Monday, July 2, 2018

Olympia, Greece

Grant was looking forward to "running" at the site of the very first Olympics in Olympia, Greece!  The boat docked in Katakolon, and we took our only excursion of the trip on a bus to Olympia for a kid friendly tour of the place where the Olympics were held between the 8th century BC and the 4th century AD.

We had two guides who did the tour in two languages - Italian and English.  

We started out our tour in the ruins of the Palaestra, which was the gymnasium used to train athletes for the Olympics.  The athletes that trained here were mostly boxers or wrestlers.  This "building" dated from about the 3rd or 2nd century, BC. 

Little known fact:  Back in the day, the Olympics only consisted of men and they ALL performed their sport naked! In fact, the word gymnasium comes from the Greek word "γυμνός" (which kind of sounds like "yim-nos" and is spelled gymnos in the non Cyrillic alphabet) which means naked!

The gymnasium was the building on the far left in the upper left corner near the entrance of the area.  I always find it helpful to see a picture of what it might have looked like!

Grant was thinking about which room he would like to stay in at the "hotel Olympia."  The Leonidaion was a place for the athletes to stay when they were competing in the Olympics.  It was designed by Leonadis of Naxos, hence it's name. 

This my friends, is where the infamous Temple of Zeus stood.  The Statue of Zeus that stood here was over 12 meters high and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. I remember being a child and thinking I would never see any of the original Seven Wonders because they seemed so far away.  I honestly can't believe I saw one!  Of course, it's long gone, having been destroyed by Theodosius II in 426 AD during his persecution of the pagans.  The Romans felt that the Olympics were a pagan festival, and since they conquered Greece, that's when all of the original Olympic fun ended.

It is said that the statue was carried off to Constantinople and then destroyed by a fire in 475AD.  Meanwhile, even after the pagan persecution and the removal of the statue, the temple itself was officially destroyed in a series of earthquakes in 551 and 552 AD.

Awwww.  My kiddos are kinda cute.  They were super sweaty today though.

Finally, one of those important spots for us to see was the stadium where the track and field events took place.  Even in the 2004 Olympics, the men and women's shot put events took place here!  That's pretty cool, considering women were NOT allowed to watch the Olympics back in the time of ancient Olympia. 

OK here we go!  The kids are ready to run!  The track was 192 (and change) meters and Grant could have run it all day long.  If he had been around in the days of ancient Olympia and had won his track event, he would have won an olive branch crown!  There were no gold, silver or bronze medals back in that time!

Daddy, despite having plantar fasciitis, was a VERY good Daddy and took on Grant's challenge to a foot race at the site of the first Olympics.  Notice Grant is looking at Todd... something we tell him not to do when he runs in his track races.  Focus ahead!

Of course, Daddy's foot hurts and it didn't take long for Grant to take the lead.

He was so jacked that he beat his dad in Olympia!

Even though women were not allowed into the stadium to watch the Olympics, there was still a Temple to Hera, Zeus's wife and sister (ummm….)  It is here that every four years the Olympic flame is lit using a parabolic mirror and sunshine.  

Walking back toward the exit from the Temple of Hera 

The Philippeion is the only structure in Olympia dedicated to a living human being.  It contained statues of Philip II of Macedon, as well as Alexander the Great (his son) and Olympias (his wife and mother of Alexander the Great.)

The objective of the day was to find out where the sacred fire that was (back then) lit elsewhere and brought to the Temple of Hera to start the Olympic games.  The kids had clues that they had to find throughout the day to figure out where that spot was so they could help Zeus and save the day.  In the end, it was the alter of the Prytaneion that contained the sacred fire of Hestia. 

After our incredibly hot day at Olympia, they gave us about 30 minutes in the town of Olympia.  We got our magnet and shot glass (mandatory in the Bailey family) and stopped for some ice cream and beer to cool our internal organs.  I'm not sure the kids have ever been so happy to have ice cream.  Can you imagine what the dirty clothes section of the wardrobe in our ship cabin is starting to smell like????

The drive back to Katakolon and the ship was really pretty with it's many fields, bushes, random hollowed out buildings left over from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and beautiful blue skies.

Until next time, Olympia!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Bari, Italy

The first port on our MSC cruise was Bari, Italy.  The kids, declaring they had been to Italy TOO many times, decided they wanted to stay on the ship and go to the Kids Club, leaving Todd and I to have a nice day ALONE in Bari! 

We took the bus that the cruise ship provided into the city to stroll around. I appreciate being greeted by a street lined with palm trees.  Natalie, who wasn't with us said later of this picture, "It looks like Los Angeles!"

The old town of Bari has many narrow, pedestrian-only streets.

I wonder what the story is here.  Maybe two families had children that got married and instead of having to go downstairs, go outside and cross the street, they just built this to avoid all of that!  Or maybe long ago, some guy worked in one building and lived in the other!?

The Piazza Mercantile has been around since the 14th century.  It's named this because long ago, debtors would be tied up and whipped here.  Don't forget to pay your bills!

Italy has THE BEST vending machines.  This one had beer!  Of course, Todd didn't fit in the entryway...

The highlight of Bari is the Basilica of St. Nicholas.  Yes, THAT St. Nicholas!  The Basilica, while nothing to look at on the outside, took 110 years to build, and it was completed in 1197 AD.  

It was Sunday, so they were in the middle of mass.  After we visited the grave of St. Nicholas in the crypt, we stuck around for part of the mass, trying to translate it from Italian to English.  Once we figured out where in the mass, we just continued on in English!

Fearing access to St. Nicholas's tomb in Myra would be prevented by the Turks, Christian sailors stole the relics of St. Nicholas from Myra in ancient Greece (now Turkey) and brought them to Bari as this is where St. Nicholas had once predicted his body would be buried.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, travelers, the falsely accused and of course, the most well known - children.  Interestingly, he's also the patron saint of broadcasters and brewers!

St. Nicholas's relics lie in the basement crypt.  Interestingly, this basilica is home to both a Roman Catholic congregation and an Eastern Orthodox one.  The Eastern Orthodox mass occurs here in the basement, as a favor by the Catholic church since St. Nicholas is one of the Orthodox church's most important saints.

St. Nicholas's body (or at least parts of it) are still in the crypt.  The remains continue to ooze out a substance they call myrrh or manna.  People consider the liquid to have healing powers, so each year on May 9th (the Feast Day of the transfer of St. Nicholas to Bari), the crypt is opened up and the myrrh is extracted, bottled and sold.

Some say that because Bari is at sea level, and the crypt is in the basement, the liquid produced by the relics is really just seawater seeping into the casket.

After our tour of the Basilica of St. Nicholas, we went back out into the hot sun.  I'm not sure he would even fit in this little car!  It's fun size (like me!)

Here we are outside of the front of the Basilica with a statue of St. Nicholas.  He holds three fingers out as a way to show one of his supposed miracles, the resurrecting of three children who had been murdered by a butcher.

Time to do some strolling on the streets of Bari!

Letting the clean clothes dry on the line under a sunny sky.

Phew. Visiting one church was exhausting.  Let's stop and have a drink in the shade!


Nope.  No I haven't.

A rare quiet street in Bari.  At first I thought, "Oh hey, they're celebrating the World Cup!"  (But wait... Italy wasn't in the World Cup this year!)  The Italians are always celebrating something!

After we grabbed some great sandwiches for lunch, we strolled over to the harbor area and the fish market to try to grab a drink.  I love the little boats in the foreground.

There is a little restaurant with a rooftop terrace at the fish market where you can grab some really fresh seafood (we didn't... we had just eaten) and/or a drink.

Me:  WAIT.  You have Bulleit bourbon here?  I'll take that please.  The bartender:  Here is an entire cup full of bourbon.  This is how you drink it, no?

We had a nice time relaxing, enjoying the breezy salt air that smelled of fresh fish.  There were no kids fighting with each other or laughing about nonsensical things.  It was SO nice.

 After our drinks, we headed back to the ship.  Breakwaters help protect the coast from Adriatic Sea waves (queue eye roll from the floodplain manager!)

Until next time, Bari!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

MSC Poesia Cruise Summer 2018

Todd has really wanted to see Greece for as long as I can remember.  When we first moved to Germany, we both told each other our "must visit" cities and countries, and Greece was at the top of his list.  So last fall, we …. not being cruise people and never having taken a cruise before …. booked our first ever cruise! 

Have you ever taken a cruise?  Well I had not!  I did all of the internet research I could stomach, but I'm a VERY detailed oriented person and there just wasn't enough information out there about the specifics I was looking for.  What time will our dinner be?  How do you go through the boarding process?  Is any drink package worth it? (I may need a whole post entirely about this subject!) What is the tender process like when the ship can't dock in the port?  So many questions!

First, let's discuss getting to the port.  If you're not nearby the port, you will need to get TO the port - which in our case meant taking the train from near Nuremberg to near Venice.  For us, this was the most economical option (plus, who doesn't love riding the train and seeing the world go by?)  We priced flying to Venice and it was about 2x the price of taking the train.  The downside is that the train took about 9 hours.

The plus side is that there are no weight limits for baggage.  Our bags were definitely over the 20/23kg weight limit that the airlines have.  Our cruise was only for a week, but we had to pack for four people, and we were spending several days in northern Italy afterward.  Each kid brought their own backpack that (and they don't get a choice with this) they have to carry.  This included their tablets, loveys, books, paper, colored pencils, airplanes, and whatever else they wanted to bring.

Family selfie on the train from Nuremberg to Munich!

This kid (age 8) read the whole Bambi book!  (And no, he didn't cry when the mom died.  Sometimes I wonder if he has a soul!!!) 

The landscape between Nuremberg and Venice is obviously as beautiful as you would expect it to be with mountains, vineyards and picturesque little towns.

In Brenner, you stop at the Austrian-Italian border for a few minutes.  It's the longest stop of the entire trip.

 Don't forget to pack that picnic lunch, just in case your train doesn't have a restaurant car!  We have learned this lesson the hard way, twice now.  Unfortunately on our trip home, where we didn't have resources to pack a picnic lunch, our promised restaurant car train turned out not to have a Bordrestaurant.  Nor did it have a person who sold snacks and drinks from a cart that goes up and down the aisle.  So as if we hadn't already learned our lesson on our trip to Belgrade, it was totally reinforced with this trip:  ALWAYS pack food on your trip!  Even if you have to hit up the McDonalds in the train station.  It's better than being hungry!

Is there anything more beautiful than the mountains of Northern Italy?

Once we got off the train at Venezia Mestre, we went to our hotel and grabbed some dinner nearby.  My recommendation in the summer is to stay here and stay near the train station.  It's about half to two thirds of the price of the city of Venice, and only one stop on the inexpensive train into Venezia Santa Lucia on the island.  We stayed at the Della Rose the night before our cruise and we needed a cab to get there because of our suitcases.  It was a nice little place to stay though!  Great restaurants in the neighborhood.

In the morning, knowing we had a ship "check in" time of 12:45 pm, we had a bit of time to check out Forte Marghera on the Mestre side of Venice. The Italian Army had barracks here back in the 1800s, and you can roam around the "ruins" (some are, some aren't) where many artists now have studios. 

Fort Intemporal was probably our favorite location within the grounds of Forte Marghera. Believe it or not, this is actually the work of an architect (Bobby Fogel) and artist (Wendy Krochmal) who have incorporated the Japanese art of Kintsugi into the remains of this building. Only, instead of actual gold, they used topaz and golden colored Murano glass made famous on the nearby island of Murano.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending cracks and broken things with gold so that imperfections are therefore made more perfect. We all have scars, including these buildings.  Kintsugi shows that imperfections are a part of us all and that these imperfections are innately beautiful. 

The part of the Forte Marghera that is down by the water is known as the Baia del Forte.  They have a lot of concerts down here.

Ok you guys.  We are finally ready to head to the ship!  We hopped on the tram (that was nearest to our hotel) and soared across the water to the Piazzale Roma.  From there, ask (or look) for directions to the People Mover.

Even with luggage, it's not hard to make it to the People Mover from the Piazzale Roma.  It's 1.50 Euros to take the People Mover to the first stop and walk to your ship.  I will warn you.  In the summer, this is one wicked long, hot walk.  Here we are waiting for the People Mover, barely even sweating yet.   This was all about to change.

Views of the cruise ships from the People Mover.

We were on the MSC Poesia, which was about a million miles away from this sign.  Thankfully we are young and spry.  It only took one stop for a water break at about the halfway point. Cabs for a billion dollars could probably get you closer.  (Pro tip:  Keep in mind that there's ice cold beer on the ship and if you can hang on to that thought, it's bound to get you through the situation!)

Oh but wait.  Once you get to the Venice port, you get in a line.  They check your ticket (make sure you have the bag tags they e-mailed to you attached to your bags!) and then they let you through to check those bags.  Our load was lightened, but then we got in another line to receive a number.  This number was to let us know which boarding group we would be in. Thankfully they have some water and juice (and very friendly staff who ask where you are from!  And when you respond with Boston, they say, "Oh, Texas!"  Ha ha, not quite!)

Our home for the next seven days.

Finally our number was called and we went through security.  No problems there (much like an airport.)  The next step is to get on the "jetway" to the ship.  You know we've got to selfie this!

 Then there's one more check before you actually get on the boat (have those passports and tickets ready!)  The kids were super excited at this point! 

Then you get on the ship but you have to go through the madness of people trying to sell you perfume and packages and all the like.  Next, you need to register your kids - don't bypass this if you have kids. Get them the appropriate bracelet so that if they get lost, they can find you.  It also gives them the appropriate level of "leave" from the Kids Club.  A red bracelet means they cannot leave the Kids Club without your permission.  A green bracelet means they can come and go as they please at the Kids Club.  Then?  You can finally go to your room!  But don't expect your bags to be there.  Because they probably won't be.  If they are?  Bonus!  If not... ask a porter who will tell you they are still loading bags. (This is true!)

It's time to activate your cruise cards and explore the ship!  We just did this, which is why we are smiling!  There are little machines in the public areas of the ship where you can activate your card by linking it to your credit card.  For the record... at this point, we had not purchased any drink packages.

We wanted to go to the pool so we went back to the room to see if the bags were there, but they had not arrived yet (so no bathing suits!)  Todd snapped this nice view of our window.  I actually paid for an inside cabin, but somehow landed this!  It's an obstructed view, but a view nonetheless.

Before we departed, we had to do the "oh my gosh the Titanic just struck an iceberg, what do we do and where do we go" emergency trial run.  They make an announcement over the ships loud speakers (complete with their signature phrase, "OHHHHHHHHHH YESSSSSSSSS!") that explains that you need to go to your cabin, get your life vests and proceed to the location that is on the emergency evacuation plan on the back of your cabin door.  For us, it was location D, the Zebra Lounge.  They also gave Grant a life vest that was too big for him (32 kg is 70 pounds but he's only about 62 pounds.)  Make sure your life vests match your weight!

Once the safety drills were done, the boat finally pulled out of port.  Arrivederci, Venice!

Beware that when the ship is pulling out, everyone will be at the bar trying to get a drink or will be at the railing trying to get a good view.  Get those celebratory drinks ahead of time!

I said goodbye to Venice from the shaded part of the deck, complete with dirty windows!

St. Mark's Square is super crowded in the summer.

Waving at all of the boats that were zipping by below us as we passed St. Mark's Square.

A happy family embarking on their first cruise.

Mmmmm.  Rum drinks.  They actually made decent drinks on the boat and really didn't seem to skimp on the alcohol (I saw more than a few generous pours!)  I think one of the biggest questions people have before they cruise (and I know it was one of our biggest questions) is -- To purchase a drink package or not to purchase a drink package?  And if so, which one should you purchase?  They kind of overwhelm you with the number of packages they have - premium all inclusive, regular all inclusive, meal only drinks, just a beer package, or a 14 ticket package, and of course - kids packages.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that Todd and I can put back some drinks.  So we decided to do the regular all inclusive package for ourselves and the regular kids all inclusive package for the kids.   It was a race against the clock!  COULD we drink more than 29.90/13.80 Euros a day in water, soda and alcohol!?!  Challenge accepted!

Our bags finally made it to the room so we put on bathing suits and enjoyed the evening at the pools.  The MSC Poesia only has two small salt water pools and they were always super crowded.  The pools were also too cold for me - I think the warmest it got was 26C/79F.  I don't get in unless it's 87F!  But everyone else seemed to be enjoying it.  There were also several hot tubs but those were always crowded for whatever reason (it was hot!)

Since we had been at the pool all evening and missed our sit-down dinner time (7 pm), we decided to just grab some food at the cafeteria for dinner on the first night.  The buffet wasn't bad at all.  Even if you're trying (heh) to eat healthy, there's plenty of vegetables and fruits.  The kids LOVED the pizza. We loved the views!

At least once, you MUST head to the back of the ship to see the sunset! 

It was stunning!

Caught my hubby in a pensive moment.  Our beers looked pretty cool in this shot, too.

How's that drink challenge coming, you ask?  Just fine.  Just fine indeed.

The best part was that the place was virtually empty and we had the sunset to ourselves!

Back in the room, we finally unpacked.  I definitely recommend doing this as space is limited.  The beds are high enough that suitcases can be stored beneath.  There was plenty of storage in the closet for the four of us to keep most of our clothes. 

The first full day of our cruise was in the Italian port of Bari.  Prior to this cruise, I wondered if it was necessary to see the ports without having to take the VERY expensive ship excursions.  That is a definite YES!  We are seasoned travelers. I knew that we did not need a guide in any of these cities, but I wasn't sure how we were going to get from the port to the city.  Would cabs be available?  Would we have to walk?  Well have no fear!  MSC provides buses for an additional cost.  Most of the buses we took from the port were 9.90 Euro for kids and 13.90 Euro for adults.  So not super cheap, but much less than an excursion.

Every night while you're at dinner, the porter will leave the Daily Program for the following day on your bed.  If you wanted to just take the bus (or in the case of Mykonos, the boat) into the city, there will be tickets attached to the program.  You just need to fill them out and present them at the bus if you want to use them.  Then your room will be charged.  No stress at all!

Todd and I had a blast in Bari but I'll save that fun for another post.  We were lucky enough to go out into the city without our kids since they were old enough to be left in the Kids Club by themselves.  They actually had a BLAST and said they definitely wanted to do it again. I wasn't sure how it would go for them, given that most people on our ship were either Italian, Spanish or of some other nationality that didn't speak English.  But they made friends regardless of that!  They were able to come and go from the Kids Club as they pleased (they were NOT allowed to go to the pool), but they actually spent the whole day there.

Check out how they anchor the boat in many different directions!

After the day in Bari, we scooped up our kids from the Kids Club and immediately hit the pool.

We decided to go to the buffet again so we could see the sunset.  Natalie was trying to capture our romantic (ha) moment.  We look SUPER uncomfortable here, but our hearts were in the right place. (Honestly, I thought she was zooming in more than this and that our bodies wouldn't even bein the photo!)

 A photographer for the ship happened to be out taking pictures of the sunset and we all had little photo seshes.  Natalie, of course, was a natural.

Sass and Sassier.  Hey, just checking in... how's that drink challenge going today?  Just fine, thanks for asking.

What a sassy little cutie!  We had fun playing around with the sun.

Close up of Natalie's hands.  We love the sun!

She's got the whole sun in her hands. 

Bye bye sunshine.  See you tomorrow.  Please don't burn us too much.

After we put the kids to bed, it was back up to deck 13 to work on crushing our drink challenge.  Plus, they were airing all of the World Cup games on the big screen, so we got to see Croatia and Denmark play.

It was actually much quieter on deck 13 in the evening.  They close the pools, so no nightswimming!

After the World Cup game (Croatia and Denmark tied), we went to the 7th floor where the MSC Poesia has a casino!  We aren't big gamblers, but I like to take my 10 Euro roll and hit the slots.  It's good for about 8 minutes of fun.

Sweet, y'all.  I was the big winner tonight!  I spent 10 Euros and won 17.76 Euros.  I think it was fate since it was almost Independence Day.

The next day we were at port in Katakolon, and decided to purchase the excursion to Olympia, home of the first Olympics.  As I mentioned before, every night while you're out at dinner, your porter comes in and leaves the Daily Program for the following day.  If you've pre-booked an excursion, they will also leave you the tickets for the excursion.  We went down to the Zebra Bar to collect our excursion documents (including some markers and a booklet for the kids.)  You check in and they will give you a number.  When they call your number, you get to leave with your group.  Again, pretty easy.

This was the only port in which we did an excursion - the main reason was that Olympia isn't anywhere near Katakolon. There IS a public bus you can take, and if we had more time, we definitely would have done this. But it just didn't run very often and seemed to take a really long time, something we were short on.  The excursion itself was ok.  It seemed really rushed, and I likely wouldn't do another one. We are often our best tour guides!

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship (one benefit of going on an excursion is that they will guarantee you won't miss the boat!).  When we arrived back from Olympia, they were offering lemon or orange water and a cold, wet towel which felt incredible after what we thought was the hottest day ever.  Also:  Men randomly painting our boat!?!  This was a daily sight!

Because we had been so hot, we promised them some ice cream.  He's a mess!

Oh, why hello there. I didn't see you over there.  I'm too busy enjoying Jameson Mojitos so we can win the drink package challenge!

In the later afternoon, we were able to get 4 chairs together on the top deck (above the pools.)  It was nice to watch Greece sail by while enjoying a lovely cocktail.

After our relaxing late afternoon, we ACTUALLY got cleaned up and went to dinner at our dining room, Le Fontane for the first time on the trip!  Of course, Todd forgot pants (yes, I said that) so he wore shorts. To dinner.  On "Gala Night."  The kids looked so darn cute though!

We were seated with a really sweet German family from Bremen (these are not them) in northern Germany who had an 9- and a 5-year-old (or at least I think that was their ages) named Malte and Leeza (or at least I think that was their names.)    They were such good kids and really great dinner company!  They spoke great English, and I attempted to speak some German to the kids (who didn't really speak much English.)  The mom told me that the 9-year-old would be starting English the following year in school. 

Because our dinner time was 7 pm, we weren't able to go to the deck to see the sunset.  But we had a seat at a window with our new German friends, and were able to enjoy a beautiful Greek sunset from the table!

 Ok, I took this picture for other reasons (which I will sheepishly explain in a moment) but this was the set up of the room.  The bunk beds come down from the walls and have little steps that you can hook onto the side so the kids can get up and down. There was still plenty of room between our bed and the bunks so it didn't feel constrained at all.  (More like cozy.)  The only issue we ever had were the kids stuffed animals falling on us in the middle of the night!

I actually took this picture because the kids were demanding to know if Santa Claus was real.  I think you know how this story ends.  Oh I can hear you judging me right now.  "OMG... did they really tell their kids the truth about Santa on a cruise ship?"  Yes.  Yes we did.  For the record, they are hysterically laughing (not crying!)  Grant was asking, "What about leprechauns!?!"  Um no buddy.  Not real.  Queue insane laughter.  We think they already knew but they really were demanding the truth!

I had mentioned the Daily Program up above but this is what it looks like.  It's chock FULL of important information, so definitely read it!  

After a great but very hot day in Athens, we headed back to the boat.  Some cruise lines put animals made out of towels on the bed.  In our case, our menagerie of stuffed animals was placed in a different order every day. The kids got really excited, wanting to see who was "king" of the bed!  (Naturally, it was Croco!)

Nothing special here. I just liked this shot of the boat as we cruised away from Athens!

Oh wait.  How's that drink challenge coming again?  No worries. We're all good here.

We had so much fun in the birthplace of democracy (Athens) that we darn near forgot it was America's Independence Day!  Thanks for thinking of us, MSC!  Our table mates asked us the following night, "Did you ever get any of that cake?"  Nope!

A conga line. At dinner. And everyone swinging their cloth napkins around.  Dinner was different every night, and generally had a theme of sorts. You get a starter, main course and dessert - and you get to choose from a handful of each category on the menu.

We missed the sunset because we were at dinner, but twilight and it's rainbow sky was the most beautiful we had seen on the boat!  

Our one day in Sarande, Albania was one where we had to anchor and tender into port.  In order to get one of these boats, you had to get in line to get a letter.  There's no real rhyme or reason to it, except the earlier you get in line, the lower your letter will be (A, B, C...) and the earlier you can get into Sarande. We were given letter F, meaning we were to board the tender boat (or the "chicken tender" as Todd called it!) at 13:00.  

The kids didn't have any interest in going to Sarande and preferred to stay in the Kids Club all day and you KNOW we were ok with that.  It's before noon and we don't have any kids?  Sweet.  Let's have a beer!

We had to meet in the Teatro Fenice and wait for them to call our letter.  

As with every other day, you need to show your cruise ID so they can scan it before you get onto the little tender boat.  So don't forget that every day!

I'm on a BOAT!  It's crowded and hot but not a long ride into Sarande.

Well, that's one way to drive a boat, I guess. Is this safe?!?

After our fun, kid-less day in Sarande, we showered and got ready for dinner.  The greatest thing about being on a cruise is you can just eat whatever you want, whenever you want!  You want to eat a slice of pizza before we go to dinner?  No problem!  Grant loved the buffet pizza more than the restaurant dinners!

This was to be our last dinner in the restaurant.  We opted for the buffet on the last night as our day in Dubrovnik was VERY short and we had to be back at the boat by 2:15 pm.  We knew we wanted to spend the afternoon playing mini golf and swimming, and the buffet is so much more convenient!

 Natalie wanted to go to the theater to see one of the shows, so she and Todd went while I stayed back with Grant in the room.  The shows aren't very long (maybe just over an hour) and are pretty good! I mean, it's not New York's Broadway, but it's great entertainment!  This night in particular, the theme was Paris.

One last afternoon on deck 14.  Goodbye, Dubrovnik!

The kids really wanted to play mini golf.  It's not the most challenging mini golf course, but they had fun playing with daddy!

Meanwhile, Mommy found the quietest lounge chair literally at the back of the boat and worked on the drink challenge.

The drink challenge also included ice cream.  So of course, they had to have some!  Grant decided coffee flavor was his favorite!

The 4 pm World Cup game was on (Uruguay vs France), so we found a table (pure luck... they're always taken!) and watched a bit of the game before cleaning up and hitting up the buffet.  This was the only time in which we ran into a complete jerk on the ship.  Todd found a table with four chairs at the start of the game, but then he and Grant went into the pool for a bit.  Our German dinner mates (just the husband and son) were sitting behind us for a bit, but then left for a while.  When they came back, there were no chairs, so we offered for them to sit with me and Natalie to watch the game.  Eventually at halftime, they went to the pool.  Nat and I ordered drinks from the waiter and then a bit later, some guy behind us told one of the ship workers that we had stolen his seats!  I told the ship worker that we had been there since the start of the game, and that we had NOT taken these guys seats. In fact, I had seen him sitting in a seat behind us earlier and he kept getting up and leaving and coming back.  I could tell the ship worker felt bad for even asking us if we had taken the guys seats and he knew the guy was lying!

Todd and Natalie convinced Grant that the nightly show in the theater was worth watching, so we all went to the Friday evening show, which had an Asian theme.

Before the show, these guys walked around imitating people coming in - they were really funny!

There were lots of acrobatics in the show!  This guy must have been a gymnast! 

OMG where are their heads!?!  This literally makes my back ache.

These guys were AWESOME, doing flips and tossing each other around.  I could hardly stand to watch it.  This stuff always makes me nervous!

Overall, this cruise was a GREAT experience.  Honestly, it's one of the best vacations we have ever taken.  It's not a 5 star hotel with Michelin rated restaurants, but it's definitely above average and really was a mostly stress free trip.  The kids are already asking when we can go on our next cruise!

Ok, ok... so I know you are wondering... how did we do with the drink challenge?  Well, the total of the drink package for all four of us was 611.80 Euros.  That seems like a lot, even to us, but it WAS over the course of 7 days.  We had recorded all that we drank in the iPhone notes app, and then tallied up all of our drinks in a tidy little Excel spreadsheet. Are you ready for it?  We drank a grand total of 797.60 Euros worth of drinks!  So YES!  We SLAYED the drink challenge!  OHHHHHHHHH YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

Now excuse me, my liver needs to detox...….

Until next time, MSC Poesia!

The Bailey Planet

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