Summer is cruising season in the Mediterranean and the major cruise lines are well established in the market and offer a wide variety of itineraries. There are a number of similarities in most itineraries with the two main embarkation ports being Barcelona and the port for Rome, Civitavecchia. A majority of cruises in the eastern Mediterranean sail out of Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, Greece.
Itineraries vary in length with cruises of around seven days usually stopping at four or five ports of call, those of nine to eleven days make six to eight ports and fourteen day itineraries can call on up to ten ports.
Cruises from Barcelona often stop at Spain’s Palma de Mallorca and series of ports east along the coast that usually include Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, located near to Nice and Monte Carlo. Favorite Italian ports on those itineraries also include Civitavecchia the port of Rome, Naples and Livorno with its access to Florence and Pisa. Additional popular ports include Genoa on the west coast and Ravenna on the east coast.
Most cruises out of Rome/Civitavecchia go south and cruise around the Italian boot passing through the Straights of Messina. Popular destinations on shorter cruises (6 to 8 days) include Naples, Dobrovnik, Kotor in Montinegro, the Greek island of Corfu and Malta. Longer cruises can add Messina, the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Ephesus, Turkey and Athens.
There are also Rome itineraries that sail west and often include Livorno, Villefranche, Provence France, with stops in the Spanish ports of Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca and at times a port call in Gibraltar.
With the popularity of cruising growing there are more and more returning passengers. The cruise companies are always looking to add new ports as an enticement to get them to come back and cruise again. For that reason there are always differences and surprises in searching itineraries so look for one that hits your “must see” destinations or has added new stops.
There are some important things you need to consider when planning how you are going to get the most out of your cruise port visits. For most ports of call there is a serious time limit and if you go off on your own you cannot be late returning to your ship as the ship just won’t normally wait for you. If you take a cruise sponsored tour the ship is obligated to get you and your fellow passengers back on board before sailing. That doesn’t mean that you are locked into taking only sponsored tours but you need to plan and allocate extra time to get back to the ship.
When making your plans there are a few ports that many people put high on their list to visit when they decide to cruise the Mediterranean. Here we offer a few highlights along with ideas on getting the most from those all-to-brief stops.
Livorno with trips to Pisa and Florence – To go on your own you can easily take a train from Livorno Centrale to Florence Santa Maria Novella for €6 to €14 per person one way. You do have to get from the pier to the train station but most cruises offer a shuttle service at a reasonable price into town center. In Livorno you can also buy a combination round-trip ticket that includes the train tickets and a bus to the train station that can be purchased at many convenience shops. The trip takes about one and a half hours and trains run about every half hour. In Florence from Santa Maria Novella you can walk into the historic district in only a few blocks. You can get to Pisa using a local bus or with train trip as it is only twenty minutes away with a moderate walk to the Cathedral and old city walls. More information on Lavorno HERE.
Civitavecchia / Rome – This is a city that everyone should make an effort to visit. From the buildings of the ancient Roman Empire to the Vatican there are days worth of sightseeing to be experienced. There’s more information on seeing Rome in just one day HERE.
You can also find an article on getting into Rome HERE. In Civitavecchia the train station is a moderate walk along the waterfront from the port and a train to S. Pietro station (Vatican City) takes about 40 minutes. Fares start at €5 per person one way on the commuter trains and up to €20 round trip using regional trains. There is a manned ticket booth at the Civitavecchia station along with automated vending machines. A round-trip bus booked through the ship will cost over €80 and take about two hours each way depending on traffic.
Barcelona -Barcelona is one of the largest cruise ports in the Mediterranean and is used as an embarkation port as well as a popular port of call. The city is a modern and historic place with a number of iconic neighborhoods and attractions. If you are cruising out of Barcelona do not miss the opportunity to spend a couple of extra days visiting this vibrant city.
There are 3 cruise terminals at the World Trade Centre pier called North, South and East terminals and they are not far from the Columbus Monument on the waterfront at La Rambla.
Transportation – The T3 PORTBUS (the “Blue Bus”) runs a circuit from all cruise port terminals to the monument of Christopher Columbus. The tickets for the T3 need to be purchased with cash on the bus itself. Single ticket: €3.00, with Return ticket: €4.00. Many of the cruise ships also provide a shuttle bus to their passengers for free or a small charge (usually about €5). Getting to the Gothic Quarter by taxi from the port is normally less than 10 minutes with a fare of about €20.00. A Taxi to Barcelona airport from the cruise port should take about 25 minutes with a fare: of €30.00 – €35.00.
Venice – Unfortunately large cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock at the Venice cruise port. The cruise ships are now shifting Venice visits to two ports about an hour away using Ravenna to the west and Triest to the east. More information on this HERE.
Naples – This city is near to the ruins of the Roman city Pompeii and well worth a visit, but Naples is also not far from the Amalfi coast. There are frequent Trains from Naples to the Amalfi Coast. To get from Naples to Salerno, you can take one of Trenitalia’s Alta Velocità (AV) trains from Napoli Centrale station. The trip is about 30 miles and there are also InterCity and Regionale trains serving this route, with over three dozen trains a day costing €5 each way. From the Positino station it is a good idea to know where you want to visit and take a taxi to the coast but this is still an easy day trip.
Piraeus and Athens – You can find a good piece on Piraeus HERE. The main attraction is the Acropolis in Athens and it’s well worth a day if this is your first visit. If you wold like to save a good amount over the cruise tours you can use the metro to travel from Piraeus to central Athens. A trip to Athens using the metro costs less than €1. Also a free shuttle bus usually operates in the port taking passengers from the ships to the metro station. Visiting the Acropolis has a general admission €10 and hours vary by season and day of the week. You should also expect a good uphill climb to reach the top but the is an elevator fro people with disabilities.
Villefranche-sur-Mer – You can find a good piece on Villefranche HERE. Less than a half mile around the waterfront is the train station where you can catch frequent trains to Monte Carlo, Nice or Cannes. They run about every twenty minutes and a trip to Monte Carlo takes only fifteen minutes and costs usually under €7.00.
So before you sign up for those expensive tours consider saving some money with some low risk exploring on your own.