Late October, jittering with excitement for the history, culture, architectural wonders, and mouthwatering food ahead, I set sail for seven days touring the Mediterranean via Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. The ports of call are Nice, Portofino, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Salerno, and Barcelona. It was my first European adventure, and every bit of this trip, beginning at the port in Barcelona, was brimming with excitement. I arrived the day before embarkation and visited the amazing La Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Antonio Gaudi’s house. I also walked through an open-air market hosting local art and delicious tapas. Food tours are an incredible way to learn about Barcelona’s highly rated food and wines. This city is a feast for the eyes and belly. The following day, we set sail for Nice.
Nice is a tender port and a five-minute walk from the town center. In Monaco, we had a guided walk through old town where we saw landmarks including the Prince Palace and Monaco Cathedral while a Changing of the Guard ceremony took place. Our guide shared an impressively interesting and informative history of the French Riviera. One can only admire the picturesque landscape of the famed French Riviera on the scenic drive between Villa France and Monaco. Then, our tour continued to Monte Carlo where we saw the famed Grand Casino Square and the lobby of the Grand Casino Hotel.
The next port I visited was Portofino. Again, I took a guided walking tour to visit Castello Brown, nearby lighthouse, and Church of St. George. This town’s main square is a perfect place to browse designer shops, lunch on fresh seafood, enjoy Italian gelato, or simply stroll the shoreline. This is a wonderful place to relax and can be easily toured on your own.
Livorno, gateway to Florence
, was our third stop. I arranged roundtrip train tickets through Royal Caribbean. The train ride from the cruise pier to Florence is one hour in each direction, and a guide accompanies travelers to the city. From there, I set off to explore Florence on my own. My experience included an Italian lunch of pasta and pizza, wandering through a leather market, and strolling the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. Florence is full of adventure and shopping, 18-karat gold designer brand clothing to leather, perfume, and more. With incredible piazzas, monuments and churches, it’s very easy to navigate at your own pace.
I arrived at each port filled with anticipation, especially in Rome. I booked the Taste of Rome excursion and was thrilled to visit treasured sights including the Colosseum amphitheater, Trevi Fountain, and exterior visit to the Roman Forum. This tour gave us a glimpse of this famous city and plenty of time for a photo opportunity at the Vatican.
The final stop on my cruise was the port Salerno on the Amalfi Coast. Since it was on my bucket list to visit Pompeii one day, I chose an excursion including Pompeii and Sorrento. On the tour, we also visited an Italian farmhouse and learned how olive oil and mozzarella cheese are made. We tasted these deliverables and other local specialties. Sorrento is a beautiful town with charming streets where one can shop for local treasures or try limoncello, a lemon liqueur. After visiting the farmhouse, we had a half hour scenic countryside drive to Pompeii. This was a sobering part of the tour. We visited the temples, marketplaces, and villas of a once-thriving Roman city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius’ powerful eruption. Even today, Mount Vesuvius is known for its explosive eruptions and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world.
This cruise was my introduction to Europe, and I learned a great deal. The ship lived up to her name, and Royal Caribbean did superbly in facilitating the excursions to enhance my cruise experience
. The excursions were well put together at each port and can easily accommodate independent and small group travelers alike. Considering that the Mediterranean has a wealth to see and do, I’m very glad I chose to cruise through the region. It allowed me to customize my itinerary while still experiencing a vast array of offerings throughout the region without worrying about lodging or transportation. I eagerly await my return to the Mediterranean!