I am just about on the eve of my next trip to Europe. If you’ll recall, I’ve booked myself a Studio Stateroom aboard the Norwegian Epic to explore several ports in three countries. I’ll also be flying in and out of Rome, so I’ll finally have a chance to see the Eternal City. Without a doubt, this trip is the most expensive I’ve ever been on. It is also the most complicated.
Don’t let anyone tell you that cruise travel is easy. Normally, I only have to plan for one city. This time out, I have to plan for the time I’m spending in Rome, the time spent aboard ship, and the time spent in five ports and nearby cities along the way. Not to mention transportation to and from the airport and the cruise ship. As a type A planner, it pains me to say this, but the planning for this trip nearly overwhelmed me.
I know. You’re thinking “Cry me a freaking river. You’re going to EUROPE!!” Which is a fair response.
Here’s the thing about traveling on a cruise ship: As a solo traveler, the notion of being surrounded by other people all day, every day freaks me out a little. I do want to meet people and have time to socialize, but I also know I need some time to myself. There’s got to be a balance, right? So I’ve decided to mix my travel style up this time around. Here’s how:
I’ll be doing my usual independent solo traveler thing in Rome, Cannes, and Barcelona. No excursions or tours in any of those places. Cannes and Barcelona are two of the port cities, making them easier to explore on my own. I’ve done most everything I want to do in Barcelona, so that should be a somewhat fun and relaxing day for me. At the very least, though, I’d like to take a tour of Casa Mila, since I didn’t last time. Cannes is a pure photography day for me. I’ll be wandering around taking photos of this picturesque city on the Mediterranean, and that’s about it.
In Rome, the ancient city and architecture are my two focus areas: The Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps, along with the Borghese Gardens, possibly the Castel Sant’Angelo, and lots of wandering around the city. There are plenty of other things I could do in Rome, but I’m not going to. I have no desire to see the Vatican, or museums or art galleries. Since I desperately need some relaxation and down time during this “vacation,” I’m trying to rein in my usual “commando style” of travel. My mantra will be “Slow down.”
In Marseilles, I’m taking Norwegian’s “Marseilles City Highlights and Avignon Tour”. In Naples, I’ve signed onto a shared excursion set up by another passenger with a driver and guide to explore Pompeii, Sorrento and Positano. (All in one day—yikes!) In both cases, I get to sit back and let someone else do all the work for a while. Right now, that sounds pretty damn good, even if it curtails my freedom a little bit. (We’ll see what it’s like in reality.)
In Florence, I’m doing Norwegian’s “Florence on your own” tour, which means I’m hitching a bus* ride with them from the Port of Livorno to and from Florence while exploring the city on my own. It’s kind of a cross between tour travel and independent travel. And no, shockingly, I probably won’t do any museums here, either, since I’ll only have a few hours. I don’t want to squander what little time I have in a museum. I do, however, want to see Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, the Campanile, and the rest of the gorgeous architecture of Florence. I may check out some of the basilicas.
*I could have taken the train to and from Florence, but I’m deeply paranoid about something going wrong and not being able to get back to the ship in time. If you miss the ship’s departure, you’re responsible for getting yourself to the next port of call. I can’t afford that extra expense or the stress that accompanies it. If you’re on one of their excursions, the ship will wait for you.
And when exactly is my vacation?
My job has me exhausted. I really need some rest. This is my only vacation from work for a few months. Yet, there’s really not a lot of downtime in this schedule, is there? When I return to the ship from port at night, there is dinner to be had, shows to be seen, bars to be visited, journal entries to be written, photos to be downloaded onto my laptop, and various and sundry other socializing opportunities. I’ll be lucky if I make it to bed by 11pm every night. I’d love to say that my day at sea will be my day to rest and relax, but with all the fun activities that are available aboard the Epic, I doubt I’ll be able to resist jumping in with both feet. Then again, maybe my “rest” will come in the form of:
My Forced Digital Detox
For the first time in awhile, I am being forced to take a digital detox for the majority of the trip. I can’t use my cell phone in Europe; the roaming charges would kill me. I’ll have Internet access in Rome, but once I’m aboard ship, the cost of Internet is too high. And I’m not going to waste what little time I have in port looking for and using an Internet cafe. So don’t be surprised if you don’t see as much of me online in the next couple of weeks.
Despite how it may sound, I am really looking forward to this trip. It might be exhausting, but I think it’ll also be a lot of fun. I cannot wait to see the ancient sites in Rome and Pompeii, and I’ve heard the Amalfi Coast is just gorgeous. I’m happy to be able to revisit Barcelona. The other locales are frosting on the cake. I’m also looking forward to going on a real cruise aboard the Epic, staying in the Studios and taking advantage of my access to the Studio Lounge to meet some other solo travelers. I’ve already “met” some of my fellow cruisers on CruiseCritic.com roll calls, so it’ll be nice to finally put faces to names and online handles.
Look for me to report back on these and many more things when I return. In the meantime, please don’t burn the house down while I’m gone.