by Patrick O'Halloran

Mediterranean Cruise

Ancient ruins, legendary cities and sun-kissed beaches. The Mediterranean is both a visual and sensual feast. A Mediterranean cruise is a cruise like no other. 

Explore the ruins of ancient Rome, Renaissance treasures in Florence and the maze-like canals of Venice. Stretch out on a beautiful beach in Mykonos or Sardinia. If you like shopping then away from the cosmopolitan cities you have the cultured sophistication of Monaco and Nice

Artful Masterpieces

Cruises to the Mediterranean allow you the opportunity to view extraordinary masterpieces or art and architecture such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus and the world-famous statue of David in Florence. Gasp at the works of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel or Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece that is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. 

Food & Sounds

For foodies then France and Italy are the obvious choice but the other countries that border the Med are no slouches either. Enjoy tapas in Spain. Mezes in Greece or Kebabs in Turkey. If you like a drop of wine then the Mediterannean wine cellar is something else, from world-famous vintages to delicious local labels.

Top 10 Cruise Destinations on your Mediterranean Cruise

Most cruise itineraries in the Mediterranean follow either an Eastern or Western route but cruises of longer than 7 days can combine both. The main departure ports are Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome) but you can also include Venice, Genoa and Athens also. Some Mediterranean cruises can also originate in Northern Europe like Southampton, UK.

It's extremely hard to narrow this beautiful corner of the world to just 10 places. There are great cities to be explored as well as peaceful hamlets but these are just some of the more memorable places we have visited whilst cruising the Mediterranean.

Athens

The name itself conjures up an almost mythical image but despite its obvious historical heritage, Athens is surprisingly modern too. It’s true that the Parthenon looms around almost every corner but this city is more than just an ancient postcard. The city sprawls amongst its famous 7 Hills and crammed into this 24-hour city are over 3 million people. Yet, somehow the city still manages to retain a neighbourly, cosy feel. None more so than in the Plaka. Stroll its pretty streets and you could almost imagine yourself on one of the Aegean or Ionian islands. Bougainvillaea sweeps down in cascades to reveal quaint tavernas and shops selling all manner of local goods.

Of course, you cannot visit Athens without partaking in some of its historical gems. The Acropolis and Parthenon are iconic and a must. View the comical changing of the guard (the pom-poms on the shoes make it hard to take seriously) and the Temple of Zeus. The world-class New Acropolis museum is also well worth your time.    

Barcelona

Sprawled between the beaches of the Mediterranean and the hills of MontJuic Barcelona is a city with a big personality. It is a city brimming with culture. It has numerous renowned museums dedicated to the works of Joan Miró & Picasso, but you’ll appreciate the city’s love for art by simply strolling through its historic centre. It’s architectural history spans over 200 years from the Roman-Era Temple of Augustus to the yet unfinished Sagrada Familia.

Barcelona is also known as the country’s most progressive city, always on the cutting-edge of European art, fashion and cuisine. What’s more, its energy is unique, with hundreds of bars, restaurants & cafes for you to enjoy

Dubrovnik

Regardless of whether you have visited Dubrovnik before or for the very first time, the sense of awe never fails when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Walk the ancient city walls or get lost in its narrow lanes of the Old Town. Take the cable car up to Mount Srd for breathtaking views of the city and the nearby islands. One of which is Lokrum, a forested island that is a 10 minute ferry ride away. It’s criss-crossed with walking trails and is also a great place for a cooling swim.

Florence

Often called the cradle of renaissance there is something utterly enchanting about this beautiful city. It’s so compact but it is literally bursting at the seams with extraordinary art and architecture. There is only so much you can do with one day here but we would recommend Take a walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning views out over the city. Climb either Giotto's Belltower or the Cupola in the Duomo  (or both if feeling energetic) for an even more intimate viewpoint over the city.

Aside from sightseeing and visiting the main museums and churches, there are lots of other things to do in Florence. You could try out a walking tour or go on a shopping spree! Lunch at a great restaurant or try out all the delicious gelato flavours!

Istanbul

Technically not on the Mediterranean but as it is so often included in Eastern Med Itineraries it would be a shame to miss out on this magnificent city, formerly known as Constantinople. Many cities claim to be unique but Istanbul really is. As a city that straddles both Europe and Asia its not difficult to see why.  There is so much to see and do here. Visit the Blue Mosque or the Hagia Sophia. Descend underground to the fascinating Basilica Cistern. Take a cooling river cruise on the Bosphorus or have a drink or some lunch in one of the many rooftop restaurants and bars in the Sultanahmet

Nice

Nice has been a tourist magnet since the 17th Century and after visiting this delightful seaside town you will understand why. Nestled on the Cote d’Azur. Its history, dating back to the Roman era, is fascinating and its coastline is idyllic. It is also a fantastic place to taste some southern French cuisine and to explore a range of art galleries. Marvel at the produce on display in the Selya Market and then wander along the Promenade de Anglais and take the secret elevator up to the Parc du Mont Boron (it's not really a secret but few people seem to know of it). Nice is easy to get to even if you ship tenders in Villefranche. Just hope on the train for the 15min journey and alight at Gare Du Nice-Ville

Rome

The Eternal City. If you want to do Rome in a day on your cruise visit then you need to plan ahead as there is so much to do and see in the Italian Capital. The Colosseum, The Vatican, The Spanish Steps, The Pantheon or the Roman Forum? You may need to pick your ‘musts sees’ and perhaps throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return visit to see the rest. 

Valletta

Valletta is a city with a legendary past. When you sail into the harbour as the sun is rising the city gleams with a golden hue. Built by the Knights of St John it is small but packed with treasures and seems tailor made for a cruise visits as you dock very close to the centre of things. Visit the stunning Grandmasters Palace or take in the view from the pretty Upper Barrakka Gardens (which you can reach from the port via the Barrakka Lift). Nearby are the Lascaris War Rooms. This secret complex contained operations rooms where not only the defence of Malta was coordinated from but also some of the greatest battles fought in the Mediterrean during WW2. If you prefer something more leisurely take a stroll along the Valletta Waterfront and enjoy a coffee or beverage at one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Venice

A floating masterpiece and few cities in the world capture the imagination like Venezia, it almost resembles a movie set. Beautiful nooks and corners make it a joy to explore. Once the wealthiest city in the world there is so much to see and do here. St Mark's Square and Basilica are obvious starting points but ensure you experience the Canal Grande on a Vaporetto or walk over the Rialto Bridge. If visiting St Mark Square ensure you try to get a glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs. If the budget stretches try to enjoy a Bellini Cocktail in Harry's Bar where it was invented but there are plently of other places to enjoy a drink or some fabulous cusine.

Santorini

Santorini

One of the best ways to approach Santorini is by water which makes a cruise stop here an amazing highlight. I dare anyone not to be impressed by the sheer majesty of the towering cliffs that soar above the Caldera formed when Santorini’s volcano violently erupted thousands of years ago. The capital Thira perches atop the cliff face like a dusting of snow and offers breathtaking views over the caldera and beyond. Visit Oia for those postcard perfect photos of blue domed churches or the balck sand beaches of the east coast. 

Honorary mention...

goes to Messina in Sicily if only to visit the gorgeous hilltop town of Taormina

Delicious Foods to Try on your Mediterranean Cruise

The Mediterranean diet a famed the world over and is incredibly diverse. It would be a shame to visit these countries on your cruise and not try some of these exceptional dishes.

Greece

Greek Salad. We love this simple salad the most. Delicious ripe tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, bell peppers and creamy Feta then drizzled with virgin olive oil and a little red wine vinegar.

Italy

Pizza or Pasta. The choices are endless. The best pasta I ever had was in a hilltop restaurant above Positano on the Amalfi Coast. A simple tomato sauce expertly made was all it took to impress me. Naples is the place for pizza where the Margarita was invented. Anything other than cheese and tomato as a topping here is frowned upon.

Spain

Tapas. This can be surprisingly difficult for people to understand or order. Tapas is not a starter (as a lot of people seem to think it is). If you start eating tapas you don't stop eating tapas until you are full. Dishes can be cold (olives/cheese) or hot (Patatas Bravas, Fried Squid) and are usually small bite sized portions. 

France

Salad Nicoise - For the french eating food (and drinking wine) is an almost religious experience. Little wonder that it has become the culinary centre of the world. Dishes in the south of France differ somewhat to their northern counterparts. Salad Nicoise is known the world over and Ratatouille is another dish that originated in this part of the world. However, if you want something simpler you can't go far wrong with a simple cheese and ham baguette. The French take their bread very seriously also. 

At A Glance

When to go

The Mediterannean cruise season is split into three periouds:

High Season - Jun to Aug

Hot and sunny but places are very packed and cruise lines usually charge peak rates.

Mid Season - April/May & Sept/Oct

Weather is usually still good enough for the beach (especially September), fewer crowds and betters deals can be found.

Low Season - Nov to Mar

Coldest and wettest time although you could still strike lucky weather wise. Prices at lowest.

Budget

These are very rough costs as it will depend on what you choose to do but as a guide expect to pay these amounts for a day in port (prices in Euros)

Budget - Less than €40

Mid Range - €40 to €100

Top End - over €100

Currency

Most of the main cruise ports are located in countries that use the Euro (€). However, there are still a few that don’t such as Croatia (Kuna) & Turkey (Lira). If you are starting your journey in the UK they use pound sterling (£)

Language

Most Mediterannean countries speak their native languages such as Spanish in Spain and Italian in Italy. Some such as Turkey speak Turkish but also a variety of other languages such as Arabic and Kurmanji. English speaking people however, should be able to get by in most touristy destinations as it is widely spoken there.

Safety

Travelling in Mediterranean Europe is generally pretty safe. There have been riots in some countries due to the ongoing financial crisis as some have been hit harder than others. That said, the region is relatively stable and violent crime is rare. The US State Department and the Foreign Travel Advice in the UK publish up-to-date travel information on a range of countries so it's always worth checking those out before your travel.

Petty crime is widespread in the region, so watch out for bag snatchers, pickpockets and scam artists. As always, common sense is the best defence. However, we have compiled a list of some very good Anti Theft gear that might be of help to you if you are concerned about keeping your belongings nice and safe.

Read our Anti Theft Travel Accessories for some ideas.

 

 

 

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