A few months ago, I went on a month-long trip through the Mediterranean with Princess Cruises. And while I had already shared my photos from the trip, I had not, until now, elaborated on the details of the experience itself. I was a bit skeptical about the idea of traveling quickly from city to city on a cruise (I had previously cruised through Alaska and the Bahamas with mixed results), as each stop would feel rushed and short. On the other hand, the idea of getting to see so many cities in such a short amount of time was exciting; it was sort of like a crash course on the North Mediterranean. A life is a long time, I had reassured myself, to revisit and take in deeper the cities I loved.
The cruise took place aboard the Star Princess in September of 2011, and included the cities of Venice, Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples (only to port for trips to Capri and Pompeii), Rome, Florence, Pisa, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Overall, I had a really great time. I do recommend it to anyone looking to see a lot of things really quickly at a reasonable cost.
The Cons of a Mediterranean Cruise
As I mentioned earlier, you only get to spend a short amount of time in each city. In Rome, we only had at most half a day, as we had to travel from the port city of Civitavecchia, nearly an hour away. Combined with traffic, lines and bathroom/shopping breaks (which took up a depressing amount of time with such a big group), you run the risk of having to cut out certain things to make it back to the ship on time. In our case, we had to miss the Foro Romano. Additionally, excursions, especially those booked via the cruise, are ridiculously expensive. However, not taking an excursion can be a huge inconvenience as you’re not given a lot of time to make mistakes on land, lest you get left behind. Excursions also place you within tourist areas, so you’re less likely to encounter the cool places locals enjoy.
The days we spent at sea were even more tiring than the days hiking through towns. Although they had plenty of activities on ship, I found myself reading or wandering about the decks instead. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time dining, as that was the most exciting thing to do. Some of the shows were alright, but I found most of the entertainment a bit tacky and borderline mediocre. Days at sea bored me out of my mind.
The Pros of a Mediterranean Cruise
On the positive side, having such a short amount of time in each port forces you to push as hard as you can through the day. And when you’re done, you’re invited back aboard the ship with a cold washcloth and a fancy dinner. I had thought that paying for all the boat food would leave us less likely to dine on land, however it became more of a benefit than a hinderance, as it made us more picky when choosing places to eat during excursions, something that was important as we were primarily in heavy tourist areas cluttered with expensive and average food options. Instead, the ship’s offerings allowed us to recharge for the next day, so we could hike hard and rest hard.
The cruise itself was a huge sampler platter of popular attractions in each of the cities we visited. It’s a huge load off my mind that my next trip to any of these cities can be taken leisurely, without the need to hit up these crowded attractions again (I like to do what the locals do, anyway). That the memories and experiences from so many historic spots were implanted in my mind reminds me immediately of the film The Matrix.
Finally, being on a large ship allows one to see cities from a different perspective than from land. As we left Venice the first day, Italian opera played over the ship’s speakers as we slowly left port. It sounds a bit cheesy, but in reality, it was beautiful and I was deeply moved. Being on a ship offers some amazing views, as exhibited in some of the following photos…