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Sail the Three Seas Marella Cruises Itinerary – REVIEW

 

 

If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I recently went on my first ever cruise with 12 of my crazy family members to celebrate my mums 50th and my granddad’s 80th birthdays this year! I had no idea what to expect from my first cruise but was completely blown away and honestly loved every single minute of it! I am now a total cruise convert and am already looking to book my next one. We weren’t sure which cruise liner to go with when looking at booking our holiday, but some online research and some helpful pointers from family and friends told us that TUI’s Marella Cruises were a safe bet for newbie cruisers. We looked at the fleet of ships on offer with Marella and decided that we loved the look of their Celebration vessel, and their Sail the Three Seas itinerary definitely caught our eye. We were so taken with the itinerary, and the destinations that were on offer, that we booked almost immediately in the travel agents and were so excited to have made our final decision! Here’s what I got up to on board the Marella Celebration’s Sail the Three Seas itinerary during my 7 day cruise in August, and what you can expect from it too…

 

Day 1: Embarkation at Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

 

On our first day we flew from Manchester to Dubrovnik on the 5am flight out and arrived in the Croatian city just before 9am local time. Our flight onboard the new TUI Dreamliner was as smooth as you like with triple rows, TV screens on every chair and comfortable seating with decent leg room space. After arriving at the airport and going through security, we were taken straight to the coaches where we made the short 40 min journey from the airport to the cruise ship. By the way, as soon as you check your bags on to your flight back at your UK airport, you don’t see your luggage again until you arrive at your cabin onboard the ship which is something I LOVED! After reaching the ship and checking in at reception, we were allowed to access the on-board restaurants and were treated to a fantastic buffet lunch which was sooo needed. Our cases arrived shortly after, at around 1pm, and we then spent a little down time in our cabins before changing and heading out to explore Dubrovnik. By the time we got a taxi into Dubrovnik centre (it was a short distance and only 13EUR per car of 4) we had just a few hours to explore the city so spent time wandering around the tiny streets, admiring the beautiful harbour and gazing up at the city walls. We wanted to walk the walls but didn’t have time as it takes a good couple of hours, and I also wanted to do the cable car at the top of the hill  as the sights are meant to be stunning, but again we ran out of time. I have already earmarked Dubrovnik as somewhere to return to though, and this post has more details of what I would do if I went back and had more time there. We set sail at 10pm that evening so had to be back on board the ship by 9pm (we actually came back at 6 so we could shower and have dinner) but the sail-away that night was incredible and as we left the glowing skyline of Dubrovnik behind I had already fallen in love with the idea of cruising despite having only stepped foot on the ship less than 12 hours ago! Our first night was spent listening to fantastic live music and having a dance out on the Lido deck whilst enjoying one too many all-inclusive cocktails!

 

Day 2: A day in Kotor, Montenegro

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world 🙋 I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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Kotor was the city I was most looking forward to visiting out of all the destinations on our itinerary, and mainly because Montenegro has been high up on my bucket-list since forever! I woke up at around 5am to get up on the deck and watch the sail in at 6am and it was hands down one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve had to date. My parents and I got a great spot right on the top deck and we watched the sun rise over the mountains with the wind in our hair and the sea surrounding us everywhere we looked. As we entered the fjord we were treated to the most incredible views of the Bay of Kotor with a mountainous backdrop and as the sun started to warm our faces I had to stop and just take in the moment, put my phone away and just appreciate how awesome this place truly was – I fell in love with Kotor at that very moment, and all I had to do to experience that was wake up early! After we docked we had breakfast on board the ship before heading into the city and exploring everything that Kotor had to offer. We walked along the glamorous waterfront, which was lined with luxury yachts and other cruise ships, before meandering our way round the cobbled streets and ancient archways. The old town square is super cute and is filled with shops, bars, cafés and restaurants offering traditional Montenegrin cuisine at cheap prices. The city is home to tonnes of churches and we visited lots of these during our time there before climbing the fortress and part of the city walls – again we didn’t get the chance to do this fully as, like with Dubrovnik, it took a few hours to complete and we just didn’t have time. We had an early sail away (4pm) that day, and gliding away from Kotor was just as magical as sailing in to it, with even more incredible views of the picturesque landscape. if you have time to spare in Kotor, here’s what I recommend you do there during your visit. We spent our second evening having dinner in the a la carte restaurant before exploring some of other bars on board, including the Liberties, which hosted live music and entertainment, and the Hemingway bar which was a little more chilled with just the sound of the resident pianist for company.

 

Day 3: A day in Igoumenitsa, Greece

 

 

This day was super chilled and mainly consisted of sunbathing, swimming and more sunbathing as the tiny Greek port of Igoumenitsa was literally just a short stop and a chance for some beach action. We docked mid-morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and some free time at the Lido deck before hopping on the shuttle buses that were running from the port to the nearby Drepanos beach. The buses were only 7 EUR return for a 20 min bus ride each way (bookable at reception) and the gorgeous stretch of sandy beach and sparkling blue ocean that was waiting for us was welcomed with open arms. Our beach day gave us some time to catch some rays on the golden sand, as well as go swimming in the sea – despite being on a cruise there aren’t many swimming stops on most Med itineraries, unless you go to places where there are beach resorts! The on-site beach café served hot and cold drinks and food, at super cheap prices, plus when you bought an item from the café you got your sunbeds and parasols for free – bargain! We spent a few hours on the beach before catching the shuttle bus back and making our way on board the Celebration again. There really wasn’t anything to do in the town of Igoumenitsa, we just saw a handful of shops and bars but nothing more, and getting the bus back was the best option as we didn’t fancy the long walk in 33 degree heat! Later that afternoon we had some down time on the ship and joined in with the entertainment team’s bingo and trivia before having dinner and then drinks from the Liberty’s bar whilst sitting outside under the stars to end another wonderful night.

 

Day 4: A day in Argostoli, Greece

 

 

A short overnight journey saw us sail in to Argostoli at around 7am the following day, and we all had an early start as we needed to disembark the ship before 8am to head out on our pre-booked excursion. Half our group decided to wander round Argostoli itself, checking out the shops and bars and stopping off at the small cove for a swim – they saw turtles which I was sooo jealous of! – but there wasn’t much else to do in Argostoli itself. The other half of our group (myself included) opted for the pre booked excursion to some nearby caves and I was so glad to have taken this trip! Our coach took us to the Drogarati Caves, a natural rock formation which is over 150 million years old! These caves were seriously impressive, spookily dark and incredibly carved. The caves were discovered only 300  years ago, when an earthquake caused part of the rock to fall into itself and create an opening which lead to the caves – imagine the surprise on the local’s faces when they discovered those caves! In the early 1960s the caves were opened to the public as a tourist attraction and the big hall, decorated with stalactites and stalagmites, is even used as a venue for music concerts because of its exceptional base for acoustic sounds! After visiting Drogarati we hopped back on the coach towards our second stop, Melissani Lake. This place was gorgeous and one of the highlights of my entire cruise! After being excavated in 1963, archaeological artefacts including plates, figurines and lamps were found on site, all depicting the God of Pan. Legend has it that a Nymph named Melissanthe fell in love with Pan and then drowned in the Lake when he rejected her. I LOVE Greek mythology so this place was a real treat for me. We descended into the small caves in single file before jumping on a gondola (like the ones in Venice) and were then able to ride around the circular lake, taking in the impressive cave surrounding the lake, as well as the stunning turquoise waters. The lake is made up of a mixture of sea water and sweet water, creating the most amazing blue and green colours which glisten as the sun shines. Our third and final stop was a quick photo shoot at the pretty Myrtos Beach, one of the most popular on the island with spectacular views of the Ionian Sea. Lying at the foot of two mountains, the beach is shaped in a semi-circle and is surrounded by a dramatic rocky landscape topped with lush green terrain. I can imagine this place would be gorgeous to visit at any time of day, but particularly at sunset with incredible views of the horizon! We were at shore for approx. 4-5 hours on this excursion and I really enjoyed it. We spent the rest of the day on board the ship eating and drinking (you can tell this kind of holiday has a routine, doesn’t it ;)) before watching a fantastic theatre show from the entertainment team at the Broadway Lounge later that evening.

 

Day 5: A day in Messina, Italy

 

 

After a relaxing couple of beach days in Greece, it was time to head over to our fourth country of the trip so far, beautiful Italia. I’ve been to Italy twice but have never ticked Sicily off my list, so I was really excited about stopping off at Messina for the day and couldn’t wait to get off the boat once we had docked! Our sail in was nice and early, and cruising past the ancient monuments and harbour walls that lined Messina Port was a cultural experience to say the least. Once we had docked we headed towards the town centre (approx. 10 min walk) and found the Piazza Duomo (old town square) complete with the stunning Cathedral of Messina and it’s world famous clock tower. We wandered inside the impressive Cathedral and then hopped on a tourist bus for an hour long tour of the highlights of the old town. The bus was small enough to take a small group of 10-12 guests which was nice as I often find tourist buses ridiculously busy! Rather than hopping on and off we just stayed on the bus the whole time and admired the sights, including the Municipal Building, the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele and the Strait of Messina, all from our window. Our bus got back to the Piazza Duomo shortly before 12 noon, just in time for the daily showing of the carousel of the bell tower. Every day at 12 noon, the clock strikes and chimes to the soothing sounds of Ave Maria whilst each of the golden statues adorning the tower (lion, rooster, moon & planetarium) rotate in unison. The bell tower contains the biggest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world and was first opened to the public in 1933. The daily spectacle lasts 12 minutes and is a real sight to behold, where it remains the city’s main attraction. Unfortunately it starting thundering and lightning during our time in Messina, and started raining heavily during the show, so we missed the end of it as we darted into a nearby café to shelter from the storm, but I was really glad we got to see more than half of it. The main reason for stopping at Messina is to take an excursion to Mount Etna, but we opted not to do this as a) it was super expensive and b) the weather was terrible! Messina isn’t somewhere I would return to as it is super small and we saw pretty much all of it in the few hours we were ashore, but it was nice to see some of Sicily and both the sail in and sail out were pretty special. Later on that afternoon the weather brightened up and we enjoyed some sunbathing on the top deck of the ship and I swam in the pool whilst the rest of my family decided to take part in the afternoon entertainment. During the evening we enjoyed a buffet dinner on the Lido deck and then went to another show in the Broadway theatre lounge, this time to see comedian/musician Paul Daniels who was absolutely brilliant and had us in stitches!

 

Day 6: A day in Valletta, Malta

 

 

The last stop on our cruise was marvellous Malta, my first visit there and another new country to tick off – it just so happened to be my 25th country so it was a real milestone for me! We docked early in Valletta and had the whole day to explore in 30 degree heat, which to be honest was absolutely EXHAUSTING! We started walking along the Grand Harbour front before taking the Barrakka Lift, a 58m high glass elevator installed in 2012, which connects the Grand Harbour to the pretty Upper Barrakka Gardens. We wandered around the both the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, which are home to flowers, fountains, monuments and memorials of famous British governors including Sir Winston Churchill. The gardens are the highest point of the city walls and it’s terrace offers stunning panoramic views over the 2000 year old Grand Harbour below. We then walked along the walls and through the ancient archways to discover other parts of the Gardens before moving on to the Parliament Square (we even saw the Maltese President who was in town during our visit!) We then made our way towards the fabulous Triton Fountain, which is a real landmark, and then headed towards some other nearby gardens and churches. We spent the afternoon heading back towards the city centre and into the new town, which was verrrrry British and was filled with shops, café’s and bars. A stroll past the Courts of Justice, Grandmasters Palace and St John’s Cathedral made for great sight-seeing stops, and we then ended up at Fort Saint Elmo which is an old waterfront fortress now home to the National War Museum. I really enjoyed Valletta and will shortly be putting together a full travel guide to the city – I already want to return to Malta as it was seriously stunning! We couldn’t cope with the Maltese heat and the many kilometres of walking much past 4pm so headed back to the ship late afternoon to unwind and enjoy some pool and ship time before changing into our evening clothes ready for another fun filled night of eating and drinking – and we tried out the casino and some new bars too! This was our last stop off before a full day at sea for our last day and I was sad not to have any more new destinations but definitely ready for a day of relaxation on board!

 

Day 7: Full day and night at sea

 

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Doing the Titanic pose all by myself cos this Rose doesn't need a Jack in her life 😎 I've been home for just 24 hours and I'm already missing being at sea 🌊 Words can't describe the amazing experience I had on my first ever cruise 🚢 I was so nervous before going as I suffer so much with travel sickness (ironic as I'm a travel blogger) but luckily I was absolutely fine and kept well the entire time! It's only now that I'm home I'm suffering with motion sickness despite being back on land! What is THAT all about?! 😩I think it means I need to book another cruise asap, I'm a total convert now and loved waking up in a new place each day, but my favourite thing was spending hours looking out at the blue waters, with nothing but the ocean staring back at me 🐬 Can I go be a mermaid again please? #cruiselife #titanicpose #takemeback #marellacruises

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I was a little apprehensive of spending a whole day and a whole night at sea as I thought I would get a) bored and b) travel sick, but I actually got NEITHER and it was sooo nice to spend some time on the ship rather than rushing around on our shore days and trying to cram as much in as possible. There is so much to do on-board a cruise ship, particularly on the Marella fleets, and I’ll do a full ship review of the Celebration in a separate post, promise! It was nice to have our sea day as the last day of our cruise so we could really relax before flying home the next day, and actually a day at sea was the perfect way to end our holiday. We had a leisurely lie in rather than waking up at the crack of dawn to watch the sail in, and spent time enjoying breakfast and some sunbathing before taking part in the entertainment throughout the day. There was a morning trivia quiz, afternoon bingo and evening music with plenty of activities going on throughout the day. I treated my mum and I to a spa day for her birthday and we had a treatment each and used the sauna – I had no idea you could even get a spa on a ship and it was lovely to just have some proper relaxation time together. We also had a professional photo shoot booked in as there were 12 of us and we were celebrating a special occasion. The photographer got some amazing shots of us all and we loved them,  but the shoot and the choosing of the photos took around 2-3hrs in total so we felt we spent most of our last night stressing about this rather than actually enjoying our last evening together. Note to self – don’t do this again! We had our last meal in the a la carte restaurant and the social team did a special thankyou to all the kitchen staff including chefs, porters, waiters and waitresses so it was lovely to give a big round of applause and say thank you to everyone who had looked after us so well all week. After dinner we hung out at some of our favourite bars listening to live music, watching the stars one last time out on the deck and enjoying each other’s company before the sad realisation that tomorrow we would all be going home. I really loved our full day and night at sea and would welcome this with open arms next time I do a cruise, and would encourage people not to feel apprehensive of it at all!

As you can probably tell, I had the most incredible week on board my cruise and loved everything about my holiday, from the ship and it’s fantastic food and entertainment facilities, to the variety of different destinations we docked at each day. The Sail the Three Seas itinerary was perfect for first time cruisers like us as it had destinations to suit everyone, no matter what your travel style. I thought I would get fed up with being in one place for the entire week, but the ship was so busy and had so much to do that I didn’t get bored once, even on our full day at sea which I was really apprehensive about. The Marella Celebration is a big ship, but not nearly as big as other cruise ships we saw docked at each port, and I liked that you could make your way around without feeling lost, and that every staff member knew your name and offered such brilliant, personal service that I think you’d struggle to get on larger ships. Probably the only downside to cruising is that you don’t get to enjoy your evenings in each destination as the sail-away is usually between 4pm and 8pm, so you never really see the ports after dark. When I’m on holiday I love wandering into the town or the city centre during the evening as everything looks so pretty lit up at night, but I guess cruising is just a different type of holiday, and you do get used to it very quickly. I would highly recommend the Marella Celebration and their Sail the Three Seas itinerary to those of you who are looking for a fantastic Mediterranean cruise, and particularly for you first timers out there who may be anxious about setting sail for the first time. Have you been on a cruise before? Let me know as I would love to hear what you thought of it – I’ve totally fallen for them hook, line and sinker and am already planning my next one for 2019!

Love Jess x

 

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