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Let’s take a Mediterranean Cruise!

It’s long been a dream of mine to see the world! The older I get, the more I want to expand my travel horizons beyond the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. I’ve finally decided that, in 2018, I’ll make the leap across the pond and see some of Europe by taking a Mediterranean cruise! Planning this trip is a new experience for me, and maybe you’d like to follow along! When I’m not wearing my Luggage Factory hat, I’m a travel agent so I’ll be handling all the details on my own. Between international air, deciding on hotels, choosing the cruise, planning a stop in another country on the way home, and for the first time, having to deal with (possibly) more strict luggage requirements, I’ll have a lot to write about! Hopefully, we’ll all learn some things along the way. The first piece of the puzzle was deciding on the cruise. At some point, I want to do a cruise on the Danube river. I explored a few options and determined that, for my first trip, I’d like to stick with a Mediterranean sailing. First, river cruise ships are considerably smaller than ocean going vessels, and river cruises tend to have higher price tags. Granted, more things are included in the fare, but the little voice inside me said to try a Med cruise first. A river cruise might be a little too far out of my comfort zone for my first trip to Europe. Several cruise lines and ships were considered for this voyage. European itineraries are port intensive (meaning less relaxing days at sea) due to the close proximity of the ports. I knew that I wanted to sail from Barcelona so I had a few options. Royal Caribbean’s new ship Symphony of the Seas, which launches in spring of 2018 was one consideration. Now in the final months of construction, Symphony will be the world’s largest cruise ship at 230,000 gross tons and carrying a maximum of 6800 passengers. This ship will be a destination in and of itself and while the thoughts of sailing Symphony during her inaugural seas intrigued me, I eliminated this option since there just would not be enough time to enjoy the many new features to be found onboard. A second option was Norwegian Epic. Also sailing from Barcelona, this itinerary visits Italy, France and Spain, as did Symphony. The price was within budget and Norwegian offers some nice promotions like free beverage and dining packages and more. The ship itself is very nice; I had the chance to tour the vessel in Port Canaveral and I thought that I’d like to try this ship at some point. Ultimately, I made Norwegian Epic my 2nd choice. Other options were Cunard’s Queen Victoria which was actually a 10-night cruise from Southampton, England to Barcelona. While Cunard is a premium line and tends to command significantly higher fares; the chance to sail a Cunard ship, coupled with a manageable, (if I cut out staying a few extra nights) rate and a nice promo made me give this voyage some serious thought. Cunard is often thought of as a stuffy line for old people. In fact, it really is not stuffy at all. I’ve been lucky enough to tour Queen Mary 2 on two different occasions and the staff and sailing guests have been very nice. The ships are stunning as well and it’s definitely a line that I’d love to sail. Ultimately, my desire to see a little more of Europe at the end of the cruise won out and I eliminated this option. Celebrity and Holland America also had a few itineraries that I considered but in the end, I ruled those out too, again based on higher fares. Celebrity and Holland America also had nice promos that made the cost a little easier to justify, but I persevered in search of something that would make my wallet and my wanderlust equally happy. Finally, I found a ship, price and itinerary that made sense! What was the winner?? The new MSC Seaview! What is MSC Cruises you ask?? It’s a global cruise line which was started in Italy and is part of Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest shipping company in terms of vessel capacity. MSC Cruises was founded in 1960 and is the 4th largest cruise company in the world. Currently under construction in Italy, MSC Seaview will be a sister ship to MSC Seaside and will begin sailing in Europe in 2018. By the time of my sailing, the ship will only be 2 months old! My balcony cabin cost almost $1000 less than the voyage on Norwegian Epic, and I’ll be on a much newer ship. While I am sure that Seaview will have lots of cool stuff to check out, it’s probably not going to take up as much of my time as Symphony of the Seas would require. MSC Seaview, at right, under construction in Italy, next to sister ship MSC Seaside – Courtesy MSC Cruises So, where am I going? I’ll board the ship in Barcelona and visit the following ports: Marseille, France; Genoa, Italy; Naples, Italy; Messina, Italy and Valletta, Malta. After a day at sea, we’ll return to Barcelona where I will likely board a plane or train and head off to another city for a couple days. More on that in future installments. I’ve sailed with MSC in the past and had an enjoyable cruise. For those of you who’ve cruised often, and have high status with, other lines, you might want to entertain trying MSC as they have a status match program. Their “MSC Voyagers Club” levels come with different kinds of benefits including discounts on your cruise fare, goodies for your cabin, free specialty dinners and priority boarding and debarkation. I was status-matched to their highest level before I even set foot onto one of their ships! As a side note, being an Italian line means that they have excellent coffee, gelato and pizza! Itinerary Map – Courtesy MSC Cruises I’m very excited to head to Europe in the Summer of 2018 and I can’t wait to plan the next parts of my trip. I’ll be looking for airfare, hotels, ground transportation and excursions. I don’t really like long tours so I’m not sure what I’ll do once I arrive. Hopefully I can find some shorter excursions that will allow me time to sit and people watch! Gelato anyone?? Photo courtesy Meg Ryan Stay tuned for future posts and thanks for following along!

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