Mediterranean Cruise Travel Blog
MSC Fantasia | January 17th – January 31, 2016
I was always thinking about how places like Italy & Spain look so pretty in people’s photo collections and video clips. I have been fortunate enough to experience the realness Greece and Amsterdam in the past so I was hesitant to visit places like Spain and Morocco via Mediterranean Cruise ship due to the fear of being disappointed by the tourist traps and commercialized ports of call.
I was NOT disappointed by the shipping ports that we docked in with MSC Cruiseline. I was fortunate to experience all the gritty and candid unpolished reality of the Mediterranean. It was everything I had hoped for! Along with friends, Brian and I spent 2 weeks traveling through some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We started in Genoa, Italy and from there we visited the following cities:
Casablanca & Marrakech, Morocco
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
Genoa (Genova), Italy – The Land of Columbus
We landed at the Christoforo Colombo Airport after taking a red eye via Paris, France. I had imagined a medieval port city with Christopher Columbus gazing out into the sea as he once did from his home in Genoa, Italy. What a perfect place to start off our Mediterranean Cruise.
After meeting up with our friends, Sarah & Erick, we grabbed a cab. Our cab driver was incredibly exuberant to say the least. We were greeted by Fiorangela who showed us around our over-sized flat that we rented through AirBnb.com. Looking for a place to eat we head up and down stairways and through tunnels that lead directly to the city center. We were soon exploring ancient alleys, with clotheslines strung overhead, magnificent churches, and splendid fountains. Over and over again we stated “Guys can you believe we are in Italy!?” We found an authentic Italian Restaurant for lunch by the name of Locanda degli Adorno where we tasted the pesto infused pasta and drank coffee and wine….side note: Ordering coffee means receiving espresso, cafe americano is the coffee we are used to in the US.
For dinner we went to a highly rated American Burger Restaurant called 212 Hamburger & Delicious. Seems crazy to go to an american themed restaurant in another country but it was absolutely worth it. Behind the counter hung an American flag. On the counters sat jars of classic american candy (Bazooka Joe Gum & Fireballs to name a few)….and the burgers, including my salmon burger, were fantastic.
After our 2nd gelato stop of the day we head back to the flat to unwind.
After a breakfast of fresh grilled panini’s (not a Waffle House in site) we set sail! We took a tour of the ship, settled into our rooms and went to sleep.
We were dropped off at the ‘World Trade Center‘ and walked through the city center to end with a stroll down the famous Las Ramblas promenade. Among the well known international shops such as H&M were plenty of small souvenir shops which featured magnets and postcards of bullfighters and flamenco dancers. We sat by the sea and ate lunch at a patio tapas restaurant. It was such a treat to sit in the warm sun and drink sangria! Our stay in Barcelona was not as long as I would have liked so we might just need to go back!
The Magnificent Colors of Marrakesh (Marrakech), Morocco
During our 3 hour bus ride from the port of Casablanca, Morocco to Marrakesh we listened to our tour guide as he told us all about the history of Morocco. The two main languages are French and Arabic. The population in Morocco is primarily under the age of 25. Up until a few years ago, Morocco was a polygamist country (more than one wife).
The only idea that I had about Morocco was what I had come to know as my favorite country in Epcot (being a Disney aficionado you know I was excited to see the real thing). The colorful and busy city of Marrakesh did not disappoint. We visited the Saadian Tombs which were built in the 16th century as a mausoleum to bury numerous Saadian rulers and entertainers.
The highlight of the trip to Marrakesh was our visit to the market. I will not sugar coat the experience… we were instructed over and over again by our knowledgeable tour guide, Hassan, to keep watch of our personal belongings and to wear our backpacks on our fronts. The site of Snake Charmers, Trained Monkeys, Henna Artists and Gypsy’s was an almost surreal experience. You could not take photos of or with many of these street artists without paying with at least one euro (respectfully so).
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands)
When we returned back to the ship after our day in Tenerife I was EXHAUSTED. I did not write much in my journal that night other than a few quick notes.
The start of our day was a hiking trip to the volcanic mountains of Tiede National Park. There were many unique rock formations including the famous Roque Cinchado. The bus ride up the mountain was frightening but once we reached the top (7,500 m (24,600 ft) from its base on the ocean floor) we met up with our friends and did some hiking. I am certain that we burned off any and all of the gelato we had eaten thus far.
After the hike we went to the botanical gardens followed by some relaxation time at the black sand beach.
Funchal Madiera, Portugal
Love, Love, Love. We can’t stop talking about the sheer beauty of this island. While riding up the mountain in the cable cars, we talked about our plans to someday buy a vacation home in Funchal. No Kidding.
Funchal, Portugal blew my mind. It was such a welcoming and unique island which we were able to see by cable car as well as by foot. The fresh fish and produce market was a place I could see myself visiting daily. We spent our time shopping (Funchal is known for their cork purses) and exploring the rock beach.
Malaga, Spain – Pablo Picasso’s city of birth
Malaga, Spain is coastal, warm and artsy. This was the type of place that makes you feel right at home. Malaga was not overly commercialized and was very much inspired by the art of Pablo Picasso.
First of all… I still can’t believe we were in Rome. What a treat! Our day was shorter than we would have liked due to the hour plus commute from the port of Civitavecchia, Italy (which I still can’t pronounce but I believe it is See-vi-ta-ve-key-a).
We walked all around the city taking in the key sites such as The Vatican, The Colosseum, The Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) and the ruins at Foro Romano.
To say this was a trip of a lifetime is an understatement. I feel so lucky to have shared this Mediterranean Cruise adventure with some great friends (our travel buddies from New Jersey who we met two years ago in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic) and some new friends that we made from Italy, Portugal, Poland, Switzerland and Germany! The staff on the MSC Fantasia Cruise Ship were beyond awesome (shout out to Miguel!)
Until next time…