Monday, July 26, 2010

Monte Carlo... home of the rich & famous

The first stop on our 7-day cruise was Monte Carlo, Monaco. Monaco is part of the Province of the Maritime Alps, with Monte Carlo located at the foot of those mountains, therefore you can imagine that the land is rocky and hilly. Interesting fact... Monaco is basically half the size of Central Park in NYC. Can you imagine? That's the entire country!

Monaco can be divided into six neighborhoods, the most well known being Monte Carlo (from Italian origin meaning "Mount Charles"), founded in 1866 and named to compliment the prince of Monaco at the time... Charles III. I won't go into the history, but you can click here if you're interested in learning more about the founding of Monaco. I will drop a couple of names that will likely be familiar to you... Prince Rainier III (late ruler of Monaco) and his wife Princess Grace Kelly (late American actress, formerly of Philadelphia, PA).

Monte Carlo is of course famous for its casinos, luxurious hotels and expensive yachts. It's been featured in movies and TV series and hosts the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. Chevrolet even named one of its cars "Monte Carlo." The rich and famous flock to Monte Carlo for a variety of reasons... to gamble in poker tournaments, attend fashion shows or boxing matches or to simply enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We chose to tour this small principality ourselves rather than pay for a guided excursion. Here are some of the photos we took that day...
It was quite foggy the day we docked in Monaco. I was hoping the fog would lift so we could get a better view of the area.

Thankfully I got my wish. The fog began to lift and visibility was much improved.

Here's a little closer view of the city.

Beautiful architecture!

We climbed to the top of this and walked the grounds of a gorgeous garden. I believe the garden was a favorite project of Princess Grace, if I read the brochure correctly.

One of the marinas

The boys are ready to venture into town.

There's no excuse for not picking up after pets here! They provide both the baggies and waste receptacles.

Looks like some kind of amphitheater, but I'm not sure.

Just one of many colorful flower beds we saw in the garden.

The landscaping was spectacular. We want their gardener!

This statue is the Virgin Mother by Damion Hirst.

My sweet hubby

Couldn't believe the number of seagulls that allowed us to get so close before flying away. Okay, so I zoomed in a little, but not that much.

Look at all the expensive boats and yachts down there! Poor, pitiful, poverty-stricken people undoubtedly reside here. Sad, isn't it?

Just a different view

Prince's Palace of Monaco

Royal guard on duty

Fabulous view of the port in Monaco. See our cruise ship?

These gorgeous flowering vines, which I believe are bougainvillea, were plentiful in the area.

My hubby and me in Monte Carlo

The boys in Monte Carlo with our cruise ship in the background

We enjoyed strolling through the narrow streets and alleys, perusing shops and checking out the food on everyone's plates along the way.

There's no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to have some ice cream, especially when it looked as sinfully enticing as this. I had the peach-mango and it was beyond delicious.

We enjoyed our day in Monte Carlo and stopped to pick up a couple of postcards and souvenirs for the boys before the day was through. Upon our return to the ship, one of the boys (no names mentioned) realized he'd lost his I.D. card, the one we had to use to get on and off the ship. He was panicked and absolutely grief-stricken! I don't know if he thought we were going to leave him behind and continue on the cruise without him or what. My hubby went to inquire as to what we needed to do in order to obtain a new card, and thankfully some nice person had found the card lying on the street, picked it up and returned it to the ship. Crisis averted and lesson learned! From that point on, all I.D. cards were given to my hubby for safe keeping.

Next stop... Livorno, Italy, where we visited Florence and Pisa. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 5, 2010


We went cruisin' in June, and I don't mean cruisin' in a car on a Saturday night either. We went on A CRUISE (our first) and had the best time. I'm going to be sharing lots of photos and details of our 7-day Mediterranean cruise with you over the next several days. First, allow me to show and tell you a little about our ship.

We sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line's "Jade," flying to Barcelona, Spain (where the ship would depart), making stops in the following port locations, before returning to Barcelona...

Monte Carlo, Monaco
Livorno, Italy
Civitavecchia, Italy
Naples, Italy
Palma de Majorca, Spain

Here she is... Norwegian's "Jade." The ship is known for its freestyle cruising concept, which basically means passengers have no set dining times, no assigned tables and a relaxed dress code.

I'm still amazed when I look at photos of the ship. The Jade is quite impressive with the capacity to accommodate over 2000 passengers and another 1000 or so crew members. It has 12 passenger decks, pools, spa, fitness center, several restaurants and bars, casino, live entertainment, etc.

Because we'd never been on a cruise before, we had no idea if any of us would be seasick, therefore we loaded up on motion sickness meds... just in case. Never needed 'em!

I'd always thought it would be fun to take a cruise, but just wasn't sure I'd ever have the opportunity. Living in Spain made cruising the Mediterranean very convenient since we just had to fly to Barcelona, which was a short trip for us. This was the perfect opportunity for our family!

My hubby told me he'd used some of our timeshare points to upgrade our cabin to one of the penthouse suites, but I had no clue what that really meant. Imagine my surprise (and utter pleasure) when we walked into our room and saw this! This was the family room area with our own balcony, a fold-out couch and wall-mounted TV.

This is a different view of the same room. We had a table and chairs, mini-bar and a machine to make coffee/cappuchino/tea.

This was our bedroom. The boys had their own bedroom and bathroom. The master bathroom was large with double sinks, and a separate tub and shower with ocean views in each. There were 4 TVs in our suite... one each in the family room, boys' bedroom, master bedroom and master bathroom. Seriously!

Here's the front of the ship. I'm wondering if anyone ever got in that little pool down below.

This is the unisex area of the spa. These chairs were heated and quite relaxing.

We could lounge in the chairs in the previous photo and this was our view. Nice, huh?

My hubby relaxes in the super-sized spa hot tub.

We frequented the pool deck area as the boys had a blast in the pool.

M chills in the pool.

The boys must have gone up and down the slide at least 500 times.

D comes zooming down the slide. The kid at the bottom of the slide just camped out there, refusing to move out of the way, no matter how many times the boys asked him. The kid's father was right there too, but it didn't seem to phase either of them, so the boys finally gave up and just started going down the slide as they normally would. If they happened to run into the kid, so be it. This was probably the only negative thing that happened on the cruise.

My hubby and I spent some time in the poolside hot tubs. There were 4 of them surrounding the pool area, so we could enjoy ourselves while watching the boys swim, slip and slide.

This is a view of the pool deck from the deck above.

Sunbathers enjoy lounging one deck above the pool.

These hand sanitizer auto-dispensers could be found in various locations around the ship. With all the stories we'd heard about people getting sick on cruise ships, it was no surprise to see these everywhere. Where there was no auto-dispenser, there was a crew member with pump in hand to dispense hand sanitizer. We were made to sanitize our hands before entering the eating establishments, as well as before coming back onto the ship after an excursion. This was a germophobe's dream come true!

Playing shuffleboard on the sports deck.

There was even a basketball court on board!

Of course our family doesn't always need entertaining. Sometimes we make our own entertainment. Here my hubby is playing keep away with my son's hoodie. I can't take 'em anywhere!

The boys chill out.

A couple of times we found towels folded into the shapes of animals upon our return to the room. The boys were anxious to see which animals they'd find after returning from an excursion. The ship's housekeeping crew even held a special towel folding class for passengers.

The food was good, the crew members were helpful and very friendly, and of course the ship had lots to offer... something for everyone. We've decided we'd like to become "frequent floaters." Where do we sign up?

Stay tuned for more on the excursions we enjoyed while on our cruise...