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Cruise Experts Tell All: From Barcelona to Santorini, the Best of the Mediterranean

Are you thinking about taking a Mediterranean cruise but can’t decide which itinerary is best for you? Hear about the top Mediterranean ports from the people who know best … our own past passengers!

The “Cruise Experts Tell All” series turns to our own guests to get an insider’s perspective on cruising. We asked our Facebook fans for their favorite Mediterranean ports, and the answered included a variety of beautiful places and experiences.

Favorite Mediterranean Ports:
From Italy to Turkey and everywhere in between, Holland America Line guests have a lot of favorite ports. Maybe it’s because the Mediterranean is so rich with interesting and exciting destinations!

Anneke Pors had difficulty choosing a favorite. “Lisbon? Or Barcelona? Or Valencia? It is hard to name one,” she said, “but these three were the top. So much to see, so much to do and yet we haven’t seen everything.”

Milos Stojanovic chimed in, “Our favorites were Rome, Kotor and Santorini … and Perast.”

“Our favourite ports were Venice and Barcelona, which are fabulous cities to walk around and explore. We also enjoyed Katakolon, where we visited Olympia and had our first delicious Greek meal.” – Alex Sturman

Clockwise from top left: Alex Sturman enjoyed Barcelona, Venice, Katakolon and it's cuisine.

Clockwise from top left: Alex Sturman enjoyed Barcelona, Venice, Katakolon and it’s cuisine.

While major destinations like Venice, Rome and Barcelona were echoed throughout mariners’ responses, the list of favorite ports is as diverse as Holland America Line’s Mediterranean itineraries.

Sandy Mosso called out Venice, Santorini and Dubrovnik, the increasingly popular walled city in Croatia. Renae Whoehst also put Dubrovnik in the top three, along with Venice and Nafplion, considered to be one of the most romantic cities in Greece.

Christine Auton lauded different ports for their unique contributions, saying, “Istanbul was fantastic, the ancient city of Kotor, Montenegro, fascinating, the opulence of Monte Carlo awe-inspiring, or Kusadasi with its glorious array of leather shoes, bags and jackets. I saw a pair of shoes I just had to have but my husband persuaded me to have lunch first … by the time we returned it was siesta time and the shops were closed … still dream of those shoes!!”

“It’s hard to narrow down my favorite ports in the Med, but probably my top three would be: Rome, Athens, Istanbul” – Carolyn Muller

Carolyn Muller loved Rome, left, and Istanbul.

Carolyn Muller loved Rome, left, and Istanbul.

“Being this was my first time visiting any of the countries visited, it is so very difficult coming up with an answer! Visiting Pisa was definitely a highlight, and Santorini, Greece, and Monte Carlo were also memorable. And, we spent three nights in Rome on a pre-cruise tour that were wonderful.” — Betsy Sarsfield

Betsy Sarsfield thought Monte Carlo and its grand casino were memorable.

Betsy Sarsfield thought Monte Carlo and its grand casino were memorable.

Gail Merks appreciated Rome for it’s remarkable history and architecture.

“Rome is such a fascinating place to visit,” she said, “It is great to sit on the Spanish Steps and people-watch. The cafes and restaurants are great and everyone is so friendly. It is also easy to walk around and we felt quite safe.”

“Three favourite ports: Larnaca, Cyprus; Kusadasi, Turkey; Ashdod, Israel, also Santorini — I cant decide!” – Debbie Fuller

Debbie Fuller's favorites are Santorini, top, Israel and Kusadasi, where she went to Ephesus.

Debbie Fuller’s favorites are Santorini, top, Israel and Kusadasi, where she went to Ephesus.

William Norton added Tangier, Morocco, to the list. The gateway to Africa is just across the strait of Gibraltar from Spain and is an eccentric city full of history, rich culture and fabulous food.

“I would list Rome as number one. I would recommend that everybody start from Rome. We were there three days early and still didn’t see everything. Livorno, for Florence/Pisa, would be two and third would be Naples.” – William Brown

William Brown's partial to Italy, with Rome, Livorno and Naples being his favorite ports.

William Brown’s partial to Italy, with Rome, Livorno and Naples being his favorite ports.

The One Port to Return To:
There’s always that one port that lingers in your mind long after the cruise is over. Maybe it’s the friendly locals, delicious cuisine or inspiring experience that left you wanting more. Guests dreamily weighed in.

“I would like to return to every port, but most definitely Venice,” said Sheryl Shellene. “It was the last port before disembarking and we only spent a few short hours there. If I had known our time there would be so short, I would have definitely made arrangements for us to have stayed there at least an extra day. I cannot wait to return!”

“Definitely Calvi, Corsica,” added Agnes Garbe. “We really fell in love with this tiny port and beautiful beach. Would really like to spend a vacation there.”

“The one port we would like to return to is Istanbul. We’d like to have more time to explore that amazing city. Fantastic historic sights with Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace, yet the city also felt modern and neat.” – Henrik Laurino

Henrik Laurino would like to return to Istanbul.

Henrik Laurino would like to return to Istanbul.

Mike Heemer also loved Italy and Turkey. He said, “A return to Naples is in order so that we can visit the island of Capri. Additionally we will visit Venice and Istanbul on our next cruise.”

The Greek Isles and Aegean Sea are stunning. It’s no wonder they boast such popular ports. Mary Nichols will be returning to Santorini in September.

“There is no more beautiful place in the world, in my opinion,” she shared. “We took a taxi to Oia on our own, and he was quite a character. He dropped us off and told us where to perch for the most beautiful photographs. We could see our ship way off in the harbor at Thira. It was another “wow” experience.

Geoffrey Logan echoed Mary’s sentiment.

“I would love to return to Santorini,” he said. “The town, sitting up on the cliffs above the caldera, and the unique blue of the Aegean Sea, is quite spectacular. We sat up there and had coffee, and wished we could stay there forever. We had even rode the donkeys up the steps to get to the top.”

“If I had to pick only one port to return to I would have to pick Venice. I could spend a long time in that city. After that I would sneak off to all the rest of them (Split, Kotor, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Istanbul).” — Bob Lewis

Bob Lewis would revisit Venice, left, and Athens.

Bob Lewis would revisit Venice, left, and Athens.

Some have an answer in the ready. Karin Neels immediately thought of Rhodes, citing the pleasant old center of the city as a place she’d like to return. Others have a list that goes on.

“If I could only return to one place it would be Venice, but immediately I think of Athens, Pompeii, Rome, St. Tropez, Barcelona, Mijas, Castellan De La Plana, Valletta, Mgar, Horta, Caravaca …,” Carol Knowles said, laughing, “which explains why one of our cruises each year is to the Med!

“We would like to return to Istanbul. We bought rugs. We went to a Turkish Nightclub and watched Turkish dancers. We shopped at the Bazaar and admired the gold for sale.”
— Frank Bilek

Frank Bilek dreams of returning to Istanbul.

Frank Bilek dreams of returning to Istanbul.

Steve and Val Fox feel eternal love for the eternal city. “We always love to return to Rome,” they agreed.

“I guess the one place I would love to return to Malta. I loved the approach from the ship, as well as the the old capital city, Mdina. It was such a beautiful and unusual place. I saw Mdina on a Holland America tour.” – Luh McDevitt Madera

Luh McDevitt Madera  is ready to return to Malta. She adored Mdina, bottom photos.

Luh McDevitt Madera is ready to return to Malta. She adored Mdina, bottom photos.

Stay tuned to hear more opinions of cruise experts!

If you’ve taken a Mediterranean cruise, which port was your favorite? And if you want to cruise the Med, which of the above ports sounds most enticing? Tell us in the comments below of email your favorite photos and stories to info@hollandamericablog.com and you could be featured on social media.

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