Whether you’re tired of trains, can’t afford the planes or just simply need to get to Italy from Spain and the French rail workers went on strike…again…taking a ferry across the Mediterranean is an option worth considering. One of the more popular, casual and convenient ferry routes to include in your itinerary is from Barcelona to Rome.
Right away, some point out, “Silly travel writer, Rome is not on the coast.” This is true. None-the-less, had I suggested you take a ferry from Barcelona to Civitavecchia, where you’ll actually dock, I might have confused some. But, I guess when it comes down to it that is exactly the route you’ll be looking for. As for how to get from Civitavecchia to Rome (or vice versa)…I cover that here.
With that out of the way, let’s start with the how and move on to the why.
Booking a ferry from Barcelona to “Rome” (or the other way around) is quite easy and can be done online or in person. If I know before my arrival in Spain, that I’ll be using this type of transportation I always prefer to pre-book my passage. For this particular route, Grimaldi ferries is the operator of choice and for now the only one consistent enough in their offerings.
You can of course go directly to their website for sailings, prices and purchases. If by chance though your itinerary doesn’t have you going exactly to “Rome” and perhaps you want to, say, stop off in Cinque Terra or maybe you’re going to Greece, I suggest using directferries.co.uk . This site has always been my go-to site for finding boat operators that will get me where I’m going.
Tickets will vary in price in accordance to the season but you can expect to pay anywhere from an unbeatable 55 Euro per person to a never would I ever 350 Euro per person.
Cabin or Seat:
As you cruise the websites for prices (pun intended) you’ll notice that that 55 Euro per person is the price for a “reserved seat” and seems to jump up to 150 + Euro for an “inside cabin”. “What’s the difference?” you may ask. Simply put a reserved seat or “passage” implies that they’ll let you on the boat.
You won’t get a bed and you won’t have a room. You will however get a nice movie theater type seat, in a large open hall of a room, where hoards of rowdy pre-pubescent Spanish soccer players act out their excitement for being on a trip to Italy through singing Spanish pop songs, crinkling chip bags and playing hacky sack off the back of your head.
That being said, the price can’t be beat and until it’s time to sleep you can wander the deck, stare off into the sea, have drinks at the bar, hang out in the casino or anything else you can think of. And…yes, there is a casino…but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Another option would be a cabin. Pricier yes. But much more comfortable. The cabins, and keep in mind there are varying degrees of niceness here that are directly related to privacy, are in general small even by Carnival or Royal Caribbean cruise ship standards. The cheapest will have you in a room with 3-5 other people which means you may not know everyone you’re sleeping next to. The perks however are that you’ll have a bed which folds down from the wall into a bunk-bed type configuration and it’s way too difficult to play hacky sack in there.
All that being said, it’s not impossible to sleep in the seats and the money you’ll save even over taking a train is worth a night of discomfort and you can use it to purchase our audio tours. Hint hint….
Save with the Eurail pass:
Still, the savings don’t stop here. There are ferry discounts for Eurail pass-holders. That’s right; you can save 20% off your ticket on Grimaldi ferries headed to and from “Rome” just for showing your pass. Other destinations and boat operators offer other discounts so be sure to check the info that came with your Eurail pass or online.
How long does the trip from Barcelona to Civitavecchia take:
You may have noticed I’ve mentioned bed and sleep several times. This particular route is an overnight one and that’s kind of nice.
You won’t lose a day traveling and seeing the sun set while out on the Mediterranean with Spain behind you in the distance is downright memorable. In the reverse, arriving early morning into Barcelona is pleasant too since the metro and La Rambla (Barcelona’s main street) is a short walk from the dock.
Why take a boat:
“Why,” you may ask “should I take a boat?” Simply put its really kind of fun and nicer than you might expect. The ships are not quite luxury cruise liners and some are newer than others but they do have more amenities than you might first expect.
On board you’ll find dance club areas to work up some exhaustion so you can sleep in those chairs. Pool-side bars, to enjoy the sea view from. Full service and buffet style restaurants that are not included in your ticket price but do come in handy. A casino which mainly consists of slots and video poker but is still a nice place to pass the time and cross your fingers. And a number of other small areas to relax like a reading room and a kid’s area to drop the young ones off if you like.
It’s also kind of nice, especially for the price, to just not be on a train or have to deal with an airport for part of your journey. Once you get to the dock, and get on the boat you just sit back and relax while the sea breeze and gentle rocking melt away the sore back and ringing in your ears caused by long train rides.
Getting to Barcelona’s dock:
This couldn’t be simpler. Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, Rambla, ends right at the water. The port that you’ll need to be at when they announce boarding is a quick right up the street from there. The nearest metro stop is going to be Drassanes. This will put you at the coast end of Rambla.
All you need to do is head down the road in the general direction that Columbus is pointing from the top of that large column out by the water. Not far down the road and completely within walking distance you’ll see a white building with a red strip around it. On top is a sign that reads “acciona” “transmediteranea”. Head on inside, check in and wait for your boarding time.
Once they announce your boarding you’ll be ushered through security and onto a bus for a short ride out to the boat…how exciting!
Here are just a couple things I’ve learned over the many trips I’ve taken trans-Mediterranean.
First, bring some food with you. Stock up on some chips, cookies, beef jerky…anything you can snack on. The food on the boat isn’t bad but you’ll save tons of money by bringing your own. Don’t try to carry on bags of groceries though. They won’t look kindly at that. Also, toss a bottle of wine or favorite liquor in your carry-on pack (wrap in well). I might sound cheap but, I’d rather splurge on a hotel room in Rome with the money I’ve saved.
Second, your boat will likely depart in the late afternoon or early evening while you have to be checked out of your hotel or hostel by 9 or 10 am. Talk to the folks at your hotel front desk about leaving your luggage with them during the day. If they are ok with this, and I’ve never had anyone say no, you’ll have the whole day to explore Barcelona without hauling your luggage around. Just pick it up later that afternoon with enough time to spare to get to the port. Don’t forget, they’ll board the ship a couple hours before departure.