Celebrity Cruise – a Magnificent Way to Explore the Mediterranean as a Family

A while back, we were looking for a great family trip that would satisfy our kids’ (20 and 22) desire for lots of activity, great food and entertainment and my husband’s and my desire to see more of Europe.  Cruising is a GREAT way to keep everyone happy!  I think it is one of the BEST ways for a multi-generational group of any kind to visit Europe .  You have ease of mobility. You sleep while being transported to the next amazing destination. There is no packing and unpacking.  You have lots of choices for excursions, so everyone can find something they like.  At night, you come back on the ship, clean up and have a great dinner and enjoy some ship board entertainment together.  Sounds perfect!  And our Celebrity Cruise really was perfect!

We started our journey out of Barcelona.  As usual, we gave ourselves an extra day before the cruise to acclimate to the time change, wait for our delayed luggage, and see some sights.  We also had just enough time to enjoy a little Sangria and Paella. Yum!

First on the list in Barcelona, of course, was  Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familiglia. It was Spectacular!

Then the old Cathedral in the Gothic district…

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Our evening ended with a visit to the Magic Fountains of Montjuic.  This was very fun! img_1562

The next morning, before boarding our beautiful Celebrity Cruise ship, we toured Gaudi’s famous La Padrera.  We all enjoyed that a lot.  It was interesting to see architecture as art.  Gaudi’s buildings were a hit with everyone in the family.

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This is my family in front of La Pedrera

Then, it was time to take the short taxi ride to the cruise terminal and board the beautiful Celebrity Equinox and set sail on the Mediterranean Sea!  This ship was beautiful!  It was quite elegant, really.

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The family on board the Celebrity Equinox before dinner.

 

Our first port stop was Provence, France.  The husband decided to take a walking tour around Aix-en-Provence.  He liked it very much.  The kids and I decided on the Bandol and Beaches transfer.  That was fun!  We were dropped off in the cool little town of Bandol, pictured below.  There we walked around the shops, spent a little time at the beach and had a delicious lunch.

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Bandol, France

The next day, we arrived in Cannes for a two day stop.  The two day stop was a neat feature of this itinerary, in that it allowed us to experience the port town of Cannes at night.  .The first day, we hired a private guide to take us to the medieval village of Eze and to Monaco.  On the way, we stopped to admire Old Nice and this beautiful Flower market.

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Flower Market in Nice, France (I always like to take photos of flowers!)

     Eze is a beautiful medieval village.  We walked  around on our own and enjoyed the ambience.  Eze is full of fun shops and restaurants all in ancient buildings.  This stop suited everyone in our group. Active, good food, interesting, and we weren’t there overly long. Plus, the Mr. was able to take lots of photos!

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The husband in Eze – he let me use the camera here!

On the way to Monaco, our driver pulled over and let us take photos.  The Cote D’Azure is so pretty!

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The Palace in Monaco

On our second day in Cannes, the four of us took the St. Paul de Vence tour offered by Celebrity.  We all found this town very interesting.  It took about 4 hours from when we left the ship to our return.  We find that everyone is happier if we don’t fill all of our days with long tours.  St. Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera.  It is known for its art galleries and the artist community living there.  It is beautiful, and has a surprisingly different feel from Eze.  I had thought they would be more similar.

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photo from Stpauldevence.com

The next morning , we woke up at the port of Livorno.  From here, many people like to visit Florence.  We decided not to do this, even though the city of Florence is amazing! We had heard it involved at least four hours on the bus (round trip), and not nearly enough time touring the city.  Florence was going to have to wait for another day!  Instead, we took the much shorter trip to Pisa, where we took the “Panoramic Pisa” excursion.  It was perfect!  This took four hours.  Fun and not too long.

 

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The leaning tower

Next, we went to Corsica.  Mark had scheduled the Ajaccio Scenic tour, and he enjoyed it very much .  The kids and I were scheduled for a “Kayak Adventure” which sounded perfect!  We would be bused out to a location where we would board the kayaks.  Then we would Kayak along with the current for an hour or two, landing at a beautiful beach for a picnic.  How lovely!  Unfortunately, even though the skies were clear, the currents were too rough and our trip was cancelled.  Darn!  Since we didn’t get a vote in the weather, we decided to make the most things and walk around town.  We docked at the town of Ajaccio, and it was easy and fun to explore on foot.  Ajaccio also had some great outdoor cafes, so our stomachs were happy too.  Not so bad, after all!

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The next morning, we woke up to Cagliari, Sardinia.  Here we did the Cagliari City tour.  The ship was docked right in town, so we could walk around and explore on our own after our tour.

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photo from wikimedia.org

 

The next day was “at sea”, so we just enjoyed lounging on the ship and participating in some of the fun on-board activities.  This ship had an interesting feature that we enjoyed.  On the top level they had a lawn and a little outdoor bar.  We entered a bocce tournament up there, which was fun.  It was also a nice place to have a cocktail at the end of the day.

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Next, we visited the port of Messina, Sicily. Here the four of us took the Lovely Taormina tour.  We enjoyed this tour a lot.  Our favorite part was the ruins and historic Greek theater in Taormina. But the town was really nice just to walk around and explore.  We didn’t have many expectations for this port, and we were very pleasantly surprised.

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We were all eagerly awaiting our next day.  We docked at Salerno.  The only problem we had was that there was SO MUCH that we wanted to see!  We had to choose between The Island of Capri and the beautiful Blue Grotto, The ruins of Pompeii, The better preserved ruins of Herculaneum.  The town of Amalfi, and various other options to visit other towns on the Amalfi coast.  How was a person to choose!  In the end, we went with Pompeii, because we just couldn’t miss out on that, and Amalfi.  We were very happy with our choice, but I really don’t think you could go wrong!  We chose a full day tour that took us to both locations , and also gave us a very nice lunch.  It was a spectacular day!

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We approached beautiful Amalfi by boat.  Wow!
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The lemons were the size of grapefruits here!

 

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Here is Mark, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

This was our last night on the Equinox,  and we were determined to enjoy our last bit of time.  The kids taught me to play Roulette in the casino.  That was fun.

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We docked in the port of Civitavecchia and disembarked the next morning.  This port is about 1.5-2 hours outside of Rome.  Part of the reason we selected this cruise was because of the fact that it ended here, and allowed us to add on a few extra days to tour beautiful Rome.  We hired a private guide to pick us up at the port early and then take us for a day touring the city , then drop us and our luggage off at our hotel.  This worked out very well.

In Rome, we spent four nights and three full days exploring.  We could have spent much longer, but everyone was getting ready to head home.  Beautiful city, with fabulous food!  I will write more about it another time.

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Honestly, I can not think of one thing I would change about this cruise. All four of us had a wonderful, memorable time.  We had a nice balance of relaxation, culture, and activity.  I would strongly recommend a cruise as an excellent way to explore multiple destinations in Europe, and Celebrity gave us a spectacular experience!

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