Travel Mom Stephanie from Consistently Curious returns to the podcast to tell us all about her family’s incredible summer and celebration vacation, a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise with her husband and 6-year-old daughter.
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Tell Us About Your Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise
This year my husband surprised me with a 40th birthday trip, a Mediterranean Cruise. Celebrating that milestone there with my family was incredible. We took our daughter, and it was her first trip to Europe.
We went on Royal Caribbean. This was our first time on Royal Caribbean, and we hopped aboard the Enchantment of the Seas. Many people flock to that ship, even though it’s older because it has a unique story. It was literally cut in half and made longer in 2005. They added 77 feet to the ship. They keep it in pristine condition, it’s almost like an antique car. The staff is phenomenal. My daughter cried when we left because the waitstaff became my little family, and they just adored her.
We started our adventure in Venice and ended in Barcelona.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Venice, Italy
We arrived early in Venice before the cruise so we could spend two days before the cruise.
We stayed at the Hilton in Venice, which I cannot recommend enough. They have an incredible rooftop pool and bar that has one of the best overlooks of the Grand Canal. And they offer complimentary transportation to key destinations across the canal, like St. Mark’s Square, so you don’t have to worry about navigating the transportation system.
Venice transportation is quite busy, especially from the airport, because you can’t take a car to your hotel. So you can take a private boat or wait to take the Vaporetto boat, which is like their bus and makes lots of stops. Private is the way to go. We did that to our hotel; while it’s more money, it’s 100 percent worth it. You feel like a movie star as they drop you right off at your hotel.
We had to hit the Aperol Spritz windows because Aperol Spritz is one of my favorite drinks.
And we did the gondola ride. I recommend doing it in the evening, which is magical with the sun setting and cooler.
Travel Tip: If you are cruising out of Venice, your cruise port might not be in Venice proper. You might have to go down to Ravenna which is about a three-hour drive. So we had to plan accordingly because if you are. You can fly in for your cruise departure and see Venice all in one day.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Kloper, Slovenia
Our first stop was really fun. I have never been to Slovenia, which is home to Europe’s largest caves, Postojna Caves. It was one of the best excursions you could do with kids. The caves are so big. You take a train in, and then they take you into where you stop, and then you have an hour-long walking tour to see these incredible cathedral caverns that are just remarkable. As always with caves, make sure you bring jackets because even though it’s 95 degrees in the European sun, it’s still like 56 inside the cave. So, pack accordingly for that.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Naples, Italy
This is where you can see Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius. We prepped our daughter by getting books from the library. It’s such a great resource for your kids before going to Europe. They have so many digestible books for them. You don’t have to go into great detail, but it’s enough to spark their interest.
Sophie was just really intrigued about Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. And while we’re there, she’s remembering pictures from the books. Mom, remember that we saw that in the book.
It was an oven while we were there.
Travel Tip: When going to Europe in the summer, bring a sun umbrella because there’s no shade in some places. We brought a portable fan and a refillable water bottle. Those saved our lives when we were out there. Unfortunately, I had a heat stroke on the streets in downtown Naples.
Travel Tip: Bring your passports in case you must go to the hospital. My passport was on the boat, but I convinced the medics to take me to the boat to see the medic. Everyone around was so helpful.
Travel Tip: Drink water, drink water. Stay cool, don’t overdo it. Just because you’re there, don’t overdo it. It’s so tempting to want to see everything. And that’s the trap we fell into as we did Pompeii in that extreme heat, but then we still wanted to go into downtown Naples.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Rome, Italy
From Naples, we cruised on to Rome, where we did the hop on hop off bus tour. It’s really good in Rome, especially with kids in tow because the bus is air-conditioned to some degree and it keeps you from having to walk from spot to spot. We saw the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, all the big ones, and we lived off gelato.
But you can never see it in one day. And you better hope you throw that penny in the Trevi Fountain so you can come back to Rome.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Florence, Italy
We went to Florence, which is one of my favorite spots. We paired it with Pisa. So it was like one of those days where we did a lot, but Pisa was only an hour, and we spent most of our day in Florence.
Florence is like an outdoor museum you can just walk around. My daughter got a lot of books on Greek mythology. When we were in Piazza della Signoria, she saw the replicas and could recognize Poseidon and the head of Medusa. We did perfume smelling, which was really fun. She loved that.
And our tour guide told us about the wine windows, known as buchette del vino, that are so fun and open again. It is such a fascinating fact as they were used during the plague, and they used them again during COVID. That’s how you got your wine and stuff. You would come to the wine window, and they’d hand it to you. , hundreds of years later, it’s being reused, and now they’re open again for touristy, fun.
And one of the best things we did in Florence was lunch at Osteria Pastella. Make a reservation for it. And get the Cacio e Pepe!
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Cannes, France
We moved on to Cannes, France. The French Riviera is gorgeous. Sadly, our cruise ship was only in port for four hours. So we only had time enough to walk around the city a little, go to see one of the castles, and grab a baguette and some croissants.
Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise: Barcelona, Spain
We ended in Barcelona and we stayed at the Renaissance in the heart of Barcelona, which was wonderful. They did a phenomenal job. They have a great rooftop restaurant that overlooks the Sagrada Familia.
In Barcelona, we also did the hop-on hop-off bus tour, which was great, and you get a headset that tells you about everything. So we did the Sagrada Familia, Palau Güel, and the Casa Mila tour.
And that was my husband’s favorite. And my daughter loved having the headsets to tour, going through things, and hearing it herself. Had I known, I probably would have done more museums with her.
My husband loves Barcelona. He loves going out for tapas. He’s the foodie, which is why we pair so well. I plan all the activities. He plans the food.
This brings me to one of my favorite things we did…lunch at Gio’s in the St. Regis Hotel in Venice. It overlooks the Grand Canal. Make a reservation. We were there for three hours. You’re just watching the boats go up and down the canal, having incredible Italian food. So that was one of my highlights of the trip by far. Venice was probably my favorite if I had to be honest. I just love that gondola ride. I really enjoyed Pompeii a lot. It’s just the history behind it is so cool, and they’re still unearthing it, and only two-thirds is uncovered. And having a tour guide is very helpful as they can bring a whole site to life and make and truly make your experience.
Sophie loved it so much of the trip. She loved Pompeii and getting the pizza in Naples that was folded over. She thought that was fascinating, that it was just something they did there. It’s funny as the weeks pass, she’ll talk about other things, like all of a sudden, she remembers we threw the coin in the Trevi Fountain. “So now I have to go back to Rome, Mom. That’s one of my favorites, Mom.”
She talks about the architecture in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia. She said, “Mom, I’ve never seen a church like that in my life.” I said, “I don’t think there is one anywhere else like that.” She said, “Wow, it looks like it had fruit on it. I’m going to call it the fruit church.”
More European Cruise Tips
Distance of Ports to the Cities: A lot of the ports of call with a European cruise are about an hour and a half drive to get into the city from the port. So you need to factor that into planning.
I like to call the European cruise a taste of Europe. You can see where you want to go back to visit as you don’t have a ton of time in each destination.
Great with Kids: With kids, the short visits make it digestible. You only have to unpack once. You’re on the ship, and then you get to have someone take you to each location. And I knew the cruise ship would have food she would eat like if she wanted chicken nuggets. They have air conditioning, which some places you may stay in Europe don’t have.
They have Kids’ Clubs with activities. So, even if she was not thrilled with what we did on shore, we could come back to the ship for something fun, like hopping in the pool.
Lots of Walking: As I knew we would be walking a lot, one thing we did to prepare was to start doing daily walks, which was good for all of us.
Wear gym shoes or a good pair of walking shoes, even in the heat, even for kids. You have uneven pavement. And Pompeii was dirt roads, and different places are still gravel and dusty, and you just have that extra traction.
Sophie was a champ, especially with the heat. We didn’t bring a stroller, which I debated, but I was worried about using one on the European streets. So she walked it all, and I was proud of her. We took frequent breaks, too. And she got rewarded with gelato a lot.
Next Vacation You’re Planning
We have tons of local adventures, of course. But then we are surprising Sophie, our daughter, with a Disney cruise in November. We’re going to a bunch of new islands in the southern Caribbean that we have never been to, like Saint Kitts, Antigua, and Aruba.