Travel Guide of the Coast of Mediterranean Sea by Cruise Ship

The Mediterranean is an extremely popular cruising itinerary, offering fantastic historical sites, delicious cuisines, warm beaches, a vibrant nightlife, and more. As the most beautiful open air museum, cruising the Mediterranean means coming within reach of the best in culture, tradition and monuments that have for centuries enriched its shores.

The coast of the Mediterranean has been used for tourism since ancient times, as the Roman villa buildings on the Amalfi Coast or in Barcola show. From the end of the 19th century, in particular, the beaches became places of longing for many Europeans and travellers. This cruise offers the opportunity to visit and learn about countries and peoples facing this sea and their millenary history just like ancient mariners did as they sailed from Italy to the Greek Islands.

On this rich journey, get a closer look at the historic ports of Italy, from Rome to Venice, from Genoa to Naples, to appreciate the picturesque and refined French towns of Cannes, to immerse yourself into Spanish culture in Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Ibiza, enjoy the Greek sunshine while visiting important archaeological sites or develop a passion for Croatian music.

Some of the world’s busiest shipping routes are in the Mediterranean Sea. In particular, the Maritime Silk Road from Asia and Africa leads through the Suez Canal directly into the Mediterranean Sea to its deep-water ports in Piraeus, Trieste, Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelona. European sailors and full-time cruisers flock to the warm waters of this enclosed sea every summer. Super yachts cross the Atlantic Ocean in the spring to join in on the fun. The anchorages and marinas can get crowded in the peak months of July and August, especially those near tourist hotspots.

Enjoy with a Mediterranean cruising tour which lets you experience something amazing at every stop with art, culture, history, natural wonders, fine cuisine along the bustling roads and beaches… From the history-lined canals of Venice to the sun-soaked playgrounds of the French Riviera to the iconic architecture of Spain, explore the homes of Greek gods, Italian artists and multicultural treasures.

Get up close to historic sites like the ancient Colosseum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens, and the charming Old City of Dubrovnik. Take stellar photos at the Piazza San Marco in Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. See Michelangelo’s remarkable Renaissance artwork on the Sistine Chapel ceiling as you tour Vatican City.

In Portugal, experience the spectacular medieval architecture in Lisbon and taste a variety of Port wines in Porto. Explore our new port-of-call in Italy, Trieste, and its ancient architecture, lively cultural scene, and Venetian-inspired coffeehouses. We’re also returning to Kusadasi, and Istanbul in Turkey.

Some of the most beautiful natural sights may be the view of the whitewashed buildings and turquoise waters in Santorini or the pastel-colored fishing villages in the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Uncover divine legends at the Acropolis, admire religious relics at Dubrovnik’s Cathedral or climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa and soak up sweeping views of the emerald landscapes.

Tourism is today one of the most important sources of income for many Mediterranean countries. Tourism is a source of income for small coastal communities, including islands, independent of urban centres. Rapid development has been encouraged by Mediterranean governments to support the large numbers of tourists visiting the region.

There are countless tourist attractions along the Mediterranean coast. However, even those circumnavigate cruising tour of the Mediterranean Sea, the journey cannot reach every port. Therefore, tourists need to understand and plan in advance for some matters in the journey. For example, the gigantic cruise ships often only call at the ports of the most famous cities. If you want to reach places that are not covered by the routes, you will need to use other means of transportation. Ferry services in the Mediterranean cover almost all major ports, while rail and road take tourists to destinations far from the coast…

Popular Destinations
This classic journey started from Spain, through southern France, then into Italy, and finally into the Aegean Sea in Greece is the most popular route for travelers, and is used by many of the giant cruise ships. On these Mediterranean cruises, travel from Spain through some of Europe’s most famous ports as you make your way to Italy. Marvel at world-renowned landmarks on a Mediterranean cruise through the Adriatic Sea. Then the Mediterranean cruise through the Aegean Sea. This journey also includes the return route, from Greece back to Spain, not necessarily visiting the same destinations along the way, and sometimes a round-trip ticket is worth considering.

The best places to visit in the Mediterranean feature incredible cultural treasures, idyllic landscapes, and some of the most well-known landmarks in Europe. Begin in Barcelona where archaic artwork is on display throughout the city. Then saunter through the lavender fields of Provence when you cruise to Marseille. Stroll through highlights of Italy, Fill up on pizzas and pastas in Sicily and Naples. Or visit Il Campo dei Miracoli, also known as “The Field of Miracles,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Pisa. Sail along the Amalfi Coast and tour ancient ruins, including Pompeii. Visiting hidden gems like Montenegro.

From exploring the ancient sites of Rome and Athens to discovering the fascinating culture of Barcelona and Ephesus, or unwinding in the Greek Islands, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca or Dubrovnik, the Mediterranean is one of the top destinations in the world to visit. Explore the original Olympic stadium, indulging in dreamy landscapes in Athens where mythology comes to life. Then sail to the black-sand beaches of Santorini. Then cruise to Mykonos, where windmills and bright white architecture accent the turquoise sea.

Alboran Sea
The Alboran Sea is the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean Sea, lying between the Iberian Peninsula and the north of Africa (Spain on the north and Morocco and Algeria on the south). The Strait of Gibraltar, which lies at the west end of the Alboran Sea, connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean.

Gibraltar, Britian
Gibralta is a British Overseas Territory and city located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. The Strait of Gibraltar, which is only 14.3 km wide, controlled the narrow entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea. Gibraltar was the first visible marker of those ships sailing from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar, at the foot of which is a densely populated town area. This choke point remains strategically important, with half the world’s seaborne trade passing through it.

Balearic Sea
The Balearic Sea is a body of water in the Mediterranean Sea between the Balearic Islands and the mainland of Spain. The Ebro River flows into this small sea.

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain, with a population of 1.6 million within city limits, making it the fifth most populous urban area in the European Union. Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. History, beauty, and culture come together to make Barcelona a top Mediterranean destination.

Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Wander Las Ramblas, the landmark boulevard that runs through the city center. Walk on Joan Miro’s tiled street mural, then head down the boulevard to can’t-miss city sights including the Medieval Gothic Quarter’s small shops and art-filled churches.

Tour Artigas Gardens, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, the enchanting mosaic wonderland of Park Guell, and the spectacular and famously unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral, all works of Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s most famous architect. Get your fill of museums: Barcelona has more than 55, showcasing the art of Picasso and Miro to contemporary culture, design, and even perfume. At night, stop in different tapas bars to enjoy some of the best food and wine in the city.

Ibiza, Spain
Ibiza is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea off the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is 150 kilometres from the city of Valencia. It is the third largest of the Balearic Islands, in Spain. Situated in the sparkling blue Mediterranean off the coast of Spain, Ibiza is one of the quartet of the Balearic Islands. Snorkel or swim in secluded lagoons, then unwind on any one of the island’s 80 gorgeous golden sand beaches. Ibiza is also well known for its nightlife and electronic dance music club scene in the summer, which attract large numbers of tourists. The island’s government and the Spanish Tourist Office have worked toward promoting more family-oriented tourism.

Ibiza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ibiza and the nearby island of Formentera to its south are called the Pine Islands, or “Pityuses”. As one of the most stunning Spanish islands to visit, Ibiza is also the perfect place to enjoy leisurely bike rides to tranquil villages, where life revolves around a landmark church, a local bar and restaurant, and small, well-kept homes. Pause to admire the area’s vineyards and try a glass or two of the young, fruity red wine accompanied by fried almonds, dried figs, bread, and sausage.

See flocks of pink flamingos gracing Las Salinas, Ibiza’s 2,000-year-old salt flats on the south side of the island. It’s one of the best places on the island to witness a spectacular sunset. Enjoy a cocktail of sangria made with cava (Spain’s sparkling white wine) before savoring a dinner of local seafood.

Gulf of Lion
The Gulf of Lion or Gulf of Lions is a wide embayment of the Mediterranean coastline of Catalonia in Spain with Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence in France, extending from Begur in the west to Toulon in the east. The chief port on the gulf is Marseille. Toulon is another important port. The continental shelf is exposed here as a wide coastal plain, and the offshore terrain slopes rapidly to the Mediterranean’s abyssal plain. Much of the coastline is composed of lagoons and salt marsh. Rivers that empty into the gulf include the Tech, Têt, Aude, Orb, Hérault, Vidourle, and the Rhône.

Marseille, France
As the largest port in the Mediterranean, Marseille is the gateway to opportunity. On a Mediterranean cruise, spend the day in Arles, and explore the landscapes that inspired much of Van Gogh’s artwork. Stroll through the MuSaMa, a soap museum, and create your own blend alongside a master soap maker. Or roam the city’s most popular landmark, Notre-Dame de la Garden, a Catholic basilica that overlooks the city.

Monte Carlo, Monaco
Monte Carlo is officially an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco, situated on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera. The principality of Monaco may be one of the smallest countries in the world, but it’s largest neighborhood, Monte Carlo, has an outsized reputation as a glamorous playground for the rich and famous. Near the quarter’s western end is the “world-famous Place du Casino, the gambling center.

Monte Carlo is also the location of the Hôtel de Paris, Café de Paris and Salle Garnier (the casino theatre which is the home of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo). The quarter’s eastern part includes the community of Larvotto with Monaco’s only public beach, as well as its new convention center (the Grimaldi Forum), and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. At the quarter’s eastern border, one crosses into the French town of Beausoleil (sometimes referred to as Monte-Carlo-Supérieur), and 8 kilometres (5 mi) to its east is the western border of Italy.

Live the high life as you walk along Monte Carlo Harbor and marvel at docked mega-yachts. Sip a fashionable Aperol spritz or a royal peach mojito at an outdoor cafe. Try your luck at the blackjack, baccarat, or roulette tables at the opulent Casino de Monte-Carlo. The Prince’s Palace is a must-see, as is Vieux Monaco that sits atop a hill next to the palace. The city’s winding streets are filled with shops, restaurants, and museums like the Oceanographic Museum and a museum housing the country’s cultural and military artifacts.

Nice, France
Nice is the prefecture of the Alpes-Maritimes department in France, located on the French Riviera, the southeastern coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the French Alps. The natural environment of the Nice area and its mild Mediterranean climate came to the attention of the English upper classes in the second half of the 18th century, when an increasing number of aristocratic families took to spending their winters there. Nice’s appeal extended to the Russian upper classes. Because of its historical importance as a winter resort town for the European aristocracy and the resulting mix of cultures found in the city, UNESCO proclaimed Nice a World Heritage Site in 2021.

The greatest thing to see in Nice is the views along the Promenade des Anglais, which skirts the seacoast for over 5 km, then ends at Nice Airport. Just north of old town is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, with four connected towers featuring modern and contemporary artists and their sculptures, paintings, and conceptual installations. The clear air and soft light have particularly appealed to notable painters, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalle and Arman. Their work is commemorated in many of the city’s museums. International writers have also been attracted and inspired by the city. Its open-air roof terraces offer one of the best panoramas of the city. To the west, there is the Musee des Beaux-Arts, housing an excellent collection of pastels and other works by Jules Cheret, among other artists.

Ligurian Sea
The Ligurian Sea is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies between the Italian Riviera (Liguria) and the island of Corsica. The sea borders Italy as far as its border with France, and the French island of Corsica. In the east, the sea borders the Tyrrhenian Sea, while in the west it borders the Mediterranean Sea proper. Genoa is the most prominent city in the area. The northwest coast is noted for its scenic beauty and favourable climate.

Florence, Italy
Florence is a city in Central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. It is considered by many academics to have been the birthplace of the Renaissance, becoming a major artistic, cultural, commercial, political, economic and financial center. The Renaissance lives on in Florence through incredible art, architecture, and centuries of Italian tradition.

The city attracts millions of tourists each year, and UNESCO declared the Historic Centre of Florence a World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics.

Throughout the city, museums housing spectacular art and artifacts, palazzos, churches, and buildings show off their glorious history with pride. Stroll piazzas leading to spectacular sights at every turn, like the impressive Duomo, the carved bronze doors of the Baptistry, the “outside” replica of David at the Palazzo Vecchio, the jewelry and leather shops spread across the Ponte Vecchio, and Michaelangelo’s magnificent sculpture of David inside the Galleria dell’Accademia. Florence’s central location makes it easy to explore the bountiful countryside and try traditional Tuscan food, visit vineyards, taste local olive oil, and try a pasta-making class.

Tyrrhenian Sea
The Tyrrhenian Sea is part of the Mediterranean Sea off the western coast of Italy. The sea is bounded by the islands of Corsica and Sardinia (to the west), the Italian Peninsula (regions of Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Basilicata, and Calabria) to the north and east, and the island of Sicily (to the south). The Tyrrhenian Sea also includes a number of smaller islands like Capri, Elba, Ischia, and Ustica.

Rome, Italy
Rome is the capital city of Italy, located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. Rome is the third most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. Rome is often referred to as the City of Seven Hills due to its geographic location, and also as the “Eternal City”. Rome is generally considered to be the “cradle of Western civilization and Christian culture”, and the centre of the Catholic Church.

Rome, home to some of Italy’s most famous landmarks, is one of the best Mediterranean destinations to visit. Explore the Colosseum, the Catacombs, the Seven Hills, and the Roman Forum to get a glimpse of life in ancient Rome. Grand chapels and stone angels line the roads, whispering secrets of Rome’s past. On a cruise to Europe from Rome, arrive early to toss a coin into Trevi Fountain. Legend has it, you’ll be guaranteed return to The Eternal City. Then walk in the footsteps of Emperors at the Colosseum, and receive a blessing from the Pope at St. Peter’s Square.

Rome’s history spans 28 centuries. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it a major human settlement for almost three millennia and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. The city’s early population originated from a mix of Latins, Etruscans, and Sabines. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded by many as the first-ever Imperial city and metropolis.

Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city. Beginning with the Renaissance, almost all popes since Nicholas V pursued a coherent architectural and urban programme over four hundred years, aimed at making the city the artistic and cultural centre of the world. In this way, Rome became first one of the major centres of the Renaissance, and then the birthplace of both the Baroque style and Neoclassicism. Famous artists, painters, sculptors, and architects made Rome the centre of their activity, creating masterpieces throughout the city. Visit St. Peter’s Square and book a tour to discover Vatican art treasures, including the Sistine Chapel, where the view of Michaelangelo’s “Last Judgement” is simply awe-inspiring.

Catania, Italy
Catania is the second largest municipality in Sicily, after Palermo. It is located on Sicily’s east coast, at the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna, and it faces the Ionian Sea. Visit a winery that sits at the base of Mt. Etna, sample cannoli and other luscious pastries at one of the city’s many cafes, or take a beach break at a favorite local spot with a breathtaking view of the mountain. Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, is the scenic backdrop for a visit to Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city. Discover the mighty mount on private tours or on all-terrain adventures that get you close to the volcano’s rim.

Catania was founded in the 8th century BC by Chalcidian Greeks. During the 14th century, and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy’s most important cultural, artistic and political centres. It was the site of Sicily’s first university, founded in 1434. It has been the native or adopted home of some of Italy’s most famous artists and writers, including the composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini, and the writers Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Federico De Roberto and Nino Martoglio.

Catania today is the industrial, logistical, and commercial center of Sicily. Its airport, the Catania-Fontanarossa Airport, is the largest in Southern Italy. The central “old town” of Catania features exuberant late-baroque architecture, prompted after the 1693 earthquake, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the city’s Benedictine Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Castello Ursino, which houses the Civic Museum; the Teatro Romano, an amphitheater from the 2nd century BC; and the old city’s Piazza Del Duomo.

Catania’s location is a perfect launching point for day trips to Taormina, a walled, hilltop town and one of the best places to visit in Sicily. It’s also close to Syracuse, where you can see Greek and Roman ruins and taste some of Sicily’s best food, like arancini (rice balls), pasta alla Norma, fresh fish, and local sweets that incorporate locally grown pistachios and almonds.

Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan Peninsula. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) to the northwest and the Po Valley. The countries with coasts on the Adriatic are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, and Slovenia. The Adriatic contains more than 1,300 islands, mostly located along the Croatian part of its eastern coast.

The Adriatic’s shores are populated by more than 3.5 million people; the largest cities are Bari, Venice, Trieste and Split. The earliest settlements on the Adriatic shores were Etruscan, Illyrian, and Greek. Fisheries and tourism are significant sources of income all along the Adriatic coast. Adriatic Croatia’s tourism industry has grown faster economically than the rest of the Adriatic Basin’s.

The countries bordering the Adriatic Sea are significant tourist destinations. The largest number of tourist overnight stays and the most numerous tourist accommodation facilities are recorded in Italy, especially in the Veneto region (around Venice). Veneto is followed by the Emilia-Romagna region and by the Adriatic Croatian counties. The Croatian tourist facilities are further augmented by 21,000 nautical ports and moorings; nautical tourists are attracted to various types of marine protected areas.

Venice, Italy
Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. Venice has been known as “La Dominante”, “La Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork.

The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for over a millennium, from 697 to 1797. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as an important center of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.

Amble along narrow, scenic streets until you reach the expansive St. Mark’s Square, home to some of Venice’s top sights. Tour the 11th century St. Mark’s Basilica and head up to its roof for a bird’s-eye view of the city. Perpendicular to St. Mark’s Square is Doge’s Palace, which once served as the residence of the doges (rulers) of Venice. Cross the Bridge of Sighs, characterized by its white limestone exterior and ornate details. Legend has it that the Bridge of Sighs got its name because it once provided criminals with their last view of the outside world before being locked in the dungeon, which would result in a sigh from the prisoners.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik, historically known as Ragusa, is a city on the Adriatic Sea in the region of Dalmatia, in the southeastern semi-exclave of Croatia. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in recognition of its outstanding medieval architecture and fortified old town. Majestic limestone fortresses, old city gates, a Jesuit staircase fit for a queen’s walk, cobblestoned streets, and spectacular sea views make it one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean.

The history of the city probably dates back to the 7th century, when the town known as Ragusa was founded by refugees from Epidaurum (Ragusa Vecchia). It was under the protection of the Byzantine Empire and later under the sovereignty of the Republic of Venice. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, Dubrovnik ruled itself as a free state. The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade; as the capital of the maritime Republic of Ragusa, it achieved a high level of development, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy. At the same time, Dubrovnik became a cradle of Croatian literature.

Stroll the Stradun, the city’s main pedestrian mall, to visit the Sponza Palace and the imposing Onofrio’s Fountain, then stop in the surrounding shops, cafes, and restaurants offering authentic Croatian food. A walk on the ancient city wall is a must, as it’s among the most beautiful places in Croatia. The view of the clear blue Adriatic Sea, the island of Lokrum a short distance away, and the Minceta Fortress at its highest point are a few of the highlights.

Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro. It is located in a secluded part of the Bay of Kotor. Nestled within Boka Bay lies a medieval gem. Kotor is enrobed in ancient houses, palaces and churches that speak to its 12th-century origins. On a Greek cruise, dine on Montenegrin cuisine in the home of a local chef, appreciate 14th-century Venetian art at St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and taste regional wines along the riviera. Or see another side of the city when you kayak through the tunnels of Lipa Cave.

The fortified city of Kotor was also included in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list as part of Venetian Works of Defence between 16th and 17th centuries: Stato da Terra – western Stato da Mar in 2017. The walled capital city of Montenegro is bound to captivate you with its dramatic natural beauty, coastal Italianate palaces along the Bay of Kotor, and Baroque and Romanesque churches with ornate interiors.

Take a ride or a hike to the summit of Mount Lovcen on a long winding road with breathtaking views. Walk the old town’s cobbled streets lined with boutiques and cafes, go sea kayaking on Kotor Bay, or explore the city’s fortresses at Castelnuovo and Forte Mare. Foodies will appreciate Kotor for its wines and prosciutto. Travel to nearby towns for tours of vineyards and smokehouses, and visit a 2,000-year-old olive tree, said to be the world’s oldest.

Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including Calabria, Sicily, and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania (and western Apulia, Italy) to the north, and the west coast of Greece, including the Peloponnese. All major islands in the sea, which are located in the east of the sea, belong to Greece. They are collectively named the Ionian Islands, the main ones being Corfu, Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, and Ithaca.

The Sea was the location of the famous naval battle between Octavian and Marc Antony known as The Battle of Actium, a war fought in 31 BC, and is also famous for the hero from Ancient Greek mythology named Odysseus, who was from the island of Ithaca.

Valletta, Malta
Valletta is the administrative unit and capital of Malta, the southernmost capital of Europe. The city is noted for its fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches. Valletta’s 16th-century buildings were constructed by the Knights Hospitaller. The city was named after Jean Parisot de Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion during the Great Siege of Malta. Valletta, named Europe’s 2018 City of Culture, is the capital of Malta and a treasure trove of sites and activities.

The city is Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture, though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House. The city was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980. Today, with 320 monuments, is one of the most dense monuments areas in the world.

From the old town’s massive City Gate to the Baroque and Modernist influences evident in buildings throughout the city, history abounds in Valletta. Walk the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hagar Qim temple complex, one of the oldest freestanding structures on earth. See the Limestone Heritage, a quarry that’s now a citrus grove. Visit the island’s stunning Blue Grotto and linger a while on some of the best beaches in Malta and the quaint fishing villages that dot the island’s rocky coast.

The citrus groves of Malta are the reason the island is famous for its limoncello, a refreshing lemon liqueur served cold in the island’s cafes and restaurants. Bustling shops, vibrant restaurants serving local delicacies, and museums and art galleries featuring exhibits and artifacts about Malta’s history and culture are all worth the time to get to know this enchanting Mediterranean island.

Corfu, Greece
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the margin of the northwestern frontier of Greece. As one of the greenest islands in Greece, Corfu is an emerald treasure amidst the colorful Mediterranean landscape. From Paleokastritsa, hike to the mountaintop for unparalleled views of the Ionian Sea.

The island is bound up with the history of Greece from the beginnings of Greek mythology, and is marked by numerous battles and conquests. Ancient Korkyra took part in the Battle of Sybota which was a catalyst for the Peloponnesian War, and, according to Thucydides, the largest naval battle between Greek city states until that time. Thucydides also reports that Korkyra was one of the three great naval powers of fifth century BC Greece, along with Athens and Corinth.

Ruins of ancient Greek temples and other archaeological sites of the ancient city of Korkyra are found in Palaiopolis. Medieval castles punctuating strategic locations across the island are a legacy of struggles in the Middle Ages against invasions by pirates and the Ottomans. Two of these castles enclose its capital, which is the only city in Greece to be surrounded in such a way. As a result, Corfu’s capital has been officially declared a Kastropolis (“castle city”) by the Greek government.

From medieval times and into the 17th century, the island successfully repulsed the Ottomans during several sieges, was recognised as a bulwark of the European States against the Ottoman Empire and became one of the most fortified places in Europe. The fortifications of the island were used by the Venetians to defend against Ottoman intrusion into the Adriatic. Corfu eventually fell under British rule following the Napoleonic Wars, and was eventually ceded to Greece by the British government along with the remaining islands of the United States of the Ionian Islands.

Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea is the northeastern part of the Mediterranean Sea; it lies between Greece and Turkey and is bounded on the south by Crete. The Aegean Sea is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Asia. It is located between the Balkans and Anatolia, and covers an area of some 215,000 square kilometres. The Aegean Islands can be divided into several island groups, including the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, the Sporades, the Saronic islands and the North Aegean Islands, as well as Crete and its surrounding islands.

The Aegean islands within the Aegean Sea are significant tourist destinations. Tourism to the Aegean islands contributes a significant portion of tourism in Greece, especially since the second half of the 20th century. A total of five UNESCO World Heritage sites are located the Aegean Islands; these include the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos, the Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos in Samos, the Nea Moni of Chios, the island of Delos, and the Medieval City of Rhodes.

Greece is one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world with over 33 million visitors in 2018, and the tourism industry around a quarter of Greece’s Gross Domestic Product. The islands of Santorini, Crete, Lesbos, Delos, and Mykonos are common tourist destinations. An estimated 2 million tourists visit Santorini annually. The phrase “Blue Cruise” refers to recreational voyages along the Turkish Riviera, including across the Aegean. The ancient city of Troy, a World Heritage Site, is on the Turkish coast of the Aegean.

Athens, Greece
Athens is the capital city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is the largest city in Greece and the seventh largest city in the European Union. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. It was a centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, and the home of Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Athens is the capital of the Attica region and is one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years.

Greece’s capital city is also the heart of ancient Greece. Rooted in Greek mythology, Athens is alive with stories from civilizations of the past. Exploring 5th century BC ruins like the Parthenon that sits atop the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Zeus, and the Old Temple of Athena; the Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Library; and the white marble Panathenaic Stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The heritage of the Classical Era is still evident in the city, represented by ancient monuments, and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains Roman, Byzantine and a smaller number of Ottoman monuments, while its historical urban core features elements of continuity through its millennia of history. Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery.

Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1834, include the Hellenic Parliament and the so-called “Architectural Trilogy of Athens”, consisting of the National Library of Greece, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and the Academy of Athens. Athens is also home to several museums and cultural institutions, such as the National Archeological Museum, featuring the world’s largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum, and the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

Stroll the cobblestone streets of Plaka, the city’s oldest neighborhood that sits in the shadow of the Acropolis. Experience shopping in Athens and look for beautifully fashioned Byzantine jewelry, Greek wines, olive oil, and other local treasures while street musicians serenade you.

Dine at the city’s lively tavernas and admire iconic sculptures bathed in natural light within the Acropolis Museum. Savor traditional Greek cooking, like moussaka, pastitsio, grilled market-fresh fish, and homemade baklava at a family-owned taverna, then set off for Mount Lycabettus, the city’s highest point. Ride a funicular to the summit for a glorious, panoramic view of Athens and the surrounding sea.

Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is a Greek island, part of the Cyclades, lying between Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos. Mykonos’s nickname is “The Island of the Winds”, due to the very strong winds that usually blow on the island. Tourism is a major industry and Mykonos is known for its vibrant nightlife. Famous for its beaches and spirited lifestyle, safari past the city’s windmills, lighthouses and lakes. Walk past temples and marble-lined sanctuaries in Delos, the birthplace of famous Greek gods. Or soak up a day of relaxation on the beach with the city’s Cycladic architecture as your backdrop.

Santorini, Greece
Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast from the Greek mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, which bears the same name and is the remnant of a caldera. White-washed buildings and blue-domed churches perched on the cliff of a stunning caldera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is the iconic view of the Greek island of Santorini.

Santorini is the epitome of Greece. Wander into the welcoming cafes in Oia, a village teeming with whitewashed buildings and blue-domed roofs. Cloudless skies, multihued blue waters, and gorgeous white-sand beaches in the Mediterranean complete the idyllic picture. Savor a dinner of freshly caught fish, grilled simply and deliciously with olive oil and lemon, or one of the beloved Greek specialties like moussaka or pastitsio.

Continue to some of the world’s oldest vineyards and taste the bouquet of wines produced on the island, making sure to visit the black-sand beach of Kamari before heading back to your Mediterranean cruise ship. Explore Oia, a seaside village tucked high into mountain cliffs, to get a feel for Greek island life. White-washed buildings seem stacked on top of each other as they fit neatly into the cliffs, and the residents are as warm and welcoming as the sun that seems to shine endlessly.

Visit the Maritime Museum for a glimpse into local seafaring history. Amble through the charming village streets, stopping at art galleries, artisan craft shops, and cafes. Watching the sunset from Oia while sipping ouzo (an anise-flavored aperitif) is a must.

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, serving as the country’s economic, cultural and historic hub. The city straddles the Bosporus strait, lying in both Europe and Asia. Istanbul is the most populous European city. The city served as an imperial capital for almost 1600 years: during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), late Byzantine (1261–1453), and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. The city grew in size and influence, eventually becoming a beacon of the Silk Road and one of the most important cities in history. Istanbul is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and was named a European Capital of Culture in 2010.

With its long history at the centre of empires, Istanbul offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in. The bulk of these ancient monuments, dating back to the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and the Basilica Cistern are around Sultanahmet Square, while some others are dispersed throughout the peninsula of the old city, such as the former Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora (Kariye Camii), the entire inside of which is covered by mindblowing frescoes and mosaics.

An impressive section of the mostly intact Theodosian walls, which mark the full length of the western boundary of the peninsula, is right next to this particular church. North of the old city, across the Golden Horn, is Galata, crowned by the Galata Tower. Istanbul Modern, with its exhibitions of contemporary Turkish art, is on the nearby waterfront of Karaköy. Another sight of the district, just north of the Tower, is the museum converted from the Dervish Hall of the Sufi Mevlevi order. Further north is Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s prominent pedestrian street running from near the Galata Tower to Taksim Square, the central square of the city.

Heading west from the old city brings you deeper into the banks of the Golden Horn estuary. A neighbourhood perhaps well worth a visit here is Eyüpsultan, to visit the city’s holiest Islamic shrine. On the opposite shores of the Horn, in Sütlüce is Miniaturk, the first miniature park in the city, with models from around the former Ottoman Empire. North of Taksim Square is New Istanbul, the main business district of the city. Most of the skyscrapers of the city are located in the north of this district, around Levent and Maslak, with a totally different skyline from that of the old city. However the southern reaches of the very same district has some fine neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings from the turn of the 20th century, around the neighbourhoods of Osmanbey, Kurtuluş, and Nişantaşı.

Ephesus, Turkey
Ephesus was a city in ancient Greece on the coast of Ionia Turkey. Beautiful beaches of varied terrains, some of the most exciting excavated Roman ruins in the world, fresh cuisine, and family-friendly amusement parks make Kusadasi one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean.

Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a favourite international and local tourist attraction, being accessible from Adnan Menderes Airport and from the resort town Kuşadası. In 2015, the ruins were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), which has been designated one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its many monumental buildings included the Library of Celsus and a theatre capable of holding 24,000 spectators. Ephesus was recipient city of one of the Pauline epistles; one of the seven churches of Asia addressed in the Book of Revelation; the Gospel of John may have been written there; and it was the site of several 5th-century Christian Councils.

Explore the open-air museum that is Ephesus, marveling at the ruins of the Celsus Library that once held 12,000 scrolls; the Temple of Hadrian; The Grand Theatre; and the Arcadian Way, where Mark Antony and Cleopatra traveled. Watch the fine art of carpet weaving, pause for Turkish coffee and pastries at a sidewalk cafe, or enjoy street food like meat or vegetable kabobs, pide (Turkish pizza), and the sweet, jelly-like squares of Turkish delight.

Levantine Sea
The Levantine Sea is the easternmost part of the Mediterranean Sea. The Levantine Sea is bordered by Turkey in the north and north-east corner, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip in the east, Egypt in the south, and the Aegean Sea in the northwest. The Suez Canal was completed in 1869, linking the Levantine Sea to the Red Sea.

Jerusalem, Israel
Jerusalem is a city in Western Asia. Situated on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, it is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered to be a holy city for the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Old City became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and is on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

The Old City is the historical core of Jerusalem, surrounded by Ottoman period walls, filled with sites of massive religious significance and a bustling approach to life. The most iconic site in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, which is holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It is crowned by the magnificent gold-and-blue Dome of the Rock, which stands on the site of the ancient Jewish Temples. It also includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque (The Far Mosque), from where the Muslim prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven.

Damascus, Syria
Damascus is the capital of Syria, the oldest capital in the world and the fourth holiest city in Islam. Titled the “City of Jasmine”, Damascus is a major cultural center of the Levant and the Arab world. The old city still has an authentic medieval feel, the world heritage listed old-walled city, largely consists of a maze of narrow alleys, punctuated by enigmatic doors that lead into pleasing, verdant courtyards and blank-faced houses. However, due to the Syrian Civil War which began in 2011, travel to most of Damascus is still considered very unsafe.

Cairo, Egypt
Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world. Cairo has long been a centre of the region’s political and cultural life, and is titled “the city of a thousand minarets” for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo, with historic Cairo inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Cairo is associated with ancient Egypt, as the Giza pyramid complex and the ancient cities of Memphis and Heliopolis are located in its geographical area. The Egyptian Museum in the city centre is a must see, with its countless Ancient Egyptian artefacts, as is shopping at the Khan al-Khalili bazaar. visit to the Giza Pyramids and to the nearby Saqqara Pyramid Complex, where visitors will see Egypt’s first pyramid built by the architect Imhotep for the third dynasty pharaoh Djoser.