Dreaming of sailing the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea? We know the feeling! But with so much to see, how will you choose an itinerary?
Mediterranean cruises are typically divided into the western Mediterranean (Monaco, Spain and France), and the eastern Mediterranean, which includes Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey. Italy does double duty, serving as an embarkation or debarkation homeport for both; Italian ports of call also feature in both itineraries.
Both eastern and western Mediterranean cruises stop at destinations that offer exceptional cuisine, shopping, culture, history and beaches. Cruises to the east Mediterranean incorporate visits to ancient cities and ruins like Athens and Ephesus, while historical and cultural highlights like Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia take centre stage on a western Mediterranean cruise. Your decision will often come down to the itinerary that incorporates the most cities you wish to visit on one trip.
While it’s hard to go wrong with either, we’re here to help you decide which Med cruise is best for you, east or west.
Arts and culture
Culture vultures and art-lovers will be in heaven on both an eastern or western Med cruise. Western ports such as Barcelona, Nice, Florence and Rome feature fantastic museums; but then again so do the eastern stops such as Venice, Athens and Istanbul.
While both regions have a unique culture, the eastern Med features more archaeology and the ancient world. Some eastern Mediterranean cruises also sail to Israel and the Holy Land, which makes them prime itineraries for modern pilgrims.
The western Med has more sophisticated cities and seaside towns than what you’ll find in the east. It’s the difference between a Campari in a French Riviera cafe instead of ouzo in a Greek taverna.
On a western Mediterranean cruise, you’ll be tucking into Spanish tapas and Provencal wines. In the eastern Med, the menu (equally delicious) will be more focused on gyros, hummus and olives. And then there’s Italy, which speaks for itself.
There’s plenty of retail therapy in which to indulge on both eastern and western Med cruises. Shop for leather goods in Italy, and art souvenirs in France and Spain. The markets in Greece and the bazaars in Turkey are fun for hagglers.
In general, the western Med has more rock and pebble beaches, and the weather is also more subject to change. The eastern Med has some of the world’s best beaches; if consistent hot weather and sand are what you seek, it’s a better bet.
Need to Know
Unfortunately, in today’s political climate, an eastern Med cruise is subject to port swaps. In recent years, cruise lines have stopped calls at ports such as Yalta, Haifa, Cairo and Alexandria. Even Turkey is not necessarily a given. If you’ve booked an eastern Med cruise, don’t get too attached to an itinerary, particularly if you book far in advance.