Have you vacationed to Europe before? Have you seen all the “biggies”, like London, Rome, Paris, and Amsterdam? Are you ready to experience Europe a different way? Perhaps it’s time to consider a cruise in the Mediterranean. Whether it’s part of your larger European vacation, or cruising the Mediterranean is your entire European vacation, you’re in for a treat. So much of Europe’s history, cuisine, and culture is tied to the Mediterranean and a cruise is a great way to experience much of what makes Europe, well, European.
By the way, we love Europe. We know Europe. Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time there: just in the past decade or so we’ve spent nearly three years (cumulatively) in Europe. You’re in great hands when you ask us to help you pick your Mediterranean cruise! We love to talk about Europe and we love to help our clients experience Europe. Here’s how we think of Mediterranean cruises:
This is where you’ll find the most cruise options and the best deals for cruising in the Mediterranean, the “bread and butter” of Mediterranean cruises, if you will. Most of the major cruise lines–Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, etc.–all have itineraries here. Barcelona is, by far, the most active departure port, but you’ll also find cruises leaving from Rome (Civitavecchia), Nice (France), and Valencia (Spain). Destinations include Spain’s coastal cities (Valencia, Alicante, Malaga, Marbella), Gibraltar, France’s coastal cities (Marseille, Nice), Italy’s western coastal cities (Genoa, Rome, Naples), the Spanish Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Majorca, Minorca), Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily. Sometimes stops even include Northern Africa: Morocco and Algiers.
The Western Mediterranean is “Spain-meets-crystal-blue-waters”: rugged, a mix of rocky cliffs and coarse sandy shores, ideal for olive trees and (for wine lovers) grapes. The Cuisine is simple but hearty, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients over complexity. You can expect blue skies with hot afternoons, perfect for siesta. If you’re in port during the evenings, look for and participate in paseo: dress nice and walk arm-in-arm up and down the main thoroughfare to see and to be seen, then find a great al fresco tapas and wine bar to enjoy before it’s time to return to your ship.
Just the other side of the Italian peninsula protected from the east by the Balkans (Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania–the former Yugoslavia) and from the west by Italy, the Adriatic is–by our reckoning–one of the most beautiful corners of the world. Cruises here mostly leave from Venice, which is an ideal pre-cruise or post-cruise destination, perhaps the perfect compliment to an Adriatic cruise (nothing beats quiet evenings and paseos along the canals after all the other cruisers and day tourists leave). Destinations mostly feature the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, with it’s spectacular mix of mountains tumbling into the sea and all the best of Italy at half the price. There’s also the iconic city of Dubrovnik (ideal for Game of Thrones fans), Montenegro and the Bay of Kotor, and hardly-visited coastal cities along Italy’s east coast, including spectacular city-state San Marino. Cruise lines plying the Adriatic include Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silverseas, Windstar…and more.
The Adriatic is like a giant Italian lake, enclosed by mountains on the eastern shore and vineyard-covered plains on the western shore. Italians on the western shore say “ciao” when you depart, Croatians and Serbians and Montenegrens say “ciao” when you meet and when you depart. Pasta and pizza is everywhere, as is a laid-back culture and lifestyle. It must be something in the water.
Featuring thousands of the most picturesque Mediterranean islands, images of the Aegean are often what come to mind when people daydream of a Mediterranean vacation. The Greek Isles–Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes–are quintessential Aegean cruise destinations, but equally impressive are the islands and stops along Turkey’s Aegean-facing shore, including Ephesus (and its biblical era ruins), Bodrum, Kos, Marmaris, and Fethiye. We love the entire Aegean region and we love to recommend Turkey’s west coast, but if you’re not quite so adventurous then visiting by cruise is ideal for you. Departures for Aegean cruises often leave from Athens (Pireas), with lengthier itineraries including Venice and Rome. Celebrity, Crystal, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, and Seabourn all have itineraries featuring the Aegean.
The Aegean is more like the Western Mediterranean than the Adriatic: rugged and sandy, ideal for olives and hearty wine grapes. What makes the Aegean different are the thousands of islands, very few of them much more than specks on the overall map of the Mediterranean. And atop many of those islands are the white-washed and blue-domed buildings famous for the area. And then there’s the pervasive sense of history…the Aegean is literally the cradle of western civilization.
Eastern Mediterranean and the Holy Land
Lastly, at the far eastern end of the Mediterranean you’ll find the Holy Land. If Israel and Jerusalem are on your must-see list but you are even a bit concerned about security, then a cruise might be ideal for you. Holy Land cruises often include an overnight stop in Tel-Aviv to allow you plenty of time to see all that you want to see. What’s more, cruises that stop in the Holy Land usually have itineraries with lots of Aegean stops. Your best bet for a tour with a Holy Land visit will leave from Athens (sometimes lengthier itineraries from Rome include the Holy Land) aboard Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, or Seabourn.
When To Cruise The Mediterranean
While you can find Mediterranean cruises year-round, the peak season is from late spring to early fall. With very hot afternoon temperatures starting in late June and lasting until early September, the ideal times are May, June, and late September. Early May and late September being “shoulder” season, these are the best times for deals. Repositioning cruise to Europe in the spring and from Europe in the fall offer a great way to cruise the Mediterranean AND include half your transportation. And world cruises often spend a good segment of their cruising in all parts of the Mediterranean.
We’d love to help you pick the perfect Mediterranean cruise for your next visit to Europe. Give us a call at (877) 585-SHIP.