Sara Macefield, The Daily Telegraph, September 23, 2013
Which cruise lines sail more off the beaten track and away from the busiest ports in the Mediterranean? And where do they go?
Sara Macefield, cruise expert, replies
Sometimes, parts of the Mediterranean can resemble the maritime equivalent of Piccadilly Circus. Pull into the most popular cruise ports and you can find yourself sharing them with several other ships as they follow each other on the classic “Western Mediterranean” circuit that invariably includes Civitavecchia (for Rome), Livorno (for Florence and Pisa) and Naples (for Pompeii and the Neapolitan Riviera).
To escape the crowds and discover the region’s best bolt-holes you generally need to switch to smaller ships that can slip into them or moor offshore.
The Greek islands are ripe for those wanting to sail off the beaten track, and tall ship line Star Clippers (0845 200 6145; starclippers.co.uk ) has some wonderful itineraries to the pretty islands of Patmos, Skiathos and Skopelos.
But it is not alone. German tall ship line Sea Cloud Cruises ( seacloud.com ) and Voyages to Antiquity (0845 437 9737; voyagestoantiquity.com ) also call at some of these points, and others including Volos, Kavala, Pylos and Kefalonia.
Paul Gauguin Cruises’ ship Tere Moana (020 7399 7691; pgcruises.com ) is small enough to squeeze through the Corinth Canal and features intimate Greek ports such as Nauplia and Delos on its itineraries.
While Dubrovnik and Split are the top draws of the Croatian coast, quieter stops include Korcula; Mali Losinj, known for the beach at nearby Cikat Bay; the lush island of Hvar; and Opatija, known as the “Nice of the Adriatic”.
Farther south is tiny Kotor in Montenegro, one of the rising stars of the cruise world. This beautiful city is an idyllic port stop featured by mainstream cruise companies such as Royal Caribbean International (0844 493 4005; royalcaribbean.co.uk ) and smaller lines including Silversea Cruises (0844 251 0837; silversea.com ), Azamara Club Cruises (0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.co.uk ) and Voyages of Discovery (0844 488 0896; voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk ).
Even in the busier waters of the western Mediterranean, it is possible to find tucked-away ports along the French and Italian coasts that larger ships sail by. Amalfi and Sorrento are visited by Sea Dream Yacht Club’s (0800 783 1373; seadream.com ) 112-passenger yachts, while the stylish craft of Compagnie du Ponant (0800 980 4027; ponant.com ) call at Bonifacio, Ajaccio and Calvi in Corsica, along with Taormina in Sicily and Portoferraio on the isle of Elba. And the outpost of Lipari, part of the unspoilt volcanic Aeolian archipelago, is one of the more unusual stops by cultural cruise line Swan Hellenic (0844 488 0726; swanhellenic.com ).
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About Sara Macefield
Sara is an award-wnning cruise writer and has been a travel journalist for over 20 years.