In July 2016, I traveled to Messina, Sicily, Naples (Capri/Pompeii), Italy, Rome(Civitavecchia), Italy, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy, Marseilles (Provence), France, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Cruising the Mediterranean is much different that cruising the Caribbean. The sites are just incredible. I had so many bucket list moments on that cruise.
|Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily|
|Nerano, Amalfi Coast, Italy|
|Colosseum, Rome, Italy|
Here's what you need to know:
1. You have to do research in advance. If you are on a large cruise ship, you will dock at large industrial ports that are far from the city. Livorno and Rome(Civitavecchia) are two great examples of this. Rome is 90 minutes by bus from the port. Florence, Pisa and Tuscany are also quite far from the port. The Livorno port is enormous. It took us 10 minutes just to get out of the port. I recommend using a travel agent (like me) to help you figure out the best tour options for what you want to see and experience.
2. Skip the Line is worth it. Many of the museums or attractions will have skip the line tickets. It's important you figure out if the tour you are taking includes those tickets. If you are doing it yourself, it's worth purchasing the skip the line tickets in advance to save yourself hours when you get to the site.
3. Consider cruising in May or September. We cruised in July and it was HOT! HOT! HOT! May and September will still have nice weather, but you won't melt.
4. You may have to surrender your passport on the ship. Our itinerary included ports all in the European Union. If you are going on an itinerary that includes a country outside the European Union, you may have to turn your passport in to the cruise ship while on board. This is a customary practice. It's also why I travel with a physical copy of my passport and I take a picture of it and store it in my phone.
5. Download Google Translate to your smart phone. Set it up to have offline access to the languages you will need. Everywhere we went, we were able to get our message across in English. It was still nice to have access to a translation app to decode menus, signs and for those few times charades wasn't cutting it.
6. Exchange currency in advance. It is so convenient to land in a country with Euros in your pocket. Sure, you can seek out an ATM or currency exchange when you get there, but why? Most banks will order currency for you in advance.
7. Make sure your credit card has a chip. Most European merchants require a chip in the card to process it.
8. VAT Tax - Even on a cruise, VAT tax is added to all your purchases. In our case, it was about 20%. If you buy a physical good that will go back to the USA with you, you can apply for a VAT tax reimbursement. However, in order for the merchant to give the receipt you need, there is a minimum purchase requirement. Be sure you understand those details.
9. Sometimes a private tour just isn't worth it. We took a mix of ship sponsored excursions and private excursions for our group. We noticed that the private tour of Rome would not have been worth the increase in cost since the Colosseum and the Vatican were so crowded. Our excursion in Sicily had a good amount of free time. The private tours to Capri and Tuscany were worth every penny.
10. Arrive at least one day before. Many of the flights from the USA to Europe are overnight flights so it would seem like you could just fly in the day of. If we would have done that, we would have lost our minds. Our flight was delayed by 40 minutes and then we had a 2 1/2 hour wait clearing immigration in Barcelona. We would have cut it way too close. The upside is that this was the easiest transition to a new time zone that we have ever had so we were able to get in some quality tour time in Barcelona before boarding the ship.
If you have any questions or what to explore taking a Mediterranean cruise, email me or set up a time to chat.