For many years now, most of the major cruise lines have deployed their biggest and most amenity laden new tonnage to the Mediterranean. Many of these ships operate from Barcelona, Venice, and even Rome on seven night itineraries that I call Meddy-Go-Rounds.
These cruises are ideal for those wanting to see the ‘greatest hits’ of the Mediterranean in a week. A typical Barcelona departure will yield up Monte Carlo, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Naples and Palma de Mallorca in one week, and all at a rate of knots almost as frantic as a Blue Riband crossing of old.
It’s exhilarating, exhausting and fabulous fun, but yields little in the way of relaxation. Nor is it meant to. There is such a glut of compelling sites within an hour or so of most main ports in the region that viewing them is almost mandatory. And if you’re only going to be in this region once, then you certainly want to maximise everything that you see and experience.
The cruise lines love running them for several reasons. They are immensely profitable in terms of shore excursion sales. Also, the ships leave most ports at around five in the afternoon, and arrive at the next call by eight the following morning. The sailing distance between ports is most often not very far; which means that the ships save a small fortune in the amount of fuel they use. It’s a win-win situation.
Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, together with Costa and MSC, have been the main standard bearers of these itineraries, but the latter two now run them right through the year- a significant ramp up in the winter cruising handle. And, next year, even Cunard will be running a series of seven day Med fly cruises; a turn of events prompted by a need to change with the times as much as anything else.
But it isn’t just the big boys that are in thrall to the Meddy-Go-Round. The inaugural season this year of Hapag’s new, highly styled Europa 2 is built around a succession of seven night itineraries, many combinable to create some really special back-to-back cruises. Rivals Silversea and, to a lesser extent, Regent, have been running them for several years now.
These smaller ships can usually access the smaller, more select yacht havens that their bigger brethren have to bypass. They also usually offer at least one overnight stay- a definite plus in a region where la dolce vita is the true, unspoken religion of the masses.
Next year, both Crystal and Celebrity will also be introducing some seven night sailings in the region, though in the case of sassy, upmarket Crystal, these are mostly between two different ports, and not round trip circuits.
There is a slight overall decrease in the number of big ships in the Med next year, but the region as a whole is still feverishly busy in summer. Add in the presence of Thomson, who along with Airtours, really did start the mass, seven day cruise market boom, and you have an ocean of options and possibilities.
From the simple, homely charms of the Island Escape to the stunning, six star luxury of the sumptuous Crystal Symphony, the Med market continues to re-invent itself. It’s a classic cocktail of stunning, unforgettable scenery, long, sunny days and nights, and a lifestyle ashore that is almost irresistible.
Blend in the safe,comforting luxury of a fantastic floating resort that moves you effortlessly around the highlights, together with the knowledge that you only need to pack and unpack once, and choosing the Med becomes a virtual no-brainer. Choose your size and style of ship, get out there, and have fun.