Thursday, 30 January 2014

Mediterranean cruises

All aboard on a cruise around some of the Med's most glorious cities

Written by Wendy Gomersall
Mediterranean cruises are as popular as ever with holidaymakers, not least because they offer you the chance to explore some of Europe’s most beautiful and interesting cities. Head for the Western Med, for example, and there’s Lisbon in Portugal and Spain’s Málaga, Seville and Cádiz.

Cádiz is the oldest settlement in Western Europe, founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. After 1492, when Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, the Spanish ‡ eet used its port to unload their American treasures, and so Cádiz became one of the richest towns in Europe. Wander through the streets, squares and gardens on a walking tour, soaking up the history and atmosphere, then enjoy an invigorating display of flamenco dancing.

Málaga is also one of the oldest cities in the world and, again, was founded by the Phoenicians around 770 BC. From here, ship passengers can take an excursion to the sightseeing gem that is the Alhambra, the highlight of the trip for me. The Palace of Alhambra is one of the Ž nest examples of Islamic art and the small, neighbouring summer palace, Generalife, has wonderful gardens, too. 

Picasso was born in Málaga, so a walking tour of the old town with a visit to the Picasso Museum is rewarding; it is permanently housed in the Palacio de Buenavista, a 16th-century historical building.

Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is home to three Unesco World Heritage Sites – the Alcázar royal palace complex, the cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. Architectural treasures include the Casa de Pilatos, one of the most magniŽ cent palaces that can be visited in the region. Also Reales Alcázares, one of the Ž nest remaining examples of Moorish architecture in Spain – still used as one of the residences of King Juan Carlos and his family.

The city of Lisbon is also rich in architecture: Gothic, Romanesque, baroque, modern and postmodern. Great photo opportunities include the Belém Tower, one of the most emblematic monuments of Portugal with its Venetian balconies and turreted towers, and the Jerónimos Monastery. Also popular is the National Coach Museum, with its collection of historical carriages.

Travel-Jan31-02-590Relax on deck with Compagnie du Ponant

A cruise is one of the best ways to see as much as possible, as easily as possible. They are a great option for solo travellers, who are gathered into the fold, and are never left to dine alone.

Compagnie du Ponant, established in 1988, is a French cruise line with a ‡ eet of four ships – L’Austral, Le Boréal, Le Soléal and Le Ponant – offering luxury cruises all over the world. Their style is chic, as you would expect, with elegant lounges, excellent food, and wonderful on-board spas offering massages, facials, and body treatments using Sothys products. There is also a hair salon and gym.

For example, the yachtstyle Le Soléal has only 132 staterooms, 95 per cent of which have a private balcony. Staterooms are equipped with satellite television, air conditioning, a private bathroom, minibar, safe, and even an iPod dock so you can listen to your own music. And with 140 members of crew on board to look after you, you’ll always be pointed in the right direction.

Getting there A similar seven-night/eight-day Mediterranean cruise with Compagnie du Ponant departing in July 2014 aboard 132-cabin, yacht-style Le Soléal, costs from £1,620 per person. This price does not include ‡flights or transfers.

0800-980 4027,

Contact Wendy at

CUISINE FOR TWO Summer Lodge Country House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa in Dorset, o ers a two-night Gourmet Wellness for Couples weekend, 7 to 9 March. Join sessions with Dr Dorian Dugmore and his team. From £1,760 for two, with meals. 01935-482000,

Travel-Jan31-03-590Be inspired by Tuscany's dramatic vistas

TALL STORIES Author Sharon Kendrick is leading a writing course at The Watermill at Posara in Tuscany, on 3 to 10 May. The price, from £1,310 per person, includes seven nights’ accommodation, meals, drinks, transfers (to/ from Pisa) and materials. 020-7193 6246,

SEE THE SNOWDROPS Enjoy the Exmoor snowdrops on a scenic walk from Wheddon Cross down to the snowdrop loop in the Avill Valley, 1 February to 2 March. 01398-323841,

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