If you had to choose, would it be the ancient ruins of Greece and Turkey that captures your cruising imagination, or the Renaissance romance of Italy and France?
By the end of 2019, 30 million people will have expected to take to the seas and cruise, according to new data released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). That’s three million more passengers than last year.
The number of cruise lines operating in the Mediterranean, as well as the diverse range of destinations, itineraries and lengths of cruises, make this destination exceptionally appealing to the South African market.
“Globally, the Mediterranean is second only to the Caribbean in terms of preferred international cruising destinations, but among South African travellers it takes first place,” says Jane Davidson, Director of Development Promotions which represents several leading international cruise lines in South Africa.
CLIA booking data shows that the Med is seen as "great value for money and a convenient offer".
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Eastern or Western Med?
Tempted by the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean Sea, this cruise region is a proven hotspot. But with so many ports, how do South African travellers know which itinerary is best?
Mediterranean cruises are typically operated as either East or West, says Davidson.
Western Mediterranean cruises typically include Spain, France, Morocco, Tunisia and Portugal, while Eastern Mediterranean cruises visit Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
"Italy does double duty and is usually featured as a port of embarkation and debarkation for both,” says Davidson.
The bottom line is, both regions are equally stunning, and it's hard to go wrong with either, states Davidson.
“Both east and west offer South African cruisers affordable holiday options that will bring them face-to-face with UNESCO World Heritage sites and ports of call flaunting outstanding cuisine, shopping opportunities, culture, history and of course, beautiful beaches.
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See the suggest itineraries for either below:
- Rest and relaxation in the West
For South African cruise enthusiasts considering a cruise holiday in 2019/20, there is a wide range of West Med itineraries operated by international cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruise Line and Holland America Line.
For art and history lovers who want to explore the region's landmarks, beaches, cafés and boutique shops, Davidson suggests the Norwegian Epic, seven-day cruise from Barcelona. “You’ll treasure stops in picturesque ports like Cannes and Majorca, and enjoy your time at sea too, with one-of-a-kind entertainment and up to 27 dining options,” she explains.
“The cities and seaside towns of this region are typically viewed as more refined, brimming with skip-the-queue art galleries and museums. It hits the sweet spot for gourmet foodie fanatics who love the idea of spending an afternoon at a café in a place like St Tropez, sampling local wine, and dabbling in some people-watching.”
SEE: Quick Guide to Greece: Fun under the Mediterranean sun
- Explore the myth and legend of the East
If you see yourself as more of a sand-between-your-toes person, the Eastern Mediterranean is known for its consistent weather and sun-soaked beaches. Prized ports include Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, says Davidson.
“This side is big on archaeology, mythology and the wonders of the ancient world. Gaze over the Acropolis in Athens, explore 10th-century city of Ephesus in Kusadasi, Turkey, and discover the preserved ashes of Pompeii in Naples.”
Davidson recommends visiting Italy, Greece, Montenegro and Croatia aboard the Costa Deliziosa. There are departures scheduled over the December school holidays. “From 4-D cinemas to grand theatres and roller skating tracks, cruise lines like Costa have fought hard to enhance its on board experience for all ages and interests,” she says.
Both regions of the Mediterranean are port-intensive, and Davidson reminds travellers that a cruise to either side is not only about relaxing alongside the on board pool or bar.
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