Disney Cruise Line - 9 Night Mediterranean with Greek Isles Cruise Guide
I’ve always wanted to take my kids to Europe, but the thought of moving from one country to another, long bus rides and packing up and moving to a different hotel every few days seemed like it would be too exhausting for my 12 and 8 year olds (not to mention a logistical nightmare!). I saw the 9-night Mediterranean with Greek Isles Cruise that Disney Cruise Line offers and as avid Disney Cruisers, I knew this would be the best way to get our kids to Europe and see as much as possible without overly exhausting them (but also keeping them engaged and entertained). Seeing 4 countries in 2 weeks, all from one home base, the Disney Dream cruise ship, was a truly magical experience!
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The cruise departed from Barcelona and spent almost one full day in each port. After departing Barcelona, we stopped in Marseilles, France; Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy; then we had a sea day; then stopped in Kefalonia, Athens, and Santorini, Greece for a day in each; then it was another sea day as the Disney Dream made its way back across the Messina Strait, and on to Naples, Italy, and finally disembarking in Rome. We spent a total of 9 nights on the ship, 2 nights in Barcelona pre-cruise, and 2 nights in Rome post-cruise.
I spent many months researching port adventures, tour operators, and activities in each location. I joined a Disney Cruise planning group on Facebook to get insights and recommendations on different tour operators and read reviews of Disney port adventures as well. I made all decisions and reservations prior to traveling, so that I could spend the time on the cruise actually enjoying it, knowing that everything was planned out! Since this cruise was so port-intensive with often long days off the ship, I made sure to take it easy when we came back on the ship and not have too many activities planned on board. Here are the things we did in each location:
Pre-cruise- 2 days in Barcelona:
We stayed in the Diagonal/L’illa area, which was great because there was a hop-on-hop-off bus tour stop right outside our hotel. We bought a 48 hr ticket for the bus tours, and made our first stop in Barcelona the iconic Sagrada Familia. I bought tickets beforehand and reserved the time (they are timed entry) as well as entry to climb the Nativity Tower. Getting tickets early for climbing one of the towers is highly recommended, and the views are spectacular! During our stay in Barcelona, we did the full bus tour and saw most of the city (and the Gaudi houses), as well as visiting Park Guell and seeing a flamenco show with a tapas dinner in the Spanish Village. Then it was off to board the Disney Dream!
Stop 1: Marseilles, France
I chose a Disney port adventure that took us to the beautiful coastal cities of Sanary-sûr-Mer and Bandol. We had time to tour each town and eat a delicious lunch with a gorgeous view at a cafe by the ocean.
Stop 2: Livorno, Italy
After much research, I decided to go with a private tour operator, Italy Tours, to make the trip to Cinque Terre from the port of Livorno. We partnered with another family on our cruise (another benefit of joining a Facebook group!) and had our own tour guide who picked us up from the port and made the gorgeous 2 hour drive to the Cinque Terre region. We stopped in Porto Venere for some focaccia, ate fresh pasta in Corniglia, and cooled off with some gelato in Vernazza! Our tour guide even picked some wild strawberries for us to try…delicious!
Stop 3: Kefalonia, Greece
After some much needed R&R on a sea day, we woke up in the beautiful island of Kefalonia, Greece. Here we took a Disney port adventure to Makros Gialis beach, where we enjoyed the gorgeous, clear waters of the Ionian Sea under a rented umbrella and ate delicious gyros from the beachside restaurant.
Stop 4: Athens, Greece
For Athens, we did a half-day semi-private tour with PK Tours, a local tour operator. They picked us up from the port along with 2 other families in our group, and we headed off to the Acropolis. Having bought our tickets in advance was super helpful here as we skipped the line and went right in. The kids probably struggled with this stop the most, as the climb up the Acropolis hill to get to the Parthenon was steep, a bit slippery, and so very hot. But seeing the Parthenon in real life and all of Athens below was well worth it! After making our way down and stopping for lunch in Plaka, we went back on the bus and drove around to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the stadium where the first modern Olympics were held before heading back to the ship.
Stop 5: Santorini, Greece
In Santorini, we took a Disney port adventure that stopped at a beautiful winery outside of Fira, then we spent some time walking around and taking in the gorgeous views in Oia before heading back to Fira. The pictures of Oia simply don’t do it justice…you have to see it for yourself! Since this was a tender port, we were supposed to take the cable cars in Fira down to where the tenders pick up everyone to return to the ship. However, the line was so long (45+ mins) for the cable cars that we decided to take the steps all the way down. It was steep, smelly (donkeys go up and down the steps), and a long way down… so I highly recommend getting in line for the cable cars early!!
Stop 6: Naples, Italy
After another (much needed) sea day, we stopped in Naples, Italy, where we took a Disney port adventure to the town of Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast (about a 1 hr drive from the port). There we spent some time shopping, admiring the views, and eating pizza of course! After a few hours, we headed to Pompeii and toured the archeological park with a tour guide. Everyone, big and small, was absolutely fascinated by these well-preserved ruins, and getting a glimpse of life from thousands of years ago. If you’re ever in Naples, Pompeii is a must!!
Stop 7: Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
Our final stop was the port of Civitavecchia, about an hour from Rome. We arranged for private transportation with our hotel to pick us up from the port and take us to the hotel in Rome. We stayed in a small, charming boutique hotel near Termini rail station and used either the hop-on-hop off buses, scooter rentals, or just walked to get around the city. We bought timed entry tickets to the Colosseum (highly recommend, its jaw-dropping!) but skipped touring the Vatican because the lines were long and it was super crowded which was not ideal with the kids. But we did walk around St. Peter’s Square and visited other landmarks and monuments around the city on our own time. We also ate some of the best food we had on the whole trip in Rome. Italian hospitality is simply unmatched, and we left feeling like we were leaving a piece of our hearts back in Rome.
If you're considering taking your kids to Europe and making the most of your time there, I highly recommend two things: 1) waiting until they are old enough to handle long excursions, and 2) going via Disney Cruise Line. We loved going back to the comfort and cleanliness of our stateroom aboard the Disney Dream every night, and the kids loved hanging out with their new friends at the kids clubs after a long day of touring. It truly felt like our home away from home, and there's nothing more magical than waking up every morning to a new view in a different city!
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