Great cruise holidays can be found all over the world, from the Caribbean to Antarctica, but some of the best cruises can be found a lot closer to home in the sunny Mediterranean.
Ringed by ancient cities and fashionable resorts and dotted with idyllic islands, the Mediterranean Sea is a firm favourite for cruises, and for good reason.
One of the top destinations for cruise holidays is France. The French Riviera is famous all over the world for its glamorous resorts, rich culture and fantastic climate. A lot of ships stop here and the chances are that if you’re cruising around the Mediterranean this summer, a stop in the Côte d’Azur will be on the itinerary.
Glamour, beaches or culture – take your pick
Marseille is a popular stopping off point for ships visiting the western Mediterranean. From here boats leave for long and short cruises throughout the entire Med, visiting everywhere from Turkey to Tunisia.
Famous for its music, cuisine and diverse population, Marseille is France’s second largest city and main commercial port. Founded in 600BC by Greek settlers, it not only has miles of sun-soaked beaches, but a fascinating history to go with it.
In 2013 Marseille has been designated the European Capital of Culture, so the city will have extra attractions and it’s a perfect time to stop off and soak up the sights and sounds on your way round the Med.
Two hundred kilometres east of Marseille, close to the Italian border, is the up-market city of Nice. Well known for its glamorous bars and restaurants, the city draws well-heeled visitors from around the world.
Nice, with its beautiful old town, famous waterfront and delicious cuisine, has something for everyone. The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenades des Anglais, takes its name from the hordes of English upper class visitors who flocked here in the 18th century, and the resort is just as popular today.
Although a common port of call on Mediterranean cruises, a lot of holidays also set sail from Nice. So why not get here a little early and spend a few days mingling with the rich and famous on the French Riviera?
With only a quarter of the population of Marseille and two-thirds that of Nice, the relatively small city of Montpellier punches well above its weight when it comes to culture and attractions.
Port of Marseille, France
A cruise with a difference
Montpellier is a little off the beaten track when it comes to cruises, with most ships choosing to call instead at the larger ports along the coast. If you are lucky enough to visit, you’ll find a city brimming with history and packed with impressive medieval buildings, including one of the oldest universities in the world.
It may not play host too many large ships, but Montpellier is a destination for a very different sort of cruise holiday. Forget deck-top swimming pools and on board entertainment, because here, in France’s ancient Languedoc region, a cruise along the nearby Canal du Midi will take you back in time and show your life at a far gentler pace.
Linking the Mediterranean Sea with the France’s Atlantic coast, the Canal du Midi runs for 150 miles through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. In 1996 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visitors continue to come to admire the canal’s natural beauty and man-made engineering.
Beginning or ending in Montpellier, cruises along the canal can last anything from a long weekend to a week or more depending on how far along the canal you travel. And with a speed limit of just 8 kilometres per hour, you’ll have plenty of time to lie back and enjoy the views.
Montpellier Cathedral, France
When it comes to cruises in and around the Med, the choices are almost endless; from whistle-stop tours of the region’s major ports to weeks and weeks enjoying some of the most beautiful cities in the world. So whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find a great cruise holiday to suit you.
Related: Which places to visit in France