Rick Steves’ Cruising the Mediterranean

Rick Steves’ Cruising the Mediterranean

-Hi, I’m Rick Steves. I’ve spent the last 30 years exploring Europe
from every conceivable angle, and now it’s time
to check it out the way millions of people are. Yep, we’re on a cruise ship, and we’re sailing
the Mediterranean. Welcome aboard. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Cruising is really popular
these days. In this special, I’d like to
explore the ins and outs and pros and cons
of this travel option. Sailing from Barcelona to Athens
with stops all along the way, I’ll toggle
from a floating resort to exciting days on shore, nearly each day
in a different country. Massive cruise ships serve
as both transportation and a floating hotel. From our ship, we’ll visit
some of the great ports of the Mediterranean and venture inland to
some of Europe’s iconic sights. We’ll savor
romantic island getaways and some lazy time
on the beach. We’ll learn how to make the most
of the cruising experience — avoiding lines,
eating quick but local — while exercising independence to get the most out
of limited time on shore. Along with the efficiencies
of cruising, we’ll show the downsides — the inevitable congestion
and commercialization that comes with mass tourism. And as we sail
from port to port, we’ll enjoy our time
on board the ship — a virtual playground at sea. The Mediterranean Sea is bounded
by North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The typical cruise itinerary
covers the great European ports. While most cruises focus
on either the West or the East, we’ll do a little of both. Stopping in Barcelona,
Nice for the French Riviera, La Spezia for Florence,
Civitavecchia for Rome, Naples, Malta, Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. I’m not here to promote
or put down cruising. For some people,
it’s a great choice. And for others it’s not. Cruising can be economical,
with your transportation, room, and meals all included
at one price. It can be ideal for those who
want everything taken care of for their vacation, and it can also be
an efficient platform for independent types who want
to shape their own adventures each day. While there may be a lot
of things to enjoy on the ship, the reason I cruise
the Mediterranean is to experience
the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean world
is filled with wonder and richly rewards
the well-organized traveler. The cultural variety
seems endless and it shows itself
in traditions, cuisines, and a distinctive love of life. For thousands of years, this was the center
of Western Civilization. Exploring the Mediterranean, you’ll enjoy the sweep
of art history — from ancient treasures
to the dazzling accomplishments of the Renaissance
to modern wonders. And it’s just flat-out
beautiful. No wonder the rich and fabulous have built
their palaces and villas here since ancient times. The cruiser’s challenge
is to decide how to best experience
all these attractions. Your goal:
to get the most out of your vacation time
and money, enjoy the best experiences, and have fun. Before we sight-see the greatest
hits of the Mediterranean, let’s get an overview
of cruising in general. Ships can be huge. Ours has about 3,000 passengers
with 1,500 crew scrambling to keep everyone
well-served, safe, and happy. Is it good travel?
That’s up to you. The way I see it,
of the guests on this ship, a third of them
are just looking for a floating alternative
to Las Vegas. A third of them
are “bucket list” tourists just checking things
off their list, and a third of them
are independent-minded travelers well-prepared and eager
to hit the ground running as soon as that gangway
hits the pier. Cruising originated as
an activity for the wealthy — it was expensive and formal. The joke was it was for
“the newlyweds, over-fed, and nearly dead.” But, as ships get bigger
and bigger, able to offer comforts
unimaginable in decades past, cruising has changed
its image. Today, it’s younger,
more active, and more affordable. Most Mediterranean cruises
start and end in Venice, Rome, or Barcelona. Wherever you start,
you’ll need to be patient. This is your first peek
at the necessary efficiency of the cruise industry. It’s a big logistical challenge
to get several thousand people and their bags into their
staterooms on the first day. Pack a little extra patience and leave yourself
plenty of time for the red tape
and orientation. Once on board, I do one thing
right off the bat: move in thoroughly. Staterooms, while thoughtfully
designed, are tight, so make things shipshape. If you use all
your available storage space and are constantly on guard
against clutter, there’s plenty of room. I rarely use drawers
in hotel rooms, but this is my home
for my entire vacation. You just move in once,
so do it right away, move in fully, and establish
your ship-shape standards. On a cruise, you can get away
with packing heavier. I bring more clothes than usual. How dressy you need to be is a matter of which
cruise line you choose and your personal style. As cruising has become
accessible to the middle class, it’s also become more casual. This is as dressy as I get. Most people pack
three kinds of outfits: smart casual for evenings, leisure wear for poolside
and relaxing on the ship, and practical travel clothing
for time on shore. Okay, I’ve moved in
and we’re on our way. We’ll be in the French Riviera
in the morning. We’re settling into the rhythm
of a Mediterranean cruise — sail at night and explore
a different port each day. By the way, have some fun
with the key nautical terms. I’m standing near the front
that’s the bow. The back? It’s the stern. Left: port,
and right is starboard. And remember,
it’s not a “boat,” it’s a “ship.” For me, just “being at sea”
is a travel destination. After our first departure,
or “sail-away,” I find myself thinking
of the Mediterranean as a sight in itself. Make a point on departure day to get to know
your floating home. Take advantage of the signage
to understand the layout. Modern ships are
smartly designed. This ship has 1,500 staterooms
on 12 decks gathered around
a central atrium where you’ll find places to
shop, hang out, eat, and drink. ♪♪ Explore the ship on
a good orientation walk. The library
is generally quiet and empty. The gym comes
with amazing views. You’ll discover places —
like tucked-away lounges — that others may miss. In this floating resort, the top deck —
with its swimming pool — is the equivalent of the beach. When it comes to fun-in-the-sun, poolside seems to be
the center of the universe. But if you crave
the tranquility of a park, this ship has actual grass. I don’t know what happened
to shuffleboard, but a little bocce ball
will do just fine. Each morning, the deck
is busy with walkers — eight laps and it’s a mile. Being confined on a ship,
it’s important to stay active. I make a pact:
anticipating lots of eating, I shall avoid the elevators
and use the stairs instead. They say the average cruise
passenger gains a pound a day, but not me. Cruising can work well
for families and for groups
traveling together. Each person can pick and choose
how much to see and do both on land and at sea, and still get together
for dinner every evening. And cruising also works
for people who can’t walk well or who are less active — the entire ship is as accessible
as any modern resort. Along with the advantages,
cruising has its downsides. Many would say it can insulate
you from the “real Europe.” You’re going to
the most famous places and seeing them at the same time with thousands
of other tourists. That’s just the nature
of cruising. Those who don’t make a concerted
effort at minimizing the crowds may come home with memories
of congestion and lots of wasted time. Cruise ships drop large numbers
of people in the same place at the same time. Small ports
can be overwhelmed by crowds when the ship’s in port, even worse when several ships
are there on the same day. And then,
when the ships sail away, the port suddenly becomes less
crowded and more romantic — something cruisers
won’t experience because they’re back on the ship
heading to the next port. Many cruisers are not
very energetic sightseers. If you are,
get out early as possible and come back late as you can. Doing this,
you’ll enjoy fewer crowds and more unforgettable moments. With each port, you’ve got
sightseeing options: You can take
the organized bus tour and be on their time table, or you can hire a private guide. You can use a guidebook
and be your own guide, or you can just hang out
and be thoroughly on vacation. There’s no right or wrong — it depends on your mood
and your style. Many cruise travelers invest in the cruise line’s
shore excursions. Excursions can be
active or easy, fully guided, or just providing transportation
and free time. While pricey, they can also be
a time- and cost-effective way to cover those must-see
sights and experiences. And there’s usually
a bus tour option designed for people
with limited mobility. But as these tours
target the touristy clichés and many buses hit
the same sites at the same time, you’ll often be right
in the thick of the crowds. If you’re not purchasing the
cruise ship sightseeing package, you’ve got an array
of fine alternatives. Mediterranean ports
seem to be designed as springboards
for independent travelers. In most port terminals, you’ll
find reputable local companies offering essentially the same
tours as the cruise lines for a fraction of the cost. Another option:
book a private guide in advance. It’s a comfort
to be met at the port with a warm, personal welcome. Legions of private guides
earn their living serving cruisers directly. You can book a guide
and share the cost — four people
hiring a guide with a car costs about the same as four people
taking the cruise excursion. And with a guide, you get
your own private teacher, you’re sure to know
the way to the summit, and you enjoy the freedom
to go at your own pace. And you can simply be
your own guide. You’ll find helpful
tourist offices. And, most ports are
well-served by public transit. Independent types and those
on a tight budget can use a guidebook. There are handy guidebooks designed to help you get the
most out of your time in port. And, taking advantage of apps featuring self-guided walks
on your smartphone empowers
the independent traveler with plenty of
good touring information. In many big cities, hop-on, hop-off companies offer
do-it-yourselfers economic and efficient transportation. Buses meet the cruise ships
at the port and offer big loop tours
connecting major sights, letting you hop off and on
all day long, and dropping you
back at the port. And finally,
you’re on vacation. You have the option
to do nothing. Anyone can simply walk or catch
a ride in to the town center and just delight
in a free day — shopping, browsing,
sipping a local drink, or soaking up some sun
on the beach. ♪♪ [ Laughter ] Because ships sail at night, you rarely enjoy
a characteristic dinner on shore or the romance
of a town after dark. Having said that,
I enjoy the evenings on the ship —
hanging out with new friends and thinking about
tomorrow’s destination. So, tomorrow,
it’s the French Riviera. The cruise line sells a
selection of excursions for every port. Early on, it’s good to review
what’s offered, decide which tours —
if any — are right for you, and book them. The excursion desk is dedicated
to explaining and selling the many
onshore tours and activities. For the eager students, some ships offer
a talk each evening to preview the next day’s
sightseeing options and to promote their tours.
-Our mission — that you enjoy every port of
call to the maximum. Yes? -Arriving at our first port,
with its blue or azure waters, it’s clear why France’s Riviera
is nicknamed the Cote d’Azur. Cruise ships stop in one
of three ports — Nice… Monaco… or Villefranche. Each is a delight to explore, a short ride apart by train — and today, we’ll see them all. Villefranche
has a fine harbor, but it doesn’t have a dock
big enough for a cruise ship. So, we’re dropping the hook
and getting ashore in a small boat
called a “tender.” ♪♪ Be sure you understand
exactly what time the last tender shuttles
back to the ship. Today, it’s 4:30. The French Riviera lends
itself to independent touring. I love Villefranche, but to be sure we don’t
miss our ship, we’ll enjoy this port
at the end of the day. While the ship’s
information desk is designed to sell the
cruise line’s shore excursions, tourist offices on shore
are a service designed to help
independent travelers. Okay,
I’ve got maps for each town and a train schedule — there’s one leaving
in 10 minutes. Trains along the Riviera
leave a couple times an hour. And towns here are
about 20 minutes apart. Today we’ll enjoy
a couple hours in Nice, a couple hours
in Monte Carlo, and then run out the clock
back here in Villefranche. We’re starting in Nice
while the market’s still lively. The well-organized traveler
can do a lot during an eight-hour stop. Using a good guidebook
and public transportation, exploring the French Riviera
is a snap. It’s fun and economical to
take advantage of public transit in the bigger cities. Nice has a single tramline that glides from
the train station right to the old center. This is pure France. As I like to say, Nice is nice, and the market is thriving. Une socca, s’il vous plaît. Here, you can savor
the distinct flavor of this southeastern corner
of France. -Beautiful.
Socca, the local chickpea bread, is delicious hot off
the griddle and just right
for a bite on the go. -Thank you very much. -Thank you.
-Merci bien. Au revoir. Mediterranean towns make their
promenades people-friendly and Nice’s Promenade des Anglais
is a fine example. While I could rent a bike,
a lazy stroll and some beach time
feels just about right. I’ll be on the train to Monaco
or Monte Carlo in about an hour, but right now? Ohh, yeah. Back on the train,
I’m enjoying my independence, my baguette avec fromage,
and amazing Riviera scenery. In half an hour,
we’ll be in Monaco. It’s a tiny country
about the size of Manhattan. Monaco is dominated
by its harbor, and its harbor is filled
with the massive yachts of massively wealthy tycoons. The city is small enough
that you can walk to all of its main sights
in a couple of hours. I have time for two stops:
the famous casino — imagine all the fortunes won
and lost here, mostly lost — and the cute little
royal palace. We’re here just in time for
the changing of the guard. [ Band playing ] And a visit to the palace is
capped with a commanding view. Riding the train back
to our port, Villefranche, it’s comforting
to see our ship at anchor. The sleepy town of Villefranche
feels made for relaxation. The beach is inviting. And the harbor-front
is the perfect place to enjoy a final drink
on the Riviera. We’ve got 45 minutes before the
last tender back to our ship. There’s no way we’re going
to miss our connection, and that means plenty of time
to enjoy a relaxing pastis. We’ve caught the last tender. Security on board
is taken very seriously and it’s efficiently organized. Because everyone
swipes in and out with their identity cards, at any given moment, the staff knows exactly
who’s on the ship and who’s still on shore. With everyone back on board,
it’s time to haul anchor and sail away. This is one of the pleasures
of cruising. Until you get to the next port, you’re free to relax
any way you want. You can read a book on deck, head to the spa, exercise, or enjoy one of the
numerous bars all over the ship. I’m into the rhythm now. After a full day of sightseeing,
I’m ready to relax: stowed my wallet in the room,
got comfortable, and I’m looking forward
to dinner and an evening at sea. By the way, even with
so many people on board, I’m impressed by
how it rarely feels crowded. If you want quiet,
you can find it. Do you have kids?
-Mm-hmm. One son. -One son. How old is he?
-34. -See, my son is 30.
-30! -Can you believe you’ve got
a 34-year-old son? -No way.
[ Laughter ] -If you’re in the mood
to socialize, you can enjoy
an impromptu balcony party with friends
you’ve made on board. And if you want more action,
there is always lots going on. [ Lively music plays ] It seems any excuse for a party
is good enough. Full moon tonight — yep, it’s the full moon party. ♪♪ One thing I like about cruising is how easy it is
to meet people. ♪♪ People who are young at heart. ♪♪ ♪♪ Many major cruise destinations
are actually landlocked and far from the sea. For example, Florence. Our ship docks in La Spezia,
a couple hours away by bus or train. Like in many cruise ports,
we arrive in a gritty world of shipping containers and cranes. And from this springboard,
lots of eager travelers are up and out early
to catch their tour buses. Like thousands of
other travelers, today we’re heading
into Florence — and most of us have the same
great sights in mind: Michelangelo’s David
and the Uffizi Gallery. Taking the cruise line’s tour, I know I’ll get a quick blitz of
the great sights of Florence. The tour includes
transportation, reservations
for the big attractions, a professional guide, and the assurance that we’ll make it
back to the ship on time. Florence is one of those places
everybody wants to see, and almost everybody wants
to see the same sights. You won’t be alone. While those without reservations will waste lots of precious time
in lines, with a tour,
you’ll be more efficient — certain to see the glories
of the Florentine Renaissance: Brunelleschi’s
magnificent dome… Botticelli’s Birth of Venus… and Michelangelo’s David. ♪♪ As we make our way toward Rome, let’s consider how to stay
within your budget while on the ship. Cruise ships are businesses. They need to make money, and there’s not much profit
in the base cost of a trip. So they need to make more money
from land excursions and from extras you buy
while on board — things like gambling,
photography, shopping, and alcohol. As smart consumers, it’s important
to understand the game plan. It’s possible, technically,
to do the entire cruise with no extra expenses on board, but extras are enticing. They’re cleverly sold, and your purchases
can really add up. It’s a cashless world
on the ship. Along with getting you
into your stateroom, your handy ID card
is how you buy things. Onboard, there’s lots of temptations, and purchases feel painless —
like it’s almost free… until you check out and get the
grand total for your final bill. Our next port serves Rome,
another inland city. Like for Florence,
the ship docks in an industrial
container port. Here, in Civitavecchia, the cruise line provides
a shuttle bus to the end of the port from where we sort through
our transportation options. In this case, most independent
cruisers just hop on the train. Within an hour, we’re in Rome. While Rome may be
“The Eternal City,” our cruise schedule
gives it just a single day. You’ll need to be smart
and selective. Do it with a thoughtful plan —
with reservations or a guided tour
to minimize your time in lines. Rome has two main
sightseeing zones. The ancient city includes
the awe-inspiring Colosseum, the Forum with the magnificence
of the empire apparent even in its ruins, and the glorious Pantheon. Amazingly preserved,
this building gives us a sense of the splendor of ancient Rome
better than any other. And across the Tiber River
stands Vatican City with the towering
St. Peter’s Basilica, the exhilarating treasures
of the Vatican Museum, and Michelangelo’s
beloved Sistine Chapel. ♪♪ ♪♪ -Welcome to the tour. We’re going to head down the
main corridor right over here. So, everyone, follow me.
-Back on board, we got tickets for a behind-the-scenes tour
of our ship. Modern cruise ships
are engineering and technical marvels. We start on the bridge,
where the captain and his crew enjoy the ultimate vantage point and state-of-the-art
navigational tools to be sure we’re on track. In the control room,
we learn how the ship is like
a sophisticated organism — making its own fresh water
from the sea, monitoring its vast power, and making sure
all systems are go. Passing through the living
quarters of the crew, we’re reminded that
1,500 hard-working people live in a parallel world under the care-free vacation
decks above. -All the fruit that we have
here is coming from Italy, from Poland, and from Spain. -The officer in charge of the
ship’s inventory of food explains how the produce necessary to feed thousands of people
is managed. And we finish our tour
with a look at the bustling and well-coordinated
kitchen, or galley. Our next stop is Naples. I love coming into port. If you’re up early,
you can enjoy the approach: sunrise over Mount Vesuvius. And here comes one of Europe’s
most intense yet rewarding cities. Here in Naples, the cruise
terminal is right down town. Along with the conventional
cruise line tour buses, you’ll find budget alternatives
for do-it-yourself travelers. In ports like Naples,
the scene can feel aggressive. Stepping through
the port security gate, you may find yourself
in an assertive scrum of cabbies and tour guides
eager to take you for a ride. While we could make a deal
here on the spot for our sightseeing needs, I’ve made arrangements
in advance. If you’re leaving the ship
as an independent traveler, remember: cruise ports attract
hustlers and con-artists — people looking to over-charge naïve tourists
for their services. Look for fixed
and regulated prices. Also, be smart
about your valuables. I leave my passport on the ship. -Buongiorno!
-Buongiorno! I am Rafael… Using my guidebook, I’ve booked
a private tour guide with a car. In moments, we’re zipping
under Mount Vesuvius and heading for a quick
look at Pompeii. While pricey for a solo
traveler, we’re beating the crowds and I’ve got the luxury
of my own guide here at one of Europe’s
great ancient sights. It’s amazing to think
that Pompeii was a thriving Roman city and then, in AD 79,
Mount Vesuvius blew its top, and the city was buried
in a flood of hot ash and mud. The excavations give us a look
at life in ancient Rome like none other. ♪♪ ♪♪ With my driver and guide,
I’m nimble and independent. By mid-day,
we’re back in Naples, free to see things far
from the cruise crowds. This old quarry
is the Fontanelle Ossuary. It’s been filled with
human bones for centuries — a sight I bet no one
from our ship is visiting today. But it’s on my list
and perfectly doable. The quarry is filled with bones
from emptied church cemeteries. I learned that
in the 19th century, Neapolitans would actually
adopt a skull, build it a little house, and count on the skull’s soul
in heaven to advocate for them in times of need. ♪♪ I love exploring the characteristic
neighborhoods of Naples, and the most crazy
and vivid is Sanitá. Just wandering through
this district is a cultural carnival. For me, the back streets
of Naples offer the gritty reality
of urban Italy. Now within easy striking
distance of our ship, I say goodbye to our guide
and grab a characteristic lunch in the city famous
as the birthplace of pizza. The food on the ship is good
but generally ignores the cuisine of whatever port we’re visiting. So, for lunch, rather than fast food
or some forgettable sandwich, choose authentic local food
designed to be eaten quickly. And here in Naples,
it’s got to be pizza. Each country has its quick
and easy go-to meal. It’s tapas in Spain. My favorite Barcelona tapas
bars are Basque style — you just grab what looks good and then count the toothpicks
on your plate to figure out how much you owe. In France, I love a good
salade niçoise. What better lunch in Nice? In Greece, a souvlaki pita
is fast, tasty, and cheap. And in Istanbul, it’s fresh fish
right off the big, tipsy dingy. [ Conversation
in native language ] This is Istanbul fast food. Tonight, as we sail for Malta, the grand foyer
is put to good use for the cruise ritual
of meeting the ship’s officers. -Your captain,
from Greece as well, Captain [indistinct],
ladies and gentlemen! [ Cheers and applause ] -That’s followed by a little bit
of floating razzmatazz. -[ Singing indistinctly ] ♪♪ -And, as the night wears on,
up at the pool is a chance for everyone to literally dance
to their own beat — wearing headphones, you can select your favorite
style of music at the silent disco. It’s a surreal experience
made even more so by the graceful mermaid. ♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ The captain advised being up
early to enjoy the entry to the Grand Harbor of Malta. Clearly, this port
was well-worth some serious fortifications. Our ship just squeezes
into the historic harbor, and in moments,
we’re in the old center of town ready for a busy day
of sightseeing. Malta is a tiny
independent country set between Sicily and Africa. With a culture enriched by
a long parade of civilizations, it’s a strategically
placed island nation with an extraordinary history. The capital city of Valletta is a stony monument
to this hard-fought history. And the dramatic view
from the ramparts of the heavily fortified harbor
reminds the visitor of Malta’s strategic importance
through the centuries. Of the many cultures
that shaped it, perhaps most obvious
is its British heritage. Malta spent 150 years
as part of the British Empire. While it gained its independence
in 1964, Malta retains
its British flavor: English-style pubs and food,
statues of queens… and red phone booths. ♪♪ If this feels like
a fortress city, it’s because it was the capital of the Knights of St. John, also known as
the Knights of Malta. Malta’s stout walls —
many of them incorporated into existing limestone cliffs —
survived a siege in 1565 of 40,000 Ottoman sailors. After the Turkish threat passed, the city was ornamented
with delightful architecture, including characteristic
enclosed balconies, called gallarija. As you stroll,
you’ll enjoy an inviting and nostalgic patina of age
in its facades. A short drive through Malta’s
dry and timeless landscape takes us to the fisherman’s
harbor of Marsaxlokk. A favorite with cruise
travelers, it’s home to a fleet of typical
Maltese fishing boats. While Marsaxlokk has a fine main
square and church, the action is along
the harbor — especially during
the Sunday market, when it’s all about fish. Tradition says that
the shape of the boats goes back eight centuries
before Christ to when Malta
was a Phoenician colony. These colorful boats pop
in the dazzling sunlight, seeming to celebrate yet
another distinct heritage of the Mediterranean world. When the distance between ports is longer than
an overnight ride, the ship spends
an entire day at sea. You know, one of
my favorite things about a Mediterranean cruise
is the day at sea — sleep in, leisurely brunch,
read a book, just hang out by the pool. For activities on board,
each evening a printed program with a busy schedule
for the next day lands on your bed. Cruise lines work hard to make
time on the ship enjoyable. They arrange something
for everyone: poolside is ground zero
for fun and relaxation outdoors. Every day is filled with
ship-sponsored activities — like dance classes. And there are plenty of other
ways to enjoy the sunny hours on deck. ♪♪ Different cruise lines
serve different markets. Smaller ships generally
charge more and are able
to visit smaller ports. Of the big ship options, you have a range
of prices and styles. When shopping for a cruise, there are two
major considerations: the itinerary and the character
of the cruise line. It’s your choice:
family-friendly, young and trendy, older
and more mature, and so on. It’s pretty obvious
by the advertising which market’s being targeted and the general style
of the passengers you’ll be
sharing your ship with. Your cruise price will also vary according to your choice
of cabin class. Like the vast majority
of those on this ship, I’m staying in
a basic stateroom. On the newer ships, most rooms
come with a small balcony. I enjoy the fresh air,
the views, and quiet moments
on my own deck. If money’s no concern, you have some pretty fancy
top end options. Rooms cost more or less
depending on view, size, location,
and package of services. Italy juts 600 miles
into the Mediterranean. It divides the sea from a cruise itinerary point of view into western ports
and eastern ports. We’re sailing east, into the Greece’s Aegean Sea
for three more stops. Next up: Athens. The port of Athens is Piraeus, another industrial springboard
serving a popular destination. While Athens
is perfectly tourable for the independent traveler, many opt for
the cruise line’s excursion. Cruise lines excel
in efficiency. Before leaving the ship, tourists meet in the theater, get their tour group number, are escorted
to their awaiting bus, and meet the guide. Within minutes,
they’re on their way as he narrates the ride into
town with information about the leading city
of ancient Greece — the home of Socrates and Plato. Today, Athens is
a sprawling metropolis of four million people. But, in the 19th century,
it was just a small town huddled at the base
of its once mighty acropolis. That old town is today’s
touristy shopping quarter, called the Plaka, with its fun eateries,
colorful markets, and shops filled
with knickknacks. Next to the modern markets you find the ancient
market — the Agora, with one of the best
surviving temples from ancient Greece — the Temple of Hephaestus. But everyone’s got their sights
set on the Acropolis. Our group converges
with other groups, and everyone clamors
up the famous hill. While cruisers are unavoidably
a part of this crush, guides do a good job of managing
the cruise ship rush hour each morning. Once on top, tourists marvel
at the iconic Parthenon as guides do their best
to bring the ruins to life. And from the summit
of this historic bluff, all are rewarded
with a commanding view of sprawling Athens. After each day of sightseeing, back at the ship, passengers
enjoy the ritual welcome. A cool cloth
and a refreshing drink, and they’re back home
in their floating resort. Cruise lines employ
a lot of people: a ratio of about one worker
for every two passengers. A typical crew comes from dozens
of developing world countries. A fun and extra dimension
of cruising is getting to interact
with people whose cultures you know
almost nothing about. [ Cheering ] Crew members work very hard,
often seven 12-hour days a week for months
at a stretch, far from their homes
and families. While they don’t make much money from a First World
point of view, they make a solid living
on their country’s scale and are able to help
support their families. Their base pay is only a part
of their wage and much of their income
is based on tips. Tipping on the ship
is automatic. Most cruise lines use
an “auto tip” system with a healthy gratuity
added to your bill that generously covers
all your service crew. Of course, you can adjust it
if you like and you’re welcome
to leave a little extra for particular crew members
who you especially appreciate. Our last two stops
are fabled Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. The Isle of Mykonos comes with a classic
white-washed Greek port. While a small island
with a small main town, it’s a standard stop
for the big cruise ships. There’s a pier
for only one ship, so most ships drop the hook and shuttle
their people in by tender. If visiting by cruise ship, it’s
smart to get an early start. We caught the first tender — beat the crowds
and beat the heat. It’s easy to enjoy Mykonos Town with no planning, no tour,
and no guide. This is a stop which lends
itself to unstructured free time just lazing on the beach,
wandering, and browsing the shops. It’s the epitome
of a Greek island town: a busy breakwater, fine little
beach, and inviting lanes. While tourism dominates
the economy, Mykonos still has
a traditional charm thickly layered
with white stucco, blue trim,
and colorful bougainvillea. Back lanes offer tranquility
away from the cruise crowds. As in many Greek island towns, centuries ago
the windmills of Mykonos harnessed the steady wind, grinding grain
to feed its sailors. Five mills still stand,
perfectly positioned to catch the prevailing breeze. A tidy embankment is so pretty
they call it “little Venice.” Wealthy shipping merchants
built this row of fine mansions
with brightly painted wooden balconies that seem to rise
right out of the sea. Today, these mansions have been
refitted as restaurants and bars for tourists enjoying fresh fish
and romantic views. Mykonos’ status
in the last generation was as a fashionable
destination for jet-setters, and it retains
a certain hip cachet. These days, tacky trinket stalls
share the lanes with top-end fashion boutiques. Prices are high, and, in season, the island is crammed
full of vacationers. But, even with four ships
in the harbor today, there seems to be
plenty of room. There’s a range of beaches on
Mykonos. The most trendy is Paradise, one of the ultimate
party beaches in the Aegean. Presided over by hotels that run
bars for young beachgoers, the Paradise action
is non-stop. While the beach becomes
a raging dance floor after dark, the deejay is busy all day as
the cruise set joins backpackers from around the world
to enjoy the scene. As is standard around here, beaches rent comfortable lounge
furniture with umbrellas. Just plop onto whatever appeals. Don’t worry, the
drinks will come to you. If you prefer a quieter scene, the more remote beaches
are a short drive further out. While extremely arid,
the stony countryside of Mykonos — complete with
white-washed churches and staggering views — is
a delight for a quick road trip. Agios Sostis, an old
hippie beach at the north end of the island, has none of the thumping
party energy of Paradise Beach. It offers little beyond
lovely sand, turquoise water, and tranquility. And, for many, it’s their
Greek Isle dream come true. Along with its beaches, Mykonos offers a major
historic attraction. It’s on an uninhabited
neighboring island, a 30-minute shuttle boat
ride away. The island of Delos was one
of the most important places in the ancient Greek world… …with temples honoring
the birthplace of the twin gods
Apollo and Artemis. Centuries before Christ, Delos attracted pilgrims
from across the Western world. Delos was important in
three different ancient eras — first as a religious site, then as the treasury
of the Athenian League — that was sort of the “Fort Knox”
of the ancient world — and later, during Roman times, this was one of the busiest
commercial ports in the entire
Mediterranean. Delos ranked right up there with
Olympia, Athens, and Delphi. Survey the remains
of the ancient harbor… foundations of shops
and homes… and hillsides littered
with temple remains. The iconic row
of sphinx-like lions still heralds the importance
of the place. This was one of the Aegean
world’s finest cities. Imagine Delos in its heyday — a booming center of trade:
streets lined with 3,000 shops where you
could buy just about anything, dazzling mansions
of wealthy merchants with colonnaded
inner courtyards. There were fine mosaics — like this one of the
god Dionysus riding a panther. Culture thrived here, enough to keep this theater —
which could seat 6,000 — busy. I cap my visit by climbing
to the summit of the island. My reward: one of the
Mediterranean’s great king-of-the-mountain
thrills. As you observe the chain
of islands dramatically swirling
in 360 degrees, you can understand
why historians believe that these Cycladic Islands got their name from the way
they make a circle, or cycle, around this oh-so-important
little island of Delos. Back on the ship, we set sail
for our last Greek island. By the nature of a cruise
schedule, dinners are at sea. Food is unlimited
and generally included. There’s a constant risk
of overeating, and for some cruisers,
there’s a temptation to see if you can eat five meals
a day and still snorkel when you get to the port. Traditionally,
there’s one big dining room where cruisers have
a set table and dining time, with the same table mates, and a chance to
get to know their server. But that’s changing
as people want less formality and more flexibility. Now there are more options: cafes, snack bars, and a burger grill poolside. The standby
is a sprawling cafeteria with a huge
and efficient selection of food available at almost any hour. There’s a vast selection
of meats, hot foods, salads, fruit… and desserts. And ships also offer
a variety of higher quality specialty restaurants. These are more formal,
often require reservations, and come with a surcharge. If you don’t mind
the extra fee, they can be a romantic
and tasty option. Many cruise lines still have
formal night about once a week, usually on the day at sea. While this is becoming
more optional, the personality of the ship
still changes on these evenings. On our ship, the dress code
was called “casual chic” rather than “formal.” If you don’t want to dress up,
no problem — just steer clear
of the formal areas. But for many people,
this is the time to put on a suit and tie
or a glamorous gown. When you do that, a romantic
moment at sea by moonlight is particularly memorable. ♪♪ I enjoy the scenic arrivals
and departures by cruise ship. Being on the top deck as you
approach the day’s destination gives you
a quiet, bird’s-eye view. Approaching an exotic
and fabled island like Santorini — as the moon sets and the sun rises, just kissing the lip
of the breath-taking cliffs — is worth getting up for. Santorini is a dramatic
island — the rim of a volcanic crater
with spectacular vistas. Once a complete island
like its neighbors, it was a volcano that —
about 3,500 years ago — blew its top, creating a caldera — this flooded crater. Today, inviting
white-washed villages seem to crowd
its dramatic ridges as if jostling
to enjoy the views. Because Santorini’s pier
is small, giant cruise ships drop anchor
and tender their passengers in on small shuttle boats. Individuals go to
the tiny “old harbor” where they can ride a donkey
up the zig-zag trail or hop a cable car to the scenic
lip of the island crater. Those paying for the cruise
line’s excursion get off the ship first, and head
for an alternative port, where buses and guides await. Considering the crush
of the crowds, the limited time, and the scattered array
of interesting sights, investing in a bus tour
like this to see Santorini can be a good value. Within minutes, you’ll be
powering up the switch-backs into the island as
your guide narrates the drive. Santorini is arid,
with no lakes or rivers. We’re here in early September, and they haven’t
had rain since May. But grapes on Santorini
soak up the sun and make the island’s
distinctive wine. As they have since
ancient times, vintners shape the vines
into protective baskets in hopes that they’ll collect
the dew and survive the wind. The Santorini fruit of the vine
is both hearty and sweet. Many excursions include
a winery tour with a chance to taste the local wine. Sure, this stop is designed
to accommodate the masses and might not be
as charming as you hoped. Still, the wine’s good and
the group’s having lots of fun. Cruise line excursions
come with a steady commentary… -Those two
are the Kameni Islands. The Kameni Islands are actually
made of lava rock. -…scenic views from the bus,
and the stress-free efficiency of getting smoothly
from point to point. And tour groups are sure to have
free time at the best photo ops. Oia is the postcard image
of the Greek Isles. This idyllic ensemble
of white-washed houses and characteristic domes
is delicately draped over a steep slope
at the top of a cliff. Viewpoints here are some of
the most striking in the Greek Seas as tourists
clamor for just the right angle. Artists fall in love
with Oia and move in. Honeymooners find the B&B
of their dreams and savor breakfast
in unforgettable settings. And at the quiet end of town, the old windmill reminds all of
a more rustic age gone by. ♪♪ To get the absolute most out
of our Santorini day, I’ve booked half a day
with Dimitris. Of Santorini’s many beaches,
Kamari is one of the best. The black sand is a reminder of
the island’s volcanic origin. Typical of Greek island
resort beaches, it’s lined with
rentable lounge chairs and a strip
of seafood restaurants. And with Dimitris, I know
exactly what I’m eating. These salads look delicious.
Can you tell me about them? -Well, we have here a Greek salad and a Santorini salad. The difference
with the local salad is that we use the local tomatoes,
the cherry tomatoes, the local cucumbers,
and instead of the feta cheese, we use the goat cheese, and we add the capers
and the caper leaves. See, you can eat them.
They taste good. We got some sardines here,
grilled. And on the other side, we’ve got
a very nice grilled calamari, also served with salad, the
lemon, and the olive oil. -This is a healthy diet.
-This is the Mediterranean diet. -We bid our guide goodbye to enjoy our last couple
of hours in Fira, Santorini’s main town. Fira is the island’s commercial
and transportation hub. Its main street —
thronged with tourists whenever there’s
a cruise ship in the bay — seems like little more than
a long line of shops, cafes, and restaurants —
all with staggering views. Enjoying the island
with a local guide and then taking a short break
to enjoy a cliff-side bar filled with happy travelers
from around the world is a reminder that,
even if on a cruise, you can exercise
your independence and spark some great travel moments. Keeping my eye on the clock, I hop the cable car back
down to the old port, where our ship’s shuttle,
or tender, awaits. Most cruisers get nervous
about missing the ship and head back earlier
than necessary. I find the ports are least
crowded and most relaxed and enjoyable
during that last hour. The last tender isn’t leaving
for 15 minutes. That’s plenty of time
for one last ouzo. A cruise can be
what you make of it: a pre-packaged travel cliché, or a springboard
for the independent spirit. Whether you took
the cruise excursion, or hopped a donkey,
or just had lunch in port, you’ll take home
unforgettable memories. A cruise allows you to explore
this unique and historic region in a way that suits you best. Whether that’s touring
ancient sites in Greece, crossing off some of those “must see” highlights
in Italy or France, or just relaxing on
the beach of your dreams. As with travel in general,
for cruisers, life-long memories such as these can be yours
when you know your options and then match them with
your personal style of travel. Our cruise is nearing its end, and I’m savoring
our last evening at sea. While we’ve enjoyed a quick look at a selection
of Mediterranean ports, there are plenty more. We’ll be back in the real world
in the morning. ♪♪ There are many ways
to explore Europe. For a lot of people,
taking a cruise — especially if you know how
to do it smartly — can be a practical mix of
efficiency, economy, and fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed
our Mediterranean cruise. I’m Rick Steves. Until next time,
keep on travelin’. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

47 thoughts on “Rick Steves’ Cruising the Mediterranean

  • September 6, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Rick,i realllyyy enjoyed your segment on Mediterranean cruising,it was a very insightful program,that touched on basically everything onboard and ashore,hats off to you on producing this exciting video,gonna check out some more vids here!

  • September 7, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    You are the best. You should have your own tv program 😊👍

  • September 8, 2019 at 5:53 am

    What about korcika?

  • September 8, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Please,please the prices of the excursions would be great. Ship and offshore.

  • September 8, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Which Cruiseline were you on ?

  • September 9, 2019 at 7:02 am

    I love how informative and extensive your videos are.

  • September 9, 2019 at 9:40 am

    Rick always do his best research and explains clearly and well educated history about each places Bravo 😻👍🤗always the Best 🤗🌻

  • September 10, 2019 at 2:09 am

    Another inspirational show. We usually do land tours in Europe (with RS tips). Getting ready for our 2nd European cruise, this time with totally independent activities in each port. With RStips, I know we'll be successful!

  • September 10, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    This is a great video! I wished you had this last year when I did the cruising to the same places. I hope you do more of these or publish a guide to aid cruisers at different ports of call. Thank you so much!

  • September 11, 2019 at 10:05 am

    I just love your videos! So well documented, soft spoken you really feel in the places! Thanks for entertaining us !!

  • September 11, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Rick is getting younger and younger! Now I believe in the story of Benjamin Button!

  • September 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    That's a surprisingly amazing and informative video. Thank you Rick

  • September 13, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    What a wonderful video with stunning pictures.Thanks a lot,Rick Steves.

  • September 14, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Guys subscribe to rick Steve let’s help this guy reach to 1 millions subscribers

  • September 15, 2019 at 6:11 am

    I love Rick, kind of breaks my heart seeing cruise ships now a part of his travel series. Personally, you could not pay me enough to get on one of these floating walmarts. Save yourself a ton of money and go sleep in the camping aisle of your local walmart. See what kind of conversations you'll have with fellow shoppers, go lick a deer salt lick and there is your food. There is the culture. NOPE

  • September 15, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Wish cruising was for me! Went cruising for the first time in the Caribbean and I had terrible sea sickness. I couldn’t even enjoy my food and even Dramamine couldn’t help. 🙁

  • September 15, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Rick, I stopped traveling to watch your videos..

  • September 16, 2019 at 2:15 am

    you have to know that the temple mount, the wailing wall is Fort Antonia…its not the location of the temple…there is no thrashing stone there and theres no water…The Gihon spring in the city of David is the proper location of the temple….Gods word says that the temple was utterly destroyed…no stone left standing on another….

  • September 16, 2019 at 3:02 am


  • September 16, 2019 at 11:50 am

    I hope you start offering cruises too on your website.

  • September 17, 2019 at 5:52 pm

    Great video!

  • September 18, 2019 at 7:23 am

    Let's admit it, that party was hilarious

  • September 20, 2019 at 7:21 am

    I have done 3 cruises, all in the US, and did not enjoy them at all. But from your video, I would love to do a cruise in Europe. I get to see a little bit of everything.

  • September 21, 2019 at 3:57 am

    ⭐⭐This was so much fun to watch I feel like I was on the cruise without the hustle and bustle. And I learned about some French & Greek cocktails to try! Thanks Rick Steves!⭐⭐

  • September 21, 2019 at 10:30 am

    I’ve seen your show on Create TV for the past month and I can’t help but get this burning desire to travel Europe just by watching your show. No other show or channel I’ve seen has ever accomplished that. Keep up the good work my friend.

  • September 22, 2019 at 10:24 am

    very informative

  • September 23, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    42 years ago I was the ship's photographer based in Sydney Australia, I traveled from UK via the Med, this video moved me to tears as I remember the best 9 months of my life in board my ship. Now disabled and with mobility issues I doubt this will ever happen again. Thank you.

  • September 24, 2019 at 4:27 am

    which cruise line is that? what are the ports

  • September 24, 2019 at 10:00 am

    This was a wonderful and informative video. I’m looking forward to my first Mediterranean cruise in Fall 2020. Offered some great suggestions and insight.

  • September 24, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Loved this video, I wish I could be in a cruise ship like this once in my life!

  • September 25, 2019 at 3:10 am

    This video was very informative. I have been wondering if a cruise ship would be good for my trip next year.

  • September 25, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Rick Steves FTW

  • September 26, 2019 at 7:12 am

    I myself will follow Rick's advice. Ok he is touristy, but number one, what's wrong with that?, and number two he is honest about it. Go Rick Go!

  • September 27, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Very nice filming……

  • September 28, 2019 at 10:10 am


  • September 29, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    (●’◡’●)ノ Rick…. Nicely done!

  • October 2, 2019 at 1:22 am

    Great video!

  • October 4, 2019 at 3:49 pm


  • October 4, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    Lindos lugares Rick.

  • October 5, 2019 at 4:07 am

    God, sounds dreadful.

  • October 5, 2019 at 5:33 am


  • October 6, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    Wow nice video sir 👍👏
    New subscriber here 👋

  • October 7, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Actually that's not correct at all. Monaco is smaller than Central Park in NY. It's only .78 Sq miles compared to Manhattan which is over 22 Sq miles. So not an accurate comparison.

  • October 8, 2019 at 6:55 am

    Americans have no style no dress sense

  • October 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    it was the best thing i ever did. cruising.

  • October 10, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Monaco has tax exemption for the wealthy.

  • October 10, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    rick steves cheerful voice
    "we are currently being taken captive in Sierra Leone by insurgents, and if the United States does not send $40,000,000.99 for each of us to the head of Al Shabab, we will be executed at dawn on october 20th, 2019"


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