Sicily, Tunisia, Spain, Morocco and the Canaries are the ports of call for two fascinating cruises under the Mediterranean sun onboard the uncomparingly comforting Splendid and Fantastic cruise ferries
By Stefano Fermi (04-11-97)
The cruise ships
Splendid and Fantastic, equipped with the most modern navigation technologies and safety systems, are furnished to the standards of a luxury 5 star hotel, with attractive, spacious areas and more than 350 reinarkably appointed suites and cabins.
The vessels (together with the first of the family, the Majestic) have introduced an innovative new cruise-ferry concept in the Mediterranean. The two ships, normally involved in the toutes to the main Italian islands (Sicily and Sardinia), will cruise across the Western Mediterranean's most fascinating locations during New Year's festivites.
The Splendid (8 days, from Sunday December 28th 1997 to Sunday January 4th 1997) will call at Barcelona, Alicante, Palma de Majorca, Tunis and Palermo, with prices per person starting from 1,150,000 liras in a cabin sleeping four, up to 2,080,000 liras for a suite.
The Fantastic (9 days, from Friday December 26th 1997 to Saturday 3rd 1998) will pass through the Pillar of Hercules after calling at Barcelona and Malaga, and then continue to Cadiz and Palma de Majorca.
Prices per person start from 1,250,000 liras in cabins sleeping four to 2,400,000 liras for a suite.
Both cruises have been organised for couples and groups, and are perfectly suited to families with children.
Children are catered for by specially appointed areas and services. Children up to two years of age travel free, and from 2 to 12 they receive a 50% discount on the full charge.
Embarkation is at Genoa's Ponte dei Mille Cruise Terminal. On checking in passengers receive their boarding card and cabin number, and will find the magnetic key on board.
If they wish, passengers can park their cars on the ship's decks for the entire period of the cruise.
While the high note of the cruise will be the romantic New Year's celebration under the starlit Mediterranean sky, there are numerous opportunities for relaxation and entertainment - heated indoor sea water pool, solarium, health and beauty center with hydro-massage facilities, games and video games rooms, bar, piano bar, main lounge.
Plus aerobics, tournaments and competitions, dancing lessons and entertainments organised in the social areas or the ships.
At night there is even more on offer, with a cinema, discotheque, gastronomic delights for a midnight snack, live shows and, on December 3, the classic New Year's eve party.
Snacks are served at the cafeterias, with sophisticated menus and an extensive variety of dishes on offer at the exclusive a' la carte restaurants "Le Caprice" and "Le Gourmet" on the Fantastic and "Le Pavillon" on the Splendid.
The all italian on-board staff, trained in the great tradition of italian hospitality, make sure guests cruise is an unforgettable experience.
Optional half or full day excursions are organised at all ports of call to give passengers first hand experience of the local tourists attractions.
Both cruises first call at Barcelona for an extensive sightseeing tour, from Mont Juie to the Poble EspaŅol, a remarkable gallery of Spanish architectural styles, from the modernist neogothical style of the Sagrada Famiglia by Gaudi' to the gothic cathedral, and from the medieval Barrio Gotico to the lively Ramblas.
The next stop for the Splendid after Barcelona is Alicante, with its shady avenues of centuries old palms and the baroque Cathedral, all dominated by the Castillo de Santa Barbara.
In Palma de Mallorca (the Fantastic also calls here), 15 km of fine, sandy coastline frame the fascinating "Castel de Bellver", the Cathedral and the Plaza de Toros.
The excursion then continues to the old barrio of Palma. The full day excursion also touches Porto Cristo to visit the Coves (caves) de Hams and a "Perlas Malloricas" workshop.
In Tunis excursions are available to the mosaics on display at the Bardo Museum, the phantasmagorica Casbah. Another option is mythical Carthage, the thermal baths built by Antonio and the Arab village of Sidi Bou Said.
The splendid city of Palermo acts as a bridge between Africa and Italy.
Here excursions visit the Cathedral and Palatina Chapel, not to mention the incredible mosaic in the Duomo di Monreale. The full day excursion continues to Segesta and Selinunte to admire Doric temples and the Acropolis bathed in the golden Sicilian sunlight.
After Barcelona the Fantastic moves on to Malaga.
Here passengers can visit the famous "Castillo de Gibraltar", with its remarkable panoramic view over the port and city, including the "Plaza de Toros" and Pablo Picasso's home.
A walking tour of the city ends at the Cathedral. From Malaga, a visit to Granada gives passengers a chance to admire the architectural jewel of Alhambra and the beautiful gardens of Generalife.
Lunch at the El Capricho restaurant will be followed by flamenco dancing.
The visit to Casablanca will start from the main flower and fruit market and proceed to the Mahakma (the old palace of justice), the Habbous, the olive market, the church of Notre Dame de Lourdes, the Corniche and the Mosque of Hassan II in the old city, which bears witness to the domination of the Phoenicians and Berbers.
There is also a half day excursion to Moroccan capital Rabat, with visit to the Royal Palace, the Chellah, the mausoleum of Mohammed V and the tower of Hassan. After a rest at the Saffir Hotel, the excursion continues to Old Medina and the Oudaya Casbah.
Another excursion from Casablanca passes through the villages of Berrechid and Settat and the Ben-Guerrir desert to reach Marrakech, the red city, where the Arab and Moorish civilisations meet African and Berber traditions.
The excursion starts from the Koutubia Minnarette and the Saadians tombs.
After a typical Moroccan lunch, there will be a visit to Bahia Palace, the gardens of Menara, the Souks and the characteristic Piazza Djama el Fna.
During the stopover in Cadiz, a city tour takes passengers to the huge Plaza de EspaŅa, with its monument to the first session of the Cortes or parliament. This will be followed by visits to the Museums of Archaeology and Fine Arts, the cathedral and the Teatro Romantico.
Another excursion from Cadiz takes passengers to Seville to admire the Royal Castle. It then continues to the Cathedral (famous for its sheer size and the trasures it contains), and the characteristic neighbourhood of St. Croix.
In the afternoon there is a visit to the marvellous Maria Luisa gardens, Plaza de EspaŅa and Plaza de America. The final port of call is Palma de Majorca, with the same Splendid's cruise excursion program.
For further information: Grimaldi Group - Grandi Navi Veloci