DISCOVER MY 12 DAY ITINERARY
In November 2019, I went to Italy, Greece, Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey on a Royal Carribean cruise with my family. Here's my itinerary with my recommendations:
Day 1 - Rome Embarkation Day
Train to Civitivecchia
My sister, Mom and Dad, and I caught the 10am train from Roma Termini to Civitivecchia—about an hour from Rome. Now… we made a mistake. We didn’t get
off the train quickly enough and we had to go another hour
on the train and then take a train back to Civitivecchia.
Haha. Don’t be like us. If you’re train is slowing down…
be ready. Stand by the door with your stuff. I’m ashamed
because it’s like a travel newbie to do what we did—but
hey, it can happen to anyone. The lesson is to leave with
plenty of time to get to the ship like we did, so there’s no
chance of missing it.
Recommendation: Go for it! It was
11 euro, which unless you have a large group, I believe is
the cheapest and fastest way to get there.
Check in at Royal Caribbean
Check-in was simple, there wasn’t much of a line. But we opted to keep our luggage with us because most of us brought carry-ons and didn’t want to wait to get our stuff.
Recommendation: Go for it. Packing in a carry on is always the best.
Jewel of the Seas
I’m not going to spend too much time talking about our daily itinerary on the ship, but I will highlight a few general things about the ship and give my thoughts and pictures about it. We’re not particularly “cruise people” but we had an enjoyable time and it’s a very easy way to see a lot of places. So enjoy!
Day 2 - Day at Sea
The first thing I’m going to review are the cabins. THEY WERE AWESOME. Seriously, about a million times better than we imagined. There is a ton of closet space and
lots of drawers and cabinets all over the place. Super easy for two
people to live in—we had lots of extra space for storage. Every
room comes with a vanity/desk and a couch with a coffee table.
Honestly this was a nicer set up than I have at home… tons of
mirrors and counter space for all of our curling irons, makeup,
and sunglasses. It was completely ideal for getting ready in the
morning. The bed was comfortable—a true queen (maybe even
a bit bigger), and we both got a bedside table and a lamp which
was great. The TV swung around so we could watch it in bed or
on the couch. And because we were on the ship for 12 nights, we
got to know our channels pretty well and fell in love with a couple
British game shows… haha. The bathroom is small but functional. The shower… was amazing. Not even kidding. It was circular which is actually perfect and the water pressure was unbelievable. The shower head is pretty tall above you, so it felt like a rain shower. I looked forward to my shower every night… seriously. It also came with a complimentary liquid soap which was convenient. The bathroom is small, but the counter space was still great and the mirrors doubled as cabinets which was nice. Overall, the cabins were absolutely the best thing about the ship—as it should be in my opinion. For a long cruise like we took, after you tour all day and you’re really tired, it was really nice to come back to our little oasis and chill out.
Rating: 5/5. I can’t think of anything that would make it better. Maybe outlets by the bed? But I really shouldn’t be sleeping next to my phone anyway…
Royal Caribbean: Cabins
Day 3 - Chania, Crete
Note: We were supposed to stop in Messina, Sicily on our cruise, but because of bad weather we couldn’t dock there. We landed on Crete instead. Luckily we didn’t have a tour booked in Sicily, but I had done a lot of research about where to go, eat, etc. Instead I was on a ship and had no internet, so we winged it! We got on a 2 euro bus from the port to the town of Chania.
Cappucinos at Boheme
Walking along the old city of Chania, we stopped for
cappuccinos at this adorable little place. They had fun
syrup flavors that had no sugar—I got cinnamon, my mom
got vanilla. The coffees came with darling slices of pound
cake, and it was all so delightful.
Recommendation: Go for it! This place was so cute. Definitely check it out.
Walking around Venetian Harbor
This is perhaps the most famous aspect of Chania—a harbor that looks like Arya could be running around selling oysters… (Game of Thrones reference). Haha. It was super cute, but our favorite part was probably stopping every five seconds to pet the cats. There were so many cats and kittens and my dad probably lost his mind because my mom, Caitlyn, and I wouldn’t stop petting them all. But this guy (pictured) is by far the best cat I’ve ever seen.
Recommendation: Go for it! If you’re into Maritime Museums apparently they have a good one. We were more into the cats…
It’s a bit of a trek, but a lovely view out to the
Venetian Lighthouse that gives the harbor
Recommendation: Go for it!
Wine at Emprime
We continued to wander around the old city and stopped at this wine shop for the toilet and a glass of wine. Also there was a cat. =)
Recommendation: These kind of charming shops are a dime a dozen here, so nothing special with this place but nothing wrong with it either.
I think my mom’s biggest regret on the trip was not buying some leather goods here. Crete (and the rest of Greece) is really cheap and they have nice leather. We shopped around a bit, but didn’t buy much.
Recommendation: Go for it!
Dinner at Tamam
We headed back to the harbor and stumbled upon a restaurant tucked away in a little side street. Tamam was delicious! My rule of thumb is to always find a restaurant slightly off the beaten path. They are always better, cheaper, and more authentic. We ordered so much stuff and it was all so good. Probably one of my favorite meals during the trip. Dreaming about that pastrami pie and the fried cheese (yes, fried cheese).
Recommendation: Go for it! If you’re in Chania, you absolutely have to eat here.
Day 4 - Day at Sea
Royal Caribbean: Food
One of the best money-saving perks of choosing a cruise as your mode of travel is the free food—and there’s a ton of it! There’s varying degrees of quality though. On our ship, the Jewel of the Seas, we had two main options: the buffet and the dining room. There is also a small pizza/snacks section but the timing is a bit weird. We generally ate at the buffet in the morning for breakfast, which had plenty of healthy and non-healthy options to start your day. And then for lunch we were usually out on an excursion, but during sea days we usually went to the buffet. And for dinner on all days, we went to the main dining room, where the service is unparalleled and the food was much higher quality. Now… I’m a bit of a foodie. So if you are too, I think cruises aren’t for you. Because even though the food was much better in the dining room, it still wasn’t always amazing. However, there are lots of tasty options every night and I ate the French onion soup every single night as my starter because it was that delicious.
Rating: 3/5. The dining room was acceptable and about half of the dishes I ordered were up to my snobby snuff. The buffet was classic and therefore brought my rating down.
Day 5 - Jerusalem & Dead Sea
Pick up in the Port of Haifa - Drive to Jerusalem (2.5 hours)
We had another change of plan in our schedule due to a bombing in Ashdod. We were supposed to dock in Ashdod, Israel which is only 45 minutes from Jerusalem, but because of the bombing we docked in Haifa for two nights. I used the tour Israel Guided Tours and they were very quick to accommodate our change and the tour ran as usual just with a longer commute. SO. This is a tough one. And maybe it’s because our tour guide this day was SO ROUGH. Like for real. It was a really difficult day because he was really inept at his job, and there were a lot of things he harped on that we were not interested in. But I’ll get to that later.
Recommendation: Skip it? If I could do it again, I would hire a car for a few hours and have them take us to the Dead Sea for a bit and then drop us off at Jerusalem where we could look around on our own.
Floating in the
Our first stop on the tour was the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea. This was my mom’s highlight of the trip and it was very high up on mine. It was kind of like a picnic destination for locals—we stopped at one of the private beaches called Biankini. Floating in the Dead Sea was so cool… it’s amazing how hard it is to keep your limbs under the water in there. And it is incredibly relaxing. A lot of people give themselves a mud mask and your skin will come out glowing. Overall, this is the coolest experience, and as the sea rapidly depletes, I would do this sooner rather than later.
Recommendation: Go for it. Honestly, it was cooler than Jerusalem…
Lunch at Neve Midbar restaurant at Dead Sea
This was the only restaurant/store at the beach entrance we went to. It was buffet style home cooking—very good, just very expensive. Israel is an expensive country which I didn’t realize until I paid $24 USD for a plate for lunch. However, it was very good. There were a lot of families around with barbecues and shisha pipes cooking up lunch for themselves… so that could be a fun option too. Otherwise, hit up the buffet!
Recommendation: Go for it! Things are expensive in Israel, just gotta get used to it.
Mount of Olives
After taking quite a salty shower, we hopped back on our small bus and went to the city of Jerusalem, stopping first at the Mount of Olives. This is an incredible view of the city, and any guide or taxi driver will surely let you pop out take a few pics and stare and the ancient wonder that is Jerusalem.
Recommendation: Go for it! Can’t miss.
Gardens of Gethsemane/
Church of All Nations
Our next stop was right outside the Jerusalem walls at the Gardens of Gethsemane. If you’re familiar with the Bible, this was the place Jesus prayed with his disciples before being arrested and crucified. So kinda a big deal. Whether you’re Christian or not, this is such an incredible site in history. The olive trees grow outwards as they get older, and there were some fat olive trees there. Truly astounding.
Recommendation: Go for it! You can’t walk through the garden itself, but you can walk around it and go inside the church right next door.
Christian Quarter through the
There are two main gates in Jerusalem: Jaffa and Dung. Most people enter from the Dung gate and start their tour at the Wailing Wall (which I would have preferred). Entering through the Jaffa is kind of like doing all the touristy things backwards (we went backwards through the via dolorosa—but more on that later).
Recommendation: Go through the Dung Gate first instead.
Church of the
Okay. Wow. This moment was absolutely the worst part of our entire trip. We visited Israel in the down season (November) and the streets and this church were SO crowded, people were elbowing… it was quite miserable. Unless you’re super Catholic or Orthodox, this is not worth what it costs you. No, not money—just your faith in humanity’s goodness. Because after being pushed and elbowed around a church in the holiest city in the world… you just… can’t. Recommendation: Skip it. Unless you’re staying the night in Jerusalem, then I would suggest getting up crazy early and taking a peek. Otherwise, it’s just full of relics that just seem like speculation to me.
Via Dolorosa - Stations of the Cross
Like I mentioned before, we did these backwards because we entered the back gate. However, it was still pretty cool. No one can say for sure where exactly everything happened, but it’s been centuries and errbody’s like this is where Jesus fell for the first time… and that’s pretty cool. Whether you care about the exact spot, we know for sure Jesus carried a cross through the streets of Jerusalem and you can walk them in real life. Ancient history for you to touch. I love it!
Recommendation: Go for it!
Our tour was so rushed, we only got to walk passed the Muslim quarter… but I so badly wanted to shop in the souks. Again, stay in Jerusalem longer than just half a day! It’s worth it for all the interesting nooks and corners. So much to explore!
Recommendation: Go for it!
We ended our Jerusalem tour at the Western Wall. It was passed sun down on a Friday so we visited during the Jewish sabbath. I was incredibly disappointed that I didn’t get to take a picture at the wall (during the Sabbath, no pics allowed). I only could take one very far away. However, it was really cool to see all the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem come pray for the sabbath. I just wish I could have done both! Recommendation: Go for it! You can’t come to Jerusalem and not visit the Western Wall.
Day 6 - Nazareth & Galilee
We started off today with a new tour guide—Mina! I absolutely loved her and I’m so glad I emailed the company to request a change of tour guide. They were going to give us the same one as Jerusalem… and it was just painful. Mina took us to the top of the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa to chat about what we were going to see today and do and a bit of Israeli/Palestinian history.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s such a gorgeous view of the gardens and the sea. Can’t miss when you’re in Haifa.
Shopping and Bathroom in Nazareth
We stopped at a little shop in Nazareth to use the free restroom (not common) and shop a bit. I got a super cute piece of pottery and drank some pomegranate juice! Recommendation: Go for it! We didn’t have much time for shopping today either, so I’m glad we bought stuff when we did. Also, pro tip:
keep tissues on you when traveling
Israel… most bathrooms do not
have toilet paper.
Church of the Annunciation
After shopping, we headed to the Church of the Annunciation, the famous supposed place where the angel came to Mary to tell her she was totes preggo by the big man upstairs. Jokes aside. It was a very beautiful church filled with artwork from all over the world. Recommendation: Go for it! But don’t stay long. Pop in. Pop out. There’s so much more to see in northern Israel.
In the same area as the Church of the Annunciation there was a church over the house of Joseph where they had ancient ruins from his supposed carpentry shop. Whether or not it did in fact belong to Joseph, it still dated back 2,000 years ago… so it was really neat to see all of the underground ruins. Recommendation: Go for it! Again, pop in, pop out.
Sea of Galilee
We stopped quickly along the road for a bird’s eye view of the Sea of Galilee. Oh my goodness—it’s gorgeous! Also… people were totally jet-skiing on it. And now, all I want to do is rent a cabin and go jet-skiing on the Sea of Galilee. Haha.
Recommendation: Go for it! Seeing the sea and all the date palms… so beautiful.
Next we took a quick detour to the River Jordan where my dad and a few other in our tour group got baptized! If you’re familiar with the Bible then you know about the River Jordan and how Jesus was baptized there. I think, religiously, this was the coolest thing for my family. The river is very peaceful and surrounded by nature. It feels like it could have looked similar 2,000 years ago. Seeing people getting baptized here was crazy cool—just remember if you want to do it… bring a bathing suit or something to wear underneath those white robes. If you know what I mean.
Recommendation: Go for it! This is a must do in my opinion.
Lunch at De Maria Restaurant
We then stopped in Magdal—thought to be the home of Mary Magdalene for lunch on the Sea of Galilee. Lunch was yet again expensive, but very tasty. You get amazing hummus, dates, pita, salad along with your meal. There’s nothing flashy about the place… but you can sit outside along the sea which is pretty sweet.
Recommendation: Go for it!
Next we made it to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave his famous sermon. This was a very beautiful gardened area… we took pretty pictures and soaked in the natural serenity of the area.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s very lovely here.
Lastly, we went to Capernaum which is labeled the “Town of Jesus,” which is a little confusing… cuz like, he isn’t from there, but he did spend a lot of time there. If you remember stories from the gospels talking about Jesus preaching as a young man on the steps of the synagogue… you can literally visit the synagogue. That was really understated… but in my opinion a super big deal. It’s also the place where he healed a bunch of lepers and other things. This was wayyyyy cooler to me than going to all the churches with supposed relics. This was solid history. And it’s fascinating!
Recommendation: Go for it! As you can probably tell, we had a fantastic day with Mina today. Seeing all the natural beauty that’s mixed with history was so cool, and I can’t wait to come back to Israel and explore more.
Day 7 - Cyprus Wine Tour
Montagri Grape Farm
Our ship docked in Limossal and we were immediately greeted by Liza from Cyprus Taste Tours. Liza was the best! We had an absolute blast. Our first stop of the day was at Montagri Grape Farm where we not only got to taste a bunch of Cyprus wines, but also some treats! They do this really cool thing with walnuts and we definitely bought some stuff to take home.
Recommendation: Go for it! I would 100% book Cyprus Taste Tours again.
Ahia Mavri Winery
Our next stop on the tour was the best by far. Ahia Mavri Winery is multi award winning winery that is still family run and incredibly small. We had our tasting with the Matriarch and Patriarch of the family who still run it today despite being in their 80s…? Crazy! Not only that but they had my favorite wine of the day and I bought two bottles. I usually don’t like white, but this one was so good! I think everyone in my family bought something different to bring home.
Recommendation: Go for it! It was so tasty and also so adorable. Not to mention all the artwork featured with their brand was hand drawn by the wife and owner!
Omodos Village - George’s Bakery
After that, we headed to a little village called Omodos. This place had charm coming at us from all sides! We went to George’s Bakery where I bought some olive oil and my mom bought a bunch of treats. There was so much to peruse here and I got to meet George himself!
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s just so cute I wanted to die.
Lunch at Makrinari
We walked through the village and ended at
Makrinari Restaurant where a band was playing traditional music. We ate so much! The food was incredible—the halloumi, the yogurt couscous, and the moussaka were my absolute favorite! But there was so much to eat, it was almost difficult—almost.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s so cute in this village, I don’t think you can go wrong picking a restaurant. But this was mighty tasty, so maybe start here.
Oenou Yi Winery
Lastly, we walked over to
another wine tasting in the
village. This was a smaller place,
less charming than the others
because we weren’t on a lot of property. But, the wine and treats were good and super convenient that we just had to walk there from lunch.
Recommendation: Eh, if you have time.
Cyprus Taste Tour
And just like that our day was over! Again, I can’t recommend this company enough. There are only two tour guides; so I love supporting a small local business. Liza was incredibly informative about Cyprus and their culture, and she had such a calm demeanor—it was perfect for a long family vacation. You know sometimes you just need some tranquility… haha. Recommendation: Go for it!
Rhodes! Ah, what a beautiful day we had for walking around and shopping. We started with breakfast at The Gate. We were pretty hungry and wanted Nutella crepes, so we stopped here. It was delicious and had a nice atmosphere! I don’t usually suggest eating in main squares because the places tend to lack quality, but for breakfast… it’s perfectly adequate. I don’t think the Greeks ate crepes…
Recommendation: Go for it!
Shopping shopping shopping. So many stores in Rhodes to check out and so little time. The majority of them are the touristy kind… but we needed (wanted) some T-shirts and little nick knacks so we stopped in one of those places. You’ll find them everywhere.
Recommendation: Go for it!
Wandering the Streets
There are so many lovely little alley ways in Rhodes to get lost in… that’s exactly what we did. We found so many picturesque spots. It was really fun. Get lost!
Recommendation: Go for it!
Shop at Sifinios Distillery
We stumbled upon this little distillery and shop and had a lovely time! The shop owner let us do a free liquor tasting and we all went home with some new olive wood kitchen accessories. I bought a bunch of wooden bowls that all fit into each other like a Russian doll, and my mom bought a cute tray among other things.
Recommendation: Go for it!
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Rhodes is the Knight’s Castle. This castle looks very medieval and inside is a museum. My mom and I opted to leave my sister and Dad at the museum, but the outside was cool enough for a picture.
Recommendation: Go for it! If I had more time, I would have gone in.
Lithos Cocktail Bar for Water
My mom and I stopped at this little cocktail bar for some water and wifi—two things I was always lacking on this trip. This was perfectly fine since we only stopped for water. I can’t give much of a recommendation. So I won’t. =)
Lunch at Hermès
After the Knight’s Castle (and water and wifi) we headed to lunch. Hermes was delicious! There were only locals eating outside in this quiet little square so I knew it was going to be delicious! The spicy feta was out of this world and the gyro was delectable.
Recommendation: Go for it! We made many cat friends and I drank a ridiculously large beer. Perfect.
Bought Street Art
On our walk to the beach, I stumbled upon a street artist named Diamond. I found his pen work really incredible and wanted to support his art. The sailboat is hanging in my apartment and I just love that I bought it on the streets of Rhodes.
Recommendation: Go for it! I love buying art directly from artists. It tends to be better quality, lower price, and over-all more special.
Baklava on the Beach at Meltemi
We walked along the beach for a bit and landed at Meltemi. We sat on the back porch and watched divers in the sea while we munched on Baklava and Greek yogurt desserts. It was by FAR the best baklava I’ve ever had. And also, the best greek yogurt too. Everything about our desserts were divine, this is a must do.
Recommendation: Go for it! I think about how good those treats were pretty often. We couldn’t find another like it the whole trip.
Day 8 - Rhodes
Day 9 - Ephesus & Sirince Village
Tour of Ephesus
We were picked up at the port from our private tour by Ilkay our guide. I found a small company called AdaVegas who created an itinerary based on my requests, they were super helpful, Ilkay was an amazing guide, and it was incredibly affordable. Very much suggest! But we started our tour leaving Kusadasi and heading to the ancient great city of Ephesus. This is the second time I’ve visited and honestly… it just does not get old. The size of Ephesus alone was staggering and so much of it is still not uncovered. Turkey is without a doubt the coolest place I’ve traveled to (I went all over in 2015) and you cannot miss coming to Ephesus. Ilkay was so informative and interesting… I think this day was the highlight of our family’s trip.
Recommendation: Go for it! I loved the company we chose and I would highly suggest it.
Outside of Ephesus’ exit, there are a ton of stalls to buy trinkets and ice cream and all sorts of stuff. We followed Ilkay to the very very last stall of the row… he sold fresh fruits. Ilkay bought us a few figs and oh my word… they were amazing. I didn’t realize figs were that good on their own. When I return to Ephesus I will make sure to bee-line for that stand when we exit.
Recommendation: Go for it! It’s the perfect treat after being on your feet for a long time.
After Ephesus, we went to a little village called Sirince. We walked around for a bit and stopped for tea and coffee at Tarihi Koy Restaurant. This. place. was. adorable. I wish we had more time to eat dinner here or something, because it was just such a cool venue. The tea was spectacular—Turkish coffee/Greek coffee is not my thang. But if you like it, I’m sure it’s good here too.
Recommendation: Go for it! Too cute to pass up.
Tea at Tarihi Koy Restaurant
Sirince is a mountain town known for their fruit wines—so we had to check it out! There are lots of places to try it, but we stumbled upon this one. I kinda loved that no one spoke English, it felt like very authentic travel to try and communicate with someone who had no idea what you wanted. But eventually, miming really wins. So we tasted a bunch of fruity wines and my favorite was the apricot.
Recommendation: Go for it!
Wine tasting at Gumus Mahzen
We traveled from the village to a Turkish rug factory where we ate lunch. This was my favorite meal of our entire tip. Once again, Turkey for the win. But for real, every single dish that came out was SO good—and if you know me personally, you know I am super picky with food and unfortunately quite unadventurous. But Turkish cuisine just gets me. It was so good, I forgot to take pictures of everything.
Recommendation: Go for it! Aside from the amazing food, we sat in a courtyard of the factory, and it was so peaceful and so lovely. There were flowers everywhere… it was serene.
Lunch at Oba Hali Rug Factory
After lunch, we headed into the show room. I’ve done this once before and it’s really cool to see all the rugs they have… however, you do feel a bit of pressure to purchase one. Especially because we were the only four people in the audience of the presentation, but yeah just a heads up.
Recommendation: Go for it! If you don’t want to purchase anything you just can’t feel bad like our family. Haha.
From one show to another! This was kinda ridiculous? Or amazing? Or unnecessary? Haha. I can’t figure out how I feel about it. We had a full on fashion show with these models who took it very seriously, and then we were paraded around the shop trying to get us to buy leather jackets.
Recommendation: Skip it. At the end of the day, despite the fashion show being hilarious, it’s just not worth your time when you only have one day.
Leather Fashion Show at Rossini
This activity on the other hand was amazing! We went to a family owned and run ceramics garden where we got to see them working and painting, and we got to shop around as well. We bought a bunch of pottery because it was beautiful and the location was so calming (lots of kitties).
Recommendation: Go for it! I loved this outing and it’s the perfect place to buy souvies!
Pottery at Lotus Ceramics Garden