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)

12 thoughts on “Are you ready for the real Western Mediterranean?

  1. So glad you are going to Pompeii.  It made such an impression on me when I studied it in grade school because my father had been there and I had the benefit of his experience.  A few years ago it dawned on me that I could actually go there!  It was a highlight of my life.  And the colisseum – which I could not stop photographing!

  2. Not much in Pisa other than the tower and the ancient boat museum. Between the two I’d vote for Florence hands down. Of course most travelers in Italy will do the same, so be prepared for heavy crowds. If you want to see a museum arrange a time for the visit online.

    1. For children, beyond a doubt the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
      Same booking requirement. You will probably be on a tour bus that has a strict schedule. Our tour did NOT include a slot time to go up the tower. At that time it was not a stand in line and wait. You purchased a ticket for a particular time. Book it online on the boat. Maybe for a time an hour after the bus is scheduled to arrive in Pisa. If you try and  buy a ticket when you get there the first available time will be after your bus leaves to return to the boat.

  3. Have a great time, Chris.  Epic carries 4000+ passengers so there may be waits in getting on and off, but it’s a terrific ship for kids. 

  4. okay – I’ve only taken one cruise in my life (the inside passage to Alaska) so not an expert – but we did not take ANY of the (very over-priced, imo) shore excursions but did all our exploring on our own –  we tried to be among the first off the boat and were among the last to return – but public transportation, walking and an occasional cab worked great –

    Pompeii is a must-visit –

  5. Our 2c’s worth.  We cruised the Med last year on the Queen Victoria and definitely would not recommend Pompeii. All the artifacts etc have been removed to the museum and there are only the walls left on site. Very disappointing.
    Enjoy your cruise and agree it is better to organise your own excursions rather than take those provided by the ship.  

  6. I did the exact sailing last month. We didn’t go to Pompeii, but drove along the Amalfi Coast instead. Our driver was wonderful and he even showed us where he lived, whilst his wife waved from their window. We skipped Pisa and visited only Florence instead.

    I don’t have any kids and in my late 20’s, but the Epic was a great ship for me too in that entertainment was excellent, especially the Cirque and Dinner. Can’t wait to read about your experience.

  7. I was on the Epic last month in a solo cabin. The studio lounge is the best part of this ship, for singles! Granted, that’s not you, but you may want to talk to Sol and check it out anyway. 🙂

  8. Oh, yes, Pompeii. My choice hands down. I called it the place where time took time out. Amazing.
    Just be sure you keep the kids out of the houses where the wall art is provocative, to say the least.
    Florence, of course; no doubt whatsoever. Take the time to see “David.” It’s beyond your expectations.
    I’ve not been to Vesuvius, can’t give you an opinion. My husband said Pisa is pretty boring, just the tower. But kids are fascinated by it.
    Remember to tour from early am, eat lunch, then take a siesta in the hot, hot afternoon.
    Have a wonderful time and enjoy!
    Kathie in Mexico

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