If you are hankering after a cruise, but have already sailed around the Caribbean, consider a destination around the Mediterranean Sea. This magical coastline stretches 2,200 miles, from the Suez Canal, passing along the Black Sea and heading towards the 22-mile wide straits of Gibraltar.
If you sail east, you will be taking in countries bursting with culture and beauty, such as Italy, Croatia and Turkey. The western Mediterranean leads to France, Spain, Portugal, western Italy and the sun-baked shores of the Middle East.
In general, sailing to the Med is best from April to October and the cruise line you end up with will depend largely on the experience you are looking for.
Here are five suggestions to whet your appetite:
1. ‘The Show Must Go On’ from Palma to Barcelona
This is Thomson’s most comfortable and largest (1500 passengers) of her fleet of five ships and though it does not ooze four star grandeur, it is comfortably casual and elegant at times. When it comes to chilling out there’s lots of choice: 4 restaurants, 6 bars, 3 lounges, 2 whirlpools, a nightclub and a casino. It even has a new luxury spa, but its wow factor is the fantastic on board shows staged in a plush lounge. West End style entertainment and lots of children’s facilities provides for a perfectly good family-friendy cruising experience.
The trip costs from £678 per person full board and includes return flights.
2. Family-Friendly to Spain, Italy, Gibraltar and Corsica
P&O’s Azura carries 3,100 passengers and is the second largest of its fleet of seven. It is also the newest — and was named by ballet dancer Darcey Bussell in April 2010.
Appropriately, the vessel has three dance floors (dancing features heavily in the ship’s entertainment listings) with one in the atrium, as well as a New York-style show lounge, a pub, 11 restaurants and an open-air cinema called SeaScreen.
The Azura sets sail from Southampton, which is handy if you don’t wish to fly. There are kids’ clubs for ages two to 17, plus plenty of sports courts for tennis, football and basketball. Children over 14 are also allowed in the gym if accompanied by an adult. A lovely feature is the adults-only Retreat sun deck, for those moments when you want a bit of extra peace and quiet.
Ports of call include Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Gibraltar, Ajaccio and Cadiz.
Fares start at £1,099 per person.