Lessons Learned on our First Mediterranean Cruise

When Bryant finally caved in and agreed to planning a vacation to Europe with me, I was both extremely excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I knew I wanted to go to Rome and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, but I wasn’t sure if I should add any other destinations to our itinerary.  Out of curiosity, I started browsing some Mediterranean cruises, and there was one Princess Cruise itinerary in particular that caught my eye:

July 6: Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

July 7: Salerno (Amalfi Coast), Italy

July 8: Day at Sea

July 9: Kotor, Montenegro

July 10: Corfu, Greece

July 11: Souda, Crete, Greece

July 12: Mykonos, Greece

July 13: Piraeus (Athens), Greece

When I saw this itinerary, I knew it was too good to pass up. I had been wanting to visit Italy and Greece for so long, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do both. I booked it!

Emerald Princess in Kotor, Montenegro

Bryant and I flew into Rome, Italy on July 4thand landed early July 5th. This gave us plenty of time to tour all of the iconic spots in Rome that I wanted to see before boarding the cruise ship. It also gave us a night in Rome, which was wonderful (with the exception of panicking over Delta losing all of our clothes).

On the afternoon of July 6th (thankfully with all of our luggage in hand!) we made our way to the Port of Civitavecchia, which is about 1-1.5 hours from Rome by train. When we exited the train station, the cruise port was in sight and the weather was nice, so we figured we could walk to the ship. BIG MISTAKE. After circling around the port with all of our luggage and trying to get to our cruise ship by foot for at least half an hour, which we could clearly see but for the life of us could not figure out how to get to, we were frustrated to say the very least. Apparently, in Civitavecchia you have to walk to a bus terminal located behind the police station, show them your cruise documents, then ride the bus that takes you to the appropriate cruise terminal gate.

Princess gave us absolutely no instructions for how to board the ship – they didn’t even provide an address for the port. They literally just sent me an email with a time to board at the Port of Civitavecchia. You’d think that it would be common sense for them to inform their guests to go to the bus station behind the police station to board the ship. It would have been incredibly useful information to have.

If you decide to take a cruise that stops at this port, do not try to walk to the cruise ship unless you want to sweat through all of your clothes, fight with your husband, and cry. Head straight to the police station, and you’ll see the buses that take cruise passengers to the port.

Once we made it onto the air-conditioned ship and had a drink, we were able to relax a little bit. The ship itself was nice. Bryant and I had never cruised with Princess before, and it was definitely a different experience than Carnival. I think I’ll save detailed comparisons between the two for another blog post.

Souda, Crete, Greece

The next day we arrived in Salerno, and Bryant and I had plans to take a ferry to Positano. Again, the cruise port did not allow you to just walk off the ship to your destination, and again, Princess failed to provide any useful information about getting off and on the ship. All passengers were piled into buses that dropped us off outside the town of Salerno. It was chaotic. It was clear that the man driving the bus had never done so before, and he did not handle it or any of the tourists well – at the end of the bus ride he said “f*** this” and left the bus…

The bus ride took so long that Bryant and I had to run to catch our ferry ride to Positano in time. I figured we’d just need to catch a bus in the same spot by 6:30 that evening to ensure we made it back to the ship by 7. I was wrong (common theme this trip).

After a wonderful day in Positano (post about that to come later!), we got off of the ferry and started making our way to the bus stop. At the same time, I get a call from an unknown number, and something tells me to answer it. “Hi this is Emma from Princess, where are you guys? You’re supposed to be back, and the ship is leaving.” Once again, it’s chaos. Princess sends a taxi to come pick us up and take us to the ship, and the man driving the taxi cannot find us. I’m on the phone with Emma trying to describe where I am, and she’s describing that to someone else, and that person is talking to the taxi driver. In a panic, Bryant and I start to run to the ship. Emma tells us to chill out and go back to where we were, so we run back. Finally, after I’ve successfully had a full-on panic attack and Bryant has begged and tried to pay Italians (including a cop) 100 Euro to take us to the cruise ship, the taxi shows up. We jump in and he takes us right to the ship. Bryant gives him all of our money. We are literally the last ones on the ship – people are on the ship’s balconies cheering and clapping for us as we walk on. It was so embarrassing and so typically American, but also so avoidable if Princess had just done a better job of communicating how to get on and off the ship.

Souda, Crete, Greece

The next day was a much-needed day at sea with no worrying or stressing out about getting stranded in a foreign country. We didn’t run into any issues at any of the other Mediterranean ports we stopped at in Montenegro or Greece, partially because we were extra cautious but mostly because they were the types of ports we were used to. We could get off of the boat and immediately walk wherever we needed to (with the exception of Kotor, where they took us to shore in lifeboats, but once ashore there were no extra random buses to take). I don’t know if all Italian cruise ports are as complicated as the ports in Salerno and Civitavecchia, but if you’re ever cruising in Italy, I recommend giving yourself ample extra time to get on and off the ship.

Kotor, Montenegro

We disembarked from the ship at our final destination of Piraeus, Greece on July 13th. Our flights back to the US weren’t until July 14th, which gave us a whole day and night to experience Athens. Athens was only about a 20-minute taxi ride from the port of Piraeus. It was nice to have a relaxing last day with no set time to make a mad dash back to the cruise ship.

Overall, my choice to take a cruise was a good one. It allowed us to see and experience so many bucket list destinations while we were in Europe. The destinations on the cruise itinerary just happened to fit what I wanted to do pretty perfectly, and the cruise itself was basically a super convenient form of lodging and transportation. That being said, when (if) we go back, we’ll probably just choose a couple of places to visit and keep it a little lower key!


5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned on our First Mediterranean Cruise

  1. That’s so crazy about the ports but good to know! I love cruises but all the ones I’ve done so far leave from the U.S. and don’t go too far away. Did you know princess is owned by carnival?


      1. It is interesting! Carnival Corp owns: AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn. Royal Caribbean owns Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity and Azamara. Norwegian Holdings owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent. I’ve been on those three along with Disney. Disney is by far my absolute favorite cruise line. Disney owns Disney… haha!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachael, I had no idea! This is funny, but not funny! I can’t imagine almost being stranded in a foreign country. Did Bryant give Princess Cruise a piece of his mind? Everyone clapping that you all were found, wow! Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

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