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One of the craziest things about going on a cruise is that one day you could be hiking the Mediterranean steps in Gibraltar, then the next you’re wine tasting in Provence. Cruises are just as much about the amazing destinations they visit as they are about spending time onboard the ship. So to show you how great cruise excursions are, here’s what I got up to on my 7-day Mediterranean cruise with Princess Cruises…
How Cruise Excursions Work
On cruises, you have two options when it comes to exploring the different destinations. You can either head out to explore on your own or take one of the cruise lines set excursions. Cruise excursions are trips and tours organised and operated by the cruise lines themselves. On Princess Cruises the excursions could be booked in advance on their online Cruise Personaliser, or onboard the ship prior to arriving in the destination.
Cookery Class in Barcelona
The embarkment port for our 7-night Mediterranean cruise was the exciting Catalan city of Barcelona, where after dropping our bags off at the ship we were able to spend the afternoon exploring. In Barcelona, our excursion was not one of Princess Cruises set tours, but rather a private excursion planned on our own.
After wandering up Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s lively promenade lined with market stalls, street performers and cafes, we ended up in the narrow medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter where the main activity of our Barcelona excursion was located – a Spanish cooking class.
Set inside a modern and bright kitchen with little balconies overlooking the busy streets below, we met local sisters Angeles and Carmen who over the course of the next couple of hours taught us how to make Sangria, Spanish omelette, tomato bread, paella and Catalan cream dessert (similar to crème brulée).
We all got hands-on with chopping and cooking the various dishes, which included the most extravagant and beautiful paella I’ve ever seen, and at the end, we sat down together around a large table and enjoyed the result of all of our hard work.
Other cruise excursions in Barcelona
Some of the Princess Cruises excursions in Barcelona include…
- Gothic Quarter Walking Tour
- Gaudi’s Barcelona (including the Sagrada Familia Basilica)
- Girona and the Dali Museum
- Barcelona’s Camp Nou Football Stadium
- Flamenco and Dinner
Hiking in Gibraltar
Our next port of call was the overseas British territory of Gibraltar, a place I’ve never even considered visiting before but am glad I got the chance to experience it for a day. At this port, we took an excursion that is available through Princess Cruises – hiking the Mediterranean Steps.
The Mediterranean Steps are the famed steps which zig-zag their way up the Rock of Gibraltar. The steps are steep and often uneven, and the hike takes just over an hour until you’re 1,398 feet above sea level. Certainly hard work but manageable with some sturdy shoes and plenty of water!
The steps were created by the British military as part of a system of communications between defence points, meaning along the route there are gun batteries and old military bunkers to admire, as well as the breathtaking views out across the Mediterranean Sea.
At the Top of the Rock, we wandered through the Gibraltar Nature Reserve to see the many exotic species of flora and fauna and watch the extremely cheeky Barbary Macaques, the only wild monkey population on the European continent. They’re are a very cheeky bunch but you can get up close to the Gibraltar monkeys as long as you do it safely.
Eventually, we bid the monkeys farewell and jumped on the cable car back down into the main town where we took in the unique blend of cultures (you’ll find shops such as Marks & Spencers and traditional British pubs) before heading back to the ship.
Other cruise excursions in Gibraltar
Some of the Princess Cruises excursions in Gibraltar include…
- Top of the Rock by cable car (if you don’t want to hike)
- City and King’s Bastion tour
- St Michael’s Cave
- Marbella and Puerto Banus
- A Taste of Gibraltar
- Boat Trip and Dolphin Watching
Wine Tasting in Provence
Port number 3 was the French city of Marseille, where we opted once again to head out exploring on our own. Instead of staying in the city itself we jumped in a minibus and headed to the Bandol wine region of Provence with our lovely British guide Richard from Bandol Wine Tours.
Throughout the day we visited 3 different vineyards in the Bandol region, Domaine Lou Capelan, Domaine La Garenne and Domaines Bunan where we toured the vineyards and cellars, learnt about the winemaking process and tried plenty of local wines. Bandol is internationally recognized for its great wine and we got to try many beautiful award-winning varieties.
For lunch, we drove up to the Provincial town of La Cadière d’Azur where we enjoyed delicious seasonal Mediterranean cuisine at Michelin-star restaurant Hostellerie Bérard. Not only was the food outstanding, but the restaurant was also without a doubt in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever laid eyes on, with breathtaking views across the rolling vineyards from the elegantly-presented dining tables.
Other cruise excursions in Marseille
Some of the Princess Cruises excursions in Marseille include…
- Scenic Marseille Drive and Notre-Dame de la Garde
- Marseille Bike Tour
- Avignon and Pont du Gard Bridge
- Lourmarin and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Provence)
- Chateau de Lourmarin and Roussillon
- Aix-en-Provence Wine and Cheese
- Olive Growing Farm and Tasting
Other things to do in Marseille
- Visit the 16th century Château d’If
- Take a boat ride along the stunning Les Calanques coastline between Marseille and Cassis
- Head away from the city and discover one of these great things to do in Provence with kids
Exploring the Cinque Terre
The next stop on our Mediterranean cruise was Genoa on the Italian coast, however, rather than staying in the city we once again jumped on a bus and headed down to the beautiful Cinque Terre. The trip from Genoa to the Cinque Terre took around 1h45 but was totally worth it for visiting a destination that has been high on my bucket list for years. This excursion is also available through Princess Cruises.
The Cinque Terre is made up of five hillside towns on the Italian Riviera; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
On our cruise excursion, we first headed to Manarola with its lovely small-town charm and more grapevines lining its surrounding hills than any other village on the Cinque Terre. The colourful houses sloping down to the harbour filled with fisherman boats were just as beautiful as every photo I’d ever seen.
Next, we moved along to Monterosso, the biggest and oldest town of the Cinque Terre, where we admired even more brightly coloured houses, made the most of the hot weather on the area’s only sandy beach and tried some of the region’s delicious speciality Pesto.
Other cruise excursions in Genoa
Some of the Princess Cruises excursions in Genoa include…
- Tour of Genoa (San Lorenzo, Chiesa del Gesu & Royal Palace)
- Ligurian villages of Rapallo and Sestri Levante
- Ligurian villages of Portofino, Santa Margherita, and Rapallo
Other things to do in Genoa
- Visit Genoa Aquarium – the largest aquarium in Europe
- Take the Bigo crane-inspired lift for panoramic views of the city and harbour
- Step on board Nepture – a replica of a 1600s Spanish galleon
Segway Riding in Pisa
The final stop of our trip was in Italy once again but this time in the port of Livorno, which is also known as the gateway to Tuscany and is close to the well-known city of Pisa where our final cruise excursion took place. For our last day exploring the Mediterranean coast, we had booked our very own private Segway tour of Pisa.
After a little bit of time getting the hang of the Segways (yes I fell off once!) we then spent three hours speeding around the city taking in sights including the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistry, Piazza Dei Cavalieri and the pretty riverside pathways. And of course, we stopped outside the Leaning Tower to take the classic tower photos.
Finally, we dropped off our Segways and headed back in the centre for a bite to eat, and when in Pisa there’s only one thing you can eat… PIZZA! Followed by some local gelato of course.
Check out this post for more cool things to do in Pisa, Italy.
Other cruise excursions in Livorno
Some of the Princess Cruises excursions in Livorno include…
- Tuscan Town of Lucca
- A day trip to the iconic cities of Pisa and Florence
- Tuscany Wine Cellar Tour
- The Chianti Region and Wine Tasting
- The towns of the Cinque Terre
It’s crazy to think that all of these amazing activities fit into the space of just 7 days on our Meditteranean cruise. We got to see so many beautiful new places, learn to become pro chefs in Barcelona, see Europe’s only wild monkey population in Gibraltar, drink award-winning wine in Provence, paddle in the ocean in the Cinque Terre, and master the art of Segway riding in Pisa.
Plus on top of all of these, we still had plenty of time to relax onboard the Crown Princess and enjoy the spectacular food and exciting entertainment cruise ships have to offer of an evening.
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