May 17, 2011
(2 p.m. EDT) -- In a recent Cruise Critic blog post, which offered up a request to identify this relatively new Mediterranean homeport, we expected a few people to get it right. We didn't expect the very first person to respond -- Ka-Heng Leung -- to make the right ID quite so quickly.
Too easy? Actually, not so much. Though Toulon received a healthy number of votes (we figured the ship docked in the harbour would offer a helpful clue), there was equal certainty that Malaga, Cadiz for Seville, and Lisbon were contenders. One reader, who thought the port was Lisbon, actually roughed us up for that: "I think this is supposed to be Lisbon," wrote Andrew C. But: "Being that Lisbon is not in the Mediterranean, how is it a new Mediterranean port?"
It wasn't Lisbon (which, as he said, isn't in the Mediterranean), but we thank him for asking.
Another interesting trend is that almost every port city in Italy -- including Genoa (already a fairly bustling homeport), San Remo, Savona, La Spezia (impossible homeport because ships have to tender), Cagliari and Trieste -- made the list at some point. Since new cruise port possibilities in Spain, France and Greece received only a handful of votes, we wondered: Is that a hint that readers find the more traditional embarkation ports of Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Venice a tad overcrowded?
Beyond identifying the correct port city, the most fun responses were those that told us what's great about various Mediterranean places. One nod for Corsica's Ajaccio described the "heady smell of the maquis" as one of its pleasures. (Perhaps our next contest should ask people to tell us what maquis is.) Glen's favourites in Naples -- "bubbling volcano, cinematic history, real seafarers port" would have whetted our interest if we didn't already think it's one of the most interesting ports on the sea. Susan Baines' description of Seville -- "cathedral, Jerez bodegas, and gardens of Maria Luisa" -- also appealed.
But we were asking about Toulon, and since this port is so new to us we don't even have a port profile (yet), I'll share what some of our reader experts say is great about the destination:
"You can get a tour of the naval base, go to the beach, shop at the market, attend a rugby match and have wonderful Moules-Frites," writes Eddie Marshall. "All on the same day if you wish. Not to mention the best of the Provence region within striking distance."
"3 quick reasons," writes Christine Sanchez. "Royal Caribbean is a wonderful cruise line, stops in Toulon. One can see the southern coast of France, Spain and Italy all in the same cruise. Views of the sea and port are breathtaking from the heights of Toulon."
And, finally ... SeattleJoe not only did his homework, he also offered an eloquent plea:
"After looking over the tiny details of the photo and researching the numbers on the sides of the military ships, and looking up the schedules of any Voyager Class vessels from this month I have come to the conclusion this is Toulon, France. When you book a cruise most of the time you look for one with exciting ports that have a rich and vibrant culture.
"These always seem to be the popular ones such as Rome, Venice, or Monte Carlo. But when you see a cruise that has ports such as Toulon, it makes it special. It turns your normal Mediterranean adventure in to one that is unique to you and is not shared by 8,000 others. The people in these towns seem to be much more down to earth. When you go to the standard ports you will find overpriced t-shirts that say 'Look Mum, I've been to Italy!' Instead at these stops you get to enjoy what the culture and the people have to offer. You get the real deal."
Thanks for playing. Which mystery port should we feature next?
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief