That is a question that I highly anticipated being asked! Out of 17 countries, which is my favorite? Well…I can’t pick just one! BUT what I can do is narrow it down to three (even that’s difficult) and share which cities I’ve been to at each and why I selected each destination. So, here it goes…
This country is the “wonder of the world” that I never knew existed – at least in my eyes. Croatia was just a random stop on our Honeymoon cruise itinerary that I was already annoyed with. I’m sure you’re thinking how can you be annoyed about going on a European cruise for your honeymoon? Well…it’s because my top dream destination was initially on our itinerary but was removed about a month after we booked due to port issues. TRAVEL TIP: That can happen – your cruise itinerary is subject to change. Anyways, Croatia was by far the best surprise I had of the entire trip. We we’re able to visit Dubrovnik and Split, both equipped with beautiful water views, mountain views, and people. The locals were so friendly & took a lot of pride in their cities. We cared so little about these places when we booked the trip that I hadn’t even made plans for either day. We wandered off the ship with no schedule and zero clue what the cities even had to offer. Keep reading to find out what we found…
Dubrovnik: Oh. my. gosh. I love this city. Not only was Game of Thrones filmed here, which alone made it a winner to me, but there is something exciting around every corner. To begin our day, we took the Dubrovnik Cable Car to the Top of Mount Srd for time purposes (as opposed to hiking it). The view on the way up was really amazing through the large windows on the cable car. We were lucky enough be the first ones in & got the best spot. At the top is the Imperial Fortress that was famously built by Napoleon, along with a War Museum. The Panorama Bar and Restaurant is also at the top offering spectacular views of the city below while you dine and drink. Seth and I decided to visit while waiting for a tour on the backside of the mountain to begin. We were able to get a seat, but due to limited time (and slow service) we weren’t able to order before we had to leave to make it to our reservation. Then the real fun began…the ATV tour. I opted to remain passenger and let Seth have his fun driving us for the full duration of the tour. The ATV’s were faster than I expected and the various viewpoints that we stopped at along the way were a nice break from all the dirt and sand flying around on the ride. By the end, we were both coated with a layer of dirt all over but it was well worth it. Our guide on the tour was very knowledgeable of the history of the city. He made the experience informative and a lot of fun. After the adrenaline rush and excitement of that, we opted to stroll around the walls of “King’s Landing”. We eventually stumbled upon a hole in the wall. Literally. A hole just wide enough for a single person to go through if they duck their head. On the other side is a bar – Buza Bar – and the best cliff for cliff jumping I’ve seen in all the places we’ve been. I was so upset that I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit and able to make the jump for myself. TRAVEL TIP: Always carry a swimsuit with you when exploring. It takes up little space & is good to have just incase. We explored the city for a while longer and completed the “Walk of Shame” prior to returning to our ship, but not before getting a souvenir. We’ve made it a habit to get a shot glass from every place that we travel (we may have missed a few here or there), but my very favorite one is from Dubrovnik. It’s handpainted and the prettiest/most unique one that we’ve collected so far (more to come on our collection in the future). I’m not sure if it’s the shot glass itself or just my love for this city that makes it better than all the others…
Split: For this stop, we made some friends and shared a taxi to Krka National Park. I’ll do my best to describe walking through the park and the gorgeous waterfalls, but the pictures don’t even do it justice so take my word, this is somewhere you need see in person. Everything is so vibrant and peaceful. The sounds of water and nature consume you as you walk through, ending at one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever laid eyes on (& I’ve been to Niagara Falls). The greenery and untouched feel of this place just made it so much better than you can imagine. Luckily on this day we had an idea of what we might be doing and we packed our swimsuits (learning from my mistake in Dubrovnik). The water was cold, but so clear. It was a great break from all the walking and heat of the day. Note: There are no facilities to store your belongings while you swim. After swimming, we changed and headed back towards the port making a stop in a town called Tragir for some exploring and lunch. It is such a cute little town & I really enjoyed wandering the streets. We were starving and stumbled upon our lunch selection – Restaurant Capo – ordering a pizza to share. After, we made our way back to our taxi and moved along to another viewpoint overlooking the port before returning to the ship.
We’ve been to 5 following cities in Italy:
These are listed in the order of my favorite to least favorite. I’m going to be honest and say that Naples is barely worth mentioning (based on our experience). Had it not been for the City of Pompeii & Mt. Vesuvius being nearby then I wouldn’t even bother. So, I’d like to focus on the ones I loved the most & why I think those are your go-to’s.
Venice: Venice is a city on water and one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. We didn’t have any time prior to the beginning of our cruise to explore, but we booked a Hilton hotel for one night once we returned and it was perfect. The room overlooked the city and water + the hotel bar has a spectacular view of the sunset. We grabbed a couple drinks and watched the sun go down after a long day of venturing the unfamiliar streets. First thing to know about the city is transportation is expensive. There are no cars. Everywhere you want to get is only accessible by boat. You can choose to take a private boat or there is public transportation with a cheaper fare that you are able to utilize. We went with the latter option considering it was so much cheaper than the private options. The boat ran specific routes (think of it as a bus route) every so often so we knew when we had to be out front of the hotel to catch one. It’s a different experience but a fun one! We made it across the canal and decided to take an earlier stop so we could walk further and get to see more. We came across the cutest market where different vendors were selling hand painted paintings and other souvenirs (I was able to pick out a drawing on our way back to the hotel later that day). While we did a lot of mindless roaming around the city, we also chose to take a tour of the Doge’s Palace – it’s beautiful. It was well worth the price of admission and you save more if you book in advance – click here. The amount of detail and attention that was given to these places all those years ago is mind blowing. The palace is pretty big and it took us around an hour to walk through the different rooms that were open and the prison cells underneath. We weren’t able to go through St. Marks cathedral due to the long lines and my choice of attire. Travel tip: Be sure to check what dress code is required for religious facilities on your trip. I was aware of the code, but was not willing to sweat or be uncomfortable in all day (something I would deal with if I could do it over, but give me a break – it was my first trip abroad!). We walked around St. Marks square and of course, I got some gelato to enjoy on our walk. We came across some familiar stores and restaurants like Victoria’s Secret and The Hard Rock Café but my favorite find was a restaurant called Bigoi that we stumbled upon. We decided to give it a try and ordered the special of the day. It was a pasta with sauce made from goat’s milk. It was SO GOOD. We sat down on the ledge of a little canal to enjoy it and take a load off. Aside from those major tourist attractions, we didn’t really have an itinerary for Venice. I’ve said before, the beauty of a city to me is what you find by happenstance so having a plan doesn’t always guarantee the best experience.
Rome: There is SO much to see and do in Rome. One day just wasn’t enough so I’d love to plan to go back in the future (there’s just so many other places to see for the first time before that). For this stop, I booked a photographer to have anniversary photos taken with Seth at the Colosseum. These are some of my favorite photos that we’ve ever had taken. It’s just one of those things that you don’t see often and reminds me of the beauty that the city beholds. We began by catching a train into the city from our port. It’s approximately 1.5 hours into the city by train. We met up with our photographer at a Oppio Caffe next to the Colosseum. The best part of the entire photoshoot was that Dmitry, our photographer, had been living in Rome for 3-4 years and gave us the history of the monuments and sights that we were being photographed in front of. It was like hiring a tour guide and photographer in one! The photos are amazing because he some how managed to make it look like we had the city to ourselves when in reality, there were tourist and locals everywhere. If you’re interested in booking with him for your upcoming trip – click here. We caught a bus from the Colosseum and we moved on to the Roman Forum. The Forum consist of important ancient government buildings in the city center. It’s beautiful and the surrounding buildings give a good taste of the ancient + modern side of the city. By this time our photo shoot had already ran over time and we went our separate ways. I changed into some more walking friendly sandals and we made our way over to the Trevi Fountain. Travel tip: If not on a cruise, visit the most popular sights as early as you can. You’ll beat the crowds and get to experience each place in an entirely new way. I made a wish at the fountain and word has it, if you cross your right arm over your body to your left shoulder while you toss your coin, it’s guarenteed you’ll return to the fountain later in life. The rest of the sights we visited are listed below and you’ll find pictures of these places included as well. The Vatican is obviously a major attraction and the place that I would most highly recommend out of the ones we visited. The others are great, but Vatican City and the museums are something I’ll never forget.
- Spanish Steps
- Vatican City
- Sistine Chapel
- St. Peter’s Basilica
Pisa/Florence: We decided to make a stop in Pisa since it was on the way to Florence. I’m so glad we did. The Leaning Tower is really a sight to see. More so, if you’re familiar with the leaning tower and tourist then you can only imagine the people watching that can take place here. I think everyone was attempting to hold the tower up, sit on top of it, kick it down, and so much more. It really is something I could sit and watch all day. It was funny and mind opening to see how creative people were getting. I’m sure a lot of the pictures were great, but it’s hard to judge without seeing the shots. The process was entertaining though. Of course, we took part in it too. Check out the pictures to see our shots. Anyways, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pisa Cathedral, and the Pisa Baptistry all have spectacular detail in the design and architecture. Aside from these three things, we didn’t hang around much to see the rest of the city. After all…we had a train to catch! Florence is full of history and beautiful sights. For this city, there were some pinpointed places that I had in mind for us to see and we made the most strategic route we could to and from each point. Our list included:
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
- Ponte Vecchio
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Basilica di San Lorenzo
Ponte Vecchio might have been my favorite spot in the city. It’s an medieval stone bridge across the Arno River. It’s my favorite because of the shops that occupy the space all along the bridge. Today, they’re primarily jewelry shops, but I would have loved to have seen it back when it was filled with more traditional shops. After crossing, we made our way to Piazzale Michelangelo. This viewpoint in the city is astounding. You can see the red roofed buildings stretching as far as your eye can see. It’s beautiful, but quite a hike to get to. There were a couple of market stands set up at the top where I purchased some scarfs for my mom and grandmother back home. Travel Tip: Getting items for your family or friends back home may seem silly, after all, they haven’t been to the places you’re visiting. BUT it does let them know that you remembered and were thinking of them while you’re away. The Cathedral and Basilica listed were both beautiful on the outside. We didn’t tour or get a look inside of these, but I can only imagine how gorgeous they were if they are anything like every other one we’ve seen in Europe!
One of my favorite day’s in the Caribbean was spent in St. Lucia! I booked us a tour through Spencer Ambrose Tours that we loved! It was a Land, Sea, & Beach adventure that included mud baths, a waterfall, & an authentic caribbean lunch served on Sugar Beach with amazing views of the Pitons. The mud bath experience was a lot nicer than I had anticipated. Once we arrived at Sulphur Springs, our guides took care of the entrance fees. We started by getting into one of the pools and soaking before applying the mud once we got out. Travel tip: Be careful with your jewelry – the sulphur can damage some metals, etc. The guides suggested that we apply the mud all over since there are many benefits for your skin. I opted out on applying to my face with the exception of two lines on my cheeks. There are showers that allow you to remove the mud before you board the bus to go to Toraille waterfall. The waterfall was a bit crowded when we got there, but it didn’t take long to get under the falls for a photo! The water was freezing, but it was somewhat refreshing after being in the warm sulphur water! After the waterfall, our guides bought some coconut bread and sweets from a local vendor for us to try on our route back to the boat. I love the opportunity to try new foods that you can’t get authentic versions of at home. Everything we tried was quite tasty and it was a good snack before boarding the boat again to make our way over to the Pitons! There are two Pitons in St. Lucia – Gros Piton & Petit Piton. The pitons are volcanic peaks and part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. We spent some time on the beach before digging into an authentic caribbean cooked meal including jerked chicken, rice, & plantains. The Rum Punch and Piton Beer weren’t so bad either! Our guide even gave me a mango to eat as dessert. It was the perfect sweet ending to an amazing lunch! After some time in the water we boarded the boat and returned to the port. I’m glad we booked a tour for this stop on our cruise. Every part of the day’s itinerary was fun and memorable. Spencer Ambrose Tours definitely helped to make this one of my favorites!