The Mediterranean is all things to all people. It’s culture and architecture, great food and wine aplenty, seaside cities with shopping streets scattered with coffee spots . And the beaches. Oh, the beaches, from the vast golden swathes to the tiny pebbled coves. A Mediterranean cruise is a chance to sample a smorgasbord of rivieras, capital cities, archipelagos and coasts in a week or two of blissful relaxation. What are you waiting for?
The western Mediterranean is bold and vivacious, unafraid to live the good life but unapologetic about lazy days and post-lunch slumbers. A cruise to the Western Mediterranean can take you to the cities that gave Picasso and Gaudi to the world, whisk you away to the Cote d’Azur and show you Portugal’s hottest cities.
The colourful capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is the seaside city with boundless energy and architecture that could have come straight from the story books. Throw yourself into exploring the Gothic Quarter and follow up with bowls of lemony calamari on the waterfront.
More than just the gateway to the Costa del Sol, Malaga is one of the oldest cities in the world. No longer the poor relative to Seville, the place that gave the world Picasso has come into its own with a sleek new port, a burgeoning foodie culture and a treasure trove of art galleries. With Spanish energy, a Roman amphitheatre and a Moorish fortress in its arsenal of attractions, Malaga has never looked better.
The world’s second-smallest country packs acres of excess and opulence into its few square miles. Monaco is the playground of the rich and famous, an aristocracy-attracting enclave perched in the hillside of the impossibly glamorous French Riviera. Spend a morning window-shopping super yachts in the harbour and diamonds in Cartier, before retreating to the charming old town for a more laissez faire afternoon. The port’s Cote d’Azur neighbours, Villefranche-Sur-Mer and Cannes, promise to show you a quieter side to the coastline beyond the red carpet.
A popular embarkation port for cruises to the Mediterranean, Italy’s fiery capital Rome has charisma in spades. Gorge yourself on art and culture, gazing up at frescoes by Raphael and out at sculptures by Michelangelo and Bernini. The Colosseum and Roman Forum stand proud and the Vatican powerful, lording it over a city that has a history as the most important in the world. Slurp pasta in peaceful Trastevere, then work up an appetite for affogato on a climb to the top of St Peter’s Basilica.
Cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean and lift the veil on ports full of old-world intrigue. Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey host some of the most popular ports in the Mediterranean on their coasts, from the waterways of Venice to the black sands and blue domes of Santorini.
Croatia’s crown jewel Dubrovnik has seen a surge in popularity since finding fame in Game of Thrones, but there’s still serenity to be found within its city walls. A day spent walking the marble streets of the pedestrian-only old town, dining al fresco on black risotto, before looking out across the Adriatic with a glass of something cold is a day spent well.
You could call Santorini the ultimate silver lining, an island left behind by an enormous volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago. Perched on the edge of a caldera, its cities are white and blue tiers of domed churches, tavernas and cave houses. Reach the foot of the winding streets and you’ll find a choice of beaches beneath your feet; what Red Beach, Black Beach and White Beach lack in imaginative names they make up for in sea views. Round off the day with sunset drinks in tiny Oía, the poster girl of the island.
For many, Venice is the highlight of an Eastern Mediterranean cruise. The marble city is audacious, with no less than 50 palazzi and six churches dotted along its Grand Canal alone. Were the charming gondolier rides and long lunches in sunny ‘bacaro’ eateries not quite enough to tempt you, the fact that Venice is the rightful home of prosecco and pours it with wild abandon should seal it.
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