January 2016

Club Traveler

Magical Mediterranean: Stories and Photos from the 2015 Club Member Cruise

Club Members Jerry and Kathy Smith traveled on a fantastic journey of the Mediterranean aboard the 2015 ClubPartner Perk Grand Adventure. Their 10-night voyage sailed aboard the Celebrity Silhouette and included several stops in Italy, France and Corsica.

Jerry and Kathy are Owners at Hilton Grand Vacations Club on the Boulevard. Club Traveler asked them to share some of their favorite photographs and memories from the Mediterranean cruise.

How did this trip compare to other cruises you’ve been on?

Kathy: After our only previous cruise New Year's week in the Caribbean in 2000—aboard a small older ship—we swore we would never cruise again. Two of our party of six spent most of their time in their cabins watching TV. But in 2015, Hilton Grand Vacations Club tempted us to use our Points last minute to see the Mediterranean. I'd never been to Rome and the ports sounded amazing. Little did we know how we would luck out with the most beautiful ship, the sparkling Celebrity Silhouette! Our Oceanview Stateroom in Hilton's reserved section was lovely and roomy, the September weather was beautiful, and the ports were dreams come true for me: Naples and Herculaneum, Sicily, Sardinia, Provence, Nice, Corsica, Florence!

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Did you spend any time in Rome before or after the cruise?

Jerry: Kathy and I arrived five days early and really got to know Rome very well. We also spent one day after the cruise to revisit places and restaurants we liked and wanted to enjoy more thoroughly. I really enjoyed Rome this time, as many more Roman ruins have been uncovered since my last trip in 1976.

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What was the most stunning thing you saw?

Kathy: Les Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) in Les Baux-de-Provence, France. Our ship's day excursion from the port of Marseilles took us through Provence countryside to St. Remy, where Van Gogh painted, and then to a medieval mountain town, Les Baux-de-Provence. But we didn't know when we got off the bus "to see a film before going on to lunch" that we would walk into the limestone mountain and be stunned by the most beautiful immersion into the masterpieces of Raphael, Michelangelo and da Vinci, glowing and changing on the immense white galleries above and below you. I was dwarfed in the dark hearing the symphonic music and just started crying at the beauty that you seem to be a part of as you walk around. Now at every opportunity, I tell everyone to try to see it, as this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

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If you could only pick one thing, what was the highlight of the trip?

Jerry: When our cruise ship did a 360 in the port at Nice/Villafranche.

Kathy: It was magical to look out from the top of the ship at the most beautiful scenery in the world and spin slowly around looking at the yachts in the bay and famous Cap Ferrat going by around you. I stood until I had to run to dinner, so I could be in the glorious sunshine as we left the port behind, looking down the coast at Nice on my left, and Monaco on the shore past the cape on my right. Since Jerry had gone to dinner after the Captain turned the ship, I shared it alone up there with a German passenger taking photographs and trying to keep him from seeing I was in tears for a second time on the cruise from a beautiful experience.

How was the food? Was there a particular meal you really enjoyed?

Jerry: We really enjoyed meeting each evening for dinner with the Hilton Club members and talking about the day’s events and what we did and what we saw.

Kathy: Although we had one anniversary dinner at a beautiful specialty restaurant, we really enjoyed our assigned main dinner table of 6 couples all in Hilton Club. We hit it off from the first night, loved getting to know each other and all shared email addresses before we parted. The food was wonderful every night and our table had three assigned staff we all enjoyed. They knew our likes from the first night and doted on us. They knew which of us always wanted two shrimp cocktails or always the French onion soup. As the days went on, we were pretty bold ordering multiple entrees and desserts like naughty kids. Yes, we were spoiled. But I can’t forget having my first Cosmopolitan while all dressed up at the Hilton Club Cocktail Party.

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What were you most surprised about on the trip?

Jerry: How wonderful that the Hilton Grand Vacations representative, Nan, and others took such good care of us and made sure that the Hilton Club members met, and we enjoyed that.

Kathy: I was not disappointed with anything about the ship. My expectations were always exceeded by the beauty of the ship and the performance of the staff. I would do the exact same cruise again, and even do the excursions all over again!

Any tips or advice you’d give to other Club Members going on a Mediterranean cruise?

Jerry: Go with Hilton if you get a chance. You won't regret it.