If you’re forced to choose, will it be the ancient ruins of Greece and Turkey that capture your cruising imagination, or the Renaissance romance of Italy and France?
Over 27.2 million passengers are expected to take to the seas and cruise in 2018, according to new data released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). That’s a million more passengers than last year.
“Globally, the Mediterranean is second only to the Caribbean in terms of preferred international cruising destinations, although among South African travellers it takes first place. The number of cruise lines operating in the Mediterranean, as well as the diverse range of destinations, itineraries and lengths of cruises make the destination exceptionally appealing for South Africans,” explains Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) Product and Marketing Manager.
“We see South Africans increasingly opt for a cruising holiday because of the great value for money and convenience these holidays offer. Not only does one have to unpack only once during your journey, for South Africans wanting to tick off multiple destinations on one trip, it is the obvious choice.”
Cruise lines have also enhanced their ships to appeal to an array of ages and interests, says Garrett. From on-board lectures by famous personalities to a walk-the-plank experience that will add a little yo ho ho to any holiday experience, cruise lines have fought hard to break perceptions that a cruise is the exclusive domain of the blue-haired brigade.
“Today we see honeymoon couples, multi-generational families, groups of friends and even corporate teams travel together on cruises, not only to the ever-popular Mediterranean, but elsewhere.”
Eastern or Western Med?
Mediterranean cruises are typically offered as either west or eastern Mediterranean cruises, explains Garrett. Western Mediterranean cruises typically include Spain, France, Morocco, Tunisia and Portugal, while eastern Mediterranean cruises visit Croatia, Greece and Turkey. “Italy is usually featured as a port of embarkation and debarkation for both.”
Both east and western Mediterranean cruises incorporate stops at destinations that offer exceptional cuisine, shopping, culture, history and beautiful beaches. The decision on which to choose often lies in the itinerary that incorporates the most cities you wish to visit on one trip, but the facilities and specials offered by the cruise line can also be a factor, says Garrett.
Cruises to the eastern Mediterranean incorporate visits to ancient cities and ruins like Ephesus and Athens, while historic and cultural highlights like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence take centre stage on a western Mediterranean cruise.
For South African cruise enthusiasts who’re priming their sea legs for the 2018 cruise season, there will be a wide selection of cruise itineraries and deals on offer at the 2018 Travel Expo in February. International brands, including Norwegian Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Holland America will be exhibiting to showcase their itineraries for the coming cruise season, as well as promote their specials for the South African market.
At this year’s Travel Expo, an estimated 150 travel exhibitors will bring their best deals to the table for these and an array of other destinations.
Up to 25,000 visitors are expected to attend to vie for an array of travel prizes, including flights, holidays, hotel stays, tours, cruises and more. And to get a taste of the myriad of travel destinations and travel trends that will hit our shores in 2018, special Travel Talks have been included in the line-up.
Consumers will also encounter an extensive array of local holiday options, December breaks, school holiday specials and savings of up to 50% on selected flights and tours.