Before we get to the next stop in the line up from our Adriatic cruise last November, I have to tell you guys about the sea day in between. When I originally posted about this trip I mentioned that we were going to be on the smallest ship in the Princess fleet, the Pacific Princess. This ship only holds around 680 passengers.
Here’s a photo I borrowed from the web to give you a visual. That is the Pacific Princess in the front and the Grand Princess in the back. The Grand Princess holds 2,590 passengers.
There are definitely some pros and some cons to being on a small ship. First the biggest pro of all in my opinion, there are no crowds. Pretty much ever. No crowds, and no lines for anything. As far as I recall we never waited in line for anything, even at embarkation. No lines at the buffet, and it was rare to have to wait for an elevator. We never had to arrive early for entertainment, there were always plenty of seats available. There were also always plenty of chairs available around the pool. This is definitely not the case on the larger ships.
And this also translates to the ports of call. There is a big difference between a ship unloading 680 passengers into a small medieval walled city like Kotor, and a ship unloading 2,590 passengers into that same small area.
Another pro, less tendering. Some of the bigger ships are too large to dock in the smaller ports so your ship drops anchor and you shuttle to land in little boats called tenders. Tendering can be time consuming, and a lot less convenient than being able to walk right on and off the ship. On this trip we were able to dock in every port, no tendering at all.
There are some cons though too. For one thing, there aren’t nearly as many amenities on board the ship. There is no rock climbing wall, water slide, ice skating rink, giant movie screen under the stars or zip line. There was only one small pool, although we never went in it so we weren’t missing anything there.
That being said, the Pacific Princess is a beautiful, if somewhat more traditional, ship. The cabins were all refurbished about two years ago and the new design was by none other than HGTV designer Candice Olson (I always loved her show).
The other con to the smaller ship that I want to point out is that you can definitely feel a bit more movement. Which brings me to our day at sea. We crossed the Mediterranean from Malta to Montenegro during a bit of a storm with 50 mph winds and 15’ seas. I’m sure we would have felt those waves on any size ship, but on this small ship it was pretty significant. Fortunately I had taken some Bonine when we left Malta because the captain had warned us that the seas would be rough, so I didn’t have a problem with sea sickness at all. But it was a bit difficult to get around. Having lunch in the buffet was quite the experience as dishes were crashing to the floor right and left, and it was tough to get to your table with your plate of food intact. In addition, all of the exterior decks were closed for the day. But that was OK. We were worn out from constantly being on the go, so a day spent reading in bed was perfectly fine with us.
By evening things had calmed down quite a bit and there wasn’t any dish crashing heard at dinner, but there were quite a few empty chairs due to people who weren’t feeling all that well. There were only 5 out of the normal 8 at our table.
By the next morning when we sailed into the Bay of Kotor the water was as smooth as glass. The difference was night and day.
Much like last week when I didn’t precisely know where Malta was located, the same was true of Kotor, Montenegro. What can I say, I skipped geography in school (really, I did, it had to do with moving from Minnesota to Florida between school years, long story for another time).
But I know where it is now! And just in case you don’t, here’s another map to put it in perspective for you.
According to Wikipedia, “Montenegro has both a picturesque coast and a mountainous northern region. The country was a well-known tourist spot in the 1980’s. Yet, the Yugoslav wars that were fought in neighboring countries during the 1990’s crippled the tourist industry and damaged the image of Montenegro for years.” However, the tourist industry has been recovering steadily over the past 18 years and seems to be going strong now.
Sailing in to Kotor reminded me a lot of sailing through the Sognefjord and the Aurlandsfjord to Flåm, Norway. I can’t really do justice to describing the feeling of waking up in your cabin and seeing mountains slipping silently past as your ship glides through the water. We sleep with our curtains open just so that we can wake up and see our surroundings without even getting out of bed. It really is a spectacular way to start the day.
On our way to Kotor we sailed past Our Lady of the Rocks (on the left) and St. George Island (on the right).
As well as Perast …
It was fun to see them knowing that we were headed back to these spots on our morning excursion. Speaking of which, I’m going to wait and share that with you next week because this post is getting rather long and I still have lots of great pictures to include.
Instead I’m jumping ahead to the afternoon that we spent in Kotor after our excursion.
The old town part of Kotor is a fortified city and no one knows the exact timing of the first settlement there. It was first fortified in the early middle ages, 535 A.D. and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our Rick Steves’ guidebook said that the old town part of Kotor was very small and it would be easy to do a self-guided walking tour in only a couple of hours, and that was true (his book on Croatia & Slovenia also includes Montenegro).
There isn’t a ton of stuff to see, but if you enjoy wandering around narrow, cobble stone alleyways admiring ancient buildings then you would love Kotor!
And if you’re a fan of the amazing patina on old painted doors, then this is definitely the spot for you.
And finally, if you are a cat lover you will enjoy this town as well.
Kotor is known for having a large population of stray cats. Apparently many of the residents and shop keepers leave food out for them. Kotor even has a Cat Museum.
The cats make themselves at home everywhere, including snuggling up for a cat nap on a park bench.
Strolling around Kotor was a perfectly lovely way to spend an afternoon, but would not have been enough to keep us occupied all day. Be sure to check back next Wednesday to read about the tour we took in the morning!