Matt and I love traveling together. Being on vacation or on a trip where we are removed from the stresses of everyday life and we just focus on things we love doing and each other is the ideal situation. You find out so much about a person when you travel with them and if traveling is something you want to do as a couple, you have to make sure your travel styles vibe well. Luckily, Matt and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to jet setting so it quickly became something we loved to do as a couple and will continue to do (hopefully more often as long as the money and puppy sitters are there).
When we were making the decision on where to go for our honeymoon we definitely had some back and forth before we came to the final decision. My heart was set on Europe from the beginning because it had been years since I had been abroad and Matt had never been. Matt was pretty open to my suggestion but somehow the idea morphed into him going to see soccer games overseas which was NOT how I envisioned our honeymoon going. I mean that would be a great trip, just not for our honeymoon. I imagined my college days, gallivanting around Europe, without a care in the world, going from city to city while running off of practically no sleep. Back then, it was thrilling and made me feel spontaneous but now, just thinking of living like that gives me a stomach ulcer.
I am not “go with the flow”, I like everything planned, and I knew that as ridiculous as it sounded, in order to relax I would have to plan the shit out of a Euro trip before we went. Usually I would have jumped at the opportunity but when you are planning a wedding, hustling at your 9-5, blogging on the side, and trying to keep your health in check, the LAST thing you want is another thing to plan. Now I do have to give Matt credit, for as non planning as he is, he did offer to help but me being the extremely particular psycho that I am I insisted I was going to do this myself. I felt bad because I wanted us to have an amazing honeymoon but I didn’t have the time to plan something, especially on a budget, but at the same time I wanted it to be super specifically everything I ever wanted.
As Lauryn Evarts would say, “I don’t ask for much”.
Our friends had done a European cruise the year before and absolutely loved it. They were able to visit multiple locations and seemed to have remained relatively stress free throughout the whole thing, planning included. I had been on cruises my whole life growing up for our family vacations (including a European one) and Matt and I went on a cruise together a few years ago. It seemed like a perfect solution. And it was. Here’s why:
You get to experience a bunch of different places.
If we were going to pay for the flight and invest the time into going abroad we wanted to make sure we were seeing more than just one destination. Cruises give you that option! My first experience abroad was on a European cruise and I love that it gave me a little taste of so many different places. From that experience I was able to decide what my favorite cities were and make plans to visit again. With this being Matt’s first time abroad I wanted him to have a similar experience and be able to take in the beauty of the different culture, history, and architecture of a few locations.
Everything is taken care of.
Once you board a cruise you have to worry about absolutely nothing. You don’t have to worry about getting from city to city with all of your luggage, you don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat dinner, you don’t have to plan your days in port because the excursion has already taken care of that. Take it from the most anxious person ever, if I say you have nothing to worry about, you really don’t.
Upfront cost/ easy to budget.
This one is a huge relief especially when you are trying to plan and budget for a wedding at the same time. Before we even left for our cruise we had paid for our flights, the cruise itself, our excursions, and gratuity. This way there were no surprises and we could start paying these things months before we actually went on the trip. The only additional expenses were extra meals we had while in different ports and alcohol on the ship. With that it was super easy to track our expenses though so we didn’t have any colossally terrifying credit card bills to return home to.
We choose to do the 7 Day Adriatic Cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line. It was cost effective but still really nice which was important to us. We weren’t going to be spending a ton of time on the ship because we were visiting so many ports but I am a stickler for good food and service so we were not going to compromise on that.
Our itinerary was:
Sunday: Venice, Italy (EMBARK) --- Cruise leaves at 5:30 pm
Monday: Kotor, Montenegro --- 2:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tuesday: Corfu, Greece --- 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday: Santorini, Greece --- 2:00 pm-10:00 pm
Thursday: Mykonos, Greece --- 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Friday: At Sea
Saturday: Dubrovnik, Croatia --- 7:00 am-1:00 pm
Sunday: Venice, Italy (DISEMBARK)
We choose this cruise specifically because I was dead set on going to Santorini and we both really wanted to do the Game of Thrones tour in Croatia. This itinerary gave us the option to do both and also stop in Mykonos which was another destination I had wanted to check out.
We left out of Venice, Italy and neither of us had ever been there before so we were super pumped about this and wanted to get there a few days early so we had some time to explore. I also ALWAYS recommend getting to the port city early if possible just in case of any delays, missed flights/connections, or any other SOS moments. It also starts your vacation off a whole lot smoother when you aren’t stressed because you are down to the wire on your schedule.
We booked our flights so that we would fly overnight on a Thursday and arrive in Venice on Friday morning. That would give us half of Friday, all day Saturday, and half of Sunday to explore before we boarded the ship. The question here was, where were we going to stay? At this point we had invested the majority of our budget into the flights and the actual cruise so we were not going to be staying at any fancy hotels on the water. I looked. They were amazing. I tried to justify it. But I couldn’t. Instead we opted for an Airbnb that cost us about $120 or so per night. As much as I am a fancy hotel lover, I also really love staying in an Airbnb, especially in a new city. I feel like it really gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and what it would actually be like to live there.
Our small apartment was perfect for our stay. We had a full bed, a kitchenette, our own bathroom, and, thankfully, air conditioning. My favorite part is that we were tucked away from the street in a building that opened up to a private courtyard where we relaxed and enjoyed wine before we headed out for dinners. Our Airbnb host was so friendly and extremely helpful. She met us at the water bus station and walked us to our apartment. Since there are no real streets in Venice, things can get a bit confusing so we were thrilled she was there to help. We weren’t in a super touristy area so we had the chance to try out cafes that weren’t flooded with tourists and explore the residential areas that surrounded us. We stopped at the fancy hotels I mentioned before to grab a cocktail on their terraces and enjoy the views and then strolled back to our cozy home away from home. I absolutely loved it. AND it was way more budget friendly than the alternative.
TIP: We actually were able to cover the Airbnb expense with the points from my Capital One Venture Card. I got this card about two years ago to use for all of my business expenses. This means that I can pay that off every month with the money my company reimburses me with while racking up points to use to my next vacation. The thing I love about this card is you can use your points toward any travel expense, not just flights. That means pretty much anything from hotels down to your Uber. You also get a substantial point bonus if you spend a certain amount within your first three months of having the card. I can’t remember the exact amounts from when I signed up but we were able to use that bonus to put a serious dent into our flights to and from Hawaii back in 2016.
Speaking of flights…..
Flights are always the budget buster and there isn’t really a solid way to get around that. Of course if you are spontaneous and can randomly book a trip somewhere you can take advantage of those flash deals on flights and things of that nature but when you are traveling at very specific times, your options are limited. A trick that we used for this trip and our trip to Hawaii was piecing together one way flights that were more cost effective instead of just settling on the roundtrip package. On our way to Hawaii we did a one way flight to LA, hung out for a few days, took another one way flight to Maui, and then booked another one way flight home. It ended up being cheaper than the alternative and allowed us to break up our travel time. On this trip we searched surrounding cities for cheaper flights going abroad. Luckily, living in Baltimore gives us access to flights out of quite a few major cities within only a few hour drive. We found an Aer Lingus flight out of Philly that stopped in Dublin and then flew straight to Venice. Score. For our home flight we booked one from Venice, back through Dublin, and then to Boston, then Baltimore. It worked out really well and saved us a chunk of money that we could then put into other vacation related expenses.
Since we were already paying a decent amount to fly overseas, I wanted us to get the most out of our trip and not sacrifice any potentially great experience because of money. But at the same time I still didn’t want to blow our budget out of the water. We have other trips on the horizon that we need funds for too! We found a pretty good balance where we splurged on some things (like good food and wine) but saved in other areas that didn’t necessarily matter as much to us. Let me give you an example… On the ship they offer specialty dining packages which are really cool but not cheap. They allow you to visit the specialty restaurants that have some amped up décor and service along with a special menu. We did end up doing one night of specialty dining but the rest of the time we ate at the regular restaurants on board which still had great food/service and we had already paid for it in our initial booking price! Instead of spending big on the ship we went to nice dinners in Venice and Santorini where we could get courses of fresh local food and bottles of wine for a fraction of what that would cost on the ship.
The main expense that we accrued while on board the ship was alcoholic beverages. On our previous cruise we purchased the alcoholic beverage package that allowed us pretty much unlimited drinks for the duration of our , all for a flat, prepaid rate. We looked into the packages this time around but the cost seemed too steep for what we thought we would actually be drinking. Plus, we were going to be off of the ship for the majority of the time in ports where wine was cheaper than water. Definitely a better choice than on ship purchases.
At dinner we would split a bottle of wine that complimented our meal. The bottles were pretty decently priced in my opinion and the ones we tried were pretty good! I’m not a super wine snob or anything so I would think for someone with a more elevated taste they may disagree. I am at least moderately picky when it comes to wine though and they had viable options in just about every category. I did splurge on a few glasses of Veuve one night.
What about excursions?
Our excursions were prepaid from when we booked them months ago and some of our wedding guests gifted us excursions through our Wanderable site so that covered a large amount of our activities we had planned. If you are big into traveling I highly recommend registering on Wanderable. The website allows you to create your own page detailing your honeymoon plans and allows your wedding guest to purchase different experiences for you. The whole thing is customizable and you can add anything from excursions, to on board credits, to spa treatments, that your friends can contribute to or purchase in full. I am always into giving an experience instead of a material item so I think it is super cool to be able to actually see the couple you are gifting to, enjoy an adventure you purchased for them.
Even in Venice, where we obviously didn’t have any excursions, we didn’t spend a ton of money on activities. Everything is walkable to the transportation costs were very low. When we did need a boat or a car to get somewhere, we relied on public transportation which is very affordable. In Venice we did splurge on one activity which was a total MUST while we were there. A gondola ride. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and it actually felt unreal. It was 100% worth the 100 euro we dropped and I would certainly do it again next time.
TIP: Before we left for our trip we opened up a Southwest credit card. Now these credit card tips aren’t supposed to make you think it is no big deal or that you should just open a bunch of credit cards. We don’t have a ton of cards and choose wisely based on the points/rewards which cards make sense to open when. We have been planning a trip to Florida in December and we knew that if we signed up for the card, spent money, and got the new sign up bonus points, it would basically cover our plane tickets for our next trip. This trick worked perfectly and by both using just one credit account to put all of our travel purchases on we were able to really track what we were spending and realistically communicate that to others now when they ask.
What’s the verdict?
Matt and I both agree, we are thrilled with our decision to have done a cruise for our honeymoon. Exploring Europe in such a carefree (but preplanned!) way allowed both of us to relax but also experience so many different places in the Mediterranean. Everyone always asks us if we wish we had more time in the ports. “It seems like such a short time!” is the number one concern I hear when other people are considering booking a trip for themselves. Of course we wish we had more time in ports. I would have loved to have spent a week on every Greek island we visited. That being said, I also don’t have months off of work and a trust fund to boot. For the time we had and the budget we had, there is no better way that I think we could have seen these destinations.
Now that Matt is at least a little more familiar with Europe and I am done with wedding planning, our next trip abroad will probably be planned out in my typical OCD fashion. It probably won’t be another cruise again for a little while just because we like to mix things up but I certainly will do a European cruise of some type again.
My overall verdict is that if you want to go to Europe on your honeymoon, you want to see more than just one place, and you want to actually relax, a cruise is 100% the way to go.
Hopefully this article helped to break down how we decided on our trip as well as how we made things as cost effective as possible. I know there were a lot of questions about this topic so if there are areas I didn’t touch on or things I didn’t answer send me a DM or drop it in the comments and I will make sure to address your topic.
Over the next month or so I am working on creating posts highlighting the different destinations we visited along with some tips, tricks, and recommendations from those places. Stay tuned and follow along on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) to be the first to know when these posts go live!
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.