Our teen contributor tells us her favorite things about popular Mediterranean Sea cruise ports.
When someone says the word "Europe", what do you think of? Do you think of the famous structures such as the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Parthenon, Le Segrada Familia church, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or do you think of the shopping and dining experiences? Either way, it seems as though everybody wants to go to Europe these days. But lately, with the currency exchange between the dollar and the Euro, it's very expensive to travel to Europe and the Mediterranean by land. But by traveling from place to place via cruise ship, you can save a ton of money since you're paying for your lodging and food (both of which are included in your cruise fare) with U.S. dollars. If you travel by land in Europe, you'd be paying in Euros and thus you'd be paying a lot more because of the exchange rate.
The Mediterranean is a great place to travel to because of all of the culture squished into that area. Usually, Mediterranean cruises call at ports in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and sometimes Turkey. If you and your family are considering a Mediterranean cruise be sure to take tours of these exciting places while in port. I know to most teens tours seem boring and educational (and you don't want to have to learn on a vacation!) but many of the tours given through the cruise lines to these ports are interesting because of the history involved in this area.
If your family would like to cruise the Mediterranean but aren't sure which line to choose, there are many options. In the summer of 2008, these lines will be in the Mediterranean: Costa, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, and Celebrity Cruises. All of these lines have kid and teen programs during the summer, but frankly, when cruising the Mediterranean, you're not looking to meet a ton of people because all of the cool things to see.
By now you're probably wondering where exactly Mediterranean cruises go to and what those ports have to offer. The following list includes some of the main Mediterranean ports and what exciting things there are to see.
Barcelona: The Segrada Familia, built by Antonio Gaudi, is an unusual unfinished cathedral with lots of turrets and spirals. It is a very popular tourist attraction because it has a very distinct, almost surreal style.
Villefranche: Villefranche is a small beach town between Monte Carlo and Nice. It has beautiful beaches, cute boutiques and eateries to explore. While in the French Riviera, you should try and get to one of the small medieval towns. St. Paul de Vence is a popular one, surrounded by a wall with narrow streets, spectacular views, little shops, and a lot of history. From Villefranche, you can go on shore excursions to Nice and Cannes (known for the film festival) and also Monaco, home of the rich and famous.
Civitavecchia (Rome): Rome is probably the most famous city in Italy and really lives up to its praise. The Colosseum is a must-see, as well as the Trevi Fountain, and St. Peter's Basilica. Save some time to shop and relax at an outdoor caf� in Piazza Navona.
Livorno (Pisa and Florence): Pisa is a very touristy city because of the Leaning Tower. There are also some churches and many shops to look at. Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance) is a very artsy city. Its many museums hold such famous works as Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and Michelangelo's "David".
Venice: Venice is remotely quiet compared to many other Italian cities. This is because the city is afloat and there are no cars. Venice is a beautiful city but unfortunately is sinking. (So hurry up and get there before it's gone!) Make sure you go on a gondola or water taxi to see parts of the city you can't see on land.
Naples: Naples is the pizza and pasta capital in Italy. It is also the port where you can travel from to reach Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. In Pompeii you can see much of the ancient city frozen in ashes from Mt. Vesuvius eruption ages ago.
Piraeus (Athens): As the capital of Greece, the home to the 2004 Olympics, and a historical site, Athens is a busy, bustling city. Some main attractions are the Acropolis and the Parthenon (as well as other temples) and the Natural Archaeological Museum (for all of you history nerds).
Mykonos: Mykonos is one of the Cyclades islands of Greece and is characterized by bright white sands and sharp cliffs overlooking clear blue waters. Like many Greek islands, Mykonos has the traditional white painted houses with bright blue windows and doors. There are little fishing towns with narrow streets, and small shops and restaurants. Off the coast of Mykonos lies Delos -- a tiny island with a lot of Greek ruins.
Santorini: Santorini is a very hilly town. In order to get to the main town, Fira, you either have to walk up 500 steps, ride a donkey up those 500 steps, or take a cable car. It has many breath-taking views of the sea way below. Santorini, like many other Greek islands, has a very big fishing industry; so if you love fish, make sure you have lunch or dinner on the island.
Although some of these places might seem like a history lesson, trust me, they are history lessons that you will actually stay awake for and enjoy. Adios! Au revoir! Arrivederci! Khairete!