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What if you took a family vacation so fun that you didn’t take a single staged photo?

I know… that should be sacrilege to any travel professional. In truth, I blame my husband. It’s usually his job to remember to take pictures of our staterooms and resort accommodations, to make sure that the best shots are captured for my social media channels and that every single sunset is lovingly preserved for this very blog. So imagine my surprise when I returned home from our end of summer vacation to find nothing but dozens of pictures of our own family grinning from ear to ear, not posed but just eating the most delicious food, sipping velvety wine and crisp cocktails, taking in the sun and riding bikes through fortressed cities and just hugging one another without regard for the camera – I mean, what a failure, right?

So you’ll forgive me if this post features combination of a few well selected photos of my own family in true candid mode rather than our usual polished array of vistas and views.

Let me start by saying this – oh cruising, forgive me for our forgetting how much we loved you! Cruise vacations have had the slowest recovery of any segment of the travel industry (at least from my perspective). Even my clients who were loyal to their particular cruise line of choice, sailing multiple times a year, were a little hesitant to get back on the open water as post pandemic travel demand surged this year. Of course as I type this in mid-September, this week alone we’ve completed over 15 quotes for cruise vacations for the 2023 season, but at the time we booked our summer Mediterranean cruise for my extended family (which was still early in 2021) it felt almost like we were trailblazers – the first intrepid explorers to get back on the seas, lol.

We landed into Barcelona and headed to my favorite hotel for families – the Majestic Hotel & Spa. The privileged location on Paseo de Gracia is just the best – and for younger travelers who are just being exposed to international travel, the grand marble lobby really gives you that feeling of stepping into a grand European hotel. The rooftop pool is absolutely fantastic for families with kids, especially in the heat of the summer. The rooms are amply sized, many with sofa beds and great views of the upscale shopping district below. After a whirlwind two days of touring which included the Boqueria market, a paella making class, gaping in awe at the stained glass windows of the Sagrada Familia and many, many different tapas tastings, we were exhausted and excited to head to the port for our cruise.

Norwegian’s Haven section is designed to appeal to the upscale traveler who wants the bells and whistles of a large cruise ship (think: laser tag, nightly Broadway style shows, water slides and go karts) while still having an intimate and luxurious environment. It offers a separated section on the ship including a pool and restaurant exclusive to Haven guests, concierge service in a dedicated lounge, and elevated accommodations and amenities. We cannot say enough good things about our experience in the Haven – particularly in the summer heat on a touring cruise, to be able to come back to the ship and have a quiet respite to take a dip in the pool is invaluable.

The make up of our family is a typical one for summer travel – grandparents, parents (that’s us, now, which is crazy) and in our case, cousins ranging from 10 to teen. I mention this to make my case for why cruising is such a great way to share a family vacation – after taking the previously mentioned dip in the pool, we all showered and met up for dinner (often in the Haven’s private five star restaurant, but also enjoying some of the ships speciality dining options (such as hibachi and Brazilian churrascuria). That’s not unusual for a family vacation – but what is wonderful is that after having dinner together, there’s so much to do! If the kids wanted to go off on their own (bowling, magic show, arcade, etc) while we went enjoy dueling pianos, that was no problem at all, and we could all meet up for karaoke before the end of the night. It extends the evening and truly gives us opportunities to make memories together.

Our port adventures were just the best – we were privileged to enjoy days of historical touring together in Rome where we toured both the Vatican and Colosseum, Florence where we visited Lucca and rode bikes through the walled city, Sorrento where we enjoyed incredible pizza, drove the hairpin turns of the Amalfi coast and ended the day at a local bakery owned by our tour guide’s grandparents. In Majorca and Cannes we lived like celebrities, sipping on rose and spritz in oceanfront chairs at beach clubs. We toured the coast of Corsica via private yacht, stopping to snorkel and dive off the side of the boat into the crystalline waters below.

We ended our cruise back in Barcelona – and here’s the other benefit of the Mediterranean cruise – you’re already there in Europe, and from any of the major port cities you can jet just about anywhere to continue your exploration! Stay tuned for part two in which we discover the fairy tale land of Puglia!

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