The approach to Pisa, I took a bus from the port of Livorno and this was my first sight of the Basilica and leaning tower of Pisa
Nearly 3 months ago I went on the most amazing assignment for Cruise International Magazine, I sailed from Rome to Barcelona, a 4 night cruise on the Norwegian Epic, it's been so hard to not talk about it but finally, the article is published, you can get your sticky mitts on a copy of the magazine (I'm on pages 76-79) at any newsagents with a good selection of travel magazines. It's a thrill to be published anywhere but to have 4 whole pages in a magazine you can hold in your hands breathing in the smell of print is something quite special indeed.
You can also read my Solo Cruising experience on the Norwegian Epic digitally of course but I for one shall mainly be seen clutching a stack of copies for the foreseeable future.
If you've never thought of travelling on your own before then I heartily recommend it, there's a freedom that comes from travelling solo, no schedules, no plans, no one else to answer to just long days full of exploration or relaxation if that's more your thing. On a cruise you can do as much or as little as you like.
When I travelled on the Norwegian Epic it was the end of November, the weather was cold, damp and windy back in the UK and my vitamin D supplies were badly in need of restoration. Believe me, there's no tonic quite so potent as standing ankle deep in the warm waters Mediterranean sea with the sun shining brightly above you, now try imagining that you're doing that and you're in Cannes, land of the famous, rich and privileged. Every day there was something which made me pinch myself, simple things like sharing the sunset with Abigail and Looby over Facetime, sitting at the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa looking out over Tuscany, peering out of the aeroplane and seeing the green patchwork landscape of Italy below you, or the realisation as you look down from the highest point of Palma De Mallorca that it's November and you're wearing flip flops and a summer dress. There were so many special memories which I've saved in that special place inside me, places I go to when I mediate or need to clear my mind and yes, I took a couple of hundred photos, you can see my Highlights of Rome to Barcelona on YouTube. I thought rather than posting all 190 images at once I'd compile a slideshow set to lovely twinkly music and so if that's your thing go click that link.
I think the thing that sets apart Norwegian Cruise Lines from many of the others is the fact that they do offer studio cabins for single people, no single supplement, your own compact studio (with a bed big enough to starfish in) with lots of hidden storage and my favourite thing, the mood lighting! I also loved the studio lounge where I would gather in the early evening for drinks with my new found friend. You're never alone unless you want to be, they have boards you can sign yourself up for dinner or to go to any of the shows, there's just no pressure to do anything! One night I dined with a group of my new found cruise friends, a grand Thanksgiving dinner and on the other nights, executive chef Alok Kumar (a culinary magician) had arranged for me to try some of the speciality dining experiences. one highlight was sitting right at the back of the boat with a huge round moon shining brightly over the waves as we sailed having the finest filet mignon I've ever tasted. For the first time in my life I felt like a VIP.
In just 4 days I visited more of the world than I had for most of my adult life, if anything my itchy feet just continue to get itchier and I hope this publication leads me to further journeys, adventures and experiences around the world. Solo travel may to some seem a little intimidating but you know what I think cruising Norwegian style means that even the most anxious of travellers needn't worry because you're always so well looked after. Even the time when I went to put my dinner tray outside my cabin and locked myself out of the cabin, oh how we laughed as I stood barefoot in the corridor, exclaiming "halp" thankfully my cabin steward never seemed far away and I was back inside my cabin in no time at all.
I met so many wonderful people on my cruise but at the same time I spent so much time just enjoying my own company, strolling through the streets of Cannes, wandering the pavements of Palma De Mallorca and ambling down the Italian avenues in Pisa noting how curious it is that the proximity of McDonalds and the leaning tower of Pisa are quite so close. I think I'm very lucky to have experienced these places outside of the main tourist season, no where was too busy, even Pisa, I've heard that in summer you can wait for many hours to climb the tower, book ahead, they only let so many up at one time because of the general state of the tower (let me just say that Italian health and safety isn't quite at the same level as British health and safety and tour guides, well you'll just have to experience Italian tour guides, wink wink).
I don't know where or when my next adventure will be but I know I have the bug for solo travel and more so cruising, it's like entering a magical bubble for a week and leaving reality aside and that is never a bad thing. The only problem you might have is that you'll never want to rejoin the real world again.
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