The Mediterranean offers almost everything a traveller could want: some of the world’s best cuisine, important art, intriguing history and more than its share of romantic adventure.
Whether its sipping wine on a terrace
overlooking the deep blue Mediterranean sea, or taking a gondola ride through Venice’s
canals, the medieval architecture, winding alleys, dimly lit restaurants and
sparking beaches offer unmatched opportunities for romantic sojourns.
The region’s high season begins in late
spring, peaks in the summer and ends in late September. The best deals are found
the rest of the year. The largest ships, from lines like Royal Caribbean,
Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America, often come from Barcelona, Athens
and Venice and visit the cities like Barcelona, Rome, Dubrovnik and Nice. Smaller
vessels on lines like Seabourn, Silversea and Oceania, dock in the harbours of picturesque
of Mediterranean towns.
Mediterranean ports are generally easy
to explore on your own, while guided tours are best for far flung, full-day
excursions, especially when time is a concern.
The Catalan capital is one of the
world’s great chocolate cities, with Spain being the first European country
introduced to cacao beans from the New World in the 1400s. The sweet treat with
Valentine’s Day traditions and aphrodisiac aspirations has been an important
part of Barcelona culture ever since. The city’s chocolate museum details the history
of cacao and houses a chocolate model of the city. Local specialists include Fargas, which has been making
chocolate confections since the 1800s; Xocoa, famous for its
chocolate beer; and Cacao
Sampaka, known for a hot chocolate so thick you eat it with a spoon.
Cruises dock within walking distance of
the city’s Las Ramblas, the popular, tree-lined avenue. Barcelona is a walkable
city with an extensive metro system that is fairly easy to navigate.
For most cruise passengers, the Eternal
City can seem eternally crowded. During peak cruise season, when summer temperatures
and crowds at popular sites swell, it can be difficult to appreciate the magic
this city offers. A romantic way to experience Rome is in the winter, when a
handful of cruises on Italian lines like Costa and MSC include stops in
Civitavecchia, the closest port to Rome.
Temperatures hover around 10 degrees centigrade
during winter days, although if you are lucky, experiencing the Coliseum with
a dusting of snow is magical. Cities seem more romantic when you share them
with locals, and during the Roman winter, the intimate enotecas, or wine bars,
are not teeming with tourists. A perfect winter afternoon with your loved one
in Rome might include walking arm in arm to the Spanish steps where you can
make a wish together at the Trevi fountain, before tucking into the nearby Antica Enoteca for a bottle of Chianti
and a plate of prosciutto, sans the summertime crowds .
Civitavecchia’s train station, four
blocks from the cruise port, has several trains each hour going to Rome’s
central station; the fast train takes less than an hour. Once in Rome, use its
extensive bus and metro system, Metripolitana. Winter cruises to Civitavecchia depart from Savona and Genoa,
Italy and Barcelona.
The Old Town of this Dalmatian coast
city in Croatia exudes romance year round, but walking the high city walls with views of
the Adriatic and red-roofed, stone buildings is at its romantic peak in July
and August during the city’s annual Summer
Festival. For 47 days, the Old Town serves as the stage for open-air
performances by artists from around Europe. Allow you and your sweetheart to be
serenaded by opera singers in front of the baroque St Blaise church, or walk
hand-in–hand on the 13th-century walls as an orchestra fills them with
the sounds of classical music.
Smaller cruise ships can dock within
walking distance to Old Town, but most dock in Gruz Harbor, a 15-minute shuttle
ride away, often provided by the cruise lines, gratis. A taxi costs about 60
Kune and queue at the pier. Cruises
to Dubrovnik often start in Venice or Bari, Italy, and can come from as far as Athens
and perfume in Nice
The largest city on the French Riviera is
often overlooked as a launching pad to Monte Carlo and small villages of
Provence. But Nice itself offers the romance of the French Riviera with a city
Follow your nose to the Cours Saleya Flower Market
where the scent of fresh flower reminds you of the region’s perfumed roots. There
are several fragrance shops nearby, including Molinard, which has been
selling scents from nearby Grasse, the birthplace of perfume, since 1849. Check
out the plant and flower stalls before heading to one of the many outdoor cafes
along the pedestrian street adjacent to the market. After lunch, walk one block
south to the Promenade des Anglais, the city’s main seaside promenade, where
you can stroll along the Mediterranean and enjoy the best of Cote d'Azur people
watching. Since many cruise lines stay late in this region, you can return to
the Cours Saleya at night when the stalls make way for chairs and tables from
the bistros that flank the market, transforming the spot into a row of al fresco
Cruises dock at Nice’s Port Nice Quai,
about 6k to the Promenade. The port operates a free shuttle to the city centre
during high season. From there, the flower market and Promenade are within
Many ships spend two days in Israel, allowing
passengers to soak up as much of its millenniums of history as possible. If you
are looking for a romantic reprieve, it is worth spending one of those days in
Tel Aviv’s old section, Jaffa. Now an artist’s quarter, wander the winding
alleyways of Old Jaffa visiting the galleries and museums built into its sandstone
walls, and sit on a bench to enjoy open squares with breezy views of the
Mediterranean. Jaffa is a perfect place to select a piece of jewelry hand-made
by a local artist like Alnoam
Gebriela. For a romantic lunch or dinner, visit Bistro Noa, set in an alley
just outside the walls of Old Jaffa, where the low-lit, unique interior design,
inspired by the local flea market, exudes intimacy.
Cruise ships generally dock in Ashdod,
about 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv. A taxi from there to Jaffa will cost about
190 NIS each way. Cruises arrive in
Israel from Athens, Istanbul, Civitavecchia and Venice.