The Best Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Guide – The Eastern Mediterranean stretches from the Adriatic Sea — east of Italy to Croatia —southeastward to the Greek Isles and Turkey, and into the Holy Land and Egypt. Though the Western Mediterranean has traditionally been recommended for first-time cruisers, passenger numbers have been growing on this route.
The ports serve a wide variety of interests: History buffs can explore the colonnaded library and well-preserved temples at Ephesus or revel in the ruins of stadiums at Olympia. The beautiful churches, palaces, and fountains of 13th-century sea-power Dubrovnik have justifiably been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The more adventurous travelers have plenty of terrain to explore, too. Ride a four-by-four on Corfu’s stony roads through olive groves, or mount a quad vehicle and traverse the dusty hills of Cyprus.
Though itineraries can be jam-packed with sights, you can choose to take things at a slower pace: Lounge on gorgeous beaches, poke around sleepy village shops, or sip a glass of wine from a vineyard. You can also visit us on Pinterest here.
When is the Best Time to Enjoy an Eastern Mediterranean Cruise?
Summer is the high travel season in the Mediterranean. The weather is hot and sunny, the water is warm, and millions of people flock to the coast to soak up the sun and take a break from routine. The best time to take a Mediterranean cruise, however, is in the spring (May-June) or fall (September-October). Temperatures are comfortably warm, the sun is bright, and the crowds are far, far fewer than in July and August. During the spring months, the flowers are blooming and the landscape is verdant, while autumn days are mild and clear before the winter rains.
Wildlife in the Mediterranean
A variety of marine life abounds in the Mediterranean waters, including swordfish, tuna, dolphins, and even a few white sharks. Loggerhead turtles and endangered monk seals can be found along the coasts of Albania, Greece, and Turkey. Birdlife is also plentiful. Portugal, Spain, and Morocco have populations of storks, flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, and egrets, while golden eagles and giant black vultures can be found in Greece, and Albania and Montenegro are home to the rare white pelican. Montenegro also boasts 27-mile-long Lake Skadar, which is the largest bird sanctuary in all of Europe. Turkey may be one of the best places to see bird life, as 250 bird species migrate through the country each spring and fall on their way between Africa and Europe.
Best Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Lines
The better-than-new Sirena blends sophistication with a contemporary flair to create a casually elegant ambiance that embodies the most treasured elements of our celebrated ships. Every surface of every suite and stateroom is entirely new, while in the public spaces, a refreshed color palette of soft sea and sky tones surrounds a tasteful renewal of fabrics, furnishings and lighting fixtures that exquisitely encompasses the inimitable style and comfort of Oceania Cruises. From the hand-painted willow tree artwork on the French-glass mirror crowning The Grand Staircase to the bold and chic new personality of Martinis, designer touches are everywhere, highlighting the finest residential design and furnishings. Start planning your Oceana Serena Cruise here.
A luxurious boutique hotel at sea, the Azamara Journey® is a mid-sized ship with a deck plan that’s intimate but never crowded, and offers everything modern voyagers are looking for—plus some unexpected extras. Across the fleet, our authentic service goes beyond the expectations of even the most well-traveled cruisers. Friendly and approachable, our staff are attentive, and happy to offer everything from poolside service to recommendations for your on-shore exploration. After all, we love sailing the world just as much as you do! Find all the Azamara Journey Cruises here.
The launch of Azamara Pursuit® in 2018 opened the seas to maiden ports, new itineraries, and the opportunity to provide guests with even more unforgettable, unique, and immersive experiences than ever before. Like their sister ships, Azamara Pursuit offers some of the most extraordinary adventures on Earth, to places you’ve always dreamed of. Or, perhaps, only just heard about. Not only do they now take you to 15 unique ports and a whole host of bucket-list locales, but they also stay longer in each one, so you have more time to experience the world’s many wonders in a truly AzAmazing way. Learn more about an Azamara Pursuit Cruise here.
Set sail on a vacation aboard Celebrity Infinity® and discover an unforgettable journey to the most exciting destinations in the world. Relax and feel at home in luxurious accommodations that include Concierge Class and our spa-inspired AquaClass® with exclusive clean cuisine dining at Blu. And, guests of The Retreat® experience the ultimate in luxury, which includes exclusive private restaurant dining and 24/7 lounge. Wine and dine in restaurants and lounges like Tuscan Grill, as well as the main dining room, Oceanview Café and Rendezvous Lounge. Plan your Celebrity Infinity Cruise here.
Your boutique hotel at sea, the Azamara Quest® is a mid-sized ship with a deck plan that’s intimate but never crowded, and offers everything modern voyagers are looking for—plus some unexpected extras. Across the fleet, their authentic service goes beyond the expectations of even the most well-traveled cruisers. Friendly and approachable, their staff are attentive, and happy to offer everything from poolside service to recommendations for your on-shore exploration. After all, they love sailing the world just as much as you do! Find the perfect Azamara Quest Cruise here.
Eastern Mediterranean Itineraries
Most itineraries offer a combination of history, culture and beaches, making it easy to cater to a variety of interests and the amount of vacation time you have; you’ll find anything from six- and seven-night cruises to leisurely affairs of 20 nights or more. Some cruise lines and itineraries are more focused on history and culture, visiting places like Venice, Athens, Katakolon (for Olympia), Istanbul, Dubrovnik and even down into Israeli ports that include Haifa and Ashdod (the closest to Jerusalem). Other itineraries might focus more on beaches, water sports and the classic Eastern Mediterranean love affair with fun and sun. Look for itineraries that are heavy on the Greek Isles, Crete and Cypress.
Best Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports
Athens (Piraeus) Greece
The Grecian capital city was the epicenter of the world’s art and culture scene in the 4th and 5th centuries B.C., and much of its rich history is still on display today. Storied monuments from the city’s Golden Age — such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike and the Odeon of Herod Atticus — are must-sees, as are significant museums like the National Archeological Museum. Visit The Best of Athens Greece and start planning your stay in Athens.
The island of Corfu has everything you are looking for in a vacation: a rich architectural tradition, a strong cultural presence and ample opportunity to sample moussaka and dolmades. Most visitors head first to Corfu Town, a walled city that’s framed by two hillside fortresses, one dating back to the sixth century. Find The 10 Most Amazing Corfu Beach Hotels Here.
Dubrovnik is great for lovers of culture and history, with centuries-old monasteries, churches, synagogues and even one of the oldest operating pharmacies in Europe. Medieval-era Old Town is a walled city that’s free of traffic; you can even walk the 1.3-mile stretch of wall some 80 feet above ground level for spectacular views. You’ll find Renaissance churches and fountains, as well as narrow, cobblestone streets where pedestrians stroll from shop to shop, dine and drink at alfresco cafes, and soak up the sun. Visit Dubrovnik: Pearl of the Adriatic Sea.
Israel’s third-largest city is the gateway to the rolling hills of Galilee and its associated biblical sights to the east, as well as Akko, directly across the sparkling bay, with its magnificent Crusader city. Other highlights in the region include Mount Hermon and Golan Heights (where Israel, Syria and Jordan connect). Some lines use this as the point of entry to Jerusalem. Visit Haifa: Home to the Baháʼí Faith’s Baháʼí World Centre
Istanbul is the world’s only city covering two continents, with monumental churches cum mosques (the Hagia Sophia), Roman ruins (the Hippodrome, where horse and chariot races were held in Roman times) and unadulterated symbols of consumerism (the Grand Bazaar with its thousands of shops). Most ships offer 2-day stays here. Visit Istanbul: Capital of the World
Jerusalem (Ashdod), Israel
To visit Jerusalem, many ships call on Ashdod, more than an hour’s drive from the city. Hectic, don’t-waste-a-minute tours rush visitors to the Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then on to Bethlehem or one of Israel’s famous museums (the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial or Israel Museum, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls). Although it’s a long day-trip, a visit to Masada and the Dead Sea is worth the time for repeat cruisers. Make your pilgrimage to sacred Jerusalem.
At Ephesus, about nine miles from town, you’ll travel back thousands of years to the best-preserved ancient city in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Virgin Mary is believed to have visited there between 37 and 45 A.D. The two-story library once contained thousands of scrolls, and the Terrace Houses display intricate mosaics and colorful frescoes. The Temple of Artemis, which Alexander the Great visited during its construction in 334 B.C., was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world; now the ruins are part of most excursions. Visit Kusadasi: Most Affordable in the Turkish Mediterranean.
Mykonos is just more than 40 square miles of dry, rugged terrain dotted with chalky green bushes, granite stone, windmills and blinding white-washed buildings — all bordered by beaches and backlit by an unflinchingly blue sky. The island boasts some 20 spots for sunbathing and swimming, several with a clothing optional emphasis in line with the island’s reputation for an open, cosmopolitan atmosphere. If your ship stops overnight, Mykonos’ nightlife is among the hottest in Europe. Find The Best Luxury 5 Star Hotels in Mykonos Here.
Site of one of the world’s most violent volcanic eruptions around 1450 B.C., the island is the most scenically dramatic of all the Greek Islands. Expect pitch-black beaches, rugged landscapes and a stunning caldera (volcanic crater), along with whitewashed churches and charming clifftop houses. Find The Best Luxury Hotels in Santorini Here.
Of all the cities in the world, only Paris comes remotely close to matching Venice in terms of sheer beauty and romance. Aside from a number of charming squares, such as the famous Piazza San Marco, Venice is mostly composed of a warren of narrow canals and streets spread over more than 100 islands. There are few better cities to simply get lost in, particularly if you want to escape the tourist hordes that clog the main arteries around San Marco and the Rialto Bridge. Visit Venice: One of the Most Unique Cities in the World