Stunning seascapes, ancient architecture and monuments, delicious delicacies, and some of the best art in the world make a trip to the Mediterranean an item on everyone’s bucket list. Linking Europe to Africa and Asia, the Mediterranean Sea offers unmatched beauty, culture, and history. From sun-drenched beaches to ancient ruins, the best way to experience all this breathtaking region has to offer is on a floating resort.
On a cruise, you don’t have to worry about where you will stay that night, check-in and check-out times, or accommodation costs. The biggest decisions you have to make are which of the ship’s restaurants to dine in that evening and what cocktail to order.
From the canals of Venice to the Acropolis in Athens, experience the dolce vita in the Med. Discover the Holy Land, the Greek Islands, and Adriatic countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Western Mediterranean, you’ll find Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Monaco.
In Italy, you can see Venice’s Piazza San Marco, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and pastel-colored fishing villages on the Amalfi Coast. In Greece, take in whitewashed buildings, turquoise waters, and stunning sunsets. Explore medieval architecture in Lisbon, Portugal, and Old Town Dubrovnik in Croatia, one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in the world.
But the Med is not just a feast for your eyes. Try real port wine from Porto, Portugal; enjoy a plate of paella in Spain; fill up on bread, cheese, and pastries in France; sample fresh homemade pasta in Italy; and munch on moussaka in Greece.
But which Mediterranean cruise line should you choose to experience all the Med has to offer? We polled our readers to help you decide in our 2022 Best of Travel Awards. Below, you’ll find TravelAwaits readers’ favorite Mediterranean cruise lines.
1. Viking (Winner)
It’s no surprise that Viking Cruises tops TravelAwaits readers’ list as Best Mediterranean Cruise Line. After all, this small ship cruise line is touted as the “thinking person’s cruise.” It could also be the fact that Viking does not allow kids under 18. The classy cruise line also doesn’t have casinos or umbrella drinks. There’s no smoking onboard and no formal nights to get gussied up for.
What is included? Wi-Fi, an onshore excursion in every port, regional cuisine, and luxe accommodations. Unlike many other cruise lines, Viking features king-size beds, large showers, heated bathroom floors, private verandas, 24-hour room service, and more. They also offer culturally enriching programs such as guest lecturers, resident historians, regional performance arts such as traditional Greek dancing, an onboard cooking school, and more.
Viking offers several Mediterranean cruises ranging from eight to 29 days. From the turquoise splendor of the Greek isles to the vineyards of Provence, itineraries include Rome’s ruins, Tuscan towns, Antoni Gaudi’s architectural delights in Barcelona, tasting port in Portugal, strolling the car-free alleys in Venice, and the holy city of Jerusalem.
“The team at Viking Cruises will make your stay so wonderful you won’t want to go home. Guests are often so pleased with their trips that they use their onboard discount to book a future Viking Cruise before they depart,” says TravelAwaits writer Judy Freeman. Read more about why she loves this cruise line in her article, How To Make The Most Of Your Viking Cruise Vacation. And if you decide to book a Viking cruise, here are five important things to do to prepare for it.
2. Royal Caribbean
Our Best of Travel Award winner for Best Caribbean Cruise, Royal Caribbean is runner up for Best Mediterranean Cruise. Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruises explore Greece and the Greek isles; Italy and the Amalfi Coast; Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands; and Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast. See one of the oldest “thrones” known to man — a 4,000-plus-year-old flushing toilet at the Palace of Knossos on Crete. Take in the blue and whitewashed buildings of Santorini and pastel-hued houses built into the cliffs of Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
3. Holland America
One of TravelAwaits writer Peggy Cleveland’s favorite cruise lines, Holland America Line is also a favorite of our readers. It is easy to see why with spacious, comfy ships, award-winning service, delicious dining, and plenty of activities. Cleveland recently got to sample the world-class dining on Holland America’s new ship, Rotterdam.
Holland America’s Mediterranean cruises take passengers everywhere from secluded Greek isles to Croatian castles and palaces. More overnights are included at the beginning and end of this cruise line’s itineraries, so guests can spend an extra day in cities like Athens, Rome, and Barcelona. Holland America has teamed up with FOOD & WINE® to offer delightful culinary tours. Sample award-winning olive oils at a family estate on Corfu, paired with local cheese, tomatoes, bread, and wine.
4. Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises has 7-, 11-, and 13-night Mediterranean cruises. Excursions offer a variety of ways to explore ports of call for families, foodies, and history buffs. See the Parthenon in Athens, Michelangelo’s David in Florence, and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Soak up the sun on the stunning beaches of Palma de Mallorca, witness a spectacular Santorini sunset, walk around the medieval walls of Dubrovnik in Croatia, discover Diocletian’s Palace in Split, and marvel at the caved monastic city of Matera.
Onboard, you’ll experience unrivaled service and entertainment, enjoy world-class cuisine with menus crafted by a Michelin-starred chef, and unwind in the indoor solarium or state-of-the-art spa. Drinks, Wi-Fi, and tips are included.
TravelAwaits writer Rebecca Hall got the opportunity to sail aboard the Celebrity Apex for its Greek Islands and Cyprus cruise as a guest speaker for their onboard Enrichment Program. Read about her account here.
5. Princess Cruises
Known for its immersive destination experiences and award-winning shore excursions, Princess Cruise Lines’ Mediterranean cruises depart from Barcelona, Rome, and Athens. Ports of call include Corfu, Florence, Kotor, Marseille, Mykonos, and Santorini. Experience destinations after dark with Princess Cruises’ “More Ashore” program. Late-night departures and overnight stays let passengers see the sunset in Mykonos and enjoy a gelato after a traditional Italian dinner in Genoa.
Ride along the yacht-lined shores of Kotor in a tuk-tuk, try Koum Kouat of Corfu (a liqueur made from kumquats), and stroll along the ancient streets of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Princess Cruises’ Local Connections program features an olive oil tasting at an olive tree farm outside of Provence.
Speaking of food, Princess serves freshly prepared regional cuisine with sauces made from scratch, freshly baked bread, and homemade ice cream. The cruise line is also known for its spa, onboard entertainment, and comfy accommodations.
6. Oceania Cruises
A culinary- and destination-focused cruise line, Oceania Cruises has seven small, luxurious ships. Mediterranean cruise ports include Morocco, Turkey, the Canary Islands, Egypt, and Spain. Culinary, wellness, food and wine, and local tours are offered.
Visit Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece, La Sagrada Família (one of the most unique churches on the planet) in Barcelona, see the slopes of Sicily, and witness the white mountainside villages of Spain. “Overnights in ports such as Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Seville plus many extended evening stays across the region give you the chance to not only visit top attractions, but also create time for in-depth explorations, dinners ashore, and leisurely, meaningful touring,” according to the cruise liner. Plus, Land Programs offer tours, premium hotel stays, and airport transfers before and after your cruise.
7. Azamara Cruises
Even if you’ve been to the Med before, Azamara® promises you’ll find something new to love about the area when you sail it with them. Like a boutique hotel at sea, its fleet of relatively small ships offers an exclusive club-like experience. Suite guests can enjoy the sweet life with butler services.
Featuring local encounters, overnight experiences, and curated shore excursions, trips tend to take a couple of weeks. Overnight stops provide opportunities for deeper cultural immersion while excursions offer a more intimate look at local life. Take in an evening orchestra performance in an ancient amphitheater or prepare a meal in Mykonos. Dubbed AzAmazing Evenings, one such one-of-a-kind experience is complimentary. Spirits, beer and wine, 24-hour room service, and gratuities are also included.
Whether you want to visit the Italian Riviera, the French Riviera, or The Holy Land, Azamara has a cruise for you. See biblical sites in Isreal and take an excursion to the land of Galilee and the town of Nazareth.
Onboard, enjoy activities, nightly shows, enrichment programs, personal training, fitness and nutrition classes, and shopping. Treat yourself to a spa treatment, or book an oceanfront massage.