From sites of antiquity to sun-kissed coastlines, world-class cuisine to awe-inspiring art, a sailing in the Mediterranean is awash with possibility and a sense of adventure.
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 Old World villages, or hit up 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 coveted locales like Spain, France, Italy, and Greece.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor intent on exploring hot spots, or a diehard “Med-head” looking to deep dive on new pockets of discovery, there’s a cruise with your name on it. Here, we’ve outlined seven perfect Mediterranean cruises for different types of travelers, whether it’s romance or family fun, food or art, beaches or antiquities, or simply 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, Windstar 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
Best Mediterranean Cruises for Families
Disney Cruise Line
Disney gets what families want, by land and by sea. Disney Cruise Line has been expanding its Mediterranean presence with new summer 2019 offerings that include the line’s first round-trip sailings out of Rome, and, looking ahead to summer 2020, a trio of Greece-focused itineraries, featuring stops in Athens, Katakolon (near ancient Olympia), Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete. 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. Cruisers can opt for supplementary Adventures by Disney premium packages, too, for enhanced “Adventure Guide”–helmed port excursions and onboard services, or two- to three-night, precruise, land-based extensions in Rome or Barcelona.
On sailings aboard the 2,713-passenger Disney Magic, expect all of the DCL signatures—Broadway-style shows, first-run Disney film screenings, lively deck parties, Disney character meet-and-greets, and top-rate kids’ clubs (plus, some dedicated adults-only spaces, too). The season of five- to 12-night voyages runs round-trip from Rome or Barcelona—or between the two cities—from May through July in 2019 and 2020. Rates from $3,677/person; disneycruise.disney.go.com
Best Mediterranean Cruises for Foodies
Celebrity Cruises’s buzzy 2018-debuted Celebrity Edge offers a full spring-through-fall season of Mediterranean sailings through 2020. The sleek, 2,918-passenger ship claims a culinary “edge” indeed, thanks to 29 onboard dining destinations (overseen by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher), including main dining rooms dedicated to highlighting regional flavors, like 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. There’s also 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.
In port, guests can sign up for special Chef’s Market Discoveries: These chef-guided excursions bring guests for shopping outings in local markets in locales like Livorno, Italy; Barcelona; and Santorini. Finds are later prepared and served by the chef via cooking demos back onboard. Choose from a series of seven- to 11-night Mediterranean Celebrity Edge voyages, running round-trip from Rome or between Rome and Barcelona. Rates from $1,229/person; celebritycruises.com
Best Mediterranean Cruises for Culture Vultures
The bounty of the Mediterranean, a wellspring for the arts, extends to its cultural offerings. Luxury Crystal Cruises helps guests maximize the region’s cultural appeal before stepping off the ship, thanks to its standout expert-led onboard enrichment program, featuring language lessons, dance classes, winetastings, musical performances, and more—much of which is designed to reflect Mediterranean influences while sailing the region.
Of course, plenty of ports are primed for culture lovers, too, and Crystal’s robust Mediterranean portfolio features stops in some 80 Mediterranean destinations (aboard its 980-guest Crystal Serenity, 848-passenger Crystal Symphony, or intimate 62-passenger yacht, the Crystal Esprit), whether exploring Michelangelo’s Florence, the French Riviera of the Impressionists, or perhaps flamenco territory in southern Spain is more your cultural speed.
Up the artistic ante on one of Crystal’s themed cruises: An upcoming fall 2019 option (sailing from Rome to Athens) is a theater-themed voyage, presented in partnership with Tony Award–winning Broadway producer Kevin McCollum, which will present cast members from Broadway shows in onboard performances and talks. Sailings from April through November annually; rates from $1,680/person; crystalcruises.com
Best Mediterranean Cruises for Beach Bums
SeaDream Yacht Club
Do thoughts of sun, surf, and sand along the French or Italian Riviera, Spanish Mediterranean coast, or Greek Isles have your swimsuits crawling out of the drawer to pack themselves? Well, you’d better get ready to catch the next flight out, when considering skipping 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 or tippling at the open bar, or sleeping in its signature “Balinese dream beds.” What’s more, 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, snorkeling gear, and more.
The line runs dozens of diverse Mediterranean itineraries annually: One sample weeklong SeaDream I run between Nice and Barcelona (embarking June 8, 2019) takes in legendary big-city beaches on both ends, filled in with several stops in France and Spain, including to the legendary shores of Saint-Tropez and Ibiza. Mediterranean sailings from April through October annually (typically from seven to 11 nights in duration); rates from $5,599/person; seadream.com
Best Mediterranean Cruises for Spa & Wellness Seekers
Seabourn Cruise Line
The Mediterranean diet, along with its beaches and breezes, are just what the doctor ordered for some rest and renewal. The wellness factor increases further aboard the luxury 458- to 600-guest quintet of small ships from Seabourn, which schedules dozens of Mediterranean sailings each year (from seven nights in duration, between April and 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 $2,999/person; seabourn.com
Best Mediterranean Cruises for History Buffs
With a name like Viking, 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 on board, meant to evoke the lives and times of Vikings via replica displays of clothing, weaponry, and more). Through 2021, it has employed three of its ships—the 930-guest Viking Star, Viking Sea, and Viking Jupiter—to run the brand-new, seven-night “Journey to Antiquities” voyages, on history-rich routes between European capitals of antiquity at Rome and Athens. En route, stop off at Kuşadasi, Crete, Messina, and Naples, where excursions run to spots like Ephesus, Herculaneum and Pompeii, the archeological site of Aptera, and the ancient city of Tindari.
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, like cooking classes. Eight select sailing dates between December 2019 and March 2021; rates from $2,299/person; vikingcruises.com