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Middle Aged Drama Queen's Eastern Med Review: Serenade, Pics, Surprises & Fun!

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As much-anticipated as 1:00 pm is on a Cruise, 4:00 pm is a different story. It's the Muster Drill. And especially in light of what happened this past year with the tragedy of the Costa Concordia, it's necessary and it's important. (And this being said from someone who does a lot of Disaster Education in the community). I had stressed to the kids to PAY ATTENTION to what was going on; that this drill was not to be taken lightly.



For whatever reason, Hubby Mike, Mickey and I decided to head to our Muster Station prior to the official start of the Drill...perhaps to get a good spot? We were mustering in the Schooner Bar, so we meandered and mustered our way to Deck 6, where we were the second family to arrive. There was already a family there ahead of us, sitting in some of the comfy chairs that the Schooner Bar offers. There were still plenty of comfy chairs available...so, DIBS. We sat down. And waited. Pretty soon, the announcements began over the loudspeaker, and we could see multitudes of passengers congregating in various areas...some were in Porofino's...some back in the Safari Club...but curiously, no one seemed to join us and the other family in the comfy chairs. This is odd.



There was an RCI employee standing near us, and she'd meander over to us and make small talk every few minutes or so...and I remarked to Hubby Mike how, in a disaster, our lifeboat would be strangely empty, what with just two measly families on it. And the RCI employee who was standing near us.



Mustering in the Comfy Chairs


After another few minutes or so, a different RCI employee approached us - as well as the other family - and asked us what Muster Station we were in. We all said, "W-11." He then said, a little exasperated, "You're supposed to be over THERE!" and proceeds to point to the ENTRANCE to the Schooner Bar - NOT the comfy chairs...where a group of about 50 passengers are standing in Muster Drill formation. And giving us the Evil Eye.



Oops. We quickly slink over and slip into formation.



Say goodbye to the Comfy Chair, honey...wrong place.


Soon, we were dismissed, and we quickly headed up to the Pool Deck, where the Official Cruise Critic SailAway Party was about to begin. Mardi gras beads and drinks were in order, as one by one, various CC members and their respective spouses, Klingons, and friends made their way to the Sky Bar to kick off this cruising adventure.



I don't remember much about this event.


I DO know that I got there early. I DO know that a roving bartender quickly zeroed in on me, and I obliged him by ordering some foo-foo drink with an umbrella. The bartender asked Mickey if she wanted the same drink, and I DO remember intervening with, "She's only TWELVE!" I DO remember she got the virgin version of the foo-foo drink with the umbrella. I DO remember buying drinks for the boys and Hubby Mike. And perhaps a few others?? Don't remember if I did that or not.


I DO remember taking my camera, but I don't really remember why I didn't take any photos. Perhaps the act of balancing a foo-foo drink with the umbrella with a camera was too much effort. Or perhaps the foo-foo drink with the umbrella completely erased my memory banks on how to take photos.



I DO remember that as we began sailing, we passed a massive RCI ship - perhaps the Independence of the Seas? And I remember that we got into a horn-blowing contest with them...and they won. I remember passing a dinky little cruise ship that blew its horn, and it sounded like a dog's squeak toy. Which made us all laugh.



I DO remember meeting SO MANY Cruise Critic members...dozens and dozens. I remember we pretty much took over the Sky Bar and then some.



I don't remember how many foo-foo drinks with the umbrella that I had. Perhaps one too many.



And I vaguely remember that at some point, around 6:15, Hubby Mike grabbed me and said that it was almost time for MTD, and we needed to go.



And I remember not being very happy about having to say good-bye to my new friend, the roving bartender...and my new friend, the foo-foo drink with the umbrella...and all my new friends, the CC'ers.


But. Dinner? Dessert? Count me in.

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It has taken me hours to read this! Great review, can't wait to hear what happens in Florence!!


Taking a Med cruise is on my list of MUST-DO's within the next 10 years. I am trying to convince my dad that we should take one next year in celebration of my graduation!


Your kids are LUCKY! :)

Edited by swim13

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I'm sure your pictures are the closest I'll get to the Royal Suite! It's amazing!!!! Love the tour!


Can't wait for the next installment....on pins and needles!

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After leaving the Sailaway Party, we gathered up the troops and made our way down to Deck 5 for our MTD reservation, which was at 6:30. When we approached the desk, we were asked for our room number, and I replied, "1556."


"Hmmm....I don't seem to have a 1556," the maitre d' said.


Oh, sheesh. I thought we had already cleared this up earlier on the telephone? I tell her to try 1560, as that had been our previous room.


"Hmmm...I don't seem to have a 1560, either, " she says.


Really? "Um...can you try 9260?" I ask, thinking perhaps the reservation could be found under the boys' room. If not - there's always the Jammer.


Bingo. We were in. Whew.


We were taken to Table #551, a table for five, located about midway in the dining room. There, we were served by Peter, our waiter, and Pascal, our assistant waiter; both are from India.


As the menus are placed in front of us, Pascal appears with the giant bread basket, and proceeds to describe, with great relish, the various bread options of the evening. He's obviously very proud of the bread. He looks immediately to me for my choice, and I regretfully tell him, "None for me." Not to go into great details - or any details, for that matter - but I can't have bread. And rather than explain to people what the issue is, it's just easier to say, "None for me."


Pascal appears to roll his eyes a bit...looks a bit offended...and then says, "'None for me' is not being offered tonight."


Well. He certainly just told me.


And now for dinner...there were some nights when I took photos of the food... but most nights, I didn't. Some nights, the food was fantastic...and some nights, not so much. It was very hit-or-miss on this sailing, and remember - this is MY opinion only....As for tonight, I ordered the fried pork medallions, and it was...okay. It didn't wow me. And neither did dessert, for that matter.


But hey. I wasn't the one cooking, nor was I the one who was washing dishes, so life was still great. As we were leaving, I did note that the line to check in for MTD was very long...it would seem that the later you wait to eat, the more likelihood you have of having to wait. And I also noted that every table in MTD was utilized; there were no empty tables. If you looked across the way, however, at the "regular" diners - there were lots of empty tables. MTD seemed to be very popular on this cruise, what with the intensive ports & heavy scheduling. So - my tip? If you choose to do MTD, make your reservations for an early time, if possible, to insure less waiting.


As far as entertainment...on our first night, there was only ONE Welcome Aboard Show scheduled...and it wasn't until 10:00 pm. Which - for most of the cruisers, who were fighting jet lag - was insanely late. We went, and sat in a half-empty theater; we wanted to see the Cruise Director and get a feel.


Our CD was Ricky Matthews. Some people here on CC love him. Others - not so much. It's been interesting to read the various opinions people have of Rickey - they're really across the board. My opinion - and remember, this is OPINION - was that I didn't care for him. Not that he was awful - but I've seen better.


I found activities to be scheduled at weird times (like the opening show at 10:00 pm), and I found activities to be scarce. I also found Ricky to be scarce; I think I saw him ONCE onboard, when he wasn't performing somewhere. Whereas, in the past, I remember seeing the CD's everywhere on the ship.


After the show, it was time to call it a night, as the next day, we'd be in our first port - Cannes, France.

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Love the review. For me, cruising isn't just about the ship. It's also about seeing the world and experiencing new things. Thank you for bringing this piece of the world home to us. It's been a great read so far, and I look forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures.


I also *selfishly* hope you're planning a review of your next cruise on Freedom. :D

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I'm loving this review and find when I've been away from the computer I am going back on line and refreshing this thread (which I've added to my favourites!!).


I am on Navigator in a few weeks, my first cruise and eventhough this is a different cruise and ship, I love reading about the adventures.


Your pictures of Guell Park in Barcelona are fab. I went to Barcelona a few years ago and absolutely loved it.


Looking forward to the next instalment

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I couldn't...quite...fit the entire church in...but I tried! And in my attempt to do so, I got some pretty bizarre effects in this photo...including a disembodied head!




My favourite photo so far. I laughed out loud at disembodied head man. Then I noticed the pillars coming out of green man's head, while the top of his scalp looks like a daek halo for the lady. I'm sure Gaudi would be pleased with this photo. How did you synch the camera to your own sense of humour?

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I am loving your review. Thanks for taking the time and effort to put it together for all of us cruise junkies!


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...or How We Saw Three European Countries by Standing in One Spot...


Perhaps it was the relief of finally being on the ship, or perhaps it was the super-comfy bed, or perhaps it was just plain exhaustion...all I know is that I slept wonderfully and FINALLY woke up refreshed and ready to tackle the world. I will say that we've always found RCI's bedding super comfortable...and even Mickey looks like she's had a great night's sleep and is ready to tackle the world:





Or...maybe not.



RCI is scheduled to be in Cannes from approximately 9:00 am to 6:00 pm; and I should mention that Cannes is a tender port. So...this pinches the day even more, to have to allow time to tender back and forth. What it boils down to is this - there's a whole lot to see and not much time to see it.


After rising and shining, Hubby Mike and I hit the track up on Deck 12, getting a few laps in before going to the free Stretch Class at 7:30 in the gym. We've done the Stretch classes before, and have always enjoyed them; they're usually a great way to start the day and get things going. This morning's class, however, had all of the energy of a rock - thanks to the rock-like personality of the instructor. The guy had no personality to speak of - or he really, really didn't like getting up at 7:30 am to lead the Stretch Class; either way, it was very ho-hum.


The plan for today was to visit some of the beautiful French countryside and small villages, with the help of a private tour company, Revelation Tours. I had used this company back in 2009 and had been highly impressed with their service. The owner, Michel LeGrande, had been our tour guide for the day then, and he was very much the consummate, charming Frenchman. Ooh la la. He can take a total of 8 in his van, and Cathy (cat54) and Ken had decided to join us for the day. The cost was $600E, to be split by the seven of us, and we were to begin our tour at 10:00 am.


After grabbing some breakfast in the Jammer, it was getting close to 9:00 am. I had spoken to Daniel the night before about tender tickets, and his reply had been, "You don't need tender tickets - you have ME." Not sure what that meant, but he asked us to meet him in the Concierge Lounge whenever we were ready to tender off, and so all seven of us were in the Concierge Lounge by 9:15. Unfortunately, there were about seven other families in the Concierge Lounge at 9:15 - all standing in a long line needing to see Daniel for this or that or the other. Not wanting to interrupt, I took our group and we somewhat huddled off to the side, patiently waiting for Daniel to help everyone else...as the clock ticked by. After about 10 minutes or so, Daniel politely excused himself from the others waiting in line, promised he'd be right back to help them, and then whisked us off to the elevators to take us down to Deck 2, where the gangway was set up.


Once inside the elevators, I joked that, knowing elevator rules, it was a sure thing that we would stop on every deck on the way down - because that's just the way things run when you're in a hurry. (Just like another elevator rule: it's always the people in the BACK of the elevator that have to get off when the doors open...right?!). Daniel smiled in his mysterious way, and said, "Ahhh... not when you have THIS!" and showed us The Magic Card. He inserted The Magic Card in a slot by the buttons, and the elevator magically responded by whisking us straight down to Deck 2 with no stops along the way. I told Daniel he could get big bucks for that Magic Card on eBay if he ever decided to sell.


So...we board a waiting tender, and then we wait...and wait...and wait some more as they fill the tender. By the time they feel the tender is sufficiently stuffed, we make the trip over to the shores of Cannes, arriving a few minutes past 10:00.


There we are met by Frank, who is one of Michel's drivers. Frank is suave, he's funny, and he has that French charm oozing out of every pore. Ooh la la.



Frank's no dummy...he's got himself sandwiched between the two women....



Soon, we are on our way...the plan is to visit Nice, Eze, and then Saint Paul de Vence...and then circling back through Cannes to return to the ship before the 5:30 boarding time.



Nice is famous for their beautiful flower market, and that was our first stop of the day...where we spent about 45 minutes meandering through the various stalls of not only flowers, but French soaps, spices and food:




Just gorgeous!




More pretty flowers!




Not so pretty...




Fresh calamari, anyone??



After skipping the calamari and octopus, we bought some bars of delicious-smelling French soaps, and then wandered across the street over to the Nice beach....

Edited by KansCocoa

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My favourite photo so far. I laughed out loud at disembodied head man. Then I noticed the pillars coming out of green man's head, while the top of his scalp looks like a daek halo for the lady. I'm sure Gaudi would be pleased with this photo. How did you synch the camera to your own sense of humour?


I wish I could say that I'm very camera-savvy and knew exactly what I was doing, but alas...I am not. Camera-savvy. I turn it on...point...and click the button. And pray that it turns out. Just like the car...I get it...turn the key...and pray that it will drive. Anything beyond that, I'm hopelessly lost. :roll eyes:


But you're right - I never thought of it in that I took a Gaudi-inspired photo! I LIKE that thinking!!! :)

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A quick walk across the famed Promenade des Anglais (Walkway of the English), and we are at the beautiful beach of Nice, where we have a few minutes to stroll, take a few photos, and just admire all things...French.




Yup. I could live here....





On the beach...




Before we knew it, Frank was rounding us up and putting us back in the van for our next stop, Eze, which is the tiny little village perched WAAAAAY up high, like an Eagle's Nest, on this hill (snort...that's a mountain where I come from):



That's where we're off to next...



If I have one regret in Nice - it's that we didn't have enough time to sit down and enjoy a French crepe...or two. Because these offerings look really, really tempting:



Chocolate? Yes, please....Grand Marnier? Yes, please...



Along the way, Frank regals us with stories and trivia and history, all the while maneuvering the van through the narrow, twisting roads that make up the French Riviera...he stopped occasionally so that we could take a photo or two:



Yup...I could live here...




...or here...


And then...on to Eze...one of my favorite places in the world....

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Anxiously awaitng next post. This is so much fun. First, I love your ship - it's a sister ship to our ship the Brilliance so it makes me feel right at home. Second, I love hearing about your Klingons - I have two of my own (boys 17 and 22) who were a bit put out that they didn't get to go on our Med cruise- hey, it was my 25th wedding anniversary. Your kids react in much the same way mine would in these situations. Thanks for shaing your trip!!!!!

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On to Eze!


Eze is a medieval village perched like an eagle's nest on a narrow, rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The ruins of its 12th-century castle still remain, and it's an adventurer's delight to wander among the maze of narrow paths and alleyways that make up this village.



Frank drops us off and promises to meet us in an hour...there are no cars allowed in Eze, as the pathways are obviously too narrow too allow anything but pedestrians.




No having to worry about getting hit by a car here....

We wander around like rats in a maze, soaking in the beauty that is...Eze.




Everywhere you look...it's just beautiful...



You can't get lost (and this from the World's Most Directionally-Challenged Family)...there's really only one way in or out...but even if you DID get lost - so what? There are worse things in the world than being lost in Eze....



If you DO get lost...there's a nice map to be found posted in the village...




On the streets of Eze...




Art galleries galore can be found along the streets....




Even the signs seem prettier in Eze...

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In case you forgot where we were, we're still in Eze, France...





That little village waaaaaaaaaaaaay up there on the "hill"....



...where we're exploring the little alleys and passageways and shops and signs and views....









We eventually make our way up higher, and higher (yes - there are some stairs - but not steep stairs...just lots of stairs....), and come across the newest building in town:






This is a church that was built in 1776...and we have to laugh to hear that Eze's newest building in town is as old as our entire country....


From the church, we have a great view of some of the surrounding countryside:





Eventually, we know that all good things must come to an end, and it's time to make our way down the steps and the hill to meet back up with Frank. As we begin the journey down, we pass some young people making their way up, and they're all dressed up. I mean, as in REALLY dressed up...as in tuxedos...and gowns...


Being a little slow on the uptick, sometimes, it takes us a few minutes to realize that there is a wedding party making their way up the hill...probably to the church that we just left. Watching the women maneuver their way on the stone steps - in 5" spike heels - was amazing. Better them than me, as I would be the one who'd fall and break my neck. Eventually, we passed the priest... who was dressed in his blacks...and sweating profusely as he made his way up the hill. Poor guy. We said a little prayer for him that he'd make it up without passing out along the way, as he really didn't look so good.


As we got closer to the bottom of Eze, we came across the limousine for the wedding party:





A convertible limo, no less! Unfortunately, the limo had tried to go a bit too far up the road, and was somewhat...stuck. It was somewhat amusing to watch the driver try to maneuver the ultra-long vehicle so that it wasn't "stuck" anymore in the village of Eze.


But hey...like I said...there are WORSE things in life than being stuck...or lost...in Eze...!


...but on to our next stop, Saint Paul de Vence...

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Don't stop now! Lol! I am glued to the ipad in anticipation of your next post...


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Wonderful report - thank you so much for sharing, it is awesome! :)

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As we're making our way to Saint Paul de Vence, Frank asks us why we had chosen to not go to Monaco, or to Monte Carlo...not that he was upset by that, as Monaco/Monte Carlo is a good distance away from Cannes, and this meant less driving for him.


And that's the reason why we had chosen to not go to M&M. It IS a good distance away, and our time in Cannes was short. Not to mention, Hubby Mike and I had already been there previously, and although we enjoyed it - we didn't think the Klingons would get as much out of it as we did. The Grand Casino? Means nothing to them...and although they have a vague idea of who Princess Grace was, about the only thing that might excite them would be the fancy cars parked in front of the Casino. So - no M&M for us.


Frank suddenly snaps his finger and says, in his oh-so-charming French way, "Ah ha! I have a surprise for you! You will like....it is nice....." (Try to say that in a charming, French-way...complete with French accent...and you'll get the savor faire that is Frank.)


As he is saying this, the van is slowly climbing in altitude...I thought we had been high before, while at Eze, but we now seem to be driving almost in the clouds. Soon, there's nothing but us...the mountain we're driving on...and the birds. Not another car in sight. Frank pulls over in a remote, somewhat-abandoned slip in the road and says, "Now - we walk."


Uh. Okay. Whatever you say, Frank. BTW, where are we walking TO? We see nothing...but more hillside to climb. Shrugging, we all get out and begin following Frank...sometimes, we've learned, it's just best to not question where we're going - but just enjoy the journey along the way. So...we climb. And climb some more. If I had known I would be doing mountain-climbing, I would have worn more proper shoes...and poor Cathy...she's in flip-flops. Parts of this climb were a little slippery and treacherous, but Frank promised us it would be worth it.




Was it?



I'd say so.





He'd taken us to a perch, way up high, where we could see Monte Carlo...spread out below us in all it's glory...I felt like a little bird, peering down through the skies, and watching the activity below....





We could make out the famed Monte Carlo Grand Prix course:



Oh, and look! There's my yacht anchored down there, as well!


It was here, that we could see three countries from one little perch...France, of course...the principality of Monaco below us...and a teeny bit of the Italian mountains way off in the distance...if you squinted just right. The kids, of course, thought this was WAY COOL.






Initially, I was so bowled-over by the incredible view below us, that I didn't take into account my own surroundings:






Here we are, folks...on the edge of a CLIFF! Not just any cliff, mind you...but a steep, death-defying, insanity-laden CLIFF that could instantly plunge me and the Klingons to certain DEATH!!! Or a whole lot of hurt, anyway...you can imagine what I'm saying now to the kids about keeping their distance away from that edge....



Frank, sensing my nervousness, rounds up the Klingons and we head back to the van...and he says, "Was nice, yes?"


Oh, yes. That was VERY nice.

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This makes me wish we had done a tour. Oh well, next time!



And I know JUST the tour guide to recommend! {chuckle}

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Tunneling through the mazes of Eze, and climbing the mountains above Monaco, had certainly worked up an appetite. Frank had chastised us a bit for not eating in Eze; he tells us we MUST make time for lunch in Saint Paul, and like dutiful children, we all reply, "Oui, Monsieur" - which was about the extent of our French.


Saint Paul de Vence is yet another appealing little village perched on a rocky ledge in the French Riviera. It's a famed artist colony for the famous and celebrated artists who have lived here, including Marc Chagall. In the 1960's, it was frequented by actors, film directors, and scriptwriters. There are about 3,000 people who call Saint Paul their home, and more than 2 million visitors come to SP each year. We will definitely be encountering more barbarians here than we did previously in Eze, but once we're fortified with a good lunch, we'll be able to handle anything...including bus loads of barbarians.


Frank drops us off at the "bottom" of Saint Paul, establishing our meeting point and giving us about 90 minutes to explore...and off we go.


The village is surrounded by the original Roman walls, and we have to enter a gate, where we encounter the cannon:




But this isn't just ANY cannon...no, siree, Bob. This is a special cannon.


Having done a bit of research before the trip, I tell the group that this cannon has a bit of a story behind it...it's the Cherry Pit cannon. Apparently, hundreds of years ago, the people of the village down below Saint Paul were jealous of this cannon, and wanted it for their own - so they planned to steal it. The people of Saint Paul found out about the plan (because no one can ever keep a secret), and they rose to defend their beloved "Lacan." As they prepared for the upcoming attack, however, they soon realized that their stock of cannon ammunition was dangerously low. Oh, no! Whatever would they do? You can't defend a cannon if you don't have ammunition!!!


The governor of Saint Paul gave an order to gather the greatest amount of cherry pits possible...and so the the loyal citizens of Saint Paul went to work. Eating as many cherries as they could "stomach" - and spitting the pits into bags. When the attackers of the neighboring village arrived to steal the cannon, a thundering explosion was heard, followed by another, and then it began raining cherry pits down on the distraught attackers - who quickly retreated. The cannon was saved! And here it rests today...taunting the people of the village below Saint Paul.


And all this talk of cherry pits has my group even more hungry...so we begin looking for a place to eat, and find the most delightful little bakery/sandwich shop where we buy hot, fresh panini's for everyone:




"Mom...best panini...EVER!"



A way to a boy's stomach...give him food:








Do I not have the best view EVER while eating lunch? And yes...I forgo my "no-bread" rule for this, and it was SO worth it. Hot...delicious...tasty. A perfect lunch....



Not only was the lunch tasty, but it was easy to continue exploring Saint Paul while we ate...so onward through the walls of the town:





What will we find in Saint Paul? Will it be as charming as I remember from 2009? Will it be overrun by barbarians???



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Anxiously awaitng next post. This is so much fun. First, I love your ship - it's a sister ship to our ship the Brilliance so it makes me feel right at home. Second, I love hearing about your Klingons - I have two of my own (boys 17 and 22) who were a bit put out that they didn't get to go on our Med cruise- hey, it was my 25th wedding anniversary. Your kids react in much the same way mine would in these situations. Thanks for shaing your trip!!!!!


The Brilliance is what we cruised on in 2009 in the Mediterranean, and it's one of our favorites, as well!


I can't blame you for not bringing Klingons on an anniversary cruise - I wouldn't have, either! This was the first cruise we've ever brought the kids on, and may be the last, since they're getting older....

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Hi Sherri,


Enjoying the review. I wish we were back In Eze. It was one of my favorite days.:)

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Sherri, This has to be one the best trip reviews I have ever read. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with all of here at crusie critic. Around 40 days till I head for my Med Cruise and now I am more excited than ever.:D

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