With Labor Day behind us and summer fun quickly coming to an end…I have to admit this was the BEST SUMMER EVER!  And it all began with a spur of the moment trip… the best kind! It was late May when Talia asked if I was interested in traveling to Europe.  My only though was… “is she kidding me?!?” I couldn’t wait to start packing my bags.

The two of us met with a travel agent and expressed our interest in Italy and Greece.  She suggested a cruise because, “what better way to get your toes wet!”

Theresa Reinagel of Above & Beyond Travel of VA was wonderful… she quickly researched Mediterranean cruises and within days we were set. Our trip would start in Venice; we would then cruise to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos, Greece; then to Naples (to include Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast), and end in Rome, Italy.  All in all, we would visit three countries and cross five seas! This was shaping into quite an adventure.

For me… this was a dream come true. My heart and soul were already captivated by the history, beauty, and charm of each place. I could only imagine how I would feel when I returned.

It all began on a Friday in July. We were scheduled to fly out of Richmond, connect in New Jersey, and finally ending in Venice. There was a minor hiccup with our first flight, but with the kindness and swiftness of the woman working behind the counter we were rerouted and headed for Venice. After a rather lengthy time in the air, we made it to Venice… excitement plastered on our faces.

Despite the language barrier, we sailed through immigration and received our date of entry stamp, retrieved our luggage, found the Celebrity Cruise reps for our Airport Transfer, and managed to enjoy our first of many Italian cappuccinos and pastry all before we were on a bus headed to the ship.

Once we arrived at the cruise terminal our first task… check-in. Not thinking, I packed our ship boarding documents into my carry-on, which would not have been a problem, but I then proceeded to check my carry-on and suitcase after we passed through our first security check point. My carry-on was too heavy (note to self) and I did not want to haul it around. But despite my error, the Celebrity check-in staff was kind and used our passports and credit card on file to check us in. Our pictures were taken and we were each issued a sea pass, which is technically an ID card that would be used every time we got on and off the ship. It was also an account card, which we used to make purchases on board.

The ship was how do I say… huge (pretty impressive looking). It was 12 decks high filled with staterooms, restaurants, dining rooms, theaters, a casino, game room, fitness center, spa, pools, boutiques, library, iLounge, and things we never checked out!

When we finally boarded, we found our room #3057 which was an interior room on the bow side of the ship.  Initially, I was a bit underwhelmed as it was small about 170 square feet (10 x 17)… and there was no window!  But as Theresa said,  “You won’t be spending too much time in your room. You will be out exploring.” I had to remember… this is our first cruise experience and who knows if we will like it.

After exploring the ship and getting our directions straight, Talia and I grabbed a chaise lounge on the top deck and enjoyed getting some sun. Our plan was to do this daily after exploring the island of the day, but we soon found out this was not going to be the case as everyone on the ship seemed to have the same idea. Oh well!

As we sat there staring at Venice within our grasp, I decided I would ask if we could disembark. No one said anything to us when we boarded so we thought we couldn’t get off, but to our surprise, we could.  We quickly went back to our room, grabbed what we needed and off we went.

At this point, we only had a few short hours to explore Venice, but we made the best of it and walked along the canal only wishing we had more time to take a boat taxi through the city. Venice or Venezia (as it is called by the Italians) is situated on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Each of these islands are separated by canals and linked by bridges. The architecture of this historic city is spectacular with each building more beautiful then the last. As we stood on the boat and watched as we pulled away from port, I knew I wanted to return to this beautiful city of canals.

Our first evening on the boat Talia and I chose to dine in one of the restaurants called Sushi on Five. This restaurant did not disappoint! It was what it was billed… every sushi lovers dream. The food was locally sourced and authentically prepared. Our meal started with steamed Edamane and Chicken Ginger Gyoza (wow)…we then indulged in two rolls that were extremely delicious (unfortunately I cannot remember the names) and a wine from the Northern Italian region called Corte Giara, a Pinot Grigio that was light bodied and paired well with our meal.

Eating in restaurants aboard the ship was not part of our meal plan, but both Talia and I love sushi and wanted to experience our trip and life aboard a cruise ship to it fullest.

All in all our first day aboard the ship ended on a good note. We went to sleep completely exhausted from travel and excitement.

Because I have so much to say about this trip, I will divide our adventure into several blogs.  I hope you will stick with me and enjoy reading and sharing in our pictures.