EXPLORE: BARCELONA, PALMA DE MALLORCA, MARSEILLES, LA SPEZIA, CIVITAVECCHIA, AND NAPLES.
Take it from me, someone who lived, breathed, and worked this beautiful itinerary. For approximately six months, I worked on the Oasis of the Seas as part of the international ice cast, performing for different international audiences six times per week. Living on the ship was quite an adjustment, considering my home was a floating city in the middle of the ocean. The beginning of my contract started in the Caribbean, exploring both Eastern and Western routes. However, during the later end of my contract on the Oasis of the Seas, the ship repositioned to tour the beautiful Mediterranean exploring different parts of Spain, France, and Italy. Lucky me, little American girl getting to live in the dream that is the European summer and getting paid to do so.
The cruise explored six different ports of call, each acting as a hub for both major monuments and quaint sub-cities, indulging in the rich culture and intrinsic beauty that the Mediterranean has to offer. Whether you prefer to revel at the ancient Spanish architecture, get a little taste of France, or tour the pristine picture-perfect coastlines of Italy, this region has more than enough to explore.
Working on this itinerary provided the opportunity for me to visit several different places in each port, although there was still much more I didn’t get a chance to see and do. As well, because for me this was a job first and travel second, if responsibilities came up during port times or we had shows to do that day, that played a role in the amount of time we had to sightsee. One of the biggest challenges for me was making sure that I didn’t expend too much energy on excursions on the days that we also had to perform two shows that night. For six weeks, I was all wide-eyed and enraptured by the European beauty, but unfortunately sometimes I had to cut the adventure short or hold myself back from participating in something that could risk by body at all.
To start off the cruise, we ported in one of my most favorite ports of call, the breathtaking beachside city of Barcelona. With it's cosmopolitain feel and eclectic culture, you can’t go wrong with however you choose to spend your day. The streets of Barcelona are lined with incredible works of architecture from Gothic churches to Antoni Gaudi’s unique and surreal designs. Take the day and stroll through the rich cultured La Ramblas experiencing local shops, sidewalk cafes, and street art and performers. If the weather allows, take in the sun at the harbor-side city sandy beaches, but keep in mind, if you’re in high travel season, they will be extremely busy. Do not forget about Barcelona’s unbeatable food and sangria. My only complaint, when only having one day there to explore at a time, the streets are closed from around 2:00 to 5:00pm for siesta, and many shops closed on Sundays (the day we ported there of course). Here’s a few of my tried and tested favorites in the few times I was able to wander through Barcelona.
THINGS TO DO & PLACES TO VISIT
Shopping on La Ramblas
Cathedral de Barcelona
La Sagrada de Familia
WHERE TO EAT
Eat My Trip
Brunch and Cake
Flax and Kale
Tented restaurants along Las Ramblas
PALMA DE MALLORCA
Palma de Mallorca is a major seaport and city located in the Southwestern part of the island, Mallorca. Palma’s charming shopping squares make it a perfect spot for cruisers to stop in for the day. On Royal Caribbean’s Mediterranean itinerary, the stop in Palma was a short few hours, however it was the perfect timing to relax on one of the pristine beaches and grab a bite. From the few short visits, I can happily say that I was able to get a glimpse into why this port is a European destination hotspot. If you’re looking for a more adventure packed day, you can take a shore excursion tour to the Drach Caves, experiencing some of the underground island. Be advised that the Drach Caves, although interesting, is an extreme tourist spot, especially considering that you can only visit on a guided tour.
WHAT TO EXPLORE:
Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca
Downtown Mallorca’s street-side restaurants
Any number of Palma’s beautiful beaches and cliff jumping spots
Marseilles is considered the oldest city in France, important for it being a major porting hub for France. Marseille’s heart is in the vibrant Au Vieux Port, the old port, mast-to-mast filled with yachts and sail boats, surrounded with restaurants and cafes. Delve into the delicious french cuisine, and be sure to try Croque Madam (killer for a hangover). Just up the hill is the oldest section of the city, La Panier, filled with countless restaurants and shops. Also worth exploring is the Cours-Julien, Palace and Park Longchamp, and of course, the Notre Dame de la Garde. If you can find a way to venture beyond the old port, take a day trip to Aix-en-Provence for outdoor farmers markets, rich cuisine, and local french boutiques. If staying around the heart of the city isn’t quite your style, take the train to Cassis and visit the breathtaking coastal town. When your arrive, be sure to visit the gorgeous Calanques, if you can, I recommend doing so by Kayak. Whether your adventure lies within the heart of the city or in the National Park, visiting the historic port of Marseilles is nothing less than incredible.
Notre Dame de la Garde
Au Vieux Port
La Major Cathedral
Jardin de la Colline Puget
Calanques National Park
La Spezia was one of my favorite ports on this Mediterranean itinerary. Although downtown La Spezia is nothing particularly special, this port is the centrally located so that it is just a short train ride to one of my trip’s highlights in Italy, Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a string of century-old seaside villages on the Italian Riviera coastline. Each of the five towns provide views of colorful houses with terraces edging steep cliffs, harbors filled with fishing boats, and uneven stoned roads leading to trattorias serving out seafood specialties along with the region’s famous sauce, pesto. The two must-see stops of the five villages include Manorola, the postcard coastline, and Monterosso, a vibrant seaside town with incredible beaches and cliff-jumping hotspots. Another easy day excursion is to take the ferry right out of the port to Portovenere, a medieval fishing village situated just south of Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. The picturesque harbor is lined with brightly colored houses while narrow streets lined with shops lead up the hill from the ancient castle. Here you will also find, what I personally believe, is the best pesto I have ever tasted in my life!
WHAT TO DO:
La Spezia Downtown
Leaning tower of Pisa
Unfortunately because of my show schedule and the lengthy train ride, I wasn’t able to explore what’s highly promoted by Royal Caribbean for this port, Rome in a day. The port of Civitavecchia is small and a bit rundown in comparison to the other destinations on this itinerary, however there are a few several rich cultured cafes with romantic Italian atmospheres located beyond back alleys, right where you wouldn’t expect it. The hope for visitors on this port is to take the train to Rome and explore the wonders of the city of love including the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, etc.) Although I can’t be of much help here, the one place that I highly recommend is Forma, elegant and authentic local Italian restaurant.
The last stop on the itinerary is another one of my favorite ports. Similar to that of La Spezia, the town of Naples itself isn’t as notable, however it is central to numerous iconic Italian vacation destinations including Capri, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Pompeii. One of my favorite day adventures is to hop on the ferry to Capri in the morning straight from the port of Naples. Once you’ve made it to Capri, take a boat (of your choice) around the island, you can either rent out a yacht with a larger group or choose to drive your own dingy-like boat around for two hours (plenty of time to get around). After seeing Capri by sea, take a seat for a delicious lunch at anyone of the cafes lining the coast. Just a tip: the further away you go from where the ferries dock, the less touristy and better the food is, or at least that’s what I’ve found. If you’re staying around Naples for the day, there are several beautiful castles to visit, but most importantly, do not leave Naples without trying pizza!
WHERE TO EXPLORE:
- Galleria Umberto I
- Shopping San Ferdinando
- Hop on Hop off tour of Naples coastline
- San Giuseppe
- Castel Nuovo
- Castel Sant ‘Elmo
- Naples is home to the creation of pizza, so whatever you do, do not leave without getting one!
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