Cruising The Med Newsletter

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THE INTENTIONAL TRAVELER NEWSLETTER

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Mediterranean Cruising News

CRUISING THE MEDITERRANEAN – Get The Intentional Traveler’s newsletter on cruising the Mediterranean. It’s Free to download and easy to print a copy. A good reference on a Mediterranean cruise. It features information on cruise ports of call, tours and what to look forward to on your cruise.

CLICK THE NEWSLETTER IMAGE TO ACCESS A PDF COPY YOU CAN READ OR DOWNLOAD TO PRINT. TAKE A COPY ALONG WHEN YOU CRUISE THE MEDITERRANEAN.

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The Intentional Traveler Newsletter

We are pleased to offer our first of many travel newsletters. Each one will be focused on a specific topic and is loaded with lots of good articles along with hyperlinks to good supplemental information from numerous sources including The Intentional Traveler. To receive these informative newsletters right in your inbox please sign up below.

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Our first newsletter is dedicated to everything cruising and is ready to deliver. Inside you will find informative articles on selecting cruise lines and itineraries, saving money on booking and land tours along with information on what to expect at ports of call.

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The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor Maine

Visiting The Cruise Port of Bar Harbor, Maine

A favorite stop for New England and Canada Maritime cruises, Bar Harbor has a lot to offer. The town itself and waterfront are the major attraction with a number of shops and great restaurants to visit.

The Town Pier in Bar Harbor

Where Your Ship Docks

Bar Harbor is a tender port and the boats will tie up at the Town Pier. From there it is only a short walk into the center of town and there are a number of excursion and whale watching boats available right at the pier.

Because it is tidal New England the tides can rise over a large range sometimes making a it a climb up from the tenders dock.

 

 

Downtown Bar Harbor

Transportation

The best way to get around Bar Harbor is The Island Explorer, a free town shuttle bus that even offers free transportation to Acadia National Park and up Cadillac Mountain. The downtown area is also an easy walk with lots to see.

Currency

You’re in the United States and the U.S. Dollar is the local currency. Most credit cards are welcome and there are a number of ATM machines in town.

Attractions

This area is where the fall foliage starts to change color first in the Eastern United States and fall leaf change cruises are popular. Bar Harbor also offers a number of whale watching excursions and the town sits on the edge of Acadia National Park. A trip up Cadillac Mountain is a popular excursion. The top of the mountain is the first spot touched by the rays of the rising Sun in the United States each day and the Park Service offers a number of programs for visitors.

Good Links for Additional Information

Free Shuttle Website

The Official Bar Harbor Website

Acadia National Park Website

Visiting Cadillac Mountain Website

Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is a popular resort area for New Zealanders being less than fifty miles from Christ Church and is also seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. The current population is only about 650 permanent residents with a significant increase in season.

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two ancient volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters that feature spectacular volcanic cliffs which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. 

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money

New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting as US Dollars are not usually accepted.

Attractions

Explore the village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous scenic boat tours available including dolphin watching. The protected waters are also perfect for sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, there is a penguin colony that is rare for this region. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

Port of Call Villefranche-sur-Mer

The Beach in the distance
Villefranche Beach

Villefranche-sur-Mer or just Villefranche is a picturesque town on the French Riviera featured on many cruise itineraries. The town itself is between Monte Carlo and Nice with Cannes only a little farther (19 miles) away. The quant waterfront is lined with cafes and restaurants and stretches from the marina, where the tenders tie up, around a natural harbor past a number of beautiful beaches. Its nearness to Monte Carlo and Nice is probably one of its biggest attractions for the cruise lines as it affords them a number of tour opportunities. But even if you book a tour don’t pass up spending some time at a cafe or restaurant on this remarkable waterfront.

Where Your Ship Docks

The waterfront

While Villefranche has one of the best protected harbors on the Riviera it has no major docking facilities and cannot accommodate cruise ships. This is a tender port where you land at the visitors center right in town. The visitor center offers maps, good advice on getting around and has good public facilities.

Transportation

Villefranche is an easy town to walk around in with plenty of shopping opportunities and good restaurants, but the streets do climb steeply up from the waterfront. Less than a half mile around the waterfront is the train station where you can catch frequent trains to Monte Carlo, Nice or Cannes. They run about every twenty minutes and a trip to Monte Carlo takes only fifteen minutes and costs usually under €7.00. So before you sign up for that expensive tour consider some exploring on your own.

A cafe across from the visitors center

Currency

The French currency is the Euro and you should not expect them to accept Dollars or Pounds in Villefranche. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are ATM machines available as well.

Citadelle Saint-Elme and Fort du Mont Alban
Citadelle Saint-Elme with Fort du Mont Alban in the distance

Attractions

The biggest attraction is the Riviera itself. Famous beaches, casinos, yachts at anchor and of course French cuisine. With Cannes and Nice to the west and Monaco only seven miles to the east a train trip is a fast and inexpensive way to see the glamour of the Riviera up close.

There are also a number of reasons to simply stay in Villefranche:

Citadelle Saint-Elme on the waterfront
Citadelle Saint-Elme

Just as you exit the visitor center to the left is Citadelle Saint-Elme a thirteenth century fortification which also now houses art exhibits

Chapelle de Saint-Pierre des Pecheurs – Beautiful chapel right on the harbour with an interior decorated by Jean Cocteau.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild – A villa, museum and fantastic gardens located on the opposite side of the harbor. Admission is about €15 but well worth it.

Fort du Mont Alban – If you are into hiking, a walk up Mt Alban toward Nice is worth it as it stands over 600 feet above the harbor and the views are well worth the climp. The fort itself built in the 16th century is not open to the public but is still impressive from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruise Port of Call Akaroa, New Zealand

The cruise port of Akaroa, New Zealand is seeing more frequent visits by cruise ships with the growing popularity of  cruising around Australia and New Zealand.

The cruise port of call Akaroa, New Zealand is located on the southeast side of sheltered Akaroa Harbor, centered on the cute resort township of Akaroa. It is on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island. With frequent cruise ship visits this quant resort town is becoming more and  more popular. 

 

Historically its heritage is unique as it was the only French settlement in New Zealand. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Geologically it was originally an island formed by two volcanoes. The current peninsula has two ancient craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbors. The region was named for the botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour.

Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships need to anchor out and use tenders to reach the Akaroa dock. The dock is the focus of a number of boat tours and water attractions and is located right in the town near restaurants and shops.

Money – New Zealand uses the NZ$ which currently is worth US$0.70 and you will need to exchange money or use credit cards while visiting.

Attractions – Akaroa, is famous for its several beautiful bays and harbors and there are numerous boat tours as well as sea kayaking. In Flea bay, a couple of miles southeast of town, is a rare penguin colony. Akaroa harbor is home to the worlds rarest and smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphins  and Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can take a trip out to swim with them. A short walk out of town is Meniscus Wines, a vineyard which usually is open when ships are visiting. Also not to miss is The Giants House, a unique sculpture mosaic garden above town.

 

Cruising and Tours

Cruise Ship port of Call Tours

While we are just not “guided tour” enthusiasts, we have been on a fair number of them. To begin with, there are some land tours that make good sense to do. The first is where there is someplace you really want to see and even the bus trip is on a very tight schedule. The one thing you can be sure of is, if you are on a ship sponsored tour the ship isn’t going to sail without you. And yes, we have seen people left behind. We have taken a number of tours also because the costs were just too good to ignore. Sometimes that is because we have onboard credits that we just need to spend and others have been provided by our agency as a perk.

From our point of view the biggest problem we have with guided tours is that you become a prisoner of the tour. It is common for us to get stuck visiting some place that we are just not interested in. Why do we have to spend forty-five minutes at a chocolate factory or a nut packer? I’m sure the tour operator is being paid to deliver people to that business but we resent paying for visit. The other case is visiting a location where we could spend hours and are informed we have to be back on the bus in a half hour. Going it on our own eliminates those possibilities.

There is also the issue of cost. If you understand your options, often you will see that the ships tour will cost you significantly more money. A few examples:

Cozumel Chankanaab

Cozumel Chankanaab National Park – When you get down to it, this is a day at the beach. The park is equipped with bars, restaurant, along with beach and snorkel rental stuff. A taxi ride will cost between US$10 and US$20 each way (make sure you have plenty of singles as drivers don’t offer change) and park admission is about US$21. A recent tour booked through the cruise ship cost $69 per person. That’s $138 for what would have cost $62 on your own.

Mendenhall Glacier Alaska – This is a national park outside of Juneau Alaska. The park is serviced by a bus route from the historic downtown area with round-trip fare being $31. Add to that the admission to the park (NPS standard fees) $20 which totals $51 ($31 if you have a NPS Senior Park Pass). The basic cruise tours usually start around $75. They often will add in a salmon bake for $20 to $30 more. For more on Mendenhall CLICK HERE.

 

Rome from the Port of Civitavecchia – On or first cruise stop in Civitavecchia we booked the “Rome On Your Own” tour at $89 each which included a bus ride in to Vatican City and back to the ship. Six blocks from the Civitavecchia port is the train station and for as little as US$12 you can get a round-trip ticket to the St. Peters station. For two that’s a savings of $154 and the trip in and back can actually be quicker.

For more on visiting Rome from Civitavecchia CLICK HERE.

In order to head off on your own and save some cash you do have to be a bit adventurous. We are pretty independent and prefer to use local buses and trains with our biggest fear being missing the ships departure. Our protection is to always build in a good time allowance in our plan. We are also good at doing research on our destinations and have a good idea of what we want to see and how to do it before we leave on a trip.

On the other side of the discussion here are a few examples of ship tours that we thought were well worth the cost and why:

The Golden Triangle Iceland – This tour was a bit pricy but so were the local tour companies. The reason we selected this tour is because our ship docked in the afternoon and sailed shortly after noon the next day disqualifying local tours. We also considered renting a car but again were concerned about the times. The tour itself was great. We probably traveled over a hundred miles and saw thermal fields, waterfalls(!!) and Icelands rift valley where the earths crust is pulling apart. No shopping stops or misspent time. If you are going to Iceland don’t miss the Golden Triangle.

Ephesus

Ephesus Turkey – The ancient city of Ephesus, located near the Aegean Sea in modern day Turkey, was one of the great cities of the Greeks and later the Romans in Asia Minor and home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a major attraction located some distance from the port. Again not inexpensive but a great experience (it did include a stop at a rug showroom). We might be adventurous but there was no way I was going to rent a car for half a day in Turkey and I still am not aware of any convenient public transportation.

A Wine & Tapas Tour in Palma – This one wasn’t that expensive and included nice stops at three different tapas bars and free time in a nice in-town shopping area. The drive back to the pier included brief stops at the castle overlook above town and a drive along the coast. A good answer to filling an afternoon in Mallorca.  For more information CLICK HERE.

 

This is part one of a three part series we’ve been working on. Check back or subscribe to see the whole series.