How do you write about being lucky enough to live out a dream without sounding cheesy? I don’t know. A little cheesy is good, though, and I’m okay with coming off a bit earnest when talking about this dream honeymoon that my husband and I were lucky enough to take.
When my husband and I first started dating, we spent a lot of time making heart eyes at each other and asking each other questions. We were just teenagers and figuring out life and the transition from teenager to adult and the world felt wide open. What do you want to do with your life? Do you ever want a dog? Where do you want to live? What’s your dream vacation?
We quickly settled on two dream vacations: Disney World and a trip to Europe. We didn’t knock our Disney World trip off our list until a few years ago and we hoped to take a Mediterranean cruise when we turned 25. That didn’t exactly pan out (it was a bit more expensive than we anticipated, we had a dog to care for, and rent was expensive!).
But our honeymoon gave us the perfect opportunity to go for it.
So, a little more than a year after we got married, we found ourselves boarding a plan to Rome, Italy, to embark on a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise, which would visit Italy, Spain, and France. (We decided to embrace Oct. 13—Treat Yo’self Day—and stay an extra night in Rome, too.)
It was the trip of a lifetime.
Day 1: Civitavecchia
Once we found out that Norwegian Cruise Line offered a western Mediterranean trip, there was no question in our minds; we would take the trip with NCL. We’ve done two other NCL cruises (including one in December 2015 with family) and loved each one.
We booked a flight out of JFK, had a layover in Dublin, Ireland (we really wish we could have seen more than the airport), and landed in Rome. From there, we took an NCL bus to Civitavecchia, where our cruise ship—the Norwegian Epic—was waiting for us.
Day 2: Pisa and Montecarlo, Italy
Our first stop was in Livorno, Italy. We had booked a few excursions through NCL to really make the most of our trip and the first took us to Pisa and then Montecarlo. Called “Pisa and a Taste of Tuscany,” the day took us to two cities where we…
- Admired the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile, and the Camposanto Monumentale (our tour guide, Lily, was lovely)
- Ate gelato and bruschetta and drank chianti in the Miracle Square
- Visited a winery called the Fattoria il Poggio
- Drank six types of wine, while dining on an incredible lunch of pappardelle pasta; bruschetta with olives, peppers, prosciutto, and olive oil; and sampled some dessert wine and biscotti
Day 3: Cannes, France
We didn’t book excursions for our two stops in France and I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone with anxiety issues, I was nervous we’d made a mistake and we would really struggle to make the most of our days.
Not so. Canne was beautiful.
- We watched the sun rise over Cannes, France, just before leaving the ship.
- We walked the Cannes boardwalk and spotted the place where they hold the Cannes Film Festival.
- Spent time at a café on the water, where we ate an omelette and a Nutella crepe (I kept thinking, “I’m eating a CREPE in FRANCE!”
- Spent time on one of the beaches across from Boulevard de la Croisette enjoying beautiful weather and the French Riviera (I totally walked down the beach and stuck my toes in the water just so I can now say that my toes have been in the French Riviera)
Day 4: Marseille, France
In a surprise to no one, Marseille was also beautiful, although I still don’t know how to pronounce it.
Things we did:
- Visited the marina, where we started to realize that ferris wheels in Europe are kind of A Thing (and a beautiful one at that)
- Bought a scarf. It was a chilly morning by the water and we were too far from the ship for me to go back and change, so I was desperate to buy a scarf. We wandered into a little shop where an adorable elderly French man sold me a pink scarf. We struggled to communicate—me knowing very little French, and he knowing very little English—but it ended up being a really friendly, sweet interaction. He even cut the tags off for me so I could wear the scarf out of the store. It was a tiny, somewhat inconsequential moment, but it is one of my favorites from the trip.
- Explored the city a little, just wandering around some side streets. Bill was fascinated by all the graffiti, so he was grabbing photos where he could. (You can see his graffiti photos here.)
- Ate a baguette and some macaroons along Rue a la Republic
Back on the ship, we ate a fancy dinner at the Manhattan and attended the Burn the Floor dance show.
Day 5: Barcelona, Spain
I knew Bill and I would love Spain. It felt so dreamy and like there was so much more we needed to explore.
We took an excursion that took us on a combined bus and walking tour throughout downtown Barcelona, where we…
- Saw buildings designed Gaudí
- Visited St. Familia Basilica (which was incredible in person)
- Admired the Plaza de España and Plaza Catalanya
- Wandered around Poble Espanyol (Spanish village), an open-air museum that shows replicas of monuments and landmarks from all around Spain. We loved seeing a little of everything all at once!
- While in the Spanish Village, we tried some to-die-for chocolate truffles at La Casa De Chocolate
- And we enjoyed sangria while watching flamenco dancers (!!!)
- After the show, we grabbed lunch of a potato omelet, bruschetta with tomato, and paella
Back on the ship, we had another meal at the Manhattan where I ate the best steak ever. Our waiter, Milosz, brought us so much wine that we ended up a little drunk. Milosz stabbed Bill’s dessert with a spoon (a very weird thing to describe but so hilarious and weird in the moment) and we ended up leaving him an $11 tip made out of American money and euros.
Day 6: At Sea
After a few days of adventure, a day at sea made us feel a little bit antsy. It was on this day (and this day only) that we really felt how many people were on the boat. We spent the day reading, lounging in the sun, drinking, and eating. Obviously.
Day 7: Naples, Italy
Naples was the one day of the trip where the weather was so-so. But this was our last excursion so we made the most of it! We took a walking tour throughout Naples, where we:
- Saw some of the history landmarks, including Castel Nuovo, Piazza Plebiscito, Fontana del Carciofo, and Teatro di San Carlo, as well as a great shopping district
- Went to Bourbon Tunnel, where we were guided through a labyrinth of tunnels to learn about the history of Naples and its “underground city.” It was an informative, fascinating—if at times chilling—tour. The tunnels, designed by Ferdinand II of Bourbon and his architect approx. 150 years ago were used as bomb shelters used during WWII. Those stories were haunting. But the best surprise was the buried vintage cars and motorbikes in the depths of the caves.
- Ate at Pizzeria Napoli in Bocca, where we enjoyed wine and Naples-style pizza, which was one of the best (and biggest, as we were each given our OWN entire pizza) meals we ate
Day 8: Rome, Italy
The end of the cruise came suddenly. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we dreaded leaving. I was a bit nervous about venturing through Rome all on our own, too.
But it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. NCL helped us arrange a car from the port to our hotel, Hotel Lancelot, in the heart of Rome. I cannot recommend Hotel Lancelot enough. The hotel was beautiful—a perfect mix of historical and modern. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, but we were awfully early, too. So, the hotel staff, who were incredibly kind, helpful, and accommodating through our entire trip, invited us to have some breakfast and to use the Wifi (which we hadn’t had access to in a week).
The breakfast was simple, but one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Maybe it was because I was in Rome and high off of a magical trip; maybe I was just really hungry. Whatever it was, the coffee was the best I had ever tasted. I drank it black, which I never do, and enjoyed the most buttery, delicate croissant of my life.
After breakfast, we decided not to waste any time and to explore a bit, even if it meant carrying our heavy backpacks. Our hotel was within walking distance of the Colosseum, so we went there first. It was humbling to see in person.
We ventured to the Farnese Gardens and the Parco Del Colle Oppio before heading back to the hotel. With our room ready, we headed upstairs to see the room on the sixth floor. It was great—but it was the terrace that took it over the top.
We had booked our room that promised a “view of the Colosseum.” I imagined we’d maybe see the Colosseum if we squinted a bit through the window. Instead, we had a stunning terrace with greenery and a table and chairs, and—yes—an idyllic view of the Colosseum. I couldn’t get over it.
Ready for lunch, we asked the hotel staff for a map. Instead of just giving us a map, the gentleman behind the counter (whose name we regrettably never even learned!) offered to recommend a few places to eat. Then, after learning the length of our stay (just the night), he asked if he could recommend us a must-see walking tour. He highlighted the route on the map and told us when to begin our two- to three-hour walk so that we would end up in the Piazza del Popolo to watch the sun set.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a bit before setting out on our trek at 4 p.m., per the recommendation. The walk took us to see some of the most incredible sites in Rome: Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, Altare della Patria, Campidoglio, Fontana di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, Villa Medici, and the Piazza del Popolo. And, yes, we made it to the Piazza del Popolo in time to watch the sunset.
For dinner, we grabbed a pizza, some cannolis, and ate in bed at the hotel. The next morning, we watched the sunrise and ate some breakfast, savoring our last moments in Rome.
It was everything.