Adding exotic flair to a client’s Mediterranean cruise or repositioning voyage is an itinerary that calls at Morocco along Africa’s northwestern coast. At four Moroccan ports — Tangier, Casablanca, Agadir and Safi — clients can feel like a sultan heading into the kasbah (fortress, citadel or historic quarter), as well as savor Moroccan cuisine, explore the medina (old Arab city with narrow, maze-like alleyways) and bargain for handicrafts at a souq.
Clients can also get there on a new ship. On May 16, 2018, Seabourn’s newly launched 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation will sail to both Casablanca and Tangier during its “10-night Iberian Gems and Morocco” itinerary. Onboard, guests can dine on Thomas Keller’s cuisine and participate in a new spa-and-wellness program created by Dr. Andrew Weil. The Wintergarden Suite has dining for six, a whirlpool bathtub, guest bath, sofa bed, pantry with wet bar, glass-enclosed solarium with tub and day bed, and two flat-screen TVs. All suites have private verandas.
In 2019, Scenic’s new 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse will call at Safi during its eight-night “Discover Spain, Portugal and Morocco” voyage from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Barcelona, Spain. Guests can take Scenic excursions to Safi’s medina and pottery works, or to Medina of Essaouira; the latter also includes a visit with argan oil collective workers. Scenic Enrich’s cultural event for guests includes belly-dancing, singing, drumming, henna painting and a traditional tea ceremony. Here’s more about the four cruise ports plus a sampling of other lines calling there.
Not far from the Strait of Gibraltar is Tangier with a historic medina and maze of medieval alleys, plus the modern “ville nouvelle.” Cruisers can stroll past the Grand Socco’s palm-ringed plaza with central fountain to the medina with its walled kasbah and souqs. Tip: If buying handicrafts and other goods, bargain vigorously. First-time visitors are also advised to enter the medina’s labyrinth of twisting alleyways with an organized tour or reputable local guide.
Shoppers also can head for the modern city’s Rue de la Liberté and Place de France. Literary / art fans should pop into the Gran Café de Paris and El Minzah Hotel, 19th- and 20th-century haunts of Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams and Henri Matisse.
Ponant’s Le Lyrial calls at both Tangier and Casablanca on an eight-night “From Portugal to the Canary Islands” voyage, departing October 11, 2018. At Tangier, Ponant’s half-day tour includes Cap Spartel, the Kasbah Museum, and the bustling Grand Socco (souk), plus a scenic drive and sampling of Moroccan mint tea and pastries.
Holland America Line’s Prinsendam will visit Agadir. Seen above is the ship’s Vista Suite.
Oceania Cruises’ Riviera also calls at Tangier on its 14-night “Atlantic Pathways” voyage from Miami to Barcelona, departing March 28, while MSC Cruises’ MSC Sinfonia sails a 12-night voyage roundtrip from Barcelona that includes Tangier; it departs December 7, 2018. For those who prefer a sailing experience, Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf operates a 15-day “Star Collector: Iberian Coastal Charms” from Lisbon, Portugal to Civitavecchia (Rome) on April 14, while Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper will sail a five-night “Spain and Morocco” itinerary from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain, with a Tangier call, on April 23.
Rebuilt after a destructive 1960 earthquake, bustling Agadir has many concrete buildings, but also a lovely beachfront promenade, crescent-shaped beach, the Bab el Had market and several golf courses. One highlight is a trip to the hilltop, 16th-century kasbah, a historic spot and a prime perch for snapping photos of the city and beach below. Agadir also serves as a gateway for day trips to Marrakesh, ancient Taroudant, and Tiznit, a pink-walled Berber town.
Departing September 29, 2018, Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas will sail a 12-night “Canaries and North Africa” cruise roundtrip from Southampton, while Fred. Olsen Cruises’ Balmoral calls at Agadir during its 14-night “Landscapes of the Canaries & Morocco” roundtrip from Southampton on November 24, 2018. Holland America Line’s Prinsendam will visit Agadir on its 54-night “Grand Mediterranean & Africa” voyage, departing March 12 roundtrip from Port Everglades.
Going ashore here, cruisers often exclaim, “Here’s looking at you kid,” as they recall the 1942 movie classic, “Casablanca,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Today, however, Casablanca is the region’s busiest port and a modern city of millions, so many cruisers instead head out to such “Imperial Cities” as Rabat, the nation’s capital, or Marrakesh. Still, Casablanca has its own draws. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Spirit operates numerous 10-night “Canary Islands, Spain & Morocco” roundtrips from Malaga or Barcelona, Spain, in the first quarter of 2018; all call at Casablanca.
We’d opt for its “Exclusive Casablanca & Rick’s Café” shore excursion designed for small groups, starting from $199 per person. Cruisers will stroll through the central market and tour the Hassan II Mosque; see the Habous Quarter’s Arab-Islamic architecture; and view the Royal Palace and olive market. After a drive through a residential quarter, the guide will point out the location of World War II’s Casablanca Conference, before a stop at Ain Diab, a seaside resort, and at Rick’s Café for lunch. Yes, it’s a re-created venue but a hoot for movie buffs.
For culinary fans, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit sails from Barcelona to Lisbon on May 13, 2018 and offers the “Local Flavors and Cooking Demonstration” excursion at Casablanca; it includes a photo stop at the Hassan II Mosque, a scenic Corniche drive, a visit to residential Anfa, and finally, an interactive Moroccan cooking lesson, featuring entrees and desserts, followed by lunch at the exclusive Umayyad restaurant.
Kasbah de Boulaouane in Casablanca
Aegean Odyssey sails November 10, 2018, from Malaga, Spain to Tenerife, Canary Islands on Voyages to Antiquity’s “Moorish Odyssey,” offering several days in Morocco. During the line’s shore excursion to Taroudant, an old Sous Valley trading center, cruisers will see citrus trees and High Atlas peaks in the distance. Taroudant itself has red-mud walls, an 11th-century citadel, an Arab souk, a Berber market and tree-climbing goats. This voyage also offers one-night hotel stays in both Fez and Marrakesh, giving cruisers more time to explore those cities.
Casablanca is often a call on repositioning or lengthy voyages, among them: Costa Cruises’ 106-night World Cruise on Costa Luminosa, from Venice to Los Angeles, departing January 6; Viking Ocean Cruises’ 15-day “West Indies to Iberia” repositioning voyage on Viking Sea, from San Juan to Barcelona, departing March 27 and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ 39-night voyage on Astor from Fremantle, Australia to London on March 12.
Occupied by the Portuguese during the 16th century, Safi is home to the Kechla, the former citadel now housing the National Ceramics Museum. Dar Al Bahar, another Portuguese fortress, and the Portuguese Cathedral are also worth a look. Seeking good quality, affordable pottery? Head for the Safi’s potters’ quarter. Star Clippers’ 16-night “Transatlantic Westbound” voyage on Royal Clipper from Lisbon to Barbados departs on October 25, 2018 with a Safi call.