There's no question about it - winter is well and truly making itself known in the antipodes. As the rain sets in and the temperatures drop, our thoughts start wandering to warmer climes - after all, as the cold weather descends Down Under, things are starting to hot up in the famously idyllic Mediterranean. Cruises provide the perfect escape for those who are keen to skip the unpleasantness of winter and follow summer around the world. When you find a cruise that suits you, it's a prime recipe for relaxation, while at the same time allowing you to visit new places and discover new cultures. Heading to the Mediterranean is a great way of encompassing both of these cruising aspects. The balmy climate lends itself to sunbathing by the pool and unwinding in the shade with a glass of something delicious to hand, while the various countries that you visit on your way around the Med each have their own distinctive culture that you'll get to sample on your cruising voyage. If you find yourself heading ashore in Tunisia or Turkey over the summer months, you might even have the opportunity to experience Ramadan, the month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims fast during the day and feast when the sun goes down. Read on to discover a little more about just a small handful of the many idyllic locations you could escape to this winter.
Those who have already organised shore tours with their cruise line won't even have to plan their day ashore but if you're intending to strike out on your own make sure you don't miss the Sagrada Familia, arguably the city's most distinctive edifice. This cathedral has been in construction, on and off, for over a hundred years and is still incomplete but in spite of that it's still very beautiful and offers a magnificent view from its towers.
For those with an eye for history, the Gothic Quarter is an unmissable attraction. The centre of old Barcelona, most of the buildings date back to medieval times - with a few surviving from the Roman era! Just be aware that this is a particularly popular spot for pickpockets, so keep your money secure and out of sight to prevent any incidents.
If you love people watching, Plaça de Catalunya is the perfect spot for you. A place of fountains and sculptures, this is the cultural centre of the city. Surrounded by shops and open air cafes, it's easy to while away hours here watching local life going on around you.
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Mediterranean Tapestry Cruise - Oosterdam - Holland America Line
Known for its traditional charm and dedication to understated quality, a Holland America Line cruise around the rivieras region is perfect for those looking to unwind and recharge.
Best of Western Mediterranean Cruise - Celebrity Reflection - Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises offer an extra level of luxury beyond your average cruise line, and this itinerary will allow you to explore Cinque Terre, Rome and Gibraltar, as well as Barcelona.
La Goulette is the port district of Tunis, and the first part of the city that you'll get to see. Instead of rushing straight onward further into Tunis, take a little time to explore the waterfront first. You can discover old Ottoman and Spanish forts in La Goulette, while those who simply want to enjoy the ocean air should take a stroll along Avenue Franklin Roosevelt.
Ville Nouvelle is a little slice of colonial France in the middle of an African city. Visitors will be delighted by the sheer novelty of this district, while those with an eye for architecture will marvel at the striking mixture of colonial and post-colonial buildings.
The Zitouna Mosque is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the entire region, which is saying something. Set at the heart of Tunis, this "Mosque of the Olive Tree" is open to visitors of all faiths with the exception of the prayer hall - make sure you head to the rooftop where spectacular tile patterns will take your breath away, if the sight of the city stretching out before you doesn't steal it first.
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Mediterranean Cruise - Royal Princess - Princess Cruises
Work in a few days touring Rome if you can, before departing from nearby Civitavecchia and sailing for Tunis. After your time in Africa, you'll have the chance to head back north to discover cities like Florence and Toulon.
Gems of Spain and Mediterranean Discover Cruise - Eurodam - Holland America
Enjoy a traditional style cruise that encompasses all the best of the western Mediterranean - from Barcelona to Valencia, Florence to Rome, this sailing is full to the brim with amazing destinations.
Staying onboard when your cruise ship arrives in the world's most famous city is unthinkable, so make sure you have a good plan to explore the city, especially if you're only stopping for one day. If there's one place that you absolutely must see, it would have to be The Pantheon. This is one of the few pieces of ancient Rome that remains in amazingly good condition. Visually impressive and rich with history, the Pantheon should outweigh more well known landmarks in any one-day itinerary.
St. Peter's Basilica, located within Vatican City, (which in turn is encompassed by Rome) is an absolutely magnificent example of Renaissance architecture and is traditionally regarded as the burial place of St. Peter, one of Christ's apostles and the first pope of the Catholic Church. If you manage to visit the Vatican (which you should attempt no later than 7:30am to miss the bulk of the crowds) then St. Peter's should definitely be on your list of sights to see.
The Colosseum is one of those bucket list attractions that you'd kick yourself if you missed out on, so don't forget to set aside some time to visit this towering amphitheatre which in its prime could hold up to 80,000 spectators. Although the millennia have been less than kind to this fabled building, the fact that it's still mostly standing in the wake of wars, earthquakes and vandalism is quite frankly astounding.
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Mediterranean Greek Cruise - Brilliance of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
The shore stops for this cruise read like a top 10 of European destinations, with opportunities to visit iconic cities like Florence, Rome, Athens and Santorini on the cards.
Spain and France and Italy Cruise - Aurora - P&O Cruises
Starting out in Southampton, this cruise includes the best of the Iberian and Italian peninsulas, with a special stop at the Sardinian city of Olbia.
Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Florence is an influential centre for fashion, and boasts some of finest artworks the world has ever known. Home to many of Michelangelo's startlingly lifelike sculptures including the iconic 'David', Florence has a reputation as a haven for Renaissance art.
For something a little different, head down to the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo for a local market experience that will give you a glimpse of the true face of Florence. This is the perfect place to find delicious, freshly prepared food as well as a special souvenir of your time in this stunning city.
History buffs won't want to miss Santa Croce - this is the final resting place for some of Italy's most illustrious sons including Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. There's some beautifully distinctive art on display as well, from the impressive statue of Dante outside to the exquisitely crafted crucifix by Donatello within.
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Mediterranean Cruise - MSC Armonia - MSC Cruises
This 7 day cruise will see you coming ashore in a mixture of beachy paradises like Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca, and old centres of culture such as Genoa and Florence.
Glamorous Riviera Cruise - Riviera - Oceania Cruises
Featuring all inclusive cruising which covers dining in specialty restaurants, access to the prestigious Canyon Ranch Spa, and non-alcoholic drinks, this itinerary will treat you to a wide range of Italian, French and Spanish destinations.
This picturesque Greek island has a fascinating backstory, having been ruled by Rome, Venice, and the Ottoman Empire over the millennia, but today it's more well known for its stunning beaches, quaint town centre and pumping nightlife.
You could quite easily spend the entire day wandering around Mykonos Town at a leisurely pace, strolling the winding streets, popping into one or more of the many museums or shopping at designer boutiques. Relaxation seekers, this will be more than enough to keep you interested.
If you want to hit the beach, be aware that while Mykonos Town does have a couple beaches, there are far better options a little ways from the town - consider taking a taxi or bus to beaches such as Psarou or Platis Gialos to get the most out of your time on the sand.
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Greece, Malta and Croatia Cruise - Oceana - P&O Cruises
Embarking in Malta, cruisers will be treated to a two week voyage that touches on the ancient cities of Athens and Ephesus, before exploring the sunny climes of the Adriatic.
Athens to Istanbul Cruise - Silver Spirit - Silversea
Almost everything you can think of is included in the cruise fare for this luxury voyage - WiFi, mini-bar, gratuities, fine dining, butler service... The only thing you may have to pay extra for is champagne and some high-end liquors, meaning all you have to worry about is how best to enjoy the high life on your journey around the Aegean Sea.
To see what kind of Mediterranean adventure you could be having this winter, head to Cruise Sale Finder's Mediterranean cruise page! With dozens of different cruises available from a wide range cruise lines, you're sure to find an experience you'll love.