& Barcelona Experience
We spend 12 marvelous days in a Grand Suite aboard the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas.
8-Days Exploring Barcelona
Our cruise started and ended in Barcelona so we couldn't miss exploring this historic and welcoming city for an extra week.
Welcome to the Mediterranean Experience
Our epic adventure for 2018 brings us to Barcelona, Spain. This is the first stop of a 20-day trip that will take us through the Mediterranean on a 12-day cruise then back to Barcelona to explore for another week. We’ll make stops in the South of France, Monaco, Florence and Rome Italy, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Malta then back to Barcelona.
This trip is a special one because we are joined by Julie’s 92-year old grandmother Hester, affectionately known as Nana. Now before you worry a 92-year old taking this big of a trip, you gotta know Nana. This is the woman we all dream of growing to be. She has the genes of a teenager and had the entire ship in love with her by the end of the trip. She also outlasted me every night on the ship except for one (I’ll take my 1 victory). Don’t miss reading some of the stories of this rockstar.
Day 1 - Barcelona
We flew to Barcelona in Premium Economy on Iberia. Having never flown on Iberia, we weren’t sure what to expect, but they had a direct flight from Oakland to Barcelona. Since I had a speaking engagement that week in San Francisco, this made for an easy decision. Julie and Marcus drove down and met me at the airport, and we were off on an 11.5 hour flight covering over 10,000 kilometers. Iberia operates a 2-class flight – Premium and Economy. The seats were reasonable, and the service and food was surprisingly good. Definitely check them out if you’re flying to Europe.
We had booked a car to take us on the 20-minute drive to our hotel in Barcelona. We arrived at the W Hotel on the beach out on the point. We booked the room using our American Express Platinum points. If you’ve ever been to or seen pictures of Barcelona, this is the hotel that looks like a sail out by itself on the point at the far end of the harbor. You can’t miss it. Upon arrival we explored the beach for a couple of hours and Marcus was “exposed” to European beaches for the first time. #myeyesareuphere That’ll probably cure him of ever wanted to wear a mankini. We finished with cocktails and dinner on the beach at the hotel where we were joined by Julie’s 92-year-old Grandmother, Hester, whom we brought on this trip with us. This is her first trip outside the US and her friend Peggy joined us for the adventure. We are so grateful to be able to give her this gift and share this amazing experience with her. We finished the night listening to a 100-piece orchestra playing right on the beach. In the morning we board our ship to begin a 12-Day cruise through the Mediterranean.
Day 2 - Boarding
I snuck out of the room early to watch the sun rise over the Med. What an amazing experience and I was lucky enough to get some stunning shots using my new Lensball. You’ll see lots of shots with this thing on this trip. After a lazy breakfast on the beach, yes I had a bloody Mary, we headed to the port to board our home for the next 12 days, the Vision of the Seas.
We boarded the ship early as we like to do. As suite guests and Crowne & Anchor members, we get priority access, and the check-in process is of always relatively easy with Royal Caribbean. We are aboard the Royal Caribbean Vison of the Seas. This is the original ship in their Vision Class series and hold only about 2,500 guests. This is the sister ship to the Radiance of the Seas which we sailed on for our 18-day experience from Sydney to Honolulu back in 2016. We even booked the same suite we had on Radiance.
We love these smaller ships for their intimacy. The big ships are fun and have a lot of amenities, but the personality can get lost with so many people. Our daily lives are always running at 100mph, so slowing down on these trips is always a priority. If you’re someone that wants to do everything and go non-stop, book one of the larger ships. We always book a Grand Suite or above, which gives us Concierge access. On the smaller ships you really get to know your Concierge and the team and enjoy some great conversations with fellow guests in the smaller spaces. We’ve been lucky enough to stay in tough with many of the Royal Caribbean team and fellow guests and this trip was no different.
Waiting for us in our suite was our tradition of a bottle of chilled champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries. We showed Nana and Peggy around the ship, then headed to dinner to meet our dining crew for the trip. This evening we are sailing towards our first destination, Cannes in the South of France.
I have to pause to tell an embarrassing story (for him, not me) of my son, Marcus. He had a goal of meeting a “hot european” girl while on this trip. Gotta love a 13-year old kid with a goal. He accomplished that on night 1 on the ship when he went to the teen club and met an Irish girl that just happened to have his exacted same birthday – down to the year! #ohlord He was very proud of himself. He also met a boy from Texas who plays lacrosse. To say he is having a good time is an understatement.
Day 6 & 7 - At Sea
This was our first lazy day at sea are some of my favorite times on these trips. These days at sea, there’s nothing to do and that’s what I need most. After the whirlwind of experiences of the past 4 days, it was a welcome change. After sleeping in until 9, something I NEVER do, we were invited to a private brunch for Suite Guests. This is always such a special treat for us as it’s served by all the executive staff from the ship. We enjoyed filet, fresh sushi, ceviche and were even served dessert by the Captain. Once Marcus figured out who he just received his fruit and fresh cream from, he totally lit up. So cool and the staff is amazing.
After brunch we ditched the kid, ok, maybe he ditched us, and enjoyed a couples massage looking off the back of the ship as we glided over the Mediterranean. Feeling relaxed, we headed to a presentation about some of the new ships and new destinations as we plan the next 2 #epicadventures. Yes the planning starts early for these things and we’re expecting several of you to join us soon. 2019 is already in the works and will be our most epic yet as we prepare to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in epic fashion.
Many of you have said “I wish…” so many times. Well, “I wish” is going to turn into “I will”. This journey of adventure is not just about the few, it’s about the many. Join us for an Epic Adventure! Stay tuned for what’s next.
Before dinner we sailed through the Straight of Messina. This is the tip of the boot of Italy. Such a unique experience to see Italy on one side and Sicily on the other. While I was doing a Facebook Live of this experience, the warning horns of the ship sounded, the engines cut and we went hard over to starboard. Why? Because some Ftard in a little sailboat thought he had the right of way. Um, dude, you’re gonna lose. We missed him, but I would have loved to have heard the conversation on the bridge at that moment.
After that entertainment, we joined Nana for dinner and to share stories of the day. Peggy stayed behind to rest up after the previous days adventure. The best story was Marcus running into Nana at 10pm the previous evening. Not only did she rock the day but she was still going at 10! This woman outlasted me every night on the ship expect for 1. Yes, I want to be Nana when I grow up. Our concierge was nice enough to invite Nana up for a drink, so we snuck her in to the Concierge Club after dinner. Nana made quick friends, as she always does, as was invited back for the rest of the trip.
Marcus ditched us at this point so he could go meet up with his Irish date for the evening “#werejustfriends“. Needless to say he’s having the time of his life. After meeting more fun people, who, of course, had already hear of Marcus #mayormarcus, we headed down to the theater for the Rhythm and Rhyme show featuring a great mix of Broadway songs. It was surprisingly good.
Another day at sea was a day of reflection and relaxation. At breakfast, I found myself simply staring at the ocean as it slipped by our slowly moving ship gliding across the Mediterranean Sea. Thinking about nothing but the sun reflecting off the waves clearly marked the midway point of the cruise portion of our trip and my entry into the relaxation portion of my trip. Those that know me well, know I only sleep 4 to 6 hours a night. The past two nights I’ve slept 8 to 10 hours. That has never happened and I’m truly grateful for it.
This was our final day at sea before we start 3 days of exploring the Greece and the Greek Isles. It was a nice lazy day, where I enjoyed a good book by the pool and watched the people watching entertainment most of the day. We shared the concierge club with Nana and Peggy, where we discovered that the 92 year old wonder woman is starting to become somewhat of a celebrity around the ship. No one can fathom that she is the age she is and is doing the things she does. We all want to be Nana when we grow up.
We arrive in Athens Greece in the morning and will be exploring the ruins of Athens.
What can I say… Mykonos is simply one of the most amazing places on earth. If you have not been here yet, you absolutely have to. This place is the coolest small town you’ll ever visit. We did not do a planned tour today and chose to wonder around. This was the best decision we could have made.
Today was spent on the volcanic island of Santorini, Greece. We glided into the bay created by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Watching the sun rise over the cliff’s, reveals several towns built along the rim seeming to float on the edge. The scale of the place is stunning.
Day 11 - At Sea
A low key day at sea sailing towards our next and final stop was just what the doctor ordered after 3 busy days of sightseeing. We continued to build new friendships with people from all over and even a few Californians. The most interesting insight came from the head chef at tonight’s Formal Night Dinner. The ship’s 800 staff come from over 80 countries, speak over 40 languages, follow more than 15 religions and all have learned to work together for a common goal. Think about that for a minute, just one little place on this planet can do all that. Certainly gives you hope given our current state of humanity.
Today we found ourselves on the tiny island south of Sicily called Malta. At just 124 square miles it’s easy to take it all in. What a beautiful and historical place. We took a tour of the famous Blue Grotto to start the day. We were able to stop at the top of the cliff to look down on it before heading down to take a little boat through it.
Day 13 - At Sea
We arrive back in Barcelona tomorrow morning. We were just getting to meet so many great people and starting to build genuine friendships, and then it’s over. Cruises like we take, are special moments in time, they are adventures, they are experiences, and they are filled with people and memories that last a lifetime. This cruise did not disappoint.
We had the opportunity to share this experience and our love for travel with Julie’s 92 year old grandmother, Hester, who ran us all ragged. She outlasted me every night but 1 on this cruise. She brought along her friend Peggy who has been an absolute joy to get to know and travel with.
Our Royal Caribbean staff has been great, as always, but our concierge staff, Ryno and Jay have been, hands down, the best ever. Jay is expecting his 3rd child in November and works 10 to 16 hour days 7 days a week for 8 months to provide for his family. He hopes to one day follow his passion for cooking and open a restaurant in the Philippines with his family. I was so moved by this young man, I gave him a book I just finished about following your passion and told him to call me when he’s ready to start the restaurant. I’d be honored to help him get it off the ground.
The connections like we make on these trips don’t happen on normal vacations. That’s why we do this and why I am so passionate about sharing the story, to hopefully inspire a few of you to #dosomethingepic. While the cruise portion of this story is coming to a close we still have more adventures in the coming days in Barcelona.
Day 14 - 20 - Barcelona
Sunrise brought us back to the harbor in Barcelona. We sadly parted ways with our ship and crew this morning. Even though it’s not the end of this adventure, it marks a change in the adventure. We now spend the next week exploring Barcelona, Spain.
This was filled with history on several levels. We booked a private tour that would take us to Montserrat, a Cava tasting and back. This was part of a small group tour with the 5 of us and another family. When we arrived, the other family never showed, so we had a truly private tour.
Day 20 - Heading Home
Our adventure has come to an end. Our return flight took us from Barcelona to London, where we overnighted. We had to wake early to grab our return flight only to find out our flight had been delayed 4 hours! We’re awake, so we might as well head to the airport and waste the time. We traveled home with an 11-hour flight from London to Oakland on British Airways. We had Premium Economy seats and on the aging 777 we were on they were definitely showing their age. The flight crew was great though.
To say we are exhausted is an understatement. Over the past 20 days we shared the adventure of a lifetime with Julie’s 92 year old Grandmother, Hester and her friend Peggy. This was her first trip outside the US. It was such a special thing to share and the memories created are unforgettable.
Here’s a quick summary:
Visited 8 Countries – Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Greece, Malta, England.
Visited the 1st and 2nd smallest countries in the world – Monaco and Vatican City.
Sailed in 5 different seas – Balearic, Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, Ionian, and Aegean.
Traveled over 15,000 miles by air and 8,000 miles by sea.
Saw thousands of years of history.
Met many new friends, including Marcus’ Irish “friend”.
Enjoyed many moments that money just can’t buy.