The number one thing to know when planning a Mediterranean Cruise
The stops listed doesn’t always mean that’s where you’ll be porting.
Travel is required to get the most out of your mediterranean cruise
First thing to know about a Mediterranean Cruise or a European Cruise. The stops listed doesn’t always mean that’s where you’ll be porting. For example… Rome is not on the coast. So when you see a city and then in parenthesis a place you’ve never heard of… that’s likely a stop that you’re going to have to travel to. Rome (Civitavecchia) was one of our stops… Rome is about an hour and a half away from this port. Now not all of the stops are like this, for example, Monaco is one of the best stops for hoping right off the boat and experiencing an amazing city with very little effort.
So when picking a cruise I would make sure to look to see how many days you will have to travel to get to that place.
In my experience, you’re going to have a much better experience if you leave the port town most of the days.
We did a lot of research on where to visit from the port towns. Best way to start is just by searching “day trips from…” and then search what to do in the port city and then compare the two.
Here is our cruise itinerary and where and how far we traveled each day
Rome (Civitavechia) - 1.5 hours
We spent a few days in Florence and Rome before heading to the ship but it was an 1.5 hour bus ride to the boat. The first time I visited Rome from a cruise was from the boat and we took a train in to Rome, it seemed a little quicker than driving if memory serves well. (Just an FYI Florence/pisa is another common cruise port that isn’t actually Florence and you’d have to travel in to see.
Naples - Total of 4 hours travel (well worth it for the drive alone)- usually people go to amalfi coast from this stop. Napels is a very dirty city. This was my second time here and skipped napels all together and went an hour to Ravello (HIGHLY recommend) then an hour to Amalfi, Hour to Positano, an hour to Sorrento and then an hour back to the boat. I’ve been before and just done Sorrento and had more time there. It’s amazing either way and you really can’t go wrong with any experience of the Amalfi Coast. We would like to come back and spend a week here.
Palermo (Sicily) - 45 minute train ride we rented lime scooters (these are in most bigger cities in Europe and are a really easy way to get around) to get to the train station and took what was suppose to be a 45 minute train ride to Cefalu. Highly recommend this as well. It’s a touristy place but for locals. Most of the shop owners didn’t speak English. We probably only heard 3 or 4 other couples speaking English the whole time… and that’s being generous. We LOVED this experience. We just wandered through the streets, the views on the beach are amazing and lined with beautiful old buildings and arches. There’s a hike you can do (they won’t let you through in flip flops or sandals so we didn’t get to do it)
Siracusa (Sicily) - No travel This port we decided to stay close by and it was the perfect day. It’s a 5 minute walk to Ortigia (old town Siracusa) where you’ll find some really neat swimming areas, a castle and beautiful streets to wander. We shopped here and found the best handmade leather shop as well as the best graniteria!! Way better than gelato in my opinion. (But I don’t love ice cream)
Corfu Greece - walked 15 minutes to pick up our Vespa we rented and then spent 4 hours exploring. HIGHLY recommend this company if you are going to Corfu. They have itineraries that you scan a QR code and it opens the stops in google maps and navigates to each stop. They have different length itineraries based on your time. (We only had from 1-6 which was a bummer, we would have loved some time to swim) the port town is nothing special but 20 minutes out of the city and you’re in a tropical lush green oasis so make sure to get out of town.
Split Croatia - 30 minutes total of 2 hours of travel by boat but with stops every 30 minutes. But left literally from the cruise port (had to climb on a buoy to then climb into the boat) we had stops every 30 minutes to explore. Split is a beautiful town and you could just stay here and explore old town if you wanted. But I would highly recommend getting to some of the islands near by. I really wanted to see Hvar and some smaller islands so we did a private boat tour (only because our boat didn’t get in until 10:00 so we struggled finding a tour that would work- we don’t do any of our tours through the boat because they’re always huge groups) This was our most expensive day but also my favorite day. There’s definitely cheaper ways to do it if you don’t have such time constraints.
Just a note here: the times they show for their routes can be down A LOT faster. But we are very quick walkers. We did all of route B and then decided to do H and finished in 3.5 hours (including walking to and from the parking lot) We did catch the second shuttle boat in perfect time so that helped. But they have H listed as
Venice (Ravenna) - this is a great example of why you need to know your ports before you go. Our itinerary labeled this stop as Venice. I’m still unsure why. The cruise doesn’t even offer excursions to Venice from here because it’s too far away. I believe it was close to 3 hours away with no easy direct way to get there. Ravenna is 6 miles to old town from the port. They offer a shuttle bus for 20$ per person… such a rip off but it’s either that or a taxi. They do not have scooters or bikes to rent when you get off the bus. We only spent a couple hours in Ravenna but found some really great mosaic glass shops. I would have loved to take a mosaics class here but we were in need of a low key day.
Zadar Croatia - we drove almost 2 hours to Plitvice lakes National Parks because it’s been on my bucket list. It was beautiful and such a neat experience, but with the long drive and no stops in between We probably should have just gone to Krka National Park which is only an hour away and similar. That being said. The drive was absolutely beautiful, our driver was amazing and we still had time to drive around old town and see the organ stairs in the ocean. Which was way cooler than I expected.
Koper Slovenia 2 hour drive to lake bled with a stop at Ljubijana on the way back. Well worth it and we still had time to explore old town when we got back, which is 3 minutes walking from the boat. (Heads up… if you come on a Sunday, everything is closed) having seen old town I was glad we took the hours to explore outside of Koper. Lake bled had a very Swiss alps feel. And Ljubljana was a beautiful pedestrian town with different architecture than we had seen the whole trip. It was fun to walk around and just wander.
Note: Ljubljana is well worth the visit on it's own so if you don't have time to go all the way to Lake Bled, I would still recommend going to Ljubljana. We walked around Koper briefly, and while it was a charming little town, I didn't feel like you get the whole Slovenia experience.
Venice (Trieste) - another example of misleading information- Trieste is a 2 hour bus ride to Venice. The boat offers transfers to the airports near Venice, but not the city itself. So if you’re staying an extra day to actually see Venice like we did then you’re going to need to purchase bus tickets in advance. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the boat to the bus station.
Overall we loved every single stop we made. But I can tell you there are multiple places I personally would have been disappointed in had we not left the port city.