Dubai

We were worried that a 16-day cruise would be really long and start to get boring, but it passed super fast and before we knew it, the last days of our cruise were sadly upon us. 

We arrived in Dubai around 2 PM and were greeted by a lovely landscape view of the Burj Khalifa towering over the skyline.

We hopped into a taxi to visit the tallest building in the world and surrounding attractions. Along the way, we saw some of Dubai's amazing architecture and were in awe seeing the large number of active sky-scraper construction projects underway. 

At the Dubai Mall, we strolled through the surrounding areas and went inside to see some of the mall attractions like the Aquarium and the indoor waterfall. We grabbed a bite to eat while watching the world's largest light and sound show on the Burj Khalifa.

The next day we departed the boat and left our travel companions behind 😢 to continue their cruise to Singapore. 

We strapped on our backpacks and went to explore “La Mer”, a new sea-side resort area close to the ship.  It was really pretty, but crazy hot!  We spent a couple of hours exploring and then headed back to the airport to made our way to London.. and back to reality.

Suez Canal

On day 9 of our cruise, we passed through the Suez Canal. 

It took about 10 hours to cross and was a pretty uneventful other than seeing a few landmarks along the way. 

One interesting part of the journey was to see the contrast between the East and West sides of the canal. 

On the West side you see cities and trees. 

While on the East side it's mostly desert. 

Athens by Bike

At our third cruise port, Athens, we decided to explore the city by bike!  We were able to cover a lot more ground to get a good overview of the city, but it did not allow us to visit specific sites (like the Acropolis). 

We had a great guide who stopped regularly to tell us myths about the city and the gods... Like why is Athens called Athens: 

Here is the short version: Athena (God of Wisdom) and Poseidon (God of the sea) fought to be the patron god of the city. They both presented a gift to the king so that he could choose a winner. Poseidon made a spring while Athena gave the city an olive tree seed. Unfortunately, the spring water was salted so the king choose Athena and named the city Athens.

Here is the slightly longer version: https://www.greeka.com/attica/athens/myths/athens-name-giving/


One of the best stops on our tour was at a local bakery where our guide bought us some traditional Spanakopita, Bougatsa (a traditional dessert), and other delicious treats to taste :)

Capri

Our second Cruise port stop was Naples. From here we decided to get on another boat and go explore the island of Capri and its famous Blue Grotto.


When we arrived in Capri, we switched to a smaller boat to head to the Blue Grotto. At the blue grotto, we switch to an even smaller boat to enter this small hole in the wall. It was a boating extravaganza ;)

Once we entered the cave, this amazing blue aura appeared in the water around us. The reflection from the sun in the water of the cave was just magnificent.  Our boat driver sang while paddling us around the cave a few times.  The visit was short, the cave was small and it was crowded with many boats.. but the experience was still quite enjoyable.

After our quick Blue Grotto excursion, we climbed to the top of Capri to have some delicious Naplesese pizza.

We finished our day by exploring the cute city. 

Orvieto and Bagnoregio

The first stop on our Cruise to Dubai was Civitavecchia (the Rome port city). Since all of us had been to Rome before, we decided to book a private tour and explore Orvieto and Bagnoregio.

Cita di Bagnoregio is a small town near Rome that sits on a hill, like a lot of cities in the region.  It was abandoned for a long time, but now has about 15 inhabitants that most likely are there to caters to tourists.  The base of this city is eroding slowly, so eventually, it will slowly be abandoned again.

From here we set out to Orvieto to see their famous cathedral and the other sites in the city


We also had enough time to take a tour of some of the tunnels below the city that were dug through the years. They were used for different things: such as cellars, water storage, and even as a coup for pigeons.

Lastly, on our way back to our ship, we stopped on top of a hill to admire the view of a big lake in the region. 

Barcelona to Dubai Cruise

We decided to join Jen’s parents on a 16-day cruise from Barcelona to Dubai on a new Royal Caribbean ship called the Spectrum of the Seas. This was a good way to spend some time with them and relax. The Spectrum was a brand new boat and our portion of the trip was considered the inaugural trip.  The full journey was destined for Singapore where the boat would be stationed to serve the Asian market. 

Although this was a long cruise, it only stopped at the following ports: 
  • Barcelona 
  • Civitavecchia (Rome)
  • Naples
  • Athens
  • Aquaba
  • Dubai

The rest of the time we kept busy with multiple activities. Here are a few that we enjoyed: 

  • Progressive Trivia: Every day, we participated in a trivia contest that tested random knowledge. We learned a lot about South Africa (since that's where the trivia host was from), a lot about different phobias, and what random groups of animals are called.  Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament?


  • Flow Rider: Yay


  • iFly: No better way to dry out your gums 


  • Fencing: This was their first attempt at having this activity on a ship, so the experience was pretty short, but it was fun to give it a try since neither of us had ever tried fencing before.. plus there is nothing like being equipped with a sword and saying, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" 


  • North Star: The North Star is a big bubble on top of the ship that gives you a bird's eye view of the ship. It seemed like a silly idea at first, but in the end, we were surprised at how impressive the view actually was.


  • Morning Yoga: Every other day they had free yoga classes :)


  • Comedy, Music Shows, and movies on the top deck: At night we had a variety of entertainment opportunities with semi-known performers.


Jen's parents stayed on the boat for another journey all the way to Singapore. But we had to go back to work after Dubai. 

Final Port: Barcelona

We've been to Barcelona before, but only for a couple of days, so we were looking forward to spending more time exploring our final port.  In particular, Jen was excited to shop at her new favourite store, Desigual.  She isn't exactly a shopaholic, but we've probably visited at least one Desigual in every European city we've been to since our gap year!  We rarely buy anything because it's a bit expensive, but since Barcelona is where the store originated the prices are significantly cheaper here!  ...we finally purchased a few items for Jen :)

We were working during the week but on the weekends we did a bike tour, checked out the beach, and most importantly: drank sangria! ;) 

We also happened upon a festival where local "Castellers" where doing human pyramid performances.. it was really amazing to watch, especially because some of the little kids climbing to the top were so young! 

Lastly, we stayed at a really cute B&B called Ally's Guest House.  The room we were staying in had red furniture and decor.. we left for lunch one afternoon, and when we returned in the evening the entire room had changed to blue including all of the furniture, the decorative pillows/bedding, and even the paintings&frames!  We had a good laugh as it was quite the surprise.

Working on a cruise

It's been on our wish list since we began our digital nomad lifestyle - working on a cruise ship.  

Until recently, the internet on cruise ships was so painfully slow that it was impossible for us to even consider.  Last year, Royal Caribbean came out with a new ship boasting internet speeds fast enough to stream Netflix.  With a little help and convincing from Jen's mom, we decided to book our tickets and put the new ship to the test.

Here is the Quantum of the Seas, the most technologically advanced boat on the seas today:
Robot bartenders:
80 inch virtual balconies:

We flew to Newark, NJ and spent the next 11 nights floating toward Barcelona, Spain.

..but hey, wait.. weren't you already just in Spain?  

Right.. yes we sure were, but since Jen’s parents and their friends were taking the cruise and celebrating their 65th birthdays, we decided to join in on the fun :)

Dom had done 1 cruise in the past and found it fairly... boring.  Taking a cruise while working at the same time was quite a bit more hectic with trying to juggle everything in around work hours...

Activities: Bumper cars, ping pong, napkin folding class, iFly, FlowRider, volleyball, the shows (Mamma Mia, the Beatlemaniacs, Star Water, Sonic Odyssey, and Claire Vinkesteijn).


Plus 3 ports: Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Cartagena, Spain
Mallorca, Spain

And lastly all of the food, drinks, and socializing

It made for quite the busy trip, but overall we really enjoyed ourselves.

So, did the internet speeds stand up to the challenge?  Sadly, no... it seems the technology is still new and they've still got a LOT of bugs to work out of their system.  The internet wasn't anywhere close to what they claim - we think they must have tested Netflix when there was only 1 person on the ship!.  If you just need to surf the internet and you have patience, it is much better in comparison to other cruise ships out there.  However don't expect to be able to do any kind of streaming or have decent Skype calls.. we got lucky once or twice and managed to connect our calls, but often times we could barely even sign in.