How do you keep the Mediterranean interesting once you’re a veteran cruiser? The most obvious answer is to find new itineraries. Or, when returning to popular ports, to take new shore excursions. Best of all, enhance your enjoyment by travelling with loved ones who’ve not yet seen it all.My wife Mo and I were able to do all three this summer on Regent Seven Seas Voyager’s ten-day Flamenco & Paella cruise from Rome to Barcelona.
Monte Carlo, pictured, one of the stops on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager’s ten-day Flamenco & Paella cruise from Rome to BarcelonaWe hadn’t visited half of the ports (Ajaccio, La Spezia, Palamos, Palma de Majorca and Valencia) and the other half were under-explored.The variety of excursions (almost 80) was impressive, and three-quarters of them were free.
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From Marseilles, instead of returning to Aix-en-Provence, we went to Avignon to see the extravagant Palace of the Popes, briefly the centre of Catholicism in the 14th Century, and the much-sung-about Pont d’Avignon that ends abruptly halfway across the Rhone. From Antibes, instead of going back to Nice or Cannes, we travelled to the exquisite medieval hilltop town of St Paul de Vence.No one minds revisiting cities such as Pisa and Florence. There are new discoveries to be made and, even when already ticked off, the legendary cathedrals, churches, towers and galleries never lose their power to overwhelm.
Steve’s daughter Lianne joined the ship in Monte CarloLivorno is often a mere gateway to these Tuscan jewels. Few people pause there. This time I saw its Duomo, as well as the broodingly powerful Monumento dei Quattro Mori, and tried vainly to view the grave of 18th Century British novelist Tobias Smollett. The neglected Old English Cemetery was tucked away in a sidestreet behind a row of houses, but alas its iron gate was padlocked. On Corsica, narrow winding roads took us into forests of black pine down to the awesome Prunelli River Gorges and Lake Tolla beyond.Our children, Lianne and Nathan, joined us in Monte Carlo on day four. Fittingly, there was a huge firework display on shore that night and our ship remained anchored out at sea to give its guests a grandstand view from the top deck. I took them up to the bridge where the Swedish captain, Daniel Green, explained the technology involved in steering 43,000 tons around the seaways of the world, and then down to the galley where chef Hamza Mebareki detailed how his team satisfy the gastronomic demands of 700 guests.Having the children on board doubled our pleasure. Routine ship activities such as quizzes, karaoke and show time became sweet memories in the making. TRAVEL FACTS Regent Seven Seas Cruises (rssc.com, 02380 682 280) offers a seven-night, all inclusive Traditions Of Catalonia cruise from £3,899pp. This includes return flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, drinks, wi-fi, excursions and gratuities