This morning, for the second time in as many weeks, Dublin port welcomed its biggest ever cruise liner with the arrival of the MSC Splendida.
Last week, we were luckily enough to go onboard this colossal cruise ship which at 333 meters long is the distance of 35 double decker buses.
It may seem a little unusual to us locals, that these tourists, with a wide choice of exotic locations would choose to leave cruise ship dock at the mouth of the Liffey and head into the city centre for the day. However, when we spoke to the staff of the MSC Spendida they were, like their guests, genuinely excited to be in Dublin. It is by all accounts, one of the, if not the most popular destinations on the northern European cruise according to Michele Valestra, Deputy Purer. “For us and the passengers it really is one of the highlights of the itinerary, there is a unique culture here and the passengers really look forward to their time in Dublin’, he said.
With this in mind we set out to look at what other, Mediterranean cruise destinations offer and how Dublin measures up.
Rome is no longer a port city, but the ancient remains of the Portus area at the mouth of the river Tiber are testament to a bustling sea-faring trade when all roads led to Rome and the Eternal City was the centre of the world. Today Rome is a major starting point for Mediterranean cruises with transfer to Civitavecchia included. Obviously, Rome is one of the cities you have to visit once in your life. The port area of Civitavecchia can be reached by car, bus or train, a fitting destination to depart a Mediterranean, the old centre of an empire.
One of the great Mediterranean ports it is the quintessential Sicilian port town of Taormina, with decaying baroque architecture, cobbled streets, black and white tiled piazzas and all in the shadow of the smoking Mount Etna. It doesn’t have the buzz of a city like Dublin, it’s early to bed, early to rise in that part of the world, but it is one of the world’s most unique destinations with such density of history and culture in one place.
Sardinia’s capital city is quite different from the rest of Italy own food, language and culture. However, it has a lot in common with other maritime Italian cities too, with dazzling piazzas, locals smoking at café tables, couples holding hands eating gelato and the constant buzz of Vespas in the background. There’s plenty to do on an excursion in Cagliari - Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the hilltop citadel, the Poetta beach and the Cattedrale di Santa Maria. Cagliari really can be considered the heart of the Mediterranean.
Palma di Majorca
The capital city of Spain’s autonomous region of the Baleric Islands, Palma is an old world walled fortress city with a visible Moorish influence. The city has plenty to offer - the scenic Soller Railway, the 14th-century Bellver Castle and Museu d'Art Espanvol Contemporani with works by Picasso and Dali. However Palma is not all culture and history, the nightlife is buzzing and when the sun goes down party people gather in the squares and beaches until the sun comes up.
Valencia is Spain’s third largest city and has a character all its own. A hub of forward thinking design and innovation there is a wonderful balance between the old and the new in Valencia. Stunning Modernista architecture juxtaposes the beautiful old quarter while green areas and parks are everywhere to found in the city. With a thriving epicurean scene, cafés, restaurants, markets, museums, galleries, nightlife, sun, sea and leafy green parks, Valencia has it all, in a manageable, easy-going package.
Marseilles is France’s third largest city and a bustling working port city. Surrounded by history the city is bordered by the Fort Saint-Nicolas, and Fort Saint-Jean sheltering the Château d'If, made famous by the Count of Monte Cristo. Hundreds of winding cobbled streets shelter a prominent French-African quarter and French-Arabic culture all watched over by the basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. It’s only two years since Marseilles was the European Capital of Culture which brought a fresh wave of modern art galleries, villas and museums for you to explore.
The capital of Liguria is one of Italy’s most unique cities. Steeped in the rich history of one of the country’s most glorious regions it is also a hard-working port city with a swarthy feel. The cuisine of Liguria is French influenced and considered one of the finest in Italy (the focaccia is not to be missed). Surrounded along the Italian Riviera, the Ligurian coast is a craggy cove-filled, treasure trove with splendid villas perched atop cliffs in the shadow of Mediterranean pines and the crystal clear blue waters sparkling below.
Click here to Discover these destinations with a Mediterranean cruise aboard the MSC Preziosa. Eight night on board with all flights and transfers, meals, entertainment and taxes from only €869pps
Amid all the hype last week about the arrival into Dublin Port of the world's 11th-longest cruise ship, let's not kid ourselves: Ireland still has work to do in tapping into a lucrative - and growing - market.