1. Home
  2. Destinations
  3. Western Mediterranean
  4. Pictures of the Western Mediterranean

Pictures of the Western Mediterranean

  • 1

    Bordering Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, the Western Mediterranean is a culturally rich region filled with an incredible array of sights and experiences. Spanning the coast of Europe and nudging the continent of Africa, it's filled with ancient and modern wonders.

    Italy is brimming with art and culture, to say nothing of its wonderful food. Roads from Civitavecchia cruise port lead to Rome, bursting with history and legendary sights like the Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. If you want to return, don't forget to leave a coin in the Trevi Fountain (nearly $4,000 worth are thrown in each day; the money is collected and given to charity). From Naples and Sorrento, it's an easy trip to the beautiful island of Capri, where you can venture into the Blue Grotto and explore the picture postcard hilltop village of Anacapri.

    In the early 19th century, members of European high society would talk of azure waters fringing a magical land that was never touched by the chill of winter. Welcome to the French Riviera, a 75-mile stretch of coastline epitomized by jet-set lifestyle and glamorous playgrounds -- such as Cannes, Nice and St. Tropez. Then there's vibrant Spain, where a highlight is buzzing Barcelona, capital of the Catalan region. The port leads directly to Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian thoroughfare lined with street vendors. Neighboring Portugal is home to Lisbon, built on seven hills and continental Europe's westernmost city.

    From visits to some of the world's most famous museums to tasting tours in sleepy wine-making villages, the Western Mediterranean is a feast for all the senses. This region features a diverse collection of cruise ship ports.

    --By Jeannine Williamson, Cruise Critic contributor

    Photo: INTERPIXELS/Shutterstock

  • 2

    Malta

    Malta's history has been shaped by many influences, including Roman, Greek, Arab, French and British. The island celebrates more than 50 years of independence, and its capital, Valletta, is gearing up to be European Capital of Culture in 2018. Take the elevator from the port -- or walk if you're feeling energetic -- to Upper Barrakka Gardens, the highest point in the city with fabulous views over the Grand Harbour. Nearby is ornate St John's Co-Cathedral, home to two of the Italian artist Caravaggio's most important works; "The Beheading of St. John the Baptist" and "St. Jerome Writing."

    Tip: Take a tour around the Grand Harbour on a dghajsa, the traditional wooden gondola-shaped boat once used to ferry sailors ashore. These water taxis leave from the cruise ship docking area, and the fare is only a couple of euros.

    Photo: liseykina/Shutterstock

  • 3

    Madeira (Funchal)

    The subtropical island of Madeira, part of Portugal, is often referred to as the "floating garden" because of its lush, natural beauty. The island's abundant plant life can be seen in the Botanical Garden above Funchal. From there, you can reach the hilltop town of Monte, once the preserve of Madeira's gentry, and embark on what Ernest Hemingway described as one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life -- a ride down to Funchal in a wicker toboggan on wooden runners. Started in the 19th century as a quick way back to town, the sleds are expertly steered by men dressed in white with traditional straw hats.

    Tip: Book a boat trip from Funchal to watch dolphins, whales, turtles, seals and marine birds. Big-game fish are also plentiful in the deep seas off the island's shallow shores, and half-day trips are available to match your time in port.

    Photo: A_Mikhail/Shutterstock

  • 4

    St. Tropez

    In the 1950s, Bohemian artists from Paris adopted St. Tropez as their summer getaway spot, triggering an influx of writers and actors who turned the small fishing village into a glamorous resort. It was permanently put on the map with Brigitte Bardot's 1956 movie "And God Created Woman," for which the infamous bikini scene was filmed on a small beach next to the harbor. The waterfront remains the place to see and be seen, relax at a street cafe, admire luxury yachts and spot celebrities. You won't see price tags in the numerous high-end designer boutiques, but window shopping is fun and free!

    Tip: For a real taste of St. Tropez order La Tarte Tropezienne, a delicious custard filled tart perfumed with orange blossom flowers.

    Photo: LiliGraphie/Shutterstock

  • 5

    Gibraltar

    Commanding the western gateway to the Mediterranean, the peninsula clinging to the edge of southern Spain has been the subject of many squabbles over the years and was formally handed over to the British in 1713. Today, it's a duty-free shopping haven, and the small, bustling downtown is packed with stores selling jewelry, watches, electrical goods, perfumes and gift items. Visit the 18th century Great Siege Tunnels, carved deep into the Rock of Gibraltar and used as an underground city during the Second World War. If time allows, curiosities at the Gibraltar Museum include an Egyptian mummy found floating in the bay 1930.

    Tip: The apes, or to be correct, Barbary macaques, are Gibraltar's most famous residents. They're undoubtedly cute, but they're also very mischievous and some make off with cameras, bags and other items. So, hold on tight to your belongings and note that it's strictly illegal to feed them.

    Photo: Philip Lange/Shutterstock

  • 6

    Lisbon

    One of the few European capitals with a river and a coastline, maritime voyages of discovery turned Portugal's largest city into one of the world's great ports. Many of Lisbon's historic monuments -- the Tower of Belem and Jeronimos Monastery -- celebrate the era of the seafaring discoveries and are built in the highly decorative Manueline style. The towering Monument of Discoveries on the edge of the Tagus River pays homage to the country's pioneering explorers. Modern attractions include the Park of Nations, built for the 1998 World's Fair and housing one of Europe's largest aquariums. Even Lisbon's Metro subway system is a tourist attraction, with stations covered in artwork made from azulejos, traditional glazed ceramic tiles.

    Tip: Head to the bars and cafes of Old Town to listen to fado, the haunting music that originated in Lisbon in the 1820s and tells tales of lost love and the sea.

    Photo: Carlos Caetano/Shutterstock

  • 7

    Palma de Mallorca

    When you sail into port, you can't miss Palma's landmark 14th-century Sa Seu Cathedral, which dominates the city skyline. The Gothic masterpiece is a must-see sight. The cathedral's interior features decorative 20th century additions by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, more famously known for his influences on Barcelona. Leave time to browse along the big shopping streets around Placa Major, followed by a stroll through the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Old Quarter, where houses have elegant courtyards. Also, check out the Modernista architecture, or Spanish Art Nouveau, which is at its most impressive in Placa Weyler.

    Tip: The La Gerraria neighborhood used to be an important center for traditional crafts, and these skills have been revived in the Passeig de l'Artesania, a great place to pick up locally made souvenirs.

    Photo: mffoto/Shutterstock

  • 8

    Monaco (Monte Carlo)

    Sandwiched between France and the Mediterranean, the tiny principality of Monaco is big on glamor. An independent nation since 1419, when the Grimaldi dynasty secured power, Monaco is Europe's second-smallest state after Vatican City and home to the most millionaires and billionaires per capita. Within easy walking distance from the port is Monte Carlo, the best-known district. Hilly streets -- aided by a network of escalators and elevators -- lead to the Prince's Palace. If you don't want to walk, take a tour of the highlights, which include the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly married and the city's Grand Prix race circuit.

    Tip: It's worth the high prices for a coffee or ice cream at Cafe de Paris in the square opposite Monte Carlo Casino because it's the best people-watching spot in town. If you want to go into the casino and play the slots or tables, the minimum entry age is 18 and you need to take your passport.

    Photo: InnaFelker/Shutterstock

  • 9

    Lanzarote

    Shaped by volcanoes, resulting in amazing lunar landscapes and black-sand beaches, Lanzarote is totally different from the rest of the Canary Islands. The hot spot is Timanfaya National Park, where volcanic heat provides the spectacle of dried grass bursting into flames as it's thrown into a hole in the ground and restaurant food is barbecued on giant grill resting over the 750 degree Celsius heat from the volcano. (Don't worry; the last volcanic eruption was in 1824.) Other geographic wonders include the unusual green lake at El Golfo, which has provided the background for sci-fi movies and TV programs including "Planet of the Apes" and "Doctor Who."

    Tip: Grapes have been grown on the black lava soil in La Geria for more than 1,000 years, and Lanzarote has 18 vineyards, so take time out to sample the wine.

    Photo: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock

  • 10

    Florence (Livorno)

    The Tuscan capital offers more art per square foot than anywhere else in the world. The Uffizi Gallery is the most important museum with 60 halls filled with masterpieces from the 12th to the 16th century, including Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus." Michelangelo's equally renowned "David" is housed in the Galleria dell'Accademia (with a copy of the statue in nearby Palazzo della Signoria). The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, topped by Filippo Brunelleschi's majestic Renaissance dome, presides over Piazza del Duomo, which stands at the historic center of this surprisingly compact and walkable city.

    Tip: If you've set your sights on seeing the Uffizi and Accademia, then check the day of the port of call before booking your cruise because they are always closed on Mondays (but open Sundays).

    Photo: Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

Find a Cruise

Popular on Cruise Critic

8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
6 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy maneuvers in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.
Onboard Credit: How to Get It, Where to Spend It
Free. Money. Are there two more beautiful words in the English language? While money doesn't grow on trees, increasingly it can be found somewhere else -- on the high seas. Call it an incentive, call it a bonus; whatever you want to call it, onboard credit lets you spend more freely with less guilt. You've paid your cruise fare, and now you can splurge on those enticing extras -- Swedish massage, specialty restaurant, an excursion to swim with the dolphins -- without busting your budget. Not many need convincing as to why onboard credit -- money automatically deposited into your onboard account-- rocks, but finding out exactly how to get it and where you can spend it is a bit trickier. We found eight ways to hit the OBC jackpot (some more preferable than others) and offer even more suggestions on how to burn through it, although you probably have your own ideas already.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.