Two weeks ago this Friday, my mom and I set sail on the Carnival Vista for an 8-day cruise around the western Mediterranean. As I have admitted before, I don’t love cruises, but it was a great way for my handicapped mom to see the Mediterranean for the first time (which you can read more about here).
The boat itself was insane. Carnival is not known for their cuisine aboard, but they are known for their ridiculous amounts of entertainment/activities. The Vista had two giant waterslides, a splash zone, at least four pools that I counted, an Imax theater, outdoor theater, ropes course, basketball court, mini golf, bowling, a sky-ride, and a full spa and sauna. You are basically on a floating resort with constant food, drinks, and entertainment.
Our itinerary started in Barcelona where we got on and off the ship. From Barcelona we had one “fun day” at sea before arriving in Cagliari, Sardinia. From Cagliari we hit Naples, Cittavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Florence), Marseilles, and Palma de Mallorca. Overall Barcelona was a great city to start and end the trip. The port was well run and there were several transport options to and from the airport (which is not far from the historic center of town).
Ok here is the thing with Mediterranean cruises, they are a great way to relax and leisurely visit small Mediterranean port towns. If you have never been to Italy, however, a cruise is the worst way to sightsee and explore major destinations like Florence and Rome (Naples and Venice work much better because the are actual port towns). Furthermore, many of these ports are selected for practical reasons (like docking a humongous cruise ship) and not for what the actual ports of call offer.
To take full advantage of this type of cruise, you need to be willing to shell out some serious cash in order to go on excursions and really see the best of what places like Sardinia, Rome, Tuscany, and Southern France have to offer. Trust me, Cagliari is not the best of Sardinia!
For example, from Naples you can see the Amalfi Coast, travel to Capri, or visit Pompeii, but these are not near the port and require a planned excursion or a knowledgeable travel agent. I don’t say this to discourage would-be cruisers, but I don’t think many realize (including my mom) just how little they could see on a one-day excursion. My mom and I spent our day in Rome, which began and ended with a 90 min train ride, touring the Vatican and St. Peter’s. Add in free time to eat and souvenir shop and our day was over.
Of all of our destinations, Naples (because of our Amalfi tour), Marseilles, and Palma de Mallorca were my favorite. The last two were the only destinations where the port town we docked in were beautiful and interesting on their own. What a cruise does have going for it is price and convenience. You won’t find many European resorts (that travel with you and include food lol) at this price (but don’t forget to budget those pricey excursions). They also won’t come with so much entertainment for children. My advice is before you decide whether or not to cruise you really what to think about what you want to do and what you want to see.
I plan on sharing more on Palma next week. I was most fascinated by Palma’s unique culture and fascinating history.
Have you cruised the Mediterranean? What do you think of Mediterranean cruises?