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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

Cruising and the Mediterranean are the perfect match, thanks to gorgeous beaches, glamorous ports and cultural thrills galore, all packed into a relatively manageable area.

You could be basking on the beach in Mykonos one day and watching a fiery sunset over Santorini the next. Or cycling round the medieval walls of Lucca, or tucking into sweet cannoli with your cappuccino in Taormina.

Every kind of cruise ship criss-crosses the Mediterranean, from sailing ships around the Greek islands to luxury vessels along the Cote d’Azur or swish yachts exploring the pine-clad islands of the Croatian coastline. Take time to choose the right experience, whether a grand tour or a voyage that focuses in more depth on a smaller area, like the Balearics, or the Peloponnese.

You could opt for a fully-rigged, tall ship, or ‘clipper’. These authentic ships, modelled on the original ‘greyhounds of the sea’ from the early 20th century, fly over the water with no sound but the waves, wind and creak of the lines. There are few seagoing experiences as romantic as this.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: 4 days +

Getting there & doing it

The biggest departure ports in the Mediterranean are Venice, Rome, Athens and Barcelona, although ships also sail from Palma, Cannes, Dubrovnik and Valletta, and from Southampton on longer, no-fly cruises.

Voyages range from four-day mini-breaks in the Greek islands to grand circumnavigations taking three or more weeks. A cruise needs to be viewed as an introduction to an area, and an effortless way to get around.

One tip is to look for itineraries that give you late departures from port, or even overnights, as the Mediterranean in summer is often loveliest in the evening.

When to do it

The Mediterranean is undeniably crowded in summer so avoid August if you can. May to October are the warmest months, the sea perfect for swimming in September. Culture lovers could consider low season cruises in winter, when museums and galleries are empty.

Who to go with: tour operators

5

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Emerald Cruises [Mediterranean]

Emerald Cruises [Mediterranean]

Multiple countries

Award-winning European river cruise specialist, with highly-regarded, modern ships. They offer small-ship yacht voyages to Croatia, the western Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Ionian – the perfect way to explore each destination in depth.

Princess Cruises [Mediterranean]

Princess Cruises [Mediterranean]

United States of America (USA)

The world’s second-largest cruise operator has several ships in the Mediterranean in summer, offering classy cuisine, family fun and a high standard of entertainment.

Seabourn [Mediterranean]

Seabourn [Mediterranean]

Multiple countries

Sleek, all-inclusive ships with superyacht service and creative itineraries make Seabourn one of the top choices for luxury Mediterranean cruises.

Star Clippers [Mediterranean]

Star Clippers [Mediterranean]

Multiple countries

Star Clippers’ graceful, square-rigged sailing ships explore the Mediterranean throughout the summer. The focus is on smaller, out-of-the-way ports like Hydra and Skopelos in Greece.

Tradewind Voyages [Mediterranean]

Tradewind Voyages [Mediterranean]

Hadleigh, Suffolk, Multiple countries

The elegant Golden Horizon sails northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, the Indian Ocean and Australia, carried by the wind and currents. More eclectic and adventurous itineraries than Star Clipper.

Destination guides

14

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Athens

Central Greece, Greece

Athens parthenon lit up at night

Antiquities galore, contemporary culture, scintillating nightlife and fantastic food: there’s something for everyone in Greece’s cosmopolitan capital that’s continuously reinventing itself.

Barcelona

Catalonia, Spain

Close up of the spires of La Sagrada Familia

Spain’s cultural heart has unforgettable architecture, a pioneering arts scene, creative cuisine and nightlife that buzzes till dawn.

Cannes

Cote d'Azur, France

View of the beach and seafront in Cannes

Sister city of Hollywood and host of the famous film festival, Cannes, with its palm-lined La Croisette, golden beach and five star hotels oozes cinematic and pure Riviera glamour.

French Riviera

Cote d'Azur, France

View of boating marina and the town on hills behind

Money, glamour and bombshell looks: this beach-trimmed stretch of French coast offers decadent hotels, lounging in beach clubs, fine restaurants and world-class art.

Dubrovnik

Dalmatia, Croatia

Dubrovnik

Dazzling Dubrovnik offers UNESCO-listed heritage set against the pure blue backdrop of the Adriatic.

Greek Islands

Greek Islands, Greece

Oia Orthodox churches on the island of Santorini, Greece.

Sparkling seas, sugar-cube villages, cliff-hanging hamlets, ancient temples, delicious Mediterranean food and mesmerising sunsets – the Greek Islands offer so much. Just ask Shirley Valentine.

Istanbul

Marmara Region, Turkey

Large illuminated mosque at night with sea in background

Exotic, inexhaustible and dynamic – East meets West head-on in this mesmerising city metropolis, famed for its extraordinarily rich history, superb food and shopping, and mind-blowingly magnificent, over-sized mosques.

Monaco

Cote d'Azur, France

Monaco

The Riviera’s Never Never Land for the rich, offering bling, glamour, sights, high-roller casinos and entertainment galore.

Nice

Cote d'Azur, France

Long strip of beach and blue sea with city behind

The buzzing, art-filled, foodie capital of the French Riviera, with a charming, Italian-influenced historic centre. The ideal base for a first-time visit to the Cote d’Azur, and home to the world-renowned Nice Carnival.

Provence

Provence, France

Field of bright purple lavender in front of an old church

Gorgeous landscapes peppered with beautiful villages, sunflowers and lavender, art-filled towns, lively cultural festivals and exquisite food and wine. Provence is everything you imagined it would be.

Rome

Lazio, Italy

Rome

The Eternal City – 2,000 extraordinary years of glory, greatness and triumph – and decadence, murder and destruction – evidenced by some of the world’s most iconic, must-see monuments and museums.

Santorini

Greek Islands, Greece

Santorini

Incredible volcanic scenery, enchanting cave hotels, fine wines and memorable sunsets equal heaven for romantics.

Split

Dalmatia, Croatia

View up the open-roofed tower of palace

With ancient architecture, Adriatic island-hopping and adventure sports galore, Split makes a superb seaside base.

Venice

Veneto, Italy

Venice

Crammed with picturesque canals, Renaissance palazzos and artistic masterpieces, this unique and alluring city is heaven-on-earth for art lovers and romantics.

Round-ups

1

Round-ups that include this experience