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UK vs. US cruising: What are the main differences?

In:
22 Jul 2022

I recently went on my first cruise from the United Kingdom after previously only sailing from ports in the United States. While planning my cruise, I wasn’t sure what differences I should expect on a cruise departing from the UK vs. the US.

Once I got onboard, I realized that while there were a few slight differences, the Royal Caribbean experience was nearly exactly the same whether sailing from the UK or the US. However, it was fun to spot the ever so slight differences onboard, from certain foods available in the Windjammer to being able to brew tea in my cabin.

After all, while you may be on a Royal Caribbean cruise from the UK, you’re still with an American cruise line. Therefore you may not see as many differences onboard as opposed to if you would sail with a British cruise line.

For example, British cruise lines, including Cunard and P&O Cruises, offer an afternoon tea service, where you can enjoy a variety of teas, sweets, and savory bites. This is something you won’t find on a Royal Caribbean cruise departing from the UK.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the top differences I noticed between my UK and US cruises with Royal Caribbean, and some general differences you’ll see when planning your UK cruise.

Tea kettles in the cabin

Something you’ll notice when entering your stateroom for the first time on a UK cruise is an in-cabin electric kettle for coffee and tea. You can make instant coffee and tea directly from your room, which can be nice when you are having a relaxing morning in the cabin.

While you may encounter this on Alaska cruises leaving from the US or Canada (as I did on Ovation of the Seas last year), it’s not guaranteed.

Attitude toward the weather

The most "culture shock" I had on my cruise from Southampton was on our first sea day. As we began traveling toward France, the weather was not cooperating. The sky was completely gray, winds were not ideal, and the temperature did not feel like mid-June.

I had to walk from one side of the ship to another, so I decided to walk on the pool deck. I was shocked when I walked outside and saw tons of passengers on the pool deck... with several even swimming outdoors! Some passengers were using towels as blankets, others in full winter jackets, and some "sunbathing" in just a swimsuit.

I couldn't help but imagine how empty the pool deck would be if we encountered similar weather on a cruise from Florida! I appreciated the determination of the passengers onboard my cruise from the UK to enjoy their vacation no matter the weather. Luckily the weather improved later on in the week, but it was a fun difference to note.

Time of year to sail

You can cruise with Royal Caribbean year-round on itineraries leaving from the United States. Whether January, July, or October, you’ll find a wide range of itineraries available. While certain destinations are seasonal, such as Alaska and Northeast/Canada cruises, the majority of sailings are offered any time of the year.

Royal Caribbean’s UK cruising season typically runs from May to October each year. If you’re looking to sail on Anthem of the Seas in, say, January, you’ll have to fly over to the US.

Outlets

One minor difference that UK cruisers should know before booking a Royal Caribbean ship is that there are no Type G (UK) outlets onboard, so it’s important to pack a few plug adapters in your bag.

Royal Caribbean ships have both Type C (Europlug) and Type A/B (USA) outlets available in cruise ship cabins. 

Drink options

Royal Caribbean works hard to cater cruises to passenger demographics onboard. On cruises departing from China, for example, you’ll find more Chinese-influenced cuisine and beverage options.

Similarly, one thing you’ll find on cruises leaving from the UK is a menu of gins and beers available. I was surprised to find a menu of gins and beers set up on tables throughout the ship, as I had never seen this on a US cruise before!

Menu differences

One thing you’re bound to notice on a UK cruise is the additional menu options available in the Main Dining Room. Each night, you’ll find two additional menu options: an English-style main (Guinness pie, chicken and leek pie, etc.) and an Indian curry.

While you can technically order Indian food in the Main Dining Room on cruises departing from the US, you won’t find it on the menu. Instead, you’ll have to inquire with your waiter about what Indian options are available that day.

On UK cruises, though, an Indian option is listed on the main courses section of the dining room menu each evening. Curry options are quite diverse, too, from a classic chicken tikka masala to lamb and fish curries.

You may also find English-influenced cuisine in the Windjammer, from dessert puddings to savory pies and English breakfast.

Ports

Cruise ports on a sailing departing from the UK are, unsurprisingly, quite different from where you’ll visit on a cruise departing from the US.

Cruises from the United Kingdom visit the following destinations:

  • Norwegian Fjords
  • Northern Spain & France
  • Mediterranean
  • Canary Islands

There are also several itineraries that visit the British Isles, although they usually do not depart from Southampton. Jewel of the Seas, for example, will be offering British Isles cruises departing from Amsterdam and visiting ports in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Ireland.

Most cruises from the US, on the other hand, visit the following destinations:

  • Eastern, Western, and Southern Caribbean
  • Alaska
  • Bermuda
  • Northeast & Canada
  • Mexican Riviera

Both UK and US cruises offer a range of landscapes, cultures, and history to discover. If you’re looking for a warm, sunny beach day, you’ll be able to find that on a Mediterranean or Canary Islands cruise from the UK or a Caribbean cruise from the US.

Likewise, if mountains and fjords are more your style, a Norwegian fjords cruise and an Alaska cruise will both offer unbelievable scenery and cooler temperatures.

Ships

You’ll have many more options when it comes to picking a ship when sailing from a US port. Most Royal Caribbean ships are sailing from a US port at some point during the year, so you won’t have trouble finding a ship that matches your cruising preferences.

You’ll typically have only one option when cruising out of the UK. Anthem of the Seas is the primary Royal Caribbean ship that sails from Southampton, England.

Even though there’s only one ship option, Anthem of the Seas is a favorite among Royal Caribbean fans. As a Quantum Class ship, she is designed to sail in the cooler temperatures you may encounter on a UK cruise, with indoor relaxation and activity spaces for guests of all ages.

Among her features are the North Star observation pod, RipCord by iFLY indoor skydiving, and a full-length musical production of We Will Rock You.

Guests & crew onboard

Generally speaking, the majority of guests onboard a cruise departing from the US are from the United States, Canada, or Latin America. Cruises departing from England tend to have a primarily UK passenger makeup, although you’ll also find passengers from all over the world.

I estimated that around 80% or more of the passengers on my Anthem of the Seas cruise were from the UK or Ireland. I was definitely in the minority with my American accent!

I also noticed more staff from the UK on my cruise from Southampton compared to sailing from the US, including the cruise director and pub singer (although this could have just been a coincidence).

Read more about cruising from the UK:

Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

In:
18 Jul 2022

Sailing the Greek Isles is a dream for many cruisers, and knowing the ins and outs of cruising to Greece can help you plan this once-in-a-lifetime trip as smoothly as possible.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to Greece each European cruise season, and visiting Greece via cruise ship offers the perfect way to see the country’s famous islands and attractions. Whether you’re interested in touring the birthplace of the Olympics, swimming at world-renowned beaches, or strolling charming villages, visiting Greece is sure to impress.

In this guide, we’ll review the top tips and tricks to know before you sail the Greek Isles. From picking an itinerary to packing, here are the top things to know.

In this guide:

Why go on a Greek Isles cruise

Ancient history

History buffs will be blown away by the archaeological sites and history to discover on a cruise to Greece. There are few cruise ports offering the opportunity to walk alongside ruins built over 2,500 years ago, yet you can discover ancient ruins in not just one, but several Greek cruise ports.

Even more “modern” history is still fascinating. Walking through the Old Towns of ports like Corfu, Kotor, Split will transport you back in time, and you’ll surely be in awe of how such magnificent structures were built so long ago.

Ferry vs. cruise

While on a Greek Isles cruise, you’ll likely spot plenty of ferries transporting locals and tourists from island to island. While visiting the Greek Isles by ferry will allow you more flexibility in how long you want to spend in each place, it also means you’ll constantly be lugging suitcases around from island to island.

If you book a cruise to the Greek Isles, you’ll only have to unpack once, yet you’ll be able to explore a new port nearly every day. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy a classic cruise experience onboard in the evening without any stress about travel logistics from place to place.

Fresh, flavorful cuisine

One of the best aspects of a European cruise is tasting local cuisine in each port and country you visit, and Greece will certainly not disappoint when it comes to food. We recommend allotting 1-2 hours per port day to sit down for a nice Greek meal. Not only will it offer much-needed rest in the shade on hot summer days, but you’ll be able to taste local and regional specialties.

Starting your meal with a Greek salad is a must while in port, and you may want to try dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) as well. For the main course, most restaurants will offer a variety of grilled meats and fish, or you may opt for a traditional Greek moussaka, an oven-baked dish made with layers of eggplant, lamb, tomato, potato, and cheese.

Don’t forget to stop in a local bakery during your time in Greece! From Greek bagels to baklava and spinach & feta pies, your senses are sure to be overwhelmed in the best way possible.

Breathtaking scenery

Greece and the nearby countries you’ll visit are stunning. While the scenery can change from port to port, expect to see tall, rugged mountains and some of the most turquoise water you’ll ever see.

Nature lovers will appreciate the sheer variety of choices available on a Greek Isles cruise. If lounging by the beach is your idea of fun, you’ll find countless beautiful beaches to choose from. A Greek Isles cruise also offers plenty of hiking, kayaking, 4-wheeling, snorkeling, and more.

One thing you’ll appreciate about a Greek Isles cruise is the scenery you’ll spot throughout the entire sailing. Greek Isles cruises tend to stick relatively close to land, meaning you’ll almost always have views of nearby mountains and islands while at sea.

Greek Isles cruise ports

Most cruises to Greece will stop at three to four Greek ports. While each port is, in some way or another, quintessentially Greek, they each offer their own highlights. Some ports may fare best for a beach day whereas others are located nearby some of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

Having an understanding of what is offered in each Greek port can help you better select a cruise itinerary. No matter which itinerary you choose, however, you’ll likely be amazed by the beauty, culture, and charm of everywhere you visit in Greece.

Here are some of the ports to choose from on a Greek Isles cruise itinerary:

Santorini

Santorini is perhaps the most well-known of the Greek Isles. The island is famous for its white buildings topped with blue domes, dramatic sunsets, and romantic atmosphere. Popular activities for a day in Santorini include exploring the town of Oia, visiting the Red Beach, and taking a catamaran tour through the island’s underwater volcano.

Rhodes

Rhodes is most known for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While the 108 ft. statue has long been destroyed, the island still boasts a plethora of attractions for visitors to enjoy. Strolling through the Old Town, ascending the Acropolis of Rhodes, or spending the day at the beach are all great options.

Athens

The capital of Greece is a far cry from the quaint island villages you’ll find on a Greek Isles cruise, but it’s well worth a visit. With over 3 million people, Athens is a bustling city with a unique blend of ancient history and modern influences.

Athens is a common embarkation port for a Greek Isles cruise, so be sure to arrive 1-2 days before your cruise begins so you can have plenty of time for sightseeing. Many cruises departing from other Mediterranean ports will visit Athens as a port day, allowing passengers to visit the city’s top attractions, such as the Acropolis, before getting back onboard.

Chania (Crete)

Located on the Greek island of Crete, Chania is known for its colorful Venetian Harbor, which was built in the 14th century. Chania’s Old Town is a picture-perfect place to spend the day, but if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, don’t hesitate to book an excursion to discover Crete’s mountains and valleys.

Argostoli

Argostoli is the capital of the Greek island of Kefalonia, located in the Ionian Sea. While you can spend the day simply walking around town and tasting local cuisine, you may be more interested in Argostoli’s natural attractions.

From Melissani Cave’s sunlit waters to beaches with unbelievably-blue waters, you're sure to have a relaxing day in Argostoli. Don’t forget to try a glass of Robola wine while on the island of Kefalonia, as it’s said to be one of the best wine varieties in all of Greece.

Mykonos

Mykonos is another of Greece’s most popular islands, known for its beaches, villages, and nightlife. Cruise ships tender right off the coast of the Old Town, home to a maze of picturesque white stone buildings with cobalt blue doors. Don’t miss the historic Mykonos Windmills, where you can enjoy views of the island with a cool summer breeze.

Olympia (Katakolon)

Katakolon, located in western Greece, is a gateway to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games. A walk through the Olympia complex is a must when visiting Katakolon, where you’ll be able to see where the Olympic Games took place from 776 BC to 393 AD.

Olympia is approximately 45 minutes away from Katakolon. After returning from the archaeological site, be sure to take some time to walk around Katakolon’s town center, where plenty of shopping and restaurants await.

Zakynthos

If you’re looking for a beach day, look no further than Zakynthos. The island is known for its turquoise waters, blue caves, and white limestone cliffs. The most famous attraction in Zakynthos is a visit to Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, which has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Corfu

Corfu is an island located in the Adriatic sea, southwest of Albania and east of Italy. Due to its geographical location, the island has been influenced by a variety of cultures and people throughout history.

Walking through Corfu’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will allow you to transport yourself back in time to the island’s Venetian rule. If an active adventure is more your style, consider a 4-wheel adventure through Corfu’s hillsides or a coastal hike along Corfu’s crystal clear beaches.

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is not an island; it’s located in mainland Greece and is the second biggest city in the country. Don’t let this deter you, though, as the city offers plenty of activities for all interests. Consider a day trip to Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, which was regarded as the home of many Greek gods in Greek mythology.

If you’d prefer to stay close to the port, the city’s cafe-lined waterfront is sure to be a relaxing place to dine as you watch Thessaloniki’s bustling city life pass by.

Skiathos

Skiathos is not a very common port stop on a cruise to Greece, and you’ll likely see the stop on itineraries labeled “Mamma Mia Cruise”, named after the iconic musical filmed in Greece. With 60 beaches on the island, Skiathos can make for an excellent beach day.

Greek Isles cruise itineraries

It’s rare for a Greek Isles cruise to only visit Greece. In fact, even when a cruise is labeled “Greek Isles Cruise” on Royal Caribbean’s website, the itinerary usually includes one or two port stops in nearby countries in addition to Greece.

There are plenty of beautiful and historic ports in the Mediterranean to discover outside of Greece, but the type of Greek Isles itinerary you choose can influence what other countries and ports you’ll visit.

Greek & Adriatic cruises

Greek & Adriatic cruises combine visits to the Greek Isles with port stops along the Adriatic to ports in Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia. Many of these cruises are one-way sailings from Athens, Greece to Venice (Ravenna), Italy and vice versa.

Common ports visited outside of Greece include Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro. Less common stops may include Koper, Slovenia and Bari, Italy.

Greece & Turkey cruises

Greece & Turkey cruises typically visit either Kusadasi or Istanbul in Turkey in addition to several Greek islands.

Kusadasi, located nearby the famous ancient city of Ephesus, is much more common as a port stop than Istanbul. Both ports, however, offer the chance to discover the blend of cultures–from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern and Central Asian–that make Turkey so unique.

Other Greek Isles itineraries

Outside of cruises to Turkey and the Adriatic, you’ll come across other cruise itineraries that visit Greece. Holy Land cruises, for example, often visit several Greek islands in addition to ports in Israel and Turkey.

You can also find itineraries that include stops in Greece and Cyprus as well as one-way sailings from Greece to the Western Mediterranean visiting ports like Rome and Barcelona.

Best time of year for a Greek Isles cruise

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April to October each year, with cruises to the Greek Isles being offered all season long.

Truthfully, there is no “wrong” time to go on a Greek Isles cruise. Weather in the Mediterranean remains sunny, dry, and warm throughout the cruise season and seas tend to be quite calm.

That being said, the peak of summer can get uncomfortably hot in Greece, so scheduling excursions and port days around the beach is recommended. The most pleasant temperatures (i.e. not too warm) can be found in late spring and fall.

Related: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

The most crowds will be found in the peak summer months of June, July, and August, although crowds should be expected at any time of the cruise season. Oftentimes how crowded a port feels is more correlated with how many ships are in port with you as opposed to the month itself. Having only one ship in port in mid-July will feel far less crowded than having three ships in port in September.

The most important thing you can do when traveling in peak season is to disembark the ship as early as possible. Not only will you be able to start exploring before the weather gets too warm, but you’ll get the chance to walk around town before hoards of other tourists arrive.

What ships sail to Greece?

The newest and biggest Royal Caribbean ship sailing to the Greek Isles is Odyssey of the Seas. As a Quantum Class cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas boasts the latest and greatest of Royal Caribbean’s onboard activities, dining venues, and entertainment. 

Related: Complete guide to Odyssey of the Seas

Several smaller cruise ships sail to the Greek Isles each year. Typically, these will be Vision, Radiance, or Voyager Class cruise ships like Rhapsody of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, and Explorer of the Seas.

While Royal Caribbean’s older cruise ships may not have as many of the bells and whistles as a ship like Odyssey of the Seas, they still offer fantastic dining options, pools, children’s programming, and entertainment. They can also come at a much better price than a newer ship, allowing you to save more money for shore excursions and cruise add-ons.

Therefore, don’t overlook a smaller, older Royal Caribbean ship for a Greek Isles cruise. When visiting Europe, a cruise is sometimes more about the destination than the ship itself.

What to pack for a Greek Isles cruise

Lightweight clothes

Temperatures will very likely be toasty on a Greek Isles cruise, so packing lightweight clothing is essential. Wearing shorts, t-shirts, rompers, and sturdy sandals will help keep you cool even in the warmest temperatures. A pair of sneakers is recommended, too, as you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking!

While there’s no hard rule against it, take caution when packing sundresses that are prone to flying up in the wind, as you’ll likely encounter a strong breeze while touring the islands. You may also opt to wear a pair of lightweight shorts underneath a dress to avoid any mishaps!

The classic “Greek tourist” wardrobe is to dress in blue and white to match the charming villages and buildings you’ll see in places like Mykonos and Santorini. You’ll likely see plenty of tourists in these colors, and it can be fun to have a classic “island photoshoot” while in port!

Related: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Daypack & accessories

One item you’ll want to carry with you in port is a daypack. In your daypack, it’s recommended to pack sunscreen, a beach towel, valuables, and a pair of flip flops if you’re doing a combination of a walking and beach day.

If you want to travel stress-free, even on the most crowded port days, consider purchasing an anti-theft travel daypack. The main pocket on these backpacks is only accessible from a zipper that goes against your back, which can deter anyone from opening your bag in crowded spaces.

Be sure to pack a pair of sunglasses as well. The Mediterranean sun can be strong, so keeping your eyes protected and comfortable is essential. The same goes for a hat, too, such as a baseball cap or sun hat.

Greek Isles cruise FAQ

Which currency should I bring? Do I need cash?

Greece uses the Euro, and ATMs are widely available on Greek islands. It’s recommended to bring around 200 euros with you on a Greek Isles cruise, as you may occasionally come across restaurants, bars, and shops that do not take credit or debit cards. Most businesses will take card payments, especially in more touristy areas, so try to pay with card first (assuming your card has no foreign transaction fees).

As most Greek Isles cruises visit other countries in addition to Greece, it’s important to know which currencies to use in each port.

  • Italy and Montenegro use the euro as their official currency, and Croatia will be officially adopting the euro in 2023, although payments in Euro are accepted in 2022.
  • Turkey’s official currency is the Turkish Lira, and while you can usually pay with euros or credit cards in tourist areas, you will likely get a better exchange rate when paying in Lira. If your cruise only visits Turkey for one day, though, it may not be worth the hassle to use the Lira.
  • Israel’s official currency is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), but card payments are widely accepted throughout the country. Similar to Turkey, if your cruise only visits Israel for one day, you may not need to take out local currency, instead opting for card payments or (if possible) using euros.

Should I book excursions on a Greek Isles cruise?

Many cruise ports in Greece are charming and walkable, meaning it's possible to spend an entire day wandering around town without booking a tour. Some ports even have nice beaches within walking distance of the ship if you’re hoping for a low-cost beach day.

Some port stops may be easier with a tour, especially if you plan to visit archaeological sites. If you want to visit the Acropolis in Athens or Olympia, for example, you may prefer the insights you’ll gain on a narrated tour of these famous sites rather than exploring on your own.

Likewise, boat or catamaran tours can be an excellent way to enjoy Greece’s coastline and beaches. These tours are extremely popular, so you’ll often find tour companies selling boat trips right when you get off the ship.

If you’re looking to book a tour through an independent provider, be sure to read our guide about booking excursions independently.

Which ship should I book?

Deciding which Royal Caribbean cruise ship to book can be confusing, especially for first time cruisers. There are typically between 3-4 cruise ships offering Greek Isles itineraries each summer, and each ship comes with advantages and disadvantages.

In the Caribbean, which has an abundance of ships sailing at any time of year, we often say to choose a newer or amplified ship for your first cruise experience. Choosing a newer, updated ship means you’ll be able to experience Royal Caribbean’s latest activities, entertainment, and restaurants. 

For a Greek Isles cruise, however, we advise looking more at the destinations you want to visit rather than the ship itself. If sailing through the dramatic cliffs of Kotor, Montenegro would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, you won’t be able to book the biggest cruise ship.

Related: 8 questions to ask yourself before picking a cruise ship

If you’re traveling with kids, keep in mind that most Greek Isles cruises are extremely port-intensive. Unlike on a Caribbean cruise where you may have three sea days in one week, it’s not uncommon for there to be only one day at sea while cruising the Mediterranean.

By the time you come back from a busy day in port each day and eat dinner, you’ll have little time for onboard activities and events before bedtime. While smaller cruise ships may have fewer activities for kids onboard, they should still offer enough to keep kids busy for the shorter periods you’ll be onboard.

For more Greek Isles cruise information, check out our Live Blog from Rhapsody of the Seas to learn more about day-to-day life on a cruise to Greece:

4 mistakes & 7 things I did right on my Royal Caribbean European cruise

In:
08 Jul 2022

I'm en route back to the United States after two of my best cruises yet: a 7-night Spain & France cruise on Anthem of the Seas and a 7-night Greek & Adriatic cruise on Rhapsody of the Seas. This was my first time cruising to Europe, and it was everything I imagined it would be... and then some!

Despite extensive research beforehand, not everything can go perfectly on a cruise vacation, and I certainly made a few mistakes along the way. However, I also made many great decisions during my time in Europe that enhanced my cruise experience.

Here are the 7 things I did right and 4 I did wrong on my Royal Caribbean European cruises.

The mistakes

Not getting tender tickets ASAP

Three ports on my Greek Isles cruise were tender ports, meaning a short boat ride was required to get from the anchored ship to port. You must have a tender ticket to board the tender boat. The tickets are free, but each has a group number, and you cannot head ashore until your group number is called.

On our second tender port, Zakynthos, we did not collect tender tickets until an hour after they were available for pickup. We were in Group 7, and the boarding process seemed to be going extremely slowly.

After waiting a while for even Group 2 to be called, we were stressed that we would have limited time in port. We decided to head to the tender boarding area to gauge how long our wait would be. After around 30 minutes of waiting there, we were able to snag 3 extra spots on a tender boat.

In the future, I’ll make sure to collect my tender tickets as soon as possible to be in one of the first groups to head ashore.

Not bringing pool towels into port

One mistake we made while visiting Croatia on Rhapsody of the Seas was deciding to not bring pool towels with us off the ship. We weren't sure if we would find a beach or not, and we didn't think it was worth it to carry towels around all day.

After an hour walking around Split in the heat, we realized we needed to cool down at the beach. Because we did not bring pool towels and did not want to lay directly on rocks, we had to purchase a beach chair rental for $26 each. If we had brought the pool towels, we could have saved the money to use on drinks, souvenirs, or lunch in port.

Lesson learned: if you think you might want to go to the beach on a port day, bring pool towels off the ship!

Not packing sandals

As someone who writes articles on packing advice for a Royal Caribbean cruise, you'd think I'd be more prepared when it came to my own cruise vacation.

Prior to my European cruises, I spent two weeks vacationing in Spain and Portugal. During this time, my old, trusty pair of sandals I brought from home broke. Instead of buying a new pair, I figured I would be fine with my tennis shoes, ballet flats, and flip flops.

I ended up wearing my sneakers most days in port, and while I do think sneakers are usually the best footwear choice when sightseeing Europe, there were definitely many moments when I wished I had brought a nice pair of sandals with me!

Related: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Not packing seasickness remedies

My Greek & Adriatic cruise had smooth sailing the entire cruise, but my Anthem of the Seas cruise encountered choppier waters than what I was used to.

While I was not affected by the ship's motion, my friend Samantha, who came on the cruise with me, wished she had packed more seasickness remedies in her bag. She was able to buy extra dramamine tablets on the ship, but they were priced pretty exorbitantly compared to what she could have bought at a local pharmacy!

If you're ever affected by motion sickness, be sure to pack remedies with you to help ensure you don't feel ill on your vacation!

Related: I tried my first cruise from the UK: here's what you should know

Things I did right

Disembarking the ship early on port days

One of the best decisions I made in all European cruise ports was to get off the ship as early as possible. We were usually able to disembark around 7:30-8:30 in the morning

This is especially recommended on Mediterranean itineraries, as the afternoon can get extremely hot. When we were in Kotor, for example, the heat felt almost unbearable in the afternoon, so we went back to the ship a bit earlier than I initially anticipated.

Because we had gotten off the ship as early as possible, I was able to spend 6-7 hours in port before it got too hot and crowded, and I was able to explore the towns in more favorable conditions.

Not booking shore excursions

One thing I did right on my two European cruises was opting not to book shore excursions in every port. I've visited Europe many times before on land-based vacations without booking a tour, so I assumed it would be fine to explore on my own while on a cruise.

My assumption was correct. All towns were extremely walkable and offered plenty to see without spending a single penny! In fact, I only spent around €50 total on activities like bicycle rentals, museum entrances, and a journey up the famous Vizcaya bridge in Bilbao, Spain.

I purchased one organized tour, a half-day boat tour in Zakynthos, Greece, that visited the island's famous Shipwreck Beach. We found a local tour operator right when we got into port and were able to book the excursion for €45, which was cheaper than what I had found on Royal Caribbean's and third party operators' websites. It was well worth it, but I'm sure I could have found plenty to do in Zakynthos without a tour as well.

Related: Visiting Zakynthos, Greece on Rhapsody of the Seas

Not booking a dining or drink package

I decided to eat primarily at complimentary dining venues on both European cruises instead of booking a specialty dining package. 

One of the best parts of traveling to Europe is tasting local cuisine, whether cheese crêpes in France or paella in Spain. Instead of spending around $200 on a dining package, I chose to save money to enjoy lunch in each port I visited, and I was satisfied with this decision.

That being said, dining packages may be a nice option for others on a European cruise, especially those new to Royal Caribbean. Because I sail on Royal Caribbean ships frequently, I've already tried most of the specialty restaurants, so I didn't feel the need to book a package on a European itinerary.

Likewise, I chose not to purchase a drink package for the following reasons:

  • My itineraries were very port-intensive, so I would not be on the ship all day, every day to take full advantage of a beverage package
  • As a Diamond member in the Crown & Anchor Society, I get four free drinks a day. This is always more than enough for me!
  • Most of the countries I would be visiting are known for wine, so I figured I should save my money to spend on drinks in port.

Choosing unique itineraries

When I was deciding which Royal Caribbean cruises to book in Europe this summer, I had no idea where to start. All destinations looked absolutely incredible, from the snowy peaks of Norway to sunny ports in France and Italy.

Because I had been to many popular ports in the Mediterranean before (Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Palermo, Naples, etc.), I decided to book itineraries to ports I knew little about. This ended up being a fantastic decision, as many of these ports (La Rochelle, La Coruña, Zakynthos, etc.) ended up being some of my favorite ports of all time!

On my Anthem of the Seas cruise, there were no other cruise ships docked in port with us, so I was able to visit less touristy ports while observing local culture and lifestyle in a way I could not do in Europe's most popular destinations.

Not visiting Paris

The last day of my Anthem of the Seas cruise stopped in Le Havre, France. This is known as the "Paris" cruise port, but Paris is nearly 3 hours from the port!

I have never been to Paris before, so at first I thought I should book an excursion into the city. After calculating the time I would spend in transit to the city, though, I decided against it. Personally, I didn't feel it was worth it to spend 6 hours in transit for just 4-5 hours in one of the world's most beloved cities.

Instead of visiting Paris, I had a relaxing yet enjoyable day exploring the port of Le Havre. I had lunch in a local crêperie, rode a bicycle along the coast, and spent time at the city's beach.

While I'd love to visit Paris someday, I think it is worth at least a few days instead of just a few hours, so I think I made the right decision by staying in Le Havre.

Related: Spending the day at the port of Le Havre, France

Choosing my cruise based on the itinerary and not the ship

While I love sailing on Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships, I still prefer to pick itineraries based on the destination and not the ship. So when I was booking my cruises in Europe, I did not care which ship I sailed on as long as it brought me to culturally-rich destinations.

My first cruise was on one of Royal Caribbean's most modern ships, Anthem of the Seas, whereas my second was on Rhapsody of the Seas, the second oldest in the fleet. While the ships shared many of the features that make a Royal Caribbean ship, well... Royal Caribbean, they were very different from each other in terms of size and amenities.

Despite their differences, I found that my onboard experience on both ships was largely the same. I would wake up early, explore a new port, come back for dinner in the Main Dining Room, and spend my evenings relaxing in the Solarium. This could be done on a ship of any size!

Plus, I was so tired after exploring port each day that I barely had enough energy to get ready for dinner, let alone spending all evening at onboard shows and events.

In fact, while some cruisers have no interest in sailing on the fleet's smallest ships, I actually found Rhapsody of the Seas to be perfect for a port-intensive Greek Isles cruise.

The ship has windows everywhere onboard, so you can see expansive views of the ocean from most bars, restaurants, and lounges. This was well-appreciated on my Greece & Adriatic itinerary, where we had views of mountains most of the time we were at sea.

Additionally, with only one sea day in my weeklong cruise, I don't think I would have had time to try all the restaurants and activities available on a larger ship. Plus, smaller ships can often be priced significantly lower than Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ships.

Taking out a little bit of cash

Before my European cruises, I wasn't sure what the payment situation would be in the ports I would be visiting. While I prefer to pay for everything with my card, my past experiences in Europe taught me to always have a little bit of cash on hand.

I took out €200 euros from an ATM prior to my cruise, and it ended up being very helpful, as I encountered many small businesses that preferred or only accepted cash.

Have you ever cruised in Europe before? What lessons, tips, and tricks do you have for planning the perfect Royal Caribbean cruise?

What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

In:
17 May 2022

For those who have never cruised to the Mediterranean or traveled to Europe before, packing for a Mediterranean cruise can seem stressful.

Family visiting Rome

Whether bringing clothing comfortable enough to walk around historic cities, modest enough to wear into churches, and dressy enough to dine at chic restaurants, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

In reality, however, there are only a few key differences to note between packing for a beach-centric Caribbean cruise and a Mediterranean cruise. From swapping flip flops for sneakers to packing nicer, fashionable outfits, here are our main tips and tricks to remember when packing for your Mediterranean cruise.

Comfortable walking shoes

Cruising to the Mediterranean can entail a lot of walking. It’s not unheard of for guests to walk several miles a day while exploring their ports of call. Therefore, packing a pair of sneakers or other comfortable shoes is essential to ensure you don’t get any painful blisters.

As far as closed-toed shoes, it’s not necessary to pack bulky tennis shoes that you would wear to the gym. Instead, casual yet comfortable shoes are recommended. Slip-on shoes, such as Toms, are comfortable enough to walk in all day, yet still appear sleek enough to fit in in a variety of destinations on your port day, such as in restaurants, museums, and even the beach.

If you’re traveling to Europe in the peak of summer, though, you may prefer sandals. Pick sandals wisely, as it’s important to get a durable pair of sandals for a trip to Europe. Many streets in the Mediterranean are made from cobblestone, and walking in loose flip flops or thin sandals can easily get uncomfortable over the course of the day. Look for sandals with a durable sole and ankle strap for maximum comfort and reliability.

If you’re buying a brand new pair of shoes for your Mediterranean cruise, regardless of whether they are sneakers or sandals, be sure to walk around in them for a day or two before your cruise to ensure they are comfortable.

What shoes to NOT pack: While you may see European women walking around cobblestone streets in heels, these would not be the most comfortable shoes to wear for a full-day exploring port.

Breathable, light fabrics

The weather at Mediterranean ports, especially in the peak of summer, can get pretty hot. Cotten, linen, and other breathable fabrics are recommended. As a rule of thumb, if an article of clothing is comfortable to wear in the peak of summer back at home, it will probably be good to pack for a Mediterranean cruise.

Sundresses, rompers, and flowy shorts tend to be comfortable yet fashionable clothing for women while exploring the Mediterranean. Men may want to pack shorts or lightweight pants as well as t-shirts and light button up shirts.

Casual yet nice clothing

Europeans take pride in dressing nicely, with a fashion-sense that is, on average, more formal than what visitors from places like the United States or Canada may be used to, especially those who are used to cruising in the Caribbean.

The standard dress at Caribbean cruise ports tends to be extremely casual. Shorts, flip flops, and a tie-dye t-shirt from home is normal and acceptable. On a Mediterranean cruise, though, it’s smart to dress a bit more neatly.

During your port day in the Mediterranean, you may find yourself in a variety of settings, all with varying dress codes. From churches to restaurants, museums, and the beach, it’s smart to be prepared with the right outfit.

Men may want to wear well-fitted, nice t-shirts or short sleeved button ups as opposed to old and baggy shirts. Instead of athletic shorts, opt for a nicer pair.

Women have a little more flexibility in terms of casual yet fashionable clothing. Lightweight sundresses, patterned shorts with a solid shirt, capris, a fitted t-shirt, and summer jumpsuits can all be great outfits on a Mediterranean cruise.

A great way to plan outfit ideas is by thinking of what you would wear to a semi-formal summer party back home. If you wouldn’t wear a wrinkled tie-dye t-shirt over stretchy athletic shorts, this probably isn’t the best outfit for a European cruise, either.

Pack appropriately if you plan to visit churches

Churches in the Mediterranean tend to have their own dress codes.

Those visiting Vatican City, for example, should have their shoulders and knees covered at all times during the visit. Offensive tattoos or apparel with slogans should not be visible and hats and caps must be removed prior to entrance. Generally, shorts, dresses, and skirts are allowed as long as they are at least knee-length.

A good rule of thumb is to wear what you would wear to church back home. If a crop top, flip flops, and booty shorts aren’t permitted at your local church, don’t wear this to a church in Europe, either.

You can always pack a change of clothes in your daypack if you're worried it might be too hot to walk around in the same clothing you wear into churches.

Purses and daypacks

Port days in the Mediterranean tend to be long, so it’s helpful to have a nice daypack or purse to carry your belongings in throughout the day. Choosing the perfect bag, though, requires a few more considerations than simply picking the first backpack you see.

While Europe is a safe destination for travelers, pickpocketing is not unheard of in major tourist areas, much like any other destination in the world. Be cautious of putting your phone or wallet in your back pocket, and choose a day bag wisely.

For ladies, consider a crossbody purse that you can wear from one shoulder to the opposite hip. This is a secure purse as it cannot easily fall off your body, and you can even place your hand over the crossbody bag while in busy environments like markets or the subway for added security.

If you prefer a larger backpack, consider a daypack with a “secret” back pocket. This is a backpack that has a zippered pocket at the back of the bag. As this pocket is against your back when walking, your valuables (passport, wallet, etc.) remain secure.

Cruise attire

Aside from packing the perfect outfits to wear in port, it’s important to remember to pack for your time onboard as well. Onboard attire on a Mediterranean cruise will be similar to any other cruise, with casual attire during the day and nicer outfits for the evening.

Mediterranean weather should remain quite comfortable throughout the summer, although it’s a good idea to pack a lightweight jacket or cardigan in case of chilly weather in the morning and evenings while onboard. Likewise, those traveling to the Mediterranean in shoulder season will want to pack more warm-weather clothing like pants, long sleeve shirts, and jackets.

Read more about what the weather looks like on a Mediterranean cruise month by month here.

What not to wear

Now that you have an idea of what to wear while on a Mediterranean cruise, what clothing items should you avoid?

Truthfully, there is no clothing item you necessarily have to avoid wearing on a European cruise that you would wear at home. There may be certain items that are unusual to wear among Europeans and clothing that will make you stick out as being from a certain location, but whether or not this matters to you is a personal choice.

You will stick out as a tourist when wearing items not usually worn by Europeans, including apparel with American sports team logos, American flags, camouflage patterned clothing, baseball caps, and workout apparel such as leggings.

This doesn’t mean you cannot wear these items, and you’ll see many tourists dressed like this, but it will make you stick out much more compared to wearing more neutral, neat clothing.

You may hear that Europeans don’t wear shorts or sneakers, but this is generally false information. You’ll see plenty of Europeans wearing shorts, particularly in cities near the coast. Sneakers are common as well, with brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Nike popular with Europeans throughout the Mediterranean.

More on the Mediterranean

Must-eat foods on a cruise to Italy

In:
11 May 2022

Going on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Mediterranean brings historical sites, picturesque streets, and arguably the most important thing: food.

Italy is one of the most popular cruise destinations in Europe, with common ports including Rome, Palermo, Catania, Florence, and Naples. Each region and city in Italy has its own culinary history, traditional dishes, and famous restaurants. Be sure to disembark your cruise ship hungry when you arrive in Italy because there are endless new foods to discover.

Foods to try on a cruise to Florence

The region of Tuscany, where Florence is found, is most well known for its meat. From paninis to steak, you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to try meat dishes in Florence. And whether you choose to have a fancier sit-down meal or you end up ordering a sandwich to go, you will not be left disappointed with food options when visiting the city.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

One of the most popular meat dishes to try in Florence is bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is a T-bone steak from the Chianina cow, a breed of cow from Tuscany.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally only cooked for a few minutes on each side to ensure that the flavor and texture is correct. The steak is commonly served with olive oil and cannellini beans.

You can try this dish throughout the city, but one of the best restaurants to order this bistecca is at Buca Lapi. Founded in 1880, this traditional restaurant was built inside a barrel-vaulted cellar and serves bistecca alla Fiorentina that can be big enough for two to three people.

Pizza at Gusta Pizza

You’ll know you’ve reached Gusta Pizza when you spot a long line of people waiting outside the small pizzeria. Gusta Pizza is one of the most famous pizzerias in Florence and the pizzas there live up to the hype.

The menu at Gusta Pizza is simple. With only seven pizzas to choose from, each pizza has been crafted for perfection before it makes its way into the wood fired brick oven. Be sure to try the classic Margherita Pizza and the “GustaPizza,” which is topped with tomato, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and parmesan.

Sandwiches at All’antico Vinaio

All’antico Vinaio is a famous sandwich shop located in the heart of Florence. Sandwiches at All’antico Vinaio are served on a local bread, schiacciata, and filled with cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, and homemade creams including artichoke and truffle cream.

Since the shop has limited seating, you can take your sandwich out to the street and enjoy it as you watch the day go by in the historical center of Florence. In fact, All’antico Vinaio is so popular with both Italians and foreigners alike that they recently opened a location in New York City!

Other dishes to try: Gelato, lampredotto (beef tripe)

Foods to try on a cruise to Sicily

If your cruise visits the ports of Palermo, Messina, or Catania, consider yourself lucky. Sicily is home to some of Italy’s most diverse and multicultural cuisine. Due to its strategic location as an island between Europe and northern Africa, Sicily’s culture and cuisine have been influenced by its neighboring countries and regions for centuries. 

While all Sicilian cuisine is flavorful, there are a few dishes and desserts that stand out from the rest.

Granita

One of the most popular desserts in Sicily is granita. Often preferred to gelato by Sicilians, granita is somewhat similar to a creamy Italian ice or sorbet, but with a smoother, more liquidy texture.

Common flavors of granita include mandorla (almond), pistacchio, limone (lemon), frutti di bosco (berry), and fragola (strawberry). I recommend asking for “granita con panna” for a cup of granita topped with freshly whipped cream.

Not much is more refreshing than any icy cup of granita when walking around a Sicilian cruise port on a hot summer day. This is personally, by far, my favorite Italian dessert of all time.

Pasta alla Norma

Eggplant is one of the most utilized ingredients in Sicilian cuisine, and one of the best dishes to try with eggplant in Sicily is Pasta alla Norma. Pasta alla Norma combines fresh pasta with slices of fried eggplant, tomato sauce, grated ricotta salata cheese, and fresh basil.

Named after Vicenzo Bellini, a native Sicilian who composed the opera Norma, the dish was said to have been called a true masterpiece worthy of the same name of the opera. This is a popular Sicilian dish, so you will not have any trouble finding it on a menu when cruising to Sicily.

Arancini

Not only is arancini a dish you will find at Jamie’s Italian and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, but you can taste authentic arancini on a cruise to Italy. Arancini are stuffed rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and fried. While not a full meal, they are usually quite big and make a filling snack to enjoy as you wander around Sicily.

Arancini are native to Sicily and are most easily found in grab-and-go “bars” throughout the region. Popular fillings include meat with tomato sauce (ragù), mozzarella cheese, and peas.

Other dishes to try: Cannoli, cassata cake, caponata, pasta con le sarde

Foods to try on a cruise to Rome

A few of Italy’s most popular pasta dishes have origins in Rome. Whether your cruise begins in Rome or you are just stopping in the port of Civitavecchia for the day, be sure to try one of these famous pastas.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe is a pasta dish that originated in Rome and has recently spread in popularity. While cacio e pepe can be found in some restaurants in the United States, the best place to taste it is, of course, in Rome.

Cacio e pepe is made by boiling pasta and, after draining the pasta, mixing the leftover starchy water with pecorino cheese and black pepper. This results in a semi-creamy, cheesy pasta with a slight kick of spice. It is most often made from a long pasta such as spaghetti or tonnarelli.

Amatriciana

If you’re in the mood for a tomato-based sauce, order Amatriciana. Amatriciana is a traditional sauce made from guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino romano, and tomato. A simple, classic tomato sauce enhanced with the hearty flavor of pork, it is likely to be among your favorite dishes on a cruise to Italy.

This sauce is traditionally served with Bucatini pasta, a spaghetti-like pasta that is hollow inside. You may see this dish listed on a menu as Bucatini all’amatriciana.

Carbonara

Carbonara may just be the most beloved pasta dish for Italians. Carbonara sauce is made with eggs, pecorino romano or parmigiana, guanciale, and black pepper. It is most commonly served with spaghetti.

This dish may sound a bit odd to foreigners visiting Italy. Pasta with an egg and bacon sauce? Don’t knock it until you try it, though, and there’s no better place to do so than in Rome.

Other dishes to try: Pizza al taglio, maritozzi, supplì

Foods to try on a cruise to Naples

If your cruise ship docks in Naples, you will have the opportunity to not only explore the city of Napoli, but the entire Amalfi coast region. The Amalfi coast is home to an abundance of fresh flavors. From lemons to seafood and tomatoes, there is no shortage of fresh ingredients to enjoy.

Neapolitan pizza

Naples, or Napoli, is most famous for being the birthplace of pizza. Modern pizza is said to have originated in Naples from flatbread dishes in the 18th or early 19th century, although it did not gain widespread popularity until the 1940s.

One of the most famous pizzerias in Naples today is Sorbillo. Located in the historical center of Napoli, Sorbillo makes traditional Neapolitan pizza with a thick outer crust and thin, gooey, saucey, and cheesy middle. The classic pizza flavors to try in Naples are the pizza marinara or pizza margherita.

Pasta in Sorrento

Many cruise passengers arriving in Naples will choose to skip the city in favor of spending more time on the Amalfi Coast in destinations like Sorrento, Pompeii, and Capri.

A classic dish to try in the south of Italy is a classic pomodoro sauce made from fresh tomatoes and basil.

Those looking for a taste of fresh vegetables may want to order spaghetti alla nerano. Made with fried zucchinis and provolone cheese, this pasta dish is full of light and savory flavors.

Another popular pasta dish from Sorrento is gnocchi alla sorrentina. Prepared with potato gnocchi, tomato sauce, parmigiana, basil, and fresh mozzarella, gnocchi alla sorrentina is a meal that is certain to fill you up on a busy day in port.

If you’re hoping to try seafood, order spaghetti alle vongole. Spaghetti alle vongole is a simple pasta dish that is said to have originated in Campania, the Italian region where Naples is located. The pasta combines spaghetti noodles with freshly caught clams, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and white wine, although it may sometimes include tomatoes and fresh basil.

Other dishes to try: Sfogliatelle, limoncello, mozzarella di bufala, pizza fritta

 

How much does a Mediterranean cruise cost?

In:
28 Apr 2022

A Mediterranean cruise is a dream itinerary for many cruisers. From exploring the Colosseum to sunbathing on the French Riviera and walking the cobblestone streets of Dubrovnik, plenty of unique adventures await visitors in the Mediterranean.

With proper planning, a Mediterranean cruise can fit both low, modest, and high-end budgets. From interior staterooms on Royal Caribbean’s smaller ships to suites on the newest and largest ships, options are plentiful for planning a Mediterranean cruise no matter your budget.

Therefore, there is no “one price fits all” on a Mediterranean cruise, as the cost can vary drastically in cruise fares, shore excursions, onboard spending, and time of year you sail. If you’re planning a Mediterranean cruise, this guide should help you decide how to make cruising this fantastic region of the world fit into your budget and vacation style.

Mediterranean cruise prices by ship

Royal Caribbean sends both its oldest and newest cruise ships to the Mediterranean during the summer months, offering guests the choice between a traditional cruise experience or a ship filled with the cruise line’s most unique and updated activities and amenities.

Unsurprisingly, Royal Caribbean’s newest ships come at a higher price tag compared to its older ships in the Mediterranean. How much a cruise costs can vary depending if you choose to sail on a larger ship compared to a smaller ship.

Let’s look at a few examples to see how the ship you choose for a European cruise can affect your cruise fare. 

First let’s compare an 8-night Greek Isles cruise on both Rhapsody of the Seas (Vision Class ship) and Odyssey of the Seas (Quantum Class ship). The price listed is the total fare for two adults in an ocean view cabin on a September cruise, including taxes and fees:

  • Rhapsody of the Seas: $1658.28 ($207 per night)
  • Odyssey of the Seas: $2998.14 ($374 per night)

Next let’s compare a 7-night Western Mediterranean on Brilliance of the Seas (Radiance Class ship) and Symphony of the Seas (Oasis Class ship). The price listed is the total fare for two adults in a balcony cabin on a June cruise, including taxes and fees:

  • Brilliance of the Seas: $2254.54 ($322 per night)
  • Symphony of the Seas: $3796.34 ($542 per night)

While a smaller ship will come at a lower price tag, it’s never a good idea to pick a cruise solely based on price. Looking into each ship’s amenities, dining options, cabin categories, and onboard activities can help you decide which size ship will suit you best.

Mediterranean cruise prices by month

Just like the ship you book, the month you cruise in the Mediterranean can have an impact on the overall cost of your cruise. In fact, a cruise in May can be several hundred dollars cheaper per person than a cruise in July or August.

Shoulder season in the Mediterranean is found in the months of April, May, September, and October, and this is when you tend to see the lowest cruise fares. As the school year is still in session, there is less demand for Mediterranean cruises, leading to lower prices.

Peak season, on the other hand, is found in the summer months: June, July, and August. While early June may see some lower prices due to the fact that summer travel to Europe is just getting started, expect the highest fares in July and August. At this time of year demand is highest and ships are likely to be near full capacity.

Let’s take a look at just how varied the price of a cruise can be based on the month you sail. First let’s compare the difference in a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Symphony of the Seas in mid-April and mid-July.

The price listed is the total cost for two adults in an ocean view balcony cabin:

  • April 16 departure: $2999.48 ($428 per night)
  • July 16 departure: $4338.40 ($620 per night)

Such a huge price difference is not always the case, though. Next let’s compare the difference in an 8-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Vision of the Seas in mid-May and mid-July.

The price listed is the total cost for two adults in an interior cabin:

  • May 13 departure: $1634.90 ($233 per night)
  • July 8 departure: $1729.80 ($247 per night)

As you can see, the price difference between spring and summer can be either drastic or only slightly different. A more drastic price difference will be seen on the most in-demand ships, such as Oasis and Quantum Class ships, whereas a smaller price difference will be seen on older ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Does itinerary matter?

Mediterranean cruises generally fit into two categories: Western Mediterranean (Spain, France, and Italy) and Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, the Adriatic, and countries like Cyprus and Israel). You will not see a notable difference in cruise fare from one region of the Mediterranean to another.

That being said, countries in the eastern Mediterranean, such as Croatia, Montenegro, and Turkey, tend to be cheaper destinations to visit, which may influence shore excursion pricing as well as the cost of things like local guides, taxis, food, souvenirs, etc.

Shore excursion prices in the Mediterranean

Remembering to budget for shore excursions is important on a Mediterranean cruise. Those used to cruising in the Caribbean may not put too much thought into planning shore excursions, where choosing what to do can be as simple as picking one beach over another.

In the Mediterranean, though, it’s good to have an idea of what you would like to do in each port and book excursions accordingly. Many Mediterranean ports are easy to explore on your own, which will save you money in the long run, but plenty of cruisers prefer the security and ease of an organized shore excursion.

Here are a few Royal Caribbean excursion ideas along with their prices (these prices are subject to change based on sailing and time of year):

  • Essential Rome with the Vatican, Colosseum & St. Peter’s Basilica: $279.00/adult or child
  • Barcelona City Sights: $53.75/adult, $44.75/child
  • Monaco Hop On Hop Off Bus from Nice: $119.0/adult, $89.00/child
  • Best of Mykonos full day adventure: $148.99/adult, $103.99/child
  • Mykonos walking tour: $35.99/adult, $17.99/child
  • Kotor Bay Catamaran Sail and Beach Break: $121.99/adult or child
  • Plantaze Vineyards Wine Tasting (Kotor): $188.99/adult or child
  • Dalmatian Coastline & Village Life (Split): $117.99/adult, $92.99/child

Some excursions soley offer transportation to and from certain destinations that are far from where cruise ships dock. For example, cruise ships to Rome actually port in Civitavecchia, which is around 40 minutes from Rome on a high-speed train.

Therefore, Royal Caribbean offers tours that provide transport to and from cities while giving you several hours of free time upon arrival. The “Explore Rome” excursion, as an example, provides round trip transport to Rome from Civitavecchia for $69.95/adult or $54.75/child.

Of course, you do not have to book any excursions and can instead figure out activities and transportation on your own. Alternatively, you can find shore excursions with tour operators outside of Royal Caribbean, which may come at a lower cost and offer a wider selection of tours.

Personal preferences and onboard spending

Outside of picking a ship, itinerary, and booking shore excursions, the total cost of your cruise will ultimately depend on your preferences. From the type of cabin you book to extras like specialty dining and drink packages, the total cost of a cruise vacation can vary widely from person to person, even if they paid the same base cruise fare.

Here are some examples of what you may pay extra for on your Mediterranean cruise:

  • Drink packages (alcoholic or nonalcoholic packages) or paying for drinks individually
  • Specialty dining
  • Onboard activities
  • Gratuities
  • Spa treatments
  • Wifi

For a more in-depth look at what extra costs are not included on a Royal Caribbean cruise, check out our article on the top 30 extra cruise costs that are not included.

It’s possible to cruise the Mediterranean on a budget or splurge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. No matter what cabin you book, ship you choose, or activities you do in port, though, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable vacation in one of the most beautiful and historic regions of the world.

Which size ship for a Mediterranean cruise?

In:
14 Apr 2022

The first step to planning a Mediterranean cruise is deciding which itinerary and ship to book. Royal Caribbean has both its smallest and largest cruise ships sailing in Europe during the summer months, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

A Mediterranean cruise differs from a Caribbean cruise in that, while the ship itself is often seen as the destination in the Caribbean, the ports are what stand out most on a European cruise itinerary.

While cruising on Royal Caribbean’s newest and biggest cruise ships offer the most activities and options for guests, small ships can offer just enough to see, eat, and do onboard while sailing from port to port.

Ultimately, deciding which ship to book depends on your preference, budget, and ship’s itinerary, but there are a few things to consider before choosing the best ship for you.

Why choose a small ship for a Mediterranean cruise

While cruising the Mediterranean on an older, smaller ship may not seem as glamorous as on Royal Caribbean’s newest ships, it can provide an excellent experience for guests at a fraction of the cost. By “small ships,” we are referring to Vision or Radiance Class cruise ships.

One of the biggest benefits to booking a Mediterranean cruise on a smaller cruise ship is the range of itinerary options available. While larger ships tend to have more limited and repeated itineraries, smaller ships visit a diverse range of ports during the European cruise season.

Places like Kotor (Montenegro), Split (Croatia), Zakynthos (Greece), Koper (Slovenia), and Sardinia (Italy) tend to only be visited by smaller cruise ships. For those looking to try something new and visit destinations off the usual tourist trail, cruising on a small ship can be a great choice.

That’s not to say all itineraries on a smaller ship only visit lesser known destinations, though. It’s also common for small ships to visit cities like Barcelona, Florence, and Rome, which offer some of the most popular tourist sights in all of Europe.

Smaller ships may come with fewer dining and entertainment venues, but many cruisers find this is not as important on a Mediterranean cruise as it would be elsewhere.

For starters, Mediterranean cuisine is some of the best in the world. Having more dining venues available onboard is less important when you have authentic, fresh Mediterranean food right outside the ship. From falafel wraps to gyros, pastas, fresh seafood, pizza, and world-renowned steak, there is no shortage of excellent dining options on a Mediterranean cruise regardless of the ship you are sailing on.

In addition, port days are often long and busy in the Mediterranean, leaving many cruisers tired once back onboard. Getting dressed up for a formal dinner or seeing a new show each night can seem less appealing than on a Caribbean cruise, where most days are spent relaxing.

Smaller ships are more budget friendly, too. A weeklong itinerary on a Vision or Radiance Class ship can be less than half the cost of a similar itinerary on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship. Money saved on ship selection can be put toward other cruise add ons like a drink package or shore excursion. Additionally, you may be able to book an upgraded stateroom on a smaller ship that would otherwise be out of budget on a larger ship.

And while smaller ships may not come with as many activities and amenities as larger ships, they still offer the basics of a fantastic cruise experience. No matter the size, all Royal Caribbean ships include complimentary and specialty dining, lounges, pools, a Solarium, live music, Adventure Ocean kids programming, a spa, fitness center, signature shows, and a daily schedule of activities and events onboard.

It's also important to note that cruising on a "small" ship is still quite big. Royal Caribbean's smallest ships are the Vision Class, yet they still have a capacity of 2,000 passengers or more.

Why choose a big ship for a Mediterranean cruise

The advantages of booking a Mediterranean cruise on a big cruise ship are the same as elsewhere in the world: there are more onboard options and amenities available. By “big ships,” we are referring to Oasis or Quantum Class cruise ships.

If you are looking for the widest selection of things to do onboard while on a Mediterranean cruise, a big ship may be the best choice for you. Bigger ships come with more dining options, onboard activities, entertainment venues, bars, pools, cabin options, and more. 

Families with kids will especially enjoy cruising on a big ship. Adventure Ocean programming is often enhanced on bigger Royal Caribbean ships, with larger indoor and outdoor spaces available for kids to enjoy. Areas like an outdoor teen patio, science lab, craft zone, and kids-only theater are available on bigger cruise ships.

In addition, there are more signature activities offered on Royal Caribbean’s biggest cruise ships. Whether waterslides, bumper cars, indoor skydiving, laser tag, or ice skating, guests of all ages will find something fun to do while onboard.

There are more entertainment options on an Oasis or Quantum class ship as well. Compared to a small ship which may have one or two main shows in the theater, big ships have venues such as the AquaTheater, Studio B, and Two70. Here guests can enjoy Royal Caribbean’s newest entertainment offerings, from ice skating to virtual concerts and diving.

While small ships can offer a wider range of itineraries, big ships still visit many of Europe’s top destinations. From popular ports like Athens and Barcelona to lesser visited cruise destinations like Kusadasi, Turkey and Haifa, Israel, there is certain to be an itinerary to catch your eye.

The “downside” to choosing a big ship for a Mediterranean cruise is that you will unlikely have time to experience all that the ship has to offer. Unlike in the Caribbean where an Oasis or Quantum Class ship may have two or three sea days to spend onboard, bigger ships may only have one sea day on a weeklong itinerary.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon for port days to be up to twelve or thirteen hours long. And while you can stay on the ship while in port, you will be missing out on incredible European destinations in the process. With these two factors combined, you have much less time to explore a big ship on a Mediterranean itinerary.

Big ships tend to have the most expensive itineraries in the Mediterranean, too, due to the demand for new ships. Those with tight budgets should consider whether sailing on a big ship is worth the cost when the biggest draw to a Mediterranean cruise are the ports you’ll be visiting instead of the ship.

That being said, cruising on a big ship in the Mediterranean is still a good option for those new to cruising or those who want to experience as much as possible onboard. It’s hard to beat the amount of options an Oasis or Quantum Class ship offers, and you will always have something new to try whether at sea or in port.

What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

In:
07 Apr 2022

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April through October or early November each year, with the busiest times for a Mediterranean cruise found in July and August.

Choosing when to cruise the Mediterranean can be a difficult choice, as each season brings its own benefits and drawbacks. Shoulder seasons can offer a great price point, but can also come with colder water temperatures and occasional rain. The peak summer season offers sunny, long days, but also tends to be the most crowded time of year both onboard and in port.

Ultimately, whichever season you cruise to the Mediterranean you will encounter incredible history, delicious food, extraordinary scenery, and diverse cultures. While there isn’t necessarily a “perfect” time to take a Mediterranean cruise, this guide should help you decide which season works best for you.

Early shoulder season: late April and May

There are two shoulder seasons during the Mediterranean cruise season each year: spring and fall.

Many Royal Caribbean ships cross the Atlantic in April each year, traveling from the Caribbean to Europe in preparation for the cruise season. Ships arrive at the end of April or early May, the start of the spring’s shoulder season in the Mediterranean.

Weather

In the early season you can expect pleasant temperatures that are ideal for exploring the Mediterranean’s cities. In Barcelona, expect highs of around 70°F throughout most of May, with temperatures rising toward the end of the month. If you’re traveling further south to Athens, though, expect highs around 75-80°F.

Due to comfortable temperatures, the early shoulder season in the Mediterranean is a nice time to explore ports that can get uncomfortably hot in the peak summer months. Long days touring ancient sites like the Colosseum or walking through the cobblestone streets of Dubrovnik can be a lot nicer when temperatures are still comfortable.

Water temperatures during this time of year will not be as warm as they will be later in the summer, though. Water temperature in Mykonos, Greece, for example, tends to average around 66°F in May versus 78°F in August.

Crowds and pricing

The months of April and May will bring fewer crowds on a Mediterranean cruise compared to mid-summer. As the school year has not finished yet, there tend to be fewer families and children onboard as well.

Not only that, but there will be fewer tourists in your ports of call. While cities like Rome and Barcelona stay relatively busy each year, the peak tourist season is in the summer months, leading to the biggest crowds and lines at tourist attractions. Therefore, shoulder season should offer more pleasant sightseeing compared to the peak season.

Pricing during shoulder season tends to be slightly cheaper than mid-summer. An ocean view balcony stateroom for 2 adults on a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Symphony of the Seas in early May is priced at $3056 total. The same sailing and stateroom category on a cruise in mid-July is priced at $4,216 total.

June

June in the Mediterranean offers beautiful weather and long, sunny days. The month of June can be looked at as a transition between the shoulder season of the spring and the peak months of July and August.

Weather

Temperatures rise throughout the month of June in the Mediterranean, leading to daily highs in the low to mid-80s in ports like Rome and Catania, whereas ports further north, like Nice and Genoa, will see highs in the mid-70s. Most days will be sunny, with little to no chance of precipitation.

For those who want a mix of pleasant temperatures in port with fairly comfortable water temperature for swimming, June may be the most ideal month to cruise the Mediterranean.

Crowds and pricing

As the school calendar comes to an end and families prepare for summer vacation, expect crowds and prices to rise.

Early June should come with fewer crowds than later in the month, as many families do not vacation as soon as the school year is over, preferring to wait until a bit later in the summer. However, the draw of ideal summer vacation weather in June will bring more crowds than you’ll see in the shoulder season.

Crowds will also increase in your ports of call, as many travelers begin summer vacations to Europe at this time. From college graduates backpacking through the Mediterranean to school travel groups, honeymoons, and family vacations, Europe’s most popular destinations will get more crowded throughout June.

June's pricing tends to be slightly higher than cruises in May, but typically several hundred dollars less per person than in July or August. An ocean view balcony stateroom for 2 adults on a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Wonder of the Seas in mid-June is priced at $3501 total. The same sailing and stateroom category on a cruise in mid-July is priced at $4,360 total.

July and August

July and August is the peak season of Mediterranean cruises, bringing the highest temperatures, prices, and crowds. Prime vacation time for those traveling to Europe and for Europeans themselves, Mediterranean ports of call will be bustling with energy and the region’s beaches will be busier than normal.

Weather

Expect high temperatures no matter where you visit in the Mediterranean during July and August. Ports like Cannes, France can see daily highs in the upper 70s and low 80s, whereas cities like Valencia and Rome can see daily highs in the low to mid-90s.

Sightseeing with such high temperatures can be challenging and uncomfortable for cruise ship passengers, so it’s important to plan appropriately, wear lightweight clothing, drink plenty of water, and take rests in the shade throughout the day.

Luckily, peak summer brings the best swimming temperatures in the Mediterranean, allowing you to cool off at the beaches in port. A classic beach day on the Amalfi Coast or French Riviera will be best during these months, with water averaging around 75-80°F in places like Capri and Nice.

Little to no rain should be expected in July and August.

Crowds and pricing

Late June through mid-August are the busiest times to cruise to the Mediterranean. During the peak of summer, families with children are common onboard as well, as a mid-summer cruise fits well in the school summer vacation schedule.

During this time of year, you’re likely to see ships near full capacity, and not only will ships be busy, but the ports of call you visit are likely to be busier, too. Tourists from around the world flock to Europe’s world-class destinations in the summer months, which may lead to more lines and higher demand for popular activities in port.

Along with more demand comes higher prices, with July usually the most expensive month of the season and August slightly cheaper. A 7-night Greek Isles cruise on Odyssey of the Seas in mid-July, as an example, is priced at $3,163 total for 2 adults in an ocean view balcony room.

Of course, cruising in the peak summer months does not always have to come with a huge price tag. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider cruising on one of Royal Caribbean’s older ships or sailing in an interior or ocean view stateroom as opposed to a balcony. 

By switching to a smaller ship and room category, you’re guaranteed to find lower prices. A 7-night Greek Isles cruise on Brilliance of the Seas in mid-July is priced at $1,860 for 2 adults in an interior cabin, around $1300 cheaper than a cruise on Odyssey of the Seas.

Are businesses closed in August?

If you’re cruising the Mediterranean during the month of August, you should be aware that this is when many Europeans take vacation, heading to the Mediterranean’s beaches for maximum relaxation.

You may encounter some businesses and restaurants closed during August, but this is unlikely to significantly impact your cruise experience. Major tourist sites and the majority of businesses within cities will remain open in August.

September and October

The Mediterranean cruise shoulder season returns in September as a new school year begins, leading to fewer crowds and lower prices. In addition, the temperature in early September remains excellent, making the month one of the best times of the year for a Mediterranean cruise.

October sees slightly chillier weather than September, but is also considered one of the best months for a Mediterranean cruise, and a bit of a “hidden secret” among those cruising to Europe in the fall. Royal Caribbean’s Mediterranean season continues to late October or early November, at which point ships return to the Caribbean for the winter season.

Weather

Early to mid-September can be looked at as an extension of summer in most Mediterranean cruise ports, with hot, sunny temperatures. Temperatures begin to cool down in late September and early October, but still remain relatively pleasant.

Barcelona, for example, sees daily highs in the mid 70s and low 80s in September, whereas in October the daily highs tend to be in the low to mid 70s. Further south in Cyprus, expect daily highs in the mid 80s in September and low 80s in October.

Fall can also be a great time to visit the most southerly Mediterranean ports, such as Egypt and Israel, as the peak summer months are almost sure to be uncomfortably hot. 

Whereas rain in the Mediterranean is rare throughout the majority of summer, the chance of precipitation tends to increase in October, although unlikely to bring heavy rainfall. Rainfall is also dependent on the port, with cities like Kotor often receiving over 150mm of precipitation in October and Athens only around 37mm.

Crowds and pricing

Crowds will not be as prevalent on a fall cruise to the Mediterranean due to the start of the school year and end of summer vacation. European tourists flocking to Mediterranean beaches in August have returned home by mid-September, and the peak season for land-based tours and travel has ended.

That being said, as the temperatures are still favorable in early fall, don’t expect to have Mediterranean destinations to yourself. Most ports will still receive a fair amount of tourists during the fall, especially closer to the beginning of September.

Prices in September and October tend to be comparable to prices seen in May or early June, allowing for great savings compared to cruising in July or August. If your schedule allows for it, an early fall cruise to the Mediterranean can be an excellent option.

Western Mediterranean cruise guide

In:
24 Mar 2022

A Mediterranean cruise is one of Royal Caribbean’s most popular European cruise destinations, with the Western Mediterranean often a starting point for first time cruisers to Europe.

With some of the world’s most historic and breathtaking scenery, monuments, and cultures, going on a cruise to the Mediterranean allows you to experience multiple locations in a short amount of time.

Deciding which itinerary and ship to choose from as well as what to do in port, however, can be overwhelming for those who have never cruised to Europe.

In this guide we take a deeper look at the Western Mediterranean’s top destinations, itineraries, and things to do, as well as common concerns and questions faced by those planning a cruise to Europe.

Shortcuts:

Best itinerary for a Western Mediterranean cruise

Cruises to the Western Mediterranean generally visit Spain, France, and Italy. Some of the most common ports visited are Civitavecchia (Rome), Livorno (Pisa), Villefranche (Nice), Provence (Marseille), Naples/Capri, and Barcelona.

Royal Caribbean’s newest and biggest cruise ships tend to visit the most popular Mediterranean ports in Western Europe, whereas smaller ships visit both popular and lesser known destinations.

Other Western Mediterranean ports include Palermo, Catania, Portofino, Valencia, Cartagena (Spain), Ajaccio (Corsica), Palma de Mallorca, and Monte Carlo (Monaco).

Choosing which itinerary to book for a Western Mediterranean cruise comes down to your preference, budget, and ship choice.

All Mediterranean ports will offer the opportunity to explore European cultures, try new foods, visit historic monuments, discover unique architecture, visit the beach, and make memories to carry with you far after your cruise is over.

If you’ve never been to the Mediterranean before, picking an itinerary that includes the most popular cities in the region (Rome, Florence, Barcelona, etc.) can be a great choice. If you’ve visited those cities before, though, choosing an itinerary that visits smaller cities in the Mediterranean might be your best bet.

While picking a cruise based on the ship is not as important in Europe as it is in the Caribbean, you’ll still want to take the ship into consideration. If you know you want to sail on a large, new cruise ship, you will want to book a cruise on an Oasis or Quantum Class ship. This greatly lowers the itinerary choices to choose from.

If you are more interested in visiting unique ports even if it means sailing on a smaller ship, consider sailing on a Vision or Radiance Class ship to the Mediterranean.

Something unique about Mediterranean cruises is that you can opt to start the cruise from multiple ports.

For example, you can book a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise leaving from Rome on May 12th or you can book the same cruise leaving from Barcelona on May 15th.

If you embark in Barcelona, you’re joining a cruise that many have already been on for several days. Likewise, when the cruise returns to Rome, you will get off at port to explore the city whereas passengers who started the cruise a week ago are now disembarking the ship.

How far away are cities from ports?

As you’re planning a Mediterranean cruise, you may notice that, while cities like Rome and Florence are listed on the itinerary, the cruise technically docks in Civitavecchia or Livorno, Italy.

Several major cities in the Mediterranean are not oceanfront, meaning a train, bus, or car ride is necessary to reach the city from the cruise port. In other ports, such Barcelona and Genoa, cruise ships dock nearby the city center, making access to the city a breeze.

While ports may be far away from some cities, Royal Caribbean allots a significant amount of time per day at these stops. When a cruise docks in Civitavecchia, as an example, the ship may be there from 7am - 8pm, allowing guests plenty of time to travel to Rome, spend the day exploring the city, and return back in the evening.

Self explore cities

Royal Caribbean will often have an excursion option that solely provides transport to and from the port to the center of the city. This is a great option for those who want the ease of Royal Caribbean transport to and from a destination but want to explore the city without a guided tour.

For example, in Pisa they offer the “Pisa on Your Own” tour, which takes guests from the port of Livorno to the heart of Pisa. They can then explore the city on their own for an allotted time before catching the shuttle bus back to port.

There is no need to worry about local train or bus delays causing you to miss the ship when booking transport through Royal Caribbean. You only need to be back at the designated shuttle bus or location at the allocated time in order to make it back to the ship.

These self-guided excursions with transport are often named “[Destination city] on Your Own” in the Cruise Planner.

Will I have enough time at each port stop?

A common concern of cruisers booking a Mediterranean cruise is whether they will have enough time at each port stop or not. While in the Caribbean many islands are small enough to see in one day, Mediterranean cities often require more time to explore thoroughly. 

A Mediterranean cruise should be looked at more as a “sampler” rather than an immersive dive into each destination. One could spend a year in Rome or Barcelona trying to see everything and that still wouldn’t be enough time. A day in each port is usually not enough time to fully explore the city, but does provide enough time to view the highlights.

My recommendation is to spend a few days before and after your cruise in your departure city to allow for extra sightseeing opportunities.

If your cruise departs from Barcelona or Rome, for example, try to arrive there at least 2-3 days before the cruise begins. Not only do you need extra time to recover from jetlag, but these cities are some of the world’s most spectacular and deserve a few days for sightseeing.

Likewise, if your cruise starts in one city and ends in another, try to plan a few days on land both before and after the cruise.

Land vs cruise vacation to the Mediterranean

Another common concern for those planning a cruise to the Mediterranean is they will “miss out” on European culture and lifestyle by spending evenings on a cruise ship instead of on land.

While it’s true that a Mediterranean cruise will not allow you to dive as deep into local culture compared to traveling more slowly on a land-based vacation, a cruise offers its own set of benefits.

One of the best parts of cruising in Europe compared to traveling on land is that all transportation is arranged for you. There’s no need to worry about booking a ton of train tickets, reserving multiple hotels, and lugging your suitcase from one city to another. On a cruise you will be able to visit multiple European countries while only unpacking once.

Another benefit of a cruise to the Mediterranean is that you’ll be able to see many destinations in a short amount of time. Trying to fit 3-4 destinations in multiple countries on a weeklong land vacation would be hectic and stressful. On a cruise, though, you are traveling from one port to another as you sleep, waking up in a new city each day stress-free.

That’s not to say there aren’t drawbacks to a cruise vs land vacation in Europe, however. A land vacation to Europe, assuming you are spending more than one day in each place, generally gives you more time to experience each destination. Being able to spend evenings wandering around European cities and experiencing nightlife is a highlight for some travelers to Europe, and this is not very common to have access to while on a cruise.

Planning a few days before and after your cruise in your departure city can give you the best of both worlds. Being on land for a few days prior to the cruise will allow you to see more of your departure city, experience European nightlife, and explore the Mediterranean without worrying about making it back to the ship on time.

Then, after a few days on land, you can board the cruise to experience multiple destinations and countries in one week without the hassle of traveling to and from different cities and countries on your own.

What to do in Mediterranean cruise ports

After you book a cruise to the Mediterranean, it’s time to plan your days in port. While it’s not necessary to plan everything in advance, it’s helpful to have an idea of what is offered at each port in your itinerary.

Many cruisers visiting Florence plan to visit the Duomo or Statue of David. Those visiting Nice may take a stroll along the waterfront Promenade des Anglais. Likewise, Vatican City and the Colosseum are extremely popular places to visit in Rome. 

Deciding what to do in port comes down to your interests. For some cruisers, a day in Barcelona visiting museums and historical monuments is ideal. Others may prefer to spend the day drinking sangria on the beach or walking around the city center.

Therefore, don’t feel pressured to book an excursion only because it is the “must do'' activity in a certain place. If you would rather explore a city on your own as opposed to standing in line for historical monuments or churches, you will still have an amazing cruise experience.

In fact, part of the fun on a Mediterranean cruise is simply wandering around the destinations you visit. It can be easy to plan an entire day from start to finish, but sometimes it is even better to arrive without a plan and see where the day takes you.

I would recommend knowing ahead of time whether or not you want to make the journey into cities far away from port (such as visiting Rome from Civitavecchia). As some destinations require 1-2 hours of traveling each way to reach the city from port, having a plan of how you will get to and from port is helpful.

Languages on a Mediterranean cruise

From French to Spanish, Catalan, and Italian, you can expect to hear a diverse range of languages on a Western Mediterranean cruise. And while English is widely spoken in Europe, you shouldn’t always expect everyone to speak it.

You likely won’t have trouble getting by with English in tourist areas and city centers of popular European destinations such as Florence and Marseille. If you’re traveling to the countryside or to lesser visited destinations in the Mediterranean, though, English may be less widely spoken.

Learning the basics of the language spoken in the countries you will visit on a Mediterranean cruise can make your experience smoother. Luckily, most languages spoken in the Western Mediterranean share many similarities with each other and are relatively easy to pick up as an English speaker.

Here are some key phrases I recommend learning in your destination’s language:

Mediterranean cuisine

One of the most attractive parts of booking a cruise vacation is the fact that food is included in your cruise fare. It’s possible to spend an entire week (or longer!) on a cruise ship and solely eat at complimentary restaurants, making your vacation food budget effectively $0.

However, eating exclusively on the cruise ship is one of the worst things you can do on a Mediterranean cruise!

Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most beloved in the world. Whether wood-fired pizzas in Naples, baguettes and croissants in Nice, paella in Barcelona, or gelato in Rome, trying new foods is a key aspect of traveling through the Mediterranean.

Allocate some of your budget toward trying food while in port. From a morning espresso and pastry at a local cafe to a sit-down lunch in the city center, trying local cuisine will definitely be a highlight of a Mediterranean cruise.

While some may feel taking the time to sit down for a long lunch while at port is wasting time, it’s actually one of the best ways to experience a destination’s culture. In addition, it forces you to relax in the middle of the day while at port which can be well appreciated during long, hot summer days.

Here are a few key food tips for a Mediterranean cruise:

  • Always walk several blocks in either direction away from the tourist areas before selecting a restaurant. Food in tourist areas is often lower quality, inauthentic, and overpriced
  • Restaurants with small menus are typically always better than those with many pages of menu items offering several different types of cuisines
  • Restaurants with menus solely in the local language are usually a good bet for authentic cuisine

What to bring on a Mediterranean cruise

Packing for a Mediterranean cruise shares some similarities with a Caribbean cruise, but has a few more considerations.

When I travel to Europe, I tend to pack clothes that are comfortable yet fashionable. While I may wear a wrinkly t-shirt and gym shorts off the ship at Perfect Day at CocoCay, I prefer dressing nicer while visiting European cities. Nice jeans, sundresses, jumpsuits, and blouses tend to fit in more with the style found in Europe compared to the casual outfits of a Caribbean cruise.

Packing comfortable walking shoes is a must while in Europe, as you’ll likely find yourself walking a lot more than on a Caribbean cruise. It’s not uncommon for guests to walk several miles a day while exploring a Mediterranean city, and the last thing you want to bring back to the ship are painful blisters.

Some churches in Europe will have their own dress codes, as well, so this is important to know for guests planning to visit places like the Sagrada Familia and Sistine Chapel. Generally, major churches in the Mediterranean require arms, shoulders, and legs to be covered. If you don’t want to be covered the entire day, pack a change of clothes in your day bag for after the church visit.

I also recommend avoiding certain clothing items that will make you stick out as a tourist, including apparel with American sports team logos, any type of patriotic or political attire, and camo patterns.

Make sure to pack euros with you or visit an ATM while in port. Unlike in the Caribbean or Mexican ports where you can usually get by with USD, this is not accepted in Europe.

When I travel to Europe I make sure to bring a debit or credit card with no international fees. That way I can take out money at ATMs without worrying about incurring high fees.

As always, be sure to alert your bank of your upcoming travels to avoid any pauses or alerts on your account due to withdrawals made in Europe.

Will my phone work on a Mediterranean cruise?

Unless you have a phone plan that includes international data, your phone’s data will not work in Europe. And while having phone service isn’t entirely necessary, I would recommend at least one person in your travel group has international data on their phone for the duration of the cruise.

International data offerings differ based on which phone provider you use. Some providers may have a daily fee for international service whereas others can charge by the amount of data used.

In addition, some phone plans may already come with international data in the Mediterranean, so be sure to check with your phone provider about whether or not you can access data abroad free of charge.

If you don’t have international data, you can access the internet via wifi while in port. Wifi should be relatively easy to encounter, especially closer to the city center. Many restaurants and cafes will have free wifi available to customers.

Like on all cruises, make sure to put your phone back on airplane mode once onboard the ship to avoid roaming charges.

Royal Caribbean releases new Europe summer 2023 cruises to book

In:
06 Jan 2022

Royal Caribbean's new 2023 European cruises are now available to book.

The new sailings are available to book via Royal Caribbean's website, offering a variety of ships and itineraries during the summer months when Royal Caribbean deploys its cruise ships to the region.

There are sailings between April and November 2023 to book across 9 different ships. That's a large proportion of Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Here is a breakdown of where the ships will be sailing from:

Anthem of the Seas will sail from Southampton, UK and offer cruises of various lengths to destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway and the Canary Islands.

You'll be able to visit destinations new to Anthem, including Maloy and Haugesund, Norway, and Cork, Ireland. Longer, 11- and 12-night vacations will go further to places such as Lisbon, Portugal; Vigo, Spain; and the Canary Islands. 

Brilliance of the Seas will offer cruises from different ports in Europe, including Athens, Venice, and Rome (Civitavecchia) on sailings throughout the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, as well as the Adriatic.

Something new for Brilliance will be the opportunity to visit Praetorian Palace in Koper, Slovenia.

Explorer of the Seas will sail from Venice (Ravenna) to offer cruises in the Adriatic, as well as to the Greek isles.

Explorer will allow passengers to visit Olympia, Greece – the birthplace of the Olympic Games – for the first time.

Jewel of the Seas will be based in Amsterdam, and offer 8 and 12 night cruises to Iceland & Ireland, as well as Norway fjords cruises. She even has a 12-night Arctic Circle cruise.

Odyssey of the Seas will return to the Europe again to be based in Rome (Civitavecchia).  Odyssey will offer 7- to 12-night cruises around the Greek Isles.  Odyssey also has a 12-night Holy Land cruise in May 2023.

Vacationers have a choice of 7- to 9-night cruises from Rome to Naples, Italy; the idyllic Greek Isles and Turkey, as well as 12-night Holy Land sailings to the historic, bustling cities of Limassol, Cyprus; Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey; and Jerusalem, Israel. 

Photos: Odyssey of the Seas arrives in Israel | Royal Caribbean Blog

Rhapsody of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean ship to sail from Limassol and Haifa, Israel, all in one season. The new summer combination consists of 7-night sailings to ports of call in Turkey, Israel and Greece, including first-time destinations for the cruise line, like Skiathos and Thessaloniki, Greece.

Starting in September, the ship will take off on short 4- and 5-night getaways from Haifa and visit Cyprus and the Greek Isles.

Serenade of the Seas will homeport out of Barcelona, Spain and offer 5-, 8-, and 12-night cruises in the Western Mediterranean.

Symphony of the Seas will also sail from Barcelona, with 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises to enjoy. 

Travelers can set course on 7-night cruises, from Barcelona or Rome, to bucket list destinations like Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Provence, France. 

European Union to allow fully vaccinated Americans during summer 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Voyager of the Seas will be based in Copenhagen, and offer primarily Scandinavian and Russian cruises. Voyager will also offer two Best of Northern Europe cruises during the season.

Guests looking for a longer vacation can cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Copenhagen on a 14-night sailing that features an overnight in Bermuda and visits to St. Thomas, France and Belgium. 

This is the third 2023 deployment released so far, as Royal Caribbean released Alaska 2023 cruises and longer Caribbean 2023 cruises last month.

More itineraries will be released later this spring, including Northeast cruises, Los Angeles, Short Caribbean and more. There is no dates yet for when these new itineraries will be released. 

Booking early can save you money

European Union to allow fully vaccinated Americans during summer 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Thinking about booking a cruise a year and a half away may seem excessive, but it is one of the best ways to get the best price on a cruise.

Generally speaking, the lowest prices for cruises are available when new itineraries are released, such as these Europe 2023 sailings. Over time, prices will go up as more and more cabins are booked up.

If you are interested in a suite, the importance of booking early is even more apparent, as these cabins usually jump up in price quickly after release.

Friday Photos | Royal Caribbean Blog

No matter what the price is today, you can always take advantage of a lower price later with the Best Price Guarantee program, which allows for repricing of cruises in case of a price drop.

Besides cost savings, booking early also ensures you get the exact cabin you want. A lot of cruise fans gobble up the most desirable cabins when new sailings hit the market, such as suites, extra large balcony rooms and other unique staterooms.

Planning on booking a 2023 cruise? These stories will help:

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