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LIVE - VISION Med and Greek Isles - 6/11-23

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It’s finally here! We are getting ready to set sail on the Vision of the Seas 12-night Mediterranean and Greek Isles Cruise round-trip from Barcelona June 11 - June 23, 2019. We are flying out of Tampa today for an overnight flight to Barcelona where we will spend three days before we board Vision of the Seas for twelve more days!

 

 

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Background:

 

My husband and I have sailed with Royal Caribbean 15 times for a total of 91 nights at sea with Royal. This will be our 16th cruise with RCCL and the cruise where we make Diamond Plus. Yes, I know. We’re excited too!

 

All together, we’ve taken 35 cruises for a total of 249 sailing days and we have enjoyed cruising with Royal, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, Disney, and Holland America. I always say that we’ve never had a bad cruise. Not one. There are things we enjoy about each cruise and each cruise line, and for the most part we are pretty easy to please. There have been minor bumps and snags along the way, but I figure those make for the interesting travel stories.

 

 

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I’m Angela and I’m in my mid-40s. My husband, Mark is in his early 60s and we enjoy cruising as our vacation of choice. We looked at booking this cruise when it was released a little over a year and half ago. We celebrate our 20-year wedding anniversary June 12, 2019, and wanted a special cruise this year.

 

 

The first Royal Caribbean ship we ever sailed was the Sovereign of the Seas in June 2000. It was our one year anniversary and our very first cruise. We were hooked. I remember that ship seemed huge. We drove up to the cruise terminal in Port Canaveral and I recall saying something like, “Oh my God look at it! We are going to be so lost!” It’s hard to believe the size of the ships have increased SO MUCH since then. We’ve sailed on the Sovereign, the Legend, the Vision, the Grandeur, the Rhapsody, and even the Enchantment (both before and after the stretch) before we “graduated” to the bigger Freedom, Oasis, and Quantum Class ships. But here we are…back to the smaller and more comfortable size ship where we first started cruising. We are both kind of looking forward to seeing what it feels like to come back to this size.

 

 

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Cruise Booking:

 

When I started looking at our options, there were so many places we wanted to go. And, of course,  so many places available to see by cruise ship! I was open to anything and Mark said he’d always wanted to see the Greek Isles. Well, okay, that narrowed it down a lot. Sooo…looking for cruises sailing in June to the Med and Greek Isles…ooh, look honey! Royal has a 12-night cruise that actually sails over the day of our anniversary. What could be more perfect? What could be more perfect, you ask? Cabin 8088 was available. The corner Junior Suite on Deck 8 with the aft view and the extra-large, wrap-around balcony!

 

 

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Do you believe in kismet? Do you believe in fate? Well, I’m starting to! How about this? That JS was available for $2199pp for this 12-night cruise when it was released. I kept checking back for a price drop (as one does), and that cabin category got as high as $6000pp before it sold out and never got lower than we paid. At least, I never saw it lower. Please don’t burst my bubble if it did. I’m feeling so happy about that (and I might be using the “but just look at all the money we saved on our cabin” argument with Mark later on, mmm-kay? So keep it to yourself. Okey-dokey? Thanks.).

 

I generally like the control of researching and booking on my own. However, booking through a travel agent can get you some perks and the occasional discount. What I will usually do is weigh the perks/discounts I am getting with the (for me) stress of giving up control of my reservation. Fortunately, I have a local TA who has been quite good about handling cruise bookings for us in the past. I booked my room immediately (directly with Royal) so I wouldn’t miss out on it, then transferred it over to her. So she gave me an additional $100 OBC, dinner at a specialty restaurant, and internet for the duration of our sailing. Now, internet might not seem important to some of you, but we stay try to stay somewhat connected while we are away. We own our own business and issues sometime arise where we need to stay in touch.

 

 

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Our Itinerary:

 

Pre-cruise:

07 JUN    Flight - Tampa to Barcelona (overnight)

08 JUN    Arrive Hotel (Sightseeing/Unplanned day/Relax when needed)

09 JUN    GUIDED TOUR: Costa Brava - Full Day Tour

10 JUN    GUIDED TOUR: Best of Barcelona w/Sagrada Familia - Full Day Tour

 

Cruise:

11 JUN    Barcelona, Spain (Board Ship)                5:00PM

12 JUN    Day at Sea

13 JUN    Valletta, Malta                

7:00AM    5:00PM

14 JUN    Day at Sea

15 JUN    Santorini, Greece                7:00AM    5:00PM

16 JUN    Mykonos, Greece                7:00AM    6:00PM

17 JUN    Athens (Piraeus), Greece            6:00AM    6:00PM

18 JUN    Day at Sea

19 JUN    Day at Sea

20 JUN    Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy            7:00AM    7:00PM

21 JUN    Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy        7:00AM    7:00PM

22 JUN    Provence (Marseille), France        10:00AM    5:00PM

23 JUN    Barcelona, Spain (Disembark)        6:00AM

 

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Our Flight:

 

I don’t really mind flying, but I have always had a hard time sleeping on a plane. Granted, I’ve never flown as far as Europe, but I’ve been on a red-eye, I’ve been crazy-tired, ready to drop, just-wish-I-could-just-get-an-hour-or-two-please tired and it doesn’t seem to matter. I hate trying to sleep on a plane. Mark? Pssh. Pretty sure he can sleep anywhere.

 

We knew we were going to look for Business Class fares for this trip (just because of the whole Anniversary celebration-thing, you know), but those lie-flat beds also sounded pretty nice. However, we didn’t want to go too crazy with the prices either. Also, we don’t have a bunch of FF miles to upgrade us to the nice seats, so it was me checking the computer at 330 days out watching for available fares. 

 

Me:    Hey, Mark! There aren’t any non-stop business class fares from Tampa to Barcelona for our dates (I know, imagine that, right?), but we can go from Tampa to Miami to Barcelona.

 

Mark:    How much is that?

 

Me:    $4200

 

Mark:    Total?

 

Me:    Each.

 

Mark:    $8400! Holy…! That’s more than our cruise.

 

Me:    Yeah. I guess sleep is overrated.

 

But, then, lo and behold. About two weeks after that someone posted on a FB group to which I belong about a reasonably-priced fare they had booked through the cruise line (Air2Sea) from Tampa to Barcelona for our cruise. Dare I risk it? Airfare through the cruise line? We’ve only ever done it once before, for an Alaska cruise. We had no problems that time, but I’ve heard of others’ stories. I decided to call our TA just to see my options.

 

Turned out I could book Business Class fares through the cruise line for $1480pp. What? Okay, so I checked out Matrix / Google Flights and it was still showing that Eight THOUSAND dollar nonsense. I mean, how? So of course, I called my TA and asked what she thought about the flight. Is it honest-to-goodness Business Class? Or, you know, “business class?” “-ish?” She said it seemed legit. Well, not really. She’s a very proper 70+ year old southern lady. She didn’t use the word “legit.” But you get the idea.

 

We will be flying from Tampa to Atlanta (on First Class fares) where we will then have a very-nearly three hour layover. Yuck. But then it’s on to Barcelona via Delta One®. Yay. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Lie-flat seats baby.

 

 

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On the way back though it’s a different story. We leave Barcelona on Swiss International Air, so not true Business Class - just an empty seat between. We connect through Zurich with barely an hour to spare. (Yeah. That doesn’t make me nervous at all.) And then we board Edelweiss Air (back to Business) for our return trip to Tampa. I seriously had to Google Edelweiss Air. I had never heard of them and was a little worried about what I had gotten us into.

 

Hmmm.

 

 

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Our Hotel:

 

I really struggled with this one. Having never traveled to Europe before I really had to do a lot of research about hotels and the area in and around Barcelona. I looked at a bunch of hotel recommendations here on CC, on TripAdvisor, on FB (and other social media sites), and also asked for general word-of-mouth recommendations from people I knew. We wanted a “nice” hotel, but I quickly learned that star-class ratings overseas are not always exactly the same as they are in the US. Also, sticker shock is a real thing you guys. Wow.

 

I took a quick peek at Airbnb. They have this thing called Airbnb “plus” now where the homes offered are inspected and guaranteed to be what is offered in the description. But Mark said he’d feel better at an honest-to-goodness hotel, so I narrowed it down to three. From those, Mark picked the H10 Casa Mimosa.

 

 

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It’s located in the same block as La Padrera (Casa Milà) in the Eixample District just northwest of Plaça Catalunya. When I first booked, our Deluxe Garden Terrace Room was 223€ (which converted to approx. $250). However, I kept watching, and I also signed up for their online club to save an additional 5%. Eventually I got the same room for 192€ (or $215), and since we were staying three nights, every penny would count! Also, that room rate includes breakfast. Not sure if we will use it every day we are there, but it’s nice to know we can.

 

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Our Tours:

 

All of our tours were booked through private tour companies - nothing through the ship. Everything that was offered through the cruise planner seemed so disappointing. Not just that the prices were high, I can get around that if I feel like the tour seems good. But  most of the tours didn’t seem very interesting or varied. Maybe they just need a better PR department to write their descriptions.

 

I’ve included a list of the tours we have planned below, and also the name of the tour company. I know that I did a TON of planning and research when it came to this portion of our trip. I will review each of our tours when they are complete to let you know how we liked them. Hopefully, having this info will help somebody. Whether that means we love a tour so much that you’ll want to make a note of the company for your own upcoming cruise, or it’s so bad for us that you want to be sure to never use them for yourselves, it’s bound to be helpful in some way! LOL!

 

 

In Barcelona:

    Girona and Costa Brava Small Group Tour w/Hotel Pick-up

        (In Out Barcelona Tours)

 

    Priority Access: Best of Barcelona Tour Incl. Sagrada Familia

        (Explore Catalunya)

 

In Malta:

 

    Private Tour of Valletta and Mdina

        (Online Malta - *NOTE: this looks very much like one of the large bus tours available for $69 in the cruise planner, but we ended up paying only $2.12 more per person and booked a private tour. Plus it includes unlimited snacks and bottled water. We’ll see.)

 

In Santorini:

 

    Santorini Half-Day Private Tour

        (Santorini Best Tours)

 

In Mykonos:

 

    Half-Day Small-Group Guided Tour of Mykonos (max 15 guests)

        (iTravel Mykonos)

 

In Athens:

 

    Premium Skip-the-Lines Athens Small Group Tour

        (Athens Travel Insiders)

 

In Rome:

 

    Full-day All-Inclusive Rome w/Skip-the-Line Vatican and Colosseum

        (ItalyBestExcursions)

 

In Livorno (Florence):

 

    Pisa and Florence Private Day Trip w/Uffizi Gallery

        (Prestige Rent Tours)

 

In Provence (Marseille):

 

    Marseille and Cassis Full Day Tour

        (Provence Tours)

 

 

We have already been communicating via email with all of our tour providers. So far, I feel confident that we will, at least, have a tour scheduled in each port. Reviews to follow.

 

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The Key:

 

A few months before the cruise, our TA came to me with a request of sorts. She had heard of “The Key Program” and how they were rolling it out on several ships. A few other clients of hers had tried it on the larger ships and she was wondering if we’d try it on a smaller, Vision-class ship. I thought, “Sure, okay.” Though I wasn’t sure what the advantage to having the Key on Vision would be. But, why not? She cancelled our internet package and specialty dinner and gave us the Key Package for our sailing as our onboard perk from her. We are going to report back to her with pictures, details, and our impressions of the overall value having the Key on a ship like Vision.

 

From what I understand, the Key was $19.99 per person, per day for our sailing. I had looked at the onboard internet prices out of curiosity and the lowest I saw for the Surf and Stream two-device package was $20.99 per day. Chops Grill lunch was priced at $24.20 per person. However, there is no FlowRider, Zip Line, or Ice Skating. And I can’t see much benefit to having special hours for just the Rock Climbing Wall.

 

At $19.99 per person per day for a 12-day cruise, the total cost of the Key should have been $479.76 (I don’t know if TAs get discounts on onboard purchases like this, but for the sake of this comparison I’m going with the full price amount.)

 

Conversely, if you were to purchase* the 2-device Surf & Stream package ($20.99 per day x 12 days = $251.88) and lunch for two in Chops ($24.20 x 2 = 48.40) you would spend a total of $300.28 out of pocket. *I do realize we receive a discount for being diamond members if we purchase internet onboard. I will have to wait and see what the purchase price is when we get there. It’s not always a cheaper option, but I will find out.

 

We are going to decide if the additional $179 is worth it to additionally get:

 

- Priority check-in and boarding (I think we get this anyway in a JS, and we are also Diamond)

- Bag drop-off and delivery to stateroom

- Reserved seating at the shows

- Priority departure at ports of call (Honestly, this interests me the most since we have so many private tours. So I am hoping this is actually a benefit.)

- Private hours at the rock-climbing wall (Confession: I have never, in 15 Royal Caribbean cruises, actually tried the rock-climbing wall)

- An exclusive à la carte breakfast and choice departure at disembarkation

 

Stay Tuned…

 

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I'll be following along since not that many people post about the Vision lately. Sail on her in August but am doing a different itinerary with some shared ports.

 

I actually booked exactly one year ago today and I can tell you that  you got a great rate! I paid a few hundred more for just a balcony room and what I paid through my TA was on group space and hundreds lower than what RC was offering. So I would have totally jumped on that deal! 

Sounds like you have a everything planned out (love a fellow planner). Can't wait to hear all about it as I have never been to Europe.

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14 minutes ago, erby2283 said:

I'll be following along since not that many people post about the Vision lately. Sail on her in August but am doing a different itinerary with some shared ports.

 

I actually booked exactly one year ago today and I can tell you that  you got a great rate! I paid a few hundred more for just a balcony room and what I paid through my TA was on group space and hundreds lower than what RC was offering. So I would have totally jumped on that deal! 

Sounds like you have a everything planned out (love a fellow planner). Can't wait to hear all about it as I have never been to Europe.

 

Thanks for saying so! Love to hear the price was as good as I thought it was. And yes, I’m guilty. Totally a “type A” planner! But I think planning is part of the fun. 

 

13 minutes ago, dreadpirate3 said:

Enjoy! We are on her next November.

 

Thank you! I’m so excited already. Just made it to our gate. 😊

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Posted (edited)

We have made a couple of specialty dining reservations and I’m hoping to find a couple of bottles of nice Spanish wine in Barcelona to bring aboard. Oooh, maybe a nice Cava for sail away. Gotta put that balcony to good use! Will definitely be on the lookout for something!

 

I would love any tips or recommendations from those of you who have sailed to these locations before, or from anyone who has recently sailed the Vision of the Seas. While we do already have tours scheduled, I’m hoping that some of our ports will still allow for some free time to do a little sightseeing on our own.

 

We have an hour an a half to kill before boarding. Got our coffee. Got a bagel with cream cheese. Yeah. That’s my breakfast. It can only get better from here, right?

 

Apparantly it’s going to be a little while. So here’s a video of my cats trying to catch the mouse inside my iPad til I return. 

 

Spoiler Alert: They don’t catch him. (They’d never survive in the wild.)

 

 

 

Edited by aring75

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Following, we will be visiting many of these ports next year. Mostly looking forward to the Greek ports. 

Thanks so much for sharing.

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5 hours ago, aring75 said:

Cabin 8088 was available. The corner Junior Suite on Deck 8 with the aft view and the extra-large, wrap-around balcony!

 

 

OMG... I had the other corner a few years ago... totally awesome balcony, especially for a Med itinerary! Leaving Malta and Santorini for example will be incredible, just don't feel "stuck" there when sailing-in to port as those sail-ins are epic looking forward from top deck.

 

Have a superb trip... I know you will in that cabin 😊

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3 hours ago, EmmasNana said:

Following, we will be visiting many of these ports next year. Mostly looking forward to the Greek ports. 

Thanks so much for sharing.

 

I will definitely report back with our thoughts. I’m really looking forward to Greece, and especially the Greek Isles. Thanks for following along! 

 

2 hours ago, singinalot said:

woohoo definitely following along!  ENjoy!

 

Thank you!!

 

1 hour ago, Hoopster95 said:

 

OMG... I had the other corner a few years ago... totally awesome balcony, especially for a Med itinerary! Leaving Malta and Santorini for example will be incredible, just don't feel "stuck" there when sailing-in to port as those sail-ins are epic looking forward from top deck.

 

Have a superb trip... I know you will in that cabin 😊

 

So glad to hear it, hoopster. Really excited for some of these sailaways! 😊😊😊

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Following..

We leave on the Jewell on June 23...

Have an amazing trip...

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Made it out of Tampa mostly uneventfully. 

 

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But lots of turbulence on the way. Coming into Atlanta was very bouncy. 

 

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Somebody behind me thought it would be a good idea to take their shoes off during the flight. 

 

It was not. 

 

Got some lunch when we arrived in Atlanta. Honey chicken with brown rice and crispy noodles. Not bad, but hoping for some really great Spanish, Greek, and Italian food this trip. 

 

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My fortune. I think it definitely applies. 

 

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In the Delta SkyLounge now. Ohmygod is it crowded. We found the only two seats together. (Admittedly, we didn’t lug our stuff upstairs.) So many people though. 

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4 minutes ago, tcmagnum said:

Following..

We leave on the Jewell on June 23...

Have an amazing trip...

 

Thanks!!! You’ll be leaving just as we’re getting back. 😀

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2 hours ago, singinalot said:

woohoo definitely following along!  ENjoy!

 

I just realized!! Yours is one of the Greek Isles reviews I really appreciated reading to get ready for OUR cruise. Loved all your pictures and details. 

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23 minutes ago, aring75 said:

Somebody behind me thought it would be a good idea to take their shoes off during the flight. 

 

It was not. 

 

HA - there's a funny video going around on that popular social media site today of a four year old boy telling the person behind them on the plane what they thought of their stinky feet propped up on the seat behind them. So funny. Why do people do this? So disgusting. Try to find it. 🙂 

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, aring75 said:

Having never traveled to Europe before....

 

Oh wow... you'll never want to cruise the Caribbean again! 😁 

 

7 hours ago, aring75 said:

I know that I did a TON of planning and research when it came to this portion of our trip. I will review each of our tours when they are complete to let you know how we liked them. Hopefully, having this info will help somebody.

 

Well done! Yes, please share, that's the best thing about CC and helping others.

You'll LOVE Malta! Great port. And try to find time to stay longer in Oia (Santorini) if the tour is trying to whisk you away

 

7 hours ago, aring75 said:

The Key

 

I am very opinionated regarding the Key. I feel it's a total cash grab, and especially on the smaller classes without all the amenities. If you do buy it, definitely report back whether it was worth it to you or not.

 

5 hours ago, aring75 said:

We have made a couple of specialty dining reservations and I’m hoping to find a couple of bottles of nice Spanish wine in Barcelona to bring aboard. Oooh, maybe a nice Cava for sail away.

 

One of many options.... At Columbus Square Monument right at the base of Barcelona cruise pier where it meets with Las Ramblas, has an awesome wine center tucked away inside at it's base. For minimal $, go up the tower for incredible views of Barcelona.... come down for a taster or two of awesome Cava... buy and bring on board! 

Edited by Hoopster95

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, aring75 said:

 

I would love any tips or recommendations from those of you who have sailed to these locations before, or from anyone who has recently sailed the Vision of the Seas. While we do already have tours scheduled, I’m hoping that some of our ports will still allow for some free time to do a little sightseeing on our own.

 

 

 

If you have time in Malta and are a chocolate freaks like us... Try to find the Chocolate District.  Its a store with amazing chocolates (and tea - but why waste your time with tea...Lol.).

 

We almost missed this store.  Its down a few steps below street level.  But WOW!!  So good.  They had a 'hot chocolate' that was so good = more like a small cup of warm gooey chocolate.

 

https://www.chocolatedistrict.com/

Edited by tcmagnum

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Looking forward to this review.  Similar itinerary to mine next year.

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10 minutes ago, Hoopster95 said:

 

Oh wow... you'll never want to cruise the Caribbean again! 😁 

 

 

Well done! Yes, please share, that's the best thing about CC and helping others.

You'll LOVE Malta! Great port. And try to find time to stay longer in Oia (Santorini) if the tour is trying to whisk you away

 

 

I am very opinionated regarding the Key. I feel it's a total cash grab, and especially on the smaller classes without all the amenities. If you do buy it, definitely report back whether it was worth it to you or not.

 

 

One of many options.... At Columbus Square Monument right at the base of Barcelona cruise pier where it meets with Las Ramblas, has an awesome wine center tucked away inside at it's base. For minimal $, go up the tower for incredible views of Barcelona.... come down for a taster or two of awesome Cava... buy and bring on board! 

 

Yes! Thank you so much. This is the kind of info I’d love to have. I will look for the wine center. As far as the Key, I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I will definitely share my thoughts. 😀

 

5 minutes ago, tcmagnum said:

 

If you have time in Malta and are a chocolate freaks like us... Try to find the Chocolate District.  Its a store with amazing chocolates (and tea - but why waste your time with tea...Lol.).

 

We almost missed this store.  Its down a few steps below street level.  But WOW!!  So good.  They had a 'hot chocolate' that was so good = more like a small cup of warm gooey chocolate.

 

https://www.chocolatedistrict.com/

 

Mmmm...chocolate. I will absolutely check this out. Thanks!!!

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6 minutes ago, mj said:

Looking forward to this review.  Similar itinerary to mine next year.

 

That’s part of the reason I decided to try to do an in-depth review. Seems like it’s pretty easy to find Caribbean cruise reviews. Mediterranean cruise reviews are a lot harder to come by.

 

Not to mention, I enjoy looking back over my trip a year or two down the road and re-living the memories!

 

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34 minutes ago, aring75 said:

 

I just realized!! Yours is one of the Greek Isles reviews I really appreciated reading to get ready for OUR cruise. Loved all your pictures and details. 

 

ah thanks so much! can't wait to see how you enjoy these beautiful ports.  We still have 4 months until we go again and I still get giddy.

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