By Linda Bendt
Talk to any traveler about going on a cruise and you’ll find they typically classify themselves one of two ways: 1) those who say they’re avid cruisers and fans of the experience or 2) those who claim they’re “not sure we’re cruise kind of people.” No matter how you categorize yourself, it’s hard to deny the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most diversified cruise destinations in the world with many of the most amazing ports ever to be found.
The Magnificence of the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean Sea (Latin for “the middle of the earth”) is surrounded by 29,000 miles of beautiful coastline that spans more than 21 countries on three continents. In addition to the mainland coasts, the sea is home to more than 3,000 islands.
The Mediterranean plays a significant role for some of the world’s most famous countries, including Croatia, France, Italy, Greece, Monaco, Spain, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco.
Cruising the Mediterranean has become a sought-after excursion for many US travelers because of numerous iconic ports, varying land formations, the abundance of cultural traditions and an array of culinary flavors. If that’s note enough, a cruise such as one on Regent Seven Seas also offers ease, comfort and luxury—all within one 7-14 day adventure (or more if time allows).
An Endless Array of Ports
While there are many ports of call to choose from when determining your Mediterranean destination, choosing cities that provide a nice extension option will help you make the most of your travel time and budget – particularly on the front and back-end of the cruise itinerary.
“Cities that offer an abundance of culture, history and are easy to navigate are often at the top of our list for extended stays for people who love to cruise,” says Craig Beal, CEO of Travel Beyond. “Exploring beyond the docks allows visitors to really enjoy the true essence of what those cities have to offer.”
Two of the Sea’s most popular ports for extended stays are Barcelona and Monte Carlo.
Barcelona: A Timeless Treasure
Recently named by Frommer’s as one of the Top 10 Best Mediterranean Cruise Ports, Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city. The cruise terminal is located on a long peninsula approximately one mile from the base of Las Ramblas (the city’s liveliest and most famous boulevard), however it’s relatively easy and affordable to get to the city center (those who wish can walk, others can opt for an $11US taxi fare).
Barcelona is a wonderful walking city with wide boulevards and narrow medieval streets that are worth the time to explore. The city is peppered with charm – gargoyles that peer down from buildings, small squares and fountains, quaint chapels and numerous medieval buildings.
At the heart of Barcelona’s “must see” areas is the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) where visitors can experience the Catedral de Barcelona, which includes a museum of medieval art, and the palace of the Placa del Rei, where Columbus was received after returning from the New World.
For travelers with more time to explore, LaSagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is known as the city’s most remarkable structure. The cathedral’s first stone was laid back in 1882, and its still awaiting completion. The architecture and execution are awe-inspiring – 18 thin spires are just one example of the cathedral’s impressive features.
Barcelona is renown for its artists (Picasso, Miro, Dali, Tapies and many others) and as a result is home to many great museums. The city also hosts dozens of small cafes, tapa bars and a very active nightlife, ensuring entertainment for travelers of every type.
Monte Carlo: A Tiny Slice of Luxury
Nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea lies the small country of Monaco. Because of its beautiful location, Monaco’s most well-known city, Monte Carlo, is also a hot-spot port of call for many cruise lines.
Monte Carlo is undoubtedly an international capital of luxury and is notorious for its celebrity sightings. Its harbor, casinos, palaces, cathedrals and museums make for perfect day-time excursions, exciting night-life and overall great people (and yacht) watching.
Museum-goers and architecture lovers could spend days absorbing the rich history of this condensed hill-side city. Nouveau Musee National de Monaco offers two locations to see varying exhibits, while the cathedral of Monaco showcases amazing white stone and marble (and is the burial site of former Princes). Famous church Eglise Sainte Devote honors Monaco’s beloved saint, and the Museum of Anthropology, which traces some of the most significant history of humanity, are just a few of the popular landmarks within the city.
While Monte Carlo is popular for its luxurious style, stunning setting and intriguing history, it’s also known for the annual Grand Prix of Monaco. This race – part of the Formula One Championship – is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Typically taking place in May, the Grand Prix attracts racers and visitors worldwide.
Visitors to Monte Carlo should be sure to catch the once-a-day changing of the sentries who stand guard at the entrance of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. The beautiful property is home to Prince Rainier’s son and successor, Prince Albert II (and was once home to actress Grace Kelly). The state rooms are open to the public during the summer and the courtyard has been the setting for open air concerts given by Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The Mediterranean showcases some of the best port cities in the world. Be sure to take advantage of exploring these historic, charming and exciting locations on the front or back-end of your next cruise.
Monte Carlo to Barcelona on Seven Seas
Looking for an opportunity to relax on a luxury cruise ship, while adventuring through some of the most picturesque countries on the Mediterranean? Regent Cruises offers a 10-night Mediterranean Masterpieces cruise on their Seven Seas Mariner Ship embarking this September.
Guests will board in Monte Carlo (Monaco) and venture to Cannes (France), Portofino (Italy), Florence/Pisa (Italy), Sorrento/Capri (Italy), Rome (Italy), Saint-Tropez (France), Provence (France) and Barcelona (Spain).
The Seven Seas Mariner features all-suite, all-balcony accommodations for 700 guests. Space is still available for this and other popular Mediterranean itineraries. For more information contact us.