Nick and I recently got back from a 7 day Med cruise accompanied by a few days in Barcelona. It was our first solo international holiday (excluding honeymoon) since we got married so naturally we were very excited about it!
I receive the Royal Carribbean mailers, and having done quite a few cruises and loved them all, when I saw the special they were running I took a chance and sent it to Nick who was super keen too as he had never been to any of the stops. Cruising is the best way (IMHO) to see many places in a short space of time and also see places that you would probably not go to otherwise. The likes of Gibraltor, New Caledonia and Belize spring to mind for me, all places I got to see on cruises.
Due to leave from work and the time of year, we picked a 7 day cruise which we knew would be short but in those 7 days we would do 6 cities and 3 countries, all of which were bucket list destinations for us so it all came together perfectly. Our routing was Barcelona, Nice, Portofino, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast, Barcelona.
So let me start by saying that it was amazing, every stop was as beautiful as I imagined and we saw and did so much but it was hectic trip because we stopped 5 days in a row. So if you saw my insta posts and sent me messages asking about it, here are 10 things you should know before you go on this cruise.
1. The time of year was perfect.
September is Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere but for these stops, the weather is still warm but not scorching hot like it is in June/July, so you get to have ‘summer’ weather without suffering from heat stroke. It was between 24-28 degrees celsius at every destination.
2. Arrive a few days early
It is always a good idea to arrive at the city where your ship leaves from, a day or 2 before the cruise starts, because if your luggage doesn’t arrive or goes missing (which has happened to me before) it gives you some time to track down your luggage and get it back before your ship leaves. Otherwise your luggage has to try get to your next port of call which would be a nightmare.
3. A seven day cruise with 5 stops is too short
I would suggest doing a minimum of 10 days for a big cruise like this if you can. And I would suggest a cruise with some sea days inbetween to allow yourself time to relax between the sightseeing. 7 days also just goes way too quickly, so it’s definitely worth doing a slightly longer cruise.
4. Book a cabin with a view
This was something we contemplated for a long time. I really wanted a cabin with balcony but we decided that the additional cost would not be worth it given that we were going to be on the ship very little because of the busy itinerary. So the compromise (by Nick) was us getting a room with a window. We booked a Spacious Ocean View cabin, so you get a big porthole window behind your bed and a more spacious room. Now this is nowhere near as nice as a balcony but it is well worth it as opposed to getting an internal room because waking up every morning to a beautiful sunrise and view of a new city was just amazing, as well as just watching the beautiful blue ocean coasting past as we sailed. So I would highly recommend getting a room with either a window or balcony as it really is worth the extra bit of money for the amazing views 24/7.
5. The ports are not the actual destinations
Four of the five final destinations are not at the ports where the ship stops.
For Nice, you stop at Villefranche and then need to take a 20 minute train to either Monaco or Nice. The Florence stop is actually Livorno and then you need to take a bus/cab to Florence which is about 1,5hrs drive. For Rome you dock at Civitavecchia which is about 2 hours away from Rome, and for Amalfi the ship docks at Salerno and you can either take a small boat (like we did) or drive to Amalfi, Positano or any of the other beautiful cities nearby.
6. Book excursions
I would highly recommend booking excursions or day trips, especially for Florence & Rome because of the distance you have to travel to get to the cities and the amount you need to try and see in a few hours. We were able to see all the main sites at both stops in a few hours which would be difficult to do on your own. The excursions are expensive but we found them to be good value for money given how much we got to see and how incredibly informative they were. Our tour guides were incredibly knowledgeable so we got to learn a lot about each landmark we visited, which is something we wouldn’t have achieved on our own.
Something to also note is if you are not on a Royal Caribbean excursion and you get back to the ship late because of a train, a strike or traffic etc, the ship will not wait for you and you will have to find your own way to the next stop of the cruise (not ideal)!
7. With these excursions, you will only get back on the ship between 5:30 & 6pm
This is something to keep in mind when deciding on which dinner seating to choose as the first seating is 6/6:30 which makes it super difficult to get ready for after an excursion when you only get on board at 5:30. We had booked the late seating (8:30pm) but there was a mix up and we had to change to the early seating in order to get a private table (a long story not worth sharing) and it was very tough to get back on the ship, shower and get ready in time for dinner, it also adds a level of rushing/stress that you just don’t need on holiday.
8. Book a dinner at one of the other restaurants on board
On all my past cruises we have always eaten dinner at the main dining room because it’s included in your cruise and we have always had great experiences there. However, due to the mess up with our dinner booking, not having enough time to get ready for the early seating, and my folks raving about Chops Grill, the steakhouse on board, we decided to give it a try.
We ended up buying a 3 dinner package, which was pricey but so worth it. We ate at Chops Grill twice and Giovannis once and both were just incredible. The food was phenomenal and the service was amazing and so I would highly recommend spoiling yourself with a meal at one of these places, if not both.
9. Take comfortable shoes
I know this might sound obvious but I feel it’s worth mentioning. I would suggest taking 2 pairs of your most comfortable walking shoes. I had 2 pairs of sneakers which I wore on all the stops (except Portofino because we weren’t going to walk that much) and I still had sore feet with blisters because you are literally walking and standing all day long as well as sweating in your shoes for an entire day so your feet take a serious knock.
10. Spend a few days in Barcelona at the end of the cruise
This was the best decision we made because not only is Barcelona an amazing city to visit with so much to see but it allowed us 3 days to recuperate from the heavy walking and rest a little before heading back to reality. It also gave us 3 days to be on our own schedule which after a very busy week was a Godsend. On top of all of that, Barcelona is just amazing and I actually feel like we could have spent a whole week there, exploring and wandering the beautiful streets. So if you haven’t been there, definitely add it to your list, cruise or not.
I hope this helps set your expectations for the trip as well as give you some suggestions to implement if you choose to book this cruise. It is good to know what kind of holiday it will be so that you don’t come into it expecting a relaxing trip with lots of late sleep ins. This is definitely a sightseeing, historically rich and fast paced holiday which was well worth every cent but we didn’t really know how hectic it would be going into it.
If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to drop me a message, I’d be happy to answer them. I will also be posting a blog with more detail on each stop so be sure to look out for that.