We will sail again. Ships will dock for the day. We will get off. You might arrive at a big city one day before your cruise. What’s the best use of your time?
Ten Activities to Make Your Trip Memorable
It’s easy to get jaded when you cruise frequently. “All Caribbean islands are the same.” My problem is without advance planning, I would end up exploring “Cocktail lounges of the world.” Cruise lines get it. They find new ports. They come up with new tours. Let’s look at ten activities, working with the logic “I might never pass this way again.”
- What’s the “must see” sight? Your ship is stopping there for a reason. Do any foreign cruise passengers arriving in New York skip the Empire State Building? Probably not. There’s something that puts the place on the map. Caravaggio is a famous Italian artist. One of his paintings was considered “the painting of the 17tjh century.” There are two Caravaggios in the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Malta. It’s highly unlikely these painting would ever go on tour.
- Live entertainment. You are in Venice. La Fenice is the famous opera house. You are in Buenos Aires. The Teatro Colon is considered one of the best in the world. If there’s an opera being performed that night, shouldn’t you attend to experience the acoustics? The same logic holds for Broadway shows in NYC.
- Festivals. People enjoy them all the time. The German Christmas markets are an obvious example. Ditto Octoberfest in Munich. Caribbean islands hold carnival and street fairs. The French love their festivals, usually focused on food. Venice has La Bienalle di Venezia, these can be world class events.
- Local food. There’s something that makes the place special, a dish unique to the region. It might be beef from local cattle, unavailable elsewhere. Bresse, France has its famous chicken with blue feet and a badge of authenticity. The Dordogne has Cassoulet. Marseilles has bouillabaisse. Maryland has its famous crab.
- Wine and spirits. Gosling dark rum is made on Bermuda. Britain, Belgium and Germany are famous for their beers. Somehow, wine consumed in France tastes better than the same bottle opened back home. Try the local beverages in the place they were made.
- Ride the bus or subway. Tourists often see an idealized view of a country. They go to stores and casinos rarely frequented by locals. Get a feeling of local life. Study a bus or subway map. Get local currency, plenty of exact change. Being careful of the timing, take a ride and enjoy the experience.
- Snacks for the ship. If you are like us, you make friends aboard ship. You want to entertain them with cabin party. You will need appetizer and snack foods. Visit a supermarket. Buy local cheeses, fresh bread, fruit and sliced meats. There might be rules preventing them coming home with you, but you will be eating them later in the voyage.
- Have at least one great meal. Do research beforehand. What are the showstopper restaurants? Any get Michelin stars? Book a meal, preferably lunch. We like linen tablecloth experiences. Allow plenty of time. This might be expensive, but it’s worth it. Suppose you are in Rome. Everyone knows the Hassler Hotel is at the top of the Spanish Steps. There’s a restaurant at the top with great views. Plan ahead.
- Live entertainment. Opera or the symphony can be a grand experience. So can stopping at a local club with live music. Portugal is famous for Fado, guitar music often played during dinner. You won’t understand what they are singing about, but you will gather it’s a sad, sad story.
- Take a good tour. If you are stopping in several ports on your Mediterranean cruise, you don’t want to be doing term paper level research on each port. Let the professionals do it for you. Look at what’s on offer from your ship or your travel agent. Pick one that aligns closest to your interests.
You are traveling to see the world and enjoy local culture. Don’t miss those opportunities that are placed in front of you.
Cover photo: Curacao: Willemstad’s Punda waterfront pastel Dutch architecture with Royal Caribbean cruise ship Adventure of the Seas leaving port