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5 Top Mediterranean Cruise Ports of Call

couple traveling in Barcelona
Allianz - couple traveling in Barcelona

If you're looking for the ultimate dream vacation, it's hard to top a cruise. The planning stage starts with our cruise portal for everything related to the perfect trip. That said, a Mediterranean cruise should be on your bucket-list as the voyage would include some of the most achingly beautiful sights in the world. Cruise itineraries fall into three categories: western ports, eastern ports and a hybrid of the two. Here are some of the top ports of call you may encounter on a hybrid cruise.

1. Barcelona

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Barcelona is a bustling center of commerce in the Mediterranean. This Catalan city of remarkable energy makes spontaneous sightseeing rewarding with its abundance of interesting architecture, tapas bars and cafes. The city's rich cultural, historical and artistic attractions make it a popular destination.

From the port, take the shuttle bus into the heart of town, where you can walk to most of the sights. Highlights include the Picasso Museum, Santa Maria del Mar church, La Sagrada Familia cathedral and La Rambla. The shopping here is also a pleasant pursuit, offering everything from Spanish olives to designer clothing.

Aside from the tapas bars, you'll want to sample the Catalan fare that can be found in Barre Gotic, the Gothic quarter. Salted cod salad and tomato bread are two of the local specialties. Also in this area of town, The Box is an eatery that gets rave reviews because of its knock-your-socks-off-good hot dogs.

2. Rome

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Sparkling like a jewel, Rome fascinates with its seemingly endless number of attractions. It can be challenging to explore in only a day, but you can prioritize a wish list and hit the high spots.

The port is a short walk to the train station, where you can take a 45- to 80-minute ride on the Civitavecchia Rome train. A few highlights include the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral in Vatican, but try to also escape the crowds and wonder through the intimate piazzas. When you stop to take a break, people-watching will be a rewarding pastime, as the citizens are stylishly dressed.

Gastronomic pleasures are a vital part of Rome's allure. Linger over genuine espressos and cappuccinos, and savor authentic pizzas and gelato. Pastasciutta is an inexpensive eatery near the Vatican where you can get great house-made pasta. An alternative low-priced option is Pinsere Roma, a restaurant that reportedly has the best pizza in Rome.

3. Venice

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Venice has a fairy-tale quality, seeming almost too beautiful to be real. It is an ancient city of cupolas, canals and bridges that mesmerizes visitors to the core. Quite simply, Venice is incomparable.

From your ship, you can take a 5-minute monorail ride to the Grand Canal or take a 30-minute express boat ride to St. Mark's Square. Highlights include St. Mark's Basilica, Doge's Palace and museums that house many masterpieces. A gondola trip down the Grand Canal is a must-do, but ask the gondolier to take you down the quiet backwaters. Shopping in the city can be a special experience, as it will give you opportunities to buy something unique and handmade.

It isn't easy to find inexpensive restaurants in Venice. However, you can have a lovely time eating a picnic lunch at one of the open piazzas. Another option is to eat at Da Sandro, a place with outdoor seating that offers good pasta and pizza at low prices.

Imagine what a memorable trip this will be. Plan on taking lots of pictures so you can relive all the magic moments for years to come.

4. Dubrovnik

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George Bernard Shaw once said, "If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik because the beauty there will leave anyone breathless." Widely considered one of the most romantic cities in Europe, it is a fantasy of cobblestone streets, monumental walls, and fountains.

The main attractions are in Old Town. Your cruise ship will either take you there directly or dock at the industrial port, which is only a 15-minute taxi or bus ride away. Your Croatian adventure begins when you cross the 16th-century wooden bridge that goes over the moat. Highlights of the city include Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque churches, as well as a menagerie of art galleries, jewelry shops and cafes. After seeing the attractions on the main street, Stradun, explore down the side streets.

Stop at a café for gelato, but also try the local cuisine. A top-rated restaurant is Nishta, a small eatery known for delicious vegetarian food and reasonable price. Another good choice is Restaurant Dubrovnik, which has nice atmosphere and excellent food.

5. Santorini

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The Greek island of Santorini will enchant you with its views of whitewashed houses sitting on clifftops, surrounded by the cobalt blue of the Aegean Sea. Vineyards and ancient ruins along with the impressive sea cliffs are part of what makes the island sought after by tourists. Diverse sights of blue-domed churches, a volcano and donkeys are an unending source of delight.

It's likely to be easy to get into the towns or beaches from your cruise ship. Visit the Akrotiri, a preserved Minoan town that was destroyed by a 1650 BCE volcanic eruption. Other things to do include taking a therapeutic dip in sulfur hot springs and hiking along the cliffs between the towns of Fira and Oia. Spend some time wondering through Oia, an exquisite village of cobbled walkways, galleries, shops and some of the best scenery in the Mediterranean.

The absolute-must-do in Santorini is to have a leisurely meal at a restaurant in Oia with outdoor seating that affords a good view of the renowned sunsets. For a special evening, dine at Restaurant-Bar 1800, known as the best eatery on the island. Sunsets Cafe Restaurant is another good pick. If you're looking for budget restaurants, Pitogyros in Oia has great gyros you can chow down on while watching nature's colorful show in the sky.

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