Cruise the Islands of the Med

-Blue Grotto, Sicily.

By Kylie Mitchell-Smith

We’ve found an affordable, convenient and luxurious way to see the Mediterranean by sea, taking in parts of Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Spain along the way. Azamara cruises have created an exciting 12-day itinerary that visits the most desirable Islands, sailing into port each day as the sun rises over the Mediterranean.

We board a smaller ship, which enables us to visit unique regions and inject into the local economy. Azamara Cruises are all about the destination, sailing into shore early morning, making the most of the day on land.

The ‘Islands of the Med’ cruise embarks in Athens and sets sail to the coastal town of Kusadasi in Turkey, rich in culture and authentic fare, the region is home to some of the oldest ruins, Ephesus. We are treated to an ethereal performance in the ancient amphitheatre, by the Antakaya Civilisations Choir-all about world peace.

Waving goodbye to Kusadasi, we head to the popular Greek Island of Santorini, we arrive pre-season and it’s buzzing, with swarms of tourists expected in just over a month. We like to cruise either side of the peak periods in May and September, to beat the crowds and warmer months.

Onwards we head to the quieter and lesser-known Island of Crete, a picturesque seaside town, with ancient ruins, old town and local artists that line the cobbled stone streets that adorn the harbour. The friendly locals greet us at every turn and are happy to show us where the affordable tavernas are-off the beaten path.

Back on board to catch the setting sun, we sail away with wind in hair, and a chili margarita in our hand-destination Amalfi Coast. An overnight cruise ensures that we wake up to the sights and sounds of Sorrento-fuelled for a day of adventure.

Sorrento is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, a coastal town in the south of Italy that looks onto the Bay of Naples in the Sorrentine Peninsula. The old town is perched high above the bustling marina, with sweeping views, a café lined piazza, historical hotels and a plethora of cathedrals.

We people watch and sip on an Aperol spritz at the majestic Grand Hotel Excelsior, that takes pride of place on top of the cascading cliff face. After a day exploring the narrow streets and steep stairs of Sorrento, we are ready to head back on-board. Passing the ships, chefs along the way (busily buying cheeses from local producers) dinner is an ode to the tastes of the Amalfi Coast-delicious.

Next stop is the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, the boat is a hive of excitement as we sail into the stunning town of Taormina, Sicily, Taormina has been made famous by the Godfather movie and more recently the popular Netflix series ‘White Lotus’. The town is perched atop of a towering cliff and oozes charm, with stately hotels, artisan shops and alfresco dining around each corner.

Sailing into the port of the old town of Olbia in Sardinia, we are greeted by friends who live in the hills behind the Emerald Coast in a village called Berchidda. We are treated to a tour of the valley, tasting local wine, cheese and olives along the way. The organic land of Sardinia is rich in agriculture and nature-based activities, and we just touched on the tip of the island-we vow to return.

Waving goodbye to Italy with mixed emotions, our spirits are lifted knowing we have France and Spain to go. Next on the ‘Islands of the Med’ tour is Corsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, located southeast of mainland France. The birthplace of Napoleon there is a certain pride and style to the town-classically beautiful, with a coastal French twist.

But wait there’s more our next destination on the tour of the Mediterranean are the popular islands of Spain, Mahon Menorca and Palma De Mallorca. Explore the stunning clifftops and beaches of Binibeca in Menorca, and swoon over the picturesque, whitewashed village that frames the coast.

Mallorca is a popular tourist destination, with a lively harbour and commanding Catedral de Mallorca, central to the town. Walk the vibrant laneways and taste an array of tapas and sangria-inspired by the coastal surrounds.

The last destination of our tour of the Mediterranean is the city of Barcelona, we sail in as the sun rises, with plenty of time to explore the ancient city. We visit the Gothic Quarter, El Born district and Barceloneta Beach-topping off our cruise with a sunset cocktail at the iconic W Hotel-as day turns to night over the beautiful city.

Azamara Cruises are luxurious, boutique ships, that include themed dining experiences and live entertainment, inspired by each destination. Coupled with attentive staff, bespoke shore excursions and curated itineraries-it’s the perfect way to travel and explore the Islands of the Med.

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