How to Visit 6 European Countries and Only Unpack Once (Video)
Europe is simultaneously one of the most exciting and overwhelming places to plan a long-awaited vacation. And that’s largely because there’s just so much to see. If you’ve ever tried to plan a European itinerary while scrolling through Instagram, you’ve come up against this one bracing reality: You just want to go everywhere. And in response to that sentiment, we have just one thing to say: Same.
For the traveler who wants to escape to Europe and go everywhere, but has yet to convince their workplace to offer them a four-month sabbatical, cruising Europe is a great option. It, of course, helps that when you take a European cruise, the itinerary is done for you. Trying to pack six countries into 10 days on your own is a logistical nightmare. Cruising Europe means skipping your last-minute, make-it-up-as-you-go itinerary in favor of a hassle-free trip to the most coveted destinations. Beyond the ease of a customized itinerary and only unpacking once for a multi-country adventure, taking a European cruise means you can fit the wonders of the Grecian islands, the energy of Barcelona, and the history of Dubrovnik all into one trip.
If you’re ready for an unforgettable European cruise, you can’t go wrong with a Mediterranean adventure like Norwegian Cruise Line’s 10-day Enchanting Mediterranean Barcelona to Rome itinerary. I’ve always believed wholeheartedly that life is better along the Mediterranean, and in fact, have been trying to move to a sleepy town along the riviera and start a lifestyle blog called Lambrusco Before Noon (patent pending) since I graduated college. I can therefore say on good authority that coastal, southern Europe is a destination you can return to time and time again, always discovering new places, new subcultures, and perhaps most importantly, new ways to garnish an Aperol spritz.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Enchanting Mediterranean experience starts in Barcelona for a day in the Catalonian capital. If Barcelona is a new-to-you city, you’ll want to spend your day seeing Park Güell and Antoni Gaudí's famously unfinished Sagrada Familia, and lunching on Las Ramblas before boarding the Norwegian Dawn. Once on board, you’ll unpack just the one time and settle into your stateroom. If you’re looking to celebrate your European cruise with a room upgrade, you can treat yourself to a stateroom with floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony.
The next three days bring three bucket-list destinations in a row — start planning your Instagram post schedule ahead of time. (Or, if you need a digital detox, go unplugged for a few days of your cruise; social media can wait, but these views can’t.)
Norwegian's enchanting Mediterranean cruise heads to Mallorca, Spain; Monaco; and Tuscany, Italy — with one day for each stop. In Mallorca, you’ll be in the historic town of Palma, founded more than 2,000 years ago by the Romans. Moving on to Monaco, you’ll spend the day walking in the footsteps of Grace Kelly in Monte Carlo. From the casinos to the palaces, Monte Carlo is a true French Riviera spectacle. The natural beauty is big and the hair is bigger, despite Monaco being the second smallest country in the world.
To complete this truly enviable three-day travel streak, you’ll wind up in Tuscany to see Florence and Pisa. Florence is the perfect city for a DIY walking tour, because main attractions like Piazza del Duomo, Santa Croce, and the Uffizi are so close to each other. And remember, learning about Renaissance art and contributions of the Medici family is crucial in Florence, but so is the pizza.
After a few days of action-packed travel, I find that I really need time to process what I just saw. And that’s something I really value about cruising: it gives you time to reflect on your travels. We rarely allow ourselves time to revel in everything we see and learn while traveling the world. But on cruises, you often get a built-in day to slow down while at sea. Norwegian’s 10-day Enchanting Mediterranean cruise has a day at sea after taking in Mallorca, Monaco, and Florence, where you can journal by the pool while sailing into the second leg of your six-country trip.
The latter part of the cruise kicks off in Dubrovnik, where Game of Thrones fans can live their long-harbored Kings’ Landing dreams (no, really, Norwegian offers a Venture Through Kings’ Landing shore excursion for all those still lamenting that Sansa never sat on the Iron Throne). After Croatia, the Norwegian Dawn takes travelers to Kotor, a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site on the Adriatic Sea in Montenegro. It’s then on to Corfu, one of the more exclusive Greek islands with multi-toned blue waters and lush greenery.
Although there’s little you could say to convince me to leave the Corfu beaches, bribing me with two days on the Italian coast might do the trick. So it’s perhaps not surprising that the cruise concludes with a day on the island of Sicily and a day in Naples. Spending a day in Naples is the perfect introduction to the Amalfi Coast, from the pastel-colored houses perched over the Mediterranean to the grand Neapolitan piazzas — and pizzas, for that matter. Finally, the Norwegian Dawn docks in Rome, which is where (at least for me) the vacation denial sets in. However, the best part of docking is that you’ll realize you took a whirlwind trip and still feel refreshed rather than exhausted, because all the country-to-country logistics and transport were handled for you. And that right there is the beauty of cruising Europe.