Welcome back everyone to part II of our Mediterranean cruise adventure!
After sharing with you our experience in Mallorca and Southern France, let’s go to the next port of call La Spezia, Italy. Yes! I finally made it there! That day several organized tours were going to Florence, Tuscany. I personally think that it’s too much of a drive. Tuscany has so much to offer, that you are simply better off planning an entire vacation in that region.
While La Spezia, located in Northern Italy, is only a few minutes away from one of the most beautiful coastlines that the country has to offer: Cinque Terre, which means “five lands”. All five villages can be easily explored by train. If you want to see them all, you can hop on and off at each station, which are literally 2-3 minutes away from each other. Again, given our tight timeline, we decided to visit only one, Vernazza. They say that it’s the most beautiful one. We didn’t get a chance to compare it to the other villages, but I can tell you that we LOVED it!! I mean, don’t the pictures speak for themselves?
So happy, we visited in May! It was already overcrowded with tourists. I don’t even want to know how packed it must be in the summer. We were able to escape the crowds for a while, when we walked up the mountain on the hiking trail to Monterosso (one of the neighboring villages). No time to take the whole hike for about 1,5 hours, but it was gratifying enough to reach a certain spot only 10-15 minutes away, to get that famous panoramic view on the little bay with its colorful houses. Precious! Should you ever go there, it’s a must see! Don’t miss it!!
The next morning we hit Civitavecchia, about 1-1,5 hours north of Rome. The eternal city in one day. Challenging. We’d have still taken our chance, if I didn’t feel sick that day..:( I guess it just wasn’t meant to happen. That’s a good reason to go back one day soon for longer than a day! In the meantime it was nice to relax on board while most passengers were ashore.
The very next day we arrived in Olbia, on the Island of Sardinia. And once again, I felt like “Finally, I made it here!” Over so many years I’ve been looking at those stunning pictures with that crystal clear water that looked like the Caribbean.. Olbia as a port of call is a little tricky if you want to explore other places on your own. I couldn’t find any information on public transportation to the popular coast “Costa Smeralda”. We only found buses going to Palau, and from there by ferry to the archipelago of La Maddalena. Very tempting, but quite critical, time wise. So we took a chance and decided to start off with the shuttle from the pier to downtown Olbia. As soon as we got off the bus there was a little booth with a girl distributing flyers for bus trips to Costa Smeralda, incl. three stops. The bus driver would drop us of, and there we would be on our own exploring the villages. We liked the idea and went for it!
It didn’t take long for the bus driver to realize that I was the only Italian taking this tour. Shortly after he asked me if I’d mind sitting in the front with the microphone.. As he spoke only Italian, he thought it’d be a great chance to share some insights about the Island & Co. with us. I thought that was hilarious! Especially because it’s not the first time that I end up “working” as an interpreter during my vacation :) So, I guess, why not?! At a certain point, I got so involved with that task, that I sometimes almost forgot that I was a tourist like all the others on the bus, and not an employee of the tour company ;))
The driver went out of his way. He even added extra stops. The trip lasted longer than planned and we could get some insights on the beautiful island.
The northern coast of Sardinia is simply WOW! So much beauty in one place! The water.. Oh those colors!! The only thing you don’t want to do in Porto Cervo and surroundings is shopping . As long as you don’t have an unlimited credit card..
Happy and satisfied with lots of positive impressions, we got back on board, looking forward to our dinner :)
I was particularly looking forward to the following and last day at sea. But all the excitement vanished when the wind got stronger and the waves higher. After waking up countless times during the night, feeling like one of those waves would sooner or later kick me out of the bed.. The next morning it didn’t get any better. The boat looked kinda empty. Sea sickness bags were spread all over the boat. And the few people we ran into looked pale, suffering from motion sickness. Honestly, I didn’t look any better. Although luckily it never goes beyond nausea. Several teas and acupressure self-help methods later, I got to enjoy at least the second half of the day. Well, that’s part of cruising. It can be smooth, or more like a rollercoaster, trying to balance your way while moving forward.
Anyhow, I am already looking forward to the next cruise! When, I don’t know. But I’d love to check out other cruise lines and different itineraries. Despite the very good experience that we made with this one, I still prefer a more international atmosphere.
Bottom line: Taking a cruise is not everyone’s favorite way of traveling. Not everybody enjoys crowds of people, that you can’t always escape from, nor the huge restaurants or buffets where you might have to stand in line to get your food, nor waiting in even more lines to make it out of the boat when tendering, or taking a chance of getting seasick, or having only very limited time at each port of call, being forced to make it back on board timely..
Nevertheless, I personally would do it again. It allows me to see a lot of places, even countries within a short period of time, while (un)packing my suitcase only once. I can travel on a budget, if I choose to. A cruise can easily turn into a very expensive vacation, depending on the cabin that you pick. Of course it’s nice to have a balcony, but the question is: do you really need one? Depending on the itinerary that you have; let’s say you hit a port (almost) every day, including long hours ashore, you will be out the whole day. You will only spend the night in your cabin. So why pay double as much or even more for a balcony? Let alone pay more for a window with obstructed view, where you might see people walking right outside, forcing you to pull the curtains most of the time..
As long as you are not planning to spend hours at the bar each night drinking cocktails etc., you won’t even need to buy an additional drink package. The free drinks on board should be more than enough.
There is so much food to eat. Nonstop. On top of the crazy amounts of dishes served all day long, you can find specialty restaurants, maybe gourmet, sushi or steak restaurants. It’s a nice getaway, even more to escape the crowds. But with all that great food served everywhere, it’s solely up to you if you want to spend additional money on “different” kind of food.
Trips booked on board can be very pricey! Depending on the route, you can discover the different places on your own. Planning ahead, which means checking public transportation, train schedules, or rental cars can make you save a whole lot of money.
Then there are so many other board activities, workshops, spa treatments..you name it, that require additional fees. Everything is cashless on board, while your board card will be charged. Which means that if you don’t keep track of your expenses, you’ll get a nice surprise at the end of the cruise when you go pay your bill. Cruise lines will nickel and dime you to death. But only if you let them.
We had a wonderful time. Enjoyed every bit of it. Without breaking our bank account.
Oh my, I just realized how long my post turned out! I hope you could find some useful tips for cruising on a budget, and even more: lots of inspiration for visiting the wonderful Mediterranean!