Cruise the Mediterranean on the Disney Magic

by deaniewrites

Discover what it's like to cruise the Mediterranean on the Disney Magic, visiting Spain, Italy, France, Croatia, and Malta.

In 2012, after a two year absence from the Mediterranean, Disney Cruise Line returned to Europe, with several all-new itineraries based out of their home port of Barcelona, Spain. This article is an overview of one of them, the 12 day Mediterranean Cruise with Venice, which my mother and I were on the Disney Magic in June 2013. Further articles will expand on the sites visited on this vacation.

The cruise started in Barcelona, and over the course of twelve days visited eight cities in five countries: Villefranche, France; La Spezia, Italy; Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Naples, Italy; Venice, Italy (overnight); Dubrovnik, Croatia; Valetta, Malta; ending back in Barcelona.

The Travelers

Who went on the trip?

The travelers were myself, Deanie, 38 year-old author and photographer, and my mother Marianne.  Mom was 72 at the time, and has difficulty walking over long distances and uneven ground.  We’re veteran cruisers (this was our 5th on Disney, 10th overall) with a love for history, art, architecture, and wine.  This itinerary had all of that and more.

The one thing I didn’t like about Disney’s Mediterranean cruises was the distinct lack of Port Adventures for people with limited mobility.  Some of that, I later learned, was due to the size and geography of the towns visited, and the big tour groups had to park their busses quite a ways away from the main attractions.  Still, that made touring difficult for anyone who couldn’t walk long distances.  But because of this, we booked all private excursions with our own tour guides.

The Travelers

Mom on the Hotel Colon Terrace
Mom on the Hotel Colon Terrace
Deanie
Deanie in Mdina, Malta
Deanie in Mdina, Malta
Deanie

Pre-Cruise Barcelona

Exploring the Gothic Quarter

We started our cruise out with a four-day pre-cruise stay at the Hotel Colon.  A beautiful hotel located across from the Cathedral, it was centrally located, with museums, shops, and restaurants nearby. 

During our pre-cruise stay in Barcelona, we explored museums, churches, and shops; tried paella, tapas, and crème catalan; and had gelato every day.  During this part of our vacation, we mainly explored the Barri Gotic, with a side trip to the Aquarium.  We visited the Museu Mares, the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona and the Museu Xocolata, as well as the churches of Santa Maria del Mar and the Catedral de Barcelona.

 

Barcelona

Stained Glass at the Palau de la Musica Catalana
Stained Glass at the Palau de la Musi...
Deanie
Sunset over Catedral de Barcelona from Hotel Colon terrace
Sunset over Catedral de Barcelona fro...
Deanie

Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

Gateway to the French Riviera

Stop one for the cruise was Villefranche-sur-mer, France.  On the Riviera, Villefranche made an excellent jumping off point to the rest of the Cote d'Azure.  We booked  a tour with guide Ingrid Schmucker of Kultours.  She picked us up in a minivan, and took us on a tour of downtown Nice, artisan village St. Paul de Vence (with lunch), and independent principality Monaco.

Villefranche

View of the French Riviera
View of the French Riviera
Deanie
Old Walls of St. Paul de Vence
Old Walls of St. Paul de Vence
Deanie

La Spezia, Italy

Gateway to Pisa, Lucca, Florence, and the Cinque Terre

Stop two was La Spezia, Italy.  The cruise ship lists it as a port for visiting Florence, but that city is nearly 2 ½ hour away.  Much closer are the towns of Pisa and Lucca.  However, since we’d been to Florence and Pisa before, we decided to do something different, and booked a tour with Heather Jarman, a British expat living in Lucca.  Her company, Sapori-e-Saperi, takes visitors on foodie tours of the surrounding area. 

We spent the morning learning to make cheese with Pierpaolo of  Naturalmente Lunigiana.  Cheesemaking is part science, and part art, and he is an expert in both parts.   After that, we had a nice lunch in a nearby town before heading to the winery to taste local wines from the Terenzuloa vineyards.

Cheese and Wine

Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Mozzarella
Deanie
Italian Vineyards
Italian Vineyards
Deanie

Civitavecchia, Italy

Gateway to Rome

Stop Three was a big one -- Civitavecchia, Italy, the port city nearest to Rome.   Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly won’t be seen in a day, but we gave it our best shot -- in a golf cart! 

We were picked up by our driver and delivered to our guide Roberto of My Best Tour.  We got some strange looks wandering around the city in a golf cart, but it was an amazing way to get around, especially for people like my mom, who have difficulty with walking long distances.  The cart could be parked just about anywhere, much closer to attractions than a car could be parked. 

Guide Roberto was extremely knowledgeable about his city.  We didn’t have time to go in many sites, but we got a good look at the highlights of Rome from Ancient to Modern times, including the Coliseum, Pantheon, church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, and the Vatican.

Rome

Coliseum
Coliseum
Deanie
Pantheon
Pantheon
Deanie

Naples, Italy

Where Ancient History meets Modern Italy

Stop Four was Naples (Napoli), Italy.  We didn’t go into Naples proper, but instead were picked up by our guide from Joe Banana Limos and headed to the ruins of Herculaneum.  A Roman city buried in 79 AD when Vesuvius exploded (like Pompeii), Herculaneum’s more compact size makes it easier to tour than its sister city Pompeii.  After that, we made a brief stop on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius for photos, then on to wine tasting and food at the Sorrentino winery.

Herculaneum and Vesuvius

House of the Wooden Partition, Herculaneum
House of the Wooden Partition, Hercul...
Deanie
On the Slopes of Vesuvius
On the Slopes of Vesuvius
Deanie
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Venice, Italy

A City on Water

After that, we had a day and a half off before Stop Five, Venice, Italy.  We’ve been to Venice before, so we mainly skipped the highlights and went off the beaten path a bit more.  First, we took a private boat ride around Naples outlying islands.  The steps and uneven roads were a bit much for Mom, so she spent the next day on the ship while I explored some more, practicing my photography and shopping for souvenirs.

Venice

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco
Deanie
Burano Island
Burano Island
Deanie

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Pearl of the Adriatic

Sop Six was another stop brand new to Disney -- Dubrovnik, Croatia.  We explored this lovely city on thte Adriatic coast with Dubrovnik Lady, an American of Croatian descent who retired to Dubrovnik, and now writes a popular blog, Essence of Dubrovnik.  She helped us see everything through local eyes -- very different than what people get on the large tour groups.

Dubrovnik

Walls of Dubrovnik
Walls of Dubrovnik
Deanie
Map of Historic Dubrovnik
Map of Historic Dubrovnik
Deanie

Valetta, Malta

An Island Full of History

We had another day at see before the last stop on our cruise, Valetta, Malta.  To most Americans, Malta is only known because the classic Humphrey Bogart movie, The Maltese Falcon.  But this island country has temples older than the pyramids, and has been at the crossroads of history for centuries.  Rita Fsdani of Malta Private Tours showed us all around her island nation.

After that, it was one more day at see before we were back to Barcelona. 

Malta

Upper Barraka Gardens
Upper Barraka Gardens
Deanie
San Anton Palace
San Anton Palace
Deanie

Post-Cruise Barcelona

A Taste of Modernism and Art in Catalonia

Post-cruise, we stayed at Hotel Alma, a modern hotel in the L’Eixample district.  Close to museums, famous Modernisme buildings, restaurants and shopping, Alma has a great location.

We spent the first day outside of Barcelona, visting the town of Girona and the Salvadore Dali museum with guide Teresa from Enchanting Barcelona Tours.  The next day, Teresa met us at our hotel, and took us on a tour of two of Barcelona’s biggest attractions -- La Sangrada Familia church, and Park Guell, both designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.  After that, Mom returned to the hotel to rest, while I checked out other nearby attractions -- La Pedrera, Casa Battlo, Fundacio Tapies, and the Museu Egipci.

On our final full day in Barcelona, we started out with a visit to the Museu National Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the city’s biggest art museum.  Any art lover could spend the whole day there, enjoying thousands of years of Catalonian art, but after lunch in their restaurant, we had to get going.  I had a photographer to meet. 

I’d arranged a photography coaching session with Ben Evans, from Englishphotographer.com, but he wasn’t available, so he sent his associate Hiromi, another professional photographer living in Barcelona.  We spent the afternoon wandering around Barcelona, learning about photography from both the technical and artistic point of view.

After that, it was back to the hotel for one more night in Barcelona before catching our flight in the morning.

 

Barcelona

Parc Guell
Parc Guell
Deanie
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Deanie
Updated: 03/12/2014, deaniewrites
 
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Guest on 02/25/2015

Looks like an incredible trip. I'd probably opt for the Oasis if I was going alone, but Disney is definitely the cruise ship travel to take if you've got kids - I hope to take my nephews someday soon.

ologsinquito on 03/12/2014

This seems like a wonderful trip. I wouldn't automatically associate Disney with a Mediterranean cruise, so it's an interesting twist.

KathleenDuffy on 03/12/2014

I didn't realise Disney did cruises! Enjoyed reading about your lovely trip with your mum :)

VioletteRose on 03/12/2014

Beautiful pictures!

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