Although I had not cruised before, as soon as I read the itinerary for Princess Cruises seven-day Mediterranean tour, I was excited. Over one luxurious week, the itinerary visited some of the Mediterranean’s cultural and culinary hotspots, providing ample opportunity to experience many of the delights of the region. From sipping wine amongst the vineyards of Provence to looking out over the ocean from the Rock of Gibraltar, it was an incredibly rich and varied itinerary that I couldn’t wait to see. Certainly, I was not disappointed, and the cruise more than lived up to my expectations.
Day 1: Barcelona
I arrived in Barcelona looking forward to my first experience cruising. As we approached the port, I took in my first view of the spectacular premium cruise ship that would soon be my home on the sea and dropped off my bags.
I was incredibly excited for the opportunity to explore the places we were docking, and also impressed by the range of excursions offered. In each place, there were excursions that allowed you to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and flavours of a place, as well as experience authentic culture. Since guests can pre-book excursions, you can rest easy knowing that it has all been taken care of by the expert team, and simply enjoy your holiday.
After my bags had been safely left at the ship, I headed off to enjoy the dazzling metropolis that is Barcelona. We started with a walking tour of La Rambla, surely one of the busiest and most exciting walkways on earth. After the infectious energy of our tour down Barcelona’s most famous street, we headed on to our first activity of the trip: an authentic Spanish cooking class in a traditional, sunny apartment, led by two friendly ladies who run a cookery school called Foodie Experience Barcelona . Amongst the warm and homely environment, we learnt to make Spanish favourites including Sangria, Bruschetta, Tortillas, Paella and the deliciously sweet Crema Catalana. The experience of learning to cook traditional meals in the cookery school which felt like somebody’s home kitchen was a wonderful and memorable way to begin our travels.
As the day drew to a close and the evening began, we returned to the ship ready for our 10 pm departure.
Day 2: At Sea
Our second day was spent at sea, journeying from Barcelona to Gibraltar. One of my initial concerns about cruising had been how I would find the days upon the ocean, however, I soon learned just how relaxing and enjoyable days at sea are with Princess Cruises. In fact, enjoying the many amazing facilities and activities onboard the ship became some of my favourite memories of the journey. You can read about my experiences on board here.
Day 3: Gibraltar
The following day our premium cruise ship pulled into the harbour at Gibraltar, an island just off of the coast of the Iberian Peninsula, which is a British territory. Owing to its close proximity to Spain paired with its strong links to Britain, the island is a fascinating blend of cultures. The streets are lined with British high street favourites next to stylish Spanish boutiques, and the residents seem to effortlessly switch between English and Spanish, with nearly impeccable accents. It is certainly a unique and fascinating place.
We had the chance to explore Gibraltar’s most famous landmark, the enormous limestone monolith known as the Rock of Gibraltar. The rock has featured in myths and legends for millennia, and climbing to the top of it is a definite must-do. I was somewhat apprehensive as we chose the most difficult hike, which takes two hours in total, however, the spectacular view from the top of the rock makes it all worth it. It was amazing to stand at the highest point and look out over the ocean that separates Europe from Africa. Along the way, there are also other places to explore, including Douglas Lookout and Charles V Wall.
Although I was proud of my efforts to reach the top of the enormous rock, I was very pleased to take the cable car back down to the bottom before we ventured into the main town in Gibraltar to enjoy a meal and wander the picturesque and lively main street. It was a wonderful day before we returned to the ship that evening.
Day 4: At Sea
After our hike the previous day, I must say I was quite looking forward to a rejuvenating day at sea, especially after how delighted I’d been with all of the activities on the first day. I was certainly not disappointed; I started the day with a morning at The Sanctuary, a private and luxurious part of the ship reserved for adult guests, followed by an Exotic Lime-Ginger Salt Glow Massage at the Lotus Spa. The fifty-minute massage was absolutely perfect following the Gibraltar hike, and I left feeling restored and recharged by the wonderful treatment.
In the evening, we dined at the Crown Grill and spent a relaxing night snuggled beneath blankets under the stars, watching a movie as we sailed across the ocean toward our next destination.
Day 5: Marseille/Provence
The following morning, we sailed into the port of Marseille, which is France’s oldest city and a charming place with cobblestone streets and quaint architecture. Following a delicious breakfast, we were ready for our excursion into Provence. Having previously visited and fallen in love with the stunning beauty and incredible charm of the French Riviera region, I was thrilled to return and experience more of all it has to offer. The landscapes in the region are simply stunning, steeped in charm and character but with a distinctly modern and dynamic side as well. It is one of my favourite places and an absolutely delightful holiday destination.
Provence is synonymous with wine tasting and as such my excursion of choice was wine tasting with a vineyard tour. Our first winery Domaine Lou Capelan was near the picturesque and historic village of La Cadière d’Azur, and I appreciated the introduction to the wine-making process before we tasted their red, white and rosé varieties. It was wonderful to sip their award-winning wine while overlooking the natural beauty of the area.
The next winery Domaine de la Garenne Bandol we visited was more famous for their red wine, owing to the climate which is perfect for growing red grapes that are the foundation of full-bodied and delicious red wines.
After enjoying some of their wines, we moved on to lunch at Hostellerie Bérard. I was delighted to visit the restaurant, as the innovative Chef’s approach to honouring traditional methods with modern twists, and focusing on in-season, local produce, earned the restaurant a coveted Michelin star. The menu was indeed incredible and the food was delightful.
As we headed back towards the ship, we made a final stop in at another winery to enjoy some wines from Domaines Bunan , one of the largest producers in Provence. Soaking in the beautiful views and enjoying the delicious varieties of wine produced there, I thought about how amazing the day had been.
Day 6: Genoa
When I first saw Princess Cruises itinerary for this Mediterranean trip, I was particularly excited about the opportunity to visit the Cinque Terre. I am certain that you have seen the stunning photographs of quaint Italian villages perched high atop the cliffs and hills of the coast, their pastel exteriors contrasted against the rich natural landscape on Instagram many times.
There are five villages that make up the Cinque Terre region (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore), and although there are similarities in traditions and appearances, they do each have their own distinct atmosphere. During our tour, we stopped at Manarola and Monterosso al Mare – although many people do try to see all five villages in the day, we didn’t want to rush the experience but instead to savour the sights, sounds and tastes of this amazing place.
As such, we first arrived at Manarola, considered one of the most romantic villages owing to its stunning beauty. Hiking through the village, we reached the top of the cliffs where we were able to take in the breathtaking views of the region. Although it was September, it was very warm in the region the hike was worth the effort.
Next, we headed to Monterosso al Mare, home of the Cinque Terre’s most beautiful beach, our next stop. Like Manarola, the village has many beautiful pastel-coloured homes, and we loved walking around the town. Perhaps the highlight of our stop in Monterosso al Mare was eating lunch at L’Enoteca Internazionale, a wonderful restaurant serving traditional delicacies.
After lunch, we headed towards the beach and then returned to Genoa late afternoon to board our ship ready for our next and last destination.
Day 7: Livorno
On the seventh morning, the ship reached Livorno in Italy, our final port. This signalled that we were nearing the end of our amazing trip on the sea, however, there was still time for an excursion to the charming town of Pisa in the Tuscany region. Most famous for its leaning tower, Pisa, in fact, offers much more than that for visitors, with beautiful architecture and a strong artistic and cultural heritage.
I was able to discover much of the city’s charm and history in a unique and memorable way – by Segway tour! Although I’d never been on one before, it was surprisingly easy to pick up and it was great fun to discover sights including the leaning tower (of course), Campo dei Miracoli and Piazza dei Cavalieri. We also explored the Arno Riverside which was delightful and something that has long been on my travel bucket list!
Finally, I enjoyed a meal of my favourite spaghetti with the group at a charming local restaurant, before we headed off to find some gelato since, of course, you cannot leave Italy without enjoying their amazing gelato! Having found and enjoyed the sweet treat, it was finally the end of an amazing experience with Princess Cruises.
Disclaimer: This post has been created as a part of sponsored collaboration with Princess Cruises, but all opinions are 100% mine.