There’s nowhere better than the Mediterranean to explore the richness and beauty of Europe on a cruise holiday. The balmy sunny climate, dazzling beaches and character-filled cities dotted along the shores provide ample opportunity to explore between eventful nights at sea. Holland America Lines offers an incredible range of Mediterranean cruises that could see you sunbaking along the Croatian coastline, wandering the ancient ruins of Greece, or living the high life in extravagant Monte Carlo. Here’s our top pick of Mediterranean destinations to soak up on a Holland America cruise.
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, Dubrovnik is one of many highlights along the dazzling Croatian coastline on the Adriatic and Mediterranean Dream Cruise. A timeless city steeped in history, Dubrovnik’s ancient city centre is walled in by an impressive fortress, and inside awaits a treasure chest of beautiful baroque architecture and sights along the marble streets. For the best view of all, you can actually scale the city walls to explore the cannons, towers and sweeping panoramic views. Peer out across the city skyline beyond the walls on one side, and out to sea on the other. Have lunch at a fabulous seafood restaurant and take a dip at one of the small local coves before jumping back on board. Other highlights along the 22-day cruise, which starts and ends in Rome, include the Greek Islands, Venice, Malta and Italy’s impressive west coast.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
The Mediterranean Adventure Cruise is a fabulous sea voyage tracing the coast from London to Venice, but not without an island stop in Spain’s beautiful Palma de Mallorca. Perched next to the famous party island of Ibiza, Majorca has a much more sophisticated and cosmopolitan vibe. Fabulous shopping, restaurants and culture abound, as well as some unique sights. Don’t miss the old harbour town of Porto Cristo, dating back to the Middle Ages, the mysterious Caves of Drach or the Gothic style Bellver Castle. Mallorcan kings once lived here too, and you can explore this side of the local history at the Arabian-style Royal Palace of La Almudaina. This is the only island port on the 21-night cruise, which also stops in beautiful Lisbon, Barcelona, Corfu, Split and Rotterdam.
The largest city in southern Italy, Naples is a dramatic highlight on the Iberian & Aegean Explorer Cruise. A centuries-old city, it’s famous for its beautiful location on the Bay of Naples and for Mount Vesuvius, which looms in the background – the active volcano that buried Pompeii in Roman times. A city of many architectural intricacies, the beautiful churches and public squares are must-dos up top, while the atmospheric catacombs and ancient burial grounds are just as intriguing below ground. It’s also an incredible city for shopping, gallery-hopping and museum-going, and of course, exploring the outlying archaeological sites, such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Campi Flegrei. On the 26-night sail from Amsterdam to Athens, other superb highlights include Bordeaux in France, Bilbao in Spain, Durres in Albania, and a side trip to some incredible historic towns in inland Greece.
The Magic of the Mediterranean Cruise makes a special little side trip to bustling Istanbul, where Europe meets Asia. It makes for a fascinating stop, as the atmosphere here is distinctly different to the usual Mediterranean suspects. Intricate minarets, domes and spires dominate the cascading city skyline, and upon closer inspection, you’ll be wowed by the delicate details and stories of these beautiful mosques. Admire the ancient city walls built by Constantine, delve into the ancient cisterns beneath the city, and wander through markets spruiking aromatic spices and colourful teas, clothes and antiques. From the fish markets on the banks of the Bosphorus to the fabulous shopping and people-watching along busy Istaklal, Istanbul is sure to surprise you. Other delights along the 24-night journey include Santorini, Athens, Naples, Marseille and Rome.
The Greek Islands, Greece
The Best of the Mediterranean Cruise certainly didn’t forget Greece. As well as mainland stops at Athens, Katakolon and beautiful Nafplion, the journey winds past five Greek Island hotspots. Head ashore to discover the renowned caves, fir forests and beautiful beaches of Kefalonia, catch a magnificent sunset from the steep volcanic cliffs of Santorini, and wander through the narrow streets and white-washed houses of Mykonos. In Corfu you’ll discover beautiful architecture and two magnificent forts, and in Rhodes, impressive UNESCO World Heritage neighbourhoods of medieval grandeur. Beyond Greece, the 33-night journey weaves its way around the Italian, Croatian and French coastlines, with a stop in Tunis too before ending in Barcelona.
Cruising from Barcelona to Copenhagen, the Mediterranean and Baltic Discovery Cruise adds in an exotic highlight from North Africa: Tunis. The capital of North Africa’s smallest nation, this modern Arab city offers rare insight. Wander through the 9th-century Medina (old town) to discover beautiful mosques, colourful squares and souqs brimming with bargains. Then continue on to the distinctly different surrounds of the Ville Nouvelle, the new city, full of colonial architecture, cafes and patisseries – poignant reminders of French-era Tunis. You could also explore the ancient Roman and Punic ruins of Carthage, the once splendid rival of Rome and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tunis isn’t the only highlight on this 31-night cruise though. Departing from Barcelona, the voyage takes in some European Mediterranean highlights before continuing on to Brussels, Hamburg, Tallinn, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm, before ending in lovely Copenhagen.