As I mentioned in a previous post, I have some pretty incredible friends that enable me to do some things I would never be able to do on my own. I got a message in August from one of my best friends and old roommate Simon asking if I was free at all to cruise with him as his new position was Cruise Director on a ship out of Europe. Long story short, I made it onto a cruise September 20-30 out of Rome. I had seen Simon for 1 hour in almost 2 years and was on the verge of tears the entire time because I was so happy to be able to see him.
This was only my second cruise, and it had been a decade since my first so I was really looking forward to the whole thing! I didn't know what my plans were on the cruise, but a few days before I left Simon informed me he had signed me up for different excursions on the days he was going to have to work the most. I flew to Italy on the 19th and stayed near the airport in Ciampino. Most people that I encountered did not speak English and I had no data on my phone, but I managed to make it to the airbnb. The following day I walked, took 2 trains, 2 shuttles and a bus to get to the boat.
The first afternoon on the boat I followed Simon around. I got to meet his staff, see his office and got a tour around the ship. It was so interesting to be able to see what his job actually entails because I had only heard about it for years. We set me up in my room (my own room!) and went to dinner at the buffet. After dinner was the 'Welcome Aboard Show' which Simon hosted, then we hung out again before bed. The 21st was a sea day. Simon had a bunch of events throughout the day so I just followed him around again. I watched him host a few events, and while he was working in his office I read 'Harry Potter y la cámara secreta'. We did dinner and watched the shows again that evening.
The next five days I had excursions in the mornings and my afternoons were spent mostly with Simon, and evenings watching the shows. All I knew about each excursion was the title on my ticket. Otherwise, I had no idea which was a really exciting way to travel. Everything had been planned for me for the mornings and I was completely on my own schedule in the afternoons/evenings. Here is an overview of my days:
22nd- 12-4:30, Mykonos, Greece
Excursion- Delos: Birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, basically it was really old ruins and I loved it
This was a tendering port so I got off the boat, got on another boat, and then switched to another boat and then back again. I LOVE BOATS so this was my favorite way to travel. The tour guide showed us all the penises that they carved around the place which one of the men on my tour thought was really hilarous. He laughed like a high school boy every time he saw one.
The evening entertainment was Tre Amici
23rd- 7:50-4:00, Piraeus, Greece
Excursion- Best of Athens and it Scenic Coast, including a massive lunch, the Parthenon/Acropolis, and a the Temple of Zeus. My favorite was the 1896 Olympic Stadium that housed the first modern Olympic Games. Our tour guide this day really loved to talk. On the bus rides she would talk the whole time, right after informing us she would give us a break from her voice. This woman had a voice of steel because she talked for a good 5 hours.
The evening entertainment was a hypnotist that was surprisingly enjoyable
24th- Rhodes, Greece
Excursion- Ancient Lindos and its Acropolis, more really old ruins with amazing views
I was able to meet up with Simon for a little bit after the excursion in Rhodes and walk around. It was a city surrounded by a fortress of sorts. I don't know much about the history, but it was really cool. I had worn a hole in my shoes from all the walking, so I bought some cute little sneakers. Once back on the ship, Simon and I then had dinner with The Barricade Boys, some of the guest entertainers on the ship (more on them later)
The evening entertainment was a production show 'Soul Rockin Nights'
25th- Santorini, Greece
Excursion- Volcano hiking (and swimming in the hot springs for some but I was unaware, so I didn't swim), I didn't go up to the top where the popular pictures are taken so I could spend time with Simon and because a volcano hike was way better! The volcano is still an active volcano and the ground is still really warm to the touch. The springs smelled like sulfer, so basically Florida. I felt right at home.
I was so exhausted because I hadn't been sleeping well, so once I was back on the ship I attempted to take a nap for 4 hours. I never fell asleep.
The evening entertainment was the Barricade Boys
26th- 7:00-11:30, Crete, Chania, Greece
Excursion- Agia Triada Monastery, Akrotini and Chania. We started the day at a graveyard, which was a very random way to watch a sunset. After we went to the monastery and it was just gorgeous! I was very tired on the bus though and zoned out during the history lesson. I felt like I was in school again. I love learning, but not at 7:00 in the morning on little sleep. Last we stopped in Chania, an old Venetian like town and it was adorable! I loved it so much.
The rest of the day I spent with Neirka, a friend I made on the cruise. We went to trivia, talked to the cute guy in the jewelry store, and saw a presentation about Italy. I colored and read a lot too. Simon was really busy because there was a schedule change due to bad weather and we needed to be re-routed. This meant we missed our one stop in Valletta, Malta and Simon had to deal with all of that.
The evening entertainment was Lily Jane Young (more on her later too), and the White Party
I think a lot of people on my excursions felt like I must be lonely, but I really enjoyed my outings alone. I met a lot of people and they kept me company during my times off the ship. I was able to see and do some really spectacular things but without the stress of having to cater to someone else. Let me explain a little about this cruise: most of the people on it were older couples, and a handful were couples under 40. There were not many people on the cruise that were even close to my age unless they worked on the ship, so when I noticed a group of attractive younger men on the ship I clearly needed to know what was happening. I asked Simon about them and found out they were guest entertainers. That basically meant that they were only on the cruise for the same amount of time I was and they performed 2 evenings. Simon set up dinner with them, and that is who the Barricade Boys are. They are all singers and they became my friends on the ship. Halfway through the cruise Jane joined as well, also a guest entertainer and singer, and then we formed a little group. They were all so fantastic to be around. They talked a lot about the theatre and things that I might not have understood but their passion for it was amazing. And all 5 of them really made my time on the ship memorable. They also all had accents, Jane's is Scottish and the Boys are English. Living the dream.
I also was really lucky to meet Neirka on the ship. She was with her mom and aunt, but almost every day after I met her we ran into each other. I went to a few shows with them, and spent a little bit of each day with her and her family, which was wonderful! For the most part, the rest of my time on the ship meant mornings I spent alone, afternoons I spent with Neirka or reading, and evenings I spent with the Boys and Jane. On the 27th we did an overnight in Messina, Italy because of our re-route from Malta. The Boys, Jane and I went to see the night's entertainment (a magician) before getting off the ship and eating pizza. The service was really terrible and we weren't all that impressed with what Messina had to offer, but after a few days of a very rocky ship we were all very happy to get off of it for a little while.
Then following day I was able to spend some time with Simon off the ship. He had to go to the phone store to fix something and he played PokemonGo a little bit as well (which is what him and his friend Erica do when they get off the ship). After that Simon was super busy, so I spent the afternoon reading and then met Jane and the Boys for dinner. We all went to see 'Elements', the evening's entertainment and production show.
The last full day on the ship was in Naples, Italy. I headed out with Jane and Austin (one of the Boys) to get a ticket for a pizza place. Jane had been before and it was her favorite place. It was also a lot of other people's favorite place because we needed to get a ticket with a wait time to eat there. Jane knew all of this beforehand so we were prepared for the 45 minute wait. The three of us went to a coffee shop where Jane got a coffee of sorts and Austin and I got some kind of delightful juice. The other boys (Matt, Louis and Dougie) met up with us right in time and we all ate at the pizza place. This is the place Julia Robert's eats in Eat, Pray, Love. There are only 3 choices when it comes to the pizza: no cheese, cheese, and extra cheese. I got the no cheese because me and mozzarella don't get along. It was really good but I think it tasted the best because of the whole ambiance. There was a bunch of Italian men yelling across the room at each other, the guy at the front register was pocketing any of the 50s he got, and was smoking. There was a guy that came in and was singing in Italian. The Boys knew the song so they were singing along. I was with some really fun people in Italy for the first time, eating authentic pizza on a gorgeous day while people were singing to me. I was in my happy place. A few of us went back to the coffee place after and then we walked back to the ship because the Boys were performing again that evening. I went to both shows and hung out with Simon in between. He joined Jane and I for the second show. After the show we went out and just hung out at one of the places on the ship until 2 or 3 in the morning. It was a perfect end to the vacation of a lifetime.
The next morning I needed to be up and out by 8 to make sure I would make it back to the airport in Ciampino for my flight that evening. I saw Simon one last time before I left the ship and missed him immediately. I felt so fortunate for the opportunity to spend so much time with someone who makes my heart feel whole. I can't imagine a better cruise, better company or better timing. I took a shuttle to a bus to a train. I was able to walk and see the Colusseum before I hopped on another bus to my airport. I flew home and prepared for my first day of work the following day.