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Travelzoo Experience: Making the Most of a Med Cruise

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

The look in my boyfriend’s eyes -- which had been focused for weeks on practice tests and study materials for the Florida Bar exam -- was enough to put my vacation-planning skills into full gear. As he has never been to Europe, and I longed to brighten the light at the end of his tunnel, I searched specifically for a trip that would allow us to see as many countries in as few days as possible, ultimately opting for a Western Mediterranean cruise.

After a nine-hour stint stocked with romantic comedies, above-average plane food and some sleep, we arrived in Rome.

Take note, when your cruise leaves from "Rome," it’s actually setting sail from Civitavecchia, which is about 75 minutes outside of the city and 90 minutes from the airport. From the airport, you can either take a bus or train to Rome’s Termini station and from there, trains to Civitavecchia run for 6 euros per person. Be sure to sit in one of the first-class cabins, as they are air conditioned and much more comfortable.

Upon arrival, we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas, a mid-sized ship -- fresh off a $50 million makeover -- with some of the largest rooms I’ve ever seen on a cruise. Simple yet stocked with all of the traditional amenities of a ship, we frequented the Solarium, the adults-only pool area, feasted on the eclectic offerings of the main dining room (which were delicious and much better than reviews suggest), and marveled at the acrobatic aerial shows which took place in the ship’s “centrum” area.

The first stop of our itinerary was in Genoa, Italy, along the Italian Riviera. Although Genoa certainly has its perks (former home of Christopher Columbus and the birthplace of pesto), it’s more of a gateway to other nearby gems like Cinque Terre, Nice, Portofino Bay or Santa Margherita. Opting for the most beautiful nearby destination, we journeyed to Santa Margherita. Here, dozens of multi-colored pastel buildings are complemented by sidewalk cafes, tied together by pebbled beaches and warm waves of sea (all for a whopping 3 euros by train, roundtrip).

In the following days, our ship delivered us to the south of France and then to Barcelona, where the hop-on hop-off bus tour swept us from the famed restaurant-lined Las Ramblas street to Gaudi’s ornate Sagrada Familia, the garden community of Parc Guell with sweeping city views, the 1992 Olympic stadium and back again.

Preceded by two days of busy exploration, we were relieved to dock in Palma de Mallorca, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Although we originally intended to make way to Cala Mayor Beach -- the closest to the center of Palma -- a local recommendation led us 15 minutes further to Illetas Beach. Soft, golden sands greeted our tired feet, joined by endless layers of crystal-blue sea.

After a final stop in Valencia, the birthplace of paella, our cruise came to a close … and while the ship may have sailed, the memories will certainly stay afloat for many decades to come.

How to get to where you want to be:

  • Genoa, Italy: Walk directly across the street to the station, which is marked “F.S.” From there, trains are available to almost all destinations along the Riviera for a nominal price -- to Santa Margherita, we paid 3 euros roundtrip.
  • Marseille, France: If you’re able-bodied and willing, walk about half a mile to the bus stop, which is right at the end of the port. The bus is about 2 euros and stops directly in the center of the city.
  • Barcelona, Spain: While the port is actually well-located, a sloped ramp and highway separates the ships from the sights; a shuttle or taxi is much more convenient than walking and worth the splurge here.
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Exit the ship and walk to your left. There will be a small hill with a mall on your right. Directly in front of you there will be bus 3, which stops by all of the beaches. While Cala de Mayor is closest, spend an extra 15 minutes on the bus to the last stop, which is Illetas. There are two stunning beaches there.
  • Valencia, Spain: Ship shuttles are helpful here, as the port is about 30 minutes from the downtown area of the city. Once downtown, you can easily walk to all sights on your own.

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Deal Expert, Miami
Friday, September 13, 2013
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Allison Kobasky