We boarded the cruise ship in Venice, ready to embark on a 30-day cruising adventure from Venice to Capetown. This first half of the cruise included ports in Croatia, Greece, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and 8 days at sea between ports.
1. Family Learning Hour each evening before dinner
2. Cruise dining options
3. Learning to play bridge
4. Visits to new countries for Erik, Greece and Saudi Arabia
1. Lack of all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream
2. Single-use internet option
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Wednesday November 16: This morning we checked out of the Airbnb and caught the water bus to the cruise terminal and after multiple long-lines, and covid-tests and more long lines, in the cruise terminal and then even more long lines inside the boat, we arrived on board the MSC Sinfonia (4 ½ hours from leaving our Airbnb)! Our first day mostly involved some eating and exploring the ship and an evening welcome show and unpacking in the room.
Thursday November 17: Our first stop was in Split, Croatia. We disembarked and walked to the city center to catch the Free walking tour (which we were very impressed with, our best tour so far). Diocletian’s Palace was a highlight, as was the old city surrounding the palace. We hiked over the Marjan overlook, and continued on to Peak 1 and 2, in order to fulfill Tera’s requirement for a 4-mile hike. We did some shopping thereafter and returned to the cruise ship.
Friday November 18: Our first at-sea day. Some things we think we’ll enjoy are the Bridge classes, the Calligraphy classes and informative lectures (offered by unpaid – comped cruise fellow passengers). The entertainment crew includes some Russian acrobats and a great salsa couple. It is like any other cruise, with buffet and restaurant dining options, and pool and games and trivia and dance classes. MSC is much more of a multi-lingual boat, with all announcements being broadcast in at least 6 languages.
Saturday November 19: Our stop in Katakolon, Greece began with our family and the Martin’s finding a rental van to all go out to the ruins of Olympia together (45 minute drive). We walked the ruins, and played a game of sardines with the German family, and got shushed and whistled at by the guard and tour group. Then we stopped by the Magna Grecia olive oil farm for a brief tour and olive oil tasting, and stopped by a mediocre beach – Agios Andreas, for some toe-dipping, then returned to the ship.
Sunday November 20: Day at sea
Monday November 21: We spent the day traversing alongside the Sinai peninsula via the Suez Canal. We passed under bridges and past floating army bridge sections at the ready to cross the canal, and rowboat fisherman and cities and villages and lots and lots of desert wilderness.
Tuesday November 22: Day at sea
Wednesday November 23: We stopped at the Ain Sokhna port for cruise guests to make a visit to Cairo. We chose to stay on the boat.
Thursday November 24: Our next stop in Egypt was Sharm el Sheikh. We walked off the boat and stopped in at a beach resort. We chose to take a speed boat for an hour out around the bend in the bay for a snorkeling trip. It was beautiful coral and an amazing 40 minutes of snorkeling in the Red Sea. After a little more walking, we met up with Monica, Ori, Rodrigo and Nikki and we hired a taxi to drive us to the Ras Mohammed National park. The 40 minute drive took us on an amazing new 4 lane highway (which was practically empty) and past numerous checkpoints. We stopped by a hidden blue bay, and did some more snorkeling with lots of wind, and returned to Sharm. We found a little Koshary place (the serving was less than $1) and had a small meal, and another massive mango and returned to the boat.
Friday November 25: Safaga, Egypt was the next stop, and Tera took advantage of an extra seat with Ori and Monica to take a private taxi to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, Colussus of Memnon, and Medinat Habu (Ramses II temple). The kids and I stayed on the boat, and relaxed and had a hilarious dinner.
Saturday November 26: Day at sea
Sunday November 27: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – this was the first city in which we paid for a shore excursion from the boat. The effort to get the Saudi Visa was a bit nerve-wracking, with our visas only being approved in the late evening before the port visit. Our bus tour took us to the old city of Jeddah, which was actually fully under renovation, with construction crews working on seemingly every building. Apparently the entire place will be a walking, living museum in the future. We got to see the construction though. We went into a little coffee house for some local cardamom coffee samplers and dates, Then we went to more shopping district, and we chose to use our 45 minutes to visit a small local house museum. The bus drove along the Corniche, Jeddah’s boardwalk, and returned to the boat.
1. Family Learning Hour each evening before dinner - When we have the time, we like to have our family learning hour, in which we spend an hour teaching each other about various topics (passion project, Ted talk, Language/culture, Scripture, Current events, Music/literature). On the ship, we've designated the hour before dinner, and we're joined each day by the Martins. A cruise is a nice time to be consistent with this family tradition.
2. Cruise dining options - One of my favorite things about a cruise is the evening restaurant dining. I love sitting down to the table each night and being handed a menu and choosing from the appetizer, main course and dessert, or maybe two of each, or usually at least two of each.
3. Learning to play bridge - There is a bridge class being taught on board, and we're enjoying learning to play bridge as a family. We still like spades a little better, but we're also still learning.
4. Visits to new countries for Erik, Greece and Saudi Arabia - so far, 2 of the six new countries have been checked off the list for me.
1. Lack of all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream - Yes, I know its whiney, but we've always had soft-serve ice cream at our fingertips on cruises in the past. MSC leaves this out of the options for some reason.
2. Single-use internet option - The internet on board is only good for a single device, rather than a single device at a time. This means that rather than being able to use all our phones and computers in sequence for our internet time, we can only use one computer and share it between everyone to get internet time. It is much more inconvenient than other ships we've been on.
Fall Semester 2022
Here we go again! Our 8 Suitcases have been whittled down to 4 suitcases as we take a four month world trip with our two youngest kids, Megan and Jacob. From Canada to Europe to islands in the Indian Ocean and finally to South Africa, from Sep to Dec 2022, here are our travels and experiences.