Surf or turf
CRYS TAL SYMPHON Y IN PORTOFINO, COURTESY OF CRYS TAL CRUISES
By Rick Steves
THERE ARE TRAVELERS and there are
tourists. There is travel and there is hedonism.
I’ve long thought that cruising was hedonism
for tourists. In fact, I’ve built a career
championing the beauties of experiencing
Europe independently ... through the back
door. And that’s about as far from cruising as
you can get.
My newest guidebook — Rick Steves’
Mediterranean Cruise Ports — is the first and
only cruising guidebook written by someone
with a healthy skepticism about cruises. I’ve
left the cruise-ship rundowns to the industry
aficionados, and focused my book on what I
consider the main attraction: some of the most
exciting cities in Europe. Even if you have just
eight hours in port, you can still ramble the
colorful Ramblas of Barcelona, kick the
pebbles that stuck in Julius Caesar’s sandals
at the Roman Forum, hike to the top of Athens’
Acropolis, and hear the Muslim call to prayer
warble across the rooftops from an Istanbul
minaret. Yes, I know, you could spend a
lifetime in Florence. But if you’ve only got a
few hours ... I have a plan for you.
I’ve just returned from enjoying back-to-back Mediterranean cruises myself. I visited
12 ports in two weeks. Dancing my nights
away under starry, starry skies at sea, I
shared a ship with 3,000 people whose
priorities seemed to be shopping, gambling,
Lucca & Livorno
and sightseeing —
often in that order.
Yes, for many of
these cruisers, the
and simple. But
for many others,
cruising has become an efficient, affordable,
and enjoyable way to enjoy the best of both
surf and turf.
For me, it was two weeks toggling
between life on shore and life on board —
a time filled with culture, camaraderie, and
calories. As soon as I returned to the ship
after a day exploring, I’d plop my wallet into
the top drawer of my dresser and rejoin that
fantasy, cashless cruise ship world.
I was impressed by the number of
passengers who bounded down the gangway
as soon as it was open, determined to get the
most out of each hour in port. These are the
people who are enjoying my new guidebook.
Its goal — and my challenge as its author —
is to empower those who enjoy the fun,
efficiency, and economy of cruising with the
information necessary to get the very most out
of their time in port.
So, is cruising really travel? It depends on
the cruiser. I enjoyed a relaxing vacation at
sea, but each day in port I managed to venture
away from the cruise crowds. Whether it was
in a farmer’s market in Livorno, a tapas
bar in Barcelona, or a dusty corner of
Athens’ Agora, I tried to get out of my comfort
zone and experience a slice of real Europe.
While there’s plenty of fun on board for
cruisers, your best memories will come from
back-door adventures enjoyed on land.
Rick Steves has spent 100 days every year since
1973 exploring Europe. Rick produces a public
television series, a public radio show, and a podcast;
writes a bestselling series of guidebooks and a
nationally syndicated newspaper column.
Purchase a copy of Rick Steves’ book, with the sticker shown below, in a Costco warehouse and receive a $100 shipboard credit when you book a Mediterranean cruise through Costco Travel by 1/31/12. For participating cruise lines and additional details, click Travel at Costco.com. Exclusively for Costco Members
®CELEBRIT Y CRUISES