I recently got to spend a summer travelling across Europe, during a Mediterranean cruise vacation. In my opinion, this is the best way to experience European culture—especially if it is your first time visiting. A Mediterranean cruise allows you to see a large part of Europe, in a small amount of time. You are quite literally waking up in a new country everyday. I really did get to experience a bit of everything—from sightseeing in cities, to relaxing on the beach, to incredible hiking excursions.
My cruise with Royal Caribbean allowed me to visit cities across Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Gibraltar, and Norway.
As soon as the cruise ship docks in Lisbon, you step on to a boardwalk full of cocktail bars. During the summer months, enjoying Sangria in the sun with your friends is a great time whilst enjoying the view of sailboats in the harbour.
A short bus ride from the port takes you right into the heart of the city. There are two huge squares located in the city—surrounded by shopping, restaurants, cafes, and museums. A short walk to the top of the viewing point gives you an incredible view of the city, and you can really appreciate the European style buildings and culture.
However, if this does not take your fancy, my friends and I took a day trip to the zoo. For about 20 euros, we spent the day looking at all different kinds of animals—with my favourite being the giraffe!
The best part of visiting Gibraltar is the tour to the top of Gibraltar Rock. Whilst learning about the history of the town, and seeing incredible views, you are greeted by wild monkeys as you explore the area. Gibraltar is the only place in the whole of Europe where you will find wild monkeys. The monkeys are friendly enough to take photos with; however, one of them did take the sun-cream that was sticking out of my bag!
During the summer, spending time out in the town is also very pleasant. There are plenty of restaurants/cafes with outdoor seating areas. I personally enjoyed spending time on the boardwalk, and enjoyed my lunch whilst taking in the view of the harbour. Located on the boardwalk is also a very nice casino, where my friends and I had fun gambling with each other.
Sightseeing across Italy is a great way to experience European culture and history. I'm not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to history, but I definitely appreciated the incredible landmarks I visited. The biggest advice I will give, is wear comfortable shoes—as there is a lot of walking involved when exploring Italy.
I got to see the Leaning Tower in Pisa, the Coliseum in Rome, and the cathedral in Florence, and so much more! I have seen all of these landmarks in movies and photos, but seeing them in real life is a fantastic experience.
Exploring Rome has to be my favourite part of Italy. You can really appreciate the culture when walking through the city, and the Italian food is delicious—I personally loved the tiramisu! The tour of the Coliseum is such a unique experience, listening to stories about the Gladiators is truly fascinating.
I highly recommend booking a tour to see these landmarks—exploring Italy on your own can be quite challenging.
Spain is awesome, with Barcelona being the highlight. Just exploring the city trying to find all the buildings created by Antoni Gaudi, the architect/artist responsible for a lot of buildings throughout Barcelona, is so much fun. Just by looking at the design of his buildings makes you realise how incredibly unique his mind was—with the La Sagrada Familia cathedral being the centre piece.
I also had the opportunity to take a tour around Barcelona FC! Being able to see the Football stadium of one of the best clubs in the world was incredible. The trophy museum was rather impressive.
The shopping and eating aspect of Barcelona is also very enjoyable, and spending time on the beach during the summer months is a fun day out.
When most people think of France, they immediately think of Paris—and rightly so! I can certainly see why Paris is referred to as the city of love. The landmarks in Paris are incredibly beautiful and elegant, and the French language is very soothing. The Eiffel Tower is often referred to as the "iron lady" and she stands there in all her glory, right in the heart of Paris. You can even go to the top of the tower for an incredible view of the city. The surrounding areas of the Eiffel Tower is very pedestrianised, which is perfect for photo opportunities. I look forward to spending more time in Paris in the future, to explore all of the sights.
Disneyland Paris is of course a great attraction, and is very accessible by train. I personally quite enjoyed comparing the park to the US parks, and even spent the night at one of the Disney hotels.
South Of France!
The South Of France is a great way to enjoy some coastal regions of Europe. You often associate this area with wealth. Walking through the towns and the boardwalk, you encounter sports cars, fancy shops, private yachts, elegant hotels, stunning houses, and fantastic European dining.
During the summer months, the South Of France often attracts celebrities and sports stars for their vacation. This European lifestyle is great for young couples and families. There are a variety of beach/hotel resorts to stay in, which is the best way to enjoy the European hospitality and sunshine.
It's not just about cities when exploring Europe. There are tropical islands as well, that have some of the best beaches in the world! Expect to see palm tress, clear blue waters, soft sand, sail boats, etc. It's a great way to embrace the Mediterranean. During my cruise, I got to visit Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza.
During the summer, these islands have the perfect weather for their beach towns. These islands mainly cater for tourists. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, bars, and hotels located near the beach. There is a good mix of young people and families spending their summer vacation on these islands—so do make sure to identify the party areas, and family friendly areas of the island.
This is the best time to work on your tan, when travelling across Europe!
Last, but not least... Norway!
This has the surprise factor for me, because I didn't realise how much I would end up loving this country. Epic hiking adventures can take you to see incredible views of the fjords and glaciers. The country is so visually stunning, Norway is mother nature at her best.
Exploring the Norwegian towns was a big step out of my "travel" comfort zone, and definitely an unusual place to spend summer, but the experience is amazing. Norway is a great escape from a busy city/beach, and allows you to embrace the outdoors. You can clearly see how this country inspired the movie Frozen. I felt like I was in the movie!
During the cruise, my friends and I stayed up one night to try and see the Northern Lights. If you time it just right, and the weather conditions are good, you will most likely see it.
My Overall Experience!
Overall, my experience cruising across Europe was brilliant. I got to see so much, in such a small amount of time, and I fully embraced the European culture. I look forward to one day visiting the European countries I have yet to visit, and tick off even more countries on my list.
I would say cruising through Europe is a great way to sample a lot of the countries, as you are only in each destination for the day before sailing to the next. You won't have time to do everything. To fully embrace a city, you definitely have to spend several days there. However, now that I know which parts of Europe I enjoy, I can plan a longer trip in those destinations.