A Western Mediterranean cruise positively sparkles with possibilities. The buzz of bustling Barcelona. The glamour of the Côte D’Azur. The fountains and frescos of Rome. Arts and culture. Surf and sand. Café hopping and boutique shopping. A Western Mediterranean cruise offers a perfect blend of the very best sights, attractions and activities, there really is so much to see and do on a Med cruise.
In fact, with our Western Mediterranean cruises, you’ll find one magical moment after another. Let the scenery and sights unfold and you’ll find culture-rich cities extending before you day after day. The cuisine is varied, ranging from enticingly rustic to contemporary and sophisticated. Rolling countryside is often just a step away. If the buzz of the city draws you, shopping opportunities range from chic boutiques to lovely local markets laden with fresh produce. A more diverse holiday is hard to come by. Plus, with all Western Mediterranean cruises sailing from and returning to Southampton, travelling to this unforgettable area couldn’t be more relaxing.
|AjaccioShow more||Corsica |
Napoleon was born here and, if you did not know that before, it would only take a few minutes after cruising into Ajaccio to cotton on as ‘Boneys’ name and likeness is everywhere.
The main shopping street is called Cours Napoleon and the wide tree-lined boulevards, parks and large squares in this newer part of town feature many statues of the great man, notably in the main square (ironically called General de Gaulle). The Old Town between the port and the imposing citadel on the cliff above boasts Napoleons House and the cathedral where he was baptised
The main marketplace is right by the port and here you'll find lots of local craft goods and endless Napoleonic souvenirs. Nestling in the Bay of Ajaccio, halfway down the islands west coast, Ajaccio is an excellent base from which to explore Corsica and discover why it is called the ‘Scented Isle’ (because of the sweet aromas from the mountainside maquis vegetation).View typical shore excursions for this port
For once, the old town (Le Suquet) is not the first place to head for even though it is conveniently right behind the port area with the brand new Cannes cruise terminal complex.
Le Suquet boasts a medieval church and castle and narrow streets full of interesting shops and cafés but everyone really wants to stroll first along Boulevard de la Croisette. Everything that has made Cannes a haunt of the rich and famous is here: deluxe hotels, smart casinos, stylish boutiques, trendy art galleries and marinas packed with lavishly out-fitted mega-yachts.
For the ultimate in people-watching, visit the Observatory of Super-Cannes which has lifts up to viewing platforms overlooking La Croisette and the rest of the resort. Nice, Monte Carlo, Antibes, Juan les Pins, St Tropez and the medieval villages of Eze and St Paul-de-Vence are also nearby.View typical shore excursions for this port
|St. RaphaelShow more||France|
About St. Raphael
One of the most exclusive of all the ritzy French Riviera resorts, St Raphael has a smart beach and even smarter shops and restaurants along its promenade below the 1,500ft Massif de l’Esterel. It also has an unusual museum of underwater archaeology but, for historical sightseeing, nearby Frejus is more rewarding.
In fact, so close have they spread that it is difficult to see where St Raphael ends and Frejus starts except that the best Roman ruins – an amphitheatre, aqueduct, and smaller theatre – are in its upper, older quarter (Frejus Ville) a mile from the seafront (Frejus Plage), also in Frejus Ville is a 12th century Gothic cathedral built on the site of a Roman temple and next to a 5th century Baptistry. It also has its own excellent – if more conventional – archaeological museum.
The famous Corniche runs along above St Raphael and the swish French Riviera resorts (St Tropez, Nice, Cannes, Antibes) aren’t very far away.View typical shore excursions for this port
|St. TropezShow more||France|
About St. Tropez
When Roger Vadim made ‘And God Created Woman’ in 1956, it turned both Brigitte Bardot and St Tropez into movie stars. Quite a change for a town which was once a place of Christian pilgrimage.
The first thing youll see when you arrive is the line-up of expensive mega-yachts double-parked in both old and new harbours. Right behind is the old town, with its jumble of narrow streets crowded with designer boutiques, cafés and restaurants.
It is not pedestrianised but you are still better off on foot as the centre is quite small and that way you will not miss out on the buzz in the streets. Look out for the museum of art (Musee de lAnnonciade) where you can see originals by Matisse, one of the first wave of literati to make St Tropez cool.View typical shore excursions for this port
Better known as Frances main naval base than as a cruise port, Toulon has unexpected charm and is all the better for not being a major tourist destination as you can wander through the cobbled streets of its delightful old town untroubled by crowds.
Look out for the superb maritime and art museums, the magnificent Romanesque cathedral and Le Marche, where fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables are bought to market every day. Ship buffs also have the bonus of watching the comings and goings of the French warships around the harbour. The best view of the old town and the harbour is from Mont Faron which overlooks both - take the funicular up from Boulevard LAmiral Vence.
There are some excellent beaches a short drive along the coast or head for the beautiful and often dramatic Provencal countryside or to the French Riviera resorts.View typical shore excursions for this port
The steeply terraced streets of this pretty centuries-old fishing village set against a densely wooded backdrop create a delightfully timeless picture. Despite its increasing popularity with tourists, Villefranche remains a small, relatively uncrowded resort with plenty of Gallic charm.
The centre is just behind Villefranche cruise terminal, across the road and up a series of steps. Along a maze of narrow cobbled streets, you will find chic boutiques and a choice of both cheap and expensive cafés and restaurants. Alternatively, walk along the seafront to a long narrow beach which curls around the bay. Up some steps is the way to the neighbouring, almost Victorian-style resort of Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
Villefranche is a convenient base from which to explore the French Riviera and Cote dAzur and the medieval villages of Eze and St Paul-de-Vence.View typical shore excursions for this port
|Monte CarloShow more||France|
About Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo is famous for the four ‘G’s’: the Grimaldi monarchy as well as its Grand Prix, Glamour and Gambling. The famous Grand Casino is only one of several but, if you are feeling lucky, note that it operates a strict dress code and requires all players to show passports.
The first thing you notice when you arrive is how pristine the mega-yachts look in the harbour. This only fuels the suspicion that their owners - rather than risk going to sea - actually prefer to tie-up permanently at one of the worlds most fashionable addresses.
Monacos three main districts are all walkable from the harbour: Monaco Ville (the intriguing old town), La Condamine (business centre), and Monte Carlo (the glitzy new town). Grimaldi Prince Rainier III put Monaco on the map by marrying film star Grace Kelly in 1955 and he is now buried alongside Princess Grace in St Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco Ville.View typical shore excursions for this port
Britons love cruising to ‘home from home’ Mediterranean cruise port Gibraltar – and not just because it has some excellent pubs and tax free shops (good buys include glassware, china, leather goods, alcohol, perfume, silk and cashmere garments).
Gibraltar also offers wonderful views of Algeciras Bay and the Moroccan mountains from the Rock Restaurant, served by cable car from the Grand Parade.
Birdwatchers can spot more than 230 species and there are clearly marked nature trails you can follow to discover the country’s flora and fauna.
The most famous ‘fauna’ of course, are Gibraltar’s Barbary apes - get off the cable car at the halfway station to see these, then proceed to the top and hire an audio tape charting the Rock’s fascinating history.
Alternatively spend a day at the beach - Catalan Bay is the prettiest, with its colourful fishing boats and excellent seafood restaurants.View typical shore excursions for this port
About Florence / Pisa
Founded in the 16th century by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany - the Medici Family, Livorno remains a busy port and town. Its centre, which is walkable from the port, has some pretty bars, cafés and chic shops but most of Livornos cruise visitors head straight for Pisa, Florence, or the Tuscan towns of Lucca and Siena.
You may be surprised to find that the recently restored Leaning Tower is just one of many towers in Pisa and happy to find that elegant Florence is compact enough to be walkable. With the Arno river running through it, you should be able to keep your bearings fairly easily as you visit the Uffizi Gallery and cross the gold and silver merchants-lined Ponte Vecchio on your way round the many attractions of this startlingly beautiful Renaissance city.View typical shore excursions for this port
Genoa is a real Italian gem. A marvellously eclectic city, it has a secret beauty that can be found in its daring architecture, traces of splendid frescoes and imposing, noble palaces. Here you can see the house where Christopher Columbus was allegedly born and sample some of its delicious pesto, which originated from this region.
Explore the labyrinth of narrow alleyways of the old city, which are filled with shops, and restaurants. In the centre you will come to the Piazza de Ferrari, around which is sited the Opera and the Palace of the Doges. Some of the other main sights here include the beautiful black and white striped S.Stefano Abbey and St. Lawrence Cathedral, with its bare medieval style.
One of the most charming areas of Genoa is the district of Via Garibaldi. Dating from the mid 16th century, it was designed to accomodate Mannerist palaces of the citys most eminent families, including Palazzo Rosso, which is now a museum.View typical shore excursions for this port
Cruising into the Bay of Naples is a memorable experience. The Naples port is overlooked by the imposing Sant Elmo medieval castle, high up on Vemero Hill, as well as the 13th century Castel Nuovo, which is right next to the Naples cruise terminal in the heart of the city.
Within a short walk, to the left of the terminal, are three of Naples best-known landmarks: Castel Nuovo, the 17th century Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale), and the elaborate 18th century San Carlo Opera House. To reach Naples’ fascinating old town, go straight past Castel Nuovo and then over the Piazza Municipio.
The citys archaeological museum majors on Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two extraordinary sites that draw most first-time visitors to Naples. The city is also a convenient base for tours to the nearby swish cliff-top resort of Sorrento and the even swishier island of Capri.View typical shore excursions for this port
The delightful seaside town of Portofino is a favourite Italian Riviera hangout of the rich and famous, whose mega-yachts jostle in its pretty harbour while their occupants shop for the latest Cartier and Hermes trinkets ashore.
For lesser mortals, there are cheerful pizzerias and craft shops in the streets around the waterfront – and you are guaranteed a stylish cup of coffee at one of the swish harbourside restaurants, even if your budget does not stretch to a big meal.
To experience a real touch of class, it is worth puffing your way up through exquisite tiered gardens to the Hotel Splendido - a former Benedictine monastery perched right above the harbour – which lives up to its name and is a spectacular setting for afternoon tea.
Alternatively, stay at sea level and catch a boat across to the sandy beach at Santa Margherita, or to Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, a beachfront monastery containing exhibits of 13th and 14th century pottery.View typical shore excursions for this port
Standing in the Colosseum, visiting Vatican City and tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain are all unique experiences of a lifetime to be had in the Eternal City of Rome, reached from your Italian cruise port Civitavecchia.
Rome’s breathtaking monuments, palaces, churches and classical features are quite unlike anything you will find in any other European city. They will always leave you wanting to come back for more – hence the coin-tossing, which is said to guarantee your return.
The city’s other must-sees include the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon (probably the most complete ancient Roman building in the city) and the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
While steeped in history, Rome is also a modern, bustling city with modern designer shops and chic boutiques at every turn. Reasonably priced department stores selling all the latest fashions can be found in the many pedestrianised shopping streets, while restaurants and cafés spill out onto piazzas offering authentic Italian dishes and sensational ice cream.View typical shore excursions for this port
Perched on top of a craggy cliff along Italys Amalfi Coast, Sorrento presents a dramatic face to visitors from the sea but once you reach the centre - either by foot or, less strenuously, by minibus from the Sorrentos cruise tender dock (Marina Piccola) - it is a different story.
This is a charming resort town which really knows how to welcome tourists. Service always comes with a smile in the shops, cafés and restaurants around its pretty piazzas and you will also discover some fascinating buildings including a 15th century cathedral and the 14th century Correale Palace. Jewellery stores galore and plenty of designer labels in fancy boutiques make this an exciting place for shopaholics, too.
The main attractions of this region are the extraordinary sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the frenetic city of Naples and the swish island of Capri.
View typical shore excursions for this port
Standing proud at the port of Savona is the 14th century tower La Torretta, but explore further ashore and you'll find Piazza Mameli with its impressive Rintocchi e Memorie monument (built to commemorate the soldiers who died during the First World War) and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption - built between 1589 and 1605. In the middle of the old town is Piazza del Brandale where you'll find the palace from which Aldermen governed the town. The palace houses paintings, sculptures and frescoes. Just outside Savona is the medieval area, home to the impressive fortress of Priamar.View typical shore excursions for this port
Dominated by its iconic Gothic cathedral, the Majorcan capital and cruise port Palma has been transformed in recent years into one of the most sophisticated hotspots of the Mediterranean. Fine shops rub shoulders with authentic Balearic restaurants and tapas bars in this easy to navigate city.
From the harbour filled with expensive yachts, wander up to the magnificent cathedral and stand in awe when you realise it took 500 years to complete. Spreading out around this ancient structure with its impressive views is a collection of side streets and alleys which give a sense of the city’s cultural past and Moorish influences.
Walking from the old town you reach the thoroughfare of Passeig d’es Born with its many cafés where you can sample freshly baked spiral pastries called ensaimadas, a local speciality. It is also well worth exploring the unusual circular Castell de Bellver, overlooking the bay to the west.View typical shore excursions for this port
Easily the prettiest and most interesting of the ports along Sardinias northern coast, Alghero looks as much Spanish - or rather Catalan - as it does Italian. This all dates way back to when the town was taken over by travelling merchants from Barcelona.
Local food and language still has strong Catalan elements and the historic Catalan Church of San Francesco, with its ceramic dome and Gothic belltower, is one of Algheros major historic sites. Others include the Magdelena fort overlooking the network of narrow cobbled streets at the heart of the atmospheric old town near Alghero cruise port.
Through beautiful countryside full of olive groves, you can visit local vineyards. Alternatively, head for the Capo Caccio headland, which affords superb views of the rugged coastline. Further on is the intriguing prehistoric site of Nuraghe Palmavera with its 50 circular stone cottage-like constructions.
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An earthquake in 1908 flattened much of the original town, but the Sicilian cruise port Messina bounced back and it has since enhanced one of its major surviving attractions - the Duomo, a 12th century Norman church built by the unusually-named Count Roger II - with the installation of an astronomical clock in the bell tower. Made in Strasbourg in 1933, the clock face shows the planetary system representing the days of the week and the age of man.
There are more Norman churches, several beautiful medieval fountains and a fascinating museum to see and visit in the town centre before you head for the areas main attractions: Mount Etna or the magnificent hill-top town of Taormina, overlooking the Bay of Giardini, which has one of the largest Greco-Roman theatres in the world and is full of fascinating nooks and crannies, arty stores, and tasty cafes and restaurants.View typical shore excursions for this port
The Catalonian capital of Barcelona provides a vivid mix of ancient and modern but is probably best know for the bizarre Art Nouveau architecture of Antonio Gaudi, in particular the iconic Sagrada Familia, Europe’s most extraordinary – and still unfinished – cathedral.
Boosted by hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona’s Old Port area has been transformed into a thriving area of cafés and restaurants. From there, it is an easy stroll up the famous Rambla to the old town. Las Ramblas is thronged with street entertainers, stalls and bars and is most lively at night and weekends. Not to be missed is the La Boqueria food market with its extraordinary displays of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables.
Some of the best food in Spain can be found in the city – paella is a speciality – and the restaurant Cal Pep was recently named as one of the top 50 places to eat in the world.View typical shore excursions for this port
Built around a natural harbour, the main city and cruise port on Spain’s Costa Blanca, Alicante, is also a top beach resort in its own right. It has a sophisticated Mediterranean feel with its restored old town adding to its charm and the attraction of its sandy beaches. Dubbed the ‘City of Light’ when founded by the Romans, Alicante is still a relaxing place to walk around.
Down from the impressive Castillo de Santa Barbara fortress, which offers impressive views across the city, most activity centres in the streets around the Ayuntamiento, a plaza area buzzing with restaurants and tapas bars. There are also many cafés along the seafront.
Works by artists including Dali, Miro and Picasso are on show at the Museo de Arte Siglo and there is also an archaeological museum.View typical shore excursions for this port
A pretty and largely modern city, Almeria is the capital of the Spanish province bearing the same name. Occupied first by the Phoenicans then the Carthagians, the Romans and the Moors, it has an interesting and diverse history. Situated in the middle of the bay, facing the Mediterranean Sea, the area offers a selection of fine sandy beaches and coves.
Standing atop the mountain, which provides the backdrop to the city, is the Alcazaba or Arab Fortress, built in 995, which commands some magnificent views. The reinforced cathedral, with its unique blend of Renaissance and Gothic architecture, was also once a fortress.
Stroll through St Nicholas Salmeron Park then head up towards the caves in the old gypsy quarter. Alternativley, shop in the charming old town for fine leather and sample local wines and local specialities. Venturing inland you can explore the verdant countryside, still dotted with Moorish remains, from where it was part of the historic kingdom of Granada.View typical shore excursions for this port
You cruise right into the heart of historic Cadiz as immediately across the busy Avenida del Puerto from the Spanish port is the main square and shopping area. From there, it is easy to find your own way around this compact city. Behind is the 18th century cathedral (El Nueva) and the view from the top is worth the long climb up its internal stairs.
The narrow streets of the old town below are lined by tall Moorish-style houses with flower-decked balconies mixed in amongst some small shops and tapas bars. Cadiz dates back to the 12th century BC so is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the western world but sultry Seville has long since outgrown its neighbour.
La Giralda (the bell-tower next to its Gothic cathedral), is in Sevilles historic Jewish quarter which also has the whitewashed houses and exquisitely coloured bougainvillea that everyone associates with this lovely city.View typical shore excursions for this port
An ancient city with a name to match - it was founded more than 2,200 years ago by Carthaginian leader Hasdrubal - Cartagena is now one of Spains busiest commercial centres. Step ashore here, though, and you are immediately aware of its rich history. In fact, you see it even as you cruise towards the harbour as this is flanked by towering fortresses. Then, in the centre of the old town, you will find the original Carthaginian castle and sections of the old city walls.
But Cartagena is also a city which moves with the times hence the new harbourfront development which includes the unique National Museum of Underwater Archaeology. As part of Murcia province, Cartagena cruise port is also an excellent base for visiting the city of Murcia itself and its distinctive Baroque cathedral; the 17th century religious sanctuary of Fuensanta; the Fortress at Lorca Taller del Tiempo; the spa resort of Balneario de Archena; and for touring into the mountainous interior or along the Costa Blanca to Alicante.View typical shore excursions for this port
A gateway to so many Andalucian attractions and Costa del Sol resorts, Spanish cruise port Malaga stands out in its own right as a vibrant destination with its own unique character.
This second city of Andalucia has many Moorish influences, seen at their best in the stunning Alcazaba. Built on the site of a Roman fortress between the 8th and 11th Centuries, the castle’s huge walls and fortified gates ensure a grand entrance. Inside, a restored Roman amphitheatre now acts as an outdoor entertainment centre.
Immediately behind the Alcazaba and rising high above the city with spectacular views, are the ruins of the 14th century Moorish castle, Gibralfaro.
Malaga-born Picasso is recognised with a history of the artist’s life at the city’s fascinating Picasso Foundation.View typical shore excursions for this port
Vibrant Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city is a popular and picturesque resort known for its pavement cafes, parties (Las Fallas) and paella. Amongst art and architecture you can see plazas, palaces, churches and cathedrals, before heading to one of the city’s white sandy beaches to cool off.
The old city is a great place to begin and offers a superb selection of sights and landmarks. Valencia Cathedral displays 3 magnificent portals; one Baroque, one Romanesque and one Gothic. Once inside you can climb the octagonal Miguelete Bell Tower to see sweeping views then from here navigate the narrow streets to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the Museo de Belles Artes or the towers of Torres de Serranos.
In the new town wander wide balmy avenues and simply observe and enjoy the Mediterranean way of life. More recent additions to the city include the aesthectically stunning and ultramodern ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ with its fantastically shaped soaring glass palaces.
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