A New Perspective on Cruising

My first cruise travel experience was about 10 years ago. I took a 4 nights/ 5 days cruise from Tampa to Cozumel, Mexico. Although it was a relaxing experience, I decided that the cruise travel experience was not for me. The main reason being that I love to explore the local cuisine and culture of a country, and spend as much time as possible with the locals. On the cruise, I spent majority of my time on the ship with other travelers. We had organized games, shows, activities, casino, shopping, dining, etc., but I felt it was geared towards families and older crowds. I felt a little too sedentary.

anthem of the seasBeing on Anthem of the Seas, a brand new ship by Royal Caribbean, has changed my perspective on cruising. This 2-weeks Mediterranean sailing took me to different ports across 5 countries – UK, Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. There were organized tours offered in each of the ports, from city tours to wine tastings, I got to know about the history, culture, nature and art of the areas, and I always had the option to walk around on your own. We visited some ports that I may not have been able to see otherwise – Gibraltar, Cartagena, Seville, Vigo, etc.

Being on board offered a very different experience as well this time around. Anthem of the Seas is one of the biggest ships in the world, with 2,090 staterooms and a capacity of 6400 people (guests and crew). Given that, the cabin sizes are huge. I had a superior room with a balcony and sitting area, but there are also 2-storied lofts and 3 bedroom suites available. I never felt claustrophobic during my two week sail.

stateroom anthem of the seas

Walking around the ship’s 18 decks can be quite fun. It took me a couple of days to get oriented, and realize where everything was. I admired every architectural detail, the beautiful artwork adorning the promenade, intricate flooring and ceiling work set to match the tunes of different areas of the ship, contemporary style of the rooms, themed music halls and theaters – this was by far the most beautiful ship I have ever seen.

wonderland anthem of the seas

In my previous cruising experiences, there were only 1 or 2 options for dining – generally a formal sit down and a casual fast food place. On the Anthem, there are 30 eateries to choose from! Themed restaurants include Japanese, Italian, French, Asian Pacific, American, British pub, cafes, buffet, and much more. Each one has a unique ambiance and creative cocktail menu. Just the design of the restaurants is worth checking out. The food is comparable to any upscale restaurant on land. Furthermore, you are not restricted to sitting at round banquet tables along with other guests you don’t know. Couples can easily have a date night, while families can reserve larger tables for privacy.

spice at anthem of the seas

Sure most cruise ships have a little gym and nice spa services. But on the Anthem, they take physical health seriously. There are fitness classes – yoga, stretch, pilates, spin, even a boot camp, for those who want to stay healthy. You can get a personal instructor who will train with you, a nutritionist to consult with, and several anti aging solutions.

The activities on the Anthem are geared not only to families, but adventures as well. I typically won’t sit for a bingo, guess the tunes, or jeopardy kind of sessions. But here, I can go skydiving, go-carting, rock climbing, skating, surfing and be lifted 300 feet above sea level.

wave rider anthem of the seas

Another fact I liked about Anthem is that you really don’t need to travel with your family or friends to enjoy this cruise vacation. On the daily calendar are scheduled lunch for singles on the ship and LGBT community mixers. Of course, there are tailored activities for teens, youth and couples too.

There are several options to choose from for evening entertainment. At any given time, there is live music at 4-5 venues across the ship. Depending on my mood, I can sit at the piano bar, listen to 80’s rock, watch Broadway style performances, cabaret shows, or get up close with world renowned musicians.

we will rock you anthem of the seas

I view cruising in a different light now. A ship like Anthem of the Seas is not just for the older generation, but can be a lot of fun for younger travelers too. If this is what the new age of cruising looks like, I will definitely be considering this option for my future travels.

Mediterranean Oasis: The Grand Hotel Miramare

When deciding where to stay in the Italian Riviera, think like a real estate agent, “location, location, location.” Imagine standing on a private balcony enjoying the cool sea breeze of the Gulf of Tigullio and the panoramic views of coastal Italy. Picture waking up and walking out onto a terrace to see Mediterranean style buildings, fisherman preparing their boats, million dollar yachts in the port, and families playing on the beach. Take a breath of fresh air, mingled with the aromas of caramelized Italian cappuccino and homemade marmalade filled croissants. Welcome to The Grand Hotel Miramare!

Santa Margherita, Italy The Grand Hotel Miramare is a historic award winning 4 Star Hotel, in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy. Your imagination becomes reality as the Italian word miramare means panoramic view. The white fresco building, dating back to 1904, with aqua marine shutters, can be seen for miles off land. The front façade and its floral décor are not the only features that leave a lasting impression; the engaging staff, elegant accommodations, delicious meals, and a strong historical presence make this hotel the preferred lodging location in the area.

Hotel Miramare: Pesto alla GenoveseTemperate weather of the Mediterranean brings guests to the city of Santa Margherita Ligure, a seaside resort in the Province of Genoa. Located in Northwestern Italy, foreign visitors are drawn by its geographical proximity to popular locations in France and Tuscany. Locals and visitors from afar come to Santa Margherita Ligure, which is easily accessible by car, train, boat, and plane. Clientele of The Grand Hotel Miramare visit the Basilica of Santa Margherita that dates back to 1968, and the neighboring city of Portofino; they attend cultural events, and jazz and classical music festivals. Water lovers jump into sailing, rowing, boating, and diving into the fabulous emerald green waters of the area. Then, if time and energy permit, there is walking, hiking, running, horseback riding, tennis and golf as well. The hotel staff is certain to recommend the Circolo Golf and Tennis Rappallo, one of the finest golf courses in all of Italy.

Hotelier, charming gentleman, and city socialite, Andrea Fustononi, stops by the front desk and greets guests “Buongiorno!” creating an intimate family hotel atmosphere. It is inspiring that this highly successful owner of one of the oldest grand lodging destinations on the Italian Riviera, preserves the intimacy and charm of the family owned hotel by personally greeting his guests.

When the activities of the day draw down, weary tourists and sports enthusiasts return to the care of the resort’s personnel, who greet them by name and immediately propose a relaxation filled evening of pampering and in-house dining sure to give the mind, body, and palate an unique and pleasurable experience.

Hotel Miramare: RestaurantTrust the gentle hands of the professionals at e’SPAce, a richly jewel hued indoor full service spa retreat. e’SPAce also extends massage services to clients in a peaceful outdoor gazebo retreat in the Great Park, amid the lush greenery, oleanders, camellias, lavender and other aromatics. Ready to wind down, but still awestruck by the outside views, then dress appropriately, that would be swimwear, and stroll to the Mediterranean Garden, where the patron, spellbound by the views of flora, fauna, mountains, and the gulf, favor unwinding in a poolside lounger, while sipping a refresher from the pool bar, or taking a dip in the saltwater swimming pool.

Conclude the day with an enchanting dinner at Ristorante Les Bougainvillées. The stark white stucco against the contrast of intricate fresco paintings on the ceiling creates a classical Italian aura. The dining room is a formal setting, but diners may choose to dress at a level of formality that suits their style. Regardless, the service of the wait staff is warm and diligent to all guests. The menu of Les Bougainvillées features the traditional cuisines of Ligure including Trofie pasta, Focaccia Recco and the exceptional Pesto alla Genovese, made with the light buttery tasting olives of the Ligure region.

Patrons retire to the comforts of their private space decorated in hues of pale white, blue and grey. Renovated old world luxury waits in the oversized rooms showcasing delicate refined furniture and minimal fanfare. Unwind after the nightly turn down preparations have been completed and slippers set out.

Hotel Miramare RoomWhat makes The Grand Hotel Miramare so special? It is an exquisite establishment perfectly positioned in a stunning location. Genuine conversation with management and personnel exemplifies unwavering commitment to excellence in the patron’s experience. Get superb recommendations from Andrea Fustononi about anything in the city, whether local attractions or a community staple, like Seghezzo, the 100 year old family owned grocery store. Guests are impressed by the personal attention and consideration given to them, and like countless other annual lodgers, look forward to their next stay at The Grand Hotel Miramare.

~ Words & photos by Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram@jadenlie

Book your stay now through TripAdvisor

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La Bodega, Barcelona

One of my best dining experiences in Barcelona was at La Bodega Restaurant at Plaza Molina in the Sant Gervasi district. My local friends, Tina and Alex said it was their favorite restaurant in Barcelona so they had to take me there. Open since 1983, the owner, Jose Luis Jimemr Momci still greets every one of his guests and attends to every detail. White table cloths and rose petals create a romantic atmosphere in this wine cellar converted into restaurant; it specializes in classic Mediterranean cuisine with a Catalan twist. Continue reading “La Bodega, Barcelona”

Jerusalem Bakery

I chanced upon this little tucked away place in Marietta on my way. There was a big sign saying “Jerusalem Bakery” so naturally, my curiosity arose. As I got closer, I saw there were two side by side establishments under the same banner. Making a detour, I walked into the bakery waiting to discover what it was all about.

Soon I was surrounded by rows of fresh breads, cookies, baklava and warbats. There was also a cooler with Safed cheese, soft drinks and some grocery items. As I walked closer to the counter, I noticed pies (or Israeli pizzas), pockets (calzones) fresh out of the oven, Harisah (semolina dessert soaked in honey) and a lot more.

Family owned and operated, the owner Tariq makes everything from scratch every single day. No wonder you can taste the freshness in the baked items. He also supplies pita bread to restaurants in Atlanta and the South East. Most of his business comes from the bakery, he says.

As I made my way next door, I realized there was a full fledged restaurant. A few tables in a very casual setting, Styrofoam plates and plastic forks is what you got. There is an open kitchen with self service counter where the aroma teases you.

I asked Tariq to serve me his specialties since I wasn’t well aware of Israeli cuisine. Apparently, I was wrong! When I saw this huge platter of hummus, babaganoush, tabbouleh salad, olives, falafal and pita, I felt on familiar territory. He also brought out a platter of chicken and beef shawarmas, rice and grilled chicken. The chicken was seasoned with a special spice blend that Tariq’s brother makes in Israel and is top secret! The shawarmas were well cooked, juicy and tender.  To me, none of these were new dishes but the flavors differed somewhat from that of Turkish, Lebanese, or Greek cuisines.

What I discovered today was that Israel has had influences of the Middle East, Europe and the Mediterranean making it a culinary melting pot. It’s cuisine, therefore happens to be very similar to that of the surrounding areas and you won’t be very surprised by a Jewish restaurant.

Tariq has tried to cater to the American as well as his Israeli clientele. He makes sandwiches and pizzas with a Jewish twist, and serves to regular patrons for weekdays lunches. He also offers platters of kebabs (chicken, beef, lamb), kufta, grilled meats and shawarma sandwiches. Vegetarian  can opt for the Jerusalem vegetarian sampler which is a combination of the appetizers. For his more traditional clients, he caters a whole lamb made to order (for about $350) which is quite popular at special occasions.

Alpharetta Location                        Marietta Location
770-777-0193                               770-419-1666
4150 Old Milton PKWY                   585 Franklin Road, Suite 160
Alpharetta, GA 30005                    Marietta, GA 30067

www.jerusalem-bakery.com