Experience a Mediterranean Cruise - Where to Go and What to See

The moon glistening over the inky, tranquil Mediterranean Sea; the intoxicating aromas of freshly-baked pastries wafting from coastal towns; and the striking vision of ancient ruins are fragments of the enigmatic allure awaiting you on a Mediterranean cruise vacation.

With cruise options like the Mediterranean from Barcelona, the Mediterranean & Aegean from Rome, and the Mediterranean & Adriatic from Athens, cruisers can choose the route that best fits their interests. In addition to enjoying rich wines and mouthwatering dishes like pastas and pizzas, cruisers will marvel at natural beauty, such as Positano's white beaches or Mykonos' turquoise sea.

All that being said, the Mediterranean cruise is all about the Ports of Call and what to do when you arrive at those Ports of Call. 

Mediterranean Cruise

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Your Guide to The Dream Mediterranean Cruise

In this Mediterranean cruise guide, we provide resources for you to: 

1) Explore Off the Beaten Path Ports in the Mediterranean, 8 Lesser Known Destinations;
2) Prepare For your Mediterranean Cruise + Which 5 Ports get Crammed with Summer Time Visitors;
3) Learn about the 2 Main Western and Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Departure Ports + 4 Hidden Gem Mixed Use Ports; 
4) Pick Out and Explore 8 Unique Ports of Call and Things to Do While Visiting those Unique Ports of Call; 
5) Experience Onboard Experiences and Accommodations, Including Dining on the Mediterranean Cruise; 
6) Inquire Into The Most Popular Mediterranean Destinations, 4 Ports of Call; 
7) Discover Luxury Mediterranean sailings from Cruise Companies such as Celebrity Cruises;
8) Discover Economical Mediterranean sailings from Cruise Companies such as MSC Cruises. 

Mediterranean Cruise

A Cruise Through The Mediterranean, Five Very Busy Ports

The Mediterranean is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, and for good reason. It offers breathtaking coastal views, rich cultural experiences, and a diverse range of landscapes and attractions. From the sun-soaked beaches of Greece to the ancient ruins of Italy and beyond, there is something to satisfy every type of traveler and a cruise line that can meet those needs.  

With so much diversity among the ports of call available on any given itinerary, one can choose from an array of unique experiences - whether it is strolling around Valencia's historic old town; marveling at Dubrovnik’s remarkable walls, discovering Santorini's seaside villages perched atop volcanic cliffs or visiting famous landmarks like Rome's Colosseum or Athens's Acropolis.

All that being said, there are five very busy, often crammed with summertime visitors, sometimes difficult to get around Mediterranean ports which visitors should be aware of, that include:

1) Venice, Italy
2) Barcelona, Spain
3) Santorini, Greece
4) Dubrovnik, Croatia
5) Oia, Greece

Be sure to check the ALL NEW Sun Princess which set sail on its maiden voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. The Sun Princess for the 2024 season will be sailing on 7, 14, 21, and 23 day voyages in the Mediterranean until 7 September 2024 when the ship will transfer to the Caribbean. 

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Experiencing the Exotic, Off the Beaten Path, in the Mediterranean

It would be remiss not to mention that some ports along a Mediterranean cruise journey may feel too familiar at times due to mass tourism, which has led to overcrowding. Despite its popularity as a vacation destination, there are plenty of more exotic places for travelers to explore.

Some of those off the beaten path ports of call include:

1) One of the most unique and lesser-known cruise destinations in the Mediterranean is Malta, a small island nation located off the coast of Italy and North Africa. Despite its size, Malta offers a fascinating history, abundant natural beauty, and an eclectic blend of cultures. Malta is home to some of Europe's most impressive sites, including the stunning St. John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta's Grand Harbour, and Hagar Qim Temples. Additionally, its geographic location makes it a great starting or stopping point for diverse itineraries - whether you’re heading west towards Spain or east to Greece.

2) Another destination that might surprise travelers with its richness in culture is Tunisia. Travelers can visit Carthage, which dates back to 814 BCE, or its capital Tunis, which is brimming with old world charms yet still features modern diversions for visitors that appreciate both authenticity and fun.

3)  Another must-see place off the beaten path is Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes’ medieval city is clearly the island’s must-see attraction. Some standout attractions include: The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes/KNIGHTS TEMPLAR (a museum dedicated to Rhodes’ history and the Grand Master’s apartment with its magnificent mosaic floors); the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes; the Byzantine Art Museum and its many frescoes and icons from the Byzantine period; and the Churches of Agia Triada and Agia Aikaterini.

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4) And don't forget one of the most important places in the ancient world, Ephesus which was an ancient Greek port city located on the western shores of modern-day Turkey. Ephesus was the second biggest city of the Roman Empire. Ephesus is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis which was constructed in the sixth century B.C.

This temple is dedicated to an ancient, local form of the goddess Artemis. The temple was twice the size of any other Greek temple and had 127 columns which were 18.3 metres (60 ft) high and 1.2 metres (4 ft) in diameter. It took workers 120 years to finish the temple.

When visiting Ephesus, be sure the ship actually docks there rather than the tourist resort of Kusadasi, Turkey which is an hour away by car.

5) Sorento, Italy. Another must-visit off the beaten path location on your Mediterranean cruise is the charming town of Sorrento in Italy. Famous for its lemon groves and olive trees, this town offers visitors breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples. Take a day trip to the island of Capri and experience this idyllic island's unmatched charm. And don't forget to indulge in some authentic Neapolitan pizza while you're here! 

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6) Katakolon (Olympia), Greece: Katakolon is a little seaside village on the western coast of Ilia and it’s exactly what you picture when you think what a Greek village should be. You can taste the day’s catch fresh from the fishermen’s nets at the gateway to Olympia. The home of the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE, Olympia still holds wonder. As explorers wander onto the ruins the first thing that catches their eyes are the stone columns. 

7) Fiskardo (Kefalonia), Greece: Amid the Ionian island of Kefalonia lies a small fishing village, Fiskardo, with all the charms of a tiny Greek town but the elegant feel of a luxurious getaway. As a popular choice for yachts to dock, the harbor hosts plenty of upscale seafood restaurants. Opt for a quick dip after a day of adventure at one of Fiskardo’s many pebble coves.

8) Saranda (Butrint), Albania:  The horseshoe-shaped bay of Saranda on the Albanian Riviera lies between the Ionian Sea and rolling hills of olive groves. When visiting, the Butrint National Park should hold a spot on your bucket list. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance holds the remains of a city from the Roman Empire, a scenic lagoon and breathtaking mountains.

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Ultimately, the Mediterranean has so much diversity between its civilizations’ past histories and cultures that exploring both well-trodden paths or under-discovered gems offer rewarding experiences all around.

While venturing off-the-beaten-path can be a wonderful way to escape the crowds and discover new experiences, one shouldn't neglect the classics -- there's a reason why cities like Venice, Rome, and Barcelona continue to be popular among cruisers. Even if some ports may seem "touristy," many of these cities have an enduring draw because of their remarkable cultural heritage.

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Preparing For your Mediterranean Cruise

Preparing for a Mediterranean cruise can be an exciting and daunting experience at the same time. Here are a few tips to ensure that your trip is smooth and hassle-free:

1) Check the entry requirements of the countries you will be visiting. Make sure you have all necessary documentation, such as visas or passports, before embarking on your trip and your cruise line.  

2) Another important aspect to consider is packing. When cruising in the Mediterranean, it's important to pack comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for the warm weather and excursions on land. Some travelers prefer traveling with only carry-on luggage to save time at boarding. While this can be convenient in some cases, due to airline and cruise restrictions, it's important to double-check the weight and size limitations of both airlines and cruise lines.

Basic Mediterranean Cruise Statistics: 

  • According to a 2021 survey by Cruise Critic, 35% of respondents listed the Mediterranean as their most desired cruise destination.
  • In 2019, the Mediterranean region saw more than 25.3 million cruises ship passengers, indicating its popularity among travelers.
  • A study conducted by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) in 2022 showed that nearly 40% of European cruisers preferred itineraries featuring Mediterranean destinations.

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Mediterranean Cruise Departure Ports

Mediterranean cruises depart from various ports throughout Europe. Here is an overview of some two very popular departure ports, their respective destinations around them, and some lesser known HIDDEN GEM departure ports.  No matter from where you depart to explore the magnificent Mediterranean region, each port and cruise line offers different landing points full of adventures to discover!

Western Mediterranean Departures:

Barcelona or what is known as the Western Mediterranean (cruise) is one of the most popular departure points for Western Mediterranean cruises. It's a vibrant city full of life and is often referred to as "the capital of cool". From Barcelona, travelers can embark on a journey through the Western Mediterranean, visiting locations such as Marseilles, Corsica, Sardinia, Naples, Rome, Monte Carlo and more. Barcelona gets 12-13 million visitors per year. 

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Eastern Mediterranean Departures:

If you prefer starting your journey from Italy or an Eastern Mediterrean cruise, you can sail away from Civitavecchia (a port city in central Italy, a city next to Rome, Italy) which offers a grand departure location - where you can embark yourself onto an Eastern Mediterranean itinerary. Civitavecchia by itself is an uninspiring port city but directly adjacent to Rome, Italy which is just 60-90 minutes away by car. Popular Rome attractions such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, Vatican City, and the Trevi Fountain can be seen post-cruise or pre-cruise.

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Hidden Gem Mediterranean Departures:

Cruise customers are advised to pay CAREFUL attention to the actual port they will be visiting on their cruise. On the online or paper brochure, the actual port is often shown in parenthesis after the well known city which is shown to the left. That being said, there are several ports which are commercial industrial ports that are separated by 30-90 minute drives from well known historical locations. These industrial historical ports include: 

1) Piraeus is a busy industrial port and city but only 60 minutes away from Athens, Greece with its world renowned Acropolis, Parthenon, and Panathenaic Stadium. From Athens, travelers can embark on a journey through the Eastern Mediterranean, visiting locations such as Alexandria, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Venice, Istanbul, Kotor, Mykonos, and Naples.

2) Livorno, Italy is also a busy industrial port of departure but the city of Florence with Michelangelo's David, Ponte Vecchio, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore are but 90 minutes away by car.

3) La Spezia in Northern Italy is another industrial port of departure with little to see but just in 60 minutes by car, you can be enjoying the Cinque Terre region with spectacular hillsides, villages, and very popular beaches. 

4) Katakolon in Greece is a small town with a few shops but the port is only an hour's drive from Olympia Greece, home of the first Olympics with its ruins and a first rate museum. 

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Unique Ports of Call and Things to Do While Visiting that Port of Call

One of the most exciting parts of a Mediterranean cruise is the variety of ports of call available for travelers. From bustling cities to quaint villages, each stop on the itinerary offers a unique experience.

Here are just a few examples of Ports of Call and Things to do there: 

1) Barcelona, Spain: As one of the most popular departure points for Mediterranean cruises, Barcelona is a must-visit destination. The city boasts stunning architecture, delicious food, and a lively atmosphere that will leave you captivated.

2) Santorini, Greece: This picturesque island in Greece is famous for its stunning blue-domed buildings and black-sand beaches. It’s an ideal destination for those looking for relaxation and breathtaking scenery.

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3) Venice, Italy: Known as the “Queen of the Adriatic,” Venice is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Its winding canals, historical architecture, and artistic masterpieces make it a magical stop on any Mediterranean cruise.

4) Dubrovnik, Croatia: Along the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia lies Dubrovnik, a city well-known for its 16th-century Old Town. This charming Croatian city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its well-preserved medieval walls and old town. Visitors can walk along the ramparts to take in stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. 

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5) Alexandria, Egypt: Visit the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages and then journey to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina where you can examine the history of the region in this major cultural center, located next to the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Finally, visit the popular Amphitheatre.

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6) Ephesus, Turkey: An absolute must-see location.  Ephesus is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis which was constructed in the sixth century B.C. This temple is dedicated to an ancient, local form of the goddess Artemis. The temple was twice the size of any other Greek temple and had 127 columns which were 18.3 metres (60 ft) high and 1.2 metres (4 ft) in diameter. It took workers 120 years to finish the temple.

7) The Bay of Kotor, Montenegro, Adriatic Sea: Just 170 miles away from the Italian mainland on the Adriatic Sea, you can enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its fjord-like landscapes. While there, you can explore the charming medieval towns of Kotor, Perast, and Herceg Novi, and indulge in the rich cultural heritage of the region. 

8) Monte-Carlo, Monaco: Popular attractions in Monte-Carlo include the Private Collection of Antique Cars of H.S.H. Prince Rainier III, Casino of Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Harbor, Larvotto Beach, Monaco Grand Prix, and Hotel de Paris.

Each port of call offers its own unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient ruins or lounging on a sun-soaked beach, there’s something for everyone on a Mediterranean cruise and cruise line.

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Onboard Experiences and Accommodations

After a long day of exploration in different ports, there's nothing better than returning to your comfortable home away from home on board your ship. The accommodations vary depending on your budget and personal preference.


From interior staterooms to luxury suites with balconies overlooking the ocean, most accommodations onboard Mediterranean cruises are designed with ultimate comfort and relaxation in mind. Passengers can expect amenities such as plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, and well-appointed bathrooms.

When it comes to onboard experiences, Mediterranean cruises offer a wide range of activities to keep passengers entertained during their days at sea. From cooking demonstrations and dance lessons to movie screenings and live entertainment, there's always something to do on each cruise line on board.

In addition, most Mediterranean cruise lines offer excellent dining options, ranging from casual cafes to upscale fine-dining restaurants. Each meal is curated with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that highlight the flavors of the region.

The unique blend of cultural immersion, scenic views, onboard experiences, and exceptional accommodations make Mediterranean cruises an unforgettable vacation experience that you won't soon forget.

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Dining on the Mediterranean Cruise

One of the highlights of any Mediterranean cruise is the opportunity to sample a wide range of delicious cuisines. Whether you prefer traditional Mediterranean dishes or international fare, cruise ships and each cruise line offer a variety of dining options. Most cruises offer all-inclusive dining, which includes meals and snacks throughout the day.

Onboard restaurants run the gamut from casual buffet-style eateries to elegant fine-dining establishments that offer multi-course menus with wine pairings. One popular option for many travelers is to enjoy dinner at one of the ship's specialty restaurants. These venues often feature unique menus that are designed to showcase the flavors of the region, with offerings like fresh seafood and locally sourced produce.

Another great feature of dining on a Mediterranean cruise is that you can usually enjoy your meal while taking in breathtaking views of the sea and coastline. Many ships have outdoor dining areas or rooftop bars where you can relax with a cocktail or glass of wine as you soak up the scenery.

While most cruisers agree that the dining experience is a highlight of their trip, there may be some who feel that the quality and variety of food isn't always as high as they would like. Additionally, travelers with dietary restrictions may find it challenging to find suitable options. However, most cruise lines are able to accommodate special requests if given sufficient notice.

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Exploring Some Popular Mediterranean Destinations

The Mediterranean region has so much to offer travelers that it can be hard to know where to start. From fascinating historical sites to sun-soaked beaches, there is truly something for everyone. Here are just a few POPULAR TOP DESTINATIONS worth exploring:

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1) Santorini, Greece - This picturesque island is famous for its dramatic cliffside villages, whitewashed buildings, and black-sand beaches. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Akrotiri or watch the sunset from Oia.

2) Dubrovnik, Croatia - Known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic," this medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk along the ancient city walls and explore the narrow streets and squares that offer glimpses into centuries-old traditions.

3) Barcelona, Spain - The vibrant seaside city of Barcelona boasts stunning architecture by Antoni Gaudí and world-class museums like the Picasso Museum. Stroll down Las Ramblas to experience the city's lively street culture.

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4)  Naples, Italy - Situated between Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples, this bustling city offers an exciting mix of history, art, and culinary delights. Don't miss the chance to visit Pompeii or try a piping-hot slice of Neapolitan pizza.

Exploring the Mediterranean is like taking a journey through time - each destination offers a unique glimpse into a rich and varied past. Whether you're strolling down ancient streets in Athens or admiring masterpieces in Florence, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time to a bygone era.

Be sure to take advantage of shore excursions offered by your cruise line. These tours can give you a deeper understanding of each destination's history and culture while allowing you to make the most of your limited time ashore. With so much to see and do on a Mediterranean cruise, it's no wonder that this region is such a popular destination for travelers from around the world.


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Seeking Luxury Mediterranean Sailings

The Mediterranean region's borderlands have long served as an inspiration for innumerable pieces of literature and art. On a Celebrity Cruises voyage, you'll discover why this place is so inspiring. Visit Rome to witness Michelangelo's magnificent works of art at St. Peter's Basilica. Pablo Picasso and Edith Wharton both frequented certain locations along the French Riviera.

Additionally, you'll sample the unexpectedly healthful cuisines of Greece, Italy, and Spain that incorporate olive oil, fresh fish, and regional cheese. Now, as you cruise in style with Celebrity Cruises, allow the Mediterranean to inspire you.

There are benefits to cruising with Celebrity Cruises. Participate in the Celebrity Cruises Captain's Club to receive a variety of cruise benefits. Every Celebrity Cruises voyage will allow you to accrue points, and you'll also get access to exclusive deals, offers, and benefits that will make your Celebrity Cruises cruise trip even more amazing.

Gain access to exclusive Celebrity Cruises voyages, discounted spa treatments, free laundry service, upgraded staterooms, and exciting cruise club activities while at sea. You will also get special invitations to various members-only activities taking place on our sailings across the globe as a valued Celebrity Cruises loyalty member. 

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Seeking Economical Mediterranean Sailings

Visitors seeking an economical Mediterranean sailings congregate on MSC Cruises. On Mediterranean sailings, 85% of the guests of MSC Cruises are from Europe, imparting the vessels with a regional atmosphere. Getting the whole family in on the action won't cost a fortune: those aged 3-11 sail free with MSC Cruises, and those 12-17 get a reduced rate. Plus, the kids' activity program is provided at no extra charge.

MSC Cruises is ideal for families and couples wanting a different Mediterranean sailings experience than the traditional American one without higher costs. MSC Cruises offers multiple Mediterranean sailings packages which choose your cabin and give you bonuses through your vacation. This grants vacationers the ability to personalize their Mediterranean sailings voyage not only based on expense, but also their desires for the cruise line.

Things We Appreciate about MSC Cruises:

  • Families with youngsters aged 3-11 will find a Mediterranean sailings cruise to be financially appealing, due to free admission. Kids aged 12-17 also receive discounted rates during off-peak times. Childcare services and playgroups are available at no extra cost, as well as babysitting services for a small fee.
  • MSC Cruises offers an up-to-date armada that is the freshest in the industry, with the ships in the Fantasia category having a more trim and seafaring look than their competitors. MSC Cruises Seaside also has a remarkable shape, due to it being developed with ideas taken from Miami Beach.
  • MSC Cruises Divina and MSC Cruises Seaside are indicative of the line's keen effort to attract the interest of North American travelers, and the onboard entertainment has earned much praise for their Mediterranean sailings.  
  • The MSC Cruises Yacht Club offers a high-end experience for Mediterranean sailings, boasting its own swimming pool, restaurant and bar, round-the-clock personal attendant services, unlimited drinks, and priority ship boarding and reserved theater seating. 

Other Cruise Articles of Interest 

For other cruise articles of interest, please check out these other articles:

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Disney Cruises

Galapagos Cruises

Hawaiian Cruises 

River Cruises 

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