Please note that the following overnight boatride departs from Civitavecchia, Italy arriving the next day in Barcelona. In order to get from Rome to Civitavecchia you need a train and then a short busride to get to the docks. There is a reverse route for those looking to travel from Barcelona to Civitavecchia. You would then take a train to Rome.
It was technically my first cruise. The ship had luxury cabins and a casino. The dining area was well lit and several bars offered DJ beats and dance floor grooves. The bar was open all night and the delicate clink of cocktail glasses could be heard into the early morning hours. But it’s not what you think. We weren’t twirling about in blacktie or rolling dice with high rollers.
On our way from Rome to Barcelona, Neil and I chose to ride the cruise ship for cheap. It was summer time, the most expensive season to travel through Europe. And on our itinerary we’d visited two of the most expensive countries in the EU: the Netherlands and Italy. But being a backpacker doesn’t mean you always miss out on the high life. We enjoyed ourselves in Amsterdam and Florence with our friends Tim and Julie. We rode bikes on the wine trail in Lucca and lodged at a beautiful hotel in Rome.
But everything in moderation. So when balancing our budget, we tightened our spending by taking a boat to Barcelona. It took a bit of planning to get from Rome to Civitavecchia where the boats disembark. We opted out of the cabin and elected to race fellow passengers for spots on the common room sofas as if we were all part of the Simpsons opening theme song. We didn’t
check our bags because it would have been expensive. We didn’t even browse the slot machines. On the 18 hour cruise westward across the Mediterranean Sea, we slogged away in steerage, finding little room to stash our stuff and take naps while making our way to Spain.
Why travel by overnight cruise ship
In Europe you’ve many transportation options. Planes save time but have extra fees for baggage, of which we had several pieces. Buses across the breadth of Europe are long and arduous. Trains in summer are pricey. But when looking at all our options our friends from Leuven, Belgium recommended using the overnight service which saved us one night’s accommodation and 18 hours on a bus.
The catch: you keep all your stuff with you and sit in a booth all night. It’s actually more comfortable than it seems. The seats are more plush than the bus. Bathrooms are plentiful and I avoided the nausea and swelling associated with air travel.
What to do on the cruise ship
Dining was great. After some research and planning, we realized that the best way to save money was to purchase our meals before boarding. This saved us 40% off the retail on-board cost and the dining room was lovely. Meals are three courses and include fruit and wine.
We got yelled at. There are some rules to follow when you’re on a cruise ship without a cabin. It’s all about location. Don’t camp out near any café or pub. Choose a sofa or lounge chair away from high traffic areas. Don’t take it personally when the staff enforce the rules. Remember: you can’t put your feet on the couch. You can’t sleep before midnight or after 6am in the dining area. If you’ve got a sleeping bag, create your own tent city on the ship but only if you find a nook of the boat with few people. Many experienced overnighters brought their own cushions to fashion makeshift beds
Enjoy the view. In the morning when we’d eaten breakfast. Neil and I went outside to lounge on the decks. The sun was warm. The sea breeze salty and the sky was a crisp cerulean blue. Music playing, we enjoyed a few hours of writing as the sea waves passed by. European holiday makers made use of the on-deck swimming pool and snack bar while groups of well-rested truck drivers took another deep breath before loading back into their rigs.
Arriving in Barcelona
We arrived at the main ports on Las Ramblas. From here public transportation was easy as we hopped on the subway and took a bus to a small homestay in the residential area above Guell Park. It was the cutest and cheapest room we could find. Our hostess was an opera singer and extremely kind. She opened her home to us and introduced us to her furry rabbit tenants on the balcony. She let us use her office when our atm card was hacked. All in all, saving the money from our trip was relatively painless especially considering some of the overnight buses we’d had in Peru and Ecuador. Cruising across the Mediterranean was hardly tiresome. In fact it was fun and funny at times.