Published on December 23, 2015 | by Paul Edge0
10 Mediterranean Spots Perfect for a Winter Cruise
With winter already in full swing, is there anything more appealing than an escape to sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean? Trading the grey skies and permanent drizzle for the fairer weather of the warmer southern climates is a no-brainer and a Mediterranean cruise is a stress-free way to achieve the swap. Cruises aren’t just a way of soaking up the sun though, they also offer the unparalleled opportunity of exploring a number of destinations all in one trip, soaking up their sights, lifestyle and culture. Winter is the ultimate time to visit many cities, with the cooler season bringing a variety of advantages the summer heat cannot hope to match.
A city of the old and new, Valencia combines the striking architecture of its futuristic city of arts and sciences complex with the Cathedral Quarter and other medieval structures. A strange contrast, but a fascinating one and those seeking a real mix of modern and traditional styles can find all they need on the streets of Valencia. With so much to see and explore, winter is the perfect time to visit Valencia, while it never really gets cold, the mild temperatures make for comfortable adventures round his historical and innovative city — far less exhausting and sweaty than during the summer months. Arriving by ship to Valencia is also a treat. Unlike the big, modern cities of the age, you aren’t going to be overwhelmed by large skyscrapers. Instead, Valencia’s skyline is very low, allowing for far reaching, panoramic views from aboard the cruise vessel’s top deck. Don’t miss these photo opportunities as you approach the city, you won’t regret it.
The winter seasons brings a new range of fresh fish to the coastal waters surrounding Europe’s capital of food, and to its menus. Once you’ve satisfied your appetite gorging on Barcelona’s incredible seasonal food — make sure you try the churros — head over to the Gothic District and enjoy this enchanting area of the city as it is bathed in lights that dress the city during the festive period and into the new year.
We’ve had the food capital, now let’s try the gambling capital. Imbedded in a sheltered bay along the French Riviera, we have the sparkling jewel that is Monte Carlo. This part of the French coastline is absolutely stunning with mile after mile of rugged terrain, covered in luscious greenery and peppered with idyllic little towns and gorgeous beaches. A visual spectacle, the experience of standing on the ship’s deck and taking in the breathtaking views of the Riviera as you approach the city is a treat in itself, yet there is even more on offer once the vessel docks. Much like Vegas, Monte Carlo is a 24-hour city, bustling with nightlife and entertainment options as well as those famous casinos. Arguably the most stylish place in the world to bet away your retirement fund, winter in Monte Carlo is just as lively as any other time of the year. What’s more, the shorter days that winter brings means the dazzling and enchanting lights of Monte Carlo can be enjoyed for even longer. There really is no better time to discover this city and a cruise is the perfect way to do it.
Rome was once the centre of a powerful empire, and it shows. Home to a wonder of the world — the colosseum — along with a whole host of other breathtaking sights, the city of Rome is a marvel in itself and a simply unmissable destination. A journey to Rome in the winter bestows a number of benefits, including smaller crowds as well as cheaper food, souvenirs and experiences. On top of this, all the areas you’d want to visit, such as museums, landmarks and market districts all remain open during the colder seasons, which will come as welcome news to cruise-goers. The only problem with a visit to Rome from a cruise ship is the distance that you have to travel from the port to the city, which can take around 30 minutes. In the summer, this can lead to made rampages for bus seats and train seats, something that is simply not the case in the winter. Winter removes any possible stress there may be in reaching the Italian capital.
The next stop on our trip round the picturesque Italian coastline is the world famous Venice. Nowhere in Europe sees a transformation quite like Venice in the winter. The city streets, normally crammed with tourists, fall silent. The majority of people walking the streets here now are not visitors from abroad, but residents going about their daily lives. Winter gives the city a more personal and immersive feel, wandering about you can appreciate this beautiful and one of a kind city for what it really is and not just see it as a tourist trap. When arriving by cruise in the summer, you’ll be greeted by a jam packed harbour, crawling with visitors just itching to for the chance to get into the city. This can be a claustrophobic experience, yet in the winter, you can simply disembark onto the now calm and quiet port of Venice and head of to the town. A far more relaxing and enjoyable experience, both for cruising and for exploring Venice.
A good book in one hand, the other draped in soft white sand. Beyond the tips of your sandal-clad toes is a sparkling turquoise ocean with an equally blue sky above. All this on a beautiful December afternoon. Malta never quite gets caught in the clutches of winter and as a result, this popular summer destination sees very little change over the seasons, although its visitor numbers certainly do. There is no better time to visit Malta than now. You’ll practically get the beaches, cafes and restaurants to yourselves, all with the glorious twenty degrees heat outside.
A vibrant city of exuberant culture, the winter months turn Istanbul into a wonderland of Turkish magic. The city becomes illuminated by lights and decorations celebrating the new year, the occasional snowfall adorns the distinctive architecture of the city’s famous Blue Mosque and other landmarks, and the residents all put on their dancing shoes and get into the winter spirit — the outdoor summer bars replaced with more intimate indoor dance and music venues. Our favourite aspect of cruising through Istanbul is that, given its unique geographical location, as you enter the mouth of the Bosphorus strait – a body of water that cuts the city of Istanbul in half – over to the left of the boat you can see Europe, and to the right you can see Asia. Yes, they look exactly the same, by the concept of being able to simply tilt your head to look between two continents is one that can be, at the very least, incredible novel.
While you may go out in search of culture and new horizons when cruising the Mediterranean, one thing I’m sure we’d all be hoping for is a little bit of winter sun, and in Haifa that is exactly what you’ll find. With temperatures sitting in the 20’s, glorious beaches stretching for miles right on the city doorstep and a boardwalk to match that of Miami, this unforgettable city in Northern Israel has everything you need for a bit of relaxing in the winter sun.
There is no dull approach to Athens by ship. You will either travel through the beautiful Strait of Corinth, complete with a journey through the striking Corinth Canal — only just wide enough to fit an enormous cruise ship through. Or you’ll take a route weaving between rustic Greek islands and the beach studded shores of the mainland, a little taste of the Mediterranean experiences that lay ahead. Arriving in the port of Athens, with any luck the sun will have set before the ship reaches the dock, so you can enjoy the incredible lights of the city’s vibrant coastal district. Whether it is day or night, however, be sure to look out for the world famous Acropolis of Athens perched on a hillside watching over the city, as you draw nearer to the docks. Once you’ve made landfall, you’ll disembark into the oldest city in Europe, home to some of the most incredible ancient wonders on the planet. Crammed full of history, Greek culture and stunning architecture, you can visit Athens at no better time than winter, when the crowds have died down and the blistering heat has melted away in favour of a milder and more comfortable climate.
The final stop on our incredible trip around the Mediterranean is the, Oia on the island of Santorini. An incredible destination, packed with hiking opportunities, classic Greek culture and more, its draw does make it incredibly crowded in the high season. One thing in particular that people come in their droves for is the stunning sunset across the clear Mediterranean horizon. During high season the romance and beauty of such an occasion is somewhat spoilt by the strangers you are rubbing shoulders with and the others crowding round to get a view behind you. In the winter, the sunset is still just as dazzling with the added benefit of a quieter and more personal experience. Cruising into, and more sadly away from, Oia is an amazing experience. Just as with Athen’s you’ll see your way through a host of stunning Greek Islands. These are the kind of views that make for fond memories, not just forgotten photos.