I recently returned from a 10-day cruise through Croatian ports, including Slovenia and Montenegro as well as the 2 Italian ports of Naples and Messina, Sicily. But, first, it was 2 nights in the uniquely picturesque city of Venice*.
A week later, the bags are unpacked and put away — and I’m having an introspective “moment” about my travel life. Yes, again.
I wrote about the interesting backstory of my travel experiences last year and I don’t want to be too repetitive, but it is a new year and I just completed another trip so I’m in my usual reflective mood.
Whether by design or chance, or a combination thereof, I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a fair amount. After that first trip to Miami Beach when I was 17, I made countless trips to Puerto Rico and then internationally to about 30 countries. That doesn’t count those where I just passed through or spent a very brief time like Paraguay or Myanmar, for example.
The tally to the best of my memory is 13 European countries, 3 Asian, 12 South-of-the-Border (Caribbean, South America, Mexico) and Canada. Many of these were visited multiple times (3x or more) — and countries like Italy and Spain more than that! As I’ve said before on these pages, who can go to Rome and not want to go back to see Tuscany, Venice or Sorrento? And so it is with many places I’ve visited. I’m not in the million mile club but suffice it to say that there have been many more years I took several trips than years I didn’t fly at all.
With the exception of a few misguided months spent in Puerto Rico during my youthful travel exploration, I don’t think I’ve ever been away from home for more than 2 weeks at a time. That is a frontier yet to be crossed.
Maybe that accounts for the many multiple visits to my favorite places — that thirst to experience more, know more, meet more people, eat and drink up more of what I enjoy most. (More on that later.)
Over the years, I traveled alone, with family, with boyfriends, or with just one girlfriend (or two). It wasn’t until 2001 that I took my first group trip and then shortly afterwards became a group leader for a travel company which afforded me the opportunity to take several groups of women (strangers) from across the country to places like Cuba, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, etc. More recently, in 2006, I formed The Traveling Sisterhood, a great group of gal pals, with whom I’ve been traveling for the past 11 years. The number varies from trip-to-trip. In 2007 we were 16 in Greece; on this most recent trip, we were 6.
So, you’d think I was a pro by now, right? But no. I’m always learning … always reassessing for the next trip.
Cruising: Pros and Cons
I’ve cruised about a half-dozen or more times but, just like land/air travel, I believe every trip is different. With a cruise it depends on the ship, itinerary, length of time, who you’re traveling with and, let’s be truthful, your own state-of-mind and body.
I’m still sorting out this recent trip. The yin-yang of cruising is you get to “see” a lot but it soon fades from memory. I spent 2 nights in Venice and 10 on the cruise, but what occupies my mind’s eye is the time spent in Venice.
However, I have nothing but good marks for the Celebrity Constellation, their staff, services and entertainment. I never felt I was one of two-thousand. It was a very well-run, service-oriented and enjoyable cruise. No complaints in any category.
I like: unpacking once; the opportunity to see multiple places without the wear and tear of additional travel; having onboard activities and various venues to explore; easily accessible choices for meals; excellent post-dinner theater entertainment; a little casino play; a day or two at sea to relax; dressing for dinner; the beverage package!
I don’t like: Global Warming. This is not cruise-specific but it just seems to factor into every trip I make these days. No matter what the forecast or ‘average temperatures’, it’s always too damn hot for the excessive walking involved in touring.
In addition, I don’t like sketchy connectivity on days at sea (no matter what costly wifi plan you take). Also on the “con” list, excursions with long bus rides or panorama tours (we didn’t pick any that put us on a bus for an hour+). On the flip side, short excursions/walking tours in port or exploring on your own doesn’t give you a true feel for a location.
My Standout Excursion was in Kotor, Montenegro where we had a short walking tour around the town and market and then visited Vlasta Mandic, a noted chef and her husband, in their 150-year old family home where we were treated to their homemade grappa-like aperitif, wines and a fabulous spread of food.
But it wasn’t about the food … it was the experience. Being welcomed into someone’s home with warmth and generosity, the “breaking bread” ritual, the opportunity to learn about another culture through an exchange of conversation and stories. The sharing. In retrospect, it was my standout ‘moment’, one that I know I will carry forward.
I realize for me travel is about ‘experiences’ and that is why I typically favor travel to culture-driven locations. More about that in the next post.
*This was my third trip to Venice.