The definition of the word escape is to take a break from reality and routine. This sentiment is the epitome of my journey to Italy, Greece and Croatia on the beauty that is the Norwegian Escape. The opportunity to break free from my everyday routine could not have come at a better time. It was with a sense of childlike glee that I boarded the plane to Rome. I was determined to live the next week by the philosophy most European’s live by and just say, “Why not”, to every experience that came my way. That’s the only way to do it right?

My foodie heart was aflutter as I imagined all the deliciously new tastes and indulgences I’d encounter on this Meet The Winemaker Cruise. Before I knew it, I’d arrived at the port town of Civitavecchia. The Escape (currently the largest in the NCL fleet) towered above us and this was the moment it all felt real. Along with around 4,266 guests from around the world, this was to be our floating home where we would dream, see, inspire, repeat.

Before we settled in, it was time to grab a bite, of course. We dashed for the Garden Café (one of the more than 25 dining experiences onboard). With so much to choose from, we had to pay more than one visit to this bountiful buffet. Luckily, it’s open 24 hours. It was then time to freshen up in our balcony staterooms located mid-ship and close to everything we could possibly need.

Next it was time to meet our winemaker at The Cellars. Our introduction to Antonio Hidalgo and his portfolio of wines was truly unique. Antonio has a real connection and commitment with wine. He is the 8th generation of the family-owned Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana – a worldwide recognised Sherry house. We were blessed to sip and savour many times with this fascinating gentleman.

Above all else, people are NCL’s priority and their Guest First Philosophy can be seen and felt at every turn, especially when dining. Le Bistro hosted us for an evening filled with French flair. A number of glasses of Veuve Clicquot Brut were enjoyed as we dined and got to know our fellow travellers. I opted for the magnificent Sole Grenobloise (sautéed Dover sole). A seafood dinner seemed fitting for our first evening on the ocean.

Our sea day allowed us to get better acquainted with the Escape. We made our way from deck to deck making a mental checklist of everything we wanted to do and experience. Then it was off to the Atrium for a live chef demo and wine pairing followed by a very special VIP Captain’s invitation for cocktails in The Haven Courtyard – an exclusive luxury enclave at the top of the ship.

By dinner we had worked up quite the appetite and it was time to indulge in a very special four-course Winemaker’s Dinner with Certified Angus Beef ® Executive Chef Ashley Breneman. From the Mozzarella di Bufala welcome bite through to the Celebration of Steaks and heavenly Butterscotch Budino, we were well satisfied as we took our seats in the Escape Theatre. NCL’s entertainment offerings take you to Broadway and beyond. This evening we raised our glasses and sang along with the incredible high energy of The Choir of Man. After the show, we turned back time and danced the night away to 80s hits at Spice H2O. A day (and night) on the ocean very well spent!

One of the wonders of cruise travel is going to sleep in one country in the utmost comfort and waking up refreshed in a new destination. The next morning, I opened my stateroom curtains and said “dobo jutro” to the resplendent city of Dubrovnik. After a delightful breakfast of French toast at Savour we disembarked for a very full day which is testament to how much there is to do on and off the ship. Our first stop was Izletište Mlin – a step back into 15th century Croatia where we witnessed how flour is traditionally milled and traditional material and clothing are made. Next, we tried our hands at baking bread “ispod peka” or “under the bell” at Cadmos Eco Village.

After a short journey back (with much Game of Thrones trivia along the way), we took in the sites within the walls of Dubrovnik. After a dreamy gelato and much wandering through the streets, the three Lost Librans found their way to Banje Beach where we took some much-needed respite in the cool ocean. Back onboard, we tried out Teppanyaki. A feast of fun and flavour as the chefs slice, dice and sing Lady Gaga as they prepare your dinner right before your eyes. As the evening cooled, a stroll along The Waterfront promenade was in order to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

On day four, we docked in Corfu Greece where we jumped on the Hop-on Hop-off bus to take in the sights followed by a lazy morning sipping cocktails and dipping in the Ionian Sea. It was then time to seek out some traditional Greek fare with a hearty lunch of calamari, salads and yiros. After lunch we leisurely ambled through the streets for a bit of shopping until it was time to head back to the ship. Another evening of good food and wine awaited. Antonio took us through some more amazing Spanish wines and even the never before tasted ’66 Norwegian Gin. Dinner was a fusion of food and cultures from around the globe at Food Republic where I over-indulged in the most divine sushi and Korean fried chicken.

A Thursday morning train ride took us to Taormina, a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily where all the sweet and savory delicacies were the order of the day. Icy lemon granita, paste di mandorla and of course cannoli as we made our way to the beach on Isola Bella (Beautiful Island). The most picturesque backdrop for a lunch of the most delicious margherita pizza I’ve ever tasted. We could have stayed and wistfully stared at the ocean all day but we needed to head back for, believe it or not, more food. The evening was pure seafood indulgence with dinner at Bayamo by Ocean Blue.  Not being able to eat another morsel, we made our way to bed.

A very early wakeup saw us on the road along the Amalfi coast, through Sorrento and up to Massa Lubrense. This was a day to be remembered with an espresso to start before a nail-biting Ape Calessino (tuk tuk) ride through the narrow winding Naples streets. At the top of the hill, we were warmly welcomed at il Turuziello by Benedetto and his family where we witnessed how mozzarella di fior di latte, ricotta and caciottine are freshly made by hand. The creaminess and flavour of these was second to none, as were their extra virgin olive oils.

Next came another Italian favourite. Limoncello making at Il Giardino di Vigliano in the heart of the citrus groves. Lunch was the freshest and tastiest charcuterie and lemon risotto. Our afternoon of tasting, living and learning wasn’t quite over. We made a quick stop at Sorrentino Vesuvio to sample their unmistakably unique Vesuvian wines. Back in the Escape Theatre that evening, we were transported from Italy to Argentina by the cast of Malevo – a thrilling exhibition of Malambo-a traditional Argentine folk dance that really got our pulses racing.

One thing you certainly must do when visiting Livorno is to head to Pisa. Enroute to the legendary Leaning Tower, we made a whirlwind stop in Firenze (Florence). From the Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria to the Santa Croce, we saw as much as we could before arriving in the Il Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) to view The Leaning Tower, the Duomo, the Baptistry and the Monumental Cemetery.

And just like that, our week of Mediterranean magic had come to an end. We enjoyed our last evening at sea with NCL’s Sail & Sustain Pineapple Surplus cocktails at Vibe Beach Club and dinner at The Manhattan Room. As we partied the night away one last time, all that’s left to say is “Grazie”, “Efharisto” and “Hvala” NCL because for an experience as enchanting as this, saying thank you just once is not enough!