“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”-Gustave Flaubert
Our Italy and Spain tour continued! On our last morning in Rome we walked to the Campo De’ Fiori market near the Piazza Navona where you can purchase produce, flowers, spices, and souvenirs to bring home. At the edge of the Market is Forno, a bakery where we bought pastries and ate them by a fountain nearby, then took a stroll around the market before being picked up by a Shuttle from the B&B to take us to the Civitavecchia Port, about 1.5 hours from Rome. Where we would embark on our 4-Day Western Mediterranean Cruise.
Cruise Itinerary and Information:
This entire two week trip was initiated when I received an email about a 4-Day Western Mediterranean from Rome (Port of Departure: Civitavecchia, 1.5 hours from Rome). It looked like a perfect way to explore the Mediterranean for the first time. Norwegian Cruises also has a 7-day round trip cruise from Barcelona returning to Barcelona with the same stops. So we basically chose half of this cruise so we could spend more time in Naples and Rome, Italy.
Here is the timeline and the stops made on this particular cruise:
- Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy — 7:00 PM
- Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy 7:00 AM 7:00 PM
- Cannes, France 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
- Palma, Majorca, Spain 1:00 PM 8:00 PM
- Barcelona, Spain (Flight Departure) 5:00 AM —
Things to do on the Cruise Ship:
- Fat Cats Jazz and Blues Club.
- Burn the Floor (Dance Show)
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical
- Escape the Big Top (circus/magician)
- Howl at the Moon (Rock N’ Roll Dueling Piano Bar)
Cruise Excursion Day 1: Pisa and Florence, Italy
On our first stop we ported in Livorno, which is near Pisa and Florence, at 7:00am. I had researched and scheduled a Semi-Private Pisa and Florence Sightseeing tour with Driver in Rome . We had an 8:00am pickup from the port where the driver was holding a sign with our name, along with three other couples. The driver was very informative and shared additional history along the route, and offered recommendations of things to do and see at our various stops.
Our first stop of the tour was to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. We had about 40 minutes to visit the area, so we were unable to climb the 297 steps of the tower, but it was such an incredible sight. I have seen pictures of this famous building since I was a child and have also been fascinated by it, however seeing it in person was so surreal! It’s like really leaning. Like a lot! With a short visit, we decided to have cappuccino and made my postcard purchases, we then walked around the building and the little streets, taking in the architecture before it was time to get back in the van and head to Florence.
After a quick stop in Pisa we got a sneak peak of the beautiful skyline of Florence from above, which is really breathtaking. Soon after, we rode down the winding streets and were dropped off near the historic Piazza della Signoria where we walked around checking out the statues and shops. When we walked passed Rivoire we could smell the chocolates and confections being made, and I couldn’t resist. We walked in and ordered several little cookies, and a tea. I had several cups of tea on this trip and as it turns out Italians do not make a good cup of tea, I soon learned to exclusively order cappuccinos! But I had a good feeling about Rivoire; it was the first cuppa tea that was satisfying and delicious.
A short walk away is an adorable area home to Ponte Vecchio which is the oldest bridge in Florence, and can be seen in pictures in the slideshow below. Here you can find high end jewelry stores, cafes, and a truffle store in which we bought some truffle salt to bring home. It is so potent we had to double bag it when we got home, and you can still smell the truffles through the bags!
We were guided to visit the Piazza del Duomo, Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (free admission), and the Basilica of Santa Croce (€8,00 admission). There are SO many famous people are buried at Santa Croce, or have statues in their memorial. We saw Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei among others! For history nerds like us we were like, “Woah” every time we stumbled upon another “great.”
For lunch our tour guide recommended a few options and offered to make reservations at Osteria del Porcellino , on our own expense, where we indulged in the locally sourced Chianti and the pasta dish of the day. While in the area, with free time, we spontaneously walked into a Wine Bar and decided to do a Wine Tasting at Enoteca Alessi. We ordered two tastings: local Florence wines and another sample of Italian wines. We really enjoyed the wine and chatted with some ex-pats from Texas who were in the process of moving to Florence, they had been vacationing there for years, and decided to make it permanent!
One place we did not get the time to visit was the Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s famous David is on display, in all his glory. We really wanted to get a chance to view this piece of art, but alas time was limited so I guess we will have to venture back to Florence to visit this museum and drink more wine!
Cruise Excursion Day 2: Cannes, France
Bonjour! We were now in France! While researching the excursion options on Viator, TripAdvisor, NCL, and other sites, all of them were very competitive. We ultimately decided to book the Highlights of Monaco and Nice tour through the cruise line for feasibility. This was an eight hour tour that left at 8:45am. With each tour we chose there were pros and cons, overall I was very happy with this selection however as I expected, we were part of a very large group which can have its disadvantages. The big pro to this tour was that we were some of the first people to get off of the ship; since we had booked an excursion through the cruise line, we had first dibs on the little tender boats that took us to the docks in Cannes. If you chose to do this cruise, but did not want to spend the extra money on an excursion in Cannes, it seemed like there was plenty of things to do to spend several hours in the port.
When we docked in Cannes, we boarded a charter bus to make our way to visit the city of Nice that is on the edge of Baie de Anges. the bus traveled along the Promenade de Anglais, and our guide walked us down an old town part of town where we had a quick breakfast and walked in the market.
The next stop was Monaco where we went on a guided walking tour of the main highlights, and we had free time for lunch and to explore the city on our own. We learned about the wedding of Grace Kelly to Rainier III, the Prince of Monaco, and visited the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate, or Monaco Cathedral, where Grace Kelly is buried.
Our last stop of the day was a walk past the Place du Casino and visiting the Monte Carlo. Here we had free time to walk around the square and get a tour of the Monte Carlo, which is stunning! The building facade, ceilings, walls, furniture, the restrooms, all of it is so ornate and fancy! They were only open for tours at the time of our visit, no gambling was allowed. Before we journeyed back to the cruise ship, we had a drink at the bar just like James Bond in GoldenEye…well, I had a cappuccino, stirred not shaken.
Cruise Excursion Day 2: Palma, Majorca, Spain
When we woke up that morning, I awoke with awful body aches and a fever. I took some medicine, went to the gym, and took on the day. We ported at Palma, Majorca, Spain at 1:00pm. With a rather short visit on the island we opted to purchase an excursion directly from the cruise line just in case there were any travel issues. We selected the NCL Caves of Hams tour which included a visit to the caves, as well as a famous man-made pearl factory.
The Caves of Hams was really neat, we have visited several caves all over and this one may have been most memorable because of the unique music and light show near the end of the tour. We walked the path through the winding cave an admired all of the stalactites and stalagmites, the water flowing on the ground, and the colors that lit up the walls. But the most interesting part of the tour was near the end where they ask you to stand in an area, they turn off the main lights, and begin a music and light show. This light show was designed by the son of the man who discovered the cave and the show is set to the music of Mozart. This area is situated over the largest body of water in the cave called the Sea of Venice, and strangely someone in a row boat randomly rowed out to the center of the pond and just sat there. We were waiting for some singing or dancing or something, but no, he just rowed out there to sit for a couple minutes then rowed away. We assumed this was to show how big and deep the water is? Anyway, we found it very funny, and now we will never forget this tour. At the end of the tour we got some drinks at the Cafe and waited for our cue to head out.
Majorca is famous for their man-made pearls, so naturally the next stop was to check out a factory, Orquidea, in a village on our way back to the ship. We walked passed the open factory where we could see people making the pearls, which are actually layers upon layers of fish scales: the more layers of scales the more expensive the pearl. Even though I am not really a “jewelry person” I do tend to get unique earrings from many of our travels- pearls, stones, and gems tend to be on the top of my list! So I decided to purchase a couple necklaces and a pack of colorful earrings.
By that evening I was absolutely exhausted, feverish, lethargic, and achy all over, I thought I had a Flu. I called it an early night and went straight to bed, while Andrew made friends at Karaoke. The next morning I had stabbing stomach pains, and I was really uncomfortable most of our first day in Barcelona. Even after all the “washy, washy” (this is what the cruise attendants say every time you enter into a restaurant, and greet you with hand sanitizer) on the cruise ship, it turns out I had Traveler’s Tummy (a self-diagnosis) which occurred for another week after arriving home! I am pretty sure I got it on the ship some how. Even with the extreme discomfort, I powered through to get the most out of our time in Barcelona!
Cruise Excursion Day 3: Barcelona, Spain
The last stop, and port of departure on the cruise, was Barcelona, Spain. The cruise line had several excursions in Barcelona but most did not interest us so we selected a tour through Viator: Barcelona and Montserrat Tour with Skip-the-Line Park Güell Entry, with Top Day Tours. We were picked up at the port at 8:30am for our excursion, with our first stop being Montserrat. Little did I know, it was going to be absolutely freezing! Barcelona was a little chilly during our visit, but our first day here was in the 30s. Plus Montserrat is on a mountain, so with the higher elevation the temperature dropped. I was not prepared. The best part of this tour was simply the opportunity to visit Montserrat as it is outside the city of Barcelona. Since we were there so early we were easily able to drive up the mountain and gain access to the park. Our guide explained to us, that in just a few minutes cars would be lined down the mountain trying to gain access. This is due to the limited number of cars allowed in the park at any given time. She was right! When we left Montserrat an hour or so later, cars were lined half way down the mountain! If you decide to visit Montserrat when you are visiting Barcelona, be sure to arrive early!
When we arrived we took a stroll through the Montserrat National Park, we stopped in the Montserrat Monastery which is evidently famous for their Boys Choir, and we learned about the “Black Madonna” that constitutes this monastery as a major Christian pilgrimage site. If you wish, you can wait in a really long line to visit the shrine, we skipped this and instead explored art at the Museu de Montserrat. This was ideal as we were freezing, so the museum offered a nice warm sanctuary.
Once back on the bus we drove up to see the Annela Olímpica (Barcelona’s Olympic stadium) on Montjuic Hill and use the restrooms and take in the amazing views from the hill at the Museu Nacional de Catalunya. We were unable to visit this museum during our visit in Barcelona, but it is definitely on the list for when we return.
Barcelona is also home to several architectural creations of Antoni Gaudi, so another great part of this tour was that it included a skip-the-line tour of Park Güell. The line is very long to enter the par, so this was ideal. After our visit at the Park, we walked around to admire architecture around the city, including a stop outside La Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. We had tickets to visit the inside of La Sagrada Familia the following day. I go into more details about this visit in the 3-Days in Barcelona (coming soon!) Post and outline the rest of our Barcelona Travels.
Overall we really enjoyed our cruise through the Mediterranean, and it was the perfect number of days in my opinion- I do not think I would like a cruise that was any longer than this. This was a great way to pause in between our visits to Naples, Rome, and Barcelona. Have you ever taken a Mediterranean Cruise? If so, where did you stop? What was your favorite memory?