Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Best Ports to Visit on a Mediterranean Cruise with P&O Cruises

guest post by Gills Cruise

Europe is steeped in thousands of years of history, with countless historical sites and iconic buildings at every port. On a cruise around the Mediterranean, you have a choice of so many picturesque ports that it’s difficult to know what itinerary to choose.

Whether you want to explore Europe’s ancient ruins, buy yourself something nice in one of the boutique shops, dine on healthy Mediterranean cuisine or top up your tan on Europe’s sun-drenched beaches, there’s something for everyone on a Mediterranean cruise. Summer is the peak time for people to go on Mediterranean cruises, for obvious reasons. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and you can see the sights without fear of it raining. However there are also year-round cruises for people who prefer to visit Europe minus the intense heat and hordes of tourists.

From smaller ships to big luxury liners, there are a wide variety of cruise ships to choose from. You have the choice of cruising directly from Southampton in the UK with companies like P and O Cruises and Royal Caribbean, or you can fly to meet your ship in one of the major ports like Barcelona, Palma or Venice. Cruises tend to be divided into Eastern and Western Mediterranean; Eastern cruises visit places like Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt, whilst Western cruises travel around Spain, France and Italy. If you’re planning to go on a Mediterranean cruise, these are some of the top ports to stop at on your voyage around the Med.

Haifa- In past years cruise liners avoided Israel due to safety concerns, but this year Israel is back on the map. Several cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Windstar, Norwegian Cruise Line, Azamers Club Cruises, Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises, will have stops in Israel this summer. If you stop in Haifa you can visit Nazareth and Galilee, and if you dock in Ashdod you can go to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Venice- One of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice is a popular place for people to board their cruise, with plenty of things to see and do if you want to stay a few days. Go for a ride on a gondola down the canals, take in the atmosphere at St. Mark’s Basilica and experience the shopping and fine dining at Rialto Bridge. Venice is a series of small, connected islands so there are no cars. Getting around Venice involves taking the Vaporatto or a water taxi.

Santorini- Santorini in the Greek Islands is a romantic, beautiful island with a dramatic volcanic landscape, incredible ocean views, and whitewashed buildings with blue dome-shaped roofs. Everywhere you turn on Santorini you are presented with a perfect photo opportunity. Sunbathe on one of the black sand beaches, ride quad bikes around the island and view the orange and pink hues of the sunset from the cliffs of Oia.

Rome- Rome in Italy is literally an outdoor museum, full of iconic ancient sites. Visit the Vatican where the Pope resides, throw money in the Trevi Fountain, and imagine you’re in The Gladiator as you gaze in awe at the Colosseum. The food in Italy is to die for, so you can spend your days eating pasta, pizza and gelado.

Lisbon- Whilst many cities are rather flat, Portugal’s capital is a pretty city built on a series of hills, so you’ll be doing plenty of walking uphill. Take a ride on a historic tram, sit and have coffee in Rossio Square, do some shopping on Rua Augusta and walk through the grand Triumphal Arch to the huge square, Praca de Comercio. Walk up the hill to the Biarro Alto district where there are trendy bars, cafés, old clothing stores, bookshops and artisans workshops. Climb up the hill to Castelo St. George and enjoy the panoramic views of Lisbon and the ocean.

Istanbul- Lying on the crossroads between the continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a place where East meets West. Istanbul was Europe’s capital of culture in 2010 and has a rich and colorful history, so there are plenty of historical sites to feast your eyes on. Visit the ancient city of Troy where Achilles fought the Trojans, or wander the Anzac fields of Gallipoli. Take a photo of the two most famous landmarks in Istanbul; the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. Barter for souvenirs in the Grand Bazaar with over 4,000 merchants, savour the Ottoman cuisine, and dance the night away in one of the best party cities in the world.

Dubrovnik- Walking tours will take you around Dubrovnik’s walls to explore the Pearl of the Adriatic. Whilst few of Croatia’s Renaissance buildings survived the 1667 earthquake, you can still see Sponza Palace, St. Saviour’s Church and St. Blaise’s Church. Take a stroll down the main pedestrian walkway, Placa, which is lined with cafes and shops, and explore Dubrovnik’s churches, monasteries and museums.

Barcelona- A favourite pastime in Barcelona is strolling down Las Ramblas Boulevard, with its shops and street artists. Many of the big ships dock quite close to Las Ramblas and offer a shuttle service to this pedestrian area. See famous works of art such as the Picasso Museum and Gaudi’s unfinished but beautiful Sagrada Familia. Wander around the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, with its galleries and stunning architecture.

Naples- Naples is close to the ruins of Pompeii as well as the volcano of Mount Vesuvius, which erupted and destroyed most of Pompeii. Naples is also home to the largest collection of artifacts from the Roman Empire, which can be found in the National Archeology Museum. From Naples you are also within easy reach of the glamorous island of Capri.

Athens- As the oldest city in Europe, Athens is a favourite stop on Mediterranean cruises and is a must-see for history buffs wanting to discover the ruins of ancient civilizations. The highlight is the Acropolis, which sits up high overlooking the city and the bustling streets below. Athens is also the home of the Olympics, and has undergone urban renewal since it hosted the Olympics in 2004.

Monte Carlo- Full of glitz, glamour, sports cars and celebrities, Monte Carlo on the French Riviera is as glamorous it gets. This wealthy city is famous for the legendary Casino Royale, Grace Kelly, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Prince’s Palace. Take a look around the Palace, sip on a cup of coffee at Café du Paris, stroll around the harbour with its luxury yachts, and take a peek inside the Casino, even if you can’t afford to gamble.

Photo Credits: ship, Haifa


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