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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Europe:
The Mediterranean
Sights to see & things to do

Valletta, Malta

Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean has been a blessing and a curse through history. Until stability was established under the Knights of the Order of St. John in the 16th century, the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Berbers, Turks, and British invaded this small island nation. Malti is the official language, but English is widely spoken and many merchants accept American dollars.

Diversions

Taxis and picturesque horse-drawn carriages meet cruise ships and offer transportation for  touring. However, a walking tour of Malta’s capital, Valletta is the only way to explore the narrow streets. Climb the steps to the city where the main Tourist Information Arcade is located just inside the walled city gates. Stop at the Upper Barracca Gardens for an impressive view of the Grand Harbor. Make your way past the sad, bombed-out remains of the Royal Opera House and into the narrow streets of the city. Follow Republic Street through the center of the city to St. John's Co-Cathedral to see the display of tapestries and silver treasures. For a small admission fee, Casa Rocca Piccola affords the opportunity to visit a historic home still occupied by Maltese nobility.

The Palace of the Grand Masters, now home to the Maltese Parliament, houses period furnishings, the Grand Masters’ portraits, unique tapestries, and a fresco depicting the Great Siege. A short distance away is Republic Square where a statue of Queen Victoria watches over sidewalk cafes in the tree lined park. For a walk on the wild side, peek down exceptionally narrow Strait Street, once Valletta’s notorious red-light district, and then make your way to the city’s ramparts where you’ll find the Lower Barracca Gardens with splendid harbor views. At the extreme end of the promontory is Fort St. Elmo where only the National War Museum is open to the public.

Step back to medieval times with a visit to Mdina. The island’s epicenter of culture before the arrival of the Knights, it is located on a rocky outcrop above the central plains of Malta. With spectacular views, the “Old Town” is a walled city with peaceful cobblestone streets and is known for Mdina Cathedral and its fine collection of painting and woodcarvings.

Malta’s Dragonara Palace Casino, located in an ornate classical mansion on Dragonara Point, is an elegant setting for gambling. There is an entrance fee and dress code—jackets and ties are mandatory.

Shopping

Malta is noted for traditional handicrafts such as delicate silver filigree, lace, blown glass, pottery, and brass doorknockers. Valletta’s main shopping areas are along Republic and Merchant Streets and Mdina has small shops selling local crafts.  Many tours include stops at the Mdina Glass Blowing Factory and Handicrafts Village, the island’s largest craft market where prices tend to be cheaper than in Valletta. At the harbor, vendors set up tables selling t-shirts and incredibly beautiful wool sweaters hand-knit by local women at very reasonable prices. Directly across from the pier are duty-free shops, often with low prices for liquor and a variety of local wines and spirits.

Beaches

Maltese clear blue waters are some of the cleanest in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, sandy beaches are scarce and often crowded. The most popular are Mellieha Bay in the northern part of the island and Ghajn Tuffieha on the western coast. Neither is far from Valletta but summer traffic can be a severe hazard, especially if your ship is sailing early. The closer tourist resort at Sliema is more accessible and has abundant facilities.


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