Mediterranean Tennis Cruise
Where did you find a European tennis cruise? The question that many have asked regarding our mid-October, western Mediterranean cruise. We spend a lot of time researching places that we would like to travel to and play tennis. Finding the right time to travel has always been a criteria of making a successful tennis travel trip to remember!
When we planned our European trip, we considered staying at resorts instead of the cruise. My husband reminded me, that we loved to dance. A cruise offered the opportunity to dine and dance on a floating resort each evening, after a day of exploring (and tennis). We chose the Norwegian Cruise Line, Epic, sailing out of Rome, Italy.
Norwegian Epic- Mediterranean Tennis Cruise – tennistravelsite.com
On our cruise we could had a choice to embark in either Barcelona, Spain or in Rome, Italy. We chose Rome, Italy (cruise port Civitavecchia) for this journey (we embarked in Barcelona, Spain two years ago).
We were compelled to sail on the Norwegian Epic again, because of the newly added stop in Palma de Mallorca (home of Rafa Nadal). Since we had previously visited many bucket list sites such as: Florence, Pisa, Rome, Cannes, Barcelona, Pompeii, and Amalfi Coast on our last cruise, we looked forward to new experiences in the western Mediterranean. This took some planning on our part.
We did something a little different on this cruise. We stayed in the Haven Suites. This was our first Norwegian Cruise Haven experience. The Haven guests were provided with a personal butler, spacious suites, Haven restaurant, Haven bars with lounge, and Haven concierge. The Haven facilities include a private swimming pool with two hot tubs, workout room, and Haven spa services area. It was an incredible resort experience. You almost forget you are on a cruise ship.
Norwegian Epic – Haven Suite – tennistravelsite.com
Take advantage of the cruise ships excursions. They are well thought out and provide variety, as well as activity levels for each choice. Tickets are processed and delivered to your stateroom before the excursion with instructions on where to meet, all you need to do is relax and enjoy your day.
Book your excursion through an outside company. We have booked through Viator, United Cruises, Airbnb. There are many more. We have always had wonderful excursions. Sometimes if you are looking for something different this is great way to see the sites, your way. We typically are looking closely at reviews and looking at experiences tailored to our available times.
Rent a car/take a taxi or Uber. Renting a car takes planning. On this cruise, we rented cars at three different ports. We ran into one of our fellow cruisers at the Hertz rental in Livorno. He said he had 14 people in his party and was renting their largest van to drive to Florence, Italy. On other stops, such as Rome, we took an Uber, which was a great experience. Uber is only available in Rome and Milan, Italy. When the Uber service was not available, we would take a taxi.
Cruise port – Livorno, Italy (read more…Tuscany Tennis!)
On our first Mediterranean cruise, we booked an excursion to visit Pisa and Florence, Italy. This time, we rented a car through Hertz (one block away from the port). We drove to La Spezia, Italy, which was an hour and a half drive through the rolling hills of Tuscany. We then purchased train tickets for the Cinque Terre Region (pronounced Cheenkay Teray) to visit Vernazzo, Italy, which was the fourth of five possible scenic stops. Vernazzo was a quaint stop , a beautiful town built in the hills, overlooking the sea. As we walked down the cobblestone path to towards the water, the old church bells rang a beautiful melody, for high noon. It was the perfect ambiance for such a beautiful town. It reminded me of a smaller version of the Amalfi Coast area. Cinque Terre is a great hiking area. There are many well maintained hiking trails throughout the region. (Travel tip: Hiking Cinque Terre – purchase a Cinque Terre hiking pass or a train pass in La Spezia). After exploring the area and shopping at the local merchants, we headed back to Livorno, Italy. On the drive back, we passed Carrara, Italy, much known for the marble procured from their quarries. As we drove through the Tuscany region, we stopped in Lucca, Italy. We found tennis at the Centro Sport Le Vele San Donato, on the red clay courts (see Tuscany Tennis blog), before a brief tour of the town of Lucca, a walled city (travel tip: In Italy you are required to have an International Driving Permit – which can be purchased at AAA). As we made our way back to our port, we passed Pisa, and couldn’t resist taking a photo of the famous leaning tower, once more!
We made it back to the ship with plenty of time. We dined in one of the specialty restaurants, Cagney’s, for a delicious dinner. I loved the beet and goat cheese salad presentation! We were very excited for our next stop in France.
Vernazzo – Cinque Terre, Italy – tennistravelsite.com
Cruise port – Cannes, France (read more…Cannes!)
During our previous trip to Cannes, we played tennis at the Tennis Club of Cannes, followed by a romantic hike on St. Honorat’s Island. As much as we wanted to visit these fabulous places, we chose a ship excursion to Grasse, France and Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, a medieval town on the French Riviera.
Grasse, France is known as the perfume capital of the world. Our short tour included the history of perfume in the area, with an opportunity to purchase french perfume and soaps. We learned that the older you are, the better your sense of smell. I did very well in picking out the different scents! We were quickly off to our next stop on the French Riviera, over an hour away, Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Italy – Tennistravelsite.com
The scenic drive was worth it. We never tired of the beautiful sights of the French Riviera, as we climbed the mountain to the highest point, Saint-Paul-de-Vence. As we approached the town on foot, we noticed teenagers gleefully playing boule outside the gateway of the town (Boule is similar to bocce ball). We found out that it is traditional for locals to play boule at this shady meeting place. Our tour guide gave us a history of the area, and then we had time on our own to wander the cobblestone streets to discover the charming town, home to many museums, shops and restaurants.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Italy – Tennistravelsite.com
Cruise port – Palma de Mallorca, Spain (read more…Palma de Mallorca, Spain (Rafa Nadal Academy))
Our draw to this beautiful island in the Balearic sea, Palma de Mallorca, Spain was tennis related. As our ship floated close to the island, we were amazed by the beauty of the island. The medieval buildings surrounded by water, with boats sailing in the water as far as you could see. We disembarked the ship with our tennis racquet in tow, and in our tennis outfits in anticipation of our amazing adventure. For our excursion, we rented a car from SixT, at the airport, which was a 20 minute taxi ride from the Port of Palma de Mallorca, and then drove an hour to the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy in Manacor. We were just in time for our scheduled tennis session (see Rafa Nadal Academy, Palma de Mallorca blog post). Our short time at the academy exceeded our expectations. Before we returned to the port, we stopped to check out and buy some Majorca pearls pearls from one of the many Mallorca pearl stores.
Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy, Manacor, Spain – tennistravelsite.com
Cruise port – Barcelona, Spain (read more…Game of Thrones Barcelona, Spain blog)
On our last cruise, we embarked on the Norwegian Epic in Barcelona, Spain. The best thing about starting your cruise in Barcelona is that you have a day at sea for the first day, which allows you more time to adjust to the time difference. Last time we were in Barcelona, we did the hop on hop off tour, which was a great way to see Barcelona. We decided that we needed to tour the Sagrada Familia (Travel tip: if you embark in Barcelona, you must purchase tickets in advance, to tour the Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia. It was definitely worth seeing the beautiful basilica). On this cruise, we went a different way.
When we arrived in port, we immediately disembarked and took a taxi to our car rental (SixT), close to the port, and then drove an hour to Girona, Spain. (Travel tip: Another option would have been to take a high speed train to Girona, from Barcelona). A very good Italian friend had advised on some of our excursions and thought we would enjoy the medieval town of Girona, Spain, which is located directly across the Onyar River. We booked a “Game of Thrones” walking tour of Girona through Viator.com. Many scenes from season six of “Game of Thrones” were filmed within the Roman Fortress, the Forca Vella. We walked the grounds for 2 ½ hours, learning about the history of Girona. This excursion was well worth the drive, and one we will never forget.
On our way back from Girona, we stopped at the Club Tenis Cabril, a lovely facility, nestled in a hillside neighborhood, outside Barcelona. If only I had not sprained my ankle…I didn’t think it would be wise to play two days in a row! We had to stop to talk to staff in the tennis facility, to gain more information on how someone could play tennis, while visiting Barcelona. This facility was just outside Barcelona, so a short cab ride or drive away! Since, we had more time, we stopped at the impressive tennis facility, Academia Sanchez-Casal, in Barcelona before we returned to the ship (see Barcelona Tennis blog)!
After our day at sea, which was awesome, mainly because we were able to sleep in and enjoy the Norwegian Epic! By the way, did I mention that our Haven butler would bring us coffee every morning, as our wake up call. In addition, he would leave a snack for us every afternoon, ready for us, as we returned from a long day of excursions! I could get used to being pampered! We looked forward to our last stop on our itinerary.
Cruise port – Naples, Italy (read more…Capri, Italy -Island of Love)
Our final stop on the Mediterranean cruise was Naples. Previously, we visited Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast on an excursion. This time we couldn’t wait to see the island of Capri, also known as the Island of Love! We purchased an excursion from Norwegian called “Capri on your own.” We had a fantastic guide, who stayed with the group, the entire time. We took the jetfoil boat (quickest way to Capri), from our port to the Island of Capri. Our guide was great because she gave us great advice on how to find our tennis facility, and then where to meet up with the group for the return trip. Capri is made up of three parts: The Marina level, Capri and Anacapri. We arrived on the marina level. We left the group to do our own thing. We had booked a tennis lesson at the Tennis Club Capri, which was located near the center of Capri. We took the funicular up the side of the steep hill, to Capri, from the marina area, where we made our way to the Tennis Club Capri. We absolutely loved this tennis club because of the beautiful location and an excellent tennis instructor!
After our fantastic tennis at the Tennis Club Capri, we made our way up to Anacapri by taxi, up Mamma Mia road (they call it Mamma Mia road because that is what you say when driving the narrow, steep, winding roads). Some of the taxis do not have roofs, so you have an amazing view as you drive up the mountain to Anacapri in a long convertible taxi (we rode in a pink one and a green one!). We were not quite prepared to jump on the Monte Solaro chair lift to the top of Anacapri. The seats were for single passengers, so there was a lot of time to reflect during the slow, scenic ride up the mountain. Once on top, the view from above was spectacular. The best photo was to include the rocks of Capri. We noticed hikers trekking their way up and down the steep trails of this mountain. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
As we made our way back down to the island of love, Capri (in a convertible taxi), we stopped to shop. There was a lot of shopping in Capri. We did our best shopping on this little island. My favorite purchase was a watch from Capri Watch. We saw an advertisement for it on the way over. A tennis watch with a tennis court in the background. I had to check out the watch. I immediately decided to splurge and purchase a red Capri watch. After we finished our shopping, we settle in for a meal at a local restaurant, and tried out the gluten-free pizza and Italian beer!
There are so many wonders in this world, and so many fantastic views. It was a privilege to experience this lovely island, from every level.
Cruise port – Rome, Italy (read more…Rome, Italy blog)
Unfortunately, every cruise has to come to an end. The cruise actually considers the last day a day at port and offers excursions for the day of disembarkation. On this cruise, an added benefit of staying in the Haven gave us priority disembarkation. We took advantage of that on every excursion day and when we had to leave. This was a great perk which took the anxiety of waiting in long lines away. We chose a tour of Rome for the day, which would then drop us off at the airport or airport hotel. The Port in Rome is about an hour away from the airport, so the ship’s transfer or transfer with excursions were great options.
Rome, Italy – tennistravelsite.com
We booked the highlights tour of Rome, Italy, which included the Roman Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Trevi Fountain, and of course, a stop for some gelato at Venchi. Previously, we had toured Rome, which included the Sistine Chapel and Vatican. Our original itinerary was to stay by the airport, however my ankle was doing better so we quickly looked for something that had a tennis option!
On our last evening, we stayed at the Rome Cavalieri, a Waldorf Astoria resort. This resort was an icon in itself, with its great location, beautiful property, tennis facility, swimming pools (indoors and outdoors), beautiful spa and lovely rooms. After a long week, it was wonderful to let our hair down and enjoy the many amenities of the hotel. After our tennis at the resort, we dined at the bar area to listen to the wonderful piano playing and singing. It was a great way to end our vacation.
Rome Cavalieri, Rome,Italy – tennistravelsite.com
Final thoughts on our Mediterranean Tennis Cruise
So, if a tennis cruise in Europe is on your radar, then please visit my blogs for insight on some great places to play. Each place we visited on our spectacular cruise had something special to offer! We can’t say enough about about our balanced trip of experiencing the Western Mediterranean and playing our favorite sport tennis at amazing facilities. So happy to have been able to see the beautiful sites of Europe and play tennis, with the love of my life!
Shipboard credit – if you own 100 shares of Norwegian Cruise Line, as a shareholder you will receive $100 shipboard credit on each cruise over 5 days long. Carnival cruise lines also has a similar program!
Excursion Tip: Our cruise booking included a $50 credit per port for one guest for excursions. There are “on-your-own” excursions offered for some ports by the cruise line. We used this perk a couple of times on this cruise as it guaranteed transportation to and from the location we desired with the certainty that the boat won’t float without us. Fun fact… when our cruise left the port of Cannes, France, it floated over an hour late. This was due to the ship excursions having difficulties returning to port as there were local strikes that impeded the highways. So it does happen!
Uber/Lyft is not available everywhere on the planet. It was NOT available in Spain. It is only available in two cities within Italy… Rome and Milan. We were unaware that it was available to us in Rome and it would have been cost effective for getting to the ship at the start of our cruise.
Fun fact: Sin Gluten in Italy! If you are looking for gluten free, Italy is very proactive in offering gluten free options. We tested it out everywhere we went. It was fantastic!
We are a proud participant in the Marriott Affiliate Program and with Lacoa Sports, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Marriott.com and Lacoa Sports.
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