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Europe Here We Come! Vision of the Seas July 29,2019: 12 day Mediterranean/Greek Isles


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7 hours ago, JLMoran said:

This is something I remember hearing about all the restaurants, including the MDR. If there's a wine you really like that's not offered on the menu of whichever venue you're at, you can ask for a glass of it and as often as not they will go and get a bottle to open up.

Majesty's schooner bar did this with the Oberon...I asked if they could get me a bottle to have by the glass (it was only in mdr) and they brought 2 bottles and told me to definitely just pay by the glass.  I was very happy!  Jane

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Santorini was totally a surprise at how much we loved it!  I had been freaking out about the 5-6 cruise ships we would see there and after mykenos, we just weren't sure what to expect.  

Because of the tender situation (they were still calling in numbers at 11 for Cannes) and because we were there and didn't quite understand all the transportation options, we chose to do the royal "Oia on your own" which gave us bus transportation, 45 mins to take pics and shop,and then transportation to Thira (or Fira....I saw both names).  

At this point I want to say something about tours and guides.  They vary widely!  Some trips we had a great guide who was interesting, informative, could speak perfect English and was amazing.  A couple times our guide was monotone, slightly disorganized and not nearly as interesting.  Apparently there is a difference (at least in Greece) btw a guide and an escort.  I found this out when I sat and watched a woman berate our little barely 20s timid "escort" on the way to Thira because she didn't share enough info on the way to Oia and the other bus got all sorts of information so why wasn't she more interesting?  OMG!  Whatever your view, why yell at the guide in your own language?  What is she suddenly going to do...become a fountain of knowledge and speak more clearly?  If you have an issue, let royal know when you are back or hire your own private tour.  It was so ugly tourist out of order.  Ok...rant over....back to beautiful Oia.  

Oia was absolutely amazing and I want to go back.  We did go very early...were one of the very first tenders and beat a lot of the crowds there.  This made it a lot better.  Even by the time we were leaving after only 45 mins it was getting more and more crowded and it was not as nice.  But we loved it...I wish they let you stay longer.  We would have really liked to sat in one of the cafes and drank a glass of ?!  

Every time we turned around there was another beautiful view and another amazingly interesting building.  I took hundreds of pictures.  There are gazillions of little paths and stairways that led to more little shops, more views and cool building.  I could have explored for hours.  The colors were incredible and the sea the most gorgeous blue!  I could post way too many pics but here are a few, including one of my beautiful daughter who was the happiest I've seen.  A year ago we were battling some pretty scary stuff with her and it made my heart sing to take these pics.  Santorini is one of my new happy places for sure!  









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SANTORINI continued...

On to Thira.   On the outskirts it is just a regular city with lots of yrafgic, drug stores and not pretty.  I was not impressed until we walked out of the congested area and we found the amazing area (I still think Mykenos prob has this as well and we just didn't find it).  Thira isn't as charming as Oia but has its share of great views.  Everywhere  in the two villages there were amazing doorways that were unique and pretty.  I love this picture with vision in the back!!




As is our habit we found a little cafe and tried the local drinks and food.  Madison tried fava beans and liked them,while I tried the very good Santorini beer!  We could look at Vision while we ate and I didn't get a pic on my phone, but Jewel showed up to join her sister vision!







We shopped, found more quaint and incredible views! I love this old church and then the view of the grafitti under it...old and new...






I think this last one is from Oia but so cool and I forgot to add it before. 


It was getting around 1 and we'd heard horror stories about 2 hour lines to ride the cable car from Thira to the port.  You can walk down but it's very slippery and hot.  I figured we could wait in line.  It turned out to be only 45 mins!  It would have been even shorter if people weren't people and letting 8 friends jump into their group and just deciding they didn't need to wait and cutting into line.  I loved the people who tried to just walk in front of us 5 mins away from the ticket booth!  Yeah...NO!!    The cable car ride was very cool!!





On the tender ride back we found out their walk took 53 mins down so I was happy we cable carred it!   Santorini is very rocky...the cliffs were numerous and it amazes me how they can build these buildings into them.  




And a last picture of mads on the top of the tender!


We really loved our day in Santorini!  Dinner as usual was relaxed in the windjammer for us, while Madison joined one of her friend's  family in the MDR.  Jane



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DAY 10...another sea day.  Sea days are just therapeutic for me, but boring for you to read about.  I had practice 3 for thriller and sat in my deck chair. Jeff and Madison went to the sushi class and LOVED it!  They said it was super fun and that they are going to make sushi when we get home.  Makes me happy!!   We made great use of our drink pkg again and basically had a wonderful day.

  It was formal night so we got dressed up and went to mdr.  They actually called us to see if we were coming and we're very concerned we hadn't been happy on night one.  We definitely enjoyed the main dining room the couple times we went but when you add in specialty dining and all the port eating and the drink pkg it is just too much for big long dinners.  We were really surprised when they brought us a piece of cake and sang "happy anniversary" to us!  The 50 year royal cakes are still being offered as well! 




We did go to the production show.  We have made most of the shows (we missed the Motown one on Malta day) and most have been pretty good.  The production shows by the royal singers and dancers have been weak.  I've seen boogie wonderland before and the songs aren't great..they did the "cake in the rain song" that is not really boogie or disco...just bad lol.  It does not help this is a very young cast (most are first tours) and they just aren't developed enough.  Watching a fresh faced 19 year old sing "I will survive" just doesn't quite work lol.  Anyway I always drag Jeff to them anyway!


Ok...that brings us up to day 11and Malta but I have to head to class 5 Of thriller!  More later!  Jane

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Wonderful pictures!!  It looks like ya'll are having a great time!  I am so happy that your daughter is doing well and enjoying herself.   I remember you mentioning some struggles with travel insurance and getting home to her a few years ago.  It is great to see her look so radiant.

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4 hours ago, Fairlynew said:

Wonderful pictures!!  It looks like ya'll are having a great time!  I am so happy that your daughter is doing well and enjoying herself.   I remember you mentioning some struggles with travel insurance and getting home to her a few years ago.  It is great to see her look so radiant.

Thanks so much.. Yes... Last year was tough and we are so thankful to be having this time.  She even put herself on the centrum stage lol! She is the one in the middle blue shirt!  Dancing during 70s party in the centrum!  


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The Malta day didn't start off well.  Up until then, the only weather issue we'd had all trip had been a 2 hour rain storm in Barcelona.  We were scheduled to do a boat trip into the blue grotto and then a trip to marsaxlokk.  We woke up to this amazing view out our window: 





All looked good this day until they told us it  was impossible to take out the boats into the grottos... The wind was too strong for the 8 person boats.  We were pretty bummed out, even though we would get back 25% of our excursion price and do a trip to the village of vittoriosa  (the oldest walled City across from Valletta).  We weren't that wowed until we found out that 2 days later they would be celebrating their "festa" (religious ceremony) of St. Lawrence!  We ended up with an absolutely amazing tour guide who walked us all through the narrow ancient streets.  It was incredible...I took hundreds of pics but here are a few off my phone.






It was just wonderful and something we lucked into.  Our bad luck turned into one of the highlights of the trip!  We them drove to see the blue grotto from up above.  It was still very pretty and we were able to stop and walk around a little village near the grotto.





There was even a little area to swim...I'm guessing the water was pretty deep but they even had a shower there (the purple thing in the pic).  


It was on to marsaxlokk... Or so we thought.  Excitement number 2 came when our bus wouldn't start... After only a ten minute wait we had a new bus and we were in our way (after hiding in the shade lol...it was very hot in Malta--mid 90s).



Our incredible tour guide was unflappable... Getting us the new bus and offering all sorts of things to do in Marsaxlokk and Valletta.  Marsaxlokk was full of very colorful fishing boats and lots of little market stalls.





One thing we had to try were the Malta specialty of pastizzi... Little phyllo pastries filled with ricotta or peas.  We found a little walk up Cafe where we could find them (they were only .40 Euros each), as well as Maltese beer and the Maltese drink of Kinnie (a local orange and herb carbonated drink which was pretty interesting).  Oh yeah... And the really yummy apple pie... All of this for under ten Euros!  




After this fun excursion we were dropped off near the old City Valletta.  After wandering a bit, we finally figured out how to get there and were so thankful the tour guide had mentioned the cathedral of St. John.  OMG... Incredible and I got to see Caravaggios IN REAL LIFE!!!!!   









I didn't realize that Caravaggio was defrocked (I will have to study the history) in front of his huge painting of the beheading of John the Baptist... The patron saint of the church.  It was so interesting to wander the church... We spent a long time there and then began to be a little panicked about time (we belong to the @Matt team that all aboard is about 2 hours before it is!  And I had a thriller practice at 430!  It took us a bit to find the park where the elevator is to get you up and down from the port.  It is in a very pretty area that had an upper and lower park.  It costs 1 euro to go up, but it was free for us to go down!  We saw an interesting plaque commemorating WWII soldiers and got some great pics of our ship.  







It was a VERY long walk back to the ship only because the port is fenced off and the entrance is at the very end away from the elevator.  We were hot and tired when we got back and found the dreaded luggage tags.. 


We decided to grab drinks and watch sailaway from the deck 5  wrap-around.  I think it has been my favorite sailaway spot.  It was quiet and we got to catch a last look at our last European port.  We were so sorry to leave Malta...it was truly a wonderful stop!  I had to take a few pics of myself for work, and while we were doing that, a very nice lady asked if we wanted a pic!  We didn't have too many couple shots so this was great! 







We ended the night with chops and the 70s dance party.  Madison ordered vegetarian spinach crepes which were really super good.  I got the rib eye which was an awful cut of meat but the ? cocktail was wonderful!



The 70s party was fun but too short and then they jumped right into lounge music... It is too bad that the centrum doesn't do more just dance music.  I know that Viking crown does, but it is so far away from everything that nobody goes...we never made it up there the whole 12 days.  









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I found that 12 days doesn't take away from the last day blues :(.    You know you have to pack .. You just don't wanna lol!!!   I had 2 thriller rehearsals and got put right in the middle towards the front, so I had to make sure I didn't drink too much in my deck chair so I could perform at 10 lol.  It was a great day...I stayed in my chair until almost 630 when I couldn't avoid it any more and had to pack.  It made us miss the farewell show, which was a drag, but something had to give.  With the carry-on suitcase we were fine on weight (just FYI... Many Europe flights only allow 20kg or 44 lbs checked bags and they weigh your carry one AND personal items--not all but Norwegian did!).  

We ate one last time at windjammer (we really did like it for dinner and will decrease specialty to 3 or so next time).  Then I had to get ready for thriller!  Uh oh...I packed all of our makeup.  Good thing they hadn't taken the luggage from the hall yet!   I don't have any pics on my phone... Jeff filmed on the camera.. But I looked very zombie-ish lol!  Madison started out till the last possible minute with her friends and we got to bed well after 1am! Jane

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Ack... Just deleted disembarkation day lol!  Sigh!  Anyway, we didn't sleep well...I was up before 5 and Madison left at 6 to say goodbye to friends. 



We didn't have to fly out till 355 so we had some options.  We could have stayed on the ship, but that would have been depressing to hang with all the people excitedly starting their trip so we decided to do an excursion with royal to Montserrat and get dropped off at the airport.  It was amazing!!!  Although a long drive, the views were amazing, the Benedictine church beautiful and we were so happy we did it!









There was a statue of st. George (I think) by the artist who did the passion facade of segrada familia (not gaudi who only completed the Nativity facade).  It is striking...



Monserrat is famous for it's "Black Madonna" dating from the 13th century.  It was beautiful as was the rest of the church. Again... Took hundreds of pics but here are a few!













Built into the rock that surrounds the Fitch is an area you can light candles.  I was able to light a candle in mentor if my parents and my dad who would have loved this trip.  How I wish we'd discovered cruising sooner!




Time to race to the airport where it took an hour to check in and then we made the mistake of trying stir fry... That took almost an hour!  We ran to our gate to find our flight delayed for almost 2 hours.  Oh well.. we had time to eat our stir fry and then even have a glass of cava!  The flight was uneventful though incredible again we had to wait for a gate at O'Hare.  Customs was easy peasy and we were home by 10pm.  Sleeping was a very good thing since we'd been up over 24 hrs!  I will have to do final wrap up thoughts later as it is Monday morning and alas... I'm back to work lol!  Ugh! Jane




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So... My final take-aways.  First of all, I focused this blog mostly on the trip and not necessarily the ship because it's something different.  I really like vision.  The crew, the cruise director, the activities director, my stateroom attendant...I have no complaints!!  They were all amazing.  I'm not a picky cruiser and vision was totally fine, especially for a port heavy itinerary.  It truly never felt crowded except when chair hogs hit the decks.  I felt like the ship was in good condition (yes a bit of rust here and there, but hey, that's me too lol) and the shower curtain doesn't bug me.  That being said, we had some negatives as well.  The music venues are very limited, the bars were limited and the activities are limited.  For me, that was fine.  My sea days involved myself and 5 novels!  My husband, who had previously been on adventure, freedom and allure surprised me by saying he really prefers the bigger ships.  He would rather sail on a bigger ship if we can get the same itineraries and trade the price difference by staying in an interior room.  We are scheduled on rhapsody for next spring break...we got an amazing deal and great itinerary (including Belize and Roatan) but we may cancel and save up a bit... Especially if we decide to go to the UK next summer.  

   Speaking of itineraries... Europe was mostly amazing!!!  We did find that just like the Caribbean, there are better ports and that we are excursion people.  A whole day of shopping won't work for us...we need something to do.  Otherwise, you start seeing the same shops, just like in the Caribbean!!  

   Long trips:. We found that 12 days was just awesome!  But I was still sad to get off... The 2nd to last day is always gonna suck no matter how long your cruise is!

   Eating:. Unless there is lots of variety, we will probably decrease our specialty dining... It's just too much food.  Same for the dining room...we will continue to do my time because we just don't want 2 hour dining every night.  We enjoyed windjammer on those days we were tired and just wanted to relax, or had eaten big at port.

   Drink pkg:. The drink pkg even on 12 days was totally worth it.  We went through at least 3 bottles of water every day, coffee every morning, 2 glasses of wine with dinner and at least 1 cocktail a day.  Could we do without it, yes but for us it is really worth it and again, I'd be willing to go with a smaller room to afford it.  It was pricy but it worked for us absolutely.  Just FYI, the lowest price we ever saw was $48/day, and $57 with the internet 1 device each.  The drink card never showed up on our 12 day cruise so people must have been purchasing enough drinks!  

Packing:. Ok... So I definitely did better this trip, but could have done a bit better.  We managed 3 checked bags and 1 carry-on and didn't bring back a lot of souvenirs.  I could have done better... The laundry bag was amazing and my stateroom attendant made me fill enough for two bags and charged for one.  Nothing shrunk and next time I could easily pack fewer bathing suits and PJs and cover-ups.  Still would worry about my dresses, but none of Jeff's nice polos shrank!  

So that is our trip.  I'm so sad it's over...we have dreamed of this for a lifetime and planned it for almost 2 years.  But we have memories to last us forever, amazing pictures and the knowledge that we will do what we can to continue traveling.  Life is way too short not to try and travel, and for us it's a priority!  Thanks for coming along on our voyage with us!  Jane

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Thank you so much for sharing your adventures!  We're doing western med next May and it's only 7 days.  I am going to wish it was 12!!  We're on Allure, which will be our third Oasis class but our (college aged) kid's first.  It's going to be tough with six port days - they are going to want to do everything!! 

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10 hours ago, KathyC said:

Thank you so much for sharing your adventures!  We're doing western med next May and it's only 7 days.  I am going to wish it was 12!!  We're on Allure, which will be our third Oasis class but our (college aged) kid's first.  It's going to be tough with six port days - they are going to want to do everything!! 

The port evenings I have to admit we were tired!  It will be harder with all the great shows and music that allure will have at night!  Jane

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