The Western Mediterranean is one of the most diverse cruise regions. The region includes the artistic meccas of Italy, France and Spain as well as arabic culture in Morocco and Tunisia, spanning two continents Europe and Africa. Of all Europes cruise regions, the Western Mediterranean offers arts and culture, surf and sand, cafe hopping and boutique shopping. One of the toughest choices for cruise travelers can be ship size. Big ships tend to visit big ports, the “greatest hits” of the Western Mediterranean destinations, such as Florence, Rome and Barcelona. Almost all major lines offer such sailings, including Celebrity, Holland America, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Disney.
For a more European feel, consider cruising the region with a company based on the continent. Costa and MSC Cruises, both headquartered in Italy, offer shorter and often cheaper itineraries (as well as great pasta). British lines P&O, Thomson and Cunard have numerous sailings, while the German line Hapag-Lloyd provides the ultimate in luxury.
Other luxury vessels, including Regent Seven Seas, Azamara, Crystal, Silversea, Oceania and Seabourn, also ply this region of the Med. Often, these voyages not only visit smaller ports like Portofino, Cannes and Capri, but they are longer in duration and also travel to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The top cultural attractions include:
Barcelona: Gaudis Treasures
Gaudi’s fantastical Gothic-style cathedral, Sagrada Familia, is one of Barcelona’s biggest attractions. This still-unfinished cathedral is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, with an interior designed to resemble a forest.
Marseille: Basilica of Notre dame de La Garde
The most striking feature of Marseille’s Basilica of Notre Dame de La Garde is the 30-foot gold statue of the Virgin Mary (sitting on a 180-foot bell tower/belfry) protectively looking out over her city. Locals call her la bonne mere or “the good mother.”
Nice: Matisse Museum
The colorful southern coast of France was a muse for French artist Henri Matisse, the city of Nice turned a 17th-century villa into a museum showcasing works from various stages of his career.
Florence: Accademia and Uffizi Museum
One of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, the Uffizi is home to Italy’s largest and most impressive art collection.
Going to Accademia you will need to visit Michelangelo’s David sculpture, where he stands behind a Plexiglass barrier.
Rome: St Peters Basilica and Vatican Museums and Colosseum and Roman Forum
Vatican City, a country unto itself and the seat of the Catholic Church, is a must for any visit to Rome, and it’s well worth the trip into the city from the port of Civitavecchia.
The Colosseum this is the Rome you read about in history books and watched on screen in Spartacus and Gladiator.
Naples: Pompeii and National Archaeological Museum
Italy’s most prestigious archaeological museum can be found in Naples.
Pompeii is a thriving Roman city frozen in time and offers one of the best examples of what daily life was like during Roman empire.
Palermo: Palazzo dei Normanni/Capella Palatina
Palermo is home to Italy’s second-most famous (after the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican) chapel, the Cappella Palatina, is filled with brilliant mosaics depicting the lives of the saints, in particular St. Paul and St. Peter, to whom the chapel is dedicated.