Mallorca, Monaco and More
Across the Mediterranean in Ten
By Rubin Carson
it comes to European escapes, the Holland America’s
1,800-passenger Westerdam has something for
everyone, as we happily discovered during its ten-day
"Mediterranean Mosaic" cruise.
Westerdam Stop in Malta
cruise itineraries vary, "Mediterranean Mosaic"
offers an excellent sampling of the ports visited on
Holland America’s voyages in this region. We started
at Rome’s port of Civitavecchia, where we were
shocked by the Westerdam’s size. Operated
by veteran British and Dutch officers and a well-trained
Indonesian staff, this 85,000-ton giant rivals Vegas
when it comes to mass. Built in France in 2004, it provides
an Internet café, dining in all classes of restaurants,
a movie theater, live entertainment showroom, casino,
all deck handicap access, media center, teen video game
room and mini-Disneyland for kids called Club Hal. The
Greenhouse Spa and Salon is the largest such facility
in the Holland America fleet, and the casino boasts
slots and all the favorite table games.
seven ports in ten days may seem daunting, it’s
the norm on a cruise such as this one. We recommend
concentrating on just a few areas of interest. Don’t
try to see everything; instead, seek to get the most
out of what you do choose to explore. That was our goal
as we sailed into the following ports. Check out the
highlights so you can make the most of your Holland
America Mediterranean cruise.
1: Dubrovnik, Croatia
a United Nations UNESCO World Heritage City, Dubrovnik
was a prime target during the recent civil war. Stroll
along smooth stone streets and view 13th-century churches
and monasteries, museums, jewelry stores and the city’s
famous medieval fortress. Not in the ship's guide is
the Museum of the Church of the Holy Annunciation,
situated three flights above a jewelry store in the
main square. You are almost alone while surrounded by
14th to 19th-century Greek Orthodox icons. During the
war they were hidden in the cellars of parishioners.
The curator allowed that the miracle wasn't that the
icons were saved but that each of the priceless relics
Port 2: Corfu, Greece
Situated between the heel of Italy and the west coast
of Greece, this setting of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
appears out of the mist like a mirage. Don't be put
off by the line of overly-decorated, touristy horse
and carriages that await your arrival. Take one and
tour Corfu’s well-kept residential districts.
You get glimpses of secret courtyards, stone staircases,
windows and balconies with women lowering baskets on
ropes to street level for vegetable vendors to load
up. Have the driver stop at the Lion of Menecrates
dating from the seventh century B.C., which guards the
Archaeological Museum. Inside are sculptured
pediments such as the one from the Temple of Artemis;
these are similar to the ones taken from the Parthenon.
Port 3: Valletta, Malta
1942 England's George VI awarded Malta's George Cross
for bravery in honor of his heroic efforts during the
during the Nazi bombing. You can still admire the ancient
temples, shop on hilly streets and eat torta tal-lampuki,
a local lampuki fish pie delicacy, in this United Nations
UNESCO World Heritage City. Not to be missed is the
St. John’s Cathedral built by
the Knights of St. John and noted for dazzling mosaics
and Baroque ceiling decorations. Unforgettable are two
Caravaggio paintings, Saint
Jerome and the Beheading of St. John
the Baptist, facing each other from opposite
walls. A magical glow surrounds the saints’ faces,
though no discernable source of light exists. Malta's
present Knights refuse to allow the masterpieces to
travel—another lucky bonus for visitors.
Port 4: Palermo,
of cabs meet the Westerdam at Sicily's main
port, providing an alternative to long shore excursions
by bus. A twenty-minute ride deposits you at Monreale,
a postcard perfect town overlooking a panoramic view
of Palermo's beautiful bay. The real
treasure is Monreale’s famous duomo.
Austere on approach, the twelfth-century Norman cathedral’s
interior amazes with colorful, lifelike wrap-around
Byzantine mosaics, depicting scriptures and scenes from
the Old and New Testaments.
5: Monte Carlo, Monaco
fairy tale kingdom of Monaco, home to royals, glittering
nightlife and Ferrari-hyped fantasies, is not everyone's
cup of tea, unless you're an ex-Romanoff. Fortunately,
one of the shore excursions stops at the village of
Eze, a feudal redoubt perched between
mountains and sea built to stave off corsairs bent on
restocking their harems. While Eze offers plenty to
do, make time for a stop at the Relais
& Châteaux de la Chèvre d'Or.
The renowned hotel complex features three distinctly
different restaurants and a stunning view of the Riviera.
Be sure to use discretion with the local Armagnacs and
brandies. The Westerdam waits for no one.
6: Marseilles, France
to drug cartels and municipal corruption, the second
largest city in France has a bit of a dark aura, but
seen from the Westerdam it is colorful and
dramatic, especially the Vieux Port
or old harbor. Literature buffs may enjoy taking the
twenty-minute motor boat ride from the Quai des Belges
to the Château d'If. This is
the famous prison island where "The Count of Monte
Cristo" was jailed in Alexander Dumas' novel. Once
back ashore, sample Marseilles’ most famous seafood
dish, bouillabaisse, at Le
Miramar, which is a favorite with aficionados.
Forget ordering it with lobster; it adds much to the
price but nothing to the flavor.
7: Palma de Mallorca, Spain
the ship, a forty-minute bus ride takes travelers along
beaches, lemon groves and romantic mountains to the
Royal Carthusian Monastery of Valldemossa,
Reial Cartoixa. The great French/Polish
composer Frederic Chopin and his lover, writer George
Sand, were among its most famous guests, spending a
miserable winter here. The stay prompted Sand to write
"A Winter in Mallorca." While ailing from
tuberculosis, Chopin composed three piano sonatas at
the very same instrument that sits in a nearby palace
today. The resident musician plays these pieces on the
Seo Cathedral of Palma
tour then returns to Palma, which resembles
a bustling, less-manicured Beverly Hills dominated by
a massive, gothic cathedral, La Seo.
Nearby beckon blocks of cafés claiming to serve
fresh paella. The one sampled was a delicious mound
of gleaming saffron rice, fresh shellfish and chunks
of chicken arriving in the hot iron cauldron it was
cooked in. Original Chopin and great paella—can
you think of a better way to say "au revoir"
to the Mediterranean?
more information, visit www.hollandamerica.com.