I’ve travelled quite a bit in my time, but never actually travelled around the world in one direction (to prove the Earth is not flat LoL) until 2013. I combined and 18 night trans-Atlantic cruise with several one way air tickets to cook up a very nice 7 week long itinerary – even if I do say so myself!
We started out flying from Muscat to Milan Malpensa on Qatar Airways then travelled by train to our first stop – Venice. Venice is such a unique and beautiful city. I just love walking out of the train station and there it is, laid out before you. I had booked a hotel, the Dolomiti, which was just a short walk from the station. After checking in we enjoyed strolling around Venice and in the evening did the obligatory gondola ride. Next morning we walked all the way to St Mark’s Square then journeyed back by water taxi. In the afternoon it was off to the port to board our cruise ship, the MSC Divina.
Before long we were settled in to our balcony cabin #13103, unpacked and ready to enjoy our cruise all the way to Miami. I had intentionally booked a cabin on the port side of the ship so that we could enjoy the view of St Mark’s from our balcony as we sailed out of Venice.
The cruise was really a treat. Amani and Malaika loved the Kids Club and spent a few hours there most days, leaving Zawadi and I with some time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Aboard they served a buffet breakfast and lunch, but in the evening we usually went to the Black Crab restaurant to enjoy a 5 course dinner.
The first port of call on the cruise was Valletta, Malta where we visited the Hypogeum. It was very interesting. Next stop was Malaga in the south of Spain where we took a guided walking tour around the old city. A couple of days later we were in Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira in the Azores. I had booked a taxi for the day for a private tour. The island is beautiful and very rugged, being volcanic in origin. The highlight of the stop was the ‘tobogan Madeira style’ – a cane bench on wooden skis that is steered downhill by two guides, on the roads! What a blast.
Then after a few days at sea eating, drinking, reading on my Kindle, and watching flying fish pass by, we sailed past the island of St Bart (I probably should visit it one day, since it’s my namesake) and docked at St Maarten. I had booked a private tour there also and the highlight was definitely Maho beach, where aircraft fly very low over the sand due to the beach’s proximity to the airport. We had a nice swim while watching planes land and then lunch at a nearby restaurant where a live band played reggae music. Irie mon!
The next day we stopped in the US Virgin Islands where we had to clear US immigration, which took half the day, so we didn’t get to see much. The final port of call the following day was San Juan, Puerto Rica. We didn’t do too much there as Amani was unwell with a fever (which the rest of us came down with in the following days). Strolling around the port area was nice though.
We arrived in Miami to much fanfare and media attention as it was the first time the MSC Divina had visited the USA. After staying in Miami for a couple of nights we picked up our hire car and drove up to Orlando, to visit Disney World and Universal Studios.
Next we flew up to New York state to visit Niagara Falls. It was cold and snowing there and we didn’t have much in the way of winter clothes since we had tried to pack lightly – with so many flights in our itinerary I wanted to avoid excess baggage charges as much as possible! It was good to see The Falls by both day and night. Then we set off by air to Las Vegas. I booked a stretch limo to meet us at the airport and take us to our hotel for the first night, the Luxor. We enjoyed strolling around the hotel for the rest of the evening and then the kids had a great time on the in-room jacuzzi. Next morning at Zawadi’s insistence we breakfasted at iHop then moved to the Bellagio hotel. The fountain view room I’d booked was a bit pricey, but worth it. In the evening we did Las Vegas Strip helicopter flight and enjoyed the lights, sights and sounds of Vegas.
San Francisco was our next stop. We stayed at Fisherman’s Wharf, strolled up to Lombard Street, ate clam chowder served in a fresh bread roll and enjoyed the atmosphere. On our second day in San Fran we hired bikes and rode about 16kms from Fisherman’s Wharf, over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. It was awesome! Had a lovely lunch in Sausalito then caught the ferry back.
After days of being busy, busy, busy, I had planned a nice quiet rest in the beautiful Cook Islands. We stayed in Rarotonga and then flew on to Aituaki which has to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. We snorkelled with giant trevally in the lagoon and visited One-Foot island – arguably the jewel in the crown of Aitutaki.
Next stop was Sydney Australia, followed by Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kata Tjuta where we managed 2 different treks thanks to the cool weather. The Rock and the Olgas are such remarkable places – I never tire of visiting them.
The Gold Coast in Queensland was next. Much fun at Sea World, Movie World and Wet ‘n Wild. Then on to Adelaide to catch up with some family.
Final stop on our very long journey was Singapore, where we spoiled ourselves a bit by staying at the Marina Bay Sands, with its amazing and enormous rooftop infinity pool.
From Singapore it was back to Muscat, on Sri Lankan Airlines. When we arrived our aircraft parked next to the same Qatar Airlines flight we had departed on 7 weeks earlier. Proof that the world is indeed round.