03 Apr 2024
Few regions of the world are as rich in culture, art and antiquity as the Mediterranean, the centre of European history for thousands of years. A Mediterranean cruise takes in the sights, sounds and flavours of this proud region, with extraordinary diversity packed into a very small area. Combining the best that Europe has to offer in art and architecture with spectacular natural beauty, a cruise will leave you not only relaxed, but awestruck and inspired.
Because there is so much to see and absorb, most cruises focus on either the Eastern or the Western Mediterranean. The Eastern side generally includes the Greek Islands, the Adriatic coasts of Italy and Croatia, the west coast of Turkey, and sometimes Cyprus and the Holy Land, and many cruises even concentrate on just one area, such as the Greek Islands, the Adriatic or the Aegean. Some longer cruises, of around 21 nights, offer a wide variety of experiences, whereas others, usually around 7-10 nights, will focus either on history and culture, visiting places like Athens and Venice, often with lecturers, or on fun and sun, especially in Greek islands like Cyprus, Corfu and Mykonos.
The Western Mediterranean is one of the richest in the world for attractions, sights and activities. Cruises generally concentrate on ports of call in France, Spain and Italy, some also including Monte Carlo, Malta and Portugal. The majority are between 7 and 12 nights, and leave from major ports like Marseilles, Barcelona and Rome -- many also leave from UK ports, including Dover, Harwich and Southampton, but bear in mind that this involves crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay.
The traditional times for Mediterranean cruises have been spring, summer and autumn, though recently winter cruises have been growing increasingly popular, as the weather is sunny and mild, and there are fewer crowds. Many people prefer to avoid the high summer, not just because the heat is so intense, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also because many facilities in Europe close down during the August holiday -- although the best children's provision is mid-June to mid-August. Spring and autumn are usually the most pleasant times, combining good weather with less crowded conditions.
Very few areas in the world are more ideal for cruising than the Mediterranean, with its immense variety of delights so close together, and new surprises not just every day, but almost every hour. You will certainly not see everything, and many places demand a longer stay, for a full appreciation of their richness. But a cruise gives you the quintessence of the area's delights, as nothing else ever can.