Where will I go on an Italy cruise?
This depends on your itinerary. Italy cruises include at least one port in Italy, and often include ports in other Mediterranean countries like Greece and Spain.
How long does it take to get there?
Rome is an eight-hour flight from New York and Venice is a nine-hour flight from New York.
When is the best time to take an Italy cruise?
The high season stretches from April to October, but Italy cruises are available year-round. Visitors can avoid summer's sizzling temperatures and surging tourist crowds by traveling during the "shoulder seasons" in spring (April and May) or fall (September and October). Temperatures are still comfortable during these months and there's less competition for the top historic sites. And visitors who don't mind a bit of a chill might enjoy a winter cruise, as temperatures in Italy rarely drop below freezing.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports are required for all international visitors. Visa rules vary by country.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood at most resorts, shops and restaurants connected to the tourist trade. However, visitors might learn a few basic phrases before setting sail.
What is the time difference?
Italy lies six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
Currencies vary depending on your port of call, but the euro is accepted in Italy, and most other European countries. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Many restaurants include a service charge, but tipping of an additional 10% is customary almost everywhere. Be sure to review all bills before handing out gratuities.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
Many churches and cathedrals in Italy require some degree of modest attire for visitors. You may not be permitted to enter if wearing "too short" shorts, and women may be asked to cover bare shoulders (it's a good idea to tuck a lightweight scarf into your purse or tote).
What should I pack?
Italy cruises offer countless excursions in some very diverse places. Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try -- a walking tour of Rome’s city center or visiting the Vatican, for example -- and pack accordingly. Bring sunscreen, swimsuits and sunglasses if traveling in summer; protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers are advisable no matter when you travel. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters; these same devices come in handy for U.S. citizens who plan to overnight in hotels at some point during their vacation, as much of Europe uses the 220-volt outlet.
How do I make a telephone call from Italy?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Very few 1- and 2-star hotels offer air conditioning, and those that do may charge extra for the convenience. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy? Can I haggle over prices?
Shoppers will find a little of everything here, from high-end, hand-blown glass to delicate handmade lace and unique Carnival masks. The main shopping area in Venice runs from Piazzo San Marco to the Rialto Bridge, where you can browse souvenir shops or high-fashion boutiques. Rome is a fashion capital and is known for good buys in leather and silk. Italian art, antiques, ceramics, costume jewelry and straw goods are sought after gifts and souvenirs as well. The main shopping area is between the Spanish Steps and Via del Corso, but overall shopping in Rome is limited. You can choose souvenirs that capture the spirit of this diverse region -- pick up a bottle of wine or olive oil in Tuscany, for instance, or a Sicilian puppet in Palermo. Give haggling a try if you feel comfortable, but don't press your luck with a flustered shopkeeper.
How do I get around?
Italy is a tourism hot spot, chock full of experienced guides offering bus, boat, scooter and helicopter tours. Otherwise, try taxis and public transportation when sightseeing in larger cities; smaller cities might offer bicycle rentals or pedestrian-friendly town squares and streets. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
What can I do there?
Italy is a delight for tourists seeking history, culture, art and architecture, and there are limitless attractions to explore. In Rome, visit the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, just to name a few. In Venice, see St. Marks Cathedral, the Doge’s Palace or take a gondola ride. In Florence, stop at the leaning Tower of Pisa and see artwork by Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Visit the house where Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa or take in the beauty of the Amalfi coast.
Do you have any photography tips for Italy travelers?
There's plenty of historic beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.