One of the ways to get from Barcelona to Rome is a voyage by cruise ferries, operated by the Italian company Grimaldi Lines and departing from the main Catalonian city every day. This trip could be romantic and - as you will see - also adventurous.
Grimaldi Lines terminal in Barcelona
The terminal of Grimaldi Lines is not far away from the city center, yet it is not really close. It’s around an hour of walking from the Barcelona Sants station or from the Megatzem 128 hotel, where I was staying. If you are about to walk from Estació de França (the French Station), it will take you approximately 40 minutes to get to the place. Here I want to mention my travel report from Paris to Barcelona as well.
The terminal is located on the premises of the Barcelona Port. Being a dedicated city walker, I decide to get there on foot. In a late evening, I do not meet any people. Instead, I see and hear a lot of heavy trucks, moving back and forth. Also, the view features a number of concrete fences and storage facilities. If you need my recommendation, here it is: find a way to get through this place in a car or on a bus, because it is not actually picturesque or pedestrian-friendly.
The terminal itself is not big and pretty simple, having only the essential facilities: check-in spots, toilets, a waiting room and a cafe/bar. As for the latter, it feels like a part of Italy: the staff members speak Italian, prefer to ignore English and try to charge you a bit more whatever your order is. However, this is rather funny than annoying.
Free Wi-Fi is offered, although it requires a unique code to log in. It can be acquired at a check-in window - as a small piece of paper with a set of printed symbols. The code works only for 30 minutes, but you can ask for more than one - as my experience says, it is not a problem.
An important thing to notice: there is no luggage storage of any sort. That’s right: you have no chance to leave your belongings and stay empty-handed. As I understand, this situation is the result of city security regulations, and the same policy applies even to some of the railway stations in Barcelona. So be prepared.
Be also prepared for delays: the sea is more unpredictable and weather-dependent than the solid ground. In my case, the departure is almost three hours late. Well, as far as I have Wi-Fi codes, spending time here is palatable, even though the waiting hall offers only a basic level of comfort.
My initial plan is to cross the waters of the Balearic Sea, then - after a short intermediate stop in Porto Torres of Sardinia - cruise through the Tyrrhenian Sea, step on the ground in Civitavecchia and catch an evening train to Rome. My ferry ticket has no time of arrival in it, but it is known that the estimated duration of the sea part of my trip is about 20 hours. The final route segment is short: the train in which I have a booked seat makes it to the Italian capital in 46 minutes.
For the most part of the voyage, the view is pure, clean, unadulterated Mediterranean seascape. Nothing distracts the traveler’s attention from the tranquilizing picture of waves and clouds. It is natural, beautiful, relaxing and - let’s be honest - quite boring.
To the credit of the ferry, it entertains its passengers - both deliberately and unintentionally. This trip endows me with a proper feeling of adventure, and let me get into the details of it.
Cruise Roma: internal arrangement
I am on the board of the ferry named Cruise Roma. It meets me with a real challenge, which is not as simple as it sounds. It is the challenge of finding my cabin. I admit that I am spoiled by the impeccable order of Baltic ferries, but the inner layout of Cruise Roma is, let’s say, different and special. Believe it or not, I spend about 15 minutes of walking through the same-looking corridors before I see my lucky room number.
I can’t explain the incomprehensible configuration of the ship in full (honestly speaking, I just do not get it), but I can share some things that I know. The biggest surprise for me is that the decks of the ferry are divided into isolated sections by walls and stairwells. This fact makes moving between various spots fairly tricky. Just one example: in order to get from my cabin (it’s on the Deck 9) to the information stand (Deck 7) I need to go up to the Deck 10, walk closer to the bow, then go three decks down and move to the middle part of the ship. And yes, I have to figure this out by myself. Not bad even for a game of the room escape genre!
Under such circumstances, the signs with deck schemes and room numbers are not just helpful, they are crucially vital. When I finally find my cabin, there is no feeling of victory. I am just happy to get to the place. And I decide not to leave it until morning, out of harm’s way.
The type of my cabin is Junior Suite. This room is spacious and bright. It has a full-width double bed, a table of decent size and a framed picture with a scene from a life of happy successful people.
In addition to the main sleeping surface and a sofa, the cabin also features an unfolding bed and a fancy red pouf. Apparently, a passenger has quite a variety of options in terms of sitting and lying.
Another comfort-enhancing thing here is a lavatory. It contains a toilet and a shower. The set of washing supplies of a pleasant light blue color is also included.
The coziness covers not only travelers, but also their clothes (the wardrobe is big and equipped with lots of hangers, some additional hooks are also there), food and drinks (the cabin has a freezer) and devices (two sockets are at your disposal).
The bedside lamps (there are two of them) are flexible and could be easily adjusted. Want to read? Point the light to a cabinet or to the bed. Need just a sort of a soft backlight? Bend the amenable fixture accordingly. Be like Jupiter, control the lightning!
Speaking of controlling the light, there is a main switch near the door, like in many hotels. It can be turned on with your ticket, which also works as a key to the cabin door.
A mental note for the future: probably, there is not much of a sense to pay for the internet access from the cabin. I have this pre-paid option (my bill calls it “Internet Wi-Fi 15 Mega”), it costs 11 dollars and doesn’t work. As I will learn the next day, there is no internet connection on the whole ship. According to the words of a staff member, standing in front of a “Wi-Fi Zone” sign, Wi-Fi is just not available, and there is nothing anyone can do about this. Well then, I have a sudden gift of a day-long digital detox.
Anyway, the bed is huge and pleasant, and I fall asleep quickly. When I wake up, the new day already lightens my room through the cabin window. It’s time to get to know the ship better.
Cruise Roma: during the day
Like any ferry of colossal proportions, Cruise Roma has a number of long passages with chains of windows and dozens of stairs accompanied by ubiquitous mirrors. The interiors are mostly modest - which is a good thing, if you ask me.
Although, at some spots you can find quaint design accents, and they could be helpful as reference points. For instance, I memorize the stairwell that leads to my cabin as the one near the enormous twisted smoking pipe.
My next tiny achievement in orientation is finding the way to the buffet. It is a spacious hall full of numerous tables and seats with a decorative pattern of X-shaped figures. What I fail to find, though, is the schedule of meal serving. So, in order to learn the times of breakfasts, lunches and dinners I talk to a ferry staff member.
I also ask about open decks, and it turns out that the ship definitely has something to offer in this regard. First, I visit a lower open deck which is simple in appearance, but great for face weather-beating and hair wind-fluttering. This is an appropriate place to get a lot of fresh air in a short time and to imagine yourself being a real sailor.
The next one is even more interesting. It is the upper open space, also known as the Sun Deck. It’s springtime now, and the day is cloudy and rainy - so I can’t see this place in all its glory. But I can picture how crowded it could be in summer, when the pool (heated, as they say) is not empty.
While all the sun loungers are waiting for the season of mass tanning, a small cafe continues to work. The roof protects me from raindrops and the semi-transparent blue fence partially blocks the wind - there is no weather that can ruin the pleasure of having a cup of coffee! By the way, the coffee here is delicious.
At some point, the ferry makes a technical stop. I don’t know the name of the place, but one of the rare voice announcements in English (most of them are in Italian only) informs me that, due to some circumstances, we have to wait here. I don’t mind, more so that the upper deck is a great observation point, and the stop at such an area cherishes my weird predilection for industrial landscapes.
The unplanned stop adds a couple more points to the feeling of adventure and lasts for two hours. I move back inside to see how people who are not interested in staring at concrete structures and lined-up cisterns entertain themselves.
As for entertainment, there is a special area that is in charge of this subject. It is located at the center of the ship, near the oval hall with identical Roman busts.
All kinds of leisure demands are intended to be covered at this citadel of fun. Air hockey tables and various video games for young players. Slot machines for adult gamblers. Shops with souvenirs and other stuff for all ages. And yes, there is a bar too.
Interestingly, there are a whole lot of school students on the ferry. I’d say, their groups, more or less organized, represent the majority of passengers. They even have a dining hall reserved only for them. I am sure that this is rather an exception than the regular situation, but it makes the whole atmosphere of the voyage more vivid and colorful.
One way or another, Cruise Roma approaches Civitavecchia. But before I leave the ship, I have to get through an additional small quest. It is provided by the room service guys and examines the flexibility of my mind and, for the most part, body. This is how the hurdle on my only way out looks like:
In case you find yourself in the same situation, don’t panic. I have the walk-through for you. Here is how I solve this:
- Move the cart forward to the nearest opened door.
- Step inside a cabin and move the cart back from there.
- Exit a cabin and be free and happy.
Well, now I leave the humongous vessel for real. It’s 11 o’clock in the evening and it’s dark outside. As far as I can see, there is no arrival terminal of any kind. I am probably wrong, but it doesn’t matter, because my next goal is to find a proper bus among many others in a parking lot.
My train to Rome is gone about two hours ago, but I stick to the route plan and move to the railway station. It is not far. And I don’t yet have a Plan B anyway.
I use the free transportation service provided by the port. The bus with the title “Port Mobility” on board drives me to the entrance of the port. The whole ride lasts not more than five minutes. The stop where I exit is near the Fort Michelangelo - a 16-century fortress and one of the main tourist attractions of the city.
Then, I have a 10-minute walk along the Viale della Vittoria, a nice street with a sea view. That’s it, I am at the railway station. Too sad, it is already closed for the night. And the next train of the needed direction will be tomorrow morning. Well, at least it’s pleasantly quiet, and the site at night is enchantingly beautiful.
I think about a possible option to reach the capital of Italy via taxi. However, this idea fails to pass: it is ridiculously expensive and - what is more important - there are no taxi drivers working at this late hour. That is why I go back to the Viale della Vittoria and look for a hotel. It happens so that my saving choice is a 3-star Hotel Mediterraneo.
The checking-in process is simple and fast. The price is suitable and includes breakfast. The room is nice and clean, it even has a big working desk. That’s more than enough!
Now, nothing keeps me away from a good rest. Except for one thing: before ending this part of the text, I’d like to share a fun fact with you (I still think that everybody loves fun facts).
You probably know this already, but Italian power sockets are quite unconventional. It’s the rare Type L - with a three-pinned plug. This kind of socket is used only in about ten countries on Earth, including, for example, Chile and Uruguay. Who would have thought?
This is impossible not to locate the railway station of Civitavecchia. It is situated on the same street as the hotel where I spent the night. The name of the street is - yes, again - Viale della Vittoria, and I am assuming that this is the main promenade here. The obvious guiding mark is the coastline. Also, there are street signs - so you can be completely sure that you will not get lost.
The station is small and charming, as the city itself. Technically, Civitavecchia is a part of the Rome metropolitan area, but this place has its own spirit and mood.
I buy a train ticket using the ticket machine. It has a menu in English and accepts bank cards as a method of payment. The interface is totally fuss-free. I just choose a convenient time interval of departure and a type of ticket - and a piece of cardboard that allows me to get to Rome is in my hands.
After that, I just go to the track number three (there is an underground walkway for this) and, among with other passengers, wait for the next regional train.
Then it arrives. Please note: as a passing one, it can be already pretty much crowded. Also, the time of its stop is not that long, so you should be quick as the brown fox (who jumps over the lazy dog, of course). Another funny thing happens: I have a 1st-Class ticket (well, you only live once!), but the train fully consists of the cars of the 2nd Class. So, let it be a 2nd-Class experience, why not.
The interior here is rather humble, but the seats are comfortable enough to get you through a short ride satisfied. This ride is actually short - about an hour, and the train is faster than I could imagine. The outside view features the seascape on the right for some time. I manage to find a place only on the left, but fields, small towns and hills are also cute.
The train car is totally crowded. At some point, after the station called Ladispoli-Cerveteri, people fill the space completely and some of them even have to stand in the central aisle. And it is on Sunday! I guess, the route is overall extremely popular. Anyway, it doesn’t last long, and we arrive to the Roma Termini train station.
In just a few minutes, the tireless train starts to take on a new portion of passengers - its next ride starts soon.
But my trip is over for now. Hello, Rome! See you later, dear travel diary!
if you need an adventure - a ferry of Grimaldi Lines seems to be the way to get one. I hope, though, you will be luckier than me and have less unexpected quests on your way. But even with them, this trip is fun and worthy.