Mediterranean Cruise and more

I did a Carnival Vista cruise with 9 of my friends (whew-planning was rough). But it was amazing!! It started in Barcelona and ended in Athens. A few of us went to Barcelona a few days early to explore and also extended our trip to an extra few days in Athens and a 4 day trip to Santorini. Although the cruise and flights were booked, the excursions still needed to be planned. I found that even though Carnival had an extensive number of excursions you can book through them that Viator (the beginning of my love affair with this site) had more options, more inclusive options, and cheaper ones. I found that the more people you added to the tour the cheaper it got. So with ten of us it was great, and most of the time we had completely private tours!!

Barcelona: So, we had an AirBnB in the Gothic area for two nights, but because of lovely Delta issues on our flight we spent that first night in Atlanta instead of Barcelona. Yay….Anyway, so we had to cram two days of exploring into one. So hop-on-hop-off bus was our best option to see as much as possible. We got to see the La Sagrada Familia (from the outside–the line to get in was hours long), the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, Barcelona Cathedral, and the Magic Fountain. We had an amazing lunch at the Boqueria Market. To finish the day off we had a tapa and wine tour with Devour Barcelona. This was definitely the highlight! Our guide was amazing and so knowledgeable, and the food and wine was amazing. So many things that we wouldn’t have thought to try….and the wine didn’t hurt! The next day was off to the port for the cruise.

Above Barcelona, Park Guell

The ship itself was great; brand new with so many different food and entertainment options. So we ate and explored!

Skyride on the Ship (not my photo)

The first stop we had was Marseille. We did a viator tour to see Marseille and the top of Cassis. In Marseille they took us to the Notre-Dame de la Garde (Marseille Cathedral) which was beautiful and we were on top of the city. We took the scenic drive to Cassis and walked up to the top of the cliff, also beautiful. The tour dropped us off at the French Riveria where we had lunch and then a boat ride before we went back to the ship.

Marseille Port

The next port was Livorno where we did a private viator tour to see Pisa, Tuscany, and Florence . It was a packed day!! It started off with Pisa and taking the typical touristy leaning tower of Pisa photos and we had about an hour to wander. There wasn’t all that much to see in the town, but it was cute. Then it was off to Tuscany for a private wine tasting and winery tour. It was cool, inside caves and underground and the rolling hills were breathtaking. Oh, and the wine was good! After that it was to Florence where our guide gave us a walking tour followed by a few hours of free time. We got to see the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (aka the Duomo) up close and then again from above on our way out of town, the Basilica di Santa Croce (beautiful but VERY crowded), Giotto’s Bell Tower, Ponte Vecchio (famous bridge), statues and art in every piazzale, authentic pizza, amazing gelato, and so many other beautiful buildings I probably can’t name. This day was a blur and we were beat!

Typical Tourist Photo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Tuscany Winery

Florence; Basilica of Santa Croce

If we thought we were tired after this day, we made a new term of “ Rome tired” after the following day. Once again a private tour including the Vatican (with a skip the line pass—in 110 F weather please do this, it’s worth it), the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum (also skip the line pass), the Parthenon, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, Alter of the Fatherland, Basilicia di San Giovanni , St. Angelo Bridge, Arch of Constantine, and much more. Of course more pizza, pasta, and gelato was to be had.

The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine
The Vatican Museum
The Trevi Fountain

The next port (Naples) I think was my favorite. Once again another private tour from Viator (probably the best guide we had the whole trip) where we toured through Sorrento, Postiano, more of the Amalfi Coast (including a boat ride), and finally Pompeii. This was one of the prettiest places I have been to! We stopped along the coast at La Conca Azzurra for lunch. Delicious food, and what a view!! Pompeii was cool, but after seeing the coast we just immediately wanted to be back in Amalfi. I should also point out that this van trip was very windy through the mountains so if you have motion sickness, take something first!

Amalfi Coast

The next stop was Crete, Greece. It was a cool city with a lot of history. Beautiful water views along the water and a fun, but short stop.

Then Rhodes, Greece. This is an easy one to explore by taxi or foot, but get to the beach. It’s unbelievably gorgeous colors.

Rhodes

Our last port on the ship was Athens. We decided on a hop-on-hop-off tour for this one so everyone could have some freedom to do what they wanted. We started off by getting tickets to do the Parthenon which was pretty awesome to see, then rode on the bus for a bit, getting off to see the Acropolis, the temple of Zeus, the theater of Dionysus, ran a “race” in the Panathenaic Stadium (the first Olympic stadium), and much more. Athens was great (but very hot)!!

The Parthenon

After Athens we said goodbye to some of our friends and then took the “high speed” jet to Santorini. The jet wasn’t actually high speed because of rough waters. It was actually a long, rough ride and many people were sick on the ship. So, that wasn’t pleasant…next time I would take a plane. But Santorini was unbelievable! We loved every minute of it. Blue skies, blue waters, cliffs, and the caldera. The blue and white buildings were breathtaking! We did a catamaran ride, saw the red beach, and stayed in an AirBnB that was a rock built into a mountain and everything I dreamed of. See pictures below:

View from our AirBnB patio