From the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the Dardanelles leading to the Black Sea in the east, a Mediterranean cruise provides a rich kaleidoscope of interests and experiences. If you get hooked by its diversions and diversity, then cruising in these waters can soon become a habit, and happily, there are a myriad of varied itineraries from which to choose lasting from the week up to a month. If your travel plans are limited to the high summer season, then select an itinerary that avoids at least some of the more crowded ports, as while the streets of large cities such as Barcelona, Rome, Athens and Istanbul can handle the hoards, interior visits to cultural sites — museums, palaces, mosques and churches — can result in a disappointing and even an unpleasant experience. Cruise itineraries fall into four different, and sometimes overlapping, areas: 1) Western Mediterranean, 2) Eastern Mediterranean, 3) Combined East and West and, 4) The Black Sea.
The coastline of what used to be called Yugoslavia is now broken into several countries facing the Adriatic Sea. For small ships, there are several dozen charming ports to visit and yet be removed from the crowded summer locations. Venice or Athens (Piraeus) are often the embarkation ports.
Five countries rim the Black Sea — Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria — and each offers a distinctive culture and attractive seaside setting. All have connections to early Persian, Greek and Roman trade routes, and the stunning architectural treasures to prove it.
While La Belle France was covered above, here we highlight its Mediterranean coast with Marseille its largest and most cosmopolitan city and the French Riviera ports of Cannes, Nice, and Monaco. Just to the south lies the rugged island of Corsica, delightfully offbeat out of season.
Greece and Greek Islands
Many cruises embark in Piraeus, the port of Athens, and sail south to Mykonos, Santorini and Crete or eastward to Rhodes just of the Turkish coast. Small ships can slip through the Corinth Canal to visit Delfi and its oracle and the island of Corfu enroute to the Adriatic and Croatian coasts.
Most of Italy’s cruise ports are located on the west coast starting from Genoa south to Livorno for Pisa, Civitavecchia for Rome, Naples, Sorrento and Capri and ports on the island of Sicily. The only important Italian east coast port is Venice.
Haifa serves northern Israel while Ashdod allows closer access to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Dead Sea.
most Spain’s entire coastline is peppered with attractive ports, Cadiz for Sevilla, Malaga for Cordova and the Spanish Riviera, Cartagena, Valencia and Barcelona. For northern Spain, Vigo or Coruna for Santiago de Compostela, and facing the Bay of Biscay — Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian.
While the country is currently off the map for many cruise lines with recent terrorist attacks, it remains one of most alluring to visit, starting with incomparable Istanbul, for some of the world’s finest ancient ruins. They are located on the Mediterranean coast — Dikili for Pergamum, Kusadasi for Ephesus, Bodrum, Fethiye, and south coast ports for Side, Perge and Aspendos.