Monday, October 22, 2012

10 Money Saving Tips for Mediterranean Cruise Ports

without price: sunrise  over Bonifacio,Corsica (photo by Mike Pierce)

a toast to readers  around the world.  Please leave a comment at the end 

One of the things I liked best about giving  enrichment talks  on cruise ships over these past 6 years was  seeing how just a few tips and words of advice added to the experience and enjoyment of  fellow passengers.  

Fulvio sharing Italian recipes with  Maron  
  After living in Italy for  half a century researching, teaching, writing and  publishing books, I have a lot of stories to tell  and information to share. 
Spreading the knowledge and my passion for Italy with fellow passengers made each journey more worthwhile.

I will be happy to respond to enquiries about the ports and cities visited during these maritime adventures throughout the winter. Just email me  at macryan at alice dot com.

Here are my personal money saving tips for ports of  the Western Mediterranean, beginning with Rome Civitavecchia where I am based.  

  My website and books are  filled with  detailed insider  information on this area 

 1.    Civitavecchia/Rome- One of the best bargains in Italy is the  BIRG (biglietto integrato regionale giornaliero) ticket  which gives  full transport to/from Rome  for the entire day:  the 12 euro price includes  round trip (return) train for Rome  plus the entire  day on Rome’s  buses and  metro system. 

fun shopping at Civitavecchia market 
   My talk on this area explains  “The Mysterious Etruscans” and the area around Tarquinia. More  about the area  here . To find other info on the area, just type Civitavecchia into the search box. 
Jan 01, 2012
Since two Bonaparte islands were on  the  most recent  itinerary  aboard  a luxury cruise ship, I presented  a talk based on  original research  “Elba, Corsica and the  amazing Bonapartes  “ which gave   insight on Napoleon as well as  his many siblings  who ruled  in  central Italy. Elba’s green hills, Napoleon’s summer villa, Porto Azzurro and Portoferraio were  lovely. I was surprised  to learn that this latter town’s  original name was  Cosmopolis after  Cosimo dei Medici.

great drivers, both named Claudio with Fulvio and guide Dorothee
     2. Portoferraio, Elba  offers a lively  center with  good restaurants, shopping and  a tiny tourist train  (only 5 euro ) for an overview of the town.
 proud cooks  -both named Chris 

a guest, the train conductor, and Fulvio on Elba
3. Sorrento- get a full view of the town on the little white train, which plays Neapolitan music interspersed with  tourist information. Several  bars on Corso Italia  offer free internet  if you  stop for a drink or sandwich.  
 To try and  buy: limoncello and  gelato on Via San Cesareo.  Passengers  who attended  my talks on the area  (Sorrentine peninsula, Capri’s gardens and the rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii) were able to get a good background to the many possible sites to visit.  

    4.   Genova- It’s easy to reach the historic center (Piazza Fontane Marose or  Piazza de’ Ferrari) by public bus from the newly spruced up Cruise Terminal. Buy a 1.50 ticket from the Tabacchi shop  inside the terminal and  head straight out to the bus stop.   The three palace museums (Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi) on  Via Garibaldi offer a  cumulative ticket to see Genova’s magnificence in art, antiques and architecture. If you only have  a few hours, stay close to the Terminal and  visit the new museums and Aquarium.

The Sicilian ports of Palermo and Messina are rarely mentioned.  Do  a bit of homework  first in order  to appreciate  the multi layers of Sicily’s past. The introductory  talk I usually give about the island ,  “Sicily- a Triangle of  Treasures” , narrates  the  history, culture, cuisine and  important historical characters.

       5.  Messina-Ships  dock  in a central location close to   the main church ( Duomo). Be there at  noon for  the  musical show provided the  giant  animated clock. If you are lucky  you might see  these dancers too. The tourist  train leaves from this spot so grab  a few cannoli  at the nearby pasticceria and enjoy  an overview of the town.   Free internet and wi fi at cafes and bars near the dock.

Roberto Chemi  makes Taormina's best cannoli 
6.  Taormina-  ships tender at  Giardini Naxos and  shuttle buses are generally provided   to bring visitors  up  winding  hillside  to Taormina’s spectacular setting. Some cruise passengers wait for this port to indulge in jewellery purchases for the main street is lined with glamorous artisans workshops. Don’t be afraid to explore  the tiny streets leading down to marvelous public gardens, the spectacular Roman-Greek theatre, and if you are lucky, you will find Roberto Chemi’s pastry laboratorio where he and his son create  the town’s best  cannoli, adding the creamy ricotta filling while you wait.   We always bring home several boxes of his  almond pastries (pasta di mandorla)  which make perfect gifts.

    7.  Livorno-At the  tourist office  just off Via Grande you can book  great tours, including a   canal boat  tour  of historic  Livorno with multi lingual  guides. 

     8.   Napoli – Most important sites  are within walking distance from the port including the Royal Palace while the Archeological Museum is a 20 minute uphill walk. Be sure to indulge in a  pizza and keep an eye on your belongings.
a gypsy wedding seen  on Palma 

Beyond the Italian peninsula and islands many  other Mediterranean ports beckon. If you visit Nice remember that before  1860  it was the Italian port of  Nizza .   

At Nice  we anchored in the old port, just under  the  citadel hill and near Garibaldi’s  birthplace. My talk,  “Nice, a French town with an Italian accent” was about  the historical Italian connections, and proved  true even today   for  many Italians  still make their homes here. Don’t miss the antiques  area between the port and Rue Segurane, Gautier and  Piazza Garibaldi.

       9.  Nice boasts  a tourist train  as well as hop on/ hop off bus tours through the old town and  newer sections.
Nice,  bouquets at the flower market 

     Lovely areas to visit include the  flower and food markets on Cours Saleya and the winding  alleyways of the old town. Best views are from the Citadel/Chateau  which can be reached by elevator.

 Italian guys  posing at Galerie G.R.,rue C. Segurane, Nice
Giuseppe Garibaldi's birthplace, Nice, old port
Before arriving  in   Barcelona I gave some background of  the city’s  architecture ”From Gothic to Gaudì and beyond” .  Don’t miss  Gaudi’s   Casa Mila ( better known as La Pedrera) and the unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia , Barcelona 
on the rooftop  of La Pedrera, Barcelona 
10. Barcelona –two different  hop on/ hop off buses leave from the cruise terminal (World Trade Center). They are great value  if you buy the ticket early in the day and do both the eastern and western sides of the city.    Costs 20 euro or 18  euro with senior discount.

Please leave a  comment and  subscribe  by leaving your email down  at the bottom of this page. Feel free to  share with friends  by email and  on Facebook, especially those about to take a Mediterranean cruise.  You might like this website which has loads more insider tips.  

Check my website  for more info  and to order a copy of my book on the area.


  1. you mention:
    1. BIRG (biglietto integrato regionale giornaliero) ticket which gives full transport to/from Rome for the entire day: the 12 euro price includes round trip (return) train for Rome plus the entire day on Rome’s buses and metro system.
    Is this only for the bus?
    any option to take the train and then a bus in rome?

    1. Lee the BIRG is valid for all trains, buses and subways in the region Lazio.
      This is a good deal if you are taking a regional train to Rome (from Civitavecchia, Viterbo, Orte, Tarquinia or any of other city in Lazio). You can also take any public bus in Rome (the company is called ATC) or around Lazio (COTRAL) and the subway. If you are planning on only taking the bus or the subway in Rome, get the 6euro bit, which offers unlimited bus and subway rides throughout the city for the day.
      Tickets are sold in many Tabacchi (tobacconist shops), Edicole (newspaper stands), bus terminals and subway stations.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Does the B.I.R.G. include the train from the Rome Airport to the Roma Termini ? We are debating taking the train or Terravision bus from the airport to Roma Termini. Any suggestions?

  3. Who would not want to experience a Mediterranean cruise? With these tips, anybody can save up for their plans on having a cruise holiday.

  4. Mediterranean cruises are one of the best way to travel in today’s age. They offer so much for the people on board the ship. It is like its on little paradise while traveling the seas. Mediterranean cruises offer the most extraordinary scenery available.

  5. Azamara Cruises makes sure you have the best experience ever on your cruise vacation.