Often cruises to Europe and the Mediterranean have been confused. In fact, even the terms have often been used interchangeably. The important thing to note is that Mediterranean cruises generally visit ports along the Mediterranean Sea, and itineraries can comprise either the Eastern or the Western Mediterranean.
The Eastern Mediterranean generally encompasses the area from Italy’s east coast to the Adriatic and the Greek Islands, and all the way to Turkey. Port stops on these cruises often include Athens, Venice and Istanbul.
Western Mediterranean Itineraries, on the other hand, often focus on ports in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Monte Carlo, Malta and Croatia.
Why visit Mediterranean?
SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY
One of the most diverse regions of the planet
Both the eastern and the western Mediterranean offer some of the most interesting, not to mention beautiful ports in all of cruising. These cruises also give passengers quite a bit for their money in that since the ports are so close together, it is often possible for a seven to ten day sailing itinerary to include no more than perhaps one or two days at sea, at the most.
Also unique to these itineraries is the fact that since the countries are located so close together, port stops can often be longer, allowing for more comprehensive tours, since the ship will not need an inordinate amount of time to sail from one port to the other.
When booking a Mediterranean cruise, one important feature you need to consider is the city of embarkation and disembarkation. Many of the ports visited on these cruises are worth more than a cursory visit, and you may wish to spend several days pre and post-cruise exploring a region of particular interest to you. Using the example of Rome, there is far too much to see in that region to cover even in a 14 – hour port stop. So if Rome is important to you, find a cruise that either begins or ends in Rome, and then plan a couple of days to leisure tour the highlights of the city. Also, consider where you will end your cruise as this could be in a different place from where you began it. Maybe Barcelona (in Spain) is of particular interest to you. If so, try to find a cruise that maybe will begin in Rome, but will end in that city. Then you can plan a post-cruise stay there to see more of the sights.
Another important feature to look for in Mediterranean cruises is overnight port stays. Many cruises will feature them, and overnights can often take place in Barcelona or Venice, and some other locations. If you don’t have the luxury of a several day pre or post-cruise stay, an overnight is the next best thing. It allows you to plan more lengthy tours, as well as experience the nightlife of the city you are visiting. Barcelona at night is far different than Barcelona by day, and an overnight visit allows you to not only see more of the city, but gives you the opportunity of dining ashore, as well as availing yourself of the unique nightlife of the city.
Finally, an added benefit of cruising the Mediterranean, as opposed to doing an overland trip, is that the cruise ship becomes your home with all lodging and meals paid for up-front. This saves you considerable money over staying in hotels and taking all meals in restaurants, and allows you to pick and choose those places where you will dine ashore.
At one time, spring, summer and autumn were considered to be the Mediterranean cruising season, but today, many cruise lines visit the Med all year long. While early spring and late fall sailings will offer competitive pricing and less in-port crowding, families may prefer summer sailings (the more “pricier” ones) since they more easily fit in with school schedules.
Regardless of when you decide to cruise the Med, just know that it is without a doubt one of the most diverse regions on the face of the planet, with something for everybody – from the history buff to the food and wine aficionado. Whether you go for a one-week sailing or a voyage comprising three weeks, a Mediterranean cruise is sure to please everyone in the family.