How can you visit 8 beautiful Mediterranean cities in 10 days? Well, we embarked on this whirlwind of a trip last September by ship. Specifically the Celebrity Reflection. If you’re looking to see and do a lot in a relatively short period of time, this is the way to go. Our ship left out of Civitavecchia, about an hour from Rome.
Here are some highlights of the ports we were able to enjoy, along with some tips on getting the most out of these Mediterranean ports.
- At this port, we booked a Godfather Tour (Savoca) and trip to Taormina by the Discover Messina tour group. We highly recommend this tour, which took us to several film sites from The Godfather movie as well as the bustling and picturesque town of Taormina where we were free to explore on our own. Here we enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch and lots of shopping.
Tip: Be sure to have comfortable walking shoes, as some parts of the Discover Messina tour do involve uneven paths and steps.
- Two words. Blue Grotto. Some of the most amazing and beautiful blue waters we have ever seen are found in Malta’s Blue Grotto. We took a small boat around the Grotto and even enjoyed a dip in the clear blue waters.
Tip: Save money on a tour and take a short cab ride ride. – I digress here for a moment. So, being frequent travelers to cities like New York, we were incredibly leery of the cabs from the port, who called out to give us a ride. So we spent over an hour trying to find a local bus at one of the local bus stations, which was supposed to be simple. Needless to say, we gave up and negotiated with a very nice driver who was able to get all 8 of us to the Grotto for about 30 Euros. – Once you get there it’s a couple of Euros per person for the boat ride. Getting back to the port was a little different. You can take a cab (which half of us did) or take the Hop On Hop Off bus (which the other half chose to do, as the wait for another cab was going to be a while). A note on the Hop On bus: the ride back is about an hour because it takes you around the island before reaching port.
- What to say about Mykonos… Beautiful whitewashed buildings, so many shops and amazing beaches with crystal clear blue water. While there are many beaches to visit, we chose to spend a day at Psarou, relaxing at the luxurious Nammos resort and enjoying lunch and cocktails by the sea.
- You can reach any of the beaches either by car, which you can rent near the port, or by catching a public bus at the Fabrica bus station (about a 20 minute walk from the port through town). The buses cost around 2-5 Euros per person depending on where you’re going.
Tip: Taxis are nearly impossible to find as there are very few on the island. If you plan to take the bus, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and enjoy the scenic walk through town.
- To reach Psarou Beach by bus, we took the bus labeled Platis Gialos and told the driver we would be getting off at the Psarou stop. Unlike any bus I’ve ever been on, they pack these busses to the max, filling every seat as well as the entire isle. This was quite a hilarious experience, I must say. To avoid missing their stop, anyone in the back had to speak up if they were blocked in when it was their time to get off. As chaotic as it was, it all worked out well and for the price we paid for the ride, it was well worth it.
- For more information on the beaches, this website is a great reference! –> https://www.mykonosbeachesguide.com
- The port at Rhodes is located just a short walk to the beautiful historic old town. We decided to go exploring on our own and just enjoy the medieval cobblestone streets, popping into the shops and admiring the architecture. Being an incredibly warm day, we stopped and enjoyed an ice cold beer, a meal, and a restroom break at Panos. The staff there was very nice and the beer was refreshing, tasty, and huge. Bonus: they had free wifi.
- Arriving in Santorini was quite a unique experience. After the tender to the port, you have take a cable car to reach the town, situated atop cliffs above the port.
Tip: The cable car does have a credit card machine, but they are often “out of order”. Don’t find yourself, as a few of the other travelers did, without cash, and stuck at the top on the way back to the cruise ship. Its a bit of a long trek (I believe one person stated that it took her husband over an hour) down a very uneven pathway.
- Being in such a popular spot for such a short period of time, we really wanted to see as much of the island’s natural beauty, which lead us to join our friends on the Dreamcatcher catamaran tour by Santorini Sailing. http://www.santorinisailing.com/index.php/tours
- Highlights of the tour were swimming in the hot springs of the Red beach and enjoying a delicious greek lunch, cooked fresh on the boat.
- There was so much to in Athens, most namely, the Acropolis. From the port we chose to take a Hop On Hop Off bus. We saved a few bucks working out a price at the port versus booking in advanced.
Tip: If you don’t book your ticket to the Acropolis in advanced (and you have cell service) you can avoid the incredibly long ticket line by purchasing your ticket on your mobile device. The QR code is emailed to you almost immediately and you can get directly in the entrance queue.
- Aside from the Acropolis, we didn’t choose to do much more than wander the streets and grab a bite to eat at one of the many quick service gyro spots in the city.
- If there’s one thing to be stressed about Athens in September, its the temperature. Please be prepared with a hat, SPF and plenty of water!
- “In Napoli, where love is king, when boy meet girl, here’s what they saaaaaay….. when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s AMORE!” We certainly fell in love with Napoli. Well, we fell in love with the Amalfi Coast. For this stop we took a bus tour along the coast and stopped and the towns of Positano and Sorrento, and also the ruins of Pompeii. For a cruise stop, trying to visit all three at once was incredibly rushed. If you can, I would highly advise choosing to visit either the coastal towns of Positano and Sorrento or touring Pompeii. The towns of Positano and Sorrento had so much to offer by way of shops, restaurants, and relaxing by the ocean. But, with only an hour at each spot, we honestly didn’t get to enjoy them much. On the other hand, it gave us a small taste of each town and we were able to experience some incredible views.
- After visiting the towns we arrived in Pompeii – the preserves of ancient city which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. If you choose to visit, I would recommend booking a guided tour. We, unfortunately, did not and ended up spending most of our time there wandering aimlessly and looking for the cadavers. I feel that we would have enjoyed Pompeii much more if we were able to learn a bit about the city and some of the various buildings uncovered by the archeologists.
- As with Athens, I would again highly recommend a hat, SPF and water, as there are very little shaded areas.
Arriving back in Rome
- Just a short bit about Rome. There’s so much to do and see its impossible to sum it up on this post. Here are a few highlights from our trip.
- Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Tickets can be purchased either in advanced or on location. Definitely a must see historical spot to check out when in Rome.
- BEST pizza IMO is Pizza Florida… Not just because we’re from Florida. But, you know how when you’re a kid and you go somewhere and its the best ever in your entire life and you go there as an adult and its total crap? Well, I visited this spot in 2010 with some family on my first trip to Rome and 8 years later this pizza was just as I remember. Absolutely amazing. Crispy but soft crust, melty cheese and tasty toppings. –> https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d1863797-Reviews-Pizza_Florida-Rome_Lazio.html
- If you have the opportunity to visit outside the heart of the city, take a trip over to the neighborhood of Trastevere. A charming and artistic spot with so much character. We really loved our dinner there at the restaurant Pimm’s Good, named after Pimm’s liquor. Dine on delicious modern Italian fare and indulge in one of their craft cocktails.
- No visit to the eternal city is complete without a scoop of gelato. The gelato chain Venchi never failed to disappoint, and their varieties of gelato as well as sorbetto (dairy-free) were incredibly creamy and delightful. My favorites were the chocolate sorbetto varieties.