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All ashore

Volcanoes, colorful ports & Sicilian countryside: Best Mediterranean islands by foot, boat or bus

Mediterranean cruises are a favourite among travelers thanks to the region’s sheer diversity and beauty. Here’s how you can enjoy shore excursions no matter what your abilities.

Norwegian Cruise Line Mediterranean excursions are plentiful so no matter what you’re after there will be a day trip for you. Wine lover? History nut? Hiking devotee? NCL has something you’ll love.

The cruise line offers a wealth of Mediterranean cruises in 2023, ticking off amazing places across Italy, Greece and beyond – all with shore experiences that match every physical ability.

What’s more, with Norwegian Cruise Line Mediterranean cruise vacations you can upgrade from just £149pp (on a six to eight-day cruise) and benefit from the Free at Sea package, offering everything from Premium Beverages (a wide selection of soft drinks, spirits, cocktails, wines by the glass and bottled or draft beer) to speciality dining.

You’ll also bag Wi-Fi and excursion discounts (US$50 per stateroom, per port of call) plus guests three and four in the stateroom pay only the applicable tax for their cruise on select sailings.

Tempted? One popular Mediterranean cruise you’ll love is the Greek Isles: Santorini, Mykonos & Florence voyage onboard Norwegian Breakaway [above].

The NCL cruise ship has 25 dining and beverage experiences including Cagney’s Steakhouse, French restaurant Le Bistro and three dedicated seafood venues. Guests will relish the array of marvellous stage performances and appreciate the fun to be had at The Waterfront – a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade lined with restaurants, bars and great views – not the mention the thrills at The Aqua Park & Sports Complex with its five multi-storey waterslides.

But back to the cruise. The Greek Isles sailing begins in Civitavecchia for Rome and calls at Santorini, Mykonos and Olympia in Greece before heading to Malta and then Sicily. Up next is Naples followed by Livorno for Florence or Pisa and then back to the Italian capital.

We’ve had a look at just some of the amazing Norwegian Cruise Line Mediterranean excursions available with the cruise during its island ports of call, whether you want to explore on foot, by boat or from the comfort of a coach.

Santorini - by foot

Hike an active volcano

Santorini may be associated with the bright whites and vibrant blues of its iconic buildings but there’s also a lot of black here due to the lava rocks. That’s right, Santorini [above] is a volcanic island and its caldera is one of the biggest active underwater volcanoes in the world!

If you fancy an active challenge on your NCL cruise to Santorini, sign up for the Volcano Hiking shore excursion.

Nea Kameni is one of the two rocky islets in the centre of the caldera and the goal is the crater at the centre of the island’s highest point, just over 300ft above the sea.

With NCL you’ll take a boat ride to this active volcano and hike for 30 minutes (3/4 mile) on rocky and gravel terrain to the summit. Your efforts will be rewarded with impressive views around the caldera and excellent bird-watching opportunities.

Another great hike is from the main town of Fira to the famous village of Oia, which takes walkers along the cusp of the caldera. The route is mainly easy but certain stretches are more challenging.

Valletta, Malta - by boat

Float around three gorgeous cities

As Ratty said to Mole in the beloved children’s book Wind in the Willows, “There’s nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” so hop off the glorious Norwegian Breakaway ship onto another boat to visit three Maltese cities – Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa – during your call at Valetta, Malta [above].

A short ride aboard a typical Maltese vessel is a wonderful way to learn about the island’s fascinating past and enjoy its colorful ports.

Senglea [below] is Malta’s tiniest town and the most densely populated, as well as one of the oldest cities in the country, dating back to the 16th century.

You’ll get amazing vistas of Valletta and the Grand Harbour from the city, which is perched on a peninsula, while in Senglea itself you can find narrow streets brimming with beautiful historic buildings, many of which were constructed by the Knights of St John.

To the east of Senglea, and also opposite the walled city of Valletta, is Cospicua, a double-fortified city in the Grand Harbour of Malta.

Dating back to prehistoric times, it served as a shelter for Phoenician ships while its harbour was expanded under Carthaginian and Roman occupation. In 1776 The Knights of St. John constructed a dockyard which played a major role in the history of Cospicua due to its extensive use by the British in the First and Second World Wars.

The third of Malta’s Three Cities is Vittoriosa, otherwise known as Birgu. The spot was the first home of the Knights of St John when they arrived in 1530 so expect plenty of significant architectural riches.

Highlights in Vittoriosa include the Church of St. Lawrence, the Inquisitor’s Palace, Fort St. Angelo (the oldest fortification on the Islands) and the Maritime Museum.

Messina, Sicily - by bus

Soak up fascinating history in comfort

If terra firma and an easy afternoon out is more your bag then your NCL Mediterranean cruise port of call at Messina [above] in Sicily serves up the goods.

The Highlights of Messina shore excursion take guests through the main squares and sites of the Sicilian city in comfort.

The historic area around the Duomo is beautiful. The cathedral here features three late-Gothic portals and the great mosaic of Christ Pantocratore. Fun fact: inside is one of the largest polyphonic organs in Europe and on the outside (on the façade of the 60m-high Norman bell tower) is the largest and most impressive mechanical and astronomical clock in the world!

Other historic gems include the 16th-century Orion Fountain, the Art Nouveau-style Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III, the neoclassical theatre Teatro Vittorio Emanuele and the splendid Villa De Pasquale. Messina also boasts the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean.

Once you’ve soaked up Messina’s majesty, you’ll continue your sightseeing along the north coast, soaking up views of Ganzirri Lakes, Messina Strait and Capo Peloro.

If accessibility is a concern for you, NCL also offers the Accessible Companion: Taormina and Bay of Naxos excursion and the Accessible Mobility Equipment: Taormina and Bay of Naxos trip out.

Set Sail

Greek Isles: Santorini, Mykonos & Florence Round-Trip Rome (Civitavecchia) with NCL

Duration: 9 nights

Where: Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy | Santorini, Greece | Mykonos, Greece | Olympia (Katakolon), Greece | Valletta, Malta | Messina (Sicily), Italy | Naples, Italy | Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy | Rome, (Civitavecchia), Italy

Ship: Norwegian Breakaway

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Published 03.24.23