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Surviving a Port Intensive Cruise Advice Please


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For Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is an absolute "must do". I don't care about your religious affiliation, it's one of the most spiritual spaces I have ever entered. Venice is an amazing city. If you are planning to spend any time there, get a vaporetto (water bus) pass for the time you will be there. If you don't have much time there, use the ship shuttle to St. Marks Square and just wander. Or, take the people mover to Piazzale Roma and wander from there.


Since you have tours planned for some ports, save your energy for those days. For the rest, don't feel bad if you decide that you don't feel like doing too much in a particular port. This is a vacation, time to relax. If you skip something this time, it's just an excuse to come back again!

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One of the things I told DH is that as soon as we are both retired, we must fit in these types of cruises while we still have the stamina to handle it:). I have done port extensive cruises, but so far none more than 10 days and not this one. They can be so much fun - but also very tiring. I think the important thing to do is decide what matters to you on this cruise. I have taken cruises where just relaxing and chilling out were priorities. On other cruises, I couldn't wait to see all the sights. It sounds like for you, seeing the various ports is very important to you. If that is the case, resolve to make everything else onboard secondary to that goal, and give yourself permission to prioritize your activities with that in mind.


You have received some excellent advice so far - I am not sure I have more to add but I will second a number of the suggestions. First and foremost - you cannot do it all so please don't try. I am trying to teach myself this lesson for an upcoming driving trip along the California coast and it is truly driving me nuts that there is so much I will not be able to see. But it is so important to remember to live in the moment and enjoy what you are able to do, rather than pushing yourself to cram in as much as you can do. You will only end up exhausted.


I also believe that trying to plan out your meals too much is to your disadvantage rather than helpful. Pick second seating if you can (or Select if you prefer more flexibility) and then decide each day what makes sense for you. Naps are a wonderful way to refresh - and if you can't sleep even laying down on the bed with your feet up for half an hour works wonders. Then do what makes sense for you for dinner. There was a time we would never, ever skip the MDR dining each night - we loved it. But as we gain age and experience, so we gain wisdom. On our last 10 day port intensive cruise DH and I went to the casual buffet one night, and even ordered pizza and a couple beers in our cabin another night to watch the football game. If you like cruising, there will be other cruises down the road where you can fit in all your fancy specialty dinners, midnight disco parties, or whatever. Remember your priorities for this cruise.


I also strongly believe in getting things ready the night before. No matter how tired you are, get everything ready beforehand so you can relax in the morning. Room service is a nice touch - I recommend ordering it maybe 15 min or so before you need it to be there in case they are late (although I have found them to be pretty prompt). I also tend to get confused on longer cruises what port we are going to be in when. Definitely helps to have a list handy, along with copies of the info you need for each outing.


My last point to second, is the one about wearing comfortable shoes. I painfully remember one trip to Disney World where I developed massive blisters day one and was miserable for the entire trip. Comfortable shoes which you have worn before and know are comfortable are an absolute necessity. Save the fashion show for another time. If your feet ain't happy, then you ain't happy.:D

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Invest in an inexpensive travel handbag with zippers and safety clips to prevent theft. QVC has a brand called travelon. Scottvest is a travel apparel site that has many of choices for men. My husband was targeted by a pick pocket in the Vatican but was wearing Scottvest travel shorts with hidden pockets so his wallet was safe!👍 We saw police in Barcelona apprehending pickpockets by just taking the stollen wallets and letting the criminals go free. We are not sure if the wallets ever get reunited with their owners. Have you and your partner carry two different credit cards. If one is stollen you still have access to money.


Travel smart and safe!

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For your DIY days when you plan ahead, pick your top 3 places and prioritize. If you only get to see your #1 place and enjoyed it so much you stopped there - it was a very successful day!


But if your top place in a new city is a major attraction that you really want to thoroughly explore - don't do it on a port day! For example, I am a museum addict - I would never try to see the Louvre, or the British Museum, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC as part of one day in a city - use port days for sights you would like to experience but won't need to rush through.

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Hi Lovey, I am on the same cruise as you. Looking forward to it!

Don't forget we have 2 sea days at the very end in which to rest and recuperate. For Venice we arrive at 2 PM so we have all morning to sleep or relax.

In the MDR in the early morning they do something called "Express Breakfast". They seat you and they give you a set plate of food right away- no ordering. Very fast, but you don't choose what you eat. Check the dish out- if you like it, go for it in order to save time.

It is getting close to sail-away...:D

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Lots of good tips here!.

We have done this cruise as well. Most mornings we had room service breakfast but most importantly was that we ate only healthy food that would fuel us for the day! We were CC class for 14 nights and Aqua class for 12.

We skipped the MDR or Blu a few times in our 26 nights and enjoyed the buffet . love the cook to order stir fry. We would take it outside to eat in the quiet.

Still eating only healthy food. We carried lots of water and nuts with us.

We also built up our walking on hills before the cruise . It really paid off as we were greeted with many hills!!

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My last point to second, is the one about wearing comfortable shoes. I painfully remember one trip to Disney World where I developed massive blisters day one and was miserable for the entire trip. Comfortable shoes which you have worn before and know are comfortable are an absolute necessity. Save the fashion show for another time. If your feet ain't happy, then you ain't happy.:D


Excellent advice. I will just add that sometimes you can develop a blister even when wearing comfortable, broken-in shoes. I never travel without Band-Aid Advanced Healing for Blisters: Fingers and Toes. These things work wonders; put one on at the first sign of a blister on a toe. You'll have comfort and healing. (You should be able to find them in most pharmacies. The link below is just to show what they are.)



Edited by Turtles06
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I have to say it - lay off the booze. Port Intensive tours and Liquor packages don't mix. Drink in moderation A hangover with a 12 hour day don't do well for one's happy factor.



I agree with laying off the hard stuff, but if you like wine, we have wonderful memories of ordering the half liter of red or white table wine at lunch in Italy, France, Spain. Though something we wouldn't do in the US if we wanted to stay awake, their table wine doesn't have the sulfites (so I've been told) so it doesn't affect us the same way as wine here. It was so tasty and we never had hangovers and had energy in the afternoon (even when we asked for the second half liter at times :). The tours were even more fun after that!

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The advice about carrying first aid it's is spot on. Do not forget some headache and upset stomach medicines carried with you. Having them in your cabin doesn't do a bit of good.

I also suggest you have more than one pair of walking shoes, just to change up and give your feet a fresh feel.

Organize all your info. Do not bring your passport, just a photo copy of the title page.

Eat dinner ashore in Venice or any overnight stops.

Pace yourself and don't be afraid to go back to the ship if you need a break. If there's a port that is not that interesting to you, stay on board.

Most of all, do not wear yourselves out. Relax on your DAS.

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Find out which port in the middle of the cruise is closest to town and treat that day almost as a "sea day" and take it really slow.


Wake up around 8 and go have breakfast in the buffet. Slip into town around 10 am and explore for 4-5 hours. Go to a museum, have lunch at a little cafe and people watch, maybe go see a tourist spot that isn't seen by any of the ships excursions. Around 2 pm head back to the cruise ship and relax by the pool until it's time to leave port. It will be a nice little break from the routine and you'll feel refreshed the next day.

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There are many good tips listed, I'll add a few of my own.


We had a 14 night with 8 port Mediterranean cruise last year. It was our first time in most of the ports so we did not make any of them half-day or stay on board days. We had private tours planned for 6 of the eight . We had one fairly leisure day in one port as it was a national holiday there. We did Venice on our own.


Like others, we had a later dinner. We ate in BLU most evenings and dinner was flexible in accordance with our return to the ship. We also had an overnight on Venice, had dinner there, and did not return back to the ship until 11 PM. We were off the ship at 8 AM the next morning exploring so that we could see Venice awaken.


We made it to many of the shows, as we found them somewhat relaxing.


The trip is a hard trip, and we are happy that we made the trip and didn't wait several more years, as we might not have the stamina for the tours.


As for packing for city to city, naturally that is the beauty of the cruise. Unpack once and you're done. I suggest the most important thing is a pair of comfortable walking shoes. I am a fan of light packing and took several different pairs of black slacks and tops for during the day. I had black or white slacks for the evening and a variety of nice tops. I had several dresses that I also wore. I am not afraid to wear an outfit more than once. We are "old-school" and enjoy dressing for formal night. I packed two dresses for the three advertised formal nights, (there's that wearing the same clothes thing again) but there were only 2 formal nights. We made good use of the ship laundry services.


I had a pocket binder with a different pocket for each city. I was able to store and quickly retrieve any type of tickets, tour information , or other arrangements we had made. Any papers from that day came back to the binder, and the next day papers pulled out before going to bed.


We tried not to over eat, over drink, and tried to pace ourselves. We are eligible for the elite cocktail hours but we were not able to make it to the lounge most evenings .


If you have a balcony cabin, depending on the side of your ship, you should have a beautiful view of Venice either coming in or leaving. As we left Venice we had a bottle of wine, some hors d'oeuvres, relaxed and enjoyed the view. This was actually one of our favorite cruise memories.


Have a wonderful and safe trip.


Edited by cruisegirl1
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All great tips here.


Another idea on organizing your purse/day bag the night before. If you are visiting several countries with different currencies, keep them in separate envelopes in your safe. Only take what you need for that day. For private tours where we were going to pay the guide that day, I had separate envelopes with the correct amount of money + a tip. I always research the ports before I go and have a cruise notebook with a page or pages on each port. Again, take just what you need for that port.



Great tips. Never thought individual envelopes for each excursion.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Even if this may be a "once in a lifetime" trip -- don't treat it as such. You really want to enjoy yourselves so don't add the pressure of "I've got to see it all".


We've ended up doing several Med cruises over the years. I remember thinking "I gotta do it all" the first time we were in Athens. I've got hundreds of pictures and we were herded on and off a bus along with hundreds of other tour participants.


I had no intention to return to Athens, but two years later, there I was - in Athens. The second time, we walked to the train station, took the lightrail into town, got thoroughly lost in the shopping district, managed to stumble out of the national gardens three minutes before the changing of the guards at parliment. Finally got to the Acropolis -- between the ship's hords of excursions, so I could actually see the Acropolis (not just tourists). Walked through the entire Acropolis park, spent a few hours looking at the stuff that interested us in the museum (not wearing headsets and following behind some woman waving a pink umbrella). And negotiated a taxi back to port. Lovely!


Smaller groups (if need be do private excursions) and well-planned on-your-own. Have fun!

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First and foremost plan for the weather ...I carry a small light back pack .

In it i have some fruit,or a snack a thin long sleeve shirt. In case we enter a religious site and my arms are bare ...if in shorts better coverup to the knees or slacks comfy top a water bottle filled with ice my ipad or camera for pics kleenex or wipes or even toilet paper ...some places do not have or is tooo rough ....info

I wear a hat if its hot the bigger the better ...cool a baseball cap ....

Wear closed running shoes ...best thing for cobble stone ...wear comfy socks with that

Wear very comfy clothes nothing tight or too snug

Plan your day ...enjoy the moments do not try to squeeze everything in .

Pack everything the night before ..on a hanger hang the days clothes from undies to tops and bottoms ,socks in pocket ..put it in strategic place ...no time to search in early morning ...order room service the night before .fill your water bottle with mostly ice

When you return prepare your purse for the next day ,check what is in your back pack ....add or remove accordingly ...it is always ready ....get your funds for the day ....$$$ for tours and extras ...cc in hidden places

Rest when you get back ....we do late dinner after a quick nap ....usually we do not stay up late ...ask for morning wake up call if needed ....

When you are tired stop no point rushing or making travelling a chore ...pace yourself


Practice walking way before your cruise ...i do with my dog





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I see that you've already gotten lots of great tips for your cruise...we've sailed out of Barcelona twice and love that city!


When we were there last October, we booked a tour with The Barcelona Taste. They limit each tour to a very small group....I think we had 8 people, plus the 2 guides. We met outside a hotel in the Gothic quarter to begin the tour. Over the course of about 3 hours we walked through the neighborhood and stopped in at 4 different local spots. At each one we sampled a variety of different local tapas, cheeses, wines, etc. The guides spoke excellent english....we had one from the US and one from Wales. They had both been living in Barcelona for several years and were fun and interesting to talk to.


We are foodies and really enjoyed seeing more "local" spots instead of just those geared more towards the tourist. We paid $75 euros each and thought it was a good value. If you're interested, you can check out their website....just google Barcelona taste.

Enjoy your cruise!

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My sister and I will be embarking (10/14) on a 13 night port intensive Mediterranean cruise with a 4 day pre-cruise stay in Barcelona. We have eight private excursions planned with early mornings and late afternoon arrivals back to the ship.

I am looking for tips from those of you who have traveled this itinerary, (multiple times for some), on how to pace ourselves and get adequate rest to recharge for the next marathon day. Do you typically eat in the MDR after a long day or should we plan on more buffet type meals? Looking for packing ideas as we move from port to port. This is a Venice overnight cruise starting and ending in Barcelona.

Thanks - I look forward to your advice



If you have 8 private excursions planned, you have already lost the battle. We have done many port intensive cruises in the Mediterranean. Can't imagine booking 8 excursions and expecting to survive. Good luck.


We learned a long time ago, to pick one or two ports we wanted to do something special in, then take it easy in the rest. We learned after arriving in Barcelona after a 12 day cruise from Istanbul, we checked in to the ARTS Hotel, literally slept for 2 1/2 days.... at $350 a night... something wrong with this picture.


We for us, we do not have to see all, to have good time and in fact, we have a much better time doing less. We know we always come back again... and see more.

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In July DH and I did a Viking River cruise from Paris to Normandy and then a post-cruise tour of England. Even though it was not an ocean cruise, every day was extremely long and busy with shore excursions. Every evening we ate a leisurely dinner in the MDR, watched a little TV and went to bed. We were rested and refreshed for the next day.


As to packing, everything we took coordinated with the rest of our clothes, so we didn't take much. I took four pairs of slacks, five tops, one dress, three cardigans and two scarves. I mixed and matched so many ways that no one realized I didn't bring much. All the clothes I took were polyester and could be laundered in the sink. You are lucky in that you do have access to dry cleaning and laundry on the ship. All our ship had was laundry, and they dried everything on a high temp. When I packed, I rolled all our clothes, and I was able to fit all my clothes into a rolling carry-on and a tote bag. I fit DH's stuff into his rolling carry-on and a backpack. I had Googled "how to pack efficiently for Europe," and I found a great video. I can't remember what website it was, but I learned some valuable tips.


Have a wonderful cruise!:)

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My advice to those who ask is to do independent touring while you are young and energetic.

We used public transportation and rental cars a lot more when we were younger as we loved wandering around exploring new places on our own, getting to interact with the locals and having lots of off-the-beaten-path experiences at places where the guided tours don't go.


Now as we are getting older and tire more easily, we use more guided tours to conserve energy because we can sit back and relax while they take us around from place to place.

They usually drop you off close to the door so you don't even need to walk from the parking lot or bus stop.


On port intensive cruises, we try to conserve our time and energy for experiences that are unique to each location, so we skip the kinds of shipboard entertainment that can be found anywhere, on any cruise.


But if there is anything that you really want to see or do, see it or do it now while you can.


There was a time when we naively assumed that we could always come back again to see it or do it another time, but reality has taught us that you don't always get another chance.



Edited by fleckle
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We've done Barcelona to Venice twice, an Adriatic, and a Baltic and all were quite port intensive (the Adriatic only had one sea day.) I'm healthy and active in my 50s, but my husband's health isn't as good, so we have to plan carefully.


My husband picks a port every three to four days that he isn't as interested in so he can sleep in and take it easy. I can handle marching around all day, everyday, but, I have to agree with several of the other posters that it gets exhausting, the churches all start to look alike, and you miss out on some of those special moments that don't happen when you are on a large tour.


So, along with the other hints, if your tour includes "one hour to shop" instead of marching around, I recommend sitting in a cafe and people watching. If the tour includes a tour of the perfume factory (or rug factory etc.) don't go inside. Take a short stroll around the area or sit somewhere and catch your breath. Those stops are usually sales events - and you probably need a breather more than you need perfume or another rug.


Nowadays we also go with open schedule dining (select) so that we can go when it works for us, but I agree with the other posters that if you are exhausted the MDR is a decent option, as is room service.


We also bring pre-filled envelopes for tips for each tour. That habit started in Russia where they required a fairly large amount of US cash for our two day tour. It worked so well that I try to do it for all tours.


And finally - even if you are hurrying from one spot to the next - try to remember to take some moments and let it sink it. Enjoy where you are and what you are doing. Don't get stuck in looking ahead for the "next" thing to see.


We love Med cruises and are doing Barcelona to Rome in May. I know you'll have a wonderful time.

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My husband friends, and I did a 13-night port-intensive cruise last fall on the silhouette from Venice to Rome. It was fabulous but hectic. We did not book any private tours except for one port; hired a taxi driver in Malta; and the rest of the ports we just visited the port towns, as there's always a lot to see that a private tour elsewhere wasn't needed. For the port days on our own, we didn't get up at the crack of dawn to get off the ship. In Catania, my husband stayed on board and relaxed, while the rest of us spent a few hours in port - definitely not a full day. For Ravenna, my husband and I stayed on the ship. That was super! It was so quiet on board and we relaxed pool-side.


We were in Aqua class so we hit Blu around 7pm on average.


Even with our plans, we were tired, but very glad we did this cruise. I probably wouldn't do a port-intensive cruise again unless some of the ports were repeats that we could use as a 'sea day' like Ravenna or just tour around for 3-4 hours.



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I've only done a 7-day port-intensive Mediterranean cruise. Knowing my limits, I intentionally only booked shorter tours (no more than 1/2 day), which meant I missed some sites that looked interesting, but I enjoyed what I saw and did not have any regrets. You might want to mix short sightseeing days with longer ones and mix guided tours (ship or independent) with on-your-own sightseeing as a way to pace yourself.

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