It’s hard to believe it’s been more than two months since SVV and I boarded that plane bound for Rome. Coming back and starting a new job—my first stint in an office in six-and-a-half years!—just two days later means my summer has flown by faster than most, and I feel like our time abroad was only a fleeting dream.
But it was very much real, and before I tell you about all the fabulous places we visited over the following 21 days, first I’ll give you a bit of a backstory about how this trip came to be.
Two years ago, we had our first brush with Star Clippers. It was a work trip, and lucky for SVV, he was able to come along for a change. For a week, we bopped around the Caribbean, starting and ending in St. Maarten and making stops on Nevis, Antigua, Îles des Saintes, Dominica, St. Barths and Guadeloupe. It was one of my favorite vacations to date.
The week after we returned, my beloved grandfather died at 91 years old. He had been living with my parents for years (and, for nearly a year after we moved back, us, too). We all miss him dearly—he would turn 93 this Thursday; happy birthday, Granddaddy—but suddenly my mom was free to roam a bit more. After raising two kids then having both of her parents live with her for the better part of a decade, I’d say she deserves it.
Last year, we took a family trip to Europe while I was still working on Semester at Sea. We briefly toyed with the idea of repeating an Enrichment Voyage, but the timing was tough and the route too similar, so my mom said: “hey, how about we all take a family cruise on that line you liked so much?” A little digging on the Star Clippers site resulted in the perfect itinerary: 11 nights in the Mediterranean, covering Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. We were sold. Luckily, my sister and her boyfriend—both of whom work at a Big Four firm—were able to get the time off, too.
Simultaneously, SVV and I had been planning a long vacation to Sicily for his 40th birthday. We were able to merge the two and spend two weeks on the ship and in Rome with my family, then split off for a week visiting his former haunts on the small Italian isle. It was the best of both worlds.
Of course, Delta didn’t want to make it easy on us and nearly made us miss our flight on a delayed connection—seriously, they cannot make the 34-minute hop from Nashville to Atlanta a seamless transition ever—and lost both SVV’s and my bags. FOR FOUR DAYS. Have we seen a penny of compensation? Heck no. They didn’t even offer us a toothbrush in the meantime. Who’s surprised? More on that as we continue to fight the world’s worst airline at a later date…I still haven’t cooled off from our travel debacle.
In the meantime, we were extremely grateful that we had organized transportation ahead of time in Rome. It’s nearly an hour’s car ride from Rome to the port of Civitavecchia, from where most Italian cruises depart.
Since there were six of us, we definitely wouldn’t fit in a cab. So we ordered a chauffeur from Blacklane Limousines who would take us straight to the ship in a luxury limo-van of sorts.
But first, he sat patiently with us for hours, first as we waited for Kari, Josh and my parents to get in from Charlotte, and then waited some more while we tried to sort out our luggage situation, with no help from Delta.
Eventually, we were on the road—24 hours awake at this point—and our driver dropped us right off at the port. This time, we would be on the Royal Clipper, the largest of the fleet of three tall ships, which also includes the Star Clipper and the Star Flyer. Having been on the Star Clipper (170 passengers max) before, I didn’t think that size mattered (sorry, had to), but I will admit that I liked being on a marginally larger vessel like the Royal Clipper, which holds 227 plus crew, as there were more decks and nooks and crannies in which to hide out.
Well-fed—and OK, well-boozed up—we returned to the ship and were finally able to settle into our cabins, as all our previous travel woes seemed to melt away.