The Mediterranean offers numerous delights, from sandy beaches, picturesque villages and ancient archaeological sites to a wealth of museums, cathedrals and unique culinary and cultural experiences. Here is a just a sampling of the wide range of shore excursions available.
Note: Not all cruise lines offer all excursions listed.
Tour Ancient Sites and Vatican City in Rome: Journey by motor coach from the Italian port city of Civitavecchia to Rome, where highlights include the Colosseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. For an informative introduction to Vatican City, opt for a guided excursion that visits St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel.
Sample Tapas in Barcelona: Try traditional Spanish tapas, the small dishes of tasty bites that typically are served as early evening snacks. You'll likely visit a couple of restaurants and enjoy the tapas with a glass of wine, beer or sherry. Other top shore excursion sites in the Catalan city include La Sagrada Familia -- the elaborate, unfinished cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi -- and the Gothic Quarter, Picasso Museum and Montjuic, a hill that offers panoramic views.
Explore Renaissance History in Florence: When ships dock at Livorno, Italy, many passengers set out for Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance movement. You can purchase a transfer to the city and explore on your own, or you can join a fully guided tour that stops at Il Duomo, the Piazza Della Signoria, the Church of Santa Croce and the Galleria dell'Accademia, home to Michelangelo's "David" sculpture. Other excursions from Livorno visit Pisa and its iconic leaning tower and the wineries of Tuscany.
Watch a Flamenco Show in Cadiz: Sip your sangria, savor the tapas and feel the passion of a traditional flamenco performance, characterized by fiery guitar music and sensual, energetic movements. From this Spanish city, cruise guests also can travel to Jerez de la Frontera to admire the grace of purebred Spanish-Andalusian horses at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.
Create Your Own Perfume in the French Riviera: After disembarking in Cannes, travel to nearby Grasse, where the French perfume industry originated. Learn about the perfume-making process, then let your sense of smell guide you as you create your own scent from more than a hundred essences, such as wild lavender or sandalwood. Soaking up the sun on beautiful French Riviera beaches or touring the spot where the Cannes Film Festival is held are other popular activities at this port.
Tour the Acropolis in Athens: Explore an ancient cultural epicenter and the land of gods and goddesses -- Greece's capital city of Athens. Walk to the Parthenon, the fifth-century temple and one of the last reminders of the art and philosophy of this important culture. Other attractions include cruising the Corinth Canal, about 75 minutes away, and exploring the Plaka, Athen's oldest neighborhood.
Visit the Pyramids of Giza: Passengers on cruise ships docking in Alexandria, Egypt, can travel to Cairo to view the Pyramids of Giza and the famous Sphinx. You may also get the chance to explore the royal burial grounds of Sakkara and perhaps ride a camel.
Shop at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul: Be enchanted by the sparkling city of Istanbul, Turkey. Gaze upon gleaming treasures and priceless gems housed in Topkapi Palace, former residence of the Ottoman sultans and their harems. From there, head to the one of the largest covered markets in the world -- the Grand Bazaar -- to find some treasures of your own. Ancient mosques, a spice market and the Turkish baths are other favorite tourist stops here.
Try your luck at a casino in Monte Carlo: Have fun playing the odds at the Grand Casino in Monaco, the glamorous getaway for the rich and famous. Next, stroll through the tiny principality's narrow streets, past the Royal Palace, the Oceanographic Museum and the cathedral that houses the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier. Prefer not to walk? Drive along the Grand Prix circuit or marvel at the views on a helicopter ride above this luxury resort area.
Swim in Hot Springs in Santorini: See the breathtaking beauty of this volcanic Greek archipelago. Sail to Palea Kameni at the center of the Santorini Caldera and swim in the mineral-rich waters, which can reach roughly 98 degrees Fahrenheit. You also can visit the picturesque villages of Santorini, known for their white-washed buildings, see an 11th-century Byzantine church or stroll down a black-sand beach.