Six Great Mediterranean Cruise Ship Ports

Some of the best Mediterranean cruise ship ports appear on a variety of itineraries from several cruise lines. Traveling via cruise ship, vacationers are able to see six or more different ports on a seven- to 10-day sailing. That’s covering a lot of ground quickly and efficiently, making a Mediterranean cruise one of the most intense of all sailings.

As if a new, different and exciting port every day was not enough, shore excursions on a Mediterranean cruise run between four and 10 hours long. That makes for a long day, but one well worth it when visiting iconic bucket list destinations like Rome in Italy, Dubrovnik in Croatia or Marseilles in France. After a few days on board, destinations can seem to run together though, with no plan in place for getting the most out of time spent ashore.

Savvy travelers learn quickly to pace themselves. An interesting cruise ship-sponsored Mediterranean cruise shore excursion at every other port usually works well. Choosing the “on your own” version of an excursion seems to produce good results for many as opposed to being carted around from place to place with a tour group. At the ports where no excursion is planned, many travelers choose to simply walk off the ship and enjoy the day shopping, sight seeing or simply sitting at a sidewalk cafe, drinking in the local flavor.

Here are six of our favorite cruise ship ports of call when sailing the waters of the Mediterranean.


[Photos by Chris Owen]

A Few Mediterranean Sidewalk Cafés Can Make Travel Personal

In popular cities of the Mediterranean, mobs of tourists come by bus, train, air and cruise ship. Looking to see famous destinations with their own eyes, perhaps fulfilling lifelong dreams, they clamber for the best view. During the summer, many visitors point and shoot only the top of iconic destinations to avoid photos that include the herd. But on a recent trip to the Mediterranean, we found some of the best shots at ground level while sitting in a sidewalk café.

The sidewalk cafés of Mediterranean cities are a great way to create lasting memories that may never be repeated again. Breaking away from the throngs of tourists visiting Dubrovnik in Croatia and Rome in Italy along with other must-see locations, time spent at local cafés was precious.

If we really want a good look at any of these places, we can Google just about any destination for uncluttered images of whatever we want to see without even going there. Get off a lucky shot during peak tourist season and that’s all the better.

Taking the time to sit and drink it all in at a sidewalk café has made for a more personal experience when traveling, an experience that photos can also capture.

Check this photo gallery that has many of the sidewalk cafés we enjoyed.


[Photos- Chris Owen]

Cruise ship simulator is key to avoiding future disasters

Images of cruise ships grounded and on fire are fresh in our minds. Still, we know that a cruise vacation is one of the safest travel options available. This week, safety is in the spotlight as never before with the opening of a new training facility that offers the latest electronic tools available. But while a keen focus on the latest technology is employed, the ongoing program highlights the need for top quality people that can often make the difference between a near miss and a disaster.

Officers and crew members from Royal Caribbean, along with sister-brands Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, now have the advantage of being a part of new simulator training center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Signaling a renewed focus on safety, staff of the $6.5 million facility cut the grand opening ribbon Monday as journalists in town for the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference watched a demonstration of the system. It’s all part of an ongoing safety program but timing surely looked to address current concerns of the cruising public.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events,” Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises said of the two year process to get the facility to opening day.

Using simulator training since 1999, Royal Caribbean has contracted with other such facilities in the past but none compare to the Resolve facility, which offers both detail and commitment from the staff to provide a safe marine environment.

Resolve Marine Group, primarily a salvage operation, built bridge simulators to Royal Caribbean’s specifications, allowing for multiple ships to be included in navigation, firefighting, search and rescue, and other emergency training. The facility is part of a clear answer to questions that came from the grounding of Costa Concordia, the fire of Costa Allegra and other recent events.

Still, while simulations can take into account a variety of factors that can go wrong, staff members at the Resolve training facility quickly note that it is the human element that can often make the difference in avoiding disaster at sea.

“The intention is to create situations that truly test the individual, how they deal with unpredictable situations and handle stress,” said Wright. “They are put into situations that are completely realistic.”

[Photo by Chris Owen]

Blogger Chris Owen

Where was your photo taken?
At Misty Fjords, Alaska on the wing of a seaplane that I had used to tour for the day. In this photo we had landed on a pristine lake where the only sound we heard was a bear or beavers fishing. Or so said the guide — it might have been Uncle Zeb splashing around in the bushes for all we know.

Where do you live now?
Orlando, Florida aka Paradise to this guy who spent a few too many cold, angry winters farther North.

Scariest airline flown?
Spirit Airlines from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale and just last July. It was like being on a prison plane. “We leave in 5 minutes, seated or not!” and I think they meant it. Gilda, the Nazi cabin attendant was overheard saying “I can’t wait until we get the stand-up seatinig” with glee.

Favorite city/country/place?
St Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands where I will live some day. I have friends who already made the jump and they just love it there.

Most remote corner of the globe visited?
Mt McKinley in Alaska, the highest peak in North America. I did not climb the peak but did wave at the ants below as we flew around them in a plane much like my dad had when I was a little kid.

Favorite Guidebook series?
Frommers, but I have to tell you, I used guidebooks once and that was about it — and that was a long long time ago. I like going places recommended by friends or travel writers as best bets, out-of-the way places and hardly ever touristy attractions except for the “I did that” factor.

Worst hotel experience ever?
The Colby Hotel in Colby, Kansas. Winter of some year when I was a little kid. We drove through a bizzard from Kansas City to way Western Kansas at about 12 miles an hour the whole way. Got to the hotel and we were the only ones in it and everything was shut down. We burned furniture in garbage cans outside to cook with and melted snow to have drinking water.

Dream travel destination?
Egypt including a cruise on the Nile. I’m pretty sure I was of royal ancestry in a previous life but won’t know for sure until I arrive there some day. Yes, I really mean that. In 8th grade a Social Studies teacher made us do exacting hand drawings of pyramids and other structures. I was hooked then and probably always will be until I get there… or get back, depending on how it all plays out.

Favorite means of transportation?
Cruise ship/liner of course! No matter what happens on land, I always have a nice cozy cruise ship to come back home to at night. The last Non-US hotel I stayed at was in London and I didn’t like it one bit. I was quite a hit in the hotel lobby though asking where I get “more of these pieces of money” referring to the odd bills with strange faces and coins of strange sizes.

Have you ever had an unexpected layover? What did you do?
At Chicago, Midway. I had flown in for a job interview and was scheduled to fly out the same day. When I got there I had the fastest interview in history and that guy was gone. I found out later after lake-effect snow shut everything down why he wanted out so fast. I was stuck there for two days. I pretended I was a traveling talent agent looking for new acts. You’d be surprised the things people will do/sing/play if they think they have a chance to be famous.