The European cruise season runs from approximately mid-April to early November. The fathomless historical, cultural and artistic offerings of Mediterranean itineraries is immensely rewarding albeit exhausting. By the time November rolls around, vendors and local businesses and restaurants throughout the coastal Mediterranean enclave, tally up their booty and toast the end of cruise ship summer madness, no tears shed at our final departure. Meanwhile, crewmembers onboard for the duration salivate at the thought of the white sand and turquoise waters of Mexico and the Caribbean.
Cruise ships start meandering to the westernmost ports of Spain, Madeira, and the Canary Islands in preparation for a transatlantic crossing and the “Warm Water” (Caribbean) season. These typically end-of-season ports of call are some of my most favorite:
Malaga is a splendid coastal city and the entry-way for cruise ships to the spellbinding region of Andalusia. The region is composed of eight provinces spanning from southeast to southwest. Each province is named for its capital city: Cadiz, Cordoba, Jaen, Huelva, Almeria, Malaga, Granada and Seville. The sculptural and recreational offerings for visitors is mind boggling! Considered by many to be the Mother of Spanish folklore, Flamenco and Bullfighting originated in Andalusia. The region is also a treasure trove of Moorish-influenced architecture.
Malaga is an imminently walk-able city; the tiled pedestrian streets are a short walk from the pier, and are host to a bevy of trendy shops, department stores, pristine and impeccably manicured public gardens, and a lively café scene. Oh, and as the birthplace of Picasso, Malaga boasts two museums dedicated to her Native Son: Casa Natal Museum, and the Picasso Museum.
I fell in love with Cadiz on my very first visit and she continues to be one of my most favorite old cities! Many cruise ship passengers are too quick to dismiss this Andalusian gem as merely the window to Seville (which it is), missing the beauty and singularity. The Old Town in particular, has a street plan that consists of narrow winding alleys connecting large plazas. Beguiling parks and exotic gardens are peppered throughout the city, such of tits greenery the alleged descendants of vegetation brought to Spain by Christopher Columbus from the New World. Cruise ships dock in the center of town, from where the town is easily covered on foot.
Funchal Madeira (Portugal):
Funchal is the capital and main city, on the Portuguese Island of Madeira. Cruise lines frequent the port of Funchal May through October, and is often the last port of call before a Transatlantic crossing. A beloved Grand Dame of a city, Funchal embodies the perfect fusion of old world charm and elegance.
For more information, visit: http://www.andalucia.com, http://www.visitmadeira.pt