Mediterranean Cruises: Europe's Waterways
The Mediterranean Sea is a waterway edged with uncountable cultures, cities, people and landscapes. Almost an inland lake, it has coastlines in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, offering a huge variety of ports and destinations to an avid cruiser. Site of some of the earliest great civilisations, the Mediterranean can truly be considered one of the world's most important crossroads.
Cruising the Mediterranean: Cruise Holiday Destinations
What's out there? Everything! A Mediterranean cruises presents a huge number of options, with the enormously diverse countries and cities that are at the Sea's edges.
Probably the most popular with cruisers and landlubbers alike is the coastline to the northwest which includes Spain, France and western Italy. There are ports a-plenty along here, many of them decent-sized cities.
Barcelona, in Spain, is one of the major departure points for cruises, and it is an excellent place to spend a few days- big, with plenty of beaches, bars, food and the exciting architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
Also on the Spanish coast is Valencia, and ships also often call in to the islands of Mallorca and Menorca. The French Riviera coast is full of glitzy and glamorous cities like Marseille and St Tropez, where cruise passengers can eat, drink, shop, look out for celebrities or just lie on the beach.
Italy's western coast is all about the history- from the small coastal cities Civitavecchia and Livorno, cruise passengers can travel to the incredible Rome and Florence to see the ruins of the ancient Roman civilisations, along with endless classic works of art. Naples and the gorgeous Amalfi Coast are also on this part of the coast.
To the east of Italy lies the Adriatic Sea, which is bordered by Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania. Although there are plenty of beaches, this area is best known for stunning rugged and rocky coastlines dropping into crystal-clear water.
On the Italian coast, Ravenna is one of the few ports used- a city with a small-town atmosphere, home to the amazing Mosaic Basilica.
Venice is also on this side of the country, famously full of art and history and a beautiful carless city built around canals.
The Balkan countries on the other side of the Adriatic have some spectacular places for cruise ships to visit- think the sunny island of Hvar, the stunning Old Town of Dubrovnik, protected as a world heritage site, and the imposing and impressive Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. The sights and sounds of the Adriatic are unique and amazing.
Greece is below the Adriatic, neighbouring Turkey which has a long Mediterranean coastline. Greece is known worldwide for beautiful holiday destinations, especially in the islands.
Corfu, Cephalonia, Mykonos, Santorini and more are absolute stunners, with rocky cliffs and beaches meeting clear, turquoise water, and whitewashed towns clinging to the cliffs.
Although not as popular a cruising ground as Greece, Turkey has some similiarly beautiful ports- these include Ephesus, a major archaeological site, and Marmaris.
Cyprus also welcomes the occasional ship, as does Jerusalem in Israel.
The North African coast is not visited as frequently as its European counterpart, but there are some ports there which are included in itineraries by several lines. Tunis, capital of Tunisia, is primary amongst these- an authentic Tunisian city which has been spared a lot of the tourism industry. Algiers in Algeria is another port on the coast, along with Tangier on the Gibraltar Strait.
The Cruises: Mediterranean Cruise Finder
The Mediterranean welcomes all comers, and all of the major European and North American lines cruise there. Holland America, Princess, MSC, P&O UK, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Cunard all run very regular itineraries in the Mediterranean, so everyone can experience the diversity and history of the area without leaving their favourite cruise line. For those who prefer a bit of luxury, Crystal Cruises provides large-ship luxe, and the boutique small-ship luxury market is covered by the fleets of Azamara Club, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea.
The options for cruising in the Mediterranean are hugely varied. Many lines run a Western Mediterranean Cruise and an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, exploring the European ports to the west or east of Italy respectively. Western Mediterranean cruises will usually leave from Southampton, Nice or Barcelona. Cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean often depart Venice or Rome. Other cruises may take in a more general area, or focus on just one country- for example, Royal Caribbean currently have a Greek Isles cruise and Crystal have an Italian Dreams cruise. Mediterranean-based line MSC and the smaller luxury lines are the best bet for more adventurous cruises taking in Turkey, the Middle East and Africa.
The Mediterranean offers cruise lovers plenty of options, and so does Cruise Sale Finder. The site makes it easy to search for itineraries and book them, and offers great prices and special deals to boot.