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Sunshine, seafood and shopping: What to do on a western Mediterranean cruise

Western Mediterranean cruise vacations tick off a plethora of classic European destinations from historic capitals to gorgeous islands – so what can you do on shore there?

Western Mediterranean cruises are where many new-to-cruise vacationers start out, thanks to ports of call at European favourites across Italy, Spain, France and beyond.

This part of the world is the perfect place to dip your toe into all things cruising as you explore the culture, scenery and cuisine of these amazing Mediterranean destinations.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) offers itineraries visiting some of the continent’s most enchanting spots – think coastal cliffs, pristine beaches, Medieval cities and more – all without unpacking your bags more than once.

What’s more, you’ll be sailing onboard Norwegian Epic. The NCL ship boasts two dazzling shows, a fantastic spa, one of the only bowl slides at sea and a huge variety of dining options. Accommodations suit all travelers, including solo guests, while all-suite, exclusive area The Haven By Norwegian, renovated in 2020, features reimagined suites and redesigned experiences for a real taste of the high life.

We’ve zoomed in on three brilliant Western Mediterranean cruise ports frequented by Norwegian Epic – Cannes on France’s Côte d’Azur, Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia and the Balearic capital of Palma on Majorca.

Check out how you can make the most of your time ashore in the Med with our travel guide, whether you’re after culture, relaxation, entertainment or nature.

Cannes, France

Glamour time

What to do in Cannes… for culture

Cannes is famous for its annual film festival so you simply must visit the French cultural and performing arts centre Cannes’ Palais des Festivals et des Congrès where the red carpet is rolled out.

Visitors on a Western Mediterranean cruise can take a tour of the building (which dates back to 1946 when the first building was established in an old casino) to learn all about its glittering, Hollywood royalty-strewn history. You can hardly miss the 18 cinema screen capacity inside!

What to do in Cannes… for relaxation

If retail therapy is how you unwind then you’ve come to the right place. Rue d’Antibes is a shopper’s paradise, packed with flagship stores, exclusive boutiques and perfumeries plus elegant cafes and restaurants to fuel your quest. Expect brands ranging from Chanel and Prada to Zara and Sephora. Should shopping frazzle, hit Cannes’ lovely sandy beaches instead.

What to do in Cannes for… entertainment

The Côte d’Azur and flashiness go hand in hand so why not embrace it and rent a shiny, classic sports car for the day? Take your Ferrari or Lamborghini for a spin along the French Riviera’s renowned coastal roads and give Daniel Craig a run for his money.

What to do in Cannes for… nature

To be at one with the sea and sky, hop aboard a luxury catamaran cruise – soak up amazing coastal views and pretend you’re Leonardo Di Caprio. If you’re after a bit more action, opt for a snorkelling trip to explore the rocky reefs below.

Cagliari, Sardinia

Medieval majesty

What to do in Cagliari… for culture

Calliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities – good news for NCL guests on a Western Mediterranean cruise vacation, as it’s best approached by sea.

Its thousand-year history means Cagliari is brimming with culture but if you have to pick just one highlight (literally), head to Il Castello, it’s the Sardinian city’s most iconic image. This medieval district – Cagliari’s most historically important – is perched on a limestone cliff and overflows with museums and palaces, boutiques, bars and cafes as well as a university and cathedral.

What to do in Cagliari… for relaxation

Do as the locals do and spend a spell on the beach. The eight-kilometre-long Spiaggia del Poetto is flanked by palm trees, bars and restaurants. Plug in that podcast and zone out.

What to do in Cagliari for… entertainment

You’re on an Italian island so it stands to reason food and drink is excellent here. Mercato di San Benedetto is one of the best fish markets in the Mediterranean while Piazza Yenne is a lovely square to while away an afternoon thanks to the variety of cafes and bars. The terrace of Via Santa Croce is perfect for drinks at sunset thanks to the splendid views over the medieval ramparts, with bistro Libarium Nostrum a popular watering hole – you might even catch some live music.

What to do in Cagliari for… nature

To get your fill of flora (no, not the margarine) swing by Orto dei Cappuccini (Garden of the Capuchins). The historic park was once used by monks in the 16th century to grow medicinal plants.

Palma, Majorca

Late, Late Show

What to do in Palma… for culture

Palma’s cathedral (above, left) is the most renowned historical site in the city on this Spanish island. The jewel of Gothic architecture was built over the city walls of Palma de Mallorca’s old town in the 14th century during the reign of King James II of Aragon.

Also known as La Seu or the Cathedral of Light, the magnificent cathedral made of golden sandstone is one of Europe’s tallest Gothic structures. It boasts 61 stained-glass windows, with the central rose window the most impressive, as well as work by Catalan Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí.

What to do in Palma… for relaxation

Treat yourself to a long and relaxing wine-infused lunch at one of Palma’s excellent seafood restaurants along the city’s seaside promenade or harbours. You’ll be treated to the double whammy of top sea views and fresh ingredients. Take a post-prandial stroll along the seafront afterwards to aid digestion and indulge in some people-watching.

What to do in Palma for… entertainment

On your western Mediterranean cruise with NCL, your ship will stay in Palma until 11pm so hopefully you can squeeze in a taster of the island’s nightlife before you leave. Check out the city’s tapas bars, enjoy some evening jazz and sample some cocktails in the Balearic capital; there are plenty of bars and clubs along the Paseo Marítimo.

What to do in Palma for… nature

Get your fauna fix at Palma’s Aquarium, home to starfish, groupers, eels, octopuses, seahorses and more in over fifty different aquariums. There’s a turtle garden, a children’s playground, a pirate ship, water fountains and you can even swim with rays!

Set Sail

Mediterranean: Italy, France & Spain with NCL

Duration: 8 nights

Where: Barcelona, Spain | Cannes, France | Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy | Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy | Naples, Italy | Cagliari, Sardinia | Palma, Majorca | Ibiza, Spain | Barcelona, Spain

Ship: Norwegian Epic

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Published 02.22.22