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Cruises in The Eastern Mediterranean

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Cruise the Western Mediterranean

In 2008, the popularity of cruise holidays reached an all time high amongst European holidaymakers, and the Mediterranean and Atlantic Islands remained at the top of their list of favourite cruise destinations. It’s easy to see why. Firstly, it’s very accessible for many European passengers, including those from the UK who make up around a third of the European cruise market. Then there’s the fact that the Mediterranean offers a fantastic blend of sights and scenery, an enviable climate for much of the year, culture-packed cities, gorgeous coastlines, historical monuments, elegant architecture and a relaxed lifestyle…I could go on.

Most itineraries aim to offer a blend of history, culture and beaches, and some of the most popular destinations include Spain (particularly Barcelona), Portugal (often Lisbon), Italy (various ports), Gibraltar, Monaco and France (usually ports on the Riviera). Mediterranean cruises often include more ports of call than many others cruise destinations, because there are so many different countries en route, each offering diverse experiences.

Spain’s top port of call is the fun-loving city of Barcelona, which has more sights and Gaudi architecture than most itineraries allow time for – and bags of atmosphere to go with it. The capital city of Lisbon is Portugal’s top cruise spot, being on the coast and offering a good blend of historical and modern sights.

In Italy, there are several cities accessible enough from the coast to be visited on a cruise, including romantic Venice, chaotic Naples, Florence with its Renaissance architecture and art, and Rome with its many historical monuments. The pretty fishing town of Portofino is another favourite Italian port of call, widely regarded as one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful ports.

In France, resorts along the fashionable French Riviera are favourite ports of call, including St Tropez and Cannes – while some cruises visit the island of Corsica.

Choosing a cruise

Mediterranean cruises seem to appeal to families more than other cruise destinations – so if you don’t want to be amongst children and teenagers, choose your cruise wisely. Descriptions of the vessel and its facilities, as well as online reviews from passengers, will give you a good idea of the kind of clientele the cruise attracts.

On top of that, there are a lot of different Mediterranean cruises to choose from, many with very competitive prices – so the easiest way to start narrowing down your choices is to decide which destinations are a must for you. Itineraries (even within the ‘Western’ Mediterranean) vary considerably. Some focus on a couple of countries, whereas others pack a good number into even a week-long itinerary.

Budget Friendly Cruises

Virgin Holiday Cruises offer a seven-night full-board ‘Western Med’ Cruise on board the Celebrity Century, costing from £663 per person (including flights from London Gatwick). This cruise visits Spain, France and Italy, but overall has a strong Italian focus. It is scheduled for November, which means you can enjoy less crowded destinations and cooler temperatures – as well as taking advantage of the very reasonable price tag.

This cruise sails from the cosmopolitan Spanish city of Barcelona, where you can stroll along the famous ‘Las Ramblas’ and stop for tapas. The next port of call is the chic French resort of Cannes, followed by several ports in Italy: Portofino, Livorno, Civitavecchia, and Naples – before heading back out to sea to return to Barcelona. The port stops are each between 10-12 hours long, giving enough time to see the main sights.

The Celebrity Century, which carries up to 1808 passengers, boasts the first ever ‘ice-bar’ at sea. It offers a range of relaxed and formal dining choices, plus the usual cruise ship facilities of spa, pool, cinema, theatre and so on.

Visit http://www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk/celebrity-cruises-celebrity-century-mediterranean-7-nights-november-2009-0006416-holiday.php for more information.

If you’re looking for a budget cruise during the summer season, Virgin Holiday Cruises offer a seven-night full-board ‘Voyager of the Seas’ Mediterranean cruise in August from £769 per person (including flights from a London airport). This itinerary also includes ports in Spain, France and Italy but with a few differences to the November cruise above – and also is on board a different vessel: the Voyager of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship.

The cruise starts out once again from sunny Barcelona in Spain, then calls at Naples, Civitavecchia and Livorno in Italy, before sailing to Villefranche and Marseilles in France. The ship then returns to Barcelona for debarkation. You spend a full 12-hour day in each place you stop, which leaves good time for exploring the highlights of each ports. The Voyager of the Seas is a big vessel carrying around 3000 guests, and has some unusual facilities including an ice skating rink and a rock climbing wall. These and other services such as kids’ clubs make this a good cruise for families, particularly as it takes place during the school summer holidays.

It’s worth knowing that you may not be able to depend on reviews you read online about Royal Caribbean cruises, however: they were recently accused of manipulating content on popular review websites such as Cruise Critic by giving away free cruises and other perks to a small group of fans who post good comments online – further details at travelmole. That’s not to say that Royal Caribbean cruises are not good – it’s just possible that you can’t really trust all the reviews you read. You have been warned!

Visit http://www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk/royal-caribbean-cruises-voyager-of-the-seas-mediterranean-7-nights-august-2009-0026356-holiday.php for full information

Mid-range Priced Cruises In The Med

Summer Mediterranean cruises generally come at a premium, but we’ve put this P&O 14-night Mediterranean cruise in the mid-range category because it costs from £1433 per person (online only) in peak holiday season (July) – not bad for a fortnight’s cruise stopping at nine ports in eight different countries. The cruise on board the Oceana leaves Southampton in the UK in July, and sails to Vigo in Spain, before sailing on to the beautiful Portuguese capital city of Lisbon, then to Palma (Majorca), Alghero (Sardinia), Rome (Italy), Cannes (France), Barcelona (Spain), Gibraltar, and then back to Southampton. This is destination-focused cruise offering stops for a full day (between seven and 15 hours) in seven of the ports (all except Gibraltar, where you get a morning, and Southampton, where the trip starts and ends).

The Oceana is made for sunny climates, with a palm tree-filled atrium and plenty of deck bars and pools. It holds up to 2,016 passengers and the atmosphere is sociable rather than stuffy, with facilities for all ages. It’s fairly family-oriented, with kids’ clubs and a night nursery, daytime activities (sports court, spas, pools, gym and sauna) and evening entertainment (such as comedy, theatre, cinema and nightclubs). The price includes the daytime activities and evening entertainment plus includes car parking in Southampton and all meals in the main restaurants.

http://www.pocruises.com/Cruises/E919/Overview.axd – for more details

Luxury Cruises In The Mediterranean

Princess Cruises offer a 12-night ‘Mediterranean Collection Cruise’ from £1729 per person on board the luxurious new Royal Princess in June (there are several others later in the year for similar prices). This trip takes an interesting voyage, offering stops at many historical towns and cities, and mixing a little bit of ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ Mediterranean: it leaves Venice and sails on to Ravenna and then Naples / Capri, both in Italy, before visiting Kotor in Montenegro. The ship then takes passengers to Corfu in Greece, Velletta in Malta and then back to Italy to Messina and Naples/Capri. It then visits Ajaccio on Corsica in France, Monte Carlo in Monaco, and then back to Italy – visiting Portofino and Rome. Passengers get to spend a full day in most ports, leaving good time for sightseeing.

The ship has a capacity of 710, so it isn’t too big, and it offers plenty of activities for everyone – from yoga to duty-free shopping, plus family services such as kids activities and teen programmes. In cruise reviews, the well-stocked library in particular seems to impress former passengers. Entertainment is varied, with live theatre, casinos, a cinema and nightclubs. As is now the case on most cruises, dining options include both traditional (read ‘formal’) restaurants and more casual establishments – although reviews by passengers did criticise some of the dining options as a little ‘lacklustre’.

Visit http://res.thecruisestore.co.uk/travel/cruise/sailplan.rvlx?CruiseItineraryID=97923 for more information.

When To Go
The temperature and weather varies across the Mediterranean to some extent, but taking Rome as an example, August daytime temperatures often exceed 32 C (90 F). This is perfect for some, but way too hot for others, and will have a big bearing on the time of year you decide to travel. June, July and August are the hottest and most expensive times to cruise the Mediterranean. If you don’t have to fit in with School summer holidays, you may prefer to travel in Spring (say April to mid-June) or Autumn (from about mid-September into October) when it’s not too hot but the weather is still usually warm and sunny. All regions with Mediterranean climates also have relatively mild winters, so even winter time can be a viable and pleasant time to travel.
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