Rob & Mike
Travel Story: The Mediterranean On Oceania Cruises Ship, Riviera
Updated: Feb 17, 2021
The mediterranean is by far one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world it and it's no wonder why as it offers incredible history, stunning weather and amazing natural beauty. We booked this cruise with Oceania Cruises after falling in love with their ship Marina and their onboard service on our French Polynesia Cruise, you can read more about that cruise here. Oceania prides itself on offering the best cuisine at sea and we have to agree, where else can you eat lobster every night included in your fare not to mention that they have more specialty restaurants than most of their competitors and its all included in the fare.
Day 1: Venice, Italy - Embarkation
After our economy flight with Qatar Airways from Australia via Doha to Venice we arrived at the ship. We were greeted by the friendly cruise staff at the terminal in Venice, then after dropping off our bags and receiving our room cards we boarded the ship. One of the benefits of cruising with Oceania is that on most of their cruises the ship does not leave port until late in the evening or the following night after embarkation, this means people arrive in dribs and drabs over 12-24 hours so you never have large queues when checking in. We were very pleased with our accomodation which was an A1 Concierge Level Verandah where there was was a welcome bottle of champagne and a letter from the concierge explaining the benefits of concierge level accomodation. As the ship was not leaving until the next night we decided to go wandering the streets and canals, the best way to see Venice is by loosing yourself in its labyrinth of streets and canals. You will often come across areas that tourists don't frequent and it is here you can see how traditional venetian life continues as it has for centuries. As the sun set we returned to the ship for a quick dinner in the main dining room before getting some well needed catch up sleep.
Day 2: Venice, Italy - Island Tour, Venice Walking Tour, Wine & Cicchetti Tour
We started our second day in Venice early as we had 3 tours booked with Viator that day, the first was a water bus tour to the lagoon islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. In Murano we watched a glass blowing demonstration followed by wandering the colourful fishing village on the island of Burano and then the church on the island of Torcello. In our opinion you could probably skip Torcello as theres not a lot to see other than the church. Once we arrived back at Piazza San Marco we met our guide for our Venice on foot and water taxi tour. We started by viewing the bridge of sighs and the camponile before entering Saint Marks Basilica then we wandering through the quieter streets until we boarded our water taxi for our tour on the grand canal. As our tour was running late it looked as if we were going to miss the start of our third tour but our guide was amazing and arranged for the water taxi to drop us as close as possible to the start point of our third tour so we didn't miss out. Our third tour and definitely the highlight of the day was the Wine & Cicchetti Tour, we met our guide outside Maria Maddalena church and then walked to the Traghetto (gondola ferry) for our included gondola ride across the grand canal. On the other side of the grand canal we walked through the fish market and then visited five baccaro's (wine bars) where each bar served us a different glass of local venetian wine accompanied by their own signature cicchetti (canapé's). The Venetian food and wine was amazing as was our guide Betta, we highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting Venice, theres plenty of food and wine so you won't need dinner afterwards. At the end of the tour we said goodbye to our guide and as the sun set we wandered the narrow streets back to the ship before it departed at 11pm.
Day 3: Koper, Slovenia - Lake Bled & Ljubljana Tour
After disembarking our ship in the port of Koper we met our guide for our Viator booked tour of Lake Bled & Ljubljana. After a beautiful scenic drive we arrived at Lake Bled a stunning inland lake surrounded by fairytale churches and clifftop castles, after having morning tea at Lake Bled our guide drove us to Ljubljana the capitol of Slovenia. We went on a walking tour of the old part of the city and then visited a local church which had incredible gold decorations, our guide then took us to the markets and arranged a typical local lunch for us of local wine, cured meats and cheeses which were amazing followed by our trip back to the ship. We would highly recommend this tour for anyone visiting Slovenia.
Day 4: Dubrovnik, Croatia - Old Town Walking Tour & Dinner
We arrived after lunchtime in Dubrovnik where we boarded the ship's complimentary shuttle bus and travelled to the old town. We had downloaded a walking tour to our phones so we could do a walking tour of the old town. We explored the streets and the walked the walls of the town followed by a beer at a local bar, we absolutely love the history of this old fortified town and loved seeing the game of thrones filming locations. As the ship wasn't departing until midnight we took the cable car up to the lookout and had dinner at the panorama restaurant as the sun set. This was definitely one of our favourite stops and we would highly recommend the panorama restaurant to anyone visiting Dubrovnik.
Day 5: Kotor, Montenegro - Town Walking Tour & Hill Climb
We awoke aboard the ship as we were travelling through the fjords of Montenegro on our way inland to the UNESCO world heritage listed old town of Kotor. This place is the highlight of the trip so far for us, the old town dates back to medieval times and unlike most walled cities of similar age this town still has the original walls surrounding it which means there are no cars inside. We booked a walking tour through Viator and when we met our guide she informed us that we would be having a private tour as the other couple who had booked had rescheduled to an afternoon tour. We should note that under Viator's T&C's the guides can cancel if they don't get their minimum number of participants so we were very pleased that this guide decided to give us a private tour instead of cancelling the tour. We paid for a 1.5hr walking tour of the old town however our guide was so fantastic that she took her time and we ended up with a 2.5hr tour instead. What amazing service and we would recommend this tour to anyone visiting Kotor. After learning the history of the town and its buildings we said goodbye to our guide and then climbed the 1350 steps up the hill to the castle of San Giovanni, the view from the top of the fjord was incredible however the blisters on the feet were not so great. Once we reached ground level again we found the harbour pub, an Australian themed bar in Kotor of all places, not to worry though it's only Australian in name and decor the food and drink were all local so we sat down and relaxed with several steins of local beer and some local cured meats and cheese. As the ship departed and the sun began to set we went to the top deck of the ship for an event that Oceania conducts every time it leaves Kotor, they serve everyone complimentary Champagne and then play opera through the ships speakers as she sails through the fjord and out to sea. What a way to top off a fantastic day.
Day 6: Sea Day - Day Spa Visit & Poolside Relaxing
Today was our only sea day so it was a great opportunity to check out the day spa and have a Swedish massage followed by relaxation by the pool and then dinner in Jaques, the onboard French specialty restaurant. The day spa staff and the massage were excellent as was our dinner in Jaques. Before dinner we opened a bottle of local wine we had purchased in Montenegro which was very good, one of the great things about Oceania is that you can bring 2 bottles of wine per stateroom aboard in each port so we make a habit of finding a wine shop to get a couple of bottles of the local wine so we can say we've tasted the wine in all the locations we've visited.
Day 7: Palermo, Sicily - City & Catacomb Bus Tour
This morning we docked in Palermo where we had booked a bus tour through the ship, the ship did have some difficulties with the corrupt authorities who didn't want to allow the passengers off without a bribe, after an hour of negotiation and several cartons of cigarettes being handed to the authorities from the duty free shop they allowed us all ashore. The ships staff tell us that this is not uncommon but it also doesn't happen every time they visit here, it just depends on who is working the dock on the day. Sicily is still essentially run by the mafia and it shows, motorists have no regard for law and order and it seems they just do whatever they want (we had a guy triple park in the middle of the road in front of our bus and then went in to a cafe for lunch blocking the whole street and forcing our bus to reverse back a block to get around the obstruction). No one likes to confront people breaking the law as they don't know who has mafia links and who doesn't. Our bus took us to the city catacombs, home to 8000 mummies and then on to Castle of Zisa followed by a visit to the Martorana Church to see its beautiful gold frescos. Palermo didn't feel overly safe with it disregard for law so most people on the bus tour including ourselves decided to not wander the streets at the end of the tour and went back to the ship. Overall it was a disappointing day from start to end and everyone was back on board early keen to put it behind us all but it still took a one hour negotiation with port authorities who refused to throw off the lines without a bribe. In the end the crew jumped ashore to throw off the lines and then hurriedly re-boarded the gangway as the captain held the ship against the dock with the thrusters. We wouldn't recommend Palermo as a place to visit unless its part of your cruise and you didn't have any other choice.
Day 8: Rome, Italy - Rome & Vatican City Tour By Bus
After arriving in to the port of Civitavecchia we met our pre booked bus at the pier, the company we used offered both transfers and tours of the city for a small additional fee. Rome is about 2-2.5hrs bus ride from the pier so we went with the tour option to maximise what we could see in the time we had. First we visited the Vatican and St Peters Basilica, the statues inside the basilica were enormous, you certainly get the impression they are designed to intimidate. We then travelled to the colosseum and then started our walking tour of the city visiting the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, our guide a German historian who had married an Italian and settled in Rome was excellent and very knowledgeable, we were grateful we had him as our guide for the day. Before long it was time to re-board the bus for the return trip back to the pier. It is definitely a rushed tour but if its your first time to Rome and your ship is only stopping for the day we highly recommend this tour as you get to see as much as is possible within a short amount of time. We loved Rome and will definitely be returning for another visit but if you haven't been before be prepared as it is quite a dirty city with footpath drains so clogged with cigarette buts and rubbish they look more like rubbish bins.
Day 9: Florence & Pisa, Italy - City Walking Tour & Pisa Visit
Today we arrived at the port of Livorno where we booked a bus tour through the ship of Florence and Pisa, after the 1.5hr bus ride to Florence we proceeded on foot with our guide around the city visiting first the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore, then the local markets and stopped at the Piazza della Signoria to see the many statues of David spread around the piazza, we then crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge and had a lunch of local cured meats, cheese, bread and local wine of course at a lovely little restaurant in one of the quieter city piazza's. After lunch we re-boarded our bus for the 30min trip to Pisa to see the leaning tower and then travelled back to the pier. The buildings in this region are very unique and it has been amazing to see the various styles from one part of Italy to another. It is worth noting that there are a lot of people trying to sell counterfeit goods on the streets in both Florence but particularly Pisa, if you end up visiting this region our guides advice is to avoid eye contact and conversation and they will leave you alone. Turns out in Italy it is a crime for a tourist to buy counterfeit goods but it is not a crime for the seller to sell them to you so buyer beware!
Day 10: Monte Carlo, Monaco - City Walking Tour
Today we woke up in Monte Carlo, the playground of the rich and famous. We were lucky as our ship was a smaller ship we were able to get a spot at the pier versus tendering (one of the many benefits of small ship cruising). We had downloaded a walking guide of the city so we put on our walking shoes and got going. First we visited the Oceanographic Institute, wandered the Grace Kelly memorial gardens and then visited the Saint Nicholas Cathedral which is where her tomb is located. We then headed to the Princes Palace where we wandered the state rooms with the supplied audio guide, it was an amazing palace however photos and videos are not allowed inside so we can't share the pictures with you here. As the ship was not leaving until midnight we headed back to the ship to get changed and headed ashore for sunset drinks and dinner at Horizon Deck in the Fairmont Monte Carlo. The sunset, views and drinks were amazing but the food was a massive let down. It's worth noting that everything is expensive in Monaco and just because its expensive does not mean that its good, after dinner we slowly wandered back past the bustling waterfront restaurants, Ferrari's, Maseratis, Porches and super yachts to the ship. We decided to have a nightcap up on the top deck of the ship and were glad we did as we probably had the best night time view of Monte Carlo right there on the ship. We absolutely loved the extravagance and cleanliness of Monte Carlo but not necessarily the food but highly recommend visiting it at least once, you never know which celebrity you may bump in to.
Day 11: Avignon, France - Pope's Palace Walking Tour
Today we arrived in the port of Marseille where we had booked a trip to visit the UNESCO world heritage listed city of Avignon, unfortunately the ship cancelled this tour last minute due to not enough participants and as we were keen to do the tour we ended up rebooking a private tour last minute through Viator instead. Our guides picked us up in their mini van and then took us on the 1.5hr trip to Avignon where the Popes palace is located. Seven Pope's were based in Avignon from 1309-1376 instead of in Rome and whilst these days the palace is empty of it's treasures as they were taken back to Rome, the castle itself is impressive to say the least. We walked this incredible city filled with beautiful medieval architecture and one of the highlights was the Pont Saint-Benezet a famous medieval bridge which was built in 1234 and then abandoned in the mid 17th century. After our walking tour we sat down in one of the many cafes that fill the town squares to try the local French beer. Our guides then took us back to the pier and our waiting ship.
Day 12 & 13: Barcelona, Spain - City Tour & Disembarkation
Our final stop on this trip was Barcelona where the ship was to overnight before we had to disembark the next day, this worked out great as we could use the ship as a hotel on our last night before flying home (another benefit of sailing with Oceania). We were lucky enough to have friends of ours living in Barcelona so they took us on a private tour of the city, we started with breakfast on the beach in Little Barcelona and then hired bicycles to ride up and down the esplanade where we grabbed some beach sun lounges and enjoyed some beach time. After lunch at a local seafood restaurant we headed to the Sagrada Familia the famous Gaudi designed cathedral which has been under construction continuously since 1915 and will not be completed until at least 2026. After returning to the ship to pack our bags and change for dinner we were taken out to a local bar for pre dinner drinks and then paella at a nearby restaurant. The food in Barcelona is excellent and you can't visit without having at least one paella. After a nightcap at a small wine bar we said goodbye to our friends and returned to the ship for early disembarkation and our economy flight home with Singapore Airlines via Singapore. We loved our experience with Oceania and would highly recommend them to everyone, the mediterranean is an incredible destination and a cruise like this one allows you to see a lot of it in a short space of time. We will definitely be returning to this part of the world again soon. So that ends this travel story, if you have any questions about this trip feel free to comment on the blog, Until next time!
Want More Information?
If you would like more information about Oceania Cruises destinations, staterooms, dining options and fares you can read our review here or visit their website www.oceaniacruises.com
For more information about Qatar Airways services you can read our review here or visit their website www.qatarairways.com
For more information about Singapore Airlines services you can read our review here or visit their website www.singaporeair.com
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About The Author
Rob has been passionate about cruise ship holidays and exploring the world since the first cruise he went on when he was only seven years old. Since then Rob who is a Photographer and his partner Mike of 18 years have travelled the world on over 25 cruises with over 10 different cruise lines visiting every continent across the globe as well as many remote tropical islands along the way. In addition to cruise holidays they enjoy relaxing at beach side holiday resorts and first/business class air travel as well as transcontinental rail journeys. Between them both Robert and Michael have worked out the best way to maximise frequent flyer reward points allowing them to travel first/business class at economy class prices or in some cases travelling first/business class for free.