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Ah, Greece, how you've captured our hearts at first sight! The serene crisp white stucco adobe homes covered with bougainvillea, accented with bright pops of blue shutters, and doors sitting above these hills with views of the sea; you can’t help but fall in love and feel at ease with this picturesque Greek island of Santorini. It was intensely hot and humid on that day of exploring so there were many breaks, sitting down on stoops alongside the shady side of the narrow streets, filled with cafes and shops to catch a breeze and people watch.




The Amalfi coast was our second destination on our European summer vacation this year after Rome and what a relaxing treat that was! As a limoncello lover, one of the must-dos on this trip to Salerno, Italy was to head to the Amalfi coast for a lemon grove tour. That morning, we started out a lot later than we planned which caused us to run late for our tour time and we thought for certain that we missed this much-anticipated expedition. Seeing how behind we were running, we got bummed out thinking “oh well, we missed this tour (that we had already paid for). Now, what are we going to do?” Being hopeful, we still decided to head to our meeting point anyway to see if by any chance they waited for us.

Waited they did! Well, she did. To our pleasant surprise, there was a nice young lady who must have come back and waited for us in an adorable lemon mobile. You can only imagine our relief and happiness. As soon as we hopped on that golf cart emblazoned with lemons, we got a zippy ride up the steep winding road to the Limoncello factory, where we met our official tour guide who had already started with the group. Thankfully, we didn’t miss much. We progressively made our incline to the lemon groves as the gentleman thoroughly explained the agricultural history and the arduous process that a small hand-operated family has to endure to grow and maintain lemons in that region of Italy. Climbing steep rocky mountains in the hot and humid temps made the trek even more strenuous but it was worth it once we reached the shady top overlooking picturesque cliffs, lush Mediterranean views, and lemons the size of oranges.



We spent our whole afternoon tasting this amazing fruit. We had booked our tour with lunch included, so after the journey of walking through the lemon groves, we took the narrow stairs down to the outdoor Terrazza perched above the cliffs where we were served freshly squeezed lemonade, homemade lemon cake, learned how to make limoncello (for the second time in my life), and tasted the strongest and tastiest limoncello made on site. As we sat there enjoying this wonderful respite surrounded by stunning vistas taking in the breeze blowing from the mountains - behind us were the owner’s wife, her cousins and other relatives in the outdoor kitchen making our lunch. In the meantime, the husband brought us a bottle of wine while we waited. When the food arrived, it was a complete feast just for the two of us. I’m talking everything freshly homemade from the pasta, the salads that, of course, included lemons to the dessert and down to the cappuccino. We couldn’t believe our eyes (neither could our bellies), as course after course came since we are not big eaters, but it all was spectacular. It was one of the most memorable afternoons well-spent in Italy. 




The tour was not only insightful and interactive, but the passion the family has for their land, their environment, their family and their food was so inspiring. Now I need a siesta just thinking about it all! 

Addio amore,

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We first fell for cruising the world on the high seas nineteen years ago when we tested the waters (no pun intended) to see if traveling in this manner was for us. To our greatest delight, we loved the experience contrary to the many negative ideas, myths and fears we had heard from those who had never cruised before. In fact, we discovered it was one of the most relaxing ways to travel. Ever since then, all of our annual summer vacations always include a cruise on the agenda. 

Now our motto is 'the longer the itinerary, the better' and Holland America Line offers some great long journey packages. Over the years, we have also come to appreciate that traveling on smaller ships affords us the peace and tranquility we’re after on vacation and a much more intimate first-rate service from the staff, which enhances our traveling experience. I could go on and on, but today I want to share the top five reasons why we love cruising. 

1. One-Stop-Shop Accommodations. Personally, the idea of an early morning wakeup, schlepping my luggage from one place to the next especially along cobblestone streets, possibly in inclement weather waiting for a ferry, bus, or train isn't my definition of a carefree, relaxing vacation.

On a cruise, you just board the ship and find your room or grab a cocktail while you wait a few minutes for your luggage to arrive in your room. It's easier to slip into vacation mode, as you don't have to worry about living out of a suitcase packing and unpacking at each destination. Instead, you unpack once and get organized as if you just moved into a much sought after cozy NYC city apartment. 

What's more, beforehand you can have them put fresh flowers in your room which I highly recommend! It brightens up the space and adds to your bliss upon entering the room as well as after a day of sightseeing. Also, after I thoroughly disinfect and sterilize every nook and cranny, I always bring my favorite oil diffuser to freshen the cabin's air and create a more pleasant experience.


2. Better Value For Your Money. With a cruise, your package price includes accommodations, food (and you're talking a variety of choices that your heart desires without worrying about the cost and if you don't like one dish, you can return it and try a different one), daytime and evening entertainment, and shuttle or tender transportation between destinations. No searching for hotels in your price range, no coordinating travel between cities and you can even choose a departure port within driving distance if you're not into flying or want to eliminate that extra planning step. Plus, you get better quality service than you usually would get on land. 



3. Amazing Itinerary Destinations. The ability to pick an itinerary that suits your preferences and allows you to visit cities on your travel wishlist in one vacation is just sensational! In addition to that is the idea of waking up in a new place every day just makes it even that much more thrilling. I mean, who would love that? I view cruising like wine tasting. You taste one country and city a day at a time until you find your favorite one that you'd want to travel to and spend more time exploring. That's how we've discovered so many of our favorite places over the years. 

4. Complete Disconnection. Between the expensive and limited sloooow wifi package service and/or roaming fees while at sea, you'll quickly find yourself turning off that darn phone completely and locking it up in your safe. Besides, the amount of onboard activities that are designed for your enjoyment inspires you to get in vacation mode, savoring every moment of your time. Cruising is an ideal vacation for us as it helps us to live our fantasy life of living off-the-grid. The vistas of endless ocean, the stars twinkling above as you feel the wind on your face and the gentle soft sound of the ship cutting through the ocean is so liberating! 


5. Great Bar Lounges and Restaurants. If you're anything like us, you not only enjoy aesthetically pleasing bars but a lively atmosphere, where you can imbibe on tasty drinks while carrying on delightful conversations with friendly bartenders. Also, the specialty and pop up restaurant's menu from world-renowned chefs containing just about everything you could ever want to eat or never tried before can be a foodie's dream. Think of wine tasting from different regions to fancy five-course wine pairing dinners. 

Essentially, it is not that life ashore is distasteful to us but life at sea is better, because we wanted freedom, open-air, and adventure which we find on the sea.

If you also love cruising, I want to hear what your top reasons are as to why you love it. Please don't hesitate to share in the comment box below the post. 

* See more travel posts here
* You can also check our past cruises here.