Our Complete 21 Day Mediterranean Cruise Itinerary, Starting from Rome
Day 0: Rome – The Day Before Embarkation
Since we were already in Italy, it seemed natural for us to start our 21 Day Mediterranean cruise in Civitavecchia, the port of Rome. Naturally, we took the high-speed train to Rome the day before embarkation. Of course, we always recommend getting to the embarkation port at least one day in advance.
The train got us into Rome around lunchtime, and we checked in our hotel.
Our Vacation Has Started!
We walked around downtown Rome for a few hours and enjoyed this alive city. Interestingly, it was August 16, the day after “Ferragosto,” a big holiday in Italy. Mainly, there was almost no one around- just us touring around!
After about ten thousand steps, we were getting tired. Also, it was getting close to dinner time. With a little research, we discovered a great (old) restaurant in the Trastevere area of the city called Zi Umberto. We had a fantastic meal, wine, and some great conversation with the locals sitting next to us.
Photos from Rome
Day 1: Rome – Mediterranean Cruise Embarkation Day!
The morning after, we had (free) breakfast at our Hotel Quirinale. Later, we started our journey to the Mediterranean coastal town of Civitavecchia, the port where we’d take our cruise ship.
The port is about 77km from Rome. As usual, there are several ways to reach it. This time, we decided to try the least expensive option, the train, mainly to see how easy it is.
The train goes from Rome Termini (The central train station) and ends in downtown Civitavecchia (Centro). From there, you can take a shuttle bus to the cruise port. Furthermore, the trains are clean, spacious and have air conditioning. However, we would not recommend it to elderly passengers. For example, there is quite a bit of walking, and stairs to take. Also, the elevator seems to have been out of service for a very, very long time.
A little note about taking the train from Rome Termini to Civitavecchia
Still, if you’re happy carrying your luggage up and down the stairs, the price for this option can’t be beaten. The trip was €7.50 per person – an economical way to start our Mediterranean Cruise! Tip: Buy the train ticket & the shuttle bus ticket at the same time, in advance online. To be sure, you will avoid the long lines at the ticket counter. The bus dropped us off at the Cruise meeting point. Here, we had to board our final bus (free of charge) that took us from the port to the cruise terminal.
The entire journey from Rome Termini to the Cruise Ship terminal took less than 90 minutes.
Alternatively, we could have taken a taxi or private car for the same journey – and these options start at €150.00. Indeed, this could be a good option if you are sharing the taxi with a few people.
The Cruise Terminal in Civitavecchia – Gateway to the Mediterranean
Civitavecchia Cruise Terminal is modern and clean. Surprisingly, it’s easy to navigate and very convenient. The check-in and embarkation process was incredibly efficient and comfortable. To demonstrate, we arrived at the terminal at 11:10 am, and we were unpacking in our cabin less than half an hour later. By noon, we were already at the buffet! Pretty incredible.
It took just two and a half hours from the time we left our hotel, to the time we were eating lunch on abord our Mediterranean cruise. Incredible!
Some Photos from The Journey from Rome to Civitavecchia
After lunch, we walked around the ship and to get familiar with our new home. The Emerald Princess is very similar to the Crown Princess on which we sailed many times. It is also similar, albeit slightly larger than the Island Princess we took last year, through the Panama Canal. Naturally, it took us no time at all to get familiar with her. Finally, we spent the rest of the day by the aft pool and enjoying the hot sun.
A Princess video of the Emerald
Day 2: Salerno – The First Port on our Mediterranean Cruise
Our first port of call was the town of Salerno, in the Campania region of Italy. It’s a convenient port to visit some of the most iconic landmarks in Italy. For example, from Salerno, you can visit the Amalfi Coast, Pompei, or Capri Island. We have been to all of those fabulous destinations, so, we decided to do something out of the beaten path. We choose an excursion to a buffalo farm, where they make buffalo mozzarella! It was a great experience!
The farm is called Vannulo, and it took about 45 minutes to get there from the port. The farm is entirely organic, and the owners are very proud of this. For example, the buffalo have plenty of room to walk around, have special rollers to get massages, and they can access an automated milking station anytime they feel like ready to be milked. We were even able to witness the cheese-making process, all done by hand.
A Quick Video of the Making of Buffalo Mozzarella!
After that, we had a taste of the freshly made cheese. Let me tell you – it is nothing like the stuff you get back in the states! They served us a delicious lunch. We got a focaccia sandwich made with the fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes picked from their garden, another fantastic treat. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to taste their own made buffalo organic frozen yogurt because there was an insanely long line for that. We will have to go back sometime to try it!
Afterward, we went to explore the ruins of the ancient Greek town of Paestum. Without a doubt, we did not expect to see something that magnificent. The Greek temples are incredibly preserved, and it is possible to explore the site with very few tourists around. We were quite pleased by that.
Photos from Paestum
We also had the chance to explore the downtown area of Salerno. The city is quite pretty with a pleasant seawall (Called the lungomare) that overlooks the Mediterranean – and featured a beautiful view of the Emerald Princess cruise ship!
Day 3: Strait of Messina
Our third day was a sea day. Around 8 am, the Captain announced that we were entering the Strait of Messina. Naturally, we rushed out to have a look at this iconic area of the Mediterranean.
The Strait of Messina is a narrow passage of water between mainland Italy and the Island of Sicily. At only 3km wide, it is one of the busiest areas of the Mediterranean. Also, it was quite beautiful to be able to see this area on such a glorious sunny day.
We were able to see the city of Messina on the Sicilian side and the town of San Giovanni on the continental side. But the real treat did not come for another half hour when we were able to see Mount Etna in all its glory! The summit of the volcano was smoking heavily from the last eruption just a month prior.
Sea Days Have the Best Parties!
Day 4: Kotor, Montenegro
Our next Port was the old town of Kotor, in the country of Montenegro. Interestingly, this was the only Mediterranean port we would see twice on our cruise. We arrived at the port of Kotor early in the morning. The town is found at the end of the narrow fjord of Kotor, making it very picturesque. There was a charming view (from the dining room) of the old medieval town surrounded by the mountains.
We took an early tender to shore and walked around the old town on our own. The city is surrounded by massive Venetian fortification and an ancient fortress dominate the all area from the top of the mountain. Then, inside the city wall, we walked around the old narrow roads, checked the souvenir stores, and got to pet some of the many many friendly cats – that are almost everywhere. Furthermore, we stopped and visited the Catholic Cathedral and the Orthodox Catherdral, and both were quite remarkable.
Photos of Kotor
In the afternoon, back on board, we had a fantastic view of the Fjord during the 2 hours of sailing in the narrow passages.
Must-See Video: Time Lapse, leaving the Fjord of Kotor
Day 5: Corfù, Greece
The next port of call was the Greek Island of Corfu and arrived early in the morning. The weather was stunning. We decided to spend the day at the beach and booked such an excursion to Dassia beach, on the east coast of the island.
The beach was not very wide, and the facilities were not the greatest. The water was clear, warm, and transparent. Unfortunately, there was no sand at the beach. There were just coarse pebbles, so we had to buy some beach shoes for that.
We rented a boat to go water tubing. It was a fun thing to do, and the price for the experience was very reasonable.
After returning to the ship, we sailed from Corfù at 3:30 pm. Next time, we will visit the old town of Corfù with its Venetian Fortifications.
Photos from Corfù
Day 5: Chania, Crete Greece
The next day, we arrived in the Greek Island of Crete and the port of Chania. Here, we decided to take another beach excursion during the day.
The tour took us at the beach of Platania. Unfortunately, it was not the most beautiful beach. The water was a bit rough and the shore a little rocky. Not surprisingly, that made it extremely difficult to get into the sea and swim. I’m sure there are better beaches on the island. We stayed at Platania for about 3 hours, and then we moved on to Chania center.
Chania is quite lovely, and it has a charming little marina with lots of cute restaurants and tavernas. Also, we particularly enjoyed the market where it is possible to buy classic souvenirs and natural sponges. The center of Chania is very well connected with the port by a shuttle bus that runs every 10 minutes, and it costs €1.70 per person.
Photos from Chania
Day 6: Mykonos, Greece
This island was probably one of the highlights of all trip. We asked a few people on board what to do in Mykonos and many of them, including few crew members, suggested Agios Stephanos beach. The beach has the advantage of being walking distance from the port, and we liked that idea.
The walk is just 10 minutes up the hill and from the street, and there’s a great view of the ship in port. The beach is magnificent. Here, you’ll find crystal clear and turquoise water. Also, there are a couple of tavernas on the beach that rent beach chairs and umbrellas for about €20.00 per person. Also, they serve delicious food and drinks.
When the ferry boat sails by the beach (approximately every hour), the waves become huge. So, it’s a good idea to keep your shoes far from the sand as they could get washed away into the sea!
Watch the Large Waves from Agios Stephanos Beach, Mykonos
We walked for about a couple of hours in the maze of little streets. Also, we looked in and around the shops and took a lot of photos. We then stopped at a lovely restaurant with a great view of the windmills and grabbed some late lunch. Surprisingly, the island is incredibly windy, and that was the only time, on this first week of sailing, that we experienced a little rockiness on the ship.
Photos from Mykonos
Day 7: Athens, Greece (The end of the first leg of our Mediterranean Cruise)
After a week, we finally reached Athens. This was the end of the Mediterranean Cruise for some passengers and the beginning for some others. For us, Athens was just one of many ports of call. We booked the Hop On Hop Off online way in advance to explore the city. Retrospectively, booking the bus in advance was not necessary because it was possible to buy tickets right by the dock. However, if you decide for the Hop On Hop Off here, make sure that you purchase tickets for two lines, Athens and Piraeus.
Our Self Guided Excursion to the Temples
We also bought the tickets for the archeological sites in advance to avoid the very long lines. Tip: It is also essential to buy the ticket that includes all the sites; that way, it is possible to visit them all. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Acropolis from the port, and traffic can be heavy. The Acropolis and the Parthenon were packed of tourists.
There was a long line up the stairs to reach the top of the hill. The view from there was amazing. The Parthenon is an iconic site, I’ve seen thousands of photos of it, but seeing it for real it is an entirely different experience! After exploring the Acropolis, we decide to walk down the hill to the temple of Hephaestus. This area is incredibly beautiful and with almost no tourists.
Lunch: A needed Break!
We decided to stop for lunch in one of the many restaurants in the area called Diodos Archaias Agoras. Here, we had a beautiful plate of grilled meats, cheese, and fresh greek yogurt. Notably, it turned out to be one of the best meals of all trip!
Afterward, we walked around the old market area to Monastiraki Square, where we caught the bus that took us across all the other point of interests of Athens and finally back to the ship.
We went back to our favorite pool, all the way aft and watched several other cruise ships leave this busy Mediterranean port.
Photos from Athens
Cruise Day 8: Santorini, Greece – A Mediterranean Jewel
This iconic island was another highlight of our cruise. We arrived in the morning, and the view from the cruise ship was stunning, the steep red cliff of the caldera and the town of Fira on top. Then, we decided to take an excursion to the active volcano.
After a short boat ride, we arrived on the little island in the middle of the caldera that is the active volcano of Santorini. The hike to the crater on top is quite easy, and along the way, the views are amazing. It is possible to see many lava flow from old eruptions. Once we reached the summit, we were able to see the steam and the sulfur gas coming out from some vents by the old crater. Also, our guide was quite knowledgeable. For example, he told us all about the various eruptions of the volcano, the most recent of which was in 1950.
Then, after getting back to the catamaran, we continued our excursion to a little island that has some natural underwater hot springs. Here, we were able to swim. It was a fantastic excursion, and I strongly recommend anybody visiting the island to take it.
After our Tour of the Volcano
In the afternoon, we headed back the main island of Santorini, and we took the cable car to the town of Fira. The ride takes about 3 minutes and costs €6.00 each way. Alternatively, it is possible to ride the donkey up the narrow windy path, for the same price. Once on top, we walked around the many narrow streets with white houses on each side. Yes, the view from up there is quite incredible!
Photos from Santorini
I would love to go back to this island and spend a few days here. However, I would prefer going during the offseason. For example, maybe in the fall when the tourists have left. After, we stopped for a cold beer and a great view. Then, we decided to walk back down on the donkey road. It was not my favorite experience as the road is very slippery and full of donkey poop! Don’t laugh, but I fell in it… ugh.
Back on board, we watched the departure from this magical island at sunset.
Day 9: Kotor, Montenegro – So lovely, we got to visit it twice!
After Santorini, our next port was Kotor, Montenegro again. This beautiful Mediterranean port was actually on the first and second segments of our cruise. This time our stop in port was shorter, so we decided to go ashore for a little walk in the old town than go back on board. We mainly chose to go because we wanted to check our emails and use some public wi-fi. Montenegro was the only place where our cell phone plan was not working because it is not part of the European Union. We found a sweet coffee shop with decent wi-fi. We sat down and enjoyed people watching while browsing the internet.
Day 10: Messina, Sicily
We arrived in Messina at lunchtime. I had booked an excursion to Mount Etna for that day, while Rick booked one to a beach at Giardini Naxos.
My excursion started with 2-hour bus ride to the Silvestri Craters, our destination. These craters formed during the 1892 eruption. Unfortunately, upon arrival, it was clear to me that it wasn’t what I expected. It was a large parking lot with several restaurants, souvenirs kiosks, and a gondola. Importantly, we were not even able to see the volcano summit that was smoking a few days earlier.
I guess this excursion was designed for people with limited mobility. Indeed, I walked around and took photos of various craters, but nothing too exciting. After about an hour and a half, we boarded our bus for another 2 hours ride back to the ship.
Photos of Mt. Etna
Rick did a completely different excursion. He had a blast going jet skiing in the Mediterranean with few people from the Cruise ship he had met on the bus. Unsurprisingly, he was pleased about his experience. Maybe next time I’ll do the same and skip the volcano.
An Active Mediterranean Volcano, as Seen From our Cruise Ship!
That same night, about an hour and a half after leaving the port of Messina, we were treated to a fantastic show, courtesy of another nearby volcano. We were sailing near the island of Stromboli, and that night the volcano was incredibly active.
Shockingly, we were able to see lava fountains from the back of the ship, and it was stunning. Even better, one of the passengers on board was able to take the fantastic shot of the eruption below, and she kindly shared it with me. (Photo courtesy of Gill Prince @gillprincephotography)
Day 11: Naples, Italy
The morning after, we docked in the port of Naples, Italy. We were incredibly excited about this port because Naples is one of our favorite cities in Italy. While many of our fellow passengers went on an excursion to Pompeii, Capri, the Amalfi Coast or Ercolaneum, not us! Admittedly, we wanted to experience this fantastic and vibrant city in our way. We started our morning with a must-have espresso at the Gambrinus coffee shop. This beautiful coffee shop right by piazza Plebiscito is an icon of the city, and the coffee here is fantastic.
After our caffeine boost, we started walking on via Toledo toward “SpaccaNapoli,” and then we ended up in the church of Santa Chiara. This magnificent church has an incredible cloister all decorated with hand-painted tiles that makes unique in the world. Without a doubt, this is an oasis of peace among the hustle and bustle of downtown Napoli.
Lunch Time! What to Eat in Naples? Pizza of course!
We continued our walk to a historic restaurant, Pizzeria Brandi. Notably, this place claims to be the birthplace of Margherita pizza. Also, there is even a marble plaque commemorating this event. One of the head waiters from our ship was in the area and joined us for pizza!
We continued our walk on via Chiaia, the high-end shopping area of the city, towards lungomare Caracciolo. Admittedly, we walked by the magnificent Castel Dell’Ovo, from which you can have a fantastic view of Mt. Vesuvius before finally reaching the Galleria. There, we stopped at Sfogliatella Mary to buy some incredible deserts for some of the excellent crew we had gotten close to onboard.
Some Photos from our Stop in Naples
Day 12: Sea Day & Bocche di Bonifacio
Early in the morning, the Captain announced that we were passing by the “Bocche di Bonifacio.” This narrow passage in the Mediterranean between Sardinia and Corsica that has a deep connection for us because we vacation in the area every year. We also had friends and family vacationing there while we were passing by. Naturally, that made this hour of sailing particularly memorable.
Day 14: Barcelona, Spain – The 3rd leg of our Mediterranean Cruise
Just like in Athens, the cruise ship unloaded passengers here in Barcelona (A beautiful city in the Mediterranean) and proceeded to embark new ones. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to some people were disembarking. However, we were excited to meet new people.
I had done some research as we had visited this city before. So, we had a good idea of what we wanted to see. To begin, we started in the morning with the Park Güell, designed by the famous architect Gaudi. Admittedly, it’s a fascinating park to visit. For example, the view from the top of the hill is breathtaking. However, it can be packed with tourists. So, it’s better to go as early as possible to avoid the rush and the long lines.
Photos of Park Güell
After visiting the park, we took the Metro to downtown and walked toward Plaça Reial. This beautiful piazza is full of excellent restaurants and bars, and it is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a cold drink.
Then, we walked around the narrow streets of the old city. We did so much walking! We stopped for a snack at the Mercado de la Boqueria. This is a bustling and vibrant place that sadly, is becoming overly touristy. As such, most sites charge a fortune for food and drinks.
By that time we did 20,000 steps, we were exhausted. Naturally, we decided that it was time for us to go back on board and start the last week of our adventure.
Cruise Day 15: A Relaxing Day at Sea On the Mediterranean
Barcelona was a beautiful city. Indeed, we got to see quite a lot. As a result, this sea day was quite welcoming! For example, the sun was shining, and the seas were calm. Also, realizing that the cruise was nearing the end, I decided to take advantage of the Mediterranean sun and work on my tan!
After lunch, I spent the day by the Lotus Pool and had a nap. In the afternoon, I went back into the sun before beginning the evening festivities.
Related Read: Don’t get bored on Sea Days! Here’s what else I like to do on a sea day.
Day 16: Gibraltar, UK
After a needed day of rest at sea, we reached the port of Gibraltar. This little British Overseas Territory is quite picturesque and worth seeing.
We began by walking down Main Street. Surprisingly, this street is lined with many souvenirs, electronics, tobacco, and liquor stores. It almost looks like the worlds largest gift shop. Furthermore, it’s fascinating walking down this street, being immersed in British Architecture.
We then reached the cable car that climbs to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. Indeed, I recall someone on board suggesting to me: “If the line is long (and it does get long), you can choose to visit by one of the mini-van taxi tours offered at the base of the cable car.” Then, we saw this sign:
At the time of this writing, the taxi tour cost 35 Euro per person – just a little more than the cable car. Not surprisingly, we chose the taxi tour as the line for the cable car was incredibly long, and we would have probably wasted an hour waiting.
Like the cable car, the taxi tour takes you to the top. Additionally, you get two bonus stops along the way: the Pillars of Hercules and St. Michael’s cave (entrance ticket included). Lastly, the taxi drops off the passengers at each stop and lets them explore for about 15-20 minutes.
The Taxi Tour
The Pillars of Hercules (Northern side) was said to be dedicated to Hercules after bringing the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic Ocean together. By comparison, the Southern side pillars are located in Morocco. Unfortunately, it was a hot and hazy day. As a result, we were unable to see the coastline of Africa. Next stop was St. Michaels caves.
These natural caves are filled with colorful lights that change frequently making the stop quite interesting. Here we saw the first group of monkeys. Importantly, be aware these monkeys are wild animals, and while they are used to having people around, they will attack if frightened. For example, don’t carry food because the monkeys will try and steal it from you.
Here’s a photo of a monkey that stole an ice cream bar from a young child! How rude!!!
After the caves, the taxi took us up to the top of the rock where it is possible to see a fantastic view of the city, the bay of Gibraltar and the coast of Africa, just 18 miles away. Also, we had the opportunity to walk on the skywalk bridge with a glass bottom, but we did not feel like waiting in line for that.
Photos From the Tour to the Top of the Rock of Gibraltar
Then, we began our descent on the narrow windy road. Next, the taxi stopped at a viewpoint where it is possible to see the airport with the car road that cut across the runway. Lastly, the taxi dropped us off at the same spot where they started.
Later on, we walked back to the shuttle to take us back to our cruise ship with many great photos of this delightful little town.
Cruise Day 17: A Glorious Mediterranean Sea Day
I love sea days, particularly in the Mediterranean. Why? You see, sea days in the Med are often warm, and inviting for a tan- especially in the summer. Also, I couldn’t help but realize only a few days remained of this epic Mediterranean Cruise. So many lasting memories, so many new friends.
Who Doesn’t Love a Party?
Day 18: Marseille, France
After another sea day, we reached the port of Marseille. At that point, we started to feel the end of our Mediterranean cruise approaching. As we’ve visited Marseille before, we opted to explore the city on our own.
We walked around the old port of the city and the narrow streets of the old town. The city has been cleaned up recently, and it’s an alive, modern and vibrant place. At the old port, we saw an exciting fish market, where the fishermen were selling their catch of the day right by their boats.
Rent a Scooter!
We also decided to rent one of those electric scooters and zip around the seawall of the city. Without a doubt, it was lots of fun and a fabulous way to get a break from the intense heat. Next, and right around lunchtime, we decided to go back on board and enjoy the quiet ship while all the other passengers were at the shore.
Day 19: Genova, Italy
In Genova, we opted for the Hop On Hop Off bus again. Indeed, this allowed us to visit the most famous monument in the city and decide what we wanted to see or skip. First, we got off near Columbus house wand we started our walk in the narrow streets of the old town. The city is quite impressive, clean, and very alive.
Next, we ended up at the San Lorenzo Cathedral. This church is quite magnificent, but the best part was paying €5.00 and walking up the bell tower. The view of the city from there is remarkable (Photo below). We were able to see our cruise ship in the distance. A must-do while visiting the city.
Time for Lunch. What to Eat in Genova? Focaccia, of course!
After that, lunchtime was approaching, and we wanted to try the typical Genovese Focaccia. We found a gem of a restaurant, right by Porta Soprana, Restaurant Locanda Tortuga. Wow, I was ever happy we stopped. Admittedly, the focaccia was incredible, nothing like I’ve had before. It is made of two extra-thin layers of dough with some delicious creamy soft cheese in the middle. If you read this article and you stop in Genova, please promise me you will go and try it.
After lunch, we walked back toward the cruise ship by the area of the aquarium. This was the area of the old docks that have been restored and repurposed as an attraction area. It makes for an excellent place for a stroll.
Day 20: Livorno
Livorno is the port in the Mediterranean where cruise ship passengers could visit Florence and Pisa. Having visited both cities many times, we decided to rent a car and spend the day at the beach in Pietrasanta. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating, so we decided to cancel that idea. After a quick stroll in Livorno Centro to run some errands, we went back on the ship and enjoyed the quiet cruise ship.
Day 21: Civitavecchia (Rome) – The end of our Mediterranean Cruise
Yes, this was the end of our Mediterranean Cruise. It was a somber moment when we disembarked. We made some great new friends and memories. Overall, it was an epic experience that we will be talking about for many years to come.
Andrea & Rick