How exciting our first family cruise with our young 16-month old little daughter and my 5-month pregnant belly. We lived in Marseille France near the port for a few years. We got used to seeing the big cruise boats arrive in the port and watching them leave at sunset.
So after searching for a suitable cruise we decided to book our Mediterranean Cruise deal with Costa Cruise Ship making sure to visit some of the best Mediterranean cruise ports.
We boarded from Marseille port, then onto Savona, Rome, Tunisia, Palma de Majorca and back to Marseille with Costa Cruise Ship.
How to book your Cruise and things you need to know before you book
If this is your first cruise it can be daunting to find a good deal. There are a few websites which you can browse including Expedia, Cruise Direct, Priceline. I also find Vacationstogo useful for last-minute deals and price comparisons. You can also find an agent who specialises in Cruises and compares the prices you get. If you go off-peak and avoid the holiday season you can also snap up some good deals. We went in March and after a bit of research found a deal with BSP Croisières.
When booking your cruise there are many things to consider; you have a choice of rooms available to suit your budget. The indoor interior cabins with no window are the cheapest option, then the indoor with a window and the more expensive ones are the exterior rooms with balconies and staterooms.
We paid 1,143 Euros for an all-inclusive (not including drinks) exterior cabin with a window with Costa Fascinosa. Bear in mind there are extra costs to consider when booking a cruise; these can include drinks, water, excursions, onboard facilities like the games room or spa.
Facilities inside the Ship
The Costa Fascinosa boat is equipped with many things to keep you occupied and entertained; indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a large theatre room, restaurants, casinos, dance club, children’s playroom, spa, piano bars and an outdoor play area. On some ships, you also have childcare which can be useful if you would like to have a ‘date evening’ with your partner.
Day 1 Cruise from Marseille
Embarkment on the ship was fairly easy and organised. Once on the ship someone will take you and show you your rooms; this can be a bit chaotic as there are many people trying to navigate themselves to their cabin rooms. Once onboard you will also have a safety drill which everyone has to do; there is a lot of waiting around but it was just once during our stay on the boat and essential in case of any emergencies.
Our first evening and formal dinner on the boat and I was starting to worry as I started getting severe pains in my belly. Fortunately, a doctor was on board as part of the crew. Seeing him reassured me. Meanwhile, Daddy and Kiki went on a discovery tour of the boat with her little truck. She was just beginning to walk so the little truck was a genius idea (mums idea).
The first night onboard was a stormy night on the sea and you could feel the waves crashing on the boat. There was a beautiful view from our window, just the deep sea, with the moon glittering on the sea waves. The next morning I was feeling much better and so was looking forward to our first stopover, Savona.
When you arrive by cruise ship one of the first monuments you will see is the Torre Leon Pancaldo, a tower near the port which sometimes holds exhibitions.
If you like chapels and cathedrals there is the Sistine chapel and not too far is the Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta. We just had a few hours to stop so we decided to walk around the town and walked through a cute local market (where yes I managed to go crazy on a few local products.)
Back on the boat for our candlelit 3-course dinner (you also have the choice for a burger quick style dinner) but we opted for the formal dining as we found the buffet area a little hectic. Plus I always like an opportunity to dress up:) It was quite amusing to watch Kiki swallowing and playing with her spaghetti and broccoli. Smiling at all the passers-by who all stopped to speak to her; there was no room for privacy, all eyes on us, well on Kiki at least. I think she loved it.
I was particularly excited about our next stop as I had never visited Rome but heard so much about this historical town. It was a bit of a train journey from Civitavecchia (where the port is) to Rome and Kiki was in her naughty and energetic mood. She was discovering to walk and no longer wanted to be in the pushchair, which was great on one hand but also tricky when you are in a crowded train with no room to move. For once in an Italian train, we were the loudest. Luckily we were with a friendly bunch who were are all giving her sweets. Inside my head I was thinking that is probably not a great idea, she is going to turn into a little gremlin with all that sugar.
Having less than a full day in Rome we had to really pick a couple of main things we really wanted to see. We chose to first visit the Colosseum, absolutely beautiful, but wait a minute why was it so silent? “Kiki look at this amazing historical building… Hello Kiki….” yes, she slept through the whole visit. She slept peacefully while we visited the ancient city, Roman Forum, Arch of Titus, House and temple of Vestals, Palatine Hill and the Trevi Fountain; but she did wake up in time for the Italian Gelati 🙂 which is a must-have in Rome. Just follow the queues to get the best ice cream.
Next stop on the route, Palermo. Palermo is the Capital city of Sicily. There are many historical attractions to visit including the Palermo Cathedral which has an interesting Moorish influence. You can also visit the Capella Palatina, Palazzo dei Normanni, Palermo archaeological Museum, Capuchin Abbey & Catacombs, San Giovanni Degli Eremiti Church. There is also the Fontana Pretoria; a monumental fountain which is at the centre of Piazza Pretoria. Sadly we were not so impressed with Palermo; it could be because we had not organised our trip here. We found it to be quite a walk from the Port and also we may have just walked in the wrong areas. If we were to go again we would definitely do more research to make sure we visit efficiently as time is quite limited on a cruise.
Tunis and Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia
For our next stop, Tunisia, we decided to do a coach tour (something I am not overly keen on as I feel like a sheep being herded with a time constraint attached to me). Although we kept an open mind on this trip. We were taken to a perfumery and then a walk through the winding souk (market); where inevitably we were herded into a carpet shop. Seriously am I really going to spend the precious few hours we have; haggling for a carpet and then walking along with my pregnant belly, pushchair and carpet…..the thought is tempting but not enough:) We were eager to escape out of this souk maze.
Our next stop took us to the town of Sidi Bou Said. This picturesque town is located on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The cobbled streets are lined with souvenir shops, cafes, art and craft shops. Unfortunately with the tour bus the time you have here is just not sufficient. You can spend the whole day here discovering the hidden little cute streets and a great place to take some cool photos with the backdrop of the blue and white buildings.
Back on the boat, we decided to do a tour of our boat, as it was off-season we were literally the only people out on deck. We took this moment with some playtime with Kiki and discovering the outdoor captain boat.
Palma de Majorca, Spain
Our final stop, Palma de Majorca and one of our favourites. We decided to do a tour to the Dragon Caves. Although a bit touristy, these stalactite caves were stunning. There was also a little boat ride with ‘baroque’ music which was quite serene and beautiful. Of course, at this moment Kiki decided to sleep throughout the whole tour. We would definitely come back here again and explore the beautiful countryside.
So in conclusion we had quite an amazing trip on the boat, it was something we never really thought about doing but would definitely do it again. If you are looking for a more organised way to travel then maybe try a cruise. If you don’t like the idea of doing the tours with the cruise boat don’t worry you don’t have to, you can also organise your own tour privately, just make sure you prepare in advance for what you want to do in the limited time you have.
TIP – We really enjoyed the formal dining experience especially in the evenings rather than the buffet food, the quality of the food in comparison was also better. The seating arrangements may be limited so they may give you a time slot but if you can, even with young children, try to experience it.
Feel free to tell us about your experience with cruising, and if you have any questions we would be very happy to answer them.
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