The Hilton Family Crystal Cruise
It really only struck me when we were in the vehicle between Fiumicino and boarding the ship in Civitavecchia; 12 whole days on a Crystal Cruise, just Malaka, Alex, Carter and myself. Lucky me! Just us, for 12 whole days on the Crystal Serenity in the hands of the most hospitable Crystal Cruises team that would carry us down Italy’s Amalfi coast to Valetta, Malta where we would spend a day with a knight, and on through a couple of Greek isles before ending in Istanbul, Turkey.
This family travel experience proved to be very memorable indeed, and I am happy to report that the Crystal Serenity is looking and working fantastically well. From the main dining room to the specialty restaurants - we made the most of our time on board, with casual dinners in Tastes on the Lido deck being our favorite. We really liked the menu and small portion sizes up there which made it great for sharing family style.
The two standout days in port for me were our adventures in Sorrento (with a visit to Pompei) and in Santorini. While the other ports were certainly fantastic in their own right - Positano, Taormina, Valetta, Rhodes, & Kusadasi, I personally felt these two days stood out.
In Sorrento, our guide Gianni collected us early from the port and drove us north along the scenic coastline, directly toward Mount Vesuvius and straight to the historic ancient Roman site of Pompeii. For the next three hours we made our way through the vast and well-presented site, covering subjects like Pliny the Younger, Pliny the Elder, and Pumice as well as seeing the uncovered pottery and other tools of daily life left there. That was when I saw my children begin to gather and process this fascinating historical information. As luck would have it - both had covered this very site in their ancient civilization classes at school this year and both were now really beginning to make the connection between what they learned in the classroom and what they witnessed in the field.
They also got to see what temperatures of 450F + along with tons of ash and pumice over 1,800 years will do to a town. When we had completed touring the site and began to discuss the remainder of our afternoon and our much needed lunch, Gianni decided that after learning so much in the morning it was time for Carter to have some fun. One phone call and a 15 minute drive away - Malaka, Alex and I found ourselves seated in the courtyard of a quiet pizzeria in an authentic Italian neighborhood typically frequented by locals. Carter had a tablecloth tied around his waist and with Leonardo, the owner of the place was kneading and tossing dough, spreading tomato sauce and garnishing our pizzas. He quickly learned how to turn the pizza the required quarter turns while it was in the oven and how to avoid burning the air pockets that form in the classic Neapolitan crust as it cooks. Hands down this was our favorite meal of the trip!
Our day in Santorini was unguided and without agenda. Malaka & Alex enjoyed some retail therapy while Carter and I wandered, trying to get lost in the narrow back-alleys, but somehow we always found our way back. Winding through the whitewashed cliff-side houses perched on the edge of the caldera, it was quite the picturesque location! A casual lunch with an ice cold Mythos in a spectacular setting followed.
Included here are my three favorite photos from our time onboard the Crystal Serenity; 1.Sailing away from Sorrento with the sunset coloring the sky and cloud atop Vesuvius made for a wonderful way to end a great day. 2. Carter with Pizza and tablecloth tied around his waist. 3. My two favorite girls at the entrance to a small restaurant on a wine farm on the slopes of Mt. Etna where we enjoyed a long, tasty lunch. Italian style.
It was the perfect itinerary to enjoy all of the great splendor that the Mediterranean coast offers.