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Monday, May 16, 2016

Let's Chat | The Mediterranean

Hey friends, and happy Monday. Well, it's happy over here this morning because the kids just realized that thanks to the Memorial Day holiday, there's only two more Mondays left of school! They are literally counting down the days until Summer break.

Mr. SP and I are counting down ourselves, but for a different reason...a dream trip we're taking later this month!

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I don't know how we came upon such good fortune, but Princess Cruises has invited us on another trip of a lifetime, this time to the Mediterranean! It starts in Barcelona, and cruises the Mediterranean Sea, stopping in Spain, France and Italy.  #Icanteven #pinchme


At first we thought there was no way we could do it...the timing is bad (the last week of school), and it's longer than we've ever been away (13 days!). But the more we talked about it, we realized this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we had to find a way. And then all the pieces with work, school, and the kids just fell into place...and now here we are, leaving in 10 days!! Is this even real?!?

Once I recovered from the shock, of course I started planning what I'd pack! #priorities I'll probably stick with my travel uniform for the long flight over. (See How I Pack for 10 Days in a Carry-On here.) 


Then I'll keep it comfy and casual for exploring ports during the days, and dress it up a bit for evenings on the ship. I looked through some of my previous cruise posts for inspiration, and because it's pretty much all I can think about now!! I'll probably bring some of these pieces, but let's be honest, if there's an opportunity for a new dress, I'm going for it!





Black & White Pleated Dress (similar) | Leopard Heels | Geo Clutch (similar)




Of course my stand-by travel dress will come.


Mr. SP always opts for casual, too, with tees and tennies any chance he gets. He brought his suit on the last cruise, but realized he could get by with just jeans and and a sport coat or collared shirt for evenings, so I have a feeling he'll leave the suit behind this time. He usually packs the same essentials...jeans, tees, polos, slim button-downs, sport coat, and sneakers.




Long Sleeve Tee (half-off!) | Jeans | Shoes


He has such an emotionally stressful job with long hours, so I can hardly wait to get him away for some one-on-one time. Travel is a huge passion for both of us, and we've always made it a priority to get away together at least once a year...it's the best kind of marriage therapy! We're so grateful to have family and friends willing to help make it happen!


I also caved to my brother's incessant pressure, and joined Snapchat! So far, Maggie has been the subject of my limited posting, but I thought it would be a fun way to share more unfiltered, behind-the-scenes of this travel experience with y'all (I'm CassieSugarplum). But of course I'll recap everything here, and continue to post on Instagram and Facebook.

So let's chat...who's been on a similar cruise, and what tips do you have for us? What about recommendations for excursions at each port? I'm not a big fan of group travel, so what's the best way to explore each stop on our own, in the limited time we'll have? We're adding on a few days to the Amalfi Coast at the end of the cruise, and I'd love any suggestions and tips for that area, too! And even more important, which dress should I get?!








*This post is created in collaboration with Nordstrom, but all clothes, ideas, and overwhelming gratitude are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum sponsors!*

45 comments:

  1. Did you ever post a packing list for Alaska? I am doing that cruise in June! Thanks!

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    1. Ohmygosh...I didn't!!!! You can go through those Alaska posts tho, and see what I wore...very casual, lots of layers. It's really no different than packing for Colorado in early Spring. Have so much fun!!!

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  2. I ordered that striped maxi over the weekend, so I'll let you know what I think! And you might be planning what you are going to wear, but I'm planning how I'm going to cope with you gone for so long! ;)

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    1. I know!!! I've already started looking into wifi so we can FaceTime!!

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  3. We have been on a similar cruise with our children! I didn't gather from your post whether or not you're bringing your kids along, and it's probably too late for this, but we added several days to the trip BEFORE and AFTER our cruise dates. It dramatically reduced travel stress AND it gave the entire family time to adjust to the time zone before all of the major sight seeing kicked into gear. If you ARE bringing kids along (we always do, regardless of where we're headed), I have lots more tips, so update us! :)

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    1. We were going to bring them, but it's the last week of school, and with my son in high school now, it's just too hard to miss that much! So it's just the two of us!

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  4. Wow...y'all get a lot of great vacation ops. My kids end this Wednesday with one "graduating" from 8th grade!!

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  5. What an amazing opportunity! I look forward to hearing all about it. I've been to a few of the same places and you will love it!

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  6. Such a great trip! We stayed at the Palazzo Murat in Positano and I would highly recommend. Hotel provides a complimentary boat excursion which was fabulous. Day-tripped to Capri. We travelled through Italy,only- and I impressed my friends by packing for 10 days in my carry-on using your tips!! Also, Rick Steve has great guides-including individual tours which you can download before you go onto your phone. Have fun!

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    1. Thanks, M! I'll check that place out...and the day trip sounds amazing!!

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  7. What a true blessing! You look cute as a button in these picks but from experience, you will walk your tooty off in Europe so throw some really comfortable shoes in your grip and enjoy every drop of this adventure!

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    1. Thank you, Marsha! For sure I'll wear comfy, flat shoes for the day!!

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  8. We stayed at Hotel Prestige in Sorrento and it was amazing! It's out of town on the mountainside overlooking the Bays of Salerno and Naples. It is budget-friendly (we had our kids with us and needed two rooms), but very nice. The staff was amazing and handled so many things for us. The hotel has a day trip to Capri and it was truly worth doing! We didn't tour the Capri side as it is mostly shopping. Our family went over to the Anacapri side and took the chairlift to the top. It was gorgeous! We also did a half day trip with the hotel's private driver to Pompeii, and I'd highly recommend that. Rick Steves has a great audio guide for Pompeii. The Amalfi coast was one of our favorite places in Italy! Have a fabulous time!!!

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    1. Thank you so much...really great tips, and I'll def download some of those guides from Rick Steves! He always has great info! xo

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  9. oh i'm jealous, we're staying local this year (in the UK so going to Derbyshire walking) but i'm craving sun! There's a real chance we had our summer last weekend, all 3 days of it! One thing I would note is Italy does storms and it does them WELL! we had a very lucky week one October with nothing, but i've also been for a 2 week break in summer and had storms for a solid week so be prepared for the potential of warm but wet!

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    1. Such a great tip...I'll def pack a windbreaker with hood!!! Thanks so much! xo

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  10. Oh my goodness--how exciting! That's definitely on our bucket list, and I can't wait to read about your trip!

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  11. Pack really comfortable shoes. Everything is uphill or up two flights of marble stairs. Always! Pack and dress in layers. Waterproof your shoes. It can get rainy in the Med. Light raincoat. Hopefully you'll never need it but don't count on it.

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    1. So good to know!!! It never occurred to me it might rain!!! :/

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  12. Just have to say the first dress; the coral and white is gorgeous! Love the tie in the back. It's so you:)

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    1. I ordered a few to try...and that was one of them! ;)

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  13. Oh my gosh, how exciting for you!! I saw some Pinterest activity and was hoping it was a real trip!!! Must do's at the Amalfi Coast... A day in Capri.... We hiked up to Villa Jovis (Tiberius' castle) from the main shopping area and it had the most spectacular views. We went to more difficult route, but it wasn't too difficult and maybe too us an hour at the most (Extra tip- there are public restrooms along the way, but remember to bring some coins to pay!!!) And the walk was gorgeous with the gated gardens! We were happy we had packed tennis shoes and cute workout clothes!! Also on the mainland- we took a taxi up to Hotel Caruso for lunch on their outdoor patio. The entire place was a DREAM. Very romantic, quiet, and Picturesque. You feel like you are in a Disney Movie in the best way. Hotel Caruso tops my list of favorite places. Have so much fun and safe travels!!!!

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    1. LOL...PInterest giving away all our plans! ;) thanks for the great tips, I'll def add that hike to our list!!!

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  14. Loved Barcelona when I went there last year! Great walking town, and I totally recommend having lunch on the Las Ramblas & you must have a Sangria! They serve them in a ginormous mug which must be like 100 oz. : ). Lots of great people watching as you sit on a patio there! There's lots of great churches & sites nearby to see. Enjoy...you will LOVE IT!!

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    1. Oh I can't wait!!!! Thanks for the great idea, Michele!!

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  15. Oh, one more tip, someone told us to download the app, My Taxi, for Barcelona. They do not have Uber there, but My Taxi is set up exactly the same! It came in handy when my feet were tired & not expensive to get around! ; )

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  16. I did a Princess Cruise of the Greek Isles and it was an amazing experience. I've traveled around Europe before by train, packing and unpacking, and repacking my suitcase so being able to unpack on the ship and return there every night is awesome! My suggestion would be to do a couple of the excursions, maybe ones where they provide transportation further away from the ship and then stops where there are a lot of sites to see within a couple miles of the ship, do those on your own. Then you can spend that money on local food/fun finds from local vendors/a quick cab ride back to the ship when your feet are tired! I hope you and your husband have sooo much fun!

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  17. Maybe you already know it but here in Spain at least it's that time of the year when some days you're wearing a jacket and other days you're in a tee. I'd recommend packing some layers so you can add one or two if you need to.

    I guess that your stop in Genoa is intended to visit Cinque Terre, as the third picture is of one of those little towns. I was there last year and it was great to walk a segment of the paths that connect them :)

    Have fun, that cruise looks wonderful!!!

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  18. What an amazing opportunity! I love the picture of the lavender fields...so beautiful! Looking forward to the recap!

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  19. At the risk of sounding like bragging, we've had the great fortune to have sailed from Barcelona to three stops in Italy and the two in the south of France, as well as taking a two week guided tour through Italy four years previous to Barcelona.

    On the first trip to Italy, we tacked on four days after the tour at a B&B in Monterosso (Cinque Terre). It was exciting and scary to be on our own, but it is just so worth it. The quiet seaside town and incomparable hospitality of the lovely woman who plied us daily with cappuccino's in the morning and Limoncello in the evenings, made the long, cliff side hike from Vernazza well worth it!

    On our Barcelona trip, pre-cruise, we rented an apartment in the L'Eixample neighborhood. We felt like locals from the moment we took the city bus from the airport to the 5th stop (we had no idea of how to pronounce the bus stop street names as I found that Catalan is very difficult to pronounce and any attempt using intermediate Spanish may have caused an international incident!). To be honest, I found Las Ramblas quite toursity, with restaurants and shops pandering to travelers. A walk down the shoreline, where some of the 1992 Olympic events were held is fascinating, as well as the city's many parks. Not sure if you're a shopper while travelling, but the Passeig de Gracia reminds me of 5th Avenue in Manhattan or North Michigan Avenue; beautiful tree lined streets and amazing stores to wander in and out of. We did succumb to one touristy jaunt; the hop on, hop off bus. It was our main mode of transportation; so easy to get a feel for the city and then decide what you'd like to see later on your own. As well, we'd log 7-10 miles a day on foot. Bring cute and comfy shoes that can withstand that much city walking. We were there the first week of May and the weather was mild and beautiful. Some rain at night, but mostly nice (comparable to San Diego's climate).

    If you have Rome on your itinerary, you must take a train from Civitavecchia to Rome. For 10 Euro round trip, we left the train station and wandered aimlessly down the Roman streets, as maps were hard to find. As we stopped to get our bearings and my husband said we were lost, I told him to turn around, as right over his shoulder was The Colosseum, one of our favorite sights in the city. You never know what you'll stumble upon going on your own, but it certainly paid off for us. On our first trip to Italy we thought we'd be led around by the nose and were convinced we'd be miserable, as we don't like to be told where to go and what to do, but we lucked out with a great tour leader and super fun group!

    Paris is on our agenda for next year; can't wait! I could ramble on forever about travel, so I will shut up now. Enjoy your travels and look forward to your re-cap!

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  20. Barcelona was one of my favorite cities. I boarded a cruise there and the days before I did the hop on/hop off buses in the city. It was a great way for me to choose the pace of my day and see the main sites. I loved Parc Guell and grabbed breakfast each morning at La Boqueria.

    I'm not one for taking a huge bus with strangers for hours so Hop On/Hop Off was really a great in between. For port cities, I actually found fellow travelers on cruise critic. In one port we partnered with another couple to rent a van, in another we partnered with 4 other couples to rent a tour van too. The groups were intimate and so friendly and the guides were incredible. In Rome we used RomeInLimo for that same setup and it was fantastic. They got us in port, drove us straight to the Colosseum where we had front of the line tickets, we visited all the touristy places, grabbed lunch at a nice local spot, went to the Vatican and had an art historian guide us through there. We still had time to grab gelato and made it back to port with a more than safe amount of time to spare.

    Definitely listen to the Rick Steves podcasts too since he covers some great locations.

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  21. In Italy we have used livitaly.com fo tours. Very, very small groups and you can get into areas that you normally don't get to see. We were in Italy last year for 10 days and this company's tours were a highlight.

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  22. So exciting! I went on a similar cruise in May 2013: We started in Barcelona then went to Provence (Marseilles), France; Pisa & Florence (La Spezia), Italy; Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; Split, Croatia; and Venice, Italy.

    We didn't do anything at our stop in France, and instead explored the ship.

    For our La Spezia stop, we planned a van tour that took us to Pisa and then Florence. There was another family from the ship that joined us in the van, so decisions about timing in between the start and end times were up to the small group. We didn't need to stay in Pisa for as long as originally planned, so we got to Florence earlier and had lots of time to just explore. That is something I definitely recommend - plan time for leisurely exploring, wandering, and soaking in your surroundings without having to get to the next place, stop, or attraction.

    As for Rome, my uncle scheduled a bus tour for us, and we really did not like it. We were there on a Wednesday, which is a busy day because of the Papal audience. Also, so many ships come in on Wednesdays (apparently) so it was ridiculously crowed. I had been to Rome a couple times before this and loved it, but if this bus tour had been my first experience of it I would have absolutely hated it and never wanted to return. Do yourself a favour and avoid the large groups. Find a small tour or just do something yourself. If you're not particularly interested in getting in anywhere in particular, you could have a lot of time to just enjoy yourself instead of standing in lines and moving around in a herd. It looks like you're ending in Rome, though, so if you have a couple days there your experience will be much different, I'm sure! I have LOTS of recommendations for Rome (from my previous visits), so if you want to get in touch feel free to through the contact page on my blog!

    Sarah
    Sweet Spontaneity

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  23. Hey, you're coming in my "area". I'm French and I live in the French Riviera (Monaco/Nice/Cannes), so between Marseille and Genoa. For your stop in Marseille, it depends how much time you have. For Florence/Pisa : Florence is such a beautiful city and you don't need to take any bus or metro to visit it, it is a "human size" city. Feel free to ask if you have any question for the Marseille stop

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  24. What fun! We did a Princess cruise to Alaska and had a wonderful time - even though we decided that cruising isn't really our style (too many people).

    I'll second the recommendation already made about Cruise Critic - the member reviews were helpful but the forums were priceless. You can usually find a thread for people going on the exact same cruise so you can make friends, share info, arrange meet-ups, etc before you get to the ship. You can find other threads about each of your stops, about excursions you can arrange on your own, about the specific ship, about what to wear and pack - all sorts of info (and sometimes arguments). We were trying to hike at each of our stops in addition to possibly an excursion and found many helpful people - some that don't even cruise but they lived in the cities we stopped at. You can spend many hours reading various threads in addition to asking your own questions and getting specific help.

    One thing we did on the ship that was well worth the extra price was we called the "dining line" immediately on arriving in our room to get on the waiting list for the Chefs Table dinner (limited to about 5 or 6 couples and only done once on our 7 day cruise). It was a very special evening that included a peek into the kitchens with champagne and appetizers then several courses with wine and a fabulous dessert - probably lasted over 3 hours! The other special thing we did was to arrange a "balconey breakfast" for the day we were in Glacier Bay (we didn't leave the room until almost dinner time that day). Not sure if that would make sense for your trip - we wanted enjoy the scenery from our balcony and that made for plenty of food to nibble on all day.

    It looks like an amazing trip (wish cruises were on smaller ships so I would enjoy them) and I'll be patiently waiting for a recap to get my travel fix!

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  25. Oh lovely, I've been to most of those places on a cruise. Make sure you get to visit Cinque Terre and you will have to get a train to Rome we got a fast one...
    Enjoy

    All things nice...

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  26. I have that Eliza J scarf dress in coral/orange, from Nordstrom, and it's a showstopper... People literally stop and stare when you walk into a room. Only dress I have that has that effect on people! ;) If they don't have a petite option, just pair it with heels... I'm 5'2" and I paired mine with 4" heels and it doesn't drag at all. It's stunning... My husband's favorite dress I own. I hope this helps, and that y'all have such a great time on the cruise!

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  27. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my GOSHHHHH!!!!! What a dream trip! Dude, you had to have been bouncing off the walls for days when you heard! Ok, so I cannot wait to hear about this one. I have no doubt you guys will have the time of your life!

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  28. I cannot wait for your trip report!! Hoping it posts before we leave on a similar trip next month. After reading these suggestions in the comments, I'm curious to see how you plan for potentially rainy weather as well. Waterproof/resistant flats? I know whatever you pick will be cute as can be! Love your travel tips and style! Have an amazing time!

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  29. 1. We've got one more Monday and then we are done with school for the year. My oldest is "graduating" from 8th grade so I'm swinging between excited for him and sad for me, it's all gone too fast.
    2. I'm totes jelly (totally jealous) of your trip, it sounds like a dream, and if I didn't like you so much I wouldn't like you!
    3. I think Mr. SP should take his suit. You wear a dress and heels and jewelry, he should wear a suit.

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  30. Oh how exciting! Have an amazing trip!

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  31. Hi Cassie,
    What a great 2nd honeymoon, because it WILL be so romantic to see this cities that were originally developed from the shoreline. I worked aboard Princess for 3 years and my last year, summer, was spent doing this itinerary. It has been several years, however, so a lot of the tips provided are good to prepare in the short SHORT time you have before you go. Couple of notes:
    1- wear comfortable shoes, but don't be a rube and show up in Nikes, screams tourist. The fashion now is those Stan Smith Adidas. Take pics from the knees up, your feet will never survive in pumps. As for the shipboard rules, they have really taken it down multiple notches since I was onboard. Flex dining was very helpful, and I recommend the Italian restaurant, which carries a $20 cover charge (or has that gone up by now?). They print the guidelines for men, I recall a tie/shirt or jacket/collared shirt was the minimum, and no shorts in the evening. Period.
    3- The food is much less exciting onboard than it used to be, thankfully you will be in heaven in all these stops. Particularly in Italy, the ship puts in at Pisa, and it's a short train trip to Florence. I did it with some crew members, and a few passengers joined us, super easy. At the train station in Florence I had the most amazing cappuccino. Ever. Stopped us all for a full minute. Then we went back for a second cup. And, you don't know pizza until you've had it in Naples. Barcelona is most likely an overnight dock, because NO ONE ventures out to dinner before 10 pm. And tapas can take a couple of hours. Point, smile, and be appreciative, they are masters at hospitality. Gibraltar is not really worth the day trip, if that's on your itinerary. A peculiar outpost of the old British empire, spend time on the coast instead.

    Onboard there better be a pizzaiolo; he can make white pizza for a nice change of pace, too (no sauce, garlic and oil, with herbs -- divine. I buy the soda card, it's a flat rate for unlimited. I don't even drink the stuff, I think of Coke as a "mixer" so I'd have a bottle of rum in the room and make my own cocktails. It can be 20 minutes from the bar to your room, nice to roam fully loaded and not wait in line, you know? Don't laugh, the crowds are a distraction!
    4- Last, I would review the shore excursion descriptions carefully, then skip out and find a private driver. I like the recommendations others have made for specific companies to seek out. Do be VERY careful in Spain; we had our rental car broken into and a camera stolen. They will tell you leave NOTHING exposed, I hadn't stepped more than 50 yards away when I remembered, but too late.
    5 - My niece is in London now, and she was able to swap her SIM card so she texts us all the time about her experiences. The cost onboard for wifi access can be high, and the wi-fi room is likely jammed with bored teens (why?), and you KNOW we want to keep up on this adventure!

    Bon voyage! Buon viaggio! Bom viaje!

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  32. Oh Mylanta! How amazing! I cannot wait to follow along with this one, friend!

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  33. How exciting! Looking forward to your packing and cruising tips as well as trip reports.

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Your comments are like popcorn with milk duds, I just can't quit them. Thanks for taking the time to share your positive thoughts! xoxo, cass

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