Cruising through Europe

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Seductive cities, perfect ports, balmy beaches and nights ashore – enjoy the best of Europe from the comfort of a cruise

What's the attraction?

The shores and islands of the Mediterranean comprise a rich mix of cultures and languages, exciting cities and important archaeological sites. In the hot summer months, one of the most relaxing ways to tour as many of them as possible is by ship, feeling the breeze in your hair as you sail overnight to a new country or region. What's more, because you'll have paid for full board in the holiday price, you'll be cushioned against deteriorating exchange rates. To get advice on choosing a line or ship and the best deals on fly-cruise packages go to an agent such as Thomas Cook (0800 169 4557; and Bath Travel (01202 238846; or, for luxury ships, Mundy Cruising (020 7399 7670; mundy Whether you are looking for a resort ship brimming with restaurants and activities, or a voyage on a smaller port- focused vessel, there is a cruise for you on the Med this summer.

Cruise and stay

Combine a busy week of sightseeing with a week on the beach in Mallorca. Two mid-size Thomson ships, Dream and Celebration, have just had makeovers, including new menus and iPod docking stations in their suites. Thomson Dream sails on a round-trip from Palma de Mallorca from May to October, calling at Ajaccio in Corsica, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Saint-Raphaël in France and Barcelona. A two-week cruise-and-stay package departing on 4 May, with a week's half board at the Sa Coma Playa Hotel and Spa, costs from £956pp (if booked online) including flights from Gatwick and transfers. The price rises to £1,539 for a two-week break departing Bournemouth on 10 August (0871 230 2800;

Ancient adventures

Exploring archaeological sites is a great way of bringing history to life, particularly when accompanied by expert lecturers. Swan Hellenic (0844 488 0725; has a 14-night voyage from Portsmouth on 29 August, ending in Rome, with tours of the Alhambra palace, Carthage, Pompeii and Herculaneum. The cost, from £2,295pp, includes several excursions and the flight home.

Voyages to Antiquity (0845 437 9737; voyages unravels the Greek, Roman, Arabic, Norman and Byzantine legacy on Sicily, with a two-week cruise from Athens to Rome on 4 June. It includes an overnight stay in Palermo and a two-night hotel stay in Rome; from £2,575pp, including flights.

Party with the locals

On most cruises, sunset "sail away" is popular, with drinks and music on deck. However if you prefer joining the passeggiata, dining ashore or clubbing, choose a cruise line specialising in late sailings and overnight stops. Azamara Club Cruises (0844 493 4016; has a seven-night cruise from Barcelona on 21 July that stays overnight in Marseille, St-Tropez and Monte Carlo. The cost, with a night in a Barcelona hotel, drinks and flights, is from £1,952pp. SeaDream Yacht Club (0800 783 1373; offers a week from Rome to Monte Carlo, departing 24 August. SeaDream II sails in the late evening from Portofino and overnights in St-Tropez, Sanary-sur-Mer and Monte Carlo; from £3,151pp excluding flights.

Insider information

"Mediterranean cruise itineraries are very port-intensive; so don't wear yourself out with an excursion every day. In Monte Carlo, Palermo and Malaga, for example, it is a pleasant stroll into the city. Shop around for excursions before you go. Cruise lines impose huge mark-ups and will cancel your tour if there aren't enough takers. By booking directly with local companies you'll get a wider choice and far better value, and you won't have to hang around waiting to be herded on to a coach. Summer lasts longer in the Mediterranean, so if you can, go in September when sites are less crowded and it isn't so blisteringly hot." Darren Fields, founder of Voyage Ashore (0844 500 0045; – a direct booking service with local shore excursion providers.

Sail away

Nothing beats the sight and sound of billowing white sails against the blue sky from a teak deck. Cut through the waves of the Aegean on four-mast tall ship Star Clipper, sailing from Athens through the Cyclades for a week on 20 July. You can join the crew as an extra deck hand or just sit back with a cold drink and watch. Seven nights cost from £1,435 per person (0808 163 1320;

Or join chic French yacht Le Ponant, sailing from Nice around Corsica and the Tuscan island of Elba on 26 August for six nights. The cost is from £2,120pp (0800 980 4027; Both prices are for cruise only.

Go for golf

A cruise offering rounds on three Italian courses isn't just good news for golfers. Non-playing partners will have plenty of diversions, too, from joining group excursions to spa treatments on board. German line Hapag-Lloyd's Europa 2, launching in May, has several departures that have excursions and activities in English. The seven-night cruise from Monte Carlo to Valetta on 8 June offers the chance to play at Pevero Golf Club on the Costa Smeralda of Sardinia, at Rome's Olgiata Golf Club, and at Il Picciolo Golf Club in Sicily with the spectacular backdrop of Mount Etna. The cost, excluding flights, is from £3,030pp. The golf package is an additional £772pp (020 7723 2450;

Who said that?

"There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting and enslaving than the life at sea." Joseph Conrad from his novel "Lord Jim"

"Old and young, we are all on our last cruise." Robert Louis Stephenson

"It isn't that I find life ashore distasteful. But life at sea is better." Sir Francis Drake

Family favourites

Sailing from and to Britain's main cruise port, Southampton, is a good choice if you have children. It eliminates the risk of airport delays, with plenty of sea days to enjoy the kids' clubs. The American ship Independence of the Seas, with an ice rink, rock-climbing wall and simulated-wave surfing pool, departs 10 August for a fortnight. Ports include Gibraltar, Toulon, Livorno (for Pisa and Florence), Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Ajaccio in Corsica; from £1,399pp (0844 493 4005;

P&O's Ventura, catering specifically for British families, sails on 14 August for two weeks to the Western Mediterranean, including Marseille and Livorno; from £1,749 per adult (0843 3740111;

Food for thought

Cruises are known for round-the-clock eating opportunities, so cruise lines are constantly coming up with new ideas to whet travellers' appetites.

The sparkling new Italian ship MSC Preziosa (0844 561 1955;, to be christened by Sophia Loren later this month, will have two Eataly restaurants on board, drawing on the Turin-based Slow Food movement.

Another new ship, Celebrity Reflection (0845 493 2043;, has five speciality restaurants, including Qsine, offering quirky international tapas to order via iPad.

There is a rare chance to eat dinner cooked by Nobu himself, pictured above, in his Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant aboard Crystal Symphony (020 7399 7601; when he joins the 12-night cruise from Rome to Istanbul departing on 13 July.

Finally, you can go shopping with the chef then take cookery lessons in the only fully equipped cookery schools at sea, aboard fine-food orientated American line Oceania ships Riviera and Marina (0845 505 1920; oceania

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?