A cruise to the Mediterranean embodies the history and culture of the entire Western World and no matter how stunning the pictures or how intriguing the stories, nothing captures the Med's dazzling beauty and idyllic lifestyle like being there yourself. Europe's greatest cities and finest resort areas are found along the sun-baked coastlines of Spain, France and Italy, and there is no denying the allure of the Greek Islands. Every port of call on a Mediterranean itinerary offers splendid art and architecture and a fabulous food, the best wine and a chic, trendy and sophisticated atmosphere.
The Med is usually thought of in two different geographical areas with Italy as the dividing line.
The islands and ports along the southern coast of Spain and France, plus Italy, are considered the Western Mediterranean and most cruises will depart from and return to Barcelona or Rome.
The Eastern Mediterranean cruises focus on Italy, Greece, Turkey and cities along the Adriatic. These itineraries typically depart from or return to Rome, Venice and Athens.
What can I do on a Mediterranean cruise?
Italy is the focal point of every Mediterranean itinerary and no visit to Venice would be complete without a romantic gondola ride on the Grand Canal and a walk through St. Mark's Square. Nearby you'll find the town of Murano, famous for its handblown Venetian glass.
In Naples, drive the fabulous Amalfi Coast on your way to visit the ruins of Pompeii, and when in Florence, you'll find the artistic wonders of the Renaissance. A city tour of Rome will cover many famous landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, plus most people are also interested in a visit to Vatican and the Sistine Chapel to view Michelangelo's incredible fresco ceiling.
In France you'll find Monte Carlo, one of the wealthiest towns in the world with its beautiful seaside landscapes and the Grand Casino is a must-see attraction. Barcelona's Las Ramblas is one of the most famous walking areas in Europe, and be sure to pay a visit to the Picasso Museum.
Kusadasi, Turkey is the point of departure for tours to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, and every trip to Istanbul should include a visit to the Blue Mosque and extra time for shopping, and haggling, in one of the many bazaars.
In addition to Athens and Istanbul, cruise itineraries that concentrate on the Greek Islands will offer the colorful, charming white-washed villages on the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. Plus, there are plenty of quaint villages with medieval streets, fascinating ancient ruins and gorgeous beaches in Rhodes, Katakolon and Corfu.
Where does a Mediterranean cruise go?
The greatest seaside cities in Europe are in the Mediterranean. One-way itineraries can call in the most popular ports of call and may even overnight in port giving you more time to explore these magnificent and historical places. All of the larger cities with good airports nearby can be used as embarkation or disembarkation ports.
- Athens (Pireaus)
- Monte Carlo/Cannes
The Greek Islands are ideal for cruising! Most itineraries depart from and return to Athens, but some operate one way between Athens and Istanbul. A stop in Kusadasi is very common on Greek Islands itineraries because the two countries are so tied together historically.
- Athens (Pireaus)
One of the more unusual itineraries is one including ports of call in the Black Sea. Often departing from and returning to Istanbul, ports of call may include:
When can I go on a Mediterranean Cruise?
Since the Mediterranean offers favorable weather, it's possible to find cruises there at any time of year; however, most departures in the Med will sail between May and October. It gets quite hot in the middle of summer, so some cruise lines reposition their ships to Northern Europe at that time and concentrate in the Med during May and early June, and then again in late August through October.
How do I get there?
Mediterranean cruises can depart from and return to just about any port, with the largest cities being the most popular. Look for both round-trip and one-way itineraries from Barcelona, Rome (Civitavecchia), Venice, Athens and Istanbul. Almost all major cruise lines offer cruises to Mediterranean ports including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Orient Line, Radisson Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard Line, Silversea, Costa Cruises and Windstar.
Med itineraries can range from 7-14 nights. Air departures from the US usually leave late in the afternoon and fly overnight to arrive in Europe early the following morning, which adds an additional day to the trip. You should also consider a pre-cruise and post-cruise hotel package so that you can enjoy the fabulous cities on either end of your cruise itinerary; otherwise you'll just pass through. Some cruise lines also offer land-tour extensions, often including rail travel, that take you into the interior of those countries.