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Cruising from Venice, Italy to Florida aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas

Cruising from Venice, Italy to Florida aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas

avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 12/22/2018
Posted On 01/28/2019 17:38:23

Destinations | Cruises | Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas | Adriatic and Italy Cruise | Canary Islands and Bahamas Transatlantic Cruise | Italy | Croatia | Montenegro | Spain | Canary Islands | Bahamas | Royal Caribbean | RCI

While on a previous Royal Caribbean cruise, we reserved a 14 night Canary Islands and Bahamas Transatlantic Cruise and several weeks later added the Adriatic and Italy Cruise sailing the previous week. The two back-to-back cruises gave us a total of 21 days aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas. As we planned our days in port and searched for potential excursions over the past year, our goal was a broad variety of sites and tour types.

If you have planned or are considering a cruise with port days in the Adriatic, Italy, the Canary Islands or Bahamas, take a look at this post for shore excursion ideas. We begin with an overview of our itinerary (including changes made along the way) and follow with a summary of our day at each port. In addition to basic information for planning, we've also included the total cost for the two of us.

Air Transportation to Europe

Whenever we cruise in Europe, we try to take advantage of both the time and cost of flying by adding either a pre- or post-cruise DIY land tour. Since this journey was ending in the United States, our only option was a pre-cruise visit. As we had already spent time in Italy, we searched for other options and agreed on Austria.

Our next step was reserving air travel. One-way flights from the US to Europe are usually crazy expensive. When compared to round-trip flights, one way travel is often more than half the price and sometimes even priced higher than a round trip flight. We often redeem airline miles for one-way tickets when we have them available, however I always research our options.

For our flight from Austin to Vienna, our two best options were to:

  • redeem 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for each of our flights and pay the taxes only. (Based on my online research, the value of each AA mile was approximately $0.014, making the 30,000 miles worth about $420.00.)
  • purchase flights on Delta Airlines / KLM through Royal Caribbean's Air2Sea program. (In early January, flights were available at a cost of $269.40 per ticket including all taxes.)
It didn't make sense to redeem our miles when we could fly so inexpensively, so we purchased air travel directly through Royal Caribbean.

Ports of Call

What caught our attention when we originally reserved the transatlantic cruise was the calls to the Canary Islands as they were three new ports for us. Additionally, although we had been to the Bahamas, we hadn't previously visited Royal Caribbean's private island, CocoCay. This meant that all ports (except for the embarkation port) would be completely new experiences!

While we had already been to three of the four ports on the 7 night Adriatic and Italy cruise, we knew that there was more for us to see. We also (mistakenly) thought that we might "take it easy" on some of these days - possibly to enjoy the ship with fewer passengers aboard.

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas anchored in Kotor, Montenegro

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas anchored in Kotor, Montenegro

21 Day Cruise Itinerary

When we reserved our cruises, the original itineraries were as follows:

Adriatic and Italy Cruise

  • Saturday, December 1, 2018: Venice, Italy
  • Sunday, December 2, 2018: Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Monday, December 3, 2018: Kotor, Montenegro
  • Wednesday, December 5, 2018: Naples / Capri (Sorrento), Italy
  • Thursday, December 6, 2018: Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018: Barcelona, Spain

Canary Islands and Bahamas Transatlantic Cruise

  • Saturday, December 8, 2018: Barcelona, Spain
  • Tuesday, December 11, 2018: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
  • Wednesday, December 12, 2018: Grand Canary Island, Canary Islands
  • Thursday, December 13, 2018: La Palma, Canary Islands
  • Thursday, December 20, 2018: CocoCay, Bahamas
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018: Tampa, Florida

Final Itinerary

On July 12, 2018, we received an email from our travel agent which included the following excerpt of a message from Royal Caribbean International:
"While we are transforming our private destination, CocoCay, into Perfect Day at CocoCay, we have experienced a minor delay. As a result, we've had to replace the visit to CocoCay with the beautiful Nassau, Bahamas."
Oh well - we still were excited about the four new ports that we would be visiting!

Additionally, due to threatening weather conditions, just before our departure from Nassau, the captain announced a change to our disembarkation port. Following is a summary of the two updates to our itinerary:

  • Thursday, December 20, 2018: Nassau, Bahamas
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018: Port Canaveral, Florida

Dubrovnik, Croatia (Noon - 9:00 PM)

We got our exercise by walking from the port to Old Town Dubrovnik. We paid the entrance fee to walk some more - this time along the medieval stone walls. Once we made our way around, we spent time in Old Town before returning to the ship.

View from the Ancient City Walls Surrounding Dubrovnik

View from the Ancient City Walls Surrounding Dubrovnik

Although we were surprised at the entrance fee ($45.95 USD for two), we were happy with our decision. (The tour offered through Royal Caribbean was $69.00 USD per person including bus transport to Old Town.)

Kotor, Montenegro (7:00 AM - 6:00 PM)

Scott and I joined a private tour with four others from Cruise Critic. After meeting our guide, we headed by van to Budva Old Town where our guide showed us around. Our next stop was Perast where we boarded a boat for the short ride to Our Lady of the Rocks. After lunch in Perast, we finished with a walking tour in rainy Old Town Kotor.

Our Lady of the Rocks

Our Lady of the Rocks

Priced at about $92.00 USD per person excluding lunch, the tour was only $2.00 USD less than the most comparable cruise line tour. The differences included a much smaller group, a longer tour and a walking tour of Budva. (Royal Caribbean did not offer a tour which included all four locations.)

Naples, Italy (7:00 AM - 6:00 PM)

After walking the short distance to the bus station, we boarded the 9:30 AM city bus to Pompeii at a round trip cost of $12.75 USD for both of us. (Royal Caribbean's transportation only option was $39.00 USD per person.) We paid just under $49.00 USD total for entrance fees plus audio guides for both of us and we began exploring the ruins. Although we could have spent many more hours, we returned on the 2:30 PM bus so as not to worry about our all aboard time. (The cost for a four hour long Royal Caribbean guided tour was $99.00 USD per person.)



Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy (7:00 AM - 7:00 PM)

Having previously visited Rome on a couple of occasions, we chose a Hidden Rome tour organized by a Cruise Critic traveler. In addition to lunch plus several other quick stops, we spent time touring the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Domine Quo Vadis Church and the Catacombs of San Sebastiano.

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Although our primary interest was the catacombs, it was great to see a number of sites that we hadn't before seen, none of which were offered on Royal Caribbean tours. Including transportation from the port into Rome, the tour price was just over $100.00 USD per person excluding lunch.

Barcelona, Spain (6:00 AM Arrival - 5:00 PM Departure)

After disembarking, we made our way directly to the port bus offered by the city and purchased two round trip tickets for just over $9.00 USD. As we have been to Barcelona multiple times in recent years, we spent several hours walking around the city.

Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain

Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain

Lanzarote, Canary Islands (10:00 AM - 6:00 PM)

For our first visit to Lanzarote, we joined a Cruise Critic group on a volcano tour by bus. We enjoyed a short camel ride before touring Timanfayo National Park. From there, we rode to El Golfo for scenic views along with wine and appetizers. Before our return drive, we made two additional stops for a walk around Los Hervidos Cliffs and a quick visit to a vineyard.

Camel Ride in Timanfaya National Park

Camel Ride in Timanfaya National Park

The cost for both Scott and I totaled about $102.00 USD (plus about $15.00 USD for our optional camel ride). As the most similar ship tour came at a price of $99.00 USD per person, we felt like we got a great value on our tour.

Grand Canary Island, Canary Islands (7:00 AM - 6:00 PM)

As Gran Canaria is known for wine production, we joined a Cruise Critic small bus tour to Bodegas Mondalon. We learned about the family owned and operated winery and enjoyed wine tasting and appetizers before returning to our bus for a photo stop at Mirador Pico de Bandama. Once back at the ship, Scott and I walked around the port town of Las Palmas.

Wine Tasting at Bodegas Mondalon

Wine Tasting at Bodegas Mondalon

At under $50.00 USD for the tour, transportation and tasting for both of us, it was a bargain! The price for two was far less than the $79.00 USD per person cruise line tour. To be fair, that tour did also include other stops in addition to the winery visit.

La Palma, Canary Islands (7:00 AM - 5:00 PM)

With another group from Cruise Critic, we joined a panoramic bus tour which first brought us to Ceramica, a workshop and souvenir shop. We made additional stops to learn about the rolling of La Palma Cigars, take photos from Mirador de la Concepcion and tour Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Snows. Our longest stop was at Los Tilos Forest where some of us purchased a snack and joined a couple of short hikes. (The total per person cost was about $45.00 USD.)

Mirador de la Concepcion

Mirador de la Concepcion

Nassau, Bahamas (8:00 AM - 6:00 PM)

We got a little exercise and enjoyed a very relaxing day in Nassau. After a leisurely breakfast aboard the ship, we disembarked and walked at our own pace to Junkanoo Beach where we enjoyed both some sun and the Caribbean waters. The beach is fee free - unless you want to rent chairs or umbrellas (which we did not) ... or enjoy a beverage!

Enjoying a Smoothie from Crabs n' Things at Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

Enjoying a Smoothie from Crabs n' Things at Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

Port Canaveral

In over 30 cruises, having a change to the disembarkation port was a first for us. The good news is that the Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal is only about two hours from Tampa International Airport where our flight was departing late in the afternoon. We were very impressed with Royal Caribbean's handling of the port change which was made to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew. The cruise line provided bus transportation to our choice of either the airports in Orlando or Tampa or the Port of Tampa. Staff was on hand to direct passengers to the proper bus after completing customs, and they even had a variety of sweet and salty snacks and bottled water for the ride ... since we hadn't eaten enough during the prior weeks!

Return Air Transportation

My Southwest Airlines Companion Pass was expiring at the end of the year, so we took advantage of one more free flight for Scott! Although I have to admit that I don't really like the airline's check-in and boarding processes, there are so many other benefits of flying Southwest. Our favorite benefits include the ability to change flights by paying only the fare difference, their bags fly free policy and the credit given for a future flight if a lower priced flight becomes available.

Tips on Reserving Flights for Transatlantic Cruises

Here's a few things to consider if you need one-way air transportation:
  • Flights on US carriers open up about 11 months before the day of travel;
  • Compare prices available directly through the airlines, online travel agents as well as your cruise line;
  • Check flight prices early and check them often (it's highly recommended to use a private browser to avoid cookies being saved on your computer);
  • When you see a good deal, take advantage of it (as fares can change regularly, you might miss out and be very disappointed); and
  • Regularly check your itinerary for potential changes (the earlier you reserve your flight, the more often changes occur - and the good news is that you can often work with the airline or travel agent to modify or even cancel a changed flight at no charge).

Tips on Reserving Shore Excursions

Although typically more expensive, there are advantages of purchasing excursions through the cruise line's Shore Excursions Desk. The biggest benefit is often a guarantee that the ship will wait for you should your tour be delayed for any reason. We've been on many cruises where passengers were left behind as they didn't make it back on time.

During our early years of cruising, we always booked through the cruise line, until a port day in Athens where we decided to go out on our own. Of the entire itinerary for that Mediterranean cruise, to this day I remember our day in Athens more vividly that any of the others. Since that time, we generally tour the port completely on our own or organize / join a smaller private tour.

If you are considering planning your own excursions, here's a few suggestions:

  • Be prepared for the time commitment! While you can usually save quite a bit of money, it takes time to do your research;
  • In many ports, you can either walk, use public transportation or rent a car to see the port city or surrounding areas;
  • Check Cruise Critic and Facebook Groups for others in search of people to join a tour group or in search of private tours;
  • Read comments and reviews from previous travelers on Cruise Critic, Trip Advisor, travel blogs, etc. to get ideas and, if you decide on a tour, check for ratings (we generally will not reserve with a company unless it has a lot of very positive comments);
  • Make contact with more than one tour provider so that you can compare prices and tour options;
  • Ask lots of questions including:
    • whether or not they have a guarantee to get you back on time;
    • what is included and not included in the quoted price;
    • is a deposit required;
    • do they accept credit cards;
    • what currencies do they accept for cash payments; and
    • any other questions that you can think of!
  • Become familiar with the cancellation policies and don't reserve unless you are comfortable and happy with the tour provider's policy (many companies will refund all money already paid should the cruise ship not make it to the port for any reason).

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas

To read about and see some pictures of Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, take a look at our two posts following our transatlantic sailing:
  • Review: Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of the Public Areas, Our Stateroom & Dining
  • Review: Rhapsody of the Seas - Impressions of Activities, Events & Entertainment
Also, check back in the coming weeks for articles on each of the ports that we visited during our back-to-back cruises for additional details and photos.

Shore Excursions

When your cruise ship is at port, how do you prefer to tour the local surroundings (i.e. cruise ship tour, private tour, do it yourself tour ... or stay on the ship), and why?

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Cruising from Venice, Italy to Florida aboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas


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