Spain has proved to be an incredibly popular cruise destination as it is not only a fascinating country in its own right but it also provides a great entry into Africa with the dusty and sand swept Morocco just a stone’s throw away.
Spain also has the advantage of being a great point to kick start a European wide cruise as Italy, Greece and France are all in very close proximity. However what is Spain like itself in terms of its cruise culture and accessibility?
Essentially there are 6 main ports that most cruise lines visit that are under Spanish control – 3 on the mainland in Barcelona, Malaga and Valencia and 3 Islands in Ibiza, Palma (Majorca) and Tenerife.
Barcelona is probably by far the most popular given the historical significance that is placed upon the city and also its uniqueness within Spain and Catalonia. The majestic and sprawling gothic architecture of the city has welcomed millions over the years as has the imposing Las Ramblas, Old City and the unique blend of Catalonian culture including la sagrada familia(below).
Indeed, Barcelona and the Catalonian region in general are mightily different from the rest of the country and can provide a unique and fascinating stopping or starting point on your cruise itinerary.
Malaga is not always one of the first ports you think of when cruising however it gives a good entry point into southern Spain and many cruises have Malaga as a starting point. The port itself is millennia old and there are a multitude of beaches in the area given that the Costa Del Sol is close.
However the city also has historical significance for cultural excursions and this is demonstrated by the many accolades to the cities most famous product – Pablo Picasso. The Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castles are also very popular as is the 16th Century Cathedral de Malaga; indeed, there is somewhat of a Moroccan influence on the city with a variety of Moroccan tea houses scattered around the city.
Valencia can boast the accolade of being the largest and most used seaport in Spain and annual handles around 57 million tonnes of cargo in addition to around 60,000 cruise passengers every year. The Fallas Festival which is held in March is a must-see for anyone travelling around that time as is the Barri del Carme, El Miguelete(pictured below) and the old city, with its narrow streets, hip culture and variety of cafe’s and bars.
Cruises from Valencia are normally part of a route that includes Barcelona and Malaga and give people living in the area options to go cruising without the hassle of getting to the other ports mentioned above.
Lastly we have the islands. Mainly thought of as a party island, Ibiza is generally quiet, relaxed during the day and comes to life and night and can provide a fantastic excursion on your cruise trip. Indeed Palma in Majorca and Tenerife are similar in that they have been built around the cheap ‘week in the sun’ getaway holidays from the UK but also serve as important cruise destinations in their own right with the stretch sandy beaches near Palma and the natural beauty and volcanic nature of Tenerife.
From the nightlife and vibrancy of Ibiza to the cultural heritage of Barcelona, there are activities, sights and excursions for just about everyone. Mediterranean cruises not only have an exotic feel to them but Spain in general can offer a cruise goer a diverse and unique experience.
Written by Danny Smith