Perhaps you’re eager to hop between big-city, blockbuster Mediterranean metropolises at ports like Barcelona, Athens, or Rome on a seamless cruise-based itinerary. Maybe you’re yearning for a beach escape on a storied strip along the French Riviera or a Greek island idyll. Or you might want to uncover more off-the-path coves and sleepy villages, or hit up UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites where history books come to life. Whatever your interest or travel style, there’s a Mediterranean cruise for you, with myriad at-sea adventures awaiting along the coasts of such coveted locales as Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
Here are seven perfect Mediterranean cruises for different types of travelers, whether it’s romance, family fun, cuisine, antiquities, or simply some R&R that you’re after.
Best Mediterranean cruises for couples
If sailing into the sunset, billowing white sails overhead, after a day strolling hand in hand with your sweetheart along a blissful Greek island beach or past evocative ancient ruins sounds like a recipe for romance, your ship has come in. Windstar Cruises runs weeklong made-for-canoodling cruises through Greece, round-trip out of Athens, aboard its intimate, 148-guest, four-masted sailing yacht Wind Star.
En route, stop at Santorini, with its striking caldera, and Mykonos, famed for its beaches and party scene. Sail on to lesser-visited locales like the sacred island of Patmos; medieval Monemvasia; and Nafplio, a pretty port town in the Peloponnese. Plus, Wind Star stops in Kuşadasi, Turkey, gateway to ancient Ephesus, where it puts on an exclusive white-glove dinner in an illuminated courtyard of the Celsus Library, complete with chamber orchestra accompaniment.
Back onboard, a complimentary water-sports platform invites kayaking or snorkeling outings for two. Or amp up the romance a notch with a captain-helmed wedding or vow renewal at-sea ceremony. Sailings from May through October annually; rates from $4,599/person; windstarcruises.com
Disney Cruise Line
Best Mediterranean cruises for families
Disney gets what families want, by land and by sea, and that includes in the Mediterranean, where the line will base the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream in 2023 with 7- to 11-night sailings out of Barcelona and Rome (the port of Civitavecchia), in May, June, and July. For those who want a great family introduction to the Med, included is a nine-night, four-country sailing from Barcelona to Rome, with stops in Marseilles, France; Livorno and Naples, Italy; and Kefalonia, Athens, and Santorini in Greece. In port, expect family-focused excursions, such as a performance of traditional Italian puppetry in Rome or a “treasure hunt” in an open-air architectural museum in Barcelona.
Expect all of the Disney Cruise Line signatures—Broadway-style shows, first-run Disney film screenings, lively deck parties, Disney character meet-and-greets, and top-notch kids clubs (plus, some dedicated adults-only spaces, too). The kids will also delight in the ship’s 765-foot AquaDuck water coaster themed on Donald and friends. Rates from $3,423 /person; disneycruise.disney.go.com.
Best Mediterranean cruises for foodies
Celebrity Cruises’s contemporary Celebrity Edge offers a full spring-through-fall season of Mediterranean sailings during 2023. The sleek, 2,918-passenger ship claims a culinary “edge” indeed, thanks to 29 onboard dining destinations (overseen by renowned chef and restaurateur Cornelius Gallagher), including main dining rooms dedicated to highlighting regional flavors, such as the Cyprus Restaurant and Tuscan Restaurant. Plus, find unique culinary concepts like Le Petit Chef, which features tabletop 3-D projections of “mini-chefs” from Italy, Spain, France, and Japan who present specialty dishes from their respective homelands. And there’s the Dinner on the Edge open-air venue, where rotating menus, often featuring items sourced from port, are presented on a cantilevered platform floating 13 stories above sea level.
Also based in the Mediterranean from spring to fall in 2023 is the 3,260-passenger Celebrity Beyond, an Edge-class ship that boosts the culinary offerings with a specialty restaurant, Le Voyage, helmed by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, who also serves as the line’s global culinary ambassador.
In port, guests can sign up for special chef-guided market excursions for shopping local markets in locales such as Barcelona and Malaga, Spain, and Livorno and Sorrento, Italy. Finds are later prepared and served by the chef via cooking demos back onboard. Choose from a series of 7- to 11-night Mediterranean Celebrity Edge voyages, running round-trip from Rome or between Rome and Barcelona. Rates on Celebrity Edge from $1,005 /person; celebritycruises.com.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Best Mediterranean cruises for culture vultures
Some travelers head to the Mediterranean for total cultural immersion—whether their interest is art, wine, architecture, or design—and all-inclusive luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises delivers for the culture vulture with carefully curated shore excursions, many of which are included in the cruise fare.
On a 10-night cruise on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner in July, for instance, you might sip wine at the villa of a family-run farm on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, check out unusual art made from discarded industrial waste in Sicily (part of the line’s new eco-connect series of tours), or sample Maltese food and wine in Valletta. There’s also the opportunity to shop for crafts in the Italian Riviera, learn about perfume-making in the French Riviera, admire scenery that inspired Vincent van Gogh in Provence, and enjoy tapas and a flamenco show in Spain. Regent recently launched special behind-the-scenes design tours that look at architectural marvels in cities such as Marseilles and Barcelona for a deeper dive into the building of these historic places. The 10-night sailing between Rome (Civitavecchia) and Barcelona on July 13, 2023, starts from $11,299/person; 7-night sailings are from $7,999/person; rssc.com.
SeaDream Yacht Club
Best Mediterranean cruises for beach bums
Do thoughts of sun, surf, and sand along the French or Italian Riviera, Spain, Croatia, or the Greek Isles have your swimsuits crawling out of the drawer to pack themselves? Well, consider hopping between the region’s very best beaches aboard a luxury sailing yacht (billionaire bankroll not required). SeaDream Yacht Club will get you there in style, aboard its intimate 112-passenger SeaDream I or SeaDream II, where you can top off a beach day while luxuriating at a Thai-specialized spa, dining on gourmet cuisine, tippling at the open bar, or sleeping in the line’s signature “Balinese dream beds.” For active types, the ships’ complimentary water-sports marina (lowered when the ship tenders and weather permits) comes equipped with personal sailboats, kayaks, Jet Skis, stand-up padddleboards, and snorkeling gear.
The line runs dozens of diverse Mediterranean itineraries annually: One sample weeklong SeaDream I run between Nice and Rome (Civitavecchia) departing August 19, 2023, follows along the shores of Saint-Tropez, Portofino, Italy, and Monte Carlo (with an overnight stay). Mediterranean sailings take place from May through November (typically from 7 to 11 nights in duration); rates from $5,599/person; seadream.com.
Best Mediterranean cruises for spa and wellness seekers
The Mediterranean, with its beautiful beaches and welcoming breezes, is just what the doctor ordered for some rest and renewal. The wellness factor increases further aboard the luxury of intimate, 458- to 600-passenger ships from Seabourn, which schedules dozens of Mediterranean sailings each year (from seven nights in duration, from April into November), most of which feature the line’s signature “Mindful Living” excursions ashore. In Kos, Greece, for example, set out to explore the foundation of modern medicine at the archaeological site of Asklepion, or get your heart pumping with a riverfront bike ride through the orchards and vineyards of Croatia’s Konavle Valley, outside of Dubrovnik.
These wellness-themed excursions are part of the two-year-old “Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil” program, a Seabourn exclusive that anchors each cruise with daily yoga, meditation, and fitness classes, along with seminars on mindful living (on topics like healthy aging or spontaneous healing). The holistic approach and teachings stem from Dr. Weil, known as the father of integrative medicine. The onboard spa is a natural extension, where a standard portfolio of treatments (massages, facials, wraps, and beauty treatments) is augmented by alternative therapies like acupuncture, sound therapy, and Chinese herbs. Rates from $3,259/person; seabourn.com.
Best Mediterranean cruises for history buffs
With a name like Viking Cruises, it’s no surprise that the cruise line gives a special nod to history on its voyages (its oceangoing ships even have a Viking Heritage Museum onboard, meant to evoke the lives and times of Vikings via replica displays of clothing, weaponry, and more). Through 2023, Viking has three of its ships—the 930-passenger Viking Sky, Viking Mars, Viking Saturn, or Viking Venus—on the popular seven-night “Journey to Antiquities” voyages, on history-rich routes between European capitals of antiquity Rome and Athens. En route, stop off at Naples, Messina (Sicily), Crete, and Kuşadasi, with an overnight in Athens, for excursions that run to spots such as ancient Ephesus, the Minoan Palace of Knossos, Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the Acropolis.
Onboard, a resident historian is available to add color and context to the voyage via talks and roundtable discussions; the library offers history books relevant to the visited ports; and a “cultural curriculum” promises further enrichment via history lectures and destination-influenced programming, such as cooking classes. Rates for the two-week sailing are from $5,498/person; vikingcruises.com.
This article was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated to include current information. Fran Golden contributed reporting.