Inspired by my friend’s travel blog, I’m determined to record my experience going on a cruise with my spouse and my parents-in-law. The cruise was with Viking Cruises and it was called Mediterranean Odyssey. It was just under $8k per person, and our first all-inclusive trip experience.
We didn’t really take much vacation during the pandemic – a small trip to Napa in Summer 2022 served as a mini vacation but the others were mostly going here and there for weddings or family stuff. So this was our first “longer than a week” vacation, and our mind was set on making it lazy as possible. My parents-in-law were planning this trip already, so it was a great opportunity to jump in and let ourselves be taken care of.
The trip was 11/7/2022 ~ 11/19/2022, so I’m documenting this three months after the trip and reconstructing my memories as I go.
Table of Contents
Day 1: Venice
Day 2: Split
Day 3: Dubrovnik
Day 4: Corfu
Day 5: Ionian Sea
Day 6: Naples
Day 7: Rome
Day 8: Florence
Day 9: Villefranche-sur-Mer
Day 10: Cassis
Day 11: Barcelona
Italy - Venice
We went on a walking tour of Venice, which all kind of blurred together, but the water seeping everywhere was pretty memorable.
Piazza San Marco was beautiful and the imagery reminded me of many jewelry and watch designs. It must serve as inspiration.
It was really crowded and touristy but charming!
I got my mom and us some souvenir Venician glass.
Croatia - Split & Dubrovnik
Split was pretty chill, not very touristy, has an interesting history (all of these Mediterranean cities do) and thus mix of influences in the architecture. Limestone, limestone, limestone was my takeaway. Also, cats!
Watching the locals walk by the beach reminded me of SoCal.
Dubrovnik was much more touristy than Split, but I kind of liked it! They were really selling on the Game of Thrones angle, which I didn’t buy, but I got rose essential oil and rosemary packets as souvenirs. We also went to a museum where we learned about dowry balls.
We also got lunch at Taj Mahal, a Bosnian restaurant and it was my favorite meal! We just walked by and entered and it was a hit. There was a local elementary school nearby and we could hear the children running around.
Greece - Corfu
I don’t remember much about Corfu except that we went on a bus tour where we looked at ancient Greek ruins then walked around a touristy area.
I had the best gelato of the trip. I’ve been longing for a pure milk flavored ice cream since Hokkaido, which I had when I was 12, and I was able to have it at the Papagiorgis Patiserie-Gelateria.
As for souvenirs, we got some kumquat liquor.
Travel Day - Ionian Sea
On the travel day, we learned a new game from my parents-in-law called Hand and Foot, which required 5 decks of cards, which we acquired from the guest desk in the cruise.
For dinner, we had Manfredi’s which was maybe the most underwhelming meal. We had gotten the reservation before the trip but I think because we had a late reservation (like 8pm), it wasn’t a great experience. We went to Manfredi’s again another night (earlier) and it was much better.
Italy Again - Naples, Rome, and Florence
When people say SF is dirty, they should see Naples!
And I don’t mean this in a bad way. Dirty cities are not in itself bad to me, they’re interesting and lively.
This day we explored on our own, hitting up the Archeological Museum, getting Napolitan pizza, and going to a supermarket on the way back.
The pizza was not my favorite but the fried zucchini flowers were really tasty!
We went on our own again for Rome, hitting up St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps on foot.
It was all very touristy but memorable!
The line for St. Peter’s Basilica moved relatively quickly and the inside was pretty breathtaking. Very extravagant… can see that all the megachurches of the US strive to be like this.
The pantheon was interesting in that it showed the history of the religions – now that I’m learning a bit about Indian mythology, there’s something to relate to with various religions competing with each other.
We explored Florence on our own too, and it was the one rainy day on this trip.
We went shopping at the leather school which was very fun!
France - Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cassis
Time for France!
I had been practicing French on Duolingo for a year and it was nice to use it finally!
We had lunch in Villefranche-sur-Mer (spouse and dad-in-law had a ton of mussels), and then went on the train to Nice.
Villefranche-sur-Mer had the most beautiful colors and buildings, and Nice was very metropolitan.
For Marseille, we had signed up for “Winter in Cassis & Calanques” where we went out on a guided boat where they explained the geographic characteristics of the calanques.
Afterwards we had crepe and ice cream on the beach and it was very relaxing.
Sunset from Cassis:
Spain - Barcelona
In Barcelona, we were part of a guided walking tour that explored the Sagrada Familia (my second time here – first time was with the tour with my youth orchestra – we played Firebird and West Side Story 10 years ago.)
It was a bit sad/funny to see a huge Samsung ad on the Archdiocese of Barcelona.
I took on finding a lunch restaurant, and found a bar-style restaurant in the market called Clemen’s Boqueria – that was a great experience, with a super fun bar master and authentic food!
Viking Cruises was awesome! All the staff and crew were working so hard, I felt guilty about not working! They were all very nice and the ship was well designed.
My favorite restaurant in the ship was The Restaurant for breakfast and dinner – we went there many nights. The other restaurants except The World Cafe (a buffet) were reservation only, but sort of underwhelming. I think it’s important to get an early appointment because the food and service gets worse as the night goes. The bars are great, and my package included all you can drink alcohol, so I definitely got sick the first couple of nights after getting carried away.
Breakfast at The Restaurant - I didn’t really take much pictures because The non-World Cafe food was served as a course. It was unexpected for me to encounter congee in the cruise so I enjoyed it very much!
World Cafe had a beautiful patio and the buffet choices were great! The sushi was available every night and often times I would get second dinner there.
We had the “Asian Panorama” course at the Chef’s Table, and it was pretty good, but the dessert was especially good (dessert on the cruise was always spot on).
There’s live classical music in the atrium, and I feel bad for saying this because I’m so spoiled by all the wonderful musicians I’ve had the opportunity to play with and listen to – the acoustics was not ideal (cello was not raised), and the music was optimized for time quantity than performance quality.
The spa was easily my favorite place and I did sauna + water bath as many times I could fit in my schedule.
Finally, the overall mood of the cruise: we were addressed as Sir <First Name> and Madame <First Name> and that was kind of awkward! We’re not used to being addressed like that. The ship was around 700 people, and most people on the cruise were old and I felt like I stood out a lot, feeling very self conscious everywhere I go. I realized how much I love being ignored by strangers, I could not walk anywhere without the staff greeting me, and that was a bit stifling!
Overall, what a fun time! I would not go on a cruise like this again for another 30 years, but I’m glad we went! The time we spent with my parents-in-law was really priceless :)
I don’t recommend cruises to people who like to hustle in their travel destinations, but highly recommend to people who don’t like making decisions, and like to go with the flow.