One of the highlights of this year’s travel-packed summer, was our 10 year anniversary trip to the Mediterranean.
Last August, when my husband and I realized that our anniversary was rapidly approaching, he told me we had better book something to make good on his promise of both of us heading to Europe for the big 10 year celebration.
Researching and Planning
Naturally, I’m the researcher, and planner in our family. I enjoy the process, and the knowledge. However, I had no idea how exhaustive all the work would be for a trip to Europe, having never, ever been there. It was like having a second job. Not kidding.
How did we decide on Carnival, for a second cruise? New ship. I ran through a variety of cruise lines online, to search for who had a new ship heading to Europe. I’m one of those that is utterly entranced by the videos of the new ships, my girls are too. We make my husband laugh when we all congregate around my mac to watch them.
Once I decided on the ship, I checked out prices. I had to weigh paying a bit more for a brand new ship, versus an older one.
We booked about 10 months in advance. It’s always a great idea to book as far in advance as possible. Usually, you pay an upfront deposit for each member of your party, and the balance is due on, or before the last payment date, usually about three months before the sail date.
With our last cruise, even though we booked in advance, circumstances didn’t allow us to see the price dip lower than our purchase price. This time around the price dipped twice before our trip, so we were able to receive some onboard credit (OBC) before we stepped onto the ship.
No one from the cruise line will tell you about the price drops. You have to check frequently, and then fill out the necessary forms online to submit for the credit. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
The OBCs help, as sometimes people forget that the tips to the fabulous room stewards, and dining staff are on top of the cruise price. Those tips are vital, as the kind people on-board work tirelessly, for very little. In addition there are specialty restaurants, ship excursions, drinks, photos, and other incidentals that might require spending, and you can apply your OBCs to those.
This time around we booked two ocean view rooms. It helped on price, and while we could fit in one room, after our last cruise, we decided for us, it was worth it to have a bit more space.
I will admit, I was worried about the ocean view, as I love opening the balcony door, to enjoy the ocean breeze.
Once we were booked, I started learning about the ports. Below are nine tips for the research stage.
- Explored the ports/excursions on the Carnival site.
- Contacted friends that had been to the various cities for advice, and not to miss spots.
- Visited Cruise Critic pages, the excursion cities, and the roll call for our cruise.
- Researched tour companies on Trip Advisor.
- Bought Rick Steves’ Mediterranean Cruise Ports e-book, and borrowed his DVD specials from Netflix, on the regions we were visiting.
- Found and DVR’d Samantha Brown’s trip to Marseille.
- Joined a Facebook page a fellow cruiser on our date of sailing created.
- Used Wikipedia to educate the girls on where were were going
- Visited the websites for the sites we were visiting to purchase tickets, see pictures, and share the planning with our daughters.
The Rick Steves’ book was a definite must read, and solid reference as I planned.
The itinerary for our 12 day Mediterranean cruise on the Carnival Breeze was:
- June 15 – Embark from Barcelona, Spain
- 16 – Marseille, France
- 17 – Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
- 18 – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
- 19 – Sorrento (Pompeii, Amalfi), Italy
- 20 – Sea Day
- 21- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 22 – Venice, Italy
- 23 – Sea Day
- 24 – Sicily (Messina), Italy
- 25 – Sea Day
- 26 – Palma De Mallorca, Spain
- 27 – Disembark Barcelona, Spain
I knew, from talking to friends that Barcelona was a must see city. After reading Shadow of the Wind the year before, I was also curious about spending some time in the city. It worked better for us, and for the jet lag, to spend a couple days in Barcelona before the cruise. I’m really glad we did that, because we were able to explore and enjoy a gorgeous city at our own pace.
We left San Francisco on June 12 with a stop at JFK in New York. We arrived in Barcelona on June 13th, giving us almost two days to enjoy the city.
I want to talk more about the ports we visited, but that will have to wait for another next post.
I didn’t start worrying about purchasing Euros, until about three months before the trip. I used the XE Currency iPhone app to constantly check the exchange rate. I also listened avidly to economic issues driving the kids to, and from school on NPR. In the end I realized that the banks over charge what the rate is on the app, it was lower than months before, but it’s still frustrating to see the lower value of the dollar.
While all the advanced planning of this trip became a thorn in my side, it was worth it. Preparation helps make any trip more relaxing.
In my next cruise post, I’ll share about the packing, and tips for traveling overseas.
ps. I am
not being compensated in anyway to post about cruising. I like
information, and am sharing information that I would want, if I were
considering a Mediterranean cruise.
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Italy: Pisa and Florence
Italy: Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Positano, Trattoria La Tagliata