In June this year we set sail on our first cruise. I was a little apprehensive, as I suffer from really bad sea sickness, but I knew it would be something the girls would enjoy and a cruise was something I had always wanted to try. We opted for a cruise around the Mediterranean. We decided that we wanted a short flight, which ruled out Caribbean cruises and somewhere new to explore and hopefully good weather too.
The Mediterranean fitted all these, a warm region with beautiful ports and plenty of excursions. In fact we did so many excursions and there was so much to see it has taken me this long to figure out how to write it all down. I have decided to split it into several posts. This post I want to talk more about the Ports we visited, I have already written a post about top tips for first time cruises and the third post I want to talk specifically about the cruise line we used.
We started our journey at the Port of Barcelona. We did a whistle stop tour of Barcelona before boarding our cruise. Next time we will definitely spend more time here as it does have plenty to do. As the dark clouds set in we set sail on our adventure
Our next port of call was Villefranche. We could instantly see why it has a reputation for one of the five most beautiful bays in the world.
Villefranche was a complete unknown to us. It was so beautiful to explore and there was a lot of shops in the bay to sit and rest and have lunch in. My eldest loved splashing in the crystal clear waters and playing in the beautiful white sand. We would have happily spent another day there just exploring and taking in the warm sun.
From Villefranche you can visit Nice, Cannes and Monaco. The F1 fan in me had to visit Monaco and we even got to ride the race track.
Monaco is also beautiful. It is very small but there is so much to see. It is the only place that I know of that on the high street there is a shop dedicated to buying your own personal jet. I found this rather funny and loved they had adverts in the windows displaying leather seat options for customising your jet.
Next on our itinerary was Italy. Italy is somewhere I have always wanted to visit and my husband has always wanted to see Pompei. Our first port was La Spezia.
We decided to book a full day excursion which took in Lucca and Pisa. Both easy driving access from the port of La Spezia. With hindsight we should have booked less excursions as our youngest found it too tiring getting up to visit all the places. However I am also glad we did book those excursions as we may never get the chance to visit again.
Lucca was not somewhere I had heard of before our trip, however it is somewhere I would now recommend visiting. I actually enjoyed it more than Pisa.
Lucca is a city which is still surrounded by a city wall. You can climb up onto the wall and they take great pride in letting you know that the only people to ever fall from the wall are tourists. The wall is very impressive and so thick that you can sit on it and have a picnic, there is even a track for runners [it used to be a single lane road]. Lucca has some impressive history and buildings and it was beautiful to walk around and explore. I would have loved to spend longer there.
After Lucca we went to Pisa. I personally felt we had far too long at Pisa. It was incredibly hot with very little shade and I felt a bit disappointed by the whole experience. I wasn't sure what I was expecting but it didn't meet up to my expectation. We managed to pass some time by having a horse ride around Pisa, which was lovely and then stopping for some ice cream.
I was looking forward to our next destination Civitavecchia. Civitavecchia is a popular port for Mediterranean cruises. It was in fact the busiest of all the ports we stopped at. When the ship docks you are greeted with the Fort Michelangelo, and become surrounded by history. The port is also a working port so there are also a lot of freight containers around too.
Civitavecchia had lots to see and do. There is a local market selling crafts and produce and a wealth of historical landmarks to see. The reason we were excited is it is also the port for Rome. Rome is almost 3,000 years old and there are so many historical landmarks. We did a walking tour and we really got a sense of the hustle and bustle that is Rome. The Coliseum is a must-see. It does get busy so it is worth while booking in advance and factoring in time to take it all in. It is huge. I did not think it was going to be as big as it was. There were people dressed up as gladiators and role playing outside the Coliseum.
Rome is also home to Trevi fountains and numerous Basilica. There are some wonderful gardens to explore such as Villia Borghese. Not to mention the many archaeological sites. We only had half a day to explore and could have perhaps done with a little longer.
We couldn't come all the way to Rome and not pay a visit to the Vatican.
Our final port was Naples. I think this was the port we were most excited for. We got to visit Naples before heading to Sorrento. Sorrento quickly became one of my favourite places I have visited. I can see why people choose to get married here. It was beautiful. Great views, stunning blue sea, lots of little shops to explore and some great places to eat.
We had booked a visit to a local farm on the way to Sorrento. The girls loved seeing all the animals and then watched excitedly as they showed us how they made cheese. My eldest hasn't stopped talking about this, she really took it all in. We were treated to some samples of home made cheese, fresh olives and salami. Followed by home made lemon cake. It tasted amazing.
Next time I must take a suitcase just to bring home all the food from the farm.
Before long it was time to head to Pompei. Our final destination. The heat had got to my youngest and she fell asleep. Without a pushchair, this meant I carried her in the blazing sun the entire time we walked around Pompei. I was amazed by Pompei. If you have never been you must go. Words cannot describe it. Rome is nothing compared to this. You normally see a few ruins and are told that was a house, or a shop, or an arena, and your imagination is left to fill in most of the blanks. Pompei you can actually see it. You can walk down the street exactly as it was and look at all the houses and shops. You turn and see Mount Vesuvius and realise how big it was all those years ago. You get a real sense of the fear felt.
I would love to go back to Pompei at some point in the future. There was just so much to see.
We all loved our Mediterranean cruise and would love to go on one again. A cruise gives you so much flexibility and freedom. It takes you to places you otherwise might not be able to see and every day you wake up with some where new to explore. We cannot wait for our next one.