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My Biggest Mistake on a Mediterranean Cruise Was Not Extending the Trip

24 Jun 2024
Calista Kiper

My Mediterranean cruise was packed with exotic ports, historical sites, classical art, and incredible food. But I made one crucial mistake: not staying longer.

I sailed on a 7-night Oasis of the Seas cruise to Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain,  and Florence, Rome, and Naples, Italy.

When I stepped off the tour bus in Florence, Italy, I saw a scene that looked like it was out of an impressionist painting.

Plush green trees and medieval architecture lined the banks of the wide Arno River.

Young people sunbathed on the river bank, reading and smoking cigarettes.

"Places like this really exist?" I wondered.

I longed to join the sunbathers and grab a cappuccino at the cute cafe I saw by the river, but I didn't have enough time.

Instead of getting to eat or walk around, I had to rush straight to my appointed time at the Uffizi Gallery art museum.

After the art museum, the time for the tour was over, and we had to get onto the bus for a two-hour drive straight back to the cruise ship.

"Next time," I promised myself.

I didn't have enough time to explore each port

Traveling by cruise ship barely gave me time to explore each port.

The vessel stopped in each town for about twelve hours.

However, I found that the largest, most famous cities near these ports (such as Florence and Rome) were quite far from where the vessel was docked.

When we visited Florence, it took longer than two hours to get from the port, La Spezia, to the famous Renaissance city.

So much travel time cut into my chance to explore Florence.

I only had three hours to spend there—leaving me wishing I could have tried more food and seen more historical sites.

Read more: 8 lessons learned after trying a European cruise for the first time

A day or more would have been ideal to explore.

The same happened in Rome, but even worse, I booked an afternoon tour of this rich historical city.

It took over an hour to travel from the port city of Civitavecchia to Rome, and we still had to return before the ship left at 8 P.M.

Because I had so little time in each port, I often could only book one tour or visit one museum.

In Naples, Italy, for example, I was torn between seeing the ancient city of Pompeii or visiting the famous Blue Grotto on the coast of Capri.

I could only choose one, and it broke my heart to be so close to these incredible sites and not be able to see them.

For this reason, I should have booked a much longer stay in Europe on either side of my cruise.

Some of my fellow cruisers told me that, after the cruise, they were planning on staying in Spain for a week or traveling around Europe for a month.

I quickly realized that I should have gone this route as well.

One week in Italy and one in Spain would have given me much more time to see all the exciting places I wanted to.

The cruise didn't provide many opportunities to try local food

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I traveled to Italy and still didn't try any local pasta.

Although I ate regional meals as often as I could, the cruise only stopped at each port for such a short amount of time.

I had to manage my schedule carefully. 

Rather than trying the food, I ended up prioritizing seeing historical sites, buying souvenirs, and visiting museums.

Since the cruise ship offered so many complimentary options, I put less effort into finding local cuisine, knowing that I could always eat when I got back on the ship.

While this was a convenient way to find food and save money, I missed out on trying some great local dishes.

Italy is especially famous for many foods, such as pasta, pizza, and lasagna.

While Royal Caribbean's dining staff did serve some of these meals onboard, I knew that it wasn't as authentic.

Because I didn't extend my stay in the Mediterranean past the length of the cruise, I missed out on trying actual local cuisine.

If I'd been able to stay longer on land, I would have been able to try so many more meals.

Staying longer would have given me a chance to recover from jetlag 

It took a Herculean amount of effort to recover from jetlag on this cruise.

With an 8-hour time difference and a 12-hour flight, I was exhausted by the time I arrived in Spain.

I had to force myself to stay awake until the evening so my body clock could adjust to the local time.

Even though I arrived in Spain the day before the cruise embarked, it was not nearly enough time to adjust.

While I made myself stay awake to experience the amazing sites and exciting amenities, I spent most of my cruise exhausted.

Not only was I suffering from jetlag, but the cruise was also packed with port stops: 5 out of the 7 total days were port days.

Each day at port required me to wake up early, get to my tour or go off the ship, and spend a lot of time walking around.

I would come back to the ship with sore legs and aching feet and still want to spend time experiencing the ship's amenities.

Because of this, I never fully adjusted to the local time.

I simply napped when I could, and for the last couple of days, I barely slept at all!

The cruise was so fast-paced that I had less energy to explore in the long run, making it even harder to see everything I wanted to.

Staying in the area for a longer time would have made the long flights worth it, and given me a chance to recover from jetlag and exhaustion.

It would have stretched out my time into a more relaxing pace.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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