The well-trafficked Mediterranean is positively teeming with cruise possibilities: Little wonder, given the region’s made-for-cruising idylls like the Greek Isles and French and Italian Rivieras, touting postcard-perfect ports just begging for cruise ships to explore. But for seasoned cruisers who’ve done the classic Barcelona-to-Rome cruise run through Spain, Italy, and France and have had their fill of island-hopping about Greece (if there is such a thing?!), there’s so much more of southern Europe to explore by cruise ship. Here, we round up five unique southern European sailings that get beyond the standard Mediterranean cruise circuit and onto lesser-explored—but no-less-impressive—regional waterways.
1. Iberian Sailings through the Strait of Gibraltar with Oceania Cruises
Spice up your next southern European sailing with an Iberian-focused itinerary that combines the wonderfully exotic, Moorish-influenced region of Andalucia, Spain, with a crossing through the Strait of Gibraltar and the delights of Atlantic-facing Portugal. Luxe Oceania offers numerous signature Iberian itineraries on several ships, with popular seven- to 12-night runs bookended by bustling ports in Barcelona and Lisbon; sailings are scheduled on select 2017/2018 dates aboard the line’s 1,250-guest Marina or Riviera or 684-guest Sirena. En route, uncover the cultural and culinary nuances of Spain and Portugal at stops like the vibrant Spanish resort town of Alicante; Almeria, gateway to Granada, site of the 14th-century, UNESCO-protected Alhambra fortress; and Seville, where ancient palaces and flamenco beckon. Most itineraries also include a stop at U.K.-flavored Gibraltar with its iconic monolithic “Rock.” Rates from $1,299/person.
2. Islands of the West Med Itinerary on Windstar Cruises
While this “Islands of the West Med” sailing on Windstar is capped on either end by the ever-popular Mediterranean port cities of Barcelona and Rome, it steers clear of the well-trodden coastline in favor of the region’s most storied islands, brimming with scenic beaches and historic sites. Hit up Elba, Corsica, Sardinia, and Mallorca on 6- to 7-night cruises aboard the 148-passenger masted yacht Wind Star (embarking on October 14, 2017) or 212-passenger Star Pride yacht (leaves October 18, 2017). Port calls include Portoferraio on Italy’s Elba island; Porto-Vecchio on France’s Corsica; Alghero on Italy’s Sardinia, and Palma de Mallorca on Spain’s Mallorca. Rates from $1,899/person.
3. Northern Italy River Cruise with Uniworld
Thoughts of European river cruises might intuitively produce visions of classic Rhine or Danube waterways, but cruising northern Italy—along the Po River and Venetian Lagoon—is a lesser-known possibility that’s not to be overlooked. Sail upscale Uniworld aboard the 130-passenger, Italian-themed River Countess on a 9-night “Gems of Northern Italy” itinerary, available on select dates between March and November each year. Following a two-night pre-cruise hotel stay in Milan, guests are transferred to Venice for the weeklong, round-trip river cruise with such excursions as an exclusive after-hours outing to Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica; a visit to Romeo and Juliet’s stomping grounds in Verona; and stops in medieval Padua, UNESCO-designated Ferrara, and foodie-haven Bologna. Rates from $3,749/person.
4. Adriatic Cruise to the Best of Croatia on Ponant
When seeking out new Mediterranean horizons, go east, where the Adriatic Sea delivers cruisers to the distinct charms of the Dalmatian Coast. Luxury French line Ponant offers several short sampler cruises in the region, which pack in calls upon seven historic and culturally rich Croatian cities in just one short 7-night “The Best of Croatia” itinerary. Sailing round-trip from Venice, guests can take in UNESCO sites like the Old City of Dubrovnik or Diocletian’s Palace in Split; or, discover the olive grove– and vineyard-covered island of Korčula. Plus, explore medieval Kotor, Montenegro, with its scenic perch on the Bay of Kotor. Book now for a trio of sailing dates in August and September 2018, aboard the 260-passenger Le Lyrial yacht. Rates from $4,040/person.
5. Ukraine to the Black Sea Voyage with Viking River Cruises
Get really off-the-beaten path with this unique river sailing itinerary from Viking, which brings guests through the Ukrainian heartland via the Dnieper River. Set sail from the ancient city of Kiev on to the cultural capital of Odessa, on the Black Sea. Along this ancient trade route, discover uniquely Ukrainian sights, like onion-domed churches, displays of Cossack horsemanship, and the cave monasteries of Kiev. Ten-night “Kiev to the Black Sea” sailings aboard the 196-guest Viking Sineus include two overnight stays in Kiev and three in Odessa, along with calls in Kremenchug, Dnipro, Zaporozhye, and Kherson. Sailings resume from May through August 2018; the itinerary has been modified since it went on hiatus in 2014, to avoid any conflict zones near the Crimean Peninsula. Rates from $3,799/person.