ONE OF THE MAIN attractions of going on a cruise is, paradoxically, the itinerary of fabulous destinations you have the opportunity to visit. While some prefer a more DIY approach, we opted for pre-organised shore excursions offered by Britannia - we felt their excursions offered excellent value for money – with experienced and tested guides.
Naples: Sorrento and Pompeii
This was my personal favourite excursion from the holiday. Sorrento and Pompeii was an 8-hour excursion, taking us first to explore Sorrento's charming flower-filled streets, array of boutiques, souvenir shops and atmospheric outdoor cafés. Set high upon a cliff overlooking the sea and rich in Mediterranean beauty, I was certainly charmed by Sorrento, a lovely, relaxing town. Following a delicious lunch at a local restaurant we headed to Pompeii for the afternoon. Possibly the most famous excavation in the world, Pompeii, a flourishing civilisation, buried for thousands of years, has been revealed again. Twenty feet of ash and pumice stone covered Pompeii for almost 1,700 years. Now, much of the debris has been removed to uncover remnants of everyday life, making this ancient city one of Italy's most popular tourist attractions. The plaster casts of the volcano's victims are particularly poignant and emotionally moving – together with the views of Vesuvius, whose eruption was responsible for the devastation, back in A.D. 79 - momentous reminders of the events that brought life in Pompeii to an end, all those years ago.
Barcelona City Tour
With so many fabulous excursions and sites in Barcelona, it was a very difficult choice how best to spend our time. We opted for a tour of the works of Antoni Gaudi, a local architect, who became posthumously famous for his incredibly ornate, magnificently wacky buildings, which can be seen around the city. It was April 23rd, when the city celebrates St George's Day, and it was very busy! We first visited Gaudi's famous La Pedera (or ‘stone quarry', as it is in English) followed by Casa Batllo, a remodel of a previously built house, located in the centre of Barcelona - which was at the time covered beautifully in red roses to mark the occasion. Our afternoon finished with a leisurely stroll down La Rambla, enjoying the street entertainers and yet more tapas.
Gibraltar: The Rock Revealed
A little piece of Britain in the Mediterranean, here we were keen to take a trek up the Rock, an exhilarating climb – taking us along the snaking inclines of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, past World War 11 bunkers, gun batteries and prehistoric caves – eventually reaching the 1398 ft summit. From here we had a superb view, which we shared with the most famous residents, the persistent Barbary apes, which roam freely around the slopes, over the Straits of Gibraltar to the coast of Africa.
Cadiz: Glittering Ripples
The wonders of Seville are not far away but we chose to leave the city of Cadiz behind and head for one of the prettiest coastal towns on the Costa de la Luz, Conil de la Frontera – and I am so pleased we did. We had a magical afternoon strolling through the narrow cobbled streets of this very pretty and quaint white-washed village followed by a couple hours on the white sandy beach, stretching 16 kilometres along the coast.
Civitavecchia: Gateway to Rome
We chose to Roam Around Rome, which was a fabulous opportunity to see many of the city's most famous sites - including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Vatican and the Trevi Fountain - while still finding time to enjoy a spot of lunch at Piazza Navona. We spent a fantastic nine hours exploring Rome, marvelling at the incredible architecture and epic monuments of this remarkable city – but still feeling as though we were only really scratching the surface.
PICTURED ABOVE: The balconies of Antoni Gaudi's 'Casa Batllo' were decorated with roses on Saint George's Day, also known as The Day of the Rose, in Barcelona.