Eurotrip: The Finale

13 Sep
Walking through Venice.

Walking through Venice.

First and foremost, I’ll apologize for the length of this one but I’ve included lots of photos and videos so hopefully that should make things a bit easier!  So you guys have been waiting to find out what we saw for the last few days…so what exactly did we see?  Well, nothing.  Simply a ploy to get you guys to come back and read more of the blog.  Now that my trickery has worked, lets get on with it shall we.  It was now time to board our cruise!!  It was the first time for the both of us going on a cruise and I was excited to say the least.  After we checked in, we boarded the Norwegian Jade for the first time and it was quite the experience.  The crew was extremely friendly and seemed even happier than us to have us aboard.  We quickly found our suite and then proceeded to have a quick lunch on the deck.  For those of you who have never been on a cruise here is a bit of advice, go on a diet for at least three weeks prior to departure.  I have never seen so much food in one place before in my entire life.  Needless to say I tried any and everything…twice.  After lunch it was time to go!  We went to the top deck to watch as we left the harbor.  For anyone that has been to Venice (or hasn’t been for that matter), there are boats of all sizes everywhere.  It was amazing to see as our gargantuan cruise ship navigated the waters with so many smaller boats, seemingly trying to get out of the way.  Think of it as organized chaos.

After watching the sunset on the top deck, we retreated to our cabin for a bit before heading to a nice dinner.  The cruise ship provided a daily schedule of things to do and shows to ensure that there was something to do at all hours of the day.  We took in a concert of this boy band (think modern day European Backstreet Boys meets Gloria Estefan) and then proceeded to bed as we were still jet-lagged.

First Stop: Dubrovnik, Croatia

When first thinking of Croatia, I will say that my thoughts on the country were a bit dismissive.  For some reason I was expecting the place to be very cold and dreary.  So imagine my thoughts when seeing this beautiful landscape.

Dubrovnik!!!!

Dubrovnik!!!!

I’m happy to announce that I was completely wrong.  Croatia is a stunning country rich with history, friendly people, and great ice cream (I will be talking about ice cream a lot in this post the quicker you get used to it, the easier things will be for the both of us).  We were there for about 6 or 7 hours and we signed ourselves up for a Cable Car ride overlooking the Old Towne, and a guided tour of the Old City.  Krystal and I decided that we would do guided tours in each city…we figured that this would provide us with the most history about each city and country, while seeing the best that each city had to offer and above all else, ensured that we wouldn’t get lost in a foreign county and end up on an episode of Locked Up Abroad.  From the cruise we had a short bus ride to where we would be taking the cable cars.  Krystal looked at me as if she had doubts about the whole Cable Car thing…I assured her that it was fine.  Truth is I had my own doubts.  Now I’m not afraid of heights per se, after all, I want to be a pilot.  It’s something about a little cable car full of people, climbing up a mountain all the while attached to a piece of string that looks like it’s the size of dental floss.  Nevertheless, I wore my “I’m not afraid of anything” face, and a few minutes later we were atop the mountain (where I did a little dance).  The view from the top of the mountain was incredible, awesome, inspiring, hell..it was the shit.  There simply aren’t enough words in the English language that do justice to that view.

View From The Top of Dubrovnik!

View From The Top of Dubrovnik!

It provided views of the old towne, the harbor where we had just docked, we even got to see another country (Bosnia…for those of you interested.)  After taking in the view, it was time to head back down and start our tour of the city.  It seems that people in Dubrovnik like steps…they were everywhere!!  I was happy about this though, with the amount of food that I was eating on the cruise ship, the walking would burn off any extra pounds that I put on…(in my mind anyways…what?  I had to justify my eating somehow…)  After taking the cable car down, we walked down into the city and enjoyed the sights, and sounds of the locals, and learning some pretty interesting facts about the city.  To this day you can still see where bombs hit the Old Town during the Siege of Dubrovnik.  It was an extremely hot day, and all day while walking through the city I had seen people eating Ice Cream.  Normally, I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I finally had to ask the tour guide if we would be having an ice cream break at some point.  She showed us a quaint little ice cream shop…Dolce Vita…and promised that we would have free time to go there and purchase ice cream.  After the tour was done, I proceeded directly to the Ice Cream shop.  I spent about 15 Kuna…the equivalent of about $3 Dollars for ice cream for me and Krystal.  There comes a time in a person’s life when time stops ticking….your hearing intensifies…you can hear an ant walking….I’m sure this is the closest I’ve come to an out of body experience.  The ice cream was that good.  It was at the perfect temperature, soft and silky, velvety even…orgasmic.  I ate my ice cream, Krystal’s ice cream, and had an ice cream cone for the road.

I scream...you scream...for Ice Cream!

I scream…you scream…for Ice Cream!

With that…we took some pictures and headed back to the ship.  When we returned back to our room we met a little surprise on the bed from our steward…

Meet Munchy!

Meet Munchy!

For those of you who have the pleasure of knowing Munchy bare with those who don’t for a second as we take a pit stop here.  Munchy is Krystal’s Cocker Spaniel and is probably the most fun and playful dog that I know.  He is treated like royalty…and expects nothing less.  He plays for a living…my kinda life. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.  That night we had a great dinner and took in a magic show.  I’ve always liked magic…outside of being a pilot, a chef, James Bond, Munchy, or a famous tennis player, Magician is pretty high up there.  We thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Magika!

Magika!

And with that we retired for the evening.  The next day we spent a day out at sea.  I was a little happy that we would have a day out at sea where we could relax.  The few days prior had been pretty brutal trying to see all the sights.  We relaxed, took in the onboard entertainment and rested before getting to our next stop of……

Athens, Greece

I was excited to be in Athens!  We were one hour ahead, now as we had skipped a time zone on the way over to Greece.  I remember watching the Athens Olympics on television and I had always heard great things about the city.  It was great to be in a city that like all the others was so rich with history and culture…from the mighty Zeus to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, we were bound to have a historical experience.  I will warn, this is where things got a little hazy for me.  In hindsight, I guess the mixture of jet lag, heat, and jumping time zones like it were a game of hop scotch started playing with my brain.  I started confusing all the history from the different countries…pretty sure the Great Wall of China is in there somewhere.  Anyways, after disembarking we boarded our tour bus and headed off into the city.  We would see the different venues built for the Olympics as well as the Parthenon.  It was a very busy city with lots of locals walking about and enjoying the beautiful weather.  Quick side note, if you’re going to be in Greece wear shoes with   Before we knew it we were at the Parthenon.  It was a sight to behold.  Before we could get up close and personal, we had to walk up a million steps made of marble.  This was easier said than done, not because of the quantity of steps, but because apparently walking on marble without proper shoes is well…detrimental to one’s health.  Apparently marble is quite slippery.  This was most evident when we saw about five different people fall down throughout the course of the day.  We pushed on, we were not to be outdone by some shiny rock!  After all we were adventurers, we were explorers, we….held onto each other as we climbed up the steps.  Once we got to the top….the view was astounding.  What is it with Europe and these magical views?!

View overlooking Athens!

View overlooking Athens!

After walking around the Parthenon, and getting our fill of photos, it was time to head back to the ship.  It was extremely hot, so we decided to head to the refuge of some trees at the bottom of the hill and wait on the group.  Once back on the bus, I decided that for doing such good work, my eyes deserved a treat and I allowed them to watch the back of my eyelids while Krystal snapped some more photos.  Once back on the ship we went out on the upper deck where I rewarded my eyes more, and just relaxed for a bit.  We had been eyeing the hot tubs for days already, but people were omnipresent.  Go figure.  That night we enjoyed the ships karaoke hour.  There was this little girl who was a great singer, but by the third time she went up to sing, I contemplated throwing her overboard.  She was showing off…don’t judge me.  After the karaoke, we headed back to the cabin and it was at this point where all hell broke loose.  Our steward had replaced Munchy (Our pet towel puppy) with a pet towel elephant…aka Mr. Snuffleupagus..snuffy to his friends.  Krystal wasn’t pleased to say the least…well see for yourself… (For those of you that read it in the email, in order to watch the video you’ll just have to click on the image and it will bring you to the website)

That night I spoke with Antonio asking him to please bring back (remake) Munchy and not to remove him for the duration of the trip!  If Krystal had spoken with him well…Antonio might not still be with us. With that we went to bed sans Munchy.  The next day was promised to be a long one and we needed our rest.

Next stop: Ephesus, Turkey

There was a bit of apprehension about this stop.  For a few days there had been some unrest in Turkey, and there had been many protests.  The cruise ship did a great job liaising with their crew in Turkey and kept us abreast of everything going on there prior to us getting there.  They assured as that everything was okay, but in true James Bond fashion, I had a plan just in case…unbeknownst to Krystal of course.  If the proverbial shit had hit the fan, I would have had a get away car to take us away from the bad guys with some kind of blaze of glory chase scene, and while driving I’d radio a helicopter to get us, and they’d drop a rope and pick us up whilst I was shooting at the bad guys and take me and Krystal through the sun roof back to the cruise ship…all in time for dinner…and then I’d say some witty remark in a faux British accent.  Now if only I could find a getaway car… a helicopter…and a gun…oh and some rope.  Shut up.  We got to Ephesus (first time in Asia as well…for the geography buffs) and met my favorite tour guide on the whole trip.  Rose!  She referred to us as her little Rose-buds…get it Rose…buds…like the flower?  I thought it was cool.  Anyways, we got there and had a bit of a lengthy drive to the House of the Virgin Mary.  Both Krystal and I are Catholic so this was a great experience for the both of us as it was said that John the Baptist brought Mary here where she lived until her Assumption.  We arrived and there was quite a line, but it moved at a fairly quick pace and soon we were allowed inside.  It was an amazing feeling to know that a couple thousand years ago, Mary was in the same building I was.

Statute of the Virgin Mary

Statute of the Virgin Mary

After that we were ushered outside were we made a donation and lit candles and stick them into the sand.  My candle immediately plopped down into the sand, and extinguished itself, I thought to myself to try to relight it and stand it up right, but that would have involved me sticking my hand over other lit candles to get it…I envisioned lighting myself on fire and causing a big ruckus…in the end I left it.  From there there was a wall filled to the brim with prayer requests and it was said that if you had put your prayer needs on this wall, that God would answer them.  Krystal and I both put down our requests on paper and placed them carefully on the wall.  With that it was time to get back on the bus and head to one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world…Ephesus.

Prayer Wall

Only a small portion of the Prayer Wall!

Krystal lighting her Candles

Krystal lighting her Candles

Once we got there, there again were a variety of tour guides with their groups so it was a bit jammed at times, but nothing too severe.  We walked around and examined the city and it was amazing.  The level of detail that went into these buildings was insane, and to think that it was built in such a primitive time makes it even more special.  At one point, I went into the amphitheater alone…but in order to get up there one had to climb about a hundred steps.  Krystal was having none of it so I went at it alone.  Whilst up there taking pictures a group of about 10 kids kept looking at me.  I thought I was about to be robbed…I was already thinking to myself…how am I going to explain to the cruise ship crew that I don’t have my passport and wallet anymore because I got pick pocketed by some 9 year olds.  Nevertheless, they wanted to be in a picture with me!  I surmised two things….A.) They thought I was some NBA basketball player and wanted a picture with me….B.) They had never seen a black person before and wanted to have proof to show their friends that “we” do exist.  I’m hoping it was option A but my money is on the latter.  Either way I’m on someone’s Facebook page somewhere.  With that we made our way back to the bus and headed to a 5 Star resort for lunch.  Afterwards we headed to see locals make the Turkish rugs.  This was quite the experience as we saw how they removed the silk and the tedious process that is rug making.  For some designs it took in upwards of two years to finish one rug!!  We quickly realized that it was also out of our price range.  One rug about the size of one of our towel animals was in excess of $5,000.  With that we exchanged looks and ran out the door and straight onto the bus.

Once back on the ship, I had planned a little surprise for Krystal to celebrate her birthday.  I had arranged to have the room decorated with some balloons and party confetti.  She was surprised!  Operation successful.  That night we had a nice dinner, and Antonio didn’t disappoint, Munchy was back with a flower and now there was a frog as well!

The Return of Munchy!

The Return of Munchy!

The next day was a day at sea, and we finally got into the hot tub.  It was well worth the wait.  It was a really relaxing day, and that night we had a birthday dinner for Krystal at a nice Italian Restaurant.  We put on our Sunday’s best and headed down and in my opinion had the best dinner of the entire cruise.  A birdy (me) told the staff that it was Krystal’s birthday (soon anyways) and they brought out a cake and sang to her.  They were a little off key (I mean not many people can bring the soothing sounds of Usher mixed with Justin Timberlake and the soul of Barry White like I can)  but the effect was the same nevertheless.  Afterwards, we headed back to the room and there was a little surprise waiting for us.  Antonio (still feeling bad about Munchy I assume) Made about a million farm animals.

We clean up nice...

We clean up nice…

Krystal and the litany of farm pets...

Krystal and the litany of farm pets…

We were now into our last day of the trip.  Already…time sure did fly by!

Trogir/Split, Croatia

I was excited to be back in Croatia.  The land of beautiful waters, friendly people, and apparently…great ice cream.  We took a tour of the another old city, through the towns churches and streets, and got lost in the many wonders that the city had to offer.  Like all the cities we had visited, this one was equally rich in culture and history and told its own story.  We walked around and ended up on a picturesque waterfront over looking a harbor.  I was beginning to fall in love with this country…is there nothing that they can do wrong?  I decided to try my hand again and get an ice cream cone.  It wasn’t as good as the one in Dubrovnik, much to my dismay, but you know…you can’t let it go to waste either.

Your's truly

Your’s truly

After leaving Trogir, we had an hour bus ride back to the city of Split, where we trudged around an old castle, saw a statue with a golden toe (that if you rub is supposed to bring you good luck…I think the Croatians are playing a joke on the tourists with this one), and experienced the different sights and sounds of the city.  Then we had a little free time to do some shopping…and by a little, I mean like 5 minutes.  We did some speed shopping and headed back to the boat.  That night there was an amazing show called Elements…or something like that anyway.  It felt like we were watching a show on broadway in New York instead of on a ship bobbing up and down in the middle of the Mediterranean.  After that we went back to the cabin and packed as it was now dawning on us that our cruise was over.  The next day we departed back to London and got in at about midnight.  We ended up taking a £30 taxi to go two miles.  I was not happy…especially after getting to our hotel and the guy at the front desk told us he could arrange a car for us to get to the airport the next morning for £10.  The next morning we were at the airport at the crack of dawn to catch our flight back to Miami and with that our vacation was over.

Sad :(

Sad 😦

And with that we were gone...having ice cream on the way home!

And with that we were gone…having Disarono and ice cream on the way home!

It was a great trip.  If you couldn’t tell, I love to travel and experience new people and new cultures.  Sometimes the best way to understand people and why they live the way the do it to walk in their shoes and experience their culture as what’s normal for us is foreign to others.  Normal is an illusion.  What is normal for a spider, is chaos for the fly.  Hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this.

– Jonathan

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