Mediterranean cruises are an enchanting affair, stunning scenery and magnificent sights will unfold before you as you sail between destinations, providing one magical moment after another. During your cruise, you'll discover a perfect blend of activities and attractions as you visit cities enriched with history and culture (see here for more info).
Not only that, but the Mediterranean is also home to some of Europe's more unusual vintages, and a cruise offers the chance to explore the traditions and tastes behind best loved wines including crisp and fragrant Cava, dense and fruity sherry and sweet and fortified port wine.
For Spain's celebrated answer to champagne, head to Barcelona!
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, has a dramatic mixture of ancient and modern architecture – its best known example is probably the unusual Art Nouveau architecture of Antonio Gaudi - La Sagrada Familia. This stunning Cathedral has been under construction since 1882, (no, that's not a typo!), and is one of Gaudi's most famous works. If you do visit the cathedral then you are likely to witness some of the work continuing – which is interesting in itself – this glorious building is an absolute must-see.
The port is thriving with cafés and restaurants and is within easy walking distance of the old town. Here you'll find a combination of street entertainers, stalls and bars. Some of the best food in Spain can be found in Barcelona, with paella being a speciality, and so La Boqueria food market is also worth a visit as it has an extraordinary selection of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables.
One of Barcelona's most famous products has to be its delicious Cava. The origins of this unique and sparkling wine date back over 160 years and, in 1872, winemaker Josep Raventós was credited as being the first person to make Cava utilising the same traditional methods that are used to make French champagne.
Interestingly, the name Cava is actually derived from "cave" or "cellar", which is where the wines were once aged. Today, 95% of all Cava is produced in the region of Penedès, an area just under an hour away from Barcelona. This is undoubtedly the reason why Cava can be found in virtually all the bars and restaurants in Barcelona and is the most popular regional drink for both locals and tourists alike.
At P&O Cruises, we have a shore excursion which is sure to please your palate, as it encompasses a tour of two of the most well-known wine and Cava producers in Spain.
Offering a reprieve from the noise of the city, you'll head towards the Freixenet Cellas, located in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, in the heart of the Penedès region. The contrasting landscape is dotted with vineyards and old Catalan houses, and the cellars are not only one of the most well-known Cava producers in Spain, but are the world leaders in its sparkling wines, produced by the traditional method. After a tour of the cellar, you'll be offered a glass of Cava to enjoy and will have the opportunity to purchase some wine, should you choose to.
You'll then visit Torres Wine Cellars, which has a modern, open winery standing alongside ageing cellars. You'll visit the cellars and tour the facility, observing how this family wine is produced and bottled. Again, at the end of your visit, you'll also have the chance to try a glass of wine and make a purchase if you'd like.
For a glass of its namesake, venture to Oporto
Oporto is Portugal's second largest metropolis and home to its famous port wine. It's no doubt one of the most historically important cities in Portugal. The town centre was established during the 18th century, at a time when trade was booming. The large squares and avenues are a contrast to the narrow little streets of the old medieval quarters, and are a testament to this time.
Oporto has many sites of interest including the 12th century cathedral and the Stock Exchange Palace. However, across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia is a well known wine cellar where you can discover how port wine is made.
Port is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and is produced from grapes grown in the Douro region. It comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties, and once it has been fortified, it is stored in barrels in a cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia, where it's left to age before being bottled. The Douro Valley is actually the oldest defined and protected wine region in the world.
How about some sherry tasting in Cadiz?
With charming cobbled streets lined with Moorish-style houses, small shops and tapas bars, Cadiz is incredibly picturesque and if you climb the internal steps to the top of the 18th century El Nueva cathedral, you'll be rewarded with some spectacular views of the city.
The region is also closely linked with Spanish wine production, in fact, the area marked by the corners of three towns, Jerez de la Frontera, el Puerto de Santa Maria, and Sanlucar de Barrameda, is actually known as sherry corner or sherry triangle. Sherry is one of the world's oldest wines, and the evolution of it has been greatly influenced by the Greeks, Romans, Moors, Spanish and British.
When you visit Cadiz, you'll have the chance to explore the quintessentially Spanish town of Jerez de la Frontera, located in Andalusia. It has an interesting history and is credited with being the birthplace of flamenco and tapas and is, of course, renowned for its sherry.
If you want to explore the traditions behind the tipple, then we have the perfect shore excursion for you; Sherry Tasting in Jerez.
As you enter one of the town's famous wine bodegas, your senses will be filled by the dense, fruity, yeasty scent which permeates the building. Your guide will take you through the production process, including blending and bottling, and you will then be offered 3 varieties of sherry to try - fino (dry), amontillado (medium) and oloroso (sweet).
Not only that but en route to Jerez, you'll also take in sights including the Cathedral of Cadiz, the Castle of San Sebastian and the Plaza de España.
All of our Mediterranean cruises sail roundtrip from Southampton and so, with no restrictions on the amount of luggage you can bring, no airport queues and a swift and stress-free check-in process, it's the perfect place to start your holiday. Plus, if you keep yourself up to date with our latest deals you might even be able to find a few bargains. Check out our cruise deals page for more info.
To learn more about P&O Cruises and the many destinations we travel to, please visit www.pocruises.co.uk