Greetings from Scotland! I am currently in Edinburgh having spent the past two weeks vacationing in Spain and Portugal, and later this week I will be embarking on my first of two European cruises this summer. I’ll be live blogging my experiences to share with you all here, offering recaps and ideas of what it’s like to cruise Europe!
After 7 cruises to the Caribbean, 1 to Alaska and 1 to Baja California, it was time to cross the pond to experience all that a European cruise has to offer. Of all the cruises I have taken so far, I was looking forward to these two cruises the most. Although I have been to Europe several times before, I have never experienced a European cruise and I am delighted to visit several cities and countries in just one week that I might never have visited otherwise .
Cruise 1: Hymn of the Seas
The first cruise I will be sailing on is a 7 night cruise to Spain and France on Anthem of the Seas. During the week, this cruise will take me to the following ports:
- La Rochelle (Bordeaux), France
- Bilbao, Spain
- La Coruña, Spain
- Le Havre (Paris), France
This cruise is a round trip departing from Southampton, England.
These ports are located in northern Spain and France, so the culture and lifestyle will be very different from what you might encounter in ports like Valencia, Nice and Palermo. Although I have visited southern Spain before, I have never been to France or northern Spain. Therefore, every day should bring new experiences and cultural perspectives to discover.
My friend Samantha will be joining me on Anthem of the Seas! We’ve been friends since year 5 but have barely seen each other since she moved to England in 2018, so I’m delighted to have a well-deserved reunion during a trip to Spain and France.
Why I chose this cruise
Whenever I visit Europe, I tend to travel to Italy. Although I love visiting Italy because I can learn more about my heritage, practice Italian, visit my Italian family and eat unusual food, I thought it was time to give it a try something new.
My cruise on Anthem of the Seas will visit less common cruise ports in Europe. Although I’ve heard a lot about popular ports like Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Marseille, I don’t know much about the ports I’ll be visiting on my Anthem of the Seas cruise.
Also, Northern Nevada, where I live, has some Basque influence, with several restaurants, festivals, bars, and museums dedicated to Basque history and culture. I’m excited to learn more about the Basque country during my visit to Bilbao.
My projects at the port
I have not booked any excursions nor do I plan to for this cruise. I generally prefer to explore on my own, especially in Europe where most cities tend to be walkable and offer plenty to see without the need for a tour guide.
Also, Samantha and I are very happy to just take a walk, hang out by the water and sample the local food and wine in our free time, so there was no need to spend extra on excursions. !
The last day of our cruise is visiting Le Havre, France, otherwise known as the “Paris” cruise port. I find that a bit of a misleading title as Paris is about 2.5 hours from Le Havre, but that’s quite common for cruises to Europe.
Although I’ve never been to Paris before, I don’t think a few hours will do the city justice, so I’m not planning on traveling to the city. Instead, I’m just planning to visit later when I can dedicate several days to exploring Paris.
Instead of Paris, my current idea is to visit the small town of Honfleur located about 30 minutes from the port of Le Havre. It looks like a quaint little port town that should make for a relaxing day where I can spend more time exploring rather than sitting in a bus for many hours.
My projects on board
I haven’t sailed on a Quantum class ship in a while, so I’m excited to step aboard Anthem of the Seas.
I would really love to do the North Star at some point on the cruise as well as RipCord by iFLY. Since these activities are only offered on Quantum Class ships, it’s definitely worth trying them on every Quantum Class ship!
I also have plans for my first spa treatment aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise and a delicious lunch at my favorite specialty restaurant, Jamie’s Italian. Also, I can’t wait to see the Anthem show on Broadway, We Will Rock You.
Outside of these activities, I plan to spend quite a bit of time in the Two70 Room, which is one of my favorite places to sit and relax on any Royal Caribbean ship.
Cruise 2: Rhapsody of the Seas
My second cruise is on one of Royal Caribbean’s smaller cruise ships, the Rhapsody of the Seas. Departing from Athens, Greece and ending in Ravenna, Italy, Rhapsody of the Seas will visit the following ports on our 7-night cruise:
- Mykonos, Greece
- Chania, Crete (Greece)
- Zante, Greece
- Kotor, Montenegro
- Split, Croatia
My sister Lauren and my brother Dominic will be joining me on Rhapsody of the Seas. Lauren and I have been talking about visiting Greece together for years, and we finally get the chance to island hopping the country together!
Why I chose this cruise
My top priority for a Europe cruise was to book a port-intensive itinerary so I could experience as much as possible in a single week. Although I don’t mind days at sea, if I’m traveling to Europe I’d rather visit as many ports as possible than spend multiple days at sea. With five days in port and one day at sea, this cruise should offer exactly what I’m looking for.
I was also interested in visiting not only Greece but also other countries. Being able to visit Greece, Montenegro and Croatia and the end of the Italy cruise was simply too amazing an itinerary to pass up!
I am also very interested in visiting Croatia. My childhood best friend was Croatian, so I spent a lot of time listening to Croatian at her house and learning about Croatian culture. So excited to finally see the country in person!
I also wanted to end the cruise in Italy to allow for a few nice days of travel in the country before returning to the United States.
My projects at the port
Like my cruise on Anthem of the Seas, I have no plans ashore and have not booked any shore excursions. From what I’ve read, most of the ports we visit should be easy to explore on foot. We are also open to taking taxis to beaches or wineries, but will likely make decisions on the fly.
I am very happy to visit Kotor, Montenegro. The harbor is absolutely stunning and it’s a country I never thought I would visit before. Sailing into the harbor should provide fantastic views of the ‘fjord’, and I’m hoping to take a short hike while in the harbor to see the city from above.
Read more: 15 Countries You Didn’t Know You Could Sail On Royal Caribbean
I expect Mykonos to be the busiest port for tourists, both cruise ships and land travel. I will have to do some research to see which areas to avoid on the island, as it is one of the most visited islands in Greece.
Lauren, Dominic and I are big foodies when we travel in Europe, so trying the local cuisine and pastries will definitely be on the table.
After the cruise, we will spend three nights in Italy before flying back to the United States.
My plans on board
As this is my first cruise on a Vision class ship, I don’t know what to expect! While there may be fewer activities and amenities on board than on larger Royal Caribbean ships, I’m excited about the laid-back atmosphere I expect to find on board.
We don’t plan to dine at any specialty restaurants, so we will dine in the main dining room or the Windjammer. Instead of spending money on specialty restaurants or an onboard dining package, we plan to enjoy a nice sit-down lunch every day in port.
I expect we’ll spend most of the time on board tired from long days in port, so we’ll probably hang out in a bar or lounge, listen to music or play cards to pass the time.
I look forward to sharing my experience on Anthem of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas with you all over the next few weeks! We will also be creating full tours of both ships for the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube channel.