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You haven’t lived until you’ve been to Barcelona. An enchanting cultural oasis on the Mediterranean Sea, this cosmopolitan Catalan capital is a mecca of eye-popping architecture, tantalizing gastronomy, fiery flamenco, beautiful beaches and non-stop partying—with a peek into centuries-old history everywhere you turn. Of course, like any European adventure, a trip to this trendy city can get expensive—but it doesn’t have to be. From reasonable hotels that look otherwise, to cheap must-eat foods, sights and more, here’s how to do Barcelona on a budget.

RELATED: Tapas are Spain’s tastiest free dining tradition—here’s how to best enjoy them


It’s easy to stay in a nice place, in a good area for a great price in Barcelona—no hostel required. Priced between $70 and $200 a night, these highly-rated hotels make for the perfect home base while exploring the city. For an even  better price, be sure to check for the latest promo code and other deals.

OD Barcelona hotel

Photo courtesy of OD Barcelona

OD Barcelona

Under $200 per night
Just steps from Passeig de Gràcia, the vein of Barcelona’s main shopping neighborhood, this modern, boutique newcomer is a hidden gem. OD Barcelona‘s 98 rooms and suites can often be found for less than $200 per night, which is a steal for what you get. Accommodations are spacious (tough to find in Europe!) and have modern appliances and huge windows overlooking the charming neighborhood. This is a place you want to both sleep and hangout: There’s a rooftop pool and solarium, the seasonal OD Sky Bar, cooking classes, live DJ events, and Thursday Night “Burger Meets Gin” parties with some of the juiciest burgers and most inventive gin and tonics you’ve ever tasted. Speaking of food, the no-name restaurant at OD Barcelona is reason enough to stay featuring everything from traditional Spanish tapas to imaginative desserts.

Within walking distance: Sagrada Familia, Plaça de Catalunya, L’ Aquarium de Barcelona and Passeig de Gràcia

Vincci Bit hotel

Photo courtesy of Vincci Bit

Vincci Bit

Under $100 per night
At the fun-and-funky Vincci Bit hotel, every floor features a different theme. Renowned illustrators, designers and graffiti artists from around the world—like Alex Trochut, Matthey More, Yoshi Sislay, Christian Gastaldi and Lorenzo Petrantoni—painted eye-popping murals to go with each theme, and on the bottom levels, guests will find a mini gallery of Mathias Martín’s works and an outpost of the Russian design studio Dopludo Collective. You can get bright, air-conditioned rooms for less than $100 a night, which come with a custom pillow menu, a minibar and even free Wi-Fi. This hotel makes guests feel like jetsetters with an in-house sauna, gym, rooftop terrace and plunge pool. Adding to its allure, the surrounding neighborhood, the former industrial district of El Poblenou, intrigues with its hip cafes and tapas bars.

Within walking distance: Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, Els Encants flea market, the Barcelona Design Museum, Bogatell Beach, Diagonal Mar Shopping Centre and Parc del Fòrum

Hotel 4 Barcelona

Photo courtesy of Hotel 4 Barcelona

Hotel 4 Barcelona

Under $75 per night
If you’re looking for a really great value, Hotel 4 Barcelona in the trending 22@ tech district delivers. This modern property puts you close to Barcelona’s beaches and offers amenities you wouldn’t expect with a budget hotel, including a sauna, fitness center and Turkish bath; plus, an on-site restaurant and bar; and free Wi-Fi. The hotel’s 12 Superior rooms also offer extra space, as well as impressive city or sea views. With one of the hotel’s rental bikes, the 2.5-mile trek to Sagrada Familia and 2.8-mile trek to Casa Batllo are a breeze.

Within walking distance: Bogatell Beach, Mar Bella Beach, Parc Zoologic

ALSO: Save even more on your Spain travels when you sign up for CheapCash—it’s free to join!


Barcelona has something for everyone, from beautiful beaches and influential art, to fantastic people-watching, a Gaudi-filled outdoor park and marketplaces that will make your jaw drop.

Barceloneta beach ariel view

Barceloneta beach aerial  view

Go to the beach

The calm, blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea are as lovely to set your eyes on as they are to swim in, thanks to warm temperatures from about June through October (winter, not so much). For a free activity that lasts all day, head to Barceloneta Beach to lay out, splash around and people-watch among the throngs of locals and tourists dining along the promenade.

View of colorful ceramic mosaic bench of park Guell, designed by Antonio Gaudi, in Barcelona, Spain

Walk around Parc Güell

Sitting in Barcelona, this park is decidedly cool for all ages. Designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí, the whole park feels like Alice In Wonderland come to life. Modeled after English gardens, this 42-acre park is filled with wavy benches, vibrant tiled mosaics, picturesque pathways winding through overgrown vegetation, and topsy-turvy buildings reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss book. Bring a picnic or just relax and take in the ocean views. While there, be sure to check out Sala Hipóstila (a marketplace-turned-installation with stately stone columns and beautiful mosaic works), Casa Museu Gaudí and Turó de les Tres Creus, a lookout point with impressive views of the city. Note that while entry to the park is free, entry to the Monumental Core (where the Guard Museum, Gardens of Austria, Hypostyle Room, Nature Square and other attractions are located) requires tickets, which are limited to 400 people every half hour. To skip the lines, purchase advance tickets here.

Spain Majorca, beautiful city street avenue La Rambla in Palma de Mallorca

Wander down and around Las Ramblas

Everyone knows about Las Ramblas. This mile-long city street is the heart of the city! Join the throngs of tourists wandering down it at any time of day, and eat at one of its streetside cafes, watch street performers, meander into one of its plazas, pick up local art from street artists or hit a bar. It’s good at night, too—after the sun goes down, Las Ramblas is just getting started.

The historic Mercat de la Boqueria or Sant Josep Mercat (Boqueria market) in Barcelona, aside the Rambla. A view on the top selling product: fresh juices of fruit.

Visit the Mercat de la Boqueria

This famous indoor market hall has everything you could ever imagine. Sitting in what looks like a huge open-air warehouse, colorful stands line up end to end, overflowing with fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, cured jamón, fresh spices, herbs, salsas and, wait for it… even edible insects. If you’re craving something hot, there are tapas bars, pizza stalls, sandwich stands and more. Just wandering through the long aisles offers a taste of the local culture.

street art in barcelona

Trover photo by Travelholic Path

See the city’s street art

These days, every city has an artsy neighborhood corner; and in Barcelona, that’s Poblenou. Walk around this hipster area and check out the professional graffiti art covering its buildings. For a full art tour, explore the whole city and take in the murals, sculptures and Gaudi buildings scattered throughout. Passeig de Gracia has a decent amount of Gaudi architecture, the giant “Peix” fish sculpture by Frank Gehry overlooks the beach, Roy Lichtenstein’s giant Barcelona Head sits in the middle of Port Vell, and Fernando Botero’s enormous cat is perched on the Rambla del Raval.

Sagrada Familia Barcelona Spain

Trover photo by Sandy Smith

See the famous Sagrada Familia

Less than $20
La Sagrada Familia is famous for two things: first, for being a quirky, iconic church designed by Antoni Gaudí, and second, for always being under construction. Started in 1882, the church has never been completed. Some say it’s Gaudi’s best work of art. Its vaults reach as high as 230 feet, its Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia are both on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and it has five aisles, spiral staircases, seven chapels where you can go to mass, stained-glass windows, Gothic architecture, images of heavenly angels and even a Sagrada Familia museum. A basic ticket costs 15 euro (about $18), but you can also opt to skip the line with fast-track tickets and a guided tour (available at a discount here).


In Barcelona, or actually Spain in general, eating is all about sharing good food with people you love—and not breaking the bank to do it. Because good, local food and wine is the norm in Spain, you can eat a lot of it for surprisingly cheap. For added savings, do as the locals do and spend your trip feasting on tapas-style dishes, where you get smaller portions for significantly less money (sometimes free) and can try multiple local dishes at once.

Spanish bocadillos of cured ham

Munch on bocadillos

Between $5 and $10
Spanish sandwiches, or bocadillos, are similar to a sub sandwich. Served on a soft but crispy baguette and stuffed with almost anything, they can function as a meal on-the-go or be served as smaller sandwiches and enjoyed tapas-style. Get them filled with Spanish chorizo sausage, cured meats, tuna, shrimp, pork or even a Spanish omelet. Unlike sub sandwiches, however, Spaniards are not big on condiments, so other than a couple slices of tomato, it’s just the good stuff.

Family eating Paella and seafood. Top view.

Paella is life

Less than $20
Paella is an art, and in Spain, it’s a popular one at that. Originating in the Valencia region, this enviable rice dish is prepared in a large shallow pan and filled with vegetables, paprika and saffron. Then add seafood, meat or just vegetables; some popular varieties have shrimp, clams or even rabbit. Preparing it is an all-day affair, and no matter what you get, portions are huge and designed for two or more to share.

Tourists in Barcelona eating tapas in a typical restaurant in the Barri Gotic. On the table a travel guide of Spain and a smartphone.

Top it off with tapas

Free to $5
There are fried potatoes… and then there are patatas bravas. The latter of the two is a Spanish specialty. For this dish, potatoes are cut into wedges, fried to perfection and served tapas-style with house-made spicy sauces or creamy aioli. You’ll also want to try the croquetas. These hot, oblong-shaped treats are worth every calorie. They’re breaded rolls typically stuffed with chicken, jamón Iberico and cheese, and are great as tapas, an appetizer or even just as a “siesta” snack. For a guided taste of these delicious snacks, sign up for an tour like the Barcelona Evening Food Tour, which focuses on traditional Catalan tapas. Many bars offer free tapas during happy hour (provided you drink).

Spanish sliced cheese with nuts

Get your jamón—and Manchego on

Less than $15
Coming from the La Mancha region of Spain, Manchego is a hard, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and you’ll find it on most charcuterie boards in Spain. Also on that board? One of Spain’s most delectable products: Iberico ham (or jamón Iberico, as the locals call it). This is Spain’s version of prosciutto, and it’s made from Black Iberian pigs that are only fed acorns.

Family having fun and toasting with drinks at dining table

The vino is fino, and totally affordable

Less than $5 per glass
Spanish wines are renowned the world over, so you’ll want imbibe in its many varietals—Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Penedés, Navarra, Rueda, Cava, Rias Baixas, Jeréz and La Mancha. Expect a lot of full-bodied red blends, like Tempranillos, and sparkling white wines that pair with almost any tapas. Added bonus? Because wine is so prominent, a glass is usually cheaper than a bottle of water. It’s not uncommon to see a glass of local wine on a Barcelona restaurant menu for less than 3 euro ($5), or even a bottle for around 8 euro ($10). Tours of local wineries are available, including the Montserrat & Codorníu Winery Small-Group Tour, which explores the winery, as well as the pilgrimage site of Montserrat monastery where you’ll listen to an angelic boys’ choir before being treated to a glass of the locally made vino.


Tagged: City, Destinations, Types of Travel

Jennifer Agress

Jennifer Agress

Jennifer is a Miami-based writer and editor who loves good food, a better martini and traveling every chance she gets. She writes about luxury travel, dining and lifestyle for Travel Weekly, Private Air Luxury Homes, Preferred Travel, Modern Luxury Weddings, INDULGE Miami, Thrillist, NUVO Magazine and more. When she’s not on a plane, she’s likely plotting her next adventure—follow @JenniferAgress on Instagram to see where she lands.
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Charlie Bucket was the luckiest kid in the world, to win entrance into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And his grandpa knew it, too, when he encouraged Charlie to spend that extra dollar for one more candy bar. Candy is magic to most kids, and a select few proprietors around the world remember that feeling of disbelief and excitement that sweeps over a kid in a candy shop, and have translated it into real life. Here are seven of the coolest candy shops in the world, sure to put you in Charlie Bucket’s sweet, sweet shoes.

Dulcería de Celaya — Mexico City

Dulcería means candy shop (or sweet shop) in Spanish. It comes from the word ‘dulce’, which means ‘sweet’, and this shop is just about as sweet as they come. It’s been in business since 1874, and has been honing its sweet selection ever since. The antiquity of the shop’s front and sign will draw you in, and you’ll walk away with a satisfied sweet tooth.

Dylan's Candy Bar

Dylan’s Candy bar on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Dylan’s Candy Bar — Chicago

A vibrant lollipop tree sprouts from the ground of Dylan’s Chicago shop and arches up and over both of its floors full of candy. Dylan Lauren, daughter of fashion designer Ralph Lauren, has clearly found her calling. Patrons can feast their eyes and stomachs on hundreds of candies, from old-fashioned Bazooka bubblegum to freshly crafted gummy bears. There’s ice cream and a cafe, and if the adults get a little sensory overload from all the sounds and colors, there’s a bar to help dull the senses.


Papabubble candy shop in Barrio Gotico in Barcelona. Photo: Masashige Motoe – Flickr.

Papabubble — Barcelona

Papabubble was opened in 2004 and has since expanded to dozens of cities around the world, but it’s best to visit these shops in their home, beautiful Barcelona. There are two shops in the city: Barrio Gotico and Barrio Sarria. You can watch the candy makers at work, using as little sugar as possible to make their confections. The shop started with the goal of resurrecting the authenticity of artisan caramel making, and thousands of visitors from around the world would say they succeeded.


Gummy bear

Candy Freaks in Amsterdam has candy for every type of dietary restrictions. Photo: David O’Hare – Flickr.

Candy Freaks — Amsterdam

The display window on this candy store might confuse passersby: There are heads in the window. But they’re not mannequins, they’re candy heads. This store is known for having candy for all dietary restrictions — there are the organic candies, the gluten-free candies, the dairy-friendly candies and the vegan candies — but what really makes it famous are the heads it crafts from the sugary stuff. They’re more art than dessert, and definitely worth checking out.



Lollipopshang from the ceiling at Candylicious in Dubai. Photo: Thomas Galvez – Flickr.

Candylicious — Dubai

Imagine a world where canopies of lollipop trees cover the ceiling, and columns are covered in candies. Candylicious opened its shop in a Dubai shopping mall in 2009 and joined the ranks of the world’s largest candy stores at 10,000 square feet. There are 5,000 different types of candies from all over the world.


SugarSin — London

Delicious and adorable sweet shops abound in London, but this one takes the cake, no pun intended. In London’s Covent Garden neighborhood, SugarSin has been named one of the most beautiful candy shops in the world by Architectural Digest, so it’s worth seeing, if nothing else. But why not see with your mouth? The place is overflowing with delicious jellies, candy jars and fudge flavors, so don’t miss out.

À l’Étoile d’Or chocolates

Bernachon Chocolates from À l’Étoile d’Or in Paris. Photo: Ricardo – Flickr.

À l’Étoile d’Or — Paris

There’s a chocolatier in Lyon called Bernachon who makes his chocolates starting with the cacao bean. He’s one of the only chocolatiers in the world to so, and his delicacies can only be found in two places: His shop in Lyon, and À l’Étoile d’Or. The quaint little shop, located less than a block from Moulin Rouge, brings together some of France’s best chocolates and sweets for the picking. Chocolate lovers around the world are told to beware of this place — it’s treats are far too tempting to resist.

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Tagged: Family, Food & drink

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With so many factors constantly threatening to throw off your itinerary when you travel, the last thing you need is an added uncertainty surrounding your arrival to the airport. These airports and transit systems make it easy for the traveler needing to get from the airport to the city center cheap and fast.


Courtesy of Rhys A.

Courtesy of Rhys A.

O’Hare International Airport — Chicago, Illinois

Although O’Hare is known for its delays and overcrowded terminals, getting there is one thing you won’t have to worry about. The Blue Line on the Chicago Transit Authority’s El train goes from O’Hare and stops all along the way, eventually ending up right downtown. The train runs every couple of minutes and it only costs $2.50 for a ride. Midway, Chicago’s other airport, is also connected to downtown by the Orange Line, and just as easily accessible.

Courtesy of SimonRahn.

Courtesy of SimonRahn.

El Prat Airport — Barcelona, Spain

The RENFE train runs from the airport to downtown about every 30 minutes. It’s a nearly 25-minute ride through the Catalan countryside. Get off at Sants Estacio, Passeig de Gracia or the Clot stop, and then you can take the city Metro to wherever you specifically want to go. If you are heading to the airport, you’ll want to catch the train at any of those stations and get off at the Aeropuerto stop. Pretty simple. Tickets for individual journeys cost just over 2.

Courtesy of Ron Reiring.

Courtesy of Ron Reiring.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport — Minneapolis, Minnesota

You can take your pick how you get to this airport: bus, train or bike. In such a physically fit city, authorities felt it necessary to connect Terminal 2 to a bike path that leads to downtown Minneapolis. (There’s also a 1.4-mile walking path inside Terminal 1). Light rail trains run every 10 minutes during peak hours, when fares are $2.25, and 15 minutes during off hours, when fares are $1.75. The trains connect to 17 locations, including downtown Minneapolis, downtown St. Paul and the nearby Mall of America.

Courtesy of Thomas Depenbusch.

Courtesy of Thomas Depenbusch.

Cologne Bonn Airport — Cologne, Germany

The train from Cologne’s city center to the airport drops passengers off right in the middle of the airport at the Intercity-Express (ICE) station. When heading downtown, take the S-train right to the city center. The ride will take about 20 to 30 minutes and stop four orfive times before arriving right downtown. The cost is about €2.60.

Courtesy of Josh Hallett.

Courtesy of Josh Hallett.

Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport — Atlanta, Georgia

In an airport that is so big it has it’s own zip code, getting to and from it without hassle is key. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (also known affectionately as MARTA) runs trains between the airport and other stops throughout Atlanta frequently, starting at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. on weekends until 1 a.m. every night. If you’re heading to the airport, it’ll drop you right inside the domestic terminal. Rides are $2.50.

Tagged: City, Flights, International, Last minute travel, Tips & advice

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If you’re looking in the mirror and wondering when it’s time you finally take the plunge and book your first trip overseas to Europe, then yes, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, you’re the smartest of them all!”

2015 is definitely THE year to travel.

Related: 7 breathtaking cruise ports around the world

While the strength of the U.S. dollar increases, you’re literally getting more bang for your buck. The Euro is down and that means all of your European expenses subsequently are too! Things thattake up a majority of your traveling expenses such as transportation, accommodation, and food will all be less than it was last year.

The exchange rate is in your favor, America.

Now that you’ve picked a date, and you’re all set for your first European getaway, I’ve compiled a list of the cheapest destinations that I’ve experienced while gallivanting through this amazing continent. While there are plenty more suitable candidates, these are the ones I enjoyed the most.

5. Nice, France
This gorgeous coastal city on the French Riviera is not only a 4 train ride away from Monaco (which hello, who doesn’t want to go there for a quick day trip to drool over things you can’t afford and breathe the same oxygen as the affluent), but it’s also incredibly scenic. From the hilltop views, to the promenade, your camera will be in Heaven. With the varied cuisine, you can easily eat well for under 10 a meal.

The view of the Promenade from Castle Hill!

The view of the Promenade from Castle Hill!

4. Granada, Spain
Granada is one of the few cities where you get free tapas with your drinks! I’ll say that again — FREE TAPAS! Quick reminder, tapas are mini portions of food to satisfy temporary cravings. We call them appetizers in America.

These tapas can range from plates of rice, to croquettes, to a large meatball, and other variations of Spanish-influenced foods.

So your beer, which is already €1 on average, now comes with a plate of rice. So for the whopping price of €2, you could have two drinks and two plates of food. There are some places who even increase the portion and amount of food with every drink you purchase. Seriously Granada, you’re a walking dream for a budgeter’s heart. Get over here and let me love you.

Enjoying my large meatball and bread!

Enjoying my large meatball and bread!

3. Athens, Greece
Despite what the news outlets want you to think about the whole situation with Greece’s debt and failing economy, think about it, they need tourism now more than ever! So please don’t let the media scare you into thinking you should avoid Greece by any means!

Athens, despite its graffiti-filled alleys and streets, is still one of the most historically-beautiful cities the European continent has to offer, and if you’re looking for ways to support their economy, then come and spend your dollars here! As many banks are temporarily out of business, just be sure to have enough cash on you to last you through your time there. That being said, always stay alert for pickpockets! You can read more tips about that in general here.

P.S. Gyros will be your best friend.

Standing atop of Acropolis Hill!

Standing atop of Acropolis Hill after having a glass of wine or 5.

2. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon just might be my favorite city in Europe. I’m in denial because my heart belongs to Barcelona, where I lived for an entire year. But Lisbon truly has it all. The food, museums, and free open air festivals make it such an attractive city for your wallet.

There are also gorgeous baths, markets, and parks to really experience an authentic atmosphere. The people are super friendly and even though you won’t know a lick of Portuguese, your eyes won’t have any problems reading all the prices under €5 that you’ll see on the menu.


1. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Barthelona. Oh how you have my heart. Barcelona is a top destination for Erasmus students, gap years, vacationers, and everyone else in between because of its wide variety of everything from affordable living to free Wi-Fi in most public parks and streets.

Barcelona does a great job of looking out for its tourists. After all, they do make up a large percentage of their economy, so they find ways to accommodate and cater to their needs.

While this may include street vendors selling you 1 cans of beer to casually drink on the metro before arriving to the local bodega or free concerts in parks, you can always count on a city like Barcelona to make an extremely fun, affordable, and unforgettable getaway when crossing the Atlantic. Every day feels like a walk through a museum as you take in the gorgeous scenery from the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí, whether at La Sagrada Familia or strolling through Park Guell.

Barcelona is simply NOT to be missed!

The view from the top of Montjuïc Park.

The view from the top of Montjuïc!

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Tagged: Beach, Cheap Tips, Destinations, Family, Food & drink, FREE!, International

Gloria Atanmo
Gloria Atanmo is an adventure-junkie currently on a 2-year jaunt through Europe after booking a one-way ticket. She enjoys discovering the unequivocal education of travel, risks, and hustle. Follow her journey on Instagram (@glographics) or her blog (
Gloria Atanmo

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It’s “wave season.” That means from January-March every year, cruise lines and cruise distributors offer their cheapest rates in an effort to get people to book their cruises early in the year. Cheap cruises–we’ll take it! Here are some cruise ports that will take your breath away from the deck of the ship as you glide into port.

Port of Venice, Italy

[captionid=”attachment_5580″ align=”aligncenter” width=”500″]Venice's grand canal at night. Courtesy of Kosala Bandara. Venice’s grand canal at night. Courtesy of Kosala Bandara.[/caption]

By land or sea, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever see. People visit Venice to see the canals, to eat the food, to experience the culture and learn some history, before it all sinks beneath the Adriatic Sea. But what visitors don’t necessarily expect is how the water weaving between each and every block plays with the light. In the daytime, the blue of the canals contrasts the color of the architecture, making its orange hue even more vibrant. At night, the lights play on the water, dancing and illuminating the canals to the point that almost becomes a second light source. The best time of day, though, is twilight. That time of day when the sun has dipped below the horizon but it’s not quite dark yet. A purple hue falls over the city and envelopes everything in a way you can’t experience anywhere else. Plan a cruise that docks just as the sun sets to experience the magic.

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

A view of Port Vell in Barcelona from Montjuïc. Courtesy of David Merrett.

A view of Port Vell in Barcelona from Montjuïc. Courtesy of David Merrett.

Continuing around from Italy and through the Mediterranean, is Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. Barcelona is steeped in history that remains visible today and is evident as soon as your cruise ship begins making its approach toward Barcelona’s Port Vell (that means “old port” in Catalan). If you can peel your eyes away from the beautifully blue Mediterranean waters and palm trees gently blowing in the sea breeze (and maybe a few topless women on a beach nearby, because, well, this is Europe), you’ll be taken aback by Barcelona’s architecture. To your right as you approach the port, you’ll see the outlines of Antoin Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, the famed yet unfinished church that’s been under construction for decades. To your left, you’ll see the ancient fort perched atop Montjuïc, which served as a lookout for invaders from the sea. The ship will dock at the base of La Rambla, one of the most vibrant and well-known boulevards in the city. When you step onto that Barcelona soil, your adventure really begins.

Port Santorini, Greece

Santorini port. Courtesy of Shane Gorski.

Santorini port. Courtesy of Shane Gorski.

The whitewashed buildings stand out starkly against the vibrant blue of the sky and sea as you approach the Grecian island by way of the Aegean Sea. Tales of Greek monsters are nowhere near your mind as you sail toward Santorini, but you wonder if maybe this is Mt. Olympus because only the gods could tread somewhere this beautiful. The crescent-shaped island is southeast of Greece’s mainland and is the remnants of a volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest dwellers. As you approach the island’s main port, Athinias, you’ll see the remnants of the centuries-old eruption in the dark, steep cliffs holding up the white towns and villages.

Papeete port, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tahitian palm with the island of Moorea in the background. Courtesy of Lori Branham.

Tahitian palm with the island of Moorea in the background. Courtesy of Lori Branham.

You may feel as though you’re a castaway finally washing ashore in Tahiti after the hundreds of remote miles you traveled through the South Pacific to arrive. But at least you’ve arrived to paradise. The largest in the Windward group of French Polynesian islands, Tahiti is an explosion of green among the vast blue, with mountains jutting upward and palm trees framing the port. Tiki huts line long docks jutting out into the pristine waters. The island is centered on volcanic mountains, and is famous for its black sand beaches, formed with bits of lava fragments. Much of Tahiti’s beauty also lies beneath its waters. Farming for the Tahitian black pearl is a huge part of the countries economy, and coral reefs surrounding the island teem with colorful wildlife.

Misty Fjords port of call, Alaska

Misty Fjords, Alaska. Courtesy of Andrew Malone.

Misty Fjords, Alaska. Courtesy of Andrew Malone.

Although there are dozens of ports of call in Alaska (and most Alaskan cruises hit several per trip), Misty Fjords is not to be missed. The cruise ship is dwarfed by the rising, snow-capped mountains seemingly enveloping the fjord on all sides. A fjord is a narrow inlet lined with steep cliffs that was formed by a glacier. And this one will take your breath away. There are 1,000-foot waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs, pristine lakes and low-hanging mist in this remote section of the Alaskan panhandle. While you are awe-inspired from the landscape, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as bald eagles, grizzly bears and moose peeking out toward the ship.

Kona Port, Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Kailua-Kona after sunset, with volcanic rocks on the beach in the foreground. Courtesy of Steve Dunleavy.

Kailua-Kona after sunset, with volcanic rocks on the beach in the foreground. Courtesy of Steve Dunleavy.

There are about 150 distinct ecosystems throughout the Hawaiian islands, and you’ll be able to see a slew of them as you cruise into the port in Kona. Ships use the port at Kailua Kona, on the western side of the Hawaiian island. The Kona Coast has been distinguished by recent lava flows that continue to build on top of each other. Lush vegetation grows in over the flows as time goes by, making it possible to go from lush vegetation to a landscape of barren, hardened lava just by turning a corner. Some beaches also feature black sand. Whales are likely to be seen on cruises traveling now through April.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. Courtesy of O Palsson.

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. Courtesy of O Palsson.

For being the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik offers some surprising small town charm. Nordic settlers founded the town that has grown up along the pristine Atlantic coastline in 874. Iceland seems to have a little bit of everything, as far as geologic formations go, and cruising into Reykjavik will give you an introductory taste. There are inlets and peninsulas, straits and islands, mountains and glaciers. There are volcanoes and hot springs, ice fields and thermal pools, all engulfed in a bubbling yet sophisticated culture gathered around fresh seafood. Iceland offers snapshots of landscapes that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world, and Reykjavik is the beautiful gateway. Make sure you look up at night for a potential glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

Story by Ally Marotti

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Tagged: Cruise, Family, Hawaii, International

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Cheap cruises
can take you just about anywhere in the world. Right now, Royal Caribbean has cruises on sale, starting at $229 for a four-night Bahamas cruise. There are plenty of routes to choose from, but you have to act fast. Book your cheap cruise by July 31.

You could try a Caribbean cruise. The seven-night Eastern Caribbean stops in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Interior rooms start at $659 for the September 21 sailing. Aboard the Freedom of the Seas, you can enjoy at drink at the Bull and Bear English Pub, listen to Latin music at Boleros Lounge, relax at the adults-only Solarium Pool and much more.

Or head to Europe. The seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise includes stops in France, Rome and Sicily. Interior rooms start at $699 for November sailings. Aboard the Voyager of the Seas you can take scuba diving lessons, go rock climbing or ice skating, or relax at the Day Spa.

Royal Caribbean has cruises to the Bahamas, cruises to Greece — even a cruise in Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Cruises range from three nights to 14 nights, so you can take a quick getaway or a long vacation.

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Tagged: Cruise, FREE!, International, Limited-time Offers