Here’s Royal Caribbean’s thoughts on that very topic.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is beginning to roll out a program called “The Key”, a collection of exclusive benefits which are available only to guests who purchase 'The Key (although many of these perks are available free of charge to guests staying in select suites).

Monday, December 10, 2018

Choosing Your Cruise For 2019

Today I wanted to finalize my travel plans for the upcoming year but with so many options I was feeling a bit overwhelmed! Did you know that when one of our Direct Line Cruises cruise consultants opens up our search engine tool to assist a prospective client in selecting a cruise vacation, the system shows 35,162 options available for booking! Wow!  So how does one decide?  For some it’s an easy decision but for others….

An answer to one of the following two questions will dramatically filter those seemingly infinite choices. Where do you want to leave from?  If you’re determined to embark from a port that’s driving distance from your home, that narrows things significantly.  Where do you want to go? Again, picking a destination will assist in determining cruise line, cruise ship and the time of year you will travel. For example, if you want to journey to Alaska the cruising season is only May through September.