Which Royal Caribbean Departure Port is Best for You?
We thrash out the merits of Rome, Barcelona and Southampton in a battle of the departure ports below
There are many different factors to consider when booking a cruise, not least which bikini will best withstand jumping in and out of pristine waters. Your first port of call when it comes to decision-making is where your cruise will depart from.
Whether you prefer the convenience and comfort of leaving from and returning to the UK or love the idea of gobbling an extra slice of adventure by departing from a dynamic port that’s ripe for exploring before or after your cruise, it’s undoubtedly the first step in planning your trip.
For 2022, Royal Caribbean has a riot of incredible itineraries departing from three very different ports: Southampton, Rome and Barcelona. With the latter two reached easily with a short flight from UK shores, each port option offers the chance for a different kind of holiday.
We’ve cut through the noise to help you make the best choice for you.
The cruise port of Civitavecchia is about an hour’s drive from central Rome, with its iconic sights including the imposing Colosseum, elegant Pantheon, ornate Trevi Fountain and artistic feats such as the Michelangelo-painted frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.
There’s so much to see and do in the Eternal City that tacking on a few extra days pre-or-post cruise can be a great idea. It allows plenty of time for cappuccino-sipping in pretty piazzas, perusing ancient artefacts and artworks and ogling the many basilicas, manicured gardens and crumbling ruins the city has to offer, without having to worry about getting back to the ship. Why not take some of the pressure off and spread out your sightseeing in this historical city with an extended stay?
If you’d prefer to stay closer to the ship, then there is still plenty to explore in Civitavecchia and you’ll find a more relaxed atmosphere and slower pace, perfect for watching the world go by and gorging on Cacio e Pepe pasta.
Check out the coastal city’s 16th-century fort and one-time Jewish ghetto, now home to countless buzzing shops and cafés. Or stroll past the town’s colourful painted houses, and duck into one of the local trattorias for a glass of Borola or Nero d’Avola.
In 2022, Royal Caribbean’s impressive ship Odyssey of the Seas will be sailing from Civitavecchia on cruises to sun-soaked Mediterranean ports such as Naples, Barcelona, Provence, Florence and Palma de Mallorca, as well as voyages to cerulean blue-and-white-splashed Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos, Crete and Rhodes. Civitavecchia is also the ideal departure point for further exploring Italy’s treasures in destinations such as Sicily and Venice.
Odyssey of the Seas is one of the newest and biggest cruise ships on the waves, and the first Quantum Ultra-Class cruise vessel to sail in Europe. This impressive feat of engineering has a palpable buzz on board thanks to thrilling activities including bumper cars, roller-skating, glow-in-the-dark laser tag and an arcade boasting the latest cutting-edge VR experiences. Guests can catch a wave on the 12-metre-long FlowRider surf simulator, get a taste of skydiving with RipCord by iFLY, or laze on the stylish pool deck, kitted out with cosy hammocks and casitas.
Perfectly positioned on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is the ideal gateway to other ports along the Spanish coast as well as the Balearic Islands, France and Italy. One of the most culturally rich cities in the world, Barcelona has long beckoned artists, architects and musicians, inspired by the creative vibe that reverberates throughout the city.
Good news for cruisers, the city centre is a mere 15-minute wander from the cruise port. However, even with its close proximity to the action, it would still be a Herculean feat to squeeze in all the city sights into one day, which is why there is always the option of arriving a day or two early to discover Barcelona’s many attractions, or finishing your cruise with a few days in the city.
Either way, you won’t regret the extra time you’ll have to marvel at the spires of La Sagrada Família, join the hustle and bustle of pedestrian boulevard La Ramblas, and hop between the hundreds of tapas bars that run the gamut of homely, traditional fare to exquisitely presented works of art on a plate.
Kick back and relax on Barceloneta beach and watch the billowing parasail ‘shutes float through the sky over the ocean’s surface, or catch a football game at the famous Camp Nou stadium. Fancy a day trip? Hop on a train to surrounding places like Girona, Sitges, or mountainous Montserrat with its incredible, mist-shrouded monastery and hermit caves.
In 2022, the award-winning Allure of the Seas will sail from Barcelona, transporting Royal Caribbean guests on itineraries covering magical Mediterranean destinations such as Nice, Rome, Florence, Provence and Palma de Mallorca.
Allure of the Seas is a bastion of nightlife and entertainment, with more bars on board than any cruise ship out there, including the unique Rising Tide Bar, where you can take a seat at a moving bar, which travels smoothly up and down three decks as you sip your drink.
During the day, white-knuckle zip line rides and the interactive H20 Zone Water Park will keep you entertained. And by night, dazzling live shows such as West-End hit Mamma Mia!, AquaTheatre’s breathtaking ‘Oceanaria', and the spectacular ice skating in Ice Games will bring down the house.
Steeped in maritime history and with a deep port welcoming some of the world’s biggest cruise ships, Southampton is the ideal place to kickstart your cruise for a super relaxing and hassle-free transition into ship life.
First-time cruisers, especially, may appreciate the easy convenience (no need to battle with airports, taxis and hotels). And of course, there’s the blissful absence of luggage restrictions. With no flights to catch or countries to schlep across, you’re free to take on board whatever you like (though we’d recommend leaving the kitchen sink at home).
Southampton cruise terminal is easily reached via Southampton Central train station, just one mile from the port, with high-speed rail services to and from London. Arriving early? There’s plenty to do in Southampton, with top sights including the City Art Gallery, SeaCity Museum and the restored Tudor House.
Walk the historic medieval walls of the city, built to protect the town from attack by sea, and watch the boats enter the port from your lofty perch, as knights on watch hundreds of years ago would have done. Or you might like to extend your stay to explore other seaside towns like Brighton or Portsmouth, or even soak up the sights of London, only an hour away by train.
In 2022, Anthem of the Seas will set sail from Southampton to destinations across Northern Europe, connecting Royal Caribbean cruisers with fascinating ports like Bilbao, La Coruna, Rotterdam, Bruges and Lisbon, as well as Norwegian fjord towns such as Bergen, Geiranger, Ålesund and Stavanger. Longer transatlantic cruises to Boston and New York are also available from Southampton.
Why Anthem of the Seas? It has some of Royal Caribbean’s best family-friendly onboard activities, from rock climbing to the trapeze school. And that’s without mentioning the four swimming pools and the state-of-the-art theatre showing Broadway smashes like hit musical We Will Rock You.
Passengers will love stepping into the North Star, a Guinness World Record-winning observation capsule, which elevates guests high above the ship for 360-degree views of the glittering ocean.
7 Night Norwegian Fjords Cruise
- 7 nights, departs on the 28 Aug 2022
- Royal Caribbean International, Anthem of the Seas
- Southampton, Stavanger, Flåm, + 3 more