Chapter 4: Why Cruise the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean region presents some of the most stunning coastal landscapes in the world. Imagine seaside villages aglow in sunlight, stacked upon ancient cliffs and overlooking azure waters. Within homes, shops and cafes, people slow down and savor their meals and each other’s company.
This part of the world is like a living oil painting and has been influential to some of the greatest artists in history. The French Riviera, for example, has sparked the creative flame in artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh — just to name a few. The scenery could make anyone lose their sense of time and trouble, pull up a chair and sip a limoncello under a warm sun.
The Mediterranean Sea spans from Spain to Lebanon and is approximately 2,300 miles in length. The sea was an important body of water for merchants and travelers across history and has been a venue for trade between Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries. Now, millions of people flock to its colorful culturally rich shorelines every year to experience the mystique, romance and history of its coastal towns.
Twenty-three countries border the Mediterranean Sea, from Greece to Morocco. The cultural experiences seem endless around the Mediterranean. Cultures around the globe envy and try to replicate Mediterranean culture. Mediterranean lifestyles are viewed as sensual, healthy, casual yet chic. Many think of olive oil, fresh fish and vegetables, fine wine, long siestas and picturesque villages when they think of this part of the planet.
Life, the Mediterranean way, is about replacing stress with family, friends and conversation. It’s about enjoying every spice, every bite and every moment. It is no wonder Mediterranean residents live longer than their earthly neighbors.
A cruise gives you a chance to sail port-to-port and explore the many different seaside villages, towns, cities and islands that are embraced by the enigmatic Mediterranean Sea. If you’re wondering why cruise the Mediterranean, our answer is — why not?
Examples of Windstar Mediterranean Cruises
Windstar knows there’s nothing quite like the timeless beauty of the Mediterranean. That’s why we offer numerous cruise options to explore Mediterranean countries and their varied treasures. In this chapter, we’ll share some of our well-loved Mediterranean cruises that are sure to capture your heart while freeing your spirit.
1. Island Gems of Spain and Portugal
Clay-colored buildings kissed by the sun, hugging aquamarine waters. A flamenco dancer with a red rose in her hair, casting a spell on her audience as they fall in love with life and music. Every dish a passionate rainbow of colors from vibrant red sauces to sweet greens of herbs. What do you think of when you think of Spain? What about Portugal? Do you think of a quiet escape to a sea cave?
Spain and Portugal invite you to reawaken your passion and take the bull by the horns. Leave it to Windstar to get you there.
From $2,999 per person, you can spend ten days sailing from Lisbon, Portugal, to Spanish islands and back to Lisbon on our Island Gems of Spain and Portugal tour.
You’ll start your trip in Lisbon, the vibrant capital city of Portugal. From May to August, this sunny city is alive with food and music festivals. From November to February, the weather is pleasantly mild and hotel prices drop. As a city that mixes ancient ruins with a lively culture, you’ll have your choice of things to do and places to see any time of year. In the mood to roam cobblestone streets and browse boutiques? Or would you prefer to relax on the beach with a good book? You can do either in Lisbon.
Next, you’ll sail to Madeira for a chance to taste wine, dine at one of the many five-star restaurants or contemplate life’s mysteries while standing in a 15th-century cathedral. Madeira is considered one of the islands of eternal spring, with warm weather year-round.
The island offers an abundance of fresh fish and seafood, and delicious tropical fruits from bananas to papayas for visitors to taste or buy at local markets. After a hearty meal, you can go for a hike to check out some of Madeira’s most breathtaking spots or relax in the natural volcano-formed swimming pools of Porto Moniz.
You’ll next explore the gems of Spain with a trip to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a port in the largest of the western islands in the Canary archipelago. Home to beaches, nature preserves, museums and plenty of snorkeling opportunities, Santa Cruz de Tenerife makes one feel spoiled.
You’ll then be off to Lanzarote, Spain — a small volcanic island. Here you will feel as if you’ve transcended the laws of physics and traveled to another world. Wander around eerie volcanic landscapes in Timanfaya National Park or view ethereal craters from a bus or by camelback. Make sure to visit Lago Verde, a crescent-shaped lagoon filled with olive-green water created by volcanic minerals and micro-organisms.
The cruise will take you next to Morocco where you can shop for exotic treasures from rugs to saffron and take in the sights, sounds, and perfumes at the Souk El Had, which means Sunday market.
After another stop in Portugal, this time in Portimao, where you can explore the ancient city of Silves a short distance away, you’ll head back to Lisbon, forever changed and maybe forever a bit Mediterranean.
2. Enchanting Greece and the Amalfi Coast
Can you imagine yourself dining on a shaded terrace, savoring every bite of pignatiello all’amalfitana, a signature Amalfi seafood dish, next to hot pink bursts of bougainvillea, looking out at an expanse of sea and sky? The stunning scenery combined with fresh aromatic cuisine has you feeling dizzy with romance. Our Greece and the Amalfi Coast cruise takes you on the Mediterranean cruise of your dreams.
You’ll start your journey in Athens, Greece, where you’ll get the chance to visit the Acropolis or snap a photo of the Parthenon at sunset. On the second day, you’ll be taken to Monemvasia, Greece, to travel back to the 12th century. Take a lunch break at a tavern and try spicy meatballs or soutzoukakia and leave room for dessert such as almond cookies. Sip wine next to Byzantine walls under a glittering night sky.
On day three, enjoy a hot cup of coffee at a waterfront cafe in Gythion, Greece. You can relax, shop, and people watch before sailing to Italy.
While in Italy, you’ll visit Messina, Sorrento, Ponza and Rome for the experience of a lifetime. You’ll have the chance to explore ancient Roman ruins, charming seaside towns and dream-like landscapes. We also offer excursions to make each trip even more complete.
For example, visit the Liotrivi Olive Oil factory while in Monemvasia to learn about traditional olive oil production and to taste fresh wood-oven baked bread while relaxing under olive trees. Or journey to Pompeii by motor coach from Sorrento.
The Enchanting Greece and Amalfi cruise sails for seven days and starts at $3,899 per person. It’s the perfect cruise for anyone who has always wanted to visit ancient ruins or explore the ports of Italy and Greece via an intimate, luxurious yacht.
3. Star Collector: Italian Trio
Can’t decide if you want to explore Italy or Spain? We understand — it is a difficult decision. Fortunately, we designed a cruise that allows you to experience both.
The Star Collector: Italian Trio cruise is a 15-day cruise which starts at $6,499 per person. You’ll sail from Venice to Barcelona and experience many gems in between.
With the Italian Trio cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Vatican City, tour the Amalfi coast, wander around Cannes on the French Riviera and ride a gondola in Venice if you wish. You’ll explore Dubrovnik, Monte Carlo and Barcelona among other worthwhile towns. You’ll see everything from glamorous boutiques to medieval villages for a rich, unforgettable cultural experience.
Consider taking an excursion to learn about your destination from a local’s perspective. For example, our Concierge Collection: Dinner at a Local Family Village Home takes you to the Cilipi Village and Novakovic Family Village Estate. The Novakovic family has spent generations producing brandy, olive oil and wine in the tradition of their ancestors. The host, Mr. Niko Novakovic, will prepare specials dishes just for you, including meals cooked under an iron bell.
Or you might choose to taste absinthe in a 9th-century vaulted cellar in Old Town, or Antibes — one of France’s oldest cities with our Old Antibes and Absinthe excursion in Cannes.
We offer many different cruise and excursions options to suit your preferences and help you reach your Mediterranean bucket list goals.
Mediterranean Bucket List Ideas
It would be easy to create an entire bucket list reserved for the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. With so much charm, beauty, culture and a lifestyle many of us wish we could instantly adopt, there’s so much to admire about this part of the world.
A Mediterranean cruise invites you to slow down and savor the flavors of life, including all that’s sweet and a little bit spicy. Arouse your passions and consider adding one of these fun ideas to your Mediterranean bucket list:
- Tour Pompeii at dusk: In 79 A.D. a volcanic eruption buried this Roman city in ash. Visit the ruins when the sun is setting, casting shadows across the ancient walkways for a truly haunting experience.
- Visit a food market in Barcelona: Spend an afternoon browsing the rainbow-colored fruit and spice stands, bite into juicy mango slices or sit down to a freshly prepared seafood dish.
- Spend a day among ancient ruins in Athens: Behold the celestial beauty of Athens and experience what it feels like to walk among the gods.
- Take a gondola ride in Venice: Drift in a dream past terra-cotta colored homes, beneath medieval bridges and through gentle canals with a loved one for a romantic bucket list must-do.
- Eat fresh grilled sardines in Greece: You might also try fried kalamarakia or squid, or grilled octopus.
- Relax with limoncello on the Amalfi Coast: For the limoncello to be authentic, it must use lemons that grow on the Costiera Amalfitana. This is the only place where lemons grow a thick skin, essential for making limoncello.
- Take a siesta in Spain: Afternoon napping originated in Spain to give farmers a break from the hottest hours of the day. Now, siestas are more of a luxury and might include a long lunch with family or friends instead of a nap. Spend your siesta however you wish.
- Take a tapa tour in Spain: A trip to Spain would feel incomplete without sampling as many mouthwatering tapas as you can handle from savory to sweet. You might try croquetas, or fried balls commonly filled with ham or cod, or queso con membrillo which is manchego cheese layered with a sweet vanilla and lemon paste.
- Haggle in Morocco: Test your skills to win a bargain at a Moroccan market. Unlike western culture, you can negotiate just about anything you want to pay for in Morocco. Be polite, stick to your guns and only try to bargain if you’re serious about buying something.
- Eat gelato in Italy: Gelato originated 12,000 years ago when slaves traveled far to gather ice and snow used to cool drinks for royalty. However, “modern” gelato began during the Renaissance in Florence when an alchemist developed the first gelato flavor. Make sure to treat yourself to this smooth, creamy delight while in Italy.