Cruise from Rome – the essential guide

“We spent time in the beautiful city of Rome both before and after our cruise. And we can’t wait to go back again.  We had two fantastic vacations within one and the same trip!”

Some say that visiting the epicenter of one of the greatest empires in the history of mankind for the very first time will easily give you goosebumps. We’d say that the thrill of seeing Rome with your own eyes is the same whether your are a first-time visitor or a returning guest.

It’s no wonder that this remarkable city, steeped in history and tale, has a permanent place as a bucket list destination for many of us.

It’s impossible to see Rome in a day. Or even two or three. So stay as long as you can before you board your cruise ship. Alternatively, if Rome is only a one day stop for you, squeeze in as many sights, sounds, cultural landmarks and gastronomic flavors as you can for as long as you can.

You can always catch up on sleep once on board the cruise ship. We offer 4 great daily itineraries suggestions below.

Where to stay before you cruise from Rome

Let’s start with where to stay before you start your cruise from Rome. The name of Rome’s cruise port is the Port of Civitavecchia and is located about 90 minutes outside of the city. You will want to stay at a hotel in the center of the city and get a transfer to the port on the day your cruise departs.

Hotels around the central train station “Termini ” are convenient and there are several familiar names such as Best Western to choose from. Opt for at least a 4-star hotel. Just be careful around this area in the evenings, pickpocketing is not uncommon.

To be even more central, look at staying nearer the Spanish Steps or around Via Veneto, you’ll find names you recognize such at Westin Excelsior, Marriott, Savoy and Sofitel; Live near Piazza Navona if you don’t mind the extra price tag. Alternatively look for a hotel close to any subway stop. Rome’s subway system is easy to use to get around quickly.

Family friendly Rome with a pool for the kids

If you are looking for a family friendly hotel in the middle of summer that provides a pool (not easy in the center of Rome), then opt to stay in St. Peters. Yes, it’s a little way out, but you and your family can hop on the hotel shuttle buses inexpensively that take you to where you’ll want to go. We chose Crowne Plaza Rome St. Peters and it was great.

Best hotels in central Rome for cruise guests

Here are our list of tried and tested hotels in Rome for cruise guests:

  • Hotel Savoy Roma
  • The Hotel Canada Rome, Best Western Premier Collection
  • Hotel Mancino 12
  • Augustana House
  • Hotel Forum Roma
  • Hotel Accademia
  • Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo
  • Pantheon Hotel
  • Hotel Barocco
  • Napoleon Hotel Roma
  • Relais Fontana Di Trevi
  • Relais Trevi 95 Boutique Hotel
  • Cancelleriadieci (Guesthouse)

Hotels in Civitavecchia, close to the cruise port

Some cruise guests prefer to stay the last night before the start of their cruise close to the cruise port Civitavecchia, located about 80km northwest of Rome. It takes around an hour by train from Rome’s central Termini station to Civitavecchia train station. Tickets can be bought at the train station or booked in advance on Trenitalia website.

Note that from 1 April 2022, there is a new Civitavecchia Express Train that gets you straight to the train station in Civitavecchia is the fastest time. The Civitaveccia Express runs daily from Rome’s central Termini station at 3.30pm and the journey takes one hour. Book ticket in advance on Trenitalia website.

Civitavecchia is a charming coastal town dating back to the 2nd century, here are our recommended hotels:

  • Hotel Traghetto – this hotel offers free breakfast within the price of your room and there is a shuttle bus right across the street to take you to the your ship. You are more or less next door to the entrance to the cruise port terminal. Close to a grocery shop if you are missing any essential items from your cruise packing list. If you are coming straight from the international airport in Rome this hotel will even arrange your transfer for you (for a fee). Contact them by email before you leave home. If you are over 65 remember to ask for their senior discount!
  • Hotel San Giorgio – a good hotel. Ask for a room with a sea view. Take a 5 minute taxi ride to the port on the morning of departure.
  • Hotel Mediterraneo – this is a clean but basic hotel, walking distance to restaurants and a supermarket. You can walk to the port from here but in the heat it’s better to ask the hotel to arrange transport with the shuttle bus.
  • Hotel Traiano – this hotel offers a free shuttle transfer to the port. Ask the concierge for help booking this when you check in. They will also help with airport transfer if you contact them before you leave home.

4 ways to see the best of Rome before your cruise from Civitavecchia cruise port

If I were your guide, here is how we would spend our time in the city before or after your cruise from Rome. I have covered 4 main areas of the city, each of which you can explore as much or as little as you have time for. And in any order you like. In a city with so much history and art, it’s a good idea to pack a pocket guide book so you don’t miss anything.

And at the bottom of the page you find essential information on how to get to the Port of Civitavecchia for your cruise from Rome!

Day 1: The Jewish Quarter, Trastevere and Vatican City

Start your day by visiting The Roman Ghetto, the Jewish quarter in Rome. A fantastic small area stretching only 4 blocks but packed full of unusual shops and small eateries. One of our best lunches was here with our whole family when the owners brought dish after dish of traditional Italian food. Visit the bakery on the main street and try their cinnamon and almond biscotti.

Born on the edges of the Tiber river, Rome connects its neighborhoods with a series of bridges. From the Jewish quarter walk over the Ponte Garibaldi  and into one of these neighborhoods, Trastevere. Many of the locals live in apartments, squeezed tightly together along the narrow streets, packed full of book shops, small cafés and boutiques.

Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere is the center square here. Surrounding the fountain in the center of the piazza you can take your pick of restaurants. You will find much better value for money here compared to prices in the more touristy areas of Rome. Try Antica Osteria Rugantino, just off the main piazza for great dishes at a good price.

A tour of the Vatican museums and St Peter’s Basilica

Whilst this side of the Tiber, take the subway to Vatican City and start with St Peter’s Basilica. You now stand in the heart of a trove of iconic art and architecture.

St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world, and is located in St Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro). The church is free of charge to enter. However lines are very long.

We recommend instead that you purchase a “skip the line” ticket which is well worth the small fee.

After you visit to St Peter’s Basilica (or before, it actually does not matter which order you do this), visit the Vatican Museums. This includes Renaissance frescoes and of course the unforgettable Sistine Chapel.

To visit the Vatican Museums you must pay an entrance fee. If you are visiting without a guide we recommend you purchase the audio guide.

We estimate that you will need around 4 hours to see the museums in their entirety. Don’t forget to include The Gardens of Vatican City in your tour, they are stunning. You will need to purchase a ticket that include the gardens as entrance is only allowed from within the museums.

We strongly recommend, however, that you book tickets with a professional tour guide. You hear the history of your surroundings and better understand what you are looking at to get a whole new appreciation of the wonders of this small country.

Good to know before visiting Vatican City

  • There are security checks in Vatican City and queues can be long. Be prepared to wait and that means having a bottle of water, sunscreen and a hat to cover up and beat the heat. There are public restrooms behind the post office.
  • Check that St Peter’s Basilica is open when you are due to visit. Note that you will not be able to go inside the church on a Sunday morning if there is a Pope’s mass. In addition, the Pope’s general audience is held in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday mornings, and therefore you will not be able to enter the church.
  • The dome of St Peter’s Basilica is open from March to October. There is an elevator which, for a fee, you can take to the roof for around 10 euros per person. Climbing the steps takes longer but is a little cheaper. From the rooftop it is a further 320 steps to get to the dome. Do not do this if you don’t do well in confined spaces, it’s a tricky narrow climb up and down in the same way.
  • There is a dresscode in Vatican City. The general rule is that shoulders and knees should be covered.

Onwards from Vatican City

From the St Peter’s Square, walk straight down the wide avenue of Via della Conciliazione. Before you cross the road at the end turn around and snap an iconic view back towards St Peter’s Basilica.

Try to avoid the lunch restaurants along this street. We have tried a few and they are generally very overpriced for what you get and certainly aimed at the unknowing tourist.

A Bird’s eye view over Rome from Castel Sant ‘Angelo

Straight in front of you is the park and Castel Sant ‘Angelo. Designed by Hadrian as a massive tomb and now a museum, the castle gets its name from the statue on the roof of Sant’Angelo. Only if you love art will this fortress be worth the entrance fee. It will take you around 1.5 hours to see the art and architecture.

Whether or not you see the art collections, before you leave make your way to the terrace at the top. You can stop for a coffee at the small café for a fantastic view over Rome, Vatican City and the bridges over the Tiber.

Outside walk directly across the old Roman bridge Ponte Sant’Angelo. Be sure to stop and look at the views all around you as you cross the Tiber. This leads you back into the heart of the city and towards Piazza Navona.

Day 2: Piazza Navona, The Pantheon and Trevi Fountain

What we love about the area around Piazza Navona is that you are mixing with the locals. Before you start your cruise from Rome where you will be mixing on board with an international crowd, take your time walking the streets around Piazza Navona. Look up at apartments with rooftop gardens that pack the tiny streets where local delis and hole-in-the-wall bakeries can be discovered. Order a plate of antipasti with a glass of sweet Riesling, or a scoop of gelato if you are less hungry but need a sweet treat.

Authentic gelato from a Roman artisan

A word about gelato – find an artisan who sells authentic gelato. That means one who makes their gelato on the premises with fresh ingredients. Real gelato is dense, not airy and the colors are natural, not vivid and fake. Try Gunthers on Piazza di S. Eustachio and you will be spoiled forever.

Piazza Navona – the center of Baroque Rome – is home to one of the most beautiful squares in Rome. Trendy cafes sit side by side with magnificent palaces, spire and lantern churches and tiny nightspots.

In the warm weather the piazza is packed. Many cluster around the elaborate fountains, the most famous being Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain – Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.

Artists will want to paint your portrait or will offer paintings and postcards of Rome’s architecture. We came home with two paintings of the Colosseum by an amazingly talented young street artist. Take your time to explore the surrounding palazzos and frescoes and finish with some antique window shopping along Via dei Coronari.

The Pantheon dome and it’s oculus

A short 10-minute walk away from Piazza Navona is the two thousand year old Pantheon. Stop for a cappuccino on Piazza della Rotonda to take in the site of this ancient wonder and imagine a busy Roman market where there are now tourist tables, cafés and souvenir shops. Entrance inside the Pantheon is free and there are seldom queues. Follow your instinct and look up towards the only light source – the oculus – at the centre of the incredible dome.

If you want to experience shopping at it best before you cruise from Rome, spend some time on Via del Corso. One of the main and most elegant shopping streets, it ends at Trevi Fountain. The fountain is probably the most famous site in Rome. Remember to turn your back and throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain (a wish to return to the city).

Finish your day around this packed square and you’ve had a great day out seeing these sites and everything in between.

Day 3: The Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese

The area around Villa Borghese is orderly, elegant and lush. The enormous landscaped gardens of Villa Borghese houses statues, fountains and world-class museums. Spend a couple or hours here, stopping at the café in the grounds if you want a light bite, then walk to the Pincio Terrace for a panorama of Rome. This will be one of your most memorable days before you hop on your cruise from Rome.

Follow the steps down into Piazza del Popolo, a great oval piazza and once the main gateway into ancient Rome. The piazza is home to Raphael’s famed Chigi Chapel inside Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo and used in one of the scenes from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.

Via Condotti and Rome’s center of haute couture to the Spanish Steps

From here, make your way in between Via Margutta and Via del Babuino to visit the best of the art and antique shops. And then side step towards Via Condotti before heading to the Spanish Steps. On Via Condotti you will find the chicest of shops in the center or Rome’s haute couture.  Follow the road leading into Piazza di Spagna and spend some time around the Spanish Steps for those iconic photo moments. Finish your day with an evening amidst busy cafés and restaurants where we can take your pick for an evening meal.

You are walking a lot today, but this area is really worth taking your time. Pick up a great guide book before you leave home to ensure you don’t miss gems such as Galleria Borghese and the Keats-Shelley Memorial along the way.

This day out highlighting the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese, works in reverse as well. For a whole new appreciation of the Spanish Steps, start your day here very early in the morning before the tourists arrive. I mean sunrise if you can, and really take time to enjoy this area in the peace, the quiet and the sunshine.

Day 4: Ancient Rome,Vittoriano and the Colosseum

Experiencing The Eternal City before you cruise from Rome, would not, of course, be complete unless you place yourself in its ancient past. Start with the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument or simply Vittoriano  – mesmerizing in its sheer size and luminosity. Our first glimpse of this “Altar of the Fatherland” was from the taxi as we headed towards Colosseum.

As there were four of us the taxi cost between us was reasonable. An added bonus was that we were able to see the sites along the way. However if you are starting from Rome’s central Termini station it is very quick and easy to take the metro, just get off at Colosseo stop.

Dedicated to the memory of Italy’s first King, the monument Vittoriano houses art galleries and the tomb of the unknown soldier. Even if you want to skip over seeing the art, I do recommend buying a ticket and climbing the stairs to the first level. From there take the glass elevator to the top and you will be rewarded with the best panoramic view in Rome.

A step back in time to Ancient Rome at The Colosseum and Roman Forum

In the heart of ancient Rome you will visit The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Musei Capitolini. There is so much more but with these 4 focal points you will experience the best of Rome’s ancient history.

Get yourself a great pocket guide book so you don’t miss out on anything. For example it’s easy to miss the cremation site of Julius Caesar if you don’t know where to look. Better still, book a guided tour. We booked through Viator and had an excellent local guide. The tour was about 3 hours. Wear good walking shoes and long sleeves to beat the sun. Fill up your water bottle from the drinking fountain outside the main entrance to the Colosseum. There are many of these fountains dotted around the city and the water is good to drink.

Hop-on bus from Circus Maximum to the city center

At the end of your tour walk towards Circus Maximus. And if it’s summertime visit the nearby Rose Garden, Roseto di Roma Capitale where everything is blooming and gorgeous. From Circus Maximum hop onto one of the open top Big Bus tours. (They also leave from the Colosseum). The hop-on, hop-off buses are one of my favorite ways to see any city. Get yourself a 24-hour ticket before you leave home and you are set for the following days’ sightseeing too.

After walking so much it was a perfect way to get back to the center and find a place to eat for the evening. We headed back to Piazza del Popolo and made our way through the crowds for some local Italian food.

Many attractions in Rome are free on the first Sunday of each month. That includes the Colosseum. This area of ancient Rome gets packed, so my advice would be to get there early for when it opens. This way you will beat the heat and the crowds.

Getting from Rome city center to Civitavecchia Port

Getting to the Port of Civitavecchia for your cruise from Rome, you have these alternatives:

Private Transfer

If you are more than 2 people then I recommend booking a private transfer for pick up at your hotel before you leave home. Tell them what time you want to check in at the cruise port and they will calculate your pickup time from your hotel to get you there in good time.


Ask your hotel about pre-booking a cab. Allow plenty of time to get to the Port. Traffic and queues are unpredictable, especially in high season. Taxis charge a flat rate and be sure to establish this with your driver before you start. The cost is high – around 120 euros from the city to the port.


Travelling by train from Rome’s Termini station to the train station at Civitavecchia is easy and will save you money.

You can buy train tickets to board a local train for around 5 euros per way, per person with a major credit card. There are both ticket windows (be prepared to queue) and automated machines at the train station where you buy your ticket.

Do remember that you must get your ticket stamped at a machine before boarding the train.

You risk a heavy fine if you forget to do this and show an invalid (unstamped) ticket on board.
There are shops and cafes in Termini station, a tourist office and even a shopping center located on the lower floor.

The name of Italy’s train system is Trenitalia and if you want to you can book tickets online before you leave home.

Arriving at Civitavecchia Port

Arrival by transfer/taxi

You need to get dropped off at the service center at the port, called Largo Della Pace. It is the main terminal for all shuttle buses that will take you to your cruise ship. The shuttle buses are all free of charge within the port.

Arrival by train

To get from Civitavecchia train station to the service center at the port, Largo Della Pace, you can take a local bus for about 2 euros. The journey takes about 10 minutes and buses leave every 15 minutes. Tickets can be bought from inside the train station.

Alternatively to save money you could walk from Civitavecchia train station to Largo Della Pace It is about 1.5km and takes about 15 minutes, but remember you have your luggage too so it could be tiring. Taxis can be quite hard to find from the train station but if you succeed this is also an option.

How to get from Civitavecchia port to central Rome to continue your cruise vacation

If you are planning to spend more time in Rome after your cruise, from 1st April 2022 it is easy than ever to travel by train.

The introduction of the new Civitavecchia Express train together with the Civitavecchia Port Link bus service, means your transfer from your cruise ship to central Rome is smoother than ever. For more detailed information read our article How to get from Civitavecchia port to Rome by train.

How to start planning your cruise from Rome

If you are still in the planning process and need help deciding on the best cruise for you, these articles will help you along the way. They are full of good advice and travel tips to help you book the perfect cruise for you and your family:

Italy Cruise Package – Venice, Florence and Rome

Cruise from Venice – the essential guide

Cruise Package – Mediterranean cruise from Rome 2022 – Royal Caribbean International

Best cruise deals and how to get them

Cruising – questions to ask to kick-start your planning

Top tips for booking a cruise and avoiding common mistakes

Essential tips for a first time cruise

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..