Anyone who has been on a cruise knows the wonderful level of service and pampering you get every day so this will be news to no one…but this cruise? Down the Dalmatian Coast for 11 days? This really took the cake in terms of 1) number and quality of incredible places we went and 2) the VIEWS from the deck of the ship every morning, afternoon and evening.
The list of places from start to finish was as follows:
- Venice, Italy
- Koper, Slovenia
- Zadar, Croatia
- Rijeka, Croatia
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Kotor, Montenegro
- Valletta, Malta
- Catania (Sicily), Italy
- Naples, Italy
- Rome, Italy
Nick’s only prior cruise experience was to Antarctica on *essentially* a fancy icebreaker ship and Elizabeth’s prior experience involved a few short 3 day cruises to the Bahamas so this was a big change for both of us experience-wise. And it did not disappoint. We took Celebrity Cruises and minus a few minor gripes we had (mostly because we were getting spoiled otherwise), we really enjoyed the entire experience. Every morning we woke up in a different port and had the vast majority of the day to explore each new spot. We got into a routine we loved that involved breakfast, getting off the ship early to explore, coming back for an early afternoon workout* followed by a late lunch and then lots of pool and sun time.
*Note on this workout schedule since it probably sounds crazy (or unbelievable?) that we worked out so many days on a relaxing cruise…we decided early on in this trip that strategically, we had to take advantage of having an actual gym any time we hit one on the trip. Regardless of how long we were there or where we were. The cruise was no exception! We are *definitely* still less in shape than before we departed on this wild adventure but it sure did feel good to get a few solid workouts in.
Onto the stops we made! We tried to take and post pics of the various things we saw and explored in each city but if we were to be asked for a favorite stop along this cruise, it would actually be easy for us to both answer pretty quickly – Zadar, Croatia. We honestly did not research ANY of these spots before we got there (other than maybe 1-2 days in advance, if we had the time and energy) so we knew ZILCH about Zadar before arriving. We booked a really inexpensive 2 hour walking tour of the city with a guy that had lived in Zadar his whole life and we were in awe of this beautiful little port city. We spent our day wandering the cute streets, shopping local artisans, listening to the sea organ (REALLY cool) and (for Nick) jumping off the edge of the city into the sea for a cool off. It was a really special place. Much less touristy than a lot of other places we went and felt really authentically still there, as unchanged as possible for a tourist stop. We even ended our time in Zadar randomly at an archaeological museum with a surprising amount of prehistoric and Roman empire artwork.
One of our favorite parts of the cruise was when we left each day’s port…and the hours before and after sunset. While it wasn’t a guarantee every night, more often than not we were cruising close enough to land that we could literally just watch the world go by…half the point of this cruise was to see the Dalmatian Coast FROM the coast…a different view than we normally get. And it was gorgeous. Sometimes we were cruising in between massive hills or mountains on both sides, sometimes we could see tiny islands all around us in most directions and once we even saw a *literal* volcano eruption (where Stromboli, Italy was) after sunset.
The first few sunsets we got on the cruise were so magical, all we could do was sit there for hours and watch as the colors kept changing and getting more vibrant.
One VERY sad thing that happened came in Dubrovnik…as most of you know and have seen from Nick’s incredible pics and videos on this blog/our Instagram, Nick has reallllly been enjoying his Insta360 camera on this trip. Its ability to capture a literal 360 view of what we are seeing, experiencing, walking around, etc. has captured some of our most beautiful things. So it obviously goes *everywhere* with us because…it should! We decided to do a 3 hour kayak & snorkel adventure around the walls of Dubrovnik and NIck brought the camera with its trusty waterproof case because who wouldn’t want a video of a kayak trip around Dubrovnik?? Despite Nick’s ever-careful planning and packing/unpacking, the camera (case and all) slipped and we lost it 🙁 To say that Nick was upset would be a gross understatement. Maybe the saddest thing that’s happened during the trip so far 🙁 My lovely sister will be bringing us a replacement in a few days when we see her in Greece but we unfortunately lost a LOT that had yet to be downloaded. What a total bummer. I promise, Nick had taken some truly magical videos and we’ll do our best to upload the pics we took with our phones to make up for what we can!
One of our more memorable stops on the cruise was to Naples – not because we spent time in Naples (we didn’t at all!), but because we took the train to Pompeii and spent the day in the city’s ruins learning about the ancient culture, the disaster and the subsequent excavation. We were shocked how massive the site is – it was a city after all – and that despite its discovery many moons ago, they are STILL working to excavate parts of it. Some of the things that struck us were the baths and their technology, the stunning mosaics, the beautiful homes and the surrounding view of everything else. We thought we “knew” about Pompeii and its history but getting to actually see it and walk through it as if we were citizens was really something special.
Few surprising things about the cruise:
- We ended up not trying food anywhere…! Not that we shy away from trying new foods, but we knew we had a ton of time in Italy to eat Italian food and a lot of the food on the Dalmatian cost was either pretty much straight up Italian or Eastern European. Both of which we were spending a lot of time in. We ended up enjoying the convenience, taste and cost ($0) of the food onboard so much that we didn’t really crave anything while on shore. Elizabeth DID eat an amazing cannoli in Sicily though and it was soooooo good.
If we had more time in each of these cities on the cruise, we would have definitely found local authentic restaurants, but it was hard to do that with only a few hours in port.
- Some of the ports we “knew” we weren’t as into, some of the unknowns totally blew us away. We expected to LOVE Dubrovnik (not just bc Game of Thrones, thank you) and it was just completely overrun with tourists so not as great…we had never even heard of Zadar until this cruise itinerary, figuring it would be a random throw away stop and it ended up being our absolute favorite!
Most the following were more of a surprise to Nick than to Elizabeth (see Nick’s lack of cruise experience above):
- The shows were great! We didn’t got to them every night, but when we did, they were actually quite fun! Talented musicians, acrobats, magicians and more.
- We would sometimes got to the “nicer sit down” restaurant just for appetizers and dessert, eating at the banging buffet for our main meal instead. On those nights, Nick would order two or three of whatever apps looked good.
- Nick was *amazed* by the level of service on the ship. Even as we discerned that it was a job requirement to not say anything “bad” or negative, the crew were *consistently* pleasant, welcoming, and responsive.
- We went to one of the “specialty” restaurants on our first night. They use an iPad for the menu, suggesting you “favorite” certain things so Nick went through the menu adding various dishes that sounded good, just as a way of narrowing down his choices. The waiter however took this as “you want it all!”. And so 15 dishes later, we rolled ourselves back to our bedroom. I got one of anything I wanted?? We way WAY overcommitted but it was sooooooooooo delicious.
If you’re looking for a cruise recommendation, we really did love this one for the amount you can do exploration wise and would totally suggest to anyone interested! If you want tips on any of the stops more specifically, let us know 🙂