Think of the Mediterranean and you picture charming seaside villages, cobbled streets, delicious food, crystal clear water, culture, and adventure. Twenty two countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, so if you want to see a lot in a short amount of time, but only want to unpack once, cruising is the perfect way to explore the Mediterranean.
Peak season is from June to August, although this is now stretching out to September as travelers are drawn to the slightly cooler weather. Most Europeans go on vacation in August and it's also hotter around this time so if you can travel slightly earlier or later it will pay off. If you're traveling in peak season you'll have a greater choice of cruises and itineraries, but also more crowds and higher prices.
Traveling in the shoulder season is another option. Cruising from April to May or late September to mid-October will mean less kids as it usually won't coincide with school holidays, as well as cheaper prices and slightly cooler weather.
Winter is from late October to mid-April and it'll be cold in the Northern Mediterranean but don't let that dissuade you from cruising, as the weather will still be perfect in Morocco, Egypt, and the Canary Islands.
Always check if you need a visa for the countries on your cruise itinerary. Take Russia for example, where you'll almost certainly need an invitation letter and a visa. Some cruise lines will arrange the visa provided you're taking their shore excursions, but be sure to leave enough time to get visas sorted before your departure date.
The Western Mediterranean
The Western Mediterranean borders France, Spain, and Italy, and most cruises will embark in Rome or Barcelona. When cruising the Western Mediterranean you'll visit cities like Rome, Florence, Naples, Barcelona, Nice, and Lisbon.
Cruises range from four to thirty three nights. As you'll be seeing and doing a lot during the day, you may want to find a cruise with a good sea-to-land ratio so you have a chance to relax.
The Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean is ideal for those who have cruised the Mediterranean before, or who have spent a large amount of time in Europe and want to see something different. The Eastern Mediterranean will be warmer, and you'll also be jostling with less tourists as the area isn't quite as popular as the Western Mediterranean.
You'll be exploring the black sea, and can expect to visit Turkey, Greece, Italy, Croatia and Malta, to name a few. Itineraries range from six to twenty three nights, and some people will choose to cruise back to back, doing a Western Mediterranean cruise and then an Eastern Mediterranean or vice versa.
Who should you Cruise With?
Families should check out Royal Caribbean, which has some of the largest ships in the world. The kids won't get bored on these floating resorts, and both the young and young at heart will enjoy the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing, and ice skating. Royal Caribbean also do many shorter 4-5 night cruises, which is perfect if you don't have much time.
For those who want to save some money, Island Cruises are always a great choice. While the ships will be smaller than Royal Caribbean, this allows them to get into ports that some of the larger ships can't access.
If you're interested in a truly luxurious experience, the Hebridean Spirit has the feel of a country club, and a capacity of only 96 passengers. You won't be dodging hoards of people, and you'll enjoy the gourmet food and museum and art tours.
Many Mediterranean excursions revolve around museums, cathedrals, and ruins. Some can't-miss trips include St Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, Pompeii, Sponza Palace, St Blaise's Church, and of course the Colosseum.
Some of the best excursions are simple walking or bike tours, where you'll get to take your time and explore the destinations like a local. Dubrovnik in particular is an excellent city to explore by foot, and Venice is a treat to walk around (and of course don't forget to take a gondola ride).
Active travelers will enjoy a hike to the top of the Mountain of Prophet Elijah in Santorini, or perhaps a hike around Mt Etna in Italy, where you may see flowing lava.