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Italy's vibrant capital lives in the present, but no other city on earth evokes its past so powerfully. For over 2,500 years, emperors, popes, artists, and common citizens have left their mark here. Archaeological remains from ancient Rome, art-stuffed churches, and the treasures of Vatican City vie for your attention, but Rome is also a wonderful place to practice the Italian-perfected il dolce far niente, the sweet art of idleness. Your most memorable experiences may include sitting at a caffè in the Campo de' Fiori or strolling in a beguiling piazza.
Naples, in the Campania region, is Italy's third largest city. Its claim to fame is the spectacular location along one of the world's most splendid bays, backed by the perfect cone of Mount Vesuvius. In addition to its beautiful setting, Naples' surprises with other outstanding attractions such as the Royal Palace, San Carlos Opera House, the impressive National Archaeological Museum and the Castel Nuovo, dating from the 13th-century. The city's central area is best explored on foot. Chaotic traffic conditions make driving around the city a very frustrating experience. Naples provides a convenient starting point for trips to such favored destinations as Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius. The Isle of Capri can be reached via a 45-minute hydrofoil service. The region of Campania was home to Greeks settlers some 300 years before Rome was founded. Pompeii, too, was a Greek town before being conquered by the Romans during the 5th century BC. It was under the Romans that Pompeii flourished and grew prosperous. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the population of 20,000 was wiped out, but dozens of buildings were preserved under layers of cinder more than 20 feet deep. The most important finds from Pompeii are displayed in Naples' National Archaeological Museum. A visit here will no doubt enhance a visit to ancient Pompeii.
Malta's capital, the minicity of Valletta, has ornate palaces and museums protected by massive fortifications of honey-color limestone. Houses along the narrow streets have overhanging wooden balconies for people-watching from indoors. Generations ago they gave housebound women a window on the world of the street. The main entrance to town is through the City Gate (where all bus routes end), which leads onto Triq Repubblika (Republic Street), the spine of the grid-pattern city and the main shopping street. Triq Mercante (Merchant Street) parallels Repubblika to the east and is also good for strolling. From these two streets, cross streets descend toward the water; some are stepped. Valletta's compactness makes it ideal to explore on foot. City Gate and the upper part of Valletta are experiencing vast redevelopment that includes a new Parliament Building and open-air performance venue. The complex, completed mid-2013, has numerous pedestrian detours in place along with building noise and dust. Before setting out along Republic Street, stop at the tourist information office on Merchant Street for maps and brochures.
If you look north of the cathedral (La Seu, or the seat of the bishopric, to Mallorcans) on a map of the city of Palma, you can see around the Plaça Santa Eulàlia a jumble of tiny streets that made up the earliest settlement. Farther out, a ring of wide boulevards traces the fortifications built by the Moors to defend the larger city that emerged by the 12th century. The zigzags mark the bastions that jutted out at regular intervals. By the end of the 19th century, most of the walls had been demolished; the only place where you can still see the massive defenses is at Ses Voltes, along the seafront west of the cathedral.A torrent (streambed) used to run through the middle of the old city, dry for most of the year but often a raging flood in the rainy season. In the 17th century it was diverted to the east, along the moat that ran outside the city walls. Two of Palma's main arteries, La Rambla and the Passeig d'es Born, now follow the stream's natural course. The traditional evening paseo (promenade) takes place on the Born.If you come to Palma by car, park in the garage beneath the Parc de la Mar (the ramp is just off the highway from the airport, as you reach the cathedral) and stroll along the park. Beside it run the huge bastions guarding the Almudaina Palace; the cathedral, golden and massive, rises beyond. Where you exit the garage, there's a ceramic mural by the late Catalan artist and Mallorca resident Joan Miró, facing the cathedral across the pool that runs the length of the park.If you begin early enough, a walk along the ramparts at Ses Voltes from the mirador beside the cathedral is spectacular. The first rays of the sun turn the upper pinnacles of La Seu bright gold and then begin to work their way down the sandstone walls. From the Parc de la Mar, follow Avinguda Antoni Maura past the steps to the palace. Just below the Plaça de la Reina, where the Passeig d'es Born begins, turn left on Carrer de la Boteria into the Plaça de la Llotja (if the Llotja itself is open, don't miss a chance to visit—it's the Mediterranean's finest Gothic-style civic building). From there stroll through the Plaça Drassana to the Museu d'Es Baluard, at the end of Carrer Sant Pere. Retrace your steps to Avinguda Antoni Maura. Walk up the Passeig d'es Born to Plaça Joan Carles I, then right on Avenida de La Unió.
The provincial capital of the Valencian Community serves as a gateway to the huge influx of tourists that flock to the Costa Blanca resorts every year. Alicante is popular with holidaymakers who arrive for the warm, Mediterranean climate and seemingly endless golden beaches. However, there is much more to this city than sand and sun. With a picturesque waterfront, a hugely impressive castle, buzzing nightlife and a rich, complex history, Alicante is a fascinating destination all year round.
The autonomous city of Melilla is a Spanish enclave located on the Mediterranean Rif coast of North Africa, bordering Morocco. Its chequered past embraced periods of Phoenician, Punic, Roman and Byzantine rule before it was conquered by Spain in 1497. The latter part of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century saw hostilities between Rif berbers and the Spanish, with the latter finally reinstating their control in 1927. The city was used by General Franco as one of the staging points for the rebellion of 1936. As part of the Spanish protectorate, Melilla developed the architectural style of 'Modernisme', the Catalan version of Art Nouveau, and boasts the second most important concentration of Modernist works in Spain, after Barcelona.
A Mediterranean city and naval station located in the Region of Murcia, southeastern Spain, Cartagena’s sheltered bay has attracted sailors for centuries. The Carthaginians founded the city in 223BC and named it Cartago Nova; it later became a prosperous Roman colony, and a Byzantine trading centre. The city has been the main Spanish Mediterranean naval base since the reign of King Philip II, and is still surrounded by walls built during this period. Cartagena’s importance grew with the arrival of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century, when the Navidad Fortress was constructed to protect the harbour. In recent years, traces of the city’s fascinating past have been brought to light: a well-preserved Roman Theatre was discovered in 1988, and this has now been restored and opened to the public. During your free time, you may like to take a mini-cruise around Cartagena's historic harbour: these operate several times a day, take approximately 40 minutes and do not need to be booked in advance. Full details will be available at the port.
The infinite variety of street life, the nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gòtic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, the art and music, the throb of street life, the food (ah, the food!)—one way or another, Barcelona will find a way to get your full attention. The capital of Catalonia is a banquet for the senses, with its beguiling mix of ancient and modern architecture, tempting cafés and markets, and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. A stroll along La Rambla and through waterfront Barceloneta, as well as a tour of Gaudí's majestic Sagrada Famíliaand his other unique creations, are part of a visit to Spain's second-largest city. Modern art museums and chic shops call for attention, too. Barcelona's vibe stays lively well into the night, when you can linger over regional wine and cuisine at buzzing tapas bars.
The 202-hectare Principality of Monaco is located east of France’s Mediterranean coast. Known for its royal family, especially Prince Albert of Monaco, its casinos and racetracks and for being a wealthy state with no applied taxes. Monaco is reachable by air through the French airport of Nice Côte d'Azur, located approximately 16 miles from the principality.
|Use of swimming pools, hot tubs, fitness centre and leisure facilities where available|
|Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in a choice of included dining venues|
|WiFi included on-board|
|Return flights included from a choice of UK airports (fly cruise bookings only)|
|24-hour room service|
|Shuttle service to and from ports and airport where available|
|Complimentary in-suite bar in selected suites|
|Butler service in Penthouse Suites and above|
|1:1.6 staff to guest ratio|
|1:1.6 staff to guest ratio|