Mediterranean cruises are, without a doubt, the most popular type of cruise for UK cruisers. Whether you want to sail from Southampton or enjoy a fly-cruise sailing from one of Europe's cities, we can find the perfect voyage for you.
From exploring the Dalmatian coastline across Croatia to enjoying tapas in Spain, the Mediterranean offers something for everyone. Head to Italy and visit the Vatican Museums where you can see one of the world's greatest art collections, or travel back to ancient Greece and see the Acropolis standing tall over the city of Athens or explore the beautiful Greek Islands. You can even cruise as far as Cyprus where you'll enjoy year-round sunshine.
The Mediterranean boasts unparalleled variety, with crystal clear beaches throughout the islands of the west to beautiful villages and harbours on both the French and Italian Riviera to the east. Travelling here is sure to leave you enduring memories of the distinctive cuisine and stunning sights.
Within the Mediterranean Sea you'll find the Adriatic Sea which separates Italy from the Balkans and the Aegean Sea which lies between Greece and Turkey - both lovely regions to enjoy a cruise.
Our expert Cruise Concierge team can search through all the available cruise line itineraries, as well as advising you on which cruise ship is best for you and your family. So, if you'd like us to help plan your perfect Mediterranean break, give us a call today.
Agios Nikólaos, Kríti
SummaryUndoubtedly the most extraordinary island in the Aegean, crescent-shape Santorini remains a mandatory stop on the Cycladic tourist route—even if it's necessary to enjoy the sensational sunsets from Ia, the fascinating excavations, and the dazzling white towns with a million other travelers. Called Kállisti (the "Loveliest") when first settled, the island has now reverted to its subsequent name of Thira, after the 9th-century-BC Dorian colonizer Thiras. The place is better known, however, these days as Santorini, a name derived from its patroness, St. Irene of Thessaloniki, the Byzantine empress who restored icons to Orthodoxy and died in 802. You can fly conveniently to Santorini, but to enjoy a true Santorini rite of passage, opt instead for the boat trip here, which provides a spectacular introduction. After the boat sails between Sikinos and Ios, your deck-side perch approaches two close islands with a passage between them. The bigger one on the left is Santorini, and the smaller on the right is Thirassia. Passing between them, you see the village of Ia adorning Santorini's northernmost cliff like a white geometric beehive. You are in the caldera (volcanic crater), one of the world's truly breathtaking sights: a demilune of cliffs rising 1,100 feet, with the white clusters of the towns of Fira and Ia perched along the top. The bay, once the high center of the island, is 1,300 feet in some places, so deep that when boats dock in Santorini's shabby little port of Athinios, they do not drop anchor. The encircling cliffs are the ancient rim of a still-active volcano, and you are sailing east across its flooded caldera. On your right are the Burnt isles, the White isle, and other volcanic remnants, all lined up as if some outsize display in a geology museum. Hephaestus's subterranean fires smolder still—the volcano erupted in 198 BC, about 735, and there was an earthquake in 1956. Indeed, Santorini and its four neighboring islets are the fragmentary remains of a larger landmass that exploded about 1600 BC: the volcano's core blew sky high, and the sea rushed into the abyss to create the great bay, which measures 10 km by 7 km (6 mi by 4½ mi) and is 1,292 feet deep. The other pieces of the rim, which broke off in later eruptions, are Thirassia, where a few hundred people live, and deserted little Aspronissi ("White isle"). In the center of the bay, black and uninhabited, two cones, the Burnt Isles of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni, appeared between 1573 and 1925. There has been too much speculation about the identification of Santorini with the mythical Atlantis, mentioned in Egyptian papyri and by Plato (who says it's in the Atlantic), but myths are hard to pin down. This is not true of old arguments about whether tidal waves from Santorini's cataclysmic explosion destroyed Minoan civilization on Crete, 113 km (70 mi) away. The latest carbon-dating evidence, which points to a few years before 1600 BC for the eruption, clearly indicates that the Minoans outlasted the eruption by a couple of hundred years, but most probably in a weakened state. In fact, the island still endures hardships: since antiquity, Santorini has depended on rain collected in cisterns for drinking and irrigating—the well water is often brackish—and the serious shortage is alleviated by the importation of water. However, the volcanic soil also yields riches: small, intense tomatoes with tough skins used for tomato paste (good restaurants here serve them); the famous Santorini fava beans, which have a light, fresh taste; barley; wheat; and white-skin eggplants.
SummaryIt's no wonder that all roads lead to the fascinating and maddening metropolis of Athens. Lift your eyes 200 feet above the city to the Parthenon, its honey-color marble columns rising from a massive limestone base, and you behold architectural perfection that has not been surpassed in 2,500 years. But, today, this shrine of classical form dominates a 21st-century boomtown. To experience Athens—Athína in Greek—fully is to understand the essence of Greece: ancient monuments surviving in a sea of cement, startling beauty amid the squalor, tradition juxtaposed with modernity. Locals depend on humor and flexibility to deal with the chaos; you should do the same. The rewards are immense. Although Athens covers a huge area, the major landmarks of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods are close to the modern city center. You can easily walk from the Acropolis to many other key sites, taking time to browse in shops and relax in cafés and tavernas along the way. From many quarters of the city you can glimpse "the glory that was Greece" in the form of the Acropolis looming above the horizon, but only by actually climbing that rocky precipice can you feel the impact of the ancient settlement. The Acropolis and Filopappou, two craggy hills sitting side by side; the ancient Agora (marketplace); and Kerameikos, the first cemetery, form the core of ancient and Roman Athens. Along the Unification of Archaeological Sites promenade, you can follow stone-paved, tree-lined walkways from site to site, undisturbed by traffic. Cars have also been banned or reduced in other streets in the historical center. In the National Archaeological Museum, vast numbers of artifacts illustrate the many millennia of Greek civilization; smaller museums such as the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art Museum and the Byzantine and Christian Museum illuminate the history of particular regions or periods. Athens may seem like one huge city, but it is really a conglomeration of neighborhoods with distinctive characters. The Eastern influences that prevailed during the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire are still evident in Monastiraki, the bazaar area near the foot of the Acropolis. On the northern slope of the Acropolis, stroll through Plaka (if possible by moonlight), an area of tranquil streets lined with renovated mansions, to get the flavor of the 19th-century's gracious lifestyle. The narrow lanes of Anafiotika, a section of Plaka, thread past tiny churches and small, color-washed houses with wooden upper stories, recalling a Cycladic island village. In this maze of winding streets, vestiges of the older city are everywhere: crumbling stairways lined with festive tavernas; dank cellars filled with wine vats; occasionally a court or diminutive garden, enclosed within high walls and filled with magnolia trees and the flaming trumpet-shaped flowers of hibiscus bushes. Formerly run-down old quarters, such as Thission, Gazi and Psirri, popular nightlife areas filled with bars and mezedopoleia (similar to tapas bars), are now in the process of gentrification, although they still retain much of their original charm, as does the colorful produce and meat market on Athinas. The area around Syntagma Square, the tourist hub, and Omonia Square, the commercial heart of the city about 1 km (½ mi) northwest, is distinctly European, having been designed by the court architects of King Otho, a Bavarian, in the 19th century. The chic shops and bistros of ritzy Kolonaki nestle at the foot of Mt. Lycabettus, Athens's highest hill (909 feet). Each of Athens's outlying suburbs has a distinctive character: in the north is wealthy, tree-lined Kifissia, once a summer resort for aristocratic Athenians, and in the south and southeast lie Glyfada, Voula, and Vouliagmeni, with their sandy beaches, seaside bars, and lively summer nightlife. Just beyond the city's southern fringes is Piraeus, a bustling port city of waterside fish tavernas and Saronic Gulf views.
SummaryAlthough the fishing boats still go out in good weather, Mykonos largely makes its living from tourism these days. The summer crowds have turned one of the poorest islands in Greece into one of the richest. Old Mykonians complain that their young, who have inherited stores where their grandfathers once sold eggs or wine, get so much rent that they have lost ambition, and in summer sit around pool bars at night with their friends, and hang out in Athens in winter when island life is less scintillating. Put firmly on the map by Jackie O in the 1960s, Mykonos town—called Hora by the locals—remains the Saint-Tropez of the Greek islands. The scenery is memorable, with its whitewashed streets, Little Venice, the Kato Myli ridge of windmills, and Kastro, the town's medieval quarter. Its cubical two- or three-story houses and churches, with their red or blue doors and domes and wooden balconies, have been long celebrated as some of the best examples of classic Cycladic architecture. Luckily, the Greek Archaeological Service decided to preserve the town, even when the Mykonians would have preferred to rebuild, and so the Old Town has been impressively preserved. Pink oleander, scarlet hibiscus, and trailing green pepper trees form a contrast amid the dazzling whiteness, whose frequent renewal with whitewash is required by law. Any visitor who has the pleasure of getting lost in its narrow streets (made all the narrower by the many outdoor stone staircases, which maximize housing space in the crowded village) will appreciate how its confusing layout was designed to foil pirates—if it was designed at all. After Mykonos fell under Turkish rule in 1537, the Ottomans allowed the islanders to arm their vessels against pirates, which had a contradictory effect: many of them found that raiding other islands was more profitable than tilling arid land. At the height of Aegean piracy, Mykonos was the principal headquarters of the corsair fleets—the place where pirates met their fellows, found willing women, and filled out their crews. Eventually the illicit activity evolved into a legitimate and thriving trade network. Morning on Mykonos town's main quay is busy with deliveries, visitors for the Delos boats, lazy breakfasters, and street cleaners dealing with the previous night's mess. In late morning the cruise-boat people arrive, and the shops are all open. In early afternoon, shaded outdoor tavernas are full of diners eating salads (Mykonos's produce is mostly imported); music is absent or kept low. In mid- and late afternoon, the town feels sleepy, since so many people are at the beach, on excursions, or sleeping in their air-conditioned rooms; even some tourist shops close for siesta. By sunset, people have come back from the beach, having taken their showers and rested. At night, the atmosphere in Mykonos ramps up. The cruise-boat people are mostly gone, coughing three-wheelers make no deliveries in the narrow streets, and everyone is dressed sexy for summer and starting to shimmy with the scene. Many shops stay open past midnight, the restaurants fill up, and the bars and discos make ice cubes as fast as they can. Ready to dive in? Begin your tour of Mykonos town (Hora) by starting out at its heart: Mando Mavrogenous Square.
SummaryEarly travelers described Rhodes as a town of two parts: a castle or high town (Collachium) and a lower city. Today Rhodes town—sometimes referred to as Ródos town—is still a city of two parts: the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site that incorporates the high town and lower city, and the modern metropolis, or New Town, spreading away from the walls that encircle the Old Town. The narrow streets of the Old Town are for the most part closed to cars and are lined with Orthodox and Catholic churches, Turkish houses (some of which follow the ancient orthogonal plan), and medieval public buildings with exterior staircases and facades elegantly constructed of well-cut limestone from Lindos. Careful reconstruction in recent years has enhanced the harmonious effect.
SummaryCorfu town today is a vivid tapestry of cultures—a sophisticated weave, where charm, history, and natural beauty blend. Located about midway along the island's east coast, this spectacularly lively capital is the cultural heart of Corfu and has a remarkable historic center that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage Site in 2007. All ships and planes dock or land near Corfu town, which occupies a small peninsula jutting into the Ionian Sea.Whether arriving by ferry from mainland Greece or Italy, from another island, or directly by plane, catch your breath by first relaxing with a coffee or a gelato in Corfu town's shaded Liston Arcade, then stroll the narrow lanes of its pedestrians-only quarter. For an overview of the immediate area, and a quick tour of Mon Repos palace, hop on the little tourist train that runs from May to September. Corfu town has a different feel at night, so book a table at one of its famed tavernas to savor the island's unique cuisine.The best way to get around Corfu town is on foot. The town is small enough so that you can easily walk to every sight. There are local buses, but they do not thread their way into the streets (many now car-free) of the historic center. If you are arriving by ferry or plane, it's best to take a taxi to your hotel. Expect to pay about €10 from the airport or ferry terminal to a hotel in Corfu town. If there are no taxis waiting, you can call for one.
Heraklion (Iraklion), Crete
SummaryHaving been controlled by Arabic, Venetian and Ottoman empires over the years - it's no surprise that Heraklion is a diverse patchwork of exotic cultures and historical treasures. Celebrated as the birthplace of the Spanish Renaissance artist, El Greco, you can visit to explore the storied ruins of the Minoan empire's capital, and unearth the rich cultural treasures that Crete’s bustling modern capital has to offer.
SummaryFor better or worse, it can be difficult to reach Patmos—for many travelers, this lack of access is definitely for the better, since the island retains the air of an unspoiled retreat. Rocky and barren, the small, 34-square-km (21-square-mi) island lies beyond the islands of Kalymnos and Leros, northwest of Kos. Here on a hillside is the Monastery of the Apocalypse, which enshrines the cave where St. John received the Revelation in AD 95. Scattered evidence of Mycenaean presence remains on Patmos, and walls of the classical period indicate the existence of a town near Skala. Most of the island's approximately 2,800 people live in three villages: Skala, medieval Chora, and the small rural settlement of Kambos. The island is popular among the faithful making pilgrimages to the monastery as well as with vacationing Athenians and a newly growing community of international trendsetters—designers, artists, poets, and “taste gurus” (to quote Vogue’s July 2011 write-up of the island)—who have bought homes in Chora. These stylemeisters followed in the footsteps of Alexandrian John Stefanidis and the English artist Teddy Millington-Drake who, in the early ’60s, set about creating what eventually became hailed as one of the most gorgeous island homes in the world. The word soon spread thanks to their many guests (who included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) but, happily, administrators have carefully contained development, and as a result, Patmos retains its charm and natural beauty—even in the busy month of August.
SummaryKatakolon could not seem less of a cruise port if it tried. A tiny enclave clinging to the western Peloponnese coast, it's a sleepy place except when ships dock. But it's a popular cruise destination because of its proximity to Olympia. Ancient Olympia was one of the most important cities in classical Greece. The Sanctuary of Zeus was the city's raison d'être, and attracted pilgrims from around the eastern Mediterranean, and later the city played host to Olympic Games, the original athletic games that were the inspiration for today's modern sporting pan-planetary meet. At the foot of the tree-covered Kronion hill, in a valley near two rivers, Katakolon is today one of the most popular ancient sites in Greece. If you don't want to make the trip to Olympia, then Katakolon is an ideal place for a leisurely Greek lunch while you watch the fishermen mend their nets, but there's just not much else to do there.
SummaryOraia (beautiful) is the word Greeks use to describe Nafplion. The town's old section, on a peninsula jutting into the gulf of Argos, mixes Greek, Venetian, and Turkish architecture; narrow streets, often just broad flights of stone stairs, climb the slopes beneath the walls of Acronafplia. Tree-shaded plazas surround neoclassic buildings. The Palamidi fortress—an elegant display of Venetian might from the early 1700s—guards the town. Nafplion deserves at least a leisurely day of your undivided attention, and you may want to spend several days or a week here and use the city as the base from which to explore the many surrounding ancient sights.
SummaryThe 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.
Palma de Mallorca
SummaryIf 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.
SummaryBelieved to be the oldest town on the Iberian Peninsula, the Andalusian port of Cádiz enjoys a stunning location at the edge of a six-mile promontory. The town itself, with 3,000 years of history, is characterised by pretty white houses with balconies often adorned with colourful flowers. As you wander around be sure to take a stroll through the sizeable Plaza de Espãna, with its large monument dedicated to the first Spanish constitution, which was signed here in 1812. Cádiz has two pleasant seafront promenades which boast fine views of the Atlantic Ocean, and has a lovely park, the Parque Genoves, located close to the sea with an open-air theatre and attractive palm garden. Also notable is the neo-Classical cathedral, capped by a golden dome.
Vega de Terrón
SummaryValencia, Spain's third-largest municipality, is a proud city with a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene, quality museums, and spectacular contemporary architecture, juxtaposed with a thoroughly charming historic quarter, making it a popular destination year in year out. During the Civil War, it was the last seat of the Republican Loyalist government (1935–36), holding out against Franco’s National forces until the country fell to 40 years of dictatorship. Today it represents the essence of contemporary Spain—daring design and architecture along with experimental cuisine—but remains deeply conservative and proud of its traditions. Though it faces the Mediterranean, Valencia's history and geography have been defined most significantly by the River Turia and the fertile huerta that surrounds it.The city has been fiercely contested ever since it was founded by the Greeks. El Cid captured Valencia from the Moors in 1094 and won his strangest victory here in 1099: he died in the battle, but his corpse was strapped into his saddle and so frightened the besieging Moors that it caused their complete defeat. In 1102 his widow, Jimena, was forced to return the city to Moorish rule; Jaume I finally drove them out in 1238. Modern Valencia was best known for its frequent disastrous floods until the River Turia was diverted to the south in the late 1950s. Since then the city has been on a steady course of urban beautification. The lovely bridges that once spanned the Turia look equally graceful spanning a wandering municipal park, and the spectacularly futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences), most of it designed by Valencia-born architect Santiago Calatrava, has at last created an exciting architectural link between this river town and the Mediterranean. If you're in Valencia, an excursion to Albufera Nature Park is a worthwhile day trip.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
SummaryThe largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is a beautiful and scenic island which enjoys year-round sunshine and is dominated by Mount Teide. The mountain range runs through the centre of the island, with fertile valleys on the northern side. In the central part of the range is the gigantic natural crater of the Cañadas del Teide, about 14 miles in diameter. Santa Cruz, the island’s pretty capital, was originally a small fishing village but has now grown into a modern city, and also contains 16th-century civic buildings and ornate private mansions. Near the pier is the Santa Cruz Palmetum, a Botanical Garden covering an area of 29 acres, specialising in palms.
SummaryAs you sail into Malaga you will notice what an idyllic setting the city enjoys on the famous Costa del Sol. To the east of this provincial capital, the coast along the region of La Axarqua is scattered with villages, farmland and sleepy fishing hamlets - the epitome of traditional rural Spain. To the west stretches a continuous city where the razzmatazz and bustle creates a colourful contrast that is easily recognisable as the Costa del Sol. Surrounding the region, the Penibéetica Mountains provide an attractive backdrop overlooking the lower terraced slopes which yield olives and almonds. This spectacular mountain chain shelters the province from cold northerly winds, giving it a reputation as a therapeutic and exotic place in which to escape from cold northern climes. Malaga is also the gateway to many of Andalusia's enchanting historic villages, towns and cities.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
SummaryPerhaps the prettiest of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria is an almost circular isle with the peak of Pozo de Las Nieves, its highest point, at the centre. With a wealth of natural beauty and all the exciting attractions of city life in the capital, the island offers the best of both worlds. You will no doubt wish to see the sights of the capital’s old quarter, which dates back to the 15th century and encompassses the Vegueta and Triana districts, and wherever you go you can enjoy the glorious subtropical climate, perfect for growing exotic palms and fruits.
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.
Santa Cruz de La Palma
SummaryAlso known as ‘La Isla Bonita’ (the beautiful island), La Palma is typified by lush forests of pine, laurel and fern which contrast with the rugged splendour of the gigantic Taburiente crater. The island is dotted with attractive villages, which are a delight to discover, and the capital Santa Cruz also makes for an interesting day of exploration. Perched on the edge of the volcanic crater of La Caldereta, Santa Cruz comfortably blends modern architecture with old colonial buildings. Perhaps visit the fascinating Natural History Museum, stroll around the historic quarters and the Plaza de Espana or travel a few miles outside the city to the exquisite Church of Our Lady. If you enjoy shopping, you can find reasonably priced silver jewellery, leather goods and beautifully embroidered clothes, tablecloths and napkins, a speciality of the Canary Islands.
SummaryHedonistic and historic, Eivissa (Ibiza, in Castilian) is a city jam-packed with cafés, nightspots, and trendy shops; looming over it are the massive stone walls of Dalt Vila —the medieval city declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999—and its Gothic cathedral. Squeezed between the north walls of the old city and the harbor is Sa Penya, a long labyrinth of stone-paved streets that offer some of the city's best offbeat shopping, snacking, and exploring. The tourist information office on Vara de Rey has a useful map of walks through the old city.
SummaryItaly'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.
SummaryNaples, 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.
SummaryGenoa is a port city in the Northwest of Italy. Home to the Genoa Aquarium, famous for having the largest exposition of biodiversity in Europe, the city is also a great place to visit for anyone interested in architecture.
Venice is a city unlike any other. No matter how often you've seen it in photos and films, the real thing is more dreamlike than you could imagine. With canals where streets should be, water shimmers everywhere. The fabulous palaces and churches reflect centuries of history in what was a wealthy trading center between Europe and the Orient. Getting lost in the narrow alleyways is a quintessential part of exploring Venice, but at some point you'll almost surely end up in Piazza San Marco, where tourists and locals congregate for a coffee or an aperitif.
SummaryHome to the Museo Regionale of Messina, known for featuring two of Caravaggio's paintings, the city is also famous for having been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Sicily.
SummaryLivorno is a gritty city with a long and interesting history. In the early Middle Ages it alternately belonged to Pisa and Genoa. In 1421 Florence, seeking access to the sea, bought it. Cosimo I (1519–74) started construction of the harbor in 1571, putting Livorno on the map. After Ferdinando I de' Medici (1549–1609) proclaimed Livorno a free city, it became a haven for people suffering from religious persecution; Roman Catholics from England and Jews and Moors from Spain and Portugal, among others, settled here. The Quattro Mori (Four Moors), also known as the Monument to Ferdinando I, commemorates this. (The statue of Ferdinando I dates from 1595, the bronze Moors by Pietro Tacca from the 1620s.)In the following centuries, and particularly in the 18th, Livorno boomed as a port. In the 19th century the town drew a host of famous Britons passing through on their grand tours. Its prominence continued up to World War II, when it was heavily bombed. Much of the town's architecture, therefore, postdates the war, and it's somewhat difficult to imagine what it might have looked like before. Livorno has recovered from the war, however, as it's become a huge point of departure for container ships, as well as the only spot in Tuscany for cruise ships to dock for the day.Most of Livorno's artistic treasures date from the 17th century and aren't all that interesting unless you dote on obscure baroque artists. Livorno's most famous native artist, Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920), was of much more recent vintage. Sadly, there's no notable work by him in his hometown.There may not be much in the way of art, but it's still worth strolling around the city. The Mercato Nuovo, which has been around since 1894, sells all sorts of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and fish. Outdoor markets nearby are also chock-full of local color. The presence of Camp Darby, an American military base just outside town, accounts for the availability of many American products.If you have time, Livorno is worth a stop for lunch or dinner at the very least.
SummaryOnce the intellectual capital of southern Europe, Palermo has always been at the crossroads of civilization. Favorably situated on a crescent-shaped bay at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, it has attracted almost every culture touching the Mediterranean world. To Palermo's credit, it has absorbed these diverse cultures into a unique personality that is at once Arab and Christian, Byzantine and Roman, Norman and Italian. The city's heritage encompasses all of Sicily's varied ages, but its distinctive aspect is its Arab-Norman identity, an improbable marriage that, mixed in with Byzantine and Jewish elements, created some resplendent works of art. No less noteworthy than the architecture is Palermo's chaotic vitality, on display at some of Italy's most vibrant outdoor markets, public squares, street bazaars, and food vendors, and above all in its grand climax of Italy's most spectacular passeggiata (the leisurely social stroll along the principal thoroughfare).
SummaryLocated right in the heel of the Italian boot, Otranto’s scenic landscape often plays the protagonist in displaying the beauty of Puglia, Italy’s easternmost region. Facing the Adriatic sea, the seducing weather and pristine waters have made it a popular destination where on a clear day, wanderers can see the coast of Albania. Like much of Italy, the city boasts a rich and mixed history. Once a Greek and Roman port, it was later occupied by the Byzantines, the Normans and the Spanish before the Ottoman invaded in during their Jihad to conquer Europe. Remains of forts are still visible and are a living testimonial of the town’s rich history along with Otranto’s cathedral, which still encloses today the relics of martyrs who refused to convert to Islam.
SummaryLa Spezia is sometimes thought of as nothing but a large, industrialized naval port en route to the Cinque Terre and Portovenere, but it does possess some charm, and it gives you a look at a less tourist-focused part of the Riviera. Its palm-lined promenade, fertile citrus parks, renovated Liberty-style palazzos, and colorful balcony-lined streets make parts of La Spezia surprisingly beautiful. Monday through Saturday mornings, you can stroll through the fresh fish, produce, and local-cheese stalls at the outdoor market on Piazza Cavour, and on Friday take part in the busy flea market on Via Garibaldi. There's also Porto Mirabello, a newly built tourist port with a pool club, shops, and several restaurants that overlook the fleet of super-yachts.
SummarySorrento may have become a jumping-off point for visitors to Pompeii, Capri, and Amalfi, but you can find countless reasons to love it for itself. The Sorrentine people are fair-minded and hardworking, bubbling with life and warmth. The tuff cliff on which the town rests is spread over the bay, absorbing sunlight, while orange and lemon trees waft their perfume in spring. Winding along a cliff above a small beach and two harbors, the town is split in two by a narrow ravine formed by a former mountain stream. To the east, dozens of hotels line busy Via Correale along the cliff—many have "grand" included in their names, and some indeed still are. To the west, however, is the historic sector, which still enchants. It's a relatively flat area, with winding, stone-paved lanes bordered by balconied buildings, some joined by medieval stone arches. The central piazza is named after the poet Torquato Tasso, born here in 1544. This part of town is a delightful place to walk through. Craftspeople are often at work in their stalls and shops and are happy to let you watch; in fact, that's the point. Music spots and bars cluster in the side streets near Piazza Tasso.
SummaryLively, commercial Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon. Also called Porto for short, the word easily brings to mind the city's most famous product - port wine. Oporto's strategic location on the north bank of the Douro River has accounted for the town's importance since ancient times. The Romans built a fort here where their trading route crossed the Douro, and the Moors brought their own culture to the area. Oporto profited from provisioning crusaders en route to the Holy Land and enjoyed the riches from Portuguese maritime discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries. Later, port wine trade with Britain compensated for the loss of the spice trade and the end of gold and gem shipments from Brazil. In the 19th century, the city went through a period of new prosperity with the rise of industries. In its wake followed the building of workers' quarters and opulent residences. Since the declaration of Oporto as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the city aims to build up a cultural reference that will provide it with a new image, based on deep historical roots. Among the attractions that make Oporto such an interesting place are its graceful bridges spanning the Douro River, a picturesque riverfront quarter and, most notable, its world-famous port wine lodges. Although Oporto is a bustling centre and home to many different businesses, the source of its greatest fame is the rich, sweet fortified red wine we know as port.
SummarySet on seven hills on the banks of the River Tagus, Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal since the 13th century. It is a city famous for its majestic architecture, old wooden trams, Moorish features and more than twenty centuries of history. Following disastrous earthquakes in the 18th century, Lisbon was rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal who created an elegant city with wide boulevards and a great riverfront and square, Praça do Comércio. Today there are distinct modern and ancient sections, combining great shopping with culture and sightseeing in the Old Town, built on the city's terraced hillsides. The distance between the ship and your tour vehicle may vary. This distance is not included in the excursion grades.
SummaryFormed by a volcanic eruption, Madeira lies in the Gulf Stream, about 500 miles due west of Casablanca. Discovered by Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco in 1419, this beautiful island became part of Portugal’s vast empire and was named for the dense forest which cloaked it - 'Madeira' means 'wood' in Portuguese. Sugar plantations first brought wealth here, and when King Charles II of England granted an exclusive franchise to sell wine to England and its colonies, many British emigrants were drawn to the capital, Funchal. Today’s travellers come to Madeira for the varied and luxuriant scenery, from mountain slopes covered with vines to picturesque villages and a profusion of wild flowers. The natural beauty of the island has earned it many pseudonyms such as ‘The Floating Garden of the Atlantic’, 'The Island of Eternal Springtime' and ‘God’s Botanical Gardens’ and our selection of excursions aim to show you why.
Ponta Delgada, Azores
SummaryOffering solace on the long journey across the Atlantic, Ponta Delgada is the Azores Islands' largest city, and a welcome relief for any weary sailor. Located on an archipelago of Portuguese islands, some 1,100 miles from the mainland, you can explore humbling volcanic scenery, as well as Sao Miguel's verdant landscape - which glows with colour when the hydrangeas that the Azores are known for bloom into life during the summer months. The striking black and white facade of the Church of Sao Jose welcomes you to the city itself, while you can head to the markets to pick up the pineapples, tea leaves and coffee beans that add a little flavour to the island. As the largest city of the Azores, Ponta Delgada is well stocked with places to eat delicious local seafood, or pick up a little shopping, as you enjoy setting your feet on dry land, following a long journey at sea. Volcanic firepower has carved these stunning islands, and a journey up to Caldeira das Sete Cidades is a must do, where you can hike beside the water-filled crater, and admire views of steep green walls, and the uninterrupted Atlantic Ocean stretching beyond them. Lagoa de Fogo offers yet more humbling views, with the crater lake dropping off sharply to rippled ocean far below.
SummaryPortimão is a major fishing port, and significant investment has been poured into transforming it into an attractive cruise port as well. The city itself is spacious and has several good shopping streets—though sadly many of the more traditional retailers have closed in the wake of the global economic crisis. There is also a lovely riverside area that just begs to be strolled (lots of the coastal cruises depart from here). Don’t leave without stopping for an alfresco lunch at the Doca da Sardinha ("sardine dock") between the old bridge and the railway bridge. You can sit at one of many inexpensive establishments, eating charcoal-grilled sardines (a local specialty) accompanied by chewy fresh bread, simple salads, and local wine.
SummaryEver since the Romans constructed a fort here and began using it as a trading post, Oporto has been a prosperous commercial centre. In the 15th and 16th centuries the city benefited from the wealth generated by Portugal’s maritime discoveries, and later, the establishment of a lucrative wine trade with Britain compensated for the loss of the spice trade. Today, Portugal’s second-largest city is a thriving, cosmopolitan place and is famous for its production of the fortified, sweet 'port' wine. Its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city was also awarded the status of European Capital of Culture in 2001. A large sandbar prevents ships from sailing into Oporto itself, so for over a century they have used nearby Leixões instead, a man-made seaport constructed nine miles from the city. Leixões is one of Portugal's major sea ports and is also home to one of the country's oldest football clubs, winners of the Taça de Portugal cup in 1961.
SummaryTagged on to the end of Iberia, the intriguing British outpost of Gibraltar is dominated by a sandy peninsula and the stunning 1,400-feet-high limestone Rock. Although small, Gibraltar has always been seen as having great strategic importance on account of its advantageous position where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean, just 12 miles from the coast of Africa. Ever popular with British holidaymakers, Gibraltar is very much a home from home, boasting excellent duty-free shopping in many familiar British high street shops. Please note: Gibraltar’s small size and narrow winding roads mean that excursions are operated by 22-seater mini-buses, accompanied by a driver/guide. Local health and safety regulations prohibit the carriage of walking aids and collapsible wheelchairs on these vehicles. If you do wish to bring a mobility aid, we can arrange the Rock Tour by taxi, which has extra space. If this suits your requirements, please advise the Tours and Travel office when you join the ship, as numbers are limited.
SummarySince being designated a European Capital of Culture for 2013, with an estimated €660 million of funding in the bargain, Marseille has been in the throes of an extraordinary transformation, with no fewer than five major new arts centers, a beautifully refurbished port, revitalized neighborhoods, and a slew of new shops and restaurants. Once the underdog, this time-burnished city is now welcoming an influx of weekend tourists who have colonized entire neighborhoods and transformed them into elegant pieds-à-terre (or should we say, mer). The second-largest city in France, Marseille is one of Europe's most vibrant destinations. Feisty and fond of broad gestures, it is also as complicated and as cosmopolitan now as it was when a band of Phoenician Greeks first sailed into the harbor that is today's Vieux Port in 600 BC. Legend has it that on that same day a local chieftain's daughter, Gyptis, needed to choose a husband, and her wandering eyes settled on the Greeks' handsome commander Protis. Her dowry brought land near the mouth of the Rhône, where the Greeks founded Massalia, the most important Continental shipping port in antiquity. The port flourished for some 500 years as a typical Greek city, enjoying the full flush of classical culture, its gods, its democratic political system, its sports and theater, and its naval prowess. Caesar changed all that, besieging the city in 49 BC and seizing most of its colonies. In 1214 Marseille was seized again, this time by Charles d'Anjou, and was later annexed to France by Henri IV in 1481, but it was not until Louis XIV took the throne that the biggest transformations of the port began; he pulled down the city walls in 1666 and expanded the port to the Rive Neuve (New Riverbank). The city was devastated by plague in 1720, losing more than half its population. By the time of the Revolution, Marseille was on the rebound once again, with industries of soap manufacturing and oil processing flourishing, encouraging a wave of immigration from Provence and Italy. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Marseille became the greatest boomtown in 19th-century Europe. With a large influx of immigrants from areas as exotic as Tangiers, the city quickly acquired the multicultural population it maintains to this day.
SummaryOn one of the best stretches of the Mediterranean, this classic luxury destination is one of the most sought-after addresses in the world. With all the high-rise towers you have to look hard to find the Belle Époque grace of yesteryear. But if you head to the town's great 1864 landmark Hôtel de Paris—still a veritable crossroads of the buffed and befurred Euro-gentry—or enjoy a grand bouffe at its famous Louis XV restaurant, or attend the opera, or visit the ballrooms of the casino, you may still be able to conjure up Monaco's elegant past. Prince Albert II, a political science graduate from Amherst College, traces his ancestry to Otto Canella, who was born in 1070. The Grimaldi dynasty began with Otto's great-great-great-grandson, Francesco Grimaldi, also known as Frank the Rogue. Expelled from Genoa, Frank and his cronies disguised themselves as monks and in 1297 seized the fortified medieval town known today as Le Rocher (the Rock). Except for a short break under Napoléon, the Grimaldis have been here ever since, which makes them the oldest reigning family in Europe. In the 1850s a Grimaldi named Charles III made a decision that turned the Rock into a giant blue chip. Needing revenue but not wanting to impose additional taxes on his subjects, he contracted with a company to open a gambling facility. The first spin of the roulette wheel was on December 14, 1856. There was no easy way to reach Monaco then—no carriage roads or railroads—so no one came. Between March 15 and March 20, 1857, one person entered the casino—and won two francs. In 1868, however, the railroad reached Monaco, and it was filled with Englishmen who came to escape the London fog. The effects were immediate. Profits were so great that Charles eventually abolished all direct taxes. Almost overnight, a threadbare principality became an elegant watering hole for European society. Dukes (and their mistresses) and duchesses (and their gigolos) danced and dined their way through a world of spinning roulette wheels and bubbling champagne—preening themselves for nights at the opera, where such artists as Vaslav Nijinsky, Sarah Bernhardt, and Enrico Caruso came to perform. Along with the tax system, its sensational position on a broad, steep peninsula that bulges into the Mediterranean—its harbor sparkling with luxury cruisers, its posh mansions angling awnings toward the nearly perpetual sun—continues to draw the rich and famous. One of the latest French celebrities to declare himself "Monégasque," thus giving up his French passport, is superchef Alain Ducasse, who said that he made the choice out of affection for Monaco rather than tax reasons. Pleasure boats vie with luxury cruisers in their brash beauty and Titanic scale, and teams of handsome young men—themselves dyed blond and tanned to match—scour and polish every gleaming surface. As you might expect, all this glitz doesn't come cheap. Eating is expensive, and even the most modest hotels cost more here than in nearby Nice or Menton. As for taxis, they don't even have meters so you are completely at the driver's mercy (with prices skyrocketing during events such as the Grand Prix). For the frugal, Monaco is the ultimate day-trip, although parking is as coveted as a room with a view. At the very least you can afford a coffee at Starbucks. The harbor district, known as La Condamine, connects the new quarter, officially known as Monte Carlo with Monaco-Ville (or Le Rocher), a medieval town on the Rock, topped by the palace, the cathedral, and the Oceanography Museum. Have no fear that you'll need to climb countless steps to get to Monaco-Ville, as there are plenty of elevators and escalators climbing the steep cliffs. But shuttling between the lovely casino grounds of Monte Carlo and Old Monaco, separated by a vast port, is a daunting proposition for ordinary mortals without wings, so hop on the No. 1 bus from Saint Roman, or No. 2 from the Jardin Exotique - Both stop at Place du Casino and come up to Monaco Ville.
SummaryThe 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.
SummaryMalta'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.
SummaryMalta is situated approximately 58 miles (about 93 kilometres) south of Sicily, and approximately 179 miles (about 288 kilometres) north of Africa. The Maltese Archipelago lies at the centre of the Mediterranean. Gozo, the ‘Isle of Calypso’, is a unique island that forms a part of the Maltese Archipelago, and is famous for its mythical legends, folklore and crafts. Some parts of Gozo are still undiscovered and unspoilt. The southern part of the island facing Malta is low-lying, but it rises near the coast and forms the vertical cliffs of Ta’ Cenc that jut out like a bastion into the sea. Several narrow valleys cut through and dissect the plateau; the best-known being Xlendi.
SummaryNothing can prepare you for your first sight of Dubrovnik. Lying 216 km (135 miles) southeast of Split and commanding a jaw-dropping coastal location, it is one of the world's most beautiful fortified cities. Its massive stone ramparts and fortress towers curve around a tiny harbor, enclosing graduated ridges of sun-bleached orange-tiled roofs, copper domes, and elegant bell towers. Your imagination will run wild picturing what it looked like seven centuries ago when the walls were built, without any suburbs or highways around it, just this magnificent stone city rising out of the sea.In the 7th century AD, residents of the Roman city Epidaurum (now Cavtat) fled the Avars and Slavs of the north and founded a new settlement on a small rocky island, which they named Laus, and later Ragusa. On the mainland hillside opposite the island, the Slav settlement called Dubrovnik grew up. In the 12th century the narrow channel separating the two settlements was filled in (now the main street through the Old Town, called Stradun), and Ragusa and Dubrovnik became one. The city was surrounded by defensive walls during the 13th century, and these were reinforced with towers and bastions in the late 15th century.From 1358 to 1808 the city thrived as a powerful and remarkably sophisticated independent republic, reaching its golden age during the 16th century. In 1667 many of its splendid Gothic and Renaissance buildings were destroyed by an earthquake. The defensive walls survived the disaster, and the city was rebuilt in baroque style.Dubrovnik lost its independence to Napoléon in 1808, and in 1815 passed to Austria-Hungary. During the 20th century, as part of Yugoslavia, the city became a popular tourist destination, and in 1979 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the war for independence, it came under heavy siege. Thanks to careful restoration, few traces of damage remain; however, there are maps inside the Pile and Ploče Gates illustrating the points around the city where damage was done. It’s only when you experience Dubrovnik yourself that you can understand what a treasure the world nearly lost
SummarySplit's ancient core is so spectacular and unusual that a visit is more than worth your time. The heart of the city lies within the walls of Roman emperor Diocletian's retirement palace, which was built in the 3rd century AD. Diocletian, born in the nearby Roman settlement of Salona in AD 245, achieved a brilliant career as a soldier and became emperor at the age of 40. In 295 he ordered this vast palace to be built in his native Dalmatia, and when it was completed he stepped down from the throne and retired to his beloved homeland. Upon his death, he was laid to rest in an octagonal mausoleum, around which Split's magnificent cathedral was built.In 615, when Salona was sacked by barbarian tribes, those fortunate enough to escape found refuge within the stout palace walls and divided up the vast imperial apartments into more modest living quarters. Thus, the palace developed into an urban center, and by the 11th century the settlement had expanded beyond the ancient walls.Under the rule of Venice (1420–1797), Split—as a gateway to the Balkan interior—became one of the Adriatic's main trading ports, and the city's splendid Renaissance palaces bear witness to the affluence of those times. When the Habsburgs took control during the 19th century, an overland connection to Central Europe was established by the construction of the Split–Zagreb–Vienna railway line.After World War II, the Tito years saw a period of rapid urban expansion: industrialization accelerated and the suburbs extended to accommodate high-rise apartment blocks. Today the historic center of Split is included on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.
Osijek is located on the River Drava, where the lovely boardwalk spans for several miles along the riverside. It also offers many outdoor pursuits. Cycling is popular along the riverside, while nearby Kopacki Rit national park is nearby and great for hiking. Osijek Zoo has 80 species of animals that roam freely in a safari-like set up.
Osijek is the gastronomic capital of the Slavonia Baraja region of Croatia, famous for its slow cooked stews, meats and game. Fruit and vagetables with heavily paprika-spiced meats and popular Slavonia flavours.
Croatian wine varietals of babic white wine, and malvazija red wine is grown in the region and recommended for wine lovers.