It’s 125 days until I set sail on the Norwegian Viva, visiting 9 different Mediterranean ports over 10 days. I originally booked the cruise in February 2022, 823 days before the cruise. It’s the furthest out I have ever booked a cruise, and it’ll be the longest cruise I have ever taken, but I’m really excited about it. Two months after I booked, several other friends liked the sound of it, so it’s now a group cruise, which makes it even more exciting.
Because planning a cruise can be intimidating, even for seasoned cruisers, I’ll show you how I selected and booked this cruise and what we’ve done since then.
An unexpected booking on the Norwegian Viva
This cruise booking was different for me because I didn’t go into it looking to book a vacation. Usually, I start my cruise search based on when or where I want to go and narrow it down from there. However, for this cruise, I stumbled across it on a random Sunday morning after reading Norwegian’s press release about their newest ship, the Viva.
This cruise is all about the itinerary
The main thing that caught my eye about this cruise was the itinerary. A Mediterranean cruise is a perfect adventure cruise for me. You get a sampling of many different cities and cultures at once. It’s so great to get to see a variety of cities and countries without having to drive or fly in between and unpack and repack in each hotel. In 2008, I did a Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona to Rome and always wanted to do another one, but I didn’t have any immediate plans.
Then I saw this itinerary during the announcement of the Norwegian Viva ship, “Mediterranean: Italy, France & Greece from Athens.” Athens and Rome have always been high on my list of destinations, but it’s tough to find itineraries that do both. This specific one starts in Athens and ends in Rome, which means I could easily do an extra day in both cities.
This 10-day cruise stops in 9 different ports across four countries and stays for an average of 9.5 hours per day. It’s pretty different from a typical Caribbean cruise, where half the time can be at sea, and you’re only in port for a handful of hours.
It visits some ports I’ve been to before and loved, like Santorini and Florence, and some new stops I had never even considered visiting before, like Kusadasi, Turkey, and Nice, France.
Usually, this type of itinerary is relatively uncommon, but with the introduction of the Prima and Viva, Norwegian Cruise Line decided to emphasize the destinations. For these ships, there are rarely two back-to-back itineraries that are identical; each voyage gives you access to different cities.
Choosing the date for the 10-day Mediterranean Cruise
As I mentioned, Norwegian has tried to shake it up with itineraries for the Viva. This exact sailing with these ports only had three possible dates. I had the option of late May, mid-July, or late August. I’ve done a summer cruise in Italy before, and the heat was really rough, so May was perfect. Also, it takes place over Memorial Day weekend, meaning everyone needs one less vacation day.
The average temperature will be between 55 and 80 degrees during our sailing, perfect for visiting places like Pompeii or Florence. It’ll be a bit too cold for beach adventures; the water will only be 65-70 degrees, but if I wanted that, I could enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean.
Picking the Norwegian Viva
This cruise will be on the Norwegian Viva. The Viva is the second ship in Norwegian’s brand-new Prima-class, although at the point we’ll be sailing on it, it’ll be almost a year old. The Prima-class represents a radical redesign from Norwegian’s previous ships. The biggest change is that the ship is 14% smaller than its predecessor, the Encore, and holds around 900 fewer people. It should provide a more intimate and high-end experience, especially for a mainstream cruise line.
On top of that, the Viva has everything you’d want to keep you busy. It has a 3-level go-kart track, water slides, pools, hot tubs, glass walkways extending over the ocean, 3 thrill slides with 10-story drops, mini-golf, and more. There’s just so much to do on this ship.
I got a preview of what’s to come on the Prima
When I booked this cruise, the Prima-class ships were nothing but renders; the ships were still scraps of metal being assembled in Italy. Many details, like restaurants and entertainment, were yet to be revealed. Spending so much money on something that wasn’t even real yet was intimidating, but I took the leap and booked anyway.
Thankfully, in October 2022, I had the privilege of sailing on one of the inaugural sailings of the Norwegian Prima, the nearly identical sister ship. From the minute I stepped on board, I knew this ship would be perfect for this group of friends. (You can follow along on that sailing here)
As I explored the Prima, I could see us having cocktails on Ocean Boulevard overlooking the beautiful deep-blue waters of the Greek Islands. I knew they’d love the Indulge Food Hall, and could picture them enjoying having a delicious dinner at Food Republic. The high-end look of the ship looked classy and elevated without feeling pretentious. While the Prima-class ship has some design flaws, and I wouldn’t recommend this ship for those with kids, it was perfect for our group of 30-somethings to explore the Mediterranean.
Choosing the cabin on the Norwegian Viva
The next step was choosing the cabin. Personally, I usually opt for balcony cabins. Waking up in the morning and seeing the beautiful sun shining through the large windows energizes me. I love walking out on the balcony and getting a breath of fresh sea air or spending some time at night looking out at the ocean, watching the moonlight reflecting across the gentle waves. It’s the ultimate ocean experience.
But balconies come at a price. A balcony cabin on this sailing cost 50% more than an interior cabin for this cruise. Because I’d have to fly from the US to Europe to go on this cruise, which would be pricey, and spend money on nine days of potential excursions in the ports, I decided to save money and try an interior cabin for this cruise.
But of all ships, this one feels like a good one for an interior cabin. The Viva will have tons of outdoor lounging space. This class of ship has more outdoor lounging space than any other mainstream cruise line. The Viva has beautiful glass walkways, an art garden, and lots of comfy exterior lounge seating.
On top of that, we’ll rarely be in our room on this cruise. With nine days in ports and ports lasting from 8 to 10 hours, we will be out and about, not sitting in our rooms. I’d rather save money and spend it on experiences while we’re onshore.
Another downside of interior cabins is that they’re typically smaller than balcony or ocean view cabins. When the Prima and Viva were announced, Norwegian bragged about how their cabins were more spacious and roomy. That is technically true; the inside cabins are roughly 18% larger than Norwegian’s Breakaway class ships. That being said, they’re around the same size as inside cabins on the Carnival Mardi Gras and Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ships, so it’s an improvement for Norwegian but not best-in-class.
On the Viva, an interior cabin comes in at around 160 sq ft, roughly the equivalent of a 12′ x 14′ room. When I had a chance to preview an interior cabin on the Prima, I was surprised at how airy and spacious it felt. I was also surprised that these cheaper cabins featured the same large bathroom and shower the balcony cabins had; the shower was almost as large as my one at home, a rarity for a standard cabin on a cruise ship.
One nice thing I enjoy about the Viva is the variety of cabins available. There’s something for everyone on these ships. If you want to be budget-conscious, there are plenty of interior cabins that will suit your needs and don’t feel like industrial prisons. If you want to go all out, the Prima and Viva has a supersized Haven area, which has large upscale rooms along with a dedicated restaurant, bar, and sundeck.
Two members of our group were traveling solo. Usually, that means they have to pay double, but Norwegian doesn’t leave solo travelers out, unlike other cruise lines, and offers them dedicated solo staterooms. I saw the cabins on my Prima sailing, and it was amazing how efficient these cabins were, cramming everything you needed in a small space. These cabins also have access to a dedicated lounge with plenty of seating, snacks, and even a soda and premade cocktail dispenser. Honestly, it made me jealous.
Cruise planning party to sort out all the last-minute details
Because this cruise is so port-heavy and is more about exploring Europe, as opposed to a relaxing Caribbean vacation, there’s a lot of planning that has to go on. It’s even more complicated when coordinating with 6 people. We have to decide on the hotels for Athens and Rome, arrange flights, figure out which excursions we want to do and which cities we might explore on our own, and maybe learn Greek or Italian.
To help with this, we had a cruise planning party 150 days before the sailing. This way, we could strategize and make appropriate plans. We put together spreadsheets and a PowerPoint to go over all aspects of the trip. We even had cruise-inspired cocktails (we attempted to recreate Norwegian’s Red Bubbles and Monkey Business cocktails.)
With four new cruisers in the group, we had to go over everything, from how things work on a cruise ship to customs and international travel laws. Let’s just say there were a lot of questions. At about an hour in, someone said they were surprised at how quickly the planning was going. I then informed them we were on slide 11 of 40 and just got to the point where we first board the Viva; there were still 10 days to go!
But at that party, we made lots of decisions and got really excited about the cruise. We decided which ports we’d do together, where we’d split up, and which sites we’d see in which cities. There are still plenty of decisions to make, like which of Viva’s many specialty restaurants we want to try, but we got a lot done.
I’m sure it will be an amazing adventure and unlike any cruise I’ve done before. I’ll take you along with us when we sail in late May, but if a Mediterranean cruise is on your bucket list, I recommend you start looking now. The earlier you look, the cheaper the fare and the more cabin/sailing options to choose from.
Want to follow along on our cruise?
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