Are you ready for the real Western Mediterranean?

Here we go!

For the last week, I’ve been telling you about my new family travel site, Away is Home. Today — right now — we’re setting sail on our first adventure: a Western Mediterranean cruise on NCL’s Epic.

This isn’t just any Western Mediterranean cruise. Our friends at Nickelodeon have invited us to be part of their Nick at Sea theme cruise, which allows you to get slimed and interact with SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.

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I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t Chris strongly dislike cruising? And aren’t SpongeBob and Dora reruns a special kind of torture for men of his age?

True, true.

But I have three kids who adore the Nick characters, and I can deal with a few days at sea. I can also think of a few other benefits to this, like 1) spending time with my family (I haven’t seen them since I started working on the book); 2) taking them to a few fascinating ports of call in Italy and Spain; and 3) seeing the Epic in action, which I’m told is a pretty amazing ship.

I will try to share the real Western Mediterranean, as best as I can. Sometimes you don’t get to the authenticity of a place until you hold something artificial next to it, like a ship of cartoon characters and their fans (a group to which my children belong).

Mark up our map

I hope you’ll take a minute to make some of your notations on our interactive map. This will help us figure out where to go, what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.

The shore excursions are not inexpensive, but I think it’s worth showing the family Palma, Pompeii and Vesuvius. Of all our children, only our oldest son, Aren, has been to Europe so far.

We’ll also be able to compare this experience with another Nickelodeon-themed trip at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa back in 2009.

By the time you read this, we’ll be somewhere over Europe, and maybe we’ll have already boarded the Epic. But we’ll be firing up our computers once we’re there and checking in. We’d love to take you along for our adventure.

Please sign up for Away is Home’s RSS feed, follow Away is Home on Twitter or on Foursquare and “like” the Away is Home page on Facebook. You’ll have a front-row seat.

(Photo: Stuc kin Customs/Flickr Creative Commons)