Cruising: The Grandkids’ Guide

Florence

Photos and Text By Chris Heyes and Maddy Heyes

The Mediterranean is arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the world. Famous for its crystal clear seas and exotic coastlines, this region in southern Europe includes the fantastic south of France, where the most glamorous of the world’s citizens come to escape in cities like Nice and Monte Carlo, all the way to the daring mystery of Northern Africa in the ancient country of Tunisia. We were given the incredible opportunity to explore the Mediterranean the way it was meant to be: by sailing its waters from one country to the next.

Okay, so we didn’t exactly sail there on our own. Our family accompanied crew and passengers on the Noordam, a luxury ship from the Holland America Cruise Line. Experiencing the Mediterranean this way added a whole new level of adventure to the trip, we realized as we first laid eyes on our small but comfy cabin. The ship took some adjusting, too, but we soon felt as home as ever as we cruised the gorgeous waters.

Cuisine was prepared by expert chefs, and cruisers had the option of eating buffet style or relaxing in one of the many upper class restaurants. From chicken fingers for the kids to steak and salad for the parents, the ship has food that every age group will love and appreciate. We were never, ever hungry on the Noordam, as we dined on everything from creamy soups to succulent entrees and sweet desserts. (You know you’re in for a treat when your waiter calls dessert “the yummy yummy.”) Speaking of dining, some nights were more formal than others and, as always, parents and/or grandparents might worry about bringing their child/children to a fancy dinner – because children will be children – but the great thing about dining on the ship is that you usually sit in the same section every night, which allows you to get to know your waiter, and for kids even make a friend. They make everyone feel extremely comfortable and at ease while enjoying a three- or four-course meal. While going from port to port, there were also many activities on the ship to dive into including two pools (one more focused on family), an athletic centre where you can keep up with your fitness routine and even an area that’s large enough to show first-run movies (we saw The Hunger Games!).

As for the countries themselves, we embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that only got better with every country. Over 10 days, the Noordam docks in a new seaport town nearly every day, allowing the passengers to get off the ship and explore for themselves (which is great for people who would only like to be out for a short while or prefer to spend more time on the ship) or purchase specific day trips called shore excursions that would often go deeper into the countries with a tour guide allowing visitors to experience the countries to a much greater extent. For example, my family was able to experience the artistic Renaissance city of Florence and the city of Pisa in one day as we docked in Italy. This is the most effective way to do this cruise because there will always be something new to learn and discover through the different locales and tour guides. It also gives you and your family bonding time and memories that will connect you forever. If you love adventure and you don’t get seasick, this is the only way to travel the Mediterranean.

1-877-932-4259; www.hollandamerica.com

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FLORENCE

The Santa Maria Del Fiore church in Forence, Italy, behind Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo. (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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FLORENCE

Faithful reproductions of sculpture by artists like Michelangelo and Donatello mix with original architecture in the Piazza della Signoria. (Photo: Maddy Heyes)

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PISA

Situated next to the infamous Leaning Tower, the lesser known Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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MONACO

A beautiful wake up to the harbour at Monaco. (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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NICE

The beach on the coast of Nice. (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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NICE

The outdoor farmer’s and flower market, rich with lavender. (Photo: Maddy Heyes)

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CARTHAGE

The ancient ruins of Carthage, the famous city of Hannibal, one of ancient Rome’s greatest enemies, outside of Tunis. (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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SIDI BOU SAID

Hilltop town in Tunisia Sidi Bou Said artistically taking influence from the Greek islands such as Santorini. (Photo: Chris Heyes)

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