I’ve had this bucket list for as long as I can remember, only I didn’t always call it a bucket list. It was just a list of things I wanted to do, things I wanted to accomplish, places I wanted to go, etc.
When I was invited on a complimentary press trip with the Carnival Sunshine, I saw right away that I would be able to knock a few things off my bucket list, and the excitement of doing that was almost as great as the excitement of actually seeing the newly renovated Carnival Sunshine!
I’ve always wanted to visit Spain, though my main focus was the Canary Islands – after seeing Anthony Bourdain film an episode of No Reservations in the Canary Islands years ago, I became obsessed with the idea of eating tapas there! Of course we have tapas all over the place in Miami, almost every big city does. But to eat those delicious morsels in Spain? I had to do it!
Since my cruise and airfare for the Carnival Sunshine trip was paid for by Carnival Cruise Lines, I was able to do much more on this trip than I would have if I had footed the entire bill. I arranged to arrive in Barcelona 2 days before our cruise embarkation so that Angeline and I would have time to wander, shop, sight-see…and of course, EAT!
Unfortunately, I realized when we arrived that I had forgotten one important detail…most tapas in Spain are of the seafood variety. And I am allergic to shellfish. I honestly couldn’t eat over half of the items on the various tapas menus. I was able to order flat bread pizzas and plenty of croquettas, however!
Now, eating is a huge part of my love of travel. I love to eat – who doesn’t? – and I love immersing myself in the culture of the places I visit by ordering local dishes, and I always try whatever regional specialties are offered in the restaurants we visit.
I’ve always wanted to eat pizza in Naples. We went on the Ancient Herculaneum shore excursion that I bought through the Carnival Sunshine Shore Excursions desk, and I was a bit scared that we wouldn’t have time to hit up a restaurant when we got back – there was only an hour after our arrival before we left for our next port!
But alas, there were two restaurants right there at the port in Naples and I found that one even had free wifi for guests!
We ordered a Margherita pizza, which was much different from the styles of pizza we have back home in Miami. The crust wasn’t so much like a bread (like we’re used to from Papa Johns and Pizza Hut), but it was more doughy. The bottom was crispy, and the top was soft and chewy. It was covered in a crushed tomato sauce, and there were dollops of fresh mozzarella sprinkled on top. I personally love extra cheesy pizza, but I really loved this pizza anyway! The pizza that we usually eat, the cheese is the best part and the crust is just a vehicle for that cheese…not with this pizza. The crust, the sauce, the cheese; they were all equally delicious and enjoyable in their own right. I could easily get used to this kind of pizza!
I’ve dreamt of seeing the Colosseum for as far back as I can remember. I’ve always been obsessed with Italy…the history, the religion, the art, the food, the culture, the language – I’ve been dreaming of traveling to Italy ever since I knew what it was!
After our Carnival Sunshine cruise ended in Venice, we bought train tickets to Rome and spent three days there before flying home. I booked a hotel that was centrally located, and while I wasn’t extremely impressed with the hotel because our bed wasn’t very comfy (our pillows were as hard as rocks too), I could not have found a better location! I’ll share more on that later, though!
I bought tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palentine Hill guided tour with Dark Rome Tours through Viator.com, and when Angeline got sick in Rome, I ended up having to leave her at the hotel and go on the tour by myself. Luckily, there were about 10 other people on the tour so I wasn’t alone.
Our English-speaking guide was actually an Italian archaeologist! Seriously, you just can’t get any better than that. An Italian archaeologist taking you through some of the most important ruins in Rome? I was in heaven!!
And so I saw the Colosseum, in all it’s glory. I walked where emperors walked. I walked where gladiators walked. I saw a bit of what the Romans saw in ancient times…and it was everything that I dreamt it would be.
A friend of mine sent me an article a few months ago by some dude who recommended skipping a trip to the Colosseum, that it was just a crumbling old arena. If you care at all about history, I implore you never listen to people who talk like that.
There is something so powerful about being in places like this; something that draws you in, overwhelms you with emotion – this is our history. Not just Italians, but all mankind. These buildings, these monuments, no matter how badly preserved: this is what has shaped our modern civilization. The ingenuity of the Colosseum, in its time, is an indication of how much we can accomplish, is it not?
Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is see Mount Vesuvius. Maybe it’s the flatland Miami girl in me, but volcanoes fascinate me!
I booked the Ancient Herculaneum shore excursion through Carnival Sunshine because I knew from research that the ruins were in far better shape than those at Pompeii, and really wanted our visit to make an impression on Angeline. You can read all about our visit here, but really, the highlight for me was making my dream of seeing Mount Vesuvius in person come true!
There was actually a shore excursion that would have taken us directly TO Mount Vesuvius, but it would have involved quite a hike. As much as I would have liked to climb to the very top, I knew that I was not physically in any shape to make the hike – and with the sweltering heat, it would not have been a good idea to push ourselves.
But I still saw it, and even from a distance, it was as massive and impressive as I thought it would be.
So what’s next on my bucket list?
It seems that 2013 is the year that I make many dreams come true! Chris and I just booked a vacation in the Dominican Republic, and we will be staying at an all-inclusive resort, which is one of my bucket list items! We booked an Islander Junior Suite at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino…and I can’t wait to go!! We’re going for a friend’s wedding, and not only will it be my first time in the Dominican Republic, but our first time staying at an all-inclusive resort.
Stay tuned in November when I share my trip with you!