One adventure in the Mediterranean, or “The Med” and it’s easy to see why cruising in this idyllic part of the world is so popular. Seemingly around every corner is yet another glorious and intensely historic European port, town or city, complete with its own unique culinary and cultural identity and each offering their own places to discover. From the many possibilities, narrowing it down to eight of the best is a nearly impossible chore.

Doing so is certainly a matter of individual opinion, however we have looked deep across the Mediterranean and selected eight ports you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit.

Taormina, Italy

Rich in Italian history, Taormina is one of those off-the-beaten-track ports in Italy.
Rich in Italian history, Taormina is one of those off-the-beaten-track ports in Italy.

The hilltop town of Taormina hugs the Eastern side of the Italian island of Sicily, with close proximity to Mount Etna and an array of dramatic sandy beaches. The small town which can be accessed on tours from the port of Messina is often voted as one of the Med’s most popular ports among passengers. Famed for its intricate run of cobblestone laneways and piazzas, passengers will eventually work their way to the Greco Theatre, dating back to the third century B.C.

The theatre still hosts performances today and has been host to exclusive events for guests from cruise lines such as Azamara, which hosted one of its “AzAmazing Evenings” in the historic space.

Tunis, Tunisia

The Rock of Gibraltar provides a unique ecosystem back drop to contrast adventures in the township.
The Rock of Gibraltar provides a unique ecosystem back drop to contrast adventures in the township.

Tunis plays a contrasting role in many Mediterranean cruises. Located on the North African coast, the country provides a bevy of shore excursion options to suit most tastes, from shopping in one of the world’s oldest souks to the UNESCO World Heritage experience of Carthage, Tunis and surrounds. It provides a more rustic experience to that of the more cosmopolitan cities a typical Med cruise will visit.

Unfortunately many cruise ships are currently avoiding Tunisia after some deadly terrorist attacks in 2015, one of which directly impacted a shore excursion, however ships may return to normal levels in the future if the safety of passengers can be maximised.

Add in a visit to Sidi Bou Said for afternoon tea featuring traditional dates and tea for a true local experience. While traversing Tunis, keep an eye out for film crews as the city provided the backdrop for many movies including The English Patient and the Star Wars series.

Gibraltar

Dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, this Med port is small but must be seen.
Dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, this Med port is small but must be seen.

This disputed peninsular on the Spanish coastline has been a contentious issue between the Spanish and the English since seemingly the dawn of time, and upon arrival you’ll quickly see why. Dominated by the sprawling Rock of Gibraltar, guests will see a very unique environment gracing one of the most southern points of Europe.

Unique flora and fauna quickly enchant passengers as they explore this unique destination. Keep an eye out for the famed Gibraltar monkeys who call the rock home. Passengers who are keen shoppers can also take advantage of some of the cheapest shopping in Europe, with no sales tax applied to any purchases.

Naples, Italy

Known as Italy's palace city, Genoa has many of its buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Known as Italy’s palace city, Genoa has many of its buildings on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Whilst not offering the most picturesque welcome in the world as you sail in, Naples provides a great jumping off point to discover some of Italy’s most famous tourist attractions.

Sites including Mount Vesuvius, the picture perfect town of Sorrento and the famed ruins of Pompeii are all easily accessible on a port day in Naples. Sticking close to the ship will yield passengers some of the most authentic pizza and pasta Italy has on offer, with a multitude of dining options within walking distance of the ship.

Naples also provides the opportunity to discover the Isle of Capri, a playground for the rich and famous, popular with Hollywood luminaries including George Clooney and Angelina Jolie and their contemporaries, often seen sitting and enjoying the island’s famed beaches.

Genoa, Italy

Malta's harbour is a dramatic entry point to the island nation.
Malta’s harbour is a dramatic entry point to the island nation.

Very few cities can lay claim to being the birthplace of one of the world’s greatest adventurers, but tiny Genoa, three hours south of Milan proudly holds this claim to fame.

Visiting Christopher Columbus’ house of birth isn’t just like visiting any old house. The magnificently restored property details the explorer’s expeditions and life amid a treasure trove of artefacts and careful recreations. Walking tours are plentiful in this seaside city with many of the city’s neighbourhoods and buildings registered historically significant. In fact, the frontages and courtyards are most easily accessed from your ship by foot.

For a truly unique local experience, take a pesto making course where locals are on hand to provide unique recipe ideas dating back generations to when the tasty sauce was first made.

Valletta, Malta

The port of Valletta quickly envelopes you with its quaint charm and eons of history to explore.
The port of Valletta quickly envelopes you with its quaint charm and eons of history to explore.

Established as a walled city by a Catholic order of priests in the 1500s, Valletta has since been an epicentre of cultural influence. Modern day Valletta is centred around the magnificent harbour with many of the historical buildings – many of which date back to the 1600s – providing a dramatic skyline to sail into.

The rest of the island of Malta is easily accessible both independently or via a shore tour, with stunning beaches and dramatic coastlines providing opportunities to enjoy the European sun.

Barcelona, Spain

Spain's Catalan capital of Barcelona brings together an amazing mix of culinary, cultural and historical highlights.
Spain’s Catalan capital brings together an amazing mix of culinary, cultural and historical highlights.

Often used as the port of embarkation for many Mediterranean voyages, the eclectic roar of Barcelona will encapsulate you forever. From the late nights watching locals enjoy tapas to days spent wandering Barcelona’s coastal fringe, the Catalonian capital will showcase its amazing art and architecture scene, while transfixing you on a culinary journey that can rival any city in the world.

The best part is the quick and easy access to the heart of the city from where most ships dock, with a short 20-minute stroll from the gangway providing you with a bevy of local entertainment and dining options.

Marseilles, France

Provence is a short distance from Marseille, with easy rail links to and from each town.
Provence is a short distance from Marseilles, with easy rail links to and from each town.

Located on the Cote D’Azur, Marseilles takes pride of place as a highlight of the French coast. A significant port for hundreds of years, Marseilles is a rich tapestry of trading post influences, with large communities of North Africans, Spanish and Italians all playing their part in the city’s unique feel.

Further afield, Marseilles provides a great jumping point to towns like Aix-en-Provence and Cassis, with easy train access to and from Marseilles during a ship’s typical port schedule.

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