The Western Mediterranean Aboard Crown Princess
by Olivia Balsinger
I had a wondrous opportunity to experience the Crown Princess while adventuring through the Western Mediterranean. The 10-day itinerary was an absolute dream: Rome, picturesque Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece and France, culminating in Barcelona, Spain. Not only did I get to eat local (and delicious) cuisine, explore a UNESCO World Heritage spot at nearly every port and enjoy a mild and temperate climate, it was also special to experience all of the ship’s amenities as well. Below are my highlights from ports on this adventure.
One of our first stops was a town I had previously never heard of: Civitavecchia, which dates back to early antiquity, when Trajan built his infamous pleasure villa, as it was far enough from the city to be a getaway, but close enough if imperial duties called. It has served its current role as Rome’s main port since the thirteenth century, and has inspired the likes of Renaissance masters such as Michelangelo and Bernini.
Although beautiful in its own right, Civitavecchia is a gateway to the Eternal City of Rome, where I could explore the highlights I had previously only seen in movies or learned about in history class. It is a city for the inspired, the lover of art, and those open to experiencing the ancient vibrations of its forebears, from its founding by Romulus and Remus, to its transition to Christianity under Constantine, to its siege by Vittorio Emmanuale in the nineteenth century. Rome is a city where the layers of its history blend seamlessly into each other, giving monuments a new voice without clouding out those that have been speaking through it for centuries.
While exploring Rome, I participated on an excursion to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, which brought me closer to the masterpieces that shaped Rome, and the papacies whose patronage was responsible for some of the most glorious art in the Western World. I tossed a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and tried my luck like millions before me had. Of course, I cooled down with a gelato on Spanish steps and tapped into my primal side with a visit to the towering, central Coliseum — where gladiators and wild animals used to battle for the pleasure of the masses.
Like Rome, Salerno has its roots in Early Roman antiquity, dating back to 197 BC where it served as a colony. When Rome collapsed, there was an ongoing back-and-forth from various European kings to claim it, and saw the influences of such groups like the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. One romp in the warm Mediterranean sun, or dip in the glistening surrounding sea leaves no question why Salerno was so coveted by al.
More relevant today is its proximity to fascinating touristic destinations (and our cruise port!), such as the ash-preserved living museum of Pompeii, as well as the gorgeous Herculaneum. I chose to be daring and hike Mount Vesuvius, the culprit to Pompeii’s destruction almost two millennia ago. Other passengers onboard decided to embark on a cruise to witness the jaw-dropping views of the Amalfi Coast.
The next stop on my majestic Mediterranean journey was the port city of Messina in Sicily. First founded as a Greek colony is 8th century BC, the city became a major commercial center under Roman rule in the middle ages, and the main port of departure for those ghastly Crusaders! Although it has received its fair share of the wear and tear of history (such as earthquakes and the scars of the Great War), Messina is a beacon of rugged southeast Italy. It is here where I was able to hike Mt. Etna, the tallest and most active volcano in recorded history, where I would gaze at views of the summit, as well as the town of Catania, which was buried over 300 years ago by an eruption. I also saw the fascinating remnants of Messina’s first settlers at the Greek Theater in Taormina, built in the 3rd century BC, and perfectly preserved to still host concerts and live performances! Of course, before boarding the boat once more, I needed a delicious glass of the region’s famous Murgo wines at San Michele Winery, I sampled my fair share and brought a bottle home for loved ones!
Dubrovnik is a cobblestoned gem neatly tucked on the cliffs of the Adriatic Sea. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city continues to be the pride of the Republic Croatia, especially with its most recent fames as the filming site of King’s Landing on HBO’s Game of Thrones! Gorgeous, stone architecture and winding veins from the main center create a rather labyrinthine climate more fun to explore, shop and eat.
Excursions in Dubrovnik include the Franciscan Monestary and Pharmacy — a 14th century complex that houses one of Europe’s best manuscript libraries, and a pharmacy that is claimed to be the oldest working apothecary in the world.
I decided to be bold and venture to Dalmatian Coastal Villages, including Cavat, Trsteno and Stop, each a romantic escapade where I would digest some of the most beautiful sites in the country, as well as a 300-year-old fountain of Neptune, and a romantic air that was impossible to ignore.
The Crown Princess is a midsize ship, carrying about 3,100 passengers at a time and designed with public rooms and outdoor areas that creates a more intimate experience for guests and their loved ones.
The ship offers dining options to satiate any palate, such as traditional dining, buffets, as well as 24-hour room service.
There is also Crown Grill, a steakhouse that offers an intimate dining experience where you can watch the chefs prepare premium beef or fresh seafood items in their open kitchen setting. Additionally, Princess Cruises has just unveiled an enhanced beverage menu featuring globally inspired signature cocktail offerings created by master mixologist Rob Floyd. My personal favorite? A Mint Divine, a creation made from Bombay Sapphire gin, ginger beer, cucumber, lime juice, simple syrup and fresh mint. Delicious!
There are a variety of room selection choices available, including Interior and Ocean View rooms, which come with either a queen or two twin beds, a television and a private bathroom with a shower. may also wish to upgrade to a cabin with a balcony. For more space, a Mini Suite includes a separate sitting area with a sofa bed; and more space yet, there is the Suite, which also features deluxe accommodations, such as priority embarkation and disembarkation, as well as a complementary mini bar.
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