Subject: Re: Mediterranean Oceania Cruises
Hi, Barbara, and Ziners,

We did a Med cruise on a mainstream ship (Celebrity Millennium) early June last summer 2004. There were not many kids out of school yet for our kids to socialize with on that sailing. I feel sure that your May 29 date + the Oceania line's "persona" as a more upscale, less family- friendly cruise line, will keep your kid count extremely low.

The Cruise Critic site I mentioned earlier today has an entire forum devoted to Oceania cruises. And at Ports of Call Europe, you'll find lots of info re: what to do in the places you are visiting.

Comparing your itinerary to ours, we made all of your ports except for Cadiz, Marseille, Portofino and Ancona. Here's what we did/my comments about the ports we share in common:

Barcelona - This was our embarkation city. If I had only one day, I'd highly recommend some type of guided tour (through the ship's excursion vendor or a tour company of your choice) to see the several highlight attractions (they are geographically spread out), followed by enough free time to enjoy some traditional Catalan food, stroll Las Ramblas, and visit the fascinating market (La Boqueria also known as Mercat de Sant Josep).

Monte Carlo (we anchored at nearby Villefranche) - We rented a car and drove all over, from Monte Carlo to Nice, up to Eze and down to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and to many wonderful places in between. Had we been childless, we would've definitely researched & pre-reserved lunch at a Michelin- starred restaurant up on the seaside cliffs. Check out the online Michelin guides and custom mapping/trip planning program at If you don't want to drive it yourself, I highly recommend you hire a private driver & guide for the day as you will want to fully experience all the Cote d'Azur has to offer, not just the limited places a ship's tour will take you. There are several private guides who are highly recommended by other cruisers on the Cruise Critic forum.

Livorno - Here again, we rented a car, and because our kids hadn't been to this part of Italy, we made "The Tourists' Triangle" from port-Pisa-Florence-port. If you do Florence on your own, it's wise to pre-reserve admission to see David and visit the Uffizi, ditto if you want to climb the leaning tower of Pisa. Exploring Lucca or other nearby Tuscan towns is a lovely alternative for travelers who have already visited Florence. If this is your first visit, I can't recommend driving or training into Florence in a port day's time-- one of the ship's excursions or a private driver/guide will better serve you.

Civitavecchia (Rome) - Similarly, if you've never been to Rome before, I recommend a ship's excursion or private guide to optimize your day. So much to see, so little time! If you want to tour independently or meet a guide in the city, I highly recommend making the port-Rome link on your own by train (it was fast, efficient, cheap--get the 1 day unlimited public transportation ticket called the BIRG for 9E at the Civ train station and use it all day for subways, buses, and your return trip to Civ on the commuter line).

Dubrovnik - No tour is needed here unless you want to go beyond the walled city (which is truly a gem of a place). Of course, I do think you'd experience more Croatian culture if you explored--sev'l of our fellow cruisers raved about their half-day ship's excursion to a countryside town for lunch. We walked the walls, strolled and shopped--gorgeous, inexpensive watercolors here--and chartered a small boat for a couple of lazy hours sightseeing from the water and swimming in the Aegean.

Venice - Entering Venice by cruise ship is one of those events you'll remember all your life! You will cruise up the Giudecca Canal and have a bird's eye view of the entire city. Everyone will be out on deck--ask if there will be a staff member who can point out landmarks. Even if it's your first visit, there is no need for guiding in Venice unless you have a special interest prompting you to seek, e.g., an art historian-led walk. We've never done it, but the "secret" Doge's Palace tour always gets a "thumbs up" and should be pre-reserved. If anyone in your party likes visiting cemeteries when traveling, the cemetery island is a must see.

Barbara, as the volunteer who maintains the GTG calendar, may I suggest that you return with a new posting entitled "GTG along the Mediterranean Coast?" and then in the body of your post, list just those cities by exact date where you'd like to GTG, e.g., Portofino - June 3. I believe you will attract more attention, especially from resident Ziners, if you let them know a date, and of course, there may be some places you may not want to squeeze a GTG into your limited time in port.

In that regard, it is important to realize when planning your port day that your actual time off the ship is usually up to 2 hours less than the published time in the itinerary. If it says 7a-6p, that usually refers to the ship's arrival & departure times. Plan on the ship not being cleared for pax to get off until 8a, and plan on the announced deadline for all pax to be on board to be 5p. Then, if your ship leave time is more generous, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have any follow-up detail questions about this cruise trip.

I hope your life in the Wine Country is relatively relaxing, as a Med cruise is one of those trips you return from saying, "I need a vacation from my vacation!" Not relaxing, but glorious in every way.

Diana Ball near Houston, TX