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On the spectacular coastline of the French Riviera lies Marseille, an MSC Mediterranean Cruises destination. This atmospheric port city is known for its unique mix of grit and glamour, seen in its labyrinth of streets and historical architecture. Only a few miles from Marseille’s charismatic cafes and bustling Vieux Port, stunning cities are to be found. Visit Aix-en-Provence, birthplace of Cézanne, or take in the ancient beauty of Avignon.
The elegant central zone of Málaga – a stop-off on your MSC cruise of the Mediterranean – is largely pedestrianized with the focal point, marble-paved Calle Marqués de Larios, lined with fashionable stores, its most elegant thoroughfare.
Plaza de la Constitución, Málaga’s main square, hosts a monumental fountain flanked by slender palms and the terraces of numerous cafés and restaurants. Málaga centre has a number of interesting churches and museums, not to mention the birthplace of Picasso and the Museo Picasso Málaga, housing an important collection of works by Málaga’s most famous son.
Perched on the hill above the town are the formidable citadels of the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, magnificent vestiges of the seven centuries that the Moors held sway here.
Málaga is also renowned for its fish and seafood, which can be sampled at tapas bars and restaurants throughout the city, as well as at the old fishing villages of El Palo and Pedregalejo, now absorbed into the suburbs, where there’s a seafront paseo lined with some of the best marisquerías and chiringuitos (beachside fish restaurants) in the province.
The impressive Alcazaba is the place to make for if you’re joining a shore excursion. Clearly visible from your cruise ship, to the left of its entrance on c/Acazabilla stands the Roman Theatre accidentally discovered in 1951, and – following excavation and restoration – now a venue for various outdoor entertainments.
The citadel, too, is Roman in origin, with blocks and columns of marble interspersed among the Moorish brick of the double- and triple-arched gateways. Above the Alcazaba, and connected to it by a long double wall (the coracha), is the Gibralfaro castle. Like the Alcazaba, it has been wonderfully restored and now houses an interesting museum devoted to its history.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Las Palmas is a city (and municipality) on the island, Gran Canaria, which is one of the Canary Islands (Spain) located 210 kilometers off the northwestern coast of the African continent within the Atlantic Ocean. It is also the capital city of the province of Las Palmas and the co-capital of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands, sharing this status with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The city was founded on June 24, 1478, with the name “Real de Las Palmas” by Juan Rejón, head of the invading Castilian army, before engaging in war with the local Guanches (aboriginal people of the Canary Islands). In 1492, Christopher Columbus anchored in the Port of Las Palmas (and spent some time on the island) on his first trip to the Americas. He also stopped on the way back to Spain. Today, a museum is named after him -Casa Colón – in the Vegueta area of the city. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is today a cosmopolitan city. It has five beaches (Las Canteras, Las Alcaravaneras, San Cristobal, El Confital and La Laja) and a big seaport (Puerto de la Luz harbor) that was very important during the 70s and early 90s (and benefited greatly from the closure of the Suez Canal during the Arab-Israeli conflict).
Just off the coast of Africa, Tenerife is the largest Island in the Canary archipelago. The islands name literally means white (Ife) mountain (Tene), and refers to the eternal snows on top of theEl Teide volcano, which is also the regions highest summit. From the warm weather and beaches, to the art galleries and museums,Tenerife has a wide variety of attractions that showcase the Spanish culture that has been prevalent there since the late 1400s.
When you arrive in Barbados on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise, begin your exploration with the capital, Bridgetown. There are many attractions in this small Caribbean city, but by all means pause to admire its many colonial buildings, the Parliament Building and the statue of Lord Nelson standing in what is currently called the National Heroes Square.
Barbados has retained somewhat of a British feel, with its place names, cricket, horse-racing and polo, Anglican parish churches and even a hilly district known as Scotland. But the Britishness can be exaggerated, for this is a distinctly West Indian country, covered by a patch-work of sugarcane fields and dotted with tiny rum shops.
The Garrison Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with magnificent 18th- and 19th-century buildings, is a must-see stop, featuring one of the world’s finest collection of cannons. It also includes the George Washington House, where the American patriot spent six weeks of his life.
The current St. John’s Church, in the eastern parish of the same name, is the fifth reconstruction of the oldest local church, in Barbadian Gothic style. Perched on a cliff 800 feet above the sea, it dates back to 1836. Its interior hosts a sculpture by 18th-century British artist Richard Westmacott, while its churchyard contains the tomb of Ferdinando Paleologus, a direct descendant of the brother of Constantine XI, the last Byzantine emperor.
Book an MSC excursion to discover the island’s history at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in the St. Michael neighbourhood. And tour Sunbury Plantation House, located in the tranquil St. Philip countryside. Dating back to 1650, it’s a living monument to plantation life and a bygone era.
Harrison’s Cave, in St. Thomas district, is a wonder of nature with its stalactites, stalagmites, streams, lakes and waterfalls. In one of the caverns, the play of light on the rocks is so in-tense that it has been nicknamed “The Crystal Room”.
For some fun at the beach, head to Pirates Cove, one of the best beaches on Barbados. Featuring palm trees and chickee huts, white sand and crystal-clear water, it’s the perfect place to relax, just a stone’s throw from Bridgetown.
If you’re brave enough to dive into the deep, set out on an MSC excursion inside a real submarine, the Atlantis, to explore the coral reef and discover the beauty that the depths reveal.
Scents of spices such as cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg waft through the air as you arrive on MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise to St. George’s, the capital of the island of Grenada. Nicknamed the “Spice Island” for its agriculture, Grenada’s symbol is the nutmeg, the island’s most famous product, which also appears on the nation’s flag.
Originally colonized by the French in the 1600s, who wiped out the native Carib peoples during conflicts, Grenada was captured by the British in 1762 and remained under British rule until its independence in 1974.
St. George’s offers many attractions starting with its beautiful views, botanical gardens, parks and heavenly beaches, most notably the Grand Anse Beach nearby.
Start your journey with a guided walk on an MSC excursion through the capital’s winding maze of streets from the Carenage, the horseshoe-shaped harbour, with its lively waterfront promenade. Gaze at picturesque 19th-century pastel-coloured Creole houses made of brick and stone with red-tile roofs made from ship ballasts.
Get a first-hand look at the wonderful palette of spices and scents of the island on an MSC excursion that stops at Dougaldston Estate. At this rustic, 300-year-old cocoa plantation in Gouyave, discover what drying trays for spices and cacao look like and learn how these spices are processed from seed pods, or how cinnamon is harvested from the bark of a tree. From there, proceed to an old-fashioned nutmeg cooperative plant where the work is done by hand.
Grenada features a host of beautiful waterfalls, the most spectacular of which are Annandale Falls, about 7 miles from St. George’s. Hidden by a grotto of dense vegetation in the mountains, the waterfall cascades 30 feet down into the midst of leaves and branches, creating a natural pool where you can swim.
For a throw-back to Grenada’s past, hop on a Creole bus on a guided MSC excursion along a labyrinth of steep roads to higher elevations. Enjoy sumptuous panoramas from the 18th-century forts of Fort George and Fort Frederick, nicknamed “The Backward Facing Fort,” for the cannons facing the land and not the sea.
Discover Roseau, Dominica’s attractive capital that is entirely accessible on foot. A French outpost founded in the 16th century, it offers captivating landscapes with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea, botanical gardens, colonial-style architecture and the impressive St. Patrick’s cathedral, all worth exploring on this MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise.
In Dominica, nature reigns. Called the island of 365 rivers, the sound of water is nearly ever-present, beginning with the thermal springs around Roseau. Lush in vegetation, the volcanic origin of the island has created waterfalls, rivers and bubbling pools of hot water rich in minerals flowing from deep within the earth.
One MSC excursion not to miss is Hibiscus Falls, with an enchanting waterfall and beautiful pool where you can take a dip amid breath-taking nature. From there, your tour continues on through the central rainforest reserve to the Hibiscus eco-village, followed by a river tubing experience through some of the last and only remaining Carib Indian territory. Or take a guided hiking tour through the rainforest to Emerald Pool, an exquisite waterfall and pool that is among Dominica’s favourite gems.
For another natural wonder, take an MSC excursion to the impressive Titou Gorge, a natural crevice in the mountain that spouts hot and cold water at once. Scenes from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” were also filmed at the gorge. Then at Wotten Waven, relax in the natural hot springs. A long therapeutic soak in the mineral-rich waters will leave you feeling rejuvenated.
Looking for something offshore? Dominica is known for whale and dolphin watching. Board a catamaran on an MSC excursion for a chance to spot a dolphin, pilot whale, or a giant humpback whale. Or touch a live volcano as you snorkel above it in the marine reserve, feeling the sulphur heat escaping from the sea bed below.
An MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise to St. Kitts and Nevis will introduce you to the sister volcanic islands of the Caribbean. These islands have been a premier destination for elite tourists for more than 200 years and served as a haven for European nobility in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Basseterre, founded by the French in 1625, became the capital of St. Kitts in 1727, when the Eng-lish took over the island. It remained under British rule until the islands declared their independence in 1983. Throughout the city’s long history, natural disasters and conflicts have afflicted Basseterre; most buildings date from the latter part of the 1800s. A visit to the city’s two cathedrals, St. George’s Anglican Church and the Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, will appeal to those with a love of history and architecture. On South Square Street, visit Georgian House, one of the better-preserved examples of local 18th-century architecture.
Leaving Basseterre, take a panoramic drive on an MSC excursion to the southeast peninsula en route for a kayaking adventure. Stop at Timothy Hill to enjoy a 360-degree view and a stunning glimpse of the Atlantic and Caribbean nearly side by side; the two bodies of water, each with a dis-tinct appearance, are separated by a spit of land.
If it is adrenaline that quenches your thirst, go off-road on an excursion into the interior of St. Kitts in a specially modified 4×4 Land Rover to explore the lush rainforest and spot shy, green monkeys and other exotic tropical flora and fauna. At a private mountaintop property, 1,000 feet above sea level, enjoy amazing vistas of the rainforest, the coastline, Basseterre, and the neighbouring island of Nevis. Continue your journey through the mountains to the opposite side of the island to explore quaint villages and experience country life.
Learn about wearable art at Romney Manor, home of the world-famous Caribelle Batik. Visit the demonstration room, where acclaimed artists present the wax and dye process of batik making. The Romney Manor Estate encompasses eight acres of historical ruins and features ancient Carib Indian rock drawings and a beautiful botanical garden.
For an excursion unlike any other, book a land-and-sea tour combining train and catamaran. In the first leg of the trip, take in the scenery of St. Kitts on a narrow-gauge train, followed by a catama-ran cruise. The St. Kitts Scenic Railway has been showing visitors the island since 2003, but be-fore that it had transported sugar cane from the fields to the sugar mill in Basseterre for nearly 100 years. At the end of the train journey, board a catamaran to sail the storied western coast of the is-land and take in its gorgeous views.
Fly through the rainforest 25 stories above the ground as you enjoy a spectacular zipline tour over a network of 5 cable lines at the historic Wingfield Estate. Enjoy fantastic panoramic views of Brimstone Hill National Fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Old Road Village, former sugar estates, the Caribbean Sea and Mount Liamuiga, with its volcano crater ridge marking the highest point in St. Kitts.
Thanks in large part to its French and West Indian influences, Martinique, a lush mountainous island in the Lesser Antilles with its dormant Mount Pelée volcano in the backdrop, exudes a cosmopolitan flair with a sophisticated culinary and cultural scene that draws travellers not only to its natural wonders, beautiful bays and beaches, but also to its heart at Fort-de-France, the capital. While French is the official language, most islanders also speak Antillean Creole. As part of the European Union, the island uses the euro as its currency.
When you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Fort-de-France, you immediately notice the island’s steep hills, colourful colonial architecture, ornate balconies and tropical flowers. Book an MSC excursion to the Balata Cathedral, a miniature replica of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre, Paris, which offers a spectacular view of Fort-de-France and the bay.
Before Martinique came to be known by its current name, it was once called Madinina, the island of flowers. At Balata Botanical Gardens, discover 300 types of palm trees, take in views from the garden’s suspension bridge and enjoy the tropical flowers in bloom across 16 acres of lush landscape.
Or try the island’s best rum distilleries. MSC excursions will take you to the Depaz Distillery, in business since 1651, or the St. James Rum Distillery & Museum, where you will learn about the process of making rum and taste the traditional Rhum Agricole, made by using freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than the conventional molasses.
Afterwards, visit the ruins of the theatre in St. Pierre, the former cultural capital of Martinique that was tragically destroyed by the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée. The modern-day town of St. Pierre is France’s 101st “City of Art and History.”
When you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, you will discover a French gem in the Southern Caribbean, or as native islanders called it, “Karukera,” the “island of beautiful waters.” Guadeloupe’s Creole culture and cuisine are a melange of many influences, including French, African, Indian and East Asian.
Take a scenic MSC excursion to the Guadeloupe National Park, designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Located in the south of Basse-Terre, the park has one of the most beautiful forests in the Caribbean and the highest peak on the island, the Soufrière volcano. Make your way to the three gorgeous waterfalls of Carbet on the lower slopes of La Soufrière. The second waterfall, about 360 feet in height, can be admired from a suspended bridge. Beautiful as they are, the waterfalls are among the most visited sites on Guadeloupe.
The Valombreuse botanical garden is a must-see for those who love gardens, and with 500 species in its collection, not many other gardens in the world can claim to be its equal. Tucked in between the mountains and the sea, it is a riot of tropical plants and flowers and home to many birds, including flower-loving hummingbirds and peacocks.
Head along the southern coast of Grande Terre on a sightseeing MSC excursion to St. Anne, a lovely fishing village with seafront promenade, then continue to visit the much-photographed Pointe des Châteaux, an incredible rock formation sculpted by the wind, followed by a stop in Morne-à-L’Eau, a town noted for its artistic cemetery with black-and-white checkerboard tombs.
You can also slip away on a catamaran on another excursion from Pointe-à-Pitre to the uninhabited islet of Gosier, a tiny gem calling out to you with its lush foliage, white sandy shores, a charming diminutive lighthouse and the intense blue of the sea.