The biggest mistake on a Mediterranean cruise was not extending the trip

Business Insider’s travel reporter took her first European cruise around the Mediterranean Sea.
Joey Hadden/Business Information

  • I embarked on my first European cruise in the Mediterranean Sea in July 2023.
  • Looking back, I wish I had booked more time on the continent before or after my trip.
  • A longer trip would have given me more time to explore, making the long flights worthwhile.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” a fellow passenger asked me on the last night of my first European cruise.

Last summer I took a seven-day Mediterranean cruise with the adults-only luxury cruise line Virgin Voyages. I started and ended in Barcelona and stopped in ports in Italy, France and Spain.

“Flying home,” I replied.

My fellow cruisers told me they would stay in Barcelona for a few more days to explore the place. I immediately realized the mistake I had made, especially since it was my first time in Spain.

While I never felt it was a necessity to extend my Caribbean cruise to spend more time sunbathing on additional beaches, I recognized that flying to Europe from the U.S. and not leaving time at either end of the cruise to see more was a missed opportunity.

I wish I had more time in Europe, and if I ever cruise the Mediterranean again, here’s why I’ll be sure to plan things differently.

The author on a Virgin Voyages cruise.
Joey Hadden/Business Information

I didn’t have enough time to explore destinations.

Although I had never left an international port, the Mediterranean cruise was not my first trip at sea.

In the past, I participated in another Caribbean cruise, which departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

One thing I realized that I love (and hate) about cruises from that experience is that the stops at ports give me only a brief preview of each destination. At each stop, I was only allotted a few hours to explore, sometimes just half a day, and I was left wanting more time.

This was especially true in Barcelona, ​​where I embarked and disembarked on my Mediterranean cruise.

I arrived by plane the night before my trip and went straight to the cruise terminal the next day. When we returned, I headed to the airport as soon as I got off the ship. I didn’t have any extra time to do any sightseeing in the city I had never visited before or anywhere else in the surrounding area, like Madrid or Montserrat Mountain, where I had always wanted to go.

Once on the cruise ship, looking out over the city from my balcony, I saw a wide view of the landscape and was fascinated by the architecture. I longed to see the historic buildings up close.

“Next time,” I thought.

The view of Barcelona from the author’s balcony.
Joey Hadden/Business Information

An extended stay would make flying long distances more worthwhile, and it’s better for the planet.

I took a seven-hour overnight flight from New York to Barcelona. The return trip was even longer, with a stopover.

I find long-haul flights exhausting. I get dizzy and have to sit for long periods. Plus, flying can cause dehydration, a flight attendant previously told Business Insider.

For me, spending more time in Europe would have made the long and difficult flight more worthwhile.

The author, exhausted, after an overnight flight to Barcelona.
Joey Hadden/Business Information

A longer stay could also have made my trip more sustainable. Flights accounted for 8% of transport carbon emissions in 2021, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

And because of the carbon emissions of transportation, sustainable travel experts have previously told BI that taking fewer, longer trips is better for the environment than shorter, more frequent trips.

In 2023, I traveled to Europe twice. Combining those trips would have been more sustainable, as I would have taken fewer flights.

If I could do it all over again, I would book a few extra vacation days in Barcelona to explore the European city at the beginning or end of the cruise, or better yet, both parts.