by Jane Archer, The Telegraph, April 27, 2018
A cruise around the Mediterranean or Baltic is an ideal way to sample several cities on one holiday. Favourites such as Rome, Florence and Athens lie just a little way inland from busy ports, while Baltic gems such as St Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Tallinn are on the coast so you only have to step ashore to start exploring.
To add an extra dimension why not time the trip to tie with one of Europe’s many summer festivals and celebrations?
1. Jazz it up in Copenhagen
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Grand Capitals sailing from Oslo to Southampton in July dips into an eclectic mix of summer events, from the annual jazz festival in Copenhagen to Bastille Day, July 14, in Saint-Malo, France.
2. Celebrate David Hockney in Paris
In Paris, which is reached from Le Havre, make time to visit the David Hockney exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, marking the artist’s 80th birthday. From £5,649pp with flights departing July 6, 2018 (rssc.com).
3. Spring into action in Seville
Straddling the Guadalquivir river in Spain, Seville is inaccessible to most ships. But Fred Olsen’s Braemar can navigate the river, and next year’s 12-night Spain and Portugal with the Seville Fair cruise, from Southampton, coincides with the city’s spring fair, Feria de Abril. Expect horseback parades and flamboyant flamenco dress. From £1,499pp deaprting on May 6, 2019 (fredolsencruises.com).
4. Explore historic palaces in Genoa
Unsung Genoa boasts beautiful Unesco-listed palaces. Many Palazzi dei Rolli are privately owned, but twice a year they open to the public. This year’s Rolli Days are May 19 and 20 and October 13 and 14. MSC Fantasia will be in Genoa on October 14 during a seven-night round trip from Barcelona which also offers chances to visit Rome and Florence. From £789pp cruise only, October 10, 2018 (msccruises.co.uk).
5. Watch the Monaco Grand Prix
Add va-va-vroom to P&O Cruises’ 14-night Croatia, Italy and Montenegro voyage in 2019, which has a day in Villefranche so Formula 1 fans can watch the Monaco Grand Prix (standing and VIP tickets from £169 to £1,875pp with transfers, based on 2017 prices). Excursions also visit Nice, Cannes and Antibes. The round trip from Valletta in Malta also ticks off Split in Croatia and Venice in Italy. From £1,499pp with flights, May 16, 2019 (pocruises.com).
6. Get festive in Venice
The fireworks, regattas and merry-making associated with Venice’s Festa del Redentore bring extra magic to the city. The event commemorates the end of a devastating plague in 1576, and boats are decorated for the occasion.
Azamara Quest will be in the city during the festivities (July 14-15 this year) at the end of a nine-night Redentore Festival voyage that starts in Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) and calls at Amalfi in Italy and Civitavecchia in Croatia, ending with a two-day stay in Venice. From £1,959pp cruise only, July 7, 2018 (azamaraclubcruises.co.uk).
7. Enjoy a musical voyage through Italy
A tour from Livorno to Torre del Lago for the annual Puccini Festival is a key draw on a 19-night Saga round trip from Dover. Visit Puccini’s summer villa, now a museum, on an excursion that includes an opera ticket. Pop-up opera performances will take place aboard Saga Sapphire.
The Musical Mediterranean voyage stays two days in Livorno, giving time for tours to Florence. Other ports include Lisbon and Barcelona. From £3,368pp, July 19, 2018; Puccini opera excursion £149pp ( ravel.saga.co.uk).
8. See White Nights in St Petersburg
Crystal Cruises’ 12-day Baltic Bliss trip from Stockholm to Dover includes three days in St Petersburg during the White Nights festival. In June, when the sun never properly sets, the long days are filled with festivals and concerts. Don’t miss the main event – the raising of a bridge over the Neva river.
The cruise also calls at five other cities. From £3,930pp cruise only, June 19, 2018 (crystalcruises.co.uk).