WHEN you look into a cruise to the Mediterranean, you will have a choice of whether to visit the Western or the Eastern Mediterranean. Each region has its own highlights and both offer surprising differences in terms of culture, cuisine and scenery.
From the buzz of Barcelona to the glamour of the Cote d'Azur, a Western Mediterranean cruise positively sparkles with possibilities, and you can even choose a UK departure, meaning you don't have to fly at all!
The variety of destinations available to visit and the experiences while ashore are mind blowing. 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.
With ships cruising to bustling Barcelona, Palma, Lisbon and Rome, with all its fountains and frescos, to ports on the Spanish coast including Valencia and Malaga, past Gibraltar to Seville. Other popular ports of call include Majorca, the Balearics, Corsica and Madeira.
Perhaps you fancy the glamour of the French Riviera? Cruises explore Cannes and Monte Carlo before continuing for the Italian west coast, where you can disembark for Florence, Rome and Naples. Further west, the volcanic Canary Islands on the North African coast are interesting and sun-drenched ports of call.
If it is fun in the sun you are after, look no further - many cruise itineraries call in such sunshine destinations as the Costa del Sol, Majorca and the Canary Islands, so you can eat and drink to your heart's content on board and relax in the sunshine on deck afterwards - so you have nothing to worry about other than which cocktail to try next or which pool to relax by! Various pre- and post-stays are also available in more culturefilled cities - Rome and Venice are popular destinations in which to relax for a day or two before embarking on your cruise.
IF THE Western Med is about culture and sunshine, the Eastern Mediterranean takes you to a sightseer's paradise where history and scenery are king. Combining beaches, history and scenic splendours, the region is wonderfully accessible from the UK with many cruises sailing from and returning to Southampton. Alternatively, you can choose to fly direct to ports like Venice, Athens and Istanbul.
With so many major cities on the water or near a port, the Eastern Med is a cruiser's dream. Cruises generally operate along the coasts of Italy, Greece and Turkey, and the extraordinary intrigue of this area continues to draw travellers from far and wide. Itineraries include ancient Greece and Turkey, the rugged Croatian coast and Black Sea cruises. You'll have the opportunity to explore myriad Greek islands including Rhodes, Mykonos and idyllic Santorini as well as the ancient sites of Ephesus and Athens. The Croatian coast and Dubrovnik, together with Yalta and Odessa, are also popular ports of call.
One of the notable differences between the Western and Eastern Mediterranean is that this end of the Mediterranean offers a fascinating fusion of cultures. Europe meets Asia right in the middle of the mosques and minarets of Turkey's bustling capital, Istanbul. It is a city of colourful people, crafts and buildings, and it pulses to the sounds of children, hawkers and bazaars. You can choose to stay in Istanbul on a pre- or post-cruise stay - or in Athens or Venice to name but a few. These additional days really enable you to immerse yourself in the different cultures, foods and architecture of these cities before embarking on your cruise.
With such fascinating culture and with so many historical sights on your doorstep, the Eastern Mediterranean is surely the perfect destination for ashore excursion or a land tour, and whether you're in the port for a few hours or a few days, there are many adventures available for you to experience. …