Mediterranean cruises serve as a terrific introduction for anyone wanting to hit several of Europe's most popular destinations in one trip. Additionally, cruises can save travellers money over land-based travel, eliminating the need for hotels, car hire, meals and other logistical expenses.
Standard voyages to the Eastern Mediterranean often call on ports in Greece and Turkey, while the Western Mediterranean generally includes marquee countries like Italy, Spain and France. These sailings last anywhere from a week to 10 days, making these cruises ideal for people who want to cover a lot of ground with their vacation time.
With such a diverse lineup of countries on its itineraries, the Mediterranean offers everything from beaches and mountains to museums and shopping, but history and culture tend to be major draws. Visitors are likely to get the most out of a trip to the Med by sightseeing and taking in the region's many historic buildings and iconic points of interest before sampling local cuisine.
For example, a call on Civitavecchia is conducive to a trip to Rome (about an hour away) for a tour of the Coliseum or Vatican City, followed by some gelato. During a port stop in Barcelona, you might enjoy exploring Gaudi's iconic Sagrada Familia or browsing the Mercado de La Boqueria for some homemade meats and cheeses or churros and chocolate.
If a beach day is what you crave, choose an itinerary that includes calls on Greece -- particularly the port of Mykonos. Beachfront dining is ample in places like Santorini or Turkey's Kusadasi, just a stone's throw from the ancient town of Ephesus, which is still an active archeological dig site.
Mediterranean cruises are offered all year long, but the high season tends to be in the summer. To take advantage of lower prices and fewer crowds, consider booking a sailing for early spring or late fall.
In the Western Mediterranean, you're likely to visit Civitavecchia (for Rome), Venice, Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa, Mallorca and Livorno (for Florence and/or Pisa).
In the Eastern Mediterranean, you can expect Venice, Istanbul, Kusadasi, Athens, Katakolon (for Olympia), Dubrovnik and Israeli ports like Ashdod (for Jerusalem) and Haifa.
The most common departure ports for Mediterranean cruises are Rome (Civitavecchia), Venice and Barcelona.
Europe's Mediterranean region can be broken down into two sub-regions: Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean. The Western Med offers a well-rounded mix of culture, history, beaches and shopping, featuring popular ports in Italy, Spain and France.
The Eastern Med is known more for its beaches and ancient historical sites, offering calls on ports in Turkey and Greece, as well as occasional visits to Croatia, Montenegro, Israel and Russia.
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to the Mediterranean. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to the Mediterranean. Last minute cruises deals to the Mediterranean appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to the Mediterranean in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.