Whether you pre-registered and excitedly snagged your perfect cruise deal this morning, or will be biding your time and booking a last minute P&O Cruises deal nearer the time; the 2017/18 itineraries from the UK’s favourite cruise line are too good to miss. The programme promises more UK departures, more Discovery and Captain’s Choice cruises, more scenic cruising plus brand new Events cruises. The most exciting prospect for us however, are the five brand new maiden calls P&O Cruises will be adding to its repertoire over the coming season.
Olbia, Šibenik, Trapani, Chania and Heraklion are set to become the hottest names on our lips for the season ahead; here’s why.
Oh, sunny Sardinia. Where better to live ‘la dolce vita’?
Olbia nestles on the north-eastern corner of Sardinia, edged by the turquoise waters you read about in the holiday brochures and blanketed in swathes of emerald shrubbery and terracotta roof tiles (as all the best parts of the Mediterranean are). The city was founded in 6th century BC, its past shaped by Greek, Roman and Carthaginian rulers, whose influences remain in the architecture found across the city and in the exhibits found at the impressive Museo Archeologico; an unmissable modern museum set on its own island in Olbia’s harbour.
Its position on the coast makes Olbia the perfect base for explorations of beautiful Costa Smeralda and beyond; many excursions will take you island hopping in the Maddalena archipelago, where 7 main islands and over 50 smaller islets make up an Italian take on paradise. The archipelago is home to some of Italy’s best beaches; whilst the main island of La Maddalena was once famous as a NATO base, it now commands attention for its golden sands and tempting waters. Venture into the rustic town or stay coastal, dipping in and out of waterside trattorias offering the best in Sardinian cuisine.
Croatia has become one of the gems of the Mediterranean, thanks to a combination of ancient fortified cities and pristine, ultra-exclusive beach resorts. The latest offering is Šibenik, which sits on the eastern Adriatic coast and offers a truly authentic taste of Dalmatian life. Quieter and less touristy that Dubrovnik and Split, Šibenik offers a unique combination of contemporary and classic; you’re just as likely to come across cosmopolitan bars and boutiques as you are Renaissance churches and an ancient fortress.
Unlike the popular Croatian ports of Split, Dubrovnik and Hvar, Šibenik provides a gateway to one of the most stunning National Parks in the world. You may recognise the vast and very beautiful Krka National Park from its spectacular waterfalls; an excursion here is an absolute must.
On a crescent of sand on Sicily’s western tip sits Trapani. This hooked harbour has been fought over for centuries and its Sicilian charm makes it easy to see why it was such a temptation to the Greeks, Romans and Normans, to name but a few.
The Medieval mountain city of Erice sits 750 metres above sea level, reached by the funicular and promising stunning views across Trapani and coastline once you reach the top. Look a little further and you’ll see Trapani’s famous salt flats, along with the Marsala wine region and Monte Cofano, whose rugged rock face juts spectacularly into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Whilst in Erice, a visit to the Duomo ‘Chiesa Matrice’ is a must; as the main church of 60 in Erice, its simple exterior belies a stunningly intricate interior.
Back in Trapani, there’s plenty to fill your day in port. Eat gelato beneath trees that have supposedly stood since the 9th century on the seafront or shop like an Italian at the boutiques that line Via Giovanni Battista Fardella. The Old Town is home to many Baroque delights, as so many old towns in the Mediterranean are, with Triton’s Fountain, Villa Regina Margherita and the Chiesa Del Purgatorio being some of the most impressive.
Chania is the second largest and most picturesque city on the island of Crete. Once an important fort in the Venetian empire, the era’s influences are evident in the cities architecture and in a labyrinth of alleyways that snake their way around the Old Town. Venetian walls divide the old and new sectors of the city too, each of which is as attractive as the other.
Chania’s colourful harbour should be your first port of call. Start at the waterfront Firka Fortress that now stands as a maritime museum and continuing on to the Old Lighthouse, before ending in one of the many tavernas and bars that line the promenade. If you’re looking for beaches, Chania fits the bill with the sheltered and popular Nea Chora beach and the quieter Kladisos Beach. If you’re looking for history, embark on an excursion to the Palace of Knossos. Crete’s most popular attraction is not only renowned as the one time hub of the Minoan civilisation, but also the home of the legendary Minotaur.
Heraklion – Crete (Greece)
If you’re looking for the all-encompassing combination of golden sands, picture-perfect seas, mountain villages and ancient architecture, Crete is one of the best spots in the Mediterranean. Heraklion is Crete’s modern capital and is not only the gateway to the ruined Minoan city of Knossos, but also a base from which to explore some of the most beautiful beaches in the Greek Isles.
Beach buffs aren’t the only ones who will appreciate the appeal of Heraklion; history buffs will be in their element too. Byzantine, Turkish and Venetian architecture is displayed around the city, whilst the Heraklion Archaeological Museum recently underwent an eight year renovation project and is more impressive than ever; ancient artefacts spanning thousands of years and gathered from across Greece are exhibited here.
Will you be booking a P&O Cruises late deal or have you booked early to secure your preferences? Which of the new P&O Cruises ports of call will you be visiting?