See a cathedral unfinished after 122 years of almost continuous construction in Barcelona. Listen to Chopin played on an underground lake as you are surrounded by massive stalagmites and stalactites on Mallorca. Explore the beaches and stores at a playground of the rich and famous in Nice. Or experience the surroundings where Mario Puzzo placed his key characters in his epic novel The Godfather.
In a ten day period sailing around the Mediterranean you can visit a number of different countries and stop at several other islands. From one day to the next with each new port of call you will be bombarded with a new language and experience a different culture in which to become immediately immersed.
The Principality of Monaco, where a once great actress by the name of Grace Kelly gave up a career to become a princess when she married Prince Rainier is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.
Yet its Monte Carlo casinos have become famous for their reputation for high stakes gambling. While Las Vegas has long surpassed it for quantity and quality, Monte Carlo is still a place where real players go to be ushered into private rooms where hundred thousand dollar minimums are not uncommon.
The rich may be at the casinos for the gambling, but they also are there with their yachts and expensive jewelry to frolic on the beaches, and shop in the stores of one of the most crime free countries in the world as well. With a policeman for every 60 residents, and more cameras per capita than any other city covering the 1.95 square kilometers of area it occupies, it is no wonder people feel free to wander day and night fully bedecked with jewelry.
Only a short hop away you are in France, driving along cliff side roads that overlook majestic beaches and a continuing series of yacht harbors. In the hours the ship is docked, you have enough time to even visit Cannes, home of the highly publicized film festival which draws Hollywood’s best year after year.
Every stop on a Mediterranean cruise forces one into a cultural adjustment. Part of the Balearic Islands of Spain, Mallorca’s history, until the Spanish Civil War, was about intellectuals and artists.
These groups savored it for its ability to create a relaxed state of mind, promoting creativity and exploration of independent thought and new ideas. As early as the 19th Century, it was a favourite haunt for the composer Frederick Chopin.
It is no wonder that its Auditorio de Palma is recognized as one of Europe’s top concert halls bringing people from around the world to enjoy the presentations. Over the past several decades Palma de Mallorca, its’ main city, and the beach areas nearby, have grown into a year-round escape for visitors.
Its love of the arts continues, and is highlighted in a visit to one of its most famous attractions, the Caves of Drach, or Dragon Caves as it loosely translates. Going down into the depths of the natural underground caves and walking alongside the still waters below, one can easily imagine how monster dragon beliefs could be instilled in the minds of the willing believers.
But thoughts of monsters and dragons are erased when, sitting at the edge of an underground lake with stalactites hanging and stalagmites growing all around you, the haunting sounds of Chopin’s composition echo through the air as musician filled boats pass before you.
It’s a dramatic experience that can haunt you in a more positive manner many times in the days that follow.
It is less than 125 miles from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona but the architecture of this fascinating city is dramatically different and exciting from what you will find anywhere in Europe.
This is due, in no small part to the works of one man, Antoni Gaudi. So stunning is his work that, even though he died in 1926, it draws architects from around the globe to this day. His buildings are often described as sensuous, curving, and almost surreal. His inspiration was from the common people and ordinary things he saw around him. On one building each balcony is designed to look like an eye mask.
He designed the Park Guell which features uniquely sculptured stone structured walkways and multiple colored inlayed tile-work in the rest areas.
Few people leave Barcelona without visiting La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral still being constructed today from his design plans started in 1882.
Founded on the idea of constructing this Cathedral totally on private donations, it is not expected to be complete for another two decades. Tour guides think even that is an ambitious dream. Finished or not, what visitors experience here, whether they know anything about architecture or not, clearly establishes Gaudi as a unique designer and a man before his time.
He also died before his time as legend relates how he got hit by a car as he stepped back to admire his own work.
Off the tip of Italy lies the island made famous by Mario Puzzo in his portrayal of Sicily as the home of the Mafia. The series has created the image of the island, but it does injustice to its own scenic beauty, its beaches, and its place in Italian history for arts and culture that dates back to 10,000 B.C.
It has been the centre of a tug of war between Rome and Carthage. The Arabs controlled during the Byzantine period. In 1072 the Normans captured it and from 1400 to 1700 it was under the Spanish dominion.
It was not until 1870 that it annexed itself into the Kingdom of Italy under the great unifier of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi. Fragments of each culture can still be found in travels around the island.
Along southern Italy the magic views along the Amalfi coast are spectacular.
And not enough can ever be written about Italy, and especially Rome.
Rome is a wonderful starting or ending point for a cruise because of the opportunity to explore so much of the amazing Roman history.
It is hard not to enjoy the pampering one gets in the hours you are on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean.
But in the end it is the ports of call, the learning experience gained from each new country, and the inner sense of appreciation for history one gets from each stop along the way.
Cruising is a great way to capture a feel for the places you want to come back to again. Before you go if you are looking for travel accessories check out the huge collection of just about everything you would need for your travels here.