It’s 85 years to the day since American cartoonist EC Segar’s most memorable character, Popeye, made his first ever appearance. What the fictional animated seafarer would make of today’s cruise ships is anyone’s guess but with a new Hollywood CGI production in the can, interest in Popeye is clearly as plentiful as the sailor’s stash of spinach. This won’t be Popeye’s debut big screen outing though, as back in 1980, a live-action feature was released, with Robin Williams in the title role. A purpose-built village was created on Malta during the film’s production and the good news for Popeye fans and those who enjoy Malta cruises, is that it’s still there and open to the public. Here’s a closer look at it and some of the other fantastic destinations you can visit on Malta cruises.
Arriving in Valletta on Malta cruises
As this is the place where all vessels on Malta cruises dock, it’s a natural place to start. Valletta is Malta’s capital and its maritime heart and indeed, the view of its historic harbour as you arrive by cruise ship is truly something special. Once docked, it’s a must to explore the waterfront area, where hundreds of years of history await. In short, this is one of Europe’sfinest harbours. If you’re spending a little more time on the waterfront, be sure to explore the Barrakka Gardens, which offer both leafy shade and some spectacular views of the coast. In the city itself, the star attraction is the breathtaking St John’s Cathedral. Brimming with Baroque art, it boasts some beautiful interiors, including its famous marble floor, as well as some famous works by Caravaggio.
Touring Mdina on Malta cruises
This medieval walled city sits atop a hill and was Malta’s capital before Valletta. Conveniently compact, it doesn’t take too long to explore and its atmospheric, narrow streets are brimming with history. Because of the influence of both the Knights of Malta and the Ottoman Empire throughout the centuries, the Silent City as it is known, offers an eye-catching mix of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern architecture. A stroll through the streets is an attraction enough, but don’t miss Mdina Cathedral and the Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum if you have a little more time to spend in the city. The view from high up on the city’s outer wall is pretty special, too.
Exploring Rabat on Malta cruises
Just outside the walls of Mdina lies Rabat. They’re both in walking distance of each other so those on cruises to Malta taking an excursion to one will have plenty of time to explore the other. At first glance, there’s little to this unassuming village, especially after you’ve witnessed the beautiful architecture of Mdina. However, Rabat’s home to some intriguing attractions, including St Paul’s Catacombs, which are a must-see if you’re there. This maze-like series of burial chambers is big on the atmosphere, though if you’re not a fan of tombs and the like, you’ll at least find some cooling respite here from Malta’s often unforgiving sun. Casa Bernard is also worth a look – a 16th century house-turned museum which houses all manner of furniture and jewellery.
Unearthing the Tarxien Temples on Malta cruises
I’ve talked a lot about historic things in this blog on Malta cruises so far but with the Tarxien Temples, I’ve come to the real granddaddy. This captivating collection of temple ruins date back to 3,000BC and is a must for all would-be archaeologists or indeed, anyone who wants to experience something truly atmospheric and ancient. Some of the oldest structures on Earth, they date back to Megalithic times and when you consider that they’re 5,500 years old, it’s remarkable to see how intact many of the temple structures still are.
A trip to Popeye Village on Malta cruises
At last, after all that history it’s time to pay a visit to Popeye’s home, Sweethaven Village. Also known as Popeye Village, this is the aforementioned set built for the 1980 movie, which lies close to the village of Mellieha. Long after the cameras stopped rolling, the village continued to live on as a quirky, somewhat ramshackle, tourist attraction and if you’re visiting with the kids, it’s a must. You can explore many of the shacks and huts which were used in filming, including Popeye’s house and there’s a dedicated children’s play area too. You can also have fun taking part in the mini films staged by Popeye character actors, take a boat-ride around the very picturesque Anchor Bay or enjoy some relaxation on one of the sun loungers.
By Simon Brotherton