Italy. Greece. Montenegro.

Leg 2 of our journey took us to Italy, Greece and Montenegro. We arrived in Venice, Italy via on flight from London Gatwick Airport operated by British Airways. This was a fairly short flight, at 2 hours.

The Airport and Flight Experience

London Gatwick Airport was more shopping-focused. It required all passengers who checked in to walk right through the Duty-Free shops before reaching any of the gates. Passengers who fly also do not receive gate information until about half an hour before boarding. We were lucky to find a kids play area with some soft blocks and other gymnastic-like stuff for Kai to play around in.

The play area was perfect for him to get some energy out! I took Kai there while Michael took his parents to find the lounge since Kai and I had already eaten before we arrived to the airport.

We stayed in the play area for about an hour and a half. Thankfully, kids came and went. Kai was very much entertained. We left the area once so Kai could go potty. He was able to go #2 on the big potty. Phew. Thank goodness because I did not have access to his travel potty at the time. I only had his stroller and my cell phone.

I finally connected to the 90 minute free internet at Gatwick airport and phoned Michael via iPhone calling to see how long they were going to be because I was parched!

They came back and were worried our flight was going to be delayed because we hadn’t received any gate information. After about 2o minutes we were given our gate. We went down to the boarding level, and it was literally all gates. Of course there were some vending machines, with Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and some chips and other snacks.

June 9, 2018 – Venice, Italy

We landed at Marco Polo Airport in Venice, Italy on the evening of June 9th and took the ATVO shuttle bus from the airport to Venezia Piazzle Roma. Then we walked a few hundred feet to our hotel, Hotel Olimpia. It was around 9pm once we checked in. The receptionist was very kind and extremely helpful when giving us directions to the cruise terminal for the next morning.

We had a wonderful balcony overlooking the canal below us. The air was hot + humid outside that evening, but there was a nice cool breeze.

Ordering room service was such a breeze. The pizza and spaghetti bolognese were absolutely delizioso! We had a lovely night’s stay at Hotel Olimpia.

June 10, 2018 – Venice and Cruise Embarkation

We woke up, got breakfast, checked out, and then went on a gondola ride for about a half an hour. The hotel was able to hold our luggage while we were exploring the area.

Then we went back to grab our luggage and made the journey to the People Mover, a monorail that take passengers from Piazza Roma to the port and parking lot. It was only 1,50 a person to take this option vs. paying 50 in total for a taxi.

The only downside was we had to move the luggage over small bridges and cobblestone walkways. Don’t forget we also had Kai in tow in his stroller. Thank goodness we brought his lightweight umbrella stroller. I was able to easily lift him up so he could go along for the ride.

It wasn’t too bad of a commute. Of course our cruise ship, the MSC Musica, was literally the farthest one away.

We had priority check-in so we got special treatment. We were on the ship in no time. It was a little different the way they gave us our room keys and took our pictures on this cruise ship.

Our room keys were in our rooms with the doors cracked open. Our prepaid excursion tickets and daily schedule.

It was nice we got the Aurea package because it’s an all-inclusive one where all of our drinks are included.

This was also the first time ever that I had stayed in a room with a balcony! It is very nice and useful for drying our towels and bathing suits.

My in -laws got a separate room from us for the duration of the cruise.

But we had requested we be seated for dinner together. I guess dinner here is eaten later than we are used to. The first seating is at 7pm. Here are some pictures from our dinners on board the MSC Musica.

I am currently trying to put together a separate post about our overall cruise experience as well as a cost breakdown for the cruise portion of our trip.

However, I am not sure if I will be able to accomplish this task. Fingers crossed that I will have the stamina to complete this!

June 11, 2018 – Brindisi, Italy

Our cruise ship docked at 1pm. Michael’s  parents booked an excursion on their own to see the town of Lecce.

We decided to explore the area on our own. There was a free shuttle bus for cruise passengers to take to the city center, which was very useful!

Brindisi is a cute Italian town. The area we explored had white buildings and a cobblestone walkway. There were also some street vendors set up in an area with some cool trinkets.

My mission was to find a pair of shorts since I only packed one, and they are hiking ones. I thought I had more, but I was wrong. I wear a size 12, and my mission proved to be impossible. First of all, there weren’t many shops that calls shorts. I mean there were a lot of places that sold Bermuda shorts and men’s shorts. But the style of shorts in this area differed from the style I wanted.

While the little shops were cute, they didn’t offer a lot of variety in terms of sizes. So they were limited on inventory.

I finally found a sports shop that sold shorts, and I ended up getting a pair of light-weight white capris.

Mission semi-accomplished! Onto the next stop.

June 12, 2018 – Katakolon, Greece

Our first stop in Greece was the gateway to Olympia, the site of the very first Olympics!

Boy was it hot hot hot that day. We had pre-booked an excursion to visit the historical site along with an olive estate.

Our cruise docked about a half an hour from Olympia. We boarded our bus and off we went. The tour was given in English and German. But boy that tour guide couldn’t shut up. I mean it was non stop explanations for a half an hour! And that mic was LOUD. She was very thorough; I’ll give her that.

It also didn’t help that Kai did not sit still:/ we finally managed to get on his seat belt and he squirmed for a little while, but we gave him some sour strawberry raisins (boy are they life-changing), and he calmed down a little.

I am thankful that as soon as we reached the entrance gate, she gave us an assigned time to meet. This way, we were free to roam about and be comfortable to return back to the meeting point.

We didn’t stay with our tour guide because all Kai wanted to do was be in the Olympics! At first he thought he was at a dino dig site, excavating away. The ground was all dry dirt/sand and gravel. He was covered in it, even while in his umbrella stroller.

After ten minutes, Kai was free to roam the site, stroller free! Boy was he really running wild. I mean this kid was stuck on a bus for half an hour and then sat in a stroller for another 20 minutes. It was all that built up energy!

The ruins were really underwhelming. Mainly because it was ridiculously hot! The weather reminded me of Arizona; it was a dry heat.

I definitely can say that if we ever return back to the site, I want to do more research on the different buildings on my own. I would have enjoyed visiting the site had I known what each building housed beforehand. Yes, I know we had a tour guide. But, we also had a toddler with us who wanted to explore on his own.

Our next stop was the Magna Grecia estate which was only about a ten minute drive away from the site. There, we were welcomed with a glass of white wine or water, and a traditional Greek snack. It was sort of like a mini meat pie = very tasty.

The 4th generation owner of the farm gave us a presentation about the olive oil making process. Then took us to taste the olive oils and the olives, which were delicious!

Then, we all went to a banquet type room where there was red table wine, water and a tasting plate, which consisted of a lot of good food!

Then, there was a traditional folk dance performance by the workers. And the whole crowd joined in.

At this point Kai was ready for a nap. He fell asleep on Papa and stayed sleeping until after we departed the estate. I think he woke up because our tour guide was talking a lot on the way back to the cruise ship.

Overall, the excursion was worth it. This particular tour didn’t cater to our toddler so much. We knew that going into it. We received entry to Olympia and had a wonderful and warm welcome by the local farmhouse! We would not have had the experience of visiting an olive farm had we not taken the excursion.

Sure, it was also one of those touristy stops, but hey we are tourists.

June 13, 2018 – Santorini, Greece

Our second stop was this beautiful island of Santorini where we had planned to go on separate excursions from my in-laws. Kai was supposed to sleep over at Grammy and Papas the night before and go with them on their excursion because the one Michael and I picked did not allow children.

My in laws were going to visit Oia Village. We were going to the caldera and swim a half and hour to the hot springs.

During dinner the night before, I was getting a little concerned because Kai has a runny nose. But we decided to let him spend the night.

Of course, after Michael and I got back to our room, we received a phone call that Kai had vomited and wanted mommy and Daddy 😦 poor baby.

Thankfully. We know God was there looking down on us. It was really strange, but we received a notice that our caldera excursion did not have enough English speakers for them to give us a tour in our language. After speaking with the excursions desk, we decided to cancel it, seeing as we did not speak German or Italian.

That really worked out because I know my mother in law was worried about taking Kai with them on their excursion.

That morning we woke up late, around 10am, and we took the tender boat into town with Kai. Initially I was going to let the boys rest while I explored Santorini on my own. But it seemed like after Kai threw up last night he was a lot less congested.

Donkeys. We rode them up! There were a lot of steps to go up, and we didn’t want to take the cable car up. Kai LOVED riding on the donkey with Daddy.

He kept wanting to ride it, even after we made it up the 570ish steps.

I was thankful the donkey ride was over. Phew! I felt like I was holding on for dear life, especially since the donkeys we’re trained to walk on the sides (closer to the walls) and boy was that scary looking over the edge, as we went farther and farther up the cliff.

I do have to say that the whole ride up I was feeling a little guilty for the donkey. I mean it was carrying my weight. The other donkey carried Michael AND Kai.

Afterwards, Michael explained to me that they are working animals and that they probably have done this for centuries. They might have had to carry goods or other things up the hill before tourists. I felt a little better about it all. I do have to say the donkeys all looked very healthy. And I know the owners know which ones to assign to different people based on weight, etc. because Michael’s donkey led the whole pack! And, it was definitely carrying the most weight.

We left the cruise ship that morning without eating anything with the intention of finding a nice restaurant or cafe. That definitely worked out because we found a lovely restaurant while we walked around. Kai was hungry. We were hungry.

The view of Classico Restaurant was absolutely stunning!

It worked out that we didn’t go on our excursion because we were able to have a wonderful meal and Kai got to ride a donkey. We picked him up a stuffed donkey toy with a bandana that reads Santorini. He loves it!

Later that night, he wanted to watch Shrek. Why? The donkey of course! 🙂

June 14, 2018 – Piraeus, Greece

One word that comes to mind when I think of Athens. Graffiti. Yes, the photos don’t show that side of Athens. But, it is a painted city. Rough around the edges, with a story-filled history.

We decided to explore the Acropolis in Athens after our cruise docked in Pireaus. Knowing it was going to be a tough trip with Kai we asked Michael’s parents to watch him for a couple of hours.

Thank God we made the journey on our own.

Once we docked we could feel the culture in this city differed drastically from the island we were just on. It felt more congested and more of a city with lots of buildings and shiny roofs.

The night before, we were given tickets to to use at our discretion for the Hop on Hop off bus, at £20/person.

When we exited the cruise terminal we noticed the bus along with a guy holding a Limo sign for £15/person to the Acropolis. That would have set us back £60 because we would have needed to return back to the ship.

We ended up choosing to take public transportation into Athens, which was a card that cost us £4,50/person. We were able to use that for the bus and the metro.

The X80 stop was just outside our port. Our cruise ship docked at E12 in Terminal B. There was a ticket office right beside the bus stop. The man in the booth informed us the X80 comes every 40 minutes. It was 10:40am. The next one was to arrive at 11:10am. That one was the last one before the bus drivers went on strike. Yes your read it right: strike.

On the way back, we were told to take the metro and walk about 20 minutes from the Piraeus station.

Since we had just missed the bus, we decided to ask for walking directions to the metro. The man in the booth advised us to take bus #843 six stops to the metro station and get on that and transfer to the Acropolis.

We made it, after three transfers. It took us a while, but we did it. Michael was mad at me because he didn’t want to deal with the transfers and take public transportation. He just would have preferred to take the private limo.

I was all about saving money. Realistically we couldn’t afford the ride since we had allocated a certain amount of Euros in cash to bring with us. At this point we only had about £50 in cash on us. Now if the limo was able to take card, that would have worked to our advantage. We didn’t end up checking.

We just went forward with the public transportation method. In my opinion, it wasn’t too bad of a commute.

I like taking journeys and experiencing the local culture.

Once we got to the Acropolis stop, we sprayed sunblock because it was very sunny and hot. We walked about five minutes to the ticket booth, purchased our tickets (£20/person for the Acropolis and the slopes), and made our way up to the site. It was a tough hike up the steps, a dry heat. But there was shade along the way up.

It was so magnificent. Such a sight. Overlooking the city. Such history. It was beautiful. Crowded, but beautiful.

We took lots of pictures. And lots of selfies. After getting our first selfie stick, we have really enjoyed looking like the self-absorbed tourists we are:)

After the travel high we experienced, there was only one way to go, down.

The exit was located in the back. We walked down the steps and passed numerous small shops along the way. What we didn’t see: available taxis.

We noticed some large tour buses in a parking lot as well as three taxi cabs who appeared to be in an accident since there was a policeman with them.

After walking for about twenty minutes we noticed a free cab talking to two MSC passengers! We thought we were saved. The driver had quoted the passenger and his daughter £25 for the ride back to the cruise ship. But when Michael and I showed up, he was going to charge us £25 each instead of us splitting the cab. So we ended up trying to get him to take us back for £25 altogether, but he refused.

So the father and daughter just kept walking to try and find another taxi. We walked with them because I felt so bad we ruined their taxi ride. But there were no taxis to be found. Apparently the taxi drivers were also on strike.

So Michael and I separated from them when we saw an above-ground train. It was right in front of the government building where the rally/strike was being held. We were right in the thick of things.

We took Train 4 all the way to the last stop. Got off. Transferred to the Green line and headed back towards Piraeus.

The train took us to where the bus had dropped us off previously. We then walked towards the cruise terminal but soon realized gate E12 was a lot farther from E5.

We must have walked for 40 minutes, and we saw we were at gate E11, but E12 was still above and around the corner. Thankfully, a taxi driver stopped on the side of the road and told us he would charge us £5 to bring us to the port.

It was a much longer distance than we had originally thought. We boarded the ship with five minutes to spare before the end of final boarding. Phew! Was that an adventure.

June 15, 2018 – Corfu, Greece

The five of us pre-booked an excursion for a Jeep safari adventure. Michael had previously given the excursion office his drivers license so he could be our designated driver.

We were supposed to dock at 12:30pm, and that’s when our excursion was scheduled to meet. The ship didn’t dock until 1pm. And we didn’t leave the boat until about 1:20-1:30pm. As we were leaving the ship, it began to pour outside!

The crew was kind enough to give us ponchos. Thankfully we reached the bus that took us to the other side of the parking lot where our Suzuki Jimney vehicle was waiting for us. The roof was up, and we all climbed in.

We followed the leader which had a yellow flag. They took us off-reading and brought us to a market where they sold some traditional Greek yogurt and honey as well as other olive oil based products. There were some restrooms inside and also a little cafe where we were able to grab some coffee.

Right before we left, our tour guide informed us there was a change in plans. There was thunder and lightning at the beach we were supposed to visit so it was not safe to visit.

Instead we went to a restaurant, Castellino, with a nice view overlooking the water. There was free WiFi there!

Waiting for us inside were some tapas and wine. It was a nice break from driving around in the rain. As soon as we were done there, we ended up going to a beach. The area we were in was fairly touristy. It was where Odysseus was supposedly discovered.

The tour guide took us to the beach area next to a small aquarium. It was very nice! The water was very clear, but the beaches were a mix of sand and gravel. That is pretty common in the area we were in.

The sun was making an appearance right as we were about to leave the beach and head back to the cruise ship. We were able to put our roof down and get a lovely breeze!

June 16, 2018 – Kotor, Montenegro

I had been dreaming about coming to visit Montenegro for a while now! I think it was ever since Djokovic had mentioned his family enjoys vacationing here. I guess it makes sense with its proximity to Serbia and all.

The small country on the Adriatic Sea coast exceeded my expectations!

Our cruise ship docked in Kotor, which is a small port. The Bay of Kotor has beautiful fjord-like views. It was quite cooler here due to us being in the valley.

My in-laws decided the night before they were going to stay in and avoid the beach. Michael, Kai and I took a left outside the port and randomly came across a park with a cute playground. I played with Kai while daddy walked a bit further to scope out the potential beach. It was about a four minute walk past a shopping center on our right. We also passed a saltwater pool.

The public beach we saw wasn’t that great. It was literally all gravel, and there was trash along the shore 😦

So we walked back towards the playground and decided to rent a boat.

I guess beach transfers via speed boat don’t start until July. But, we were able to rent a private boat with a skipper for two hours at £50/hour.

Kai loved it when the boat went FAST! We asked them to bring us to a mostly sandy beach in the bay.

Our skipper, Neric, found one that had a port-o potty and a restaurant! Perfect. Because I really really needed to use the bathroom.

This beach was definitely THE kid beach! There were all kids and parents/grandparents.

We had fun in the sand and ocean. The water was so clear! But the sand area was definitely a mixture of sand and gravel. Definitely not like Bermuda!

The surroundings were gorgeous! The mountains were beautiful. It kind of reminded us of being in Alaska but more of a tropical version.

On the way back to the cruise ship we got caught in a passing storm! We must have just been five minutes too late. We got soaked. But, it was an exhilarating experience.

June 17, 2018 – Venice, Italy

Father’s Day. Back to port. Our disembarkation time was 9:10am. We had originally arranged for our hotel to send a shuttle to pick us up at 10:30am, which was £12,50/person.

We got off the ship fairly quickly. Our luggage was already waiting for us! We left the cruise terminal at 9:30am, so we had an hour to kill before our shuttle was scheduled to arrive.

I ended up using my cell phone. It was $10/day for the international AT&T plan. We asked them if they could schedule the pickup to be earlier, but they were all booked until 10:30am. So we ended up asking around to see how much a private taxi would cost. And it was about £55 for the taxi, but it ended up being £80 for the taxis after taxes and other fees (not sure what they were).

After securing a taxi, we canceled the shuttle from the hotel. They were very accommodating. We arrived to the hotel just after 10am. And we were able to check in.

We just spent the day relaxing by the pool and ordering food and drinks in the Italian country-side. Unfortunately, the pool guy was on Italian time and the one sandwich, one personal pizza, and three drinks that were supposed to take 10 minutes took one hour to come out.

Michael really enjoyed his club sandwich, which consisted of white un-crusted bread, chicken salad, hard-boiled egg, bacon, and lettuce.

Kai enjoyed the little sand box, toys, small plastic log cabin, slide, and other children’s toys outside near the pool area. He warmed up to swimming with his floaties too!

It was nice to just relax and hang out for the day.

Dinner didn’t start until 7:30pm. We sat outside. It was nice. The server brought out menus and colored pencils for Kai. We ordered. Food was very satisfying!

During dinner there was a man playing the piano and singing. It was really nice and relaxing. Kai wanted to dance around a little. He sure worked up an appetite.

We ended up getting one room for all of us to share, and it was a little rough because we had one king bed and two smaller twin-sized beds. And, Michael insisted Grammy and Papa sleep on the king-sized bed while we slept on the two smaller beds. Our intention was for Kai to sleep with his grandparents. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. He insisted on sleeping with mommy and daddy.

He had some trouble falling asleep, but we took him for a nice stroll outside to listen to some more live music. And he fell right asleep 🙂

I’m so grateful to have some time tonight to catch up on editing pictures and writing this blog post. It’s really tough to live in the moment, enjoy and document everything because it all goes by so quickly!

Kai woke up in the middle of the night to use the potty and woke everyone up.

June 18, 2018 – Italy to England

Packing this morning. We have been having an issue with Kai hitting us on this trip. I got really mad at hime because he slapped me on the face this morning. And he was being bad during breakfast and hit daddy too. We put him in timeout and ignored his cries. It takes a lot of willpower to not feel bad for him because he’s so cute and little. Sometimes I don’t know if I am doing a ‘good’ job as a parent. It’s tough for adults to travel, and it gets tough on the child too.

There will always be ups and downs, and rocky roads. But when there are lows, there are always highs. Let’s think positive. Fingers crossed, Kai has learned his lesson and will think twice before hitting anyone of us again. We will see. Only time will tell.

We leave for London Gatwick Airport this afternoon.

The most memorable cities.

Michael and me: Athens, for sure, since that was the only city we explored, minus Kai! While it was taxing on Michael and me, the journey really pushed our limits. We felt like were on the Amazing Race, trying to get creative and find a way to get back to our cruise ship before it left without us. The Acropolis was magnificent.

Kai: Santorini because he loved the donkeys. He carries around and falls asleep with his stuffed donkey we got for him!

The Group: Corfu because we got to rent a vehicle and we were stuck in there for about five hours. We sure did bond during the rough patches of rain and had a good laugh! Venice, even though it felt like a 100 degrees when we were riding on the gondola. It was a wonderful experience for everyone. Kai even enjoyed it.

Leg 2 Thoughts

Overall, we have had a wonderful, relaxing, and exciting second leg of our Euro Trip! I thoroughly enjoyed my massages and facial. Since we got the Aurea package on board the MSC Cruise Ship, we were able to get one massage/person/cabin. Since Michael didn’t want to use his massage, I ended up getting two massages. One on the first day of the cruise. And, one on the very last, combined with a lovely Carita ‘cotton softness’ facial.

Hopefully everything goes smoothly with the flight to England.  Only a few more days in Europe! More updates to follow.

Cruising Greece with a toddler

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