White stairs with cruise ship

Eastern Mediterranean Cruises

The Eastern Mediterranean region, including the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia, the Greek islands, Istanbul and Kusadasi in Turkey, and ports on the coast of the Black Sea, offers cruise-goers stunning beaches, rambling alleys to wander through, and a dose of ancient history. It’s a great cruise option for a family getaway or couples looking for a romantic time.

Most Eastern Mediterranean cruises begin in the Athens via the port of Piraeus. They might include Venice and Istanbul as other major stops along the way. Others feature stops at ports in the west, such as Rome, Barcelona, or Genoa. If you want to plan an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, the following information can help you get started.


Alanya, Turkey

Alanya, Turkey

Most Eastern Mediterranean cruises begin or end at Athens and offer opportunities to disembark at Istanbul and Venice. Some cruise lines offer round-trip itineraries while others start and end at different cities.

Many of the major ports within the region offer a glimpse into ancient civilizations. These include Dubrovnik and Hvar in Croatia, Bari in Italy, and Katakalon, Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete, and Corfu in Greece. Most cruises offer opportunities for day trips at some or all of the locations listed above.

As mentioned, other cruises offer a nice blend of Eastern and Western Mediterranean ports. The Civitavecchia port near Rome is a common starting or ending point, and stops might include Italy’s Naples, Greece’s Santorini and Corfu, and Croatia’s Dubrovnik. Barcelona, Spain, is another common starting or ending point and usually features stops in Malta, Santorini, Athens, Naples, and sometimes Palermo or Taormina in Sicily.

Timing & Cruise Lines

The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Eastern European cruises operate from spring to early fall, with the summer months as the peak season. Keep in mind that the summer months, although they offer the hottest temperatures, are also the busiest and the most expensive. Winter cruising is becoming popular, as temperatures are still often between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cruise lines are starting to offer winter cruises to appeal to those who aren’t interested in fending off the crowds in the high season.

During the spring, summer, and fall, most established cruise lines offer trips. Some of these companies, such as Princess, are also starting to offer smaller ship itineraries, which can stop at more ports. The Royal Princess ship is one such cruise that lands in all the major ports of call but also hits some of the smaller, less touristic ones.

SeaDream Yacht Club is a high-end small ship line that offers an all-inclusive experience to passengers. EasyCruise also hits the Eastern Mediterranean coast during the peak season but suits budget cruise-goers who prefer to pick and choose their day trips. In the winter months, local companies such as MSC and Costa offer itineraries on smaller ships.


Split harbour depicting Diocletian's palace, by night

Split harbour depicting Diocletian’s palace, by night

Most Eastern Mediterranean itineraries are well-rounded, offering an ideal mix of history, culture, sun, and surf for vacationers. A few itineraries are more focused on one aspect or another, but it’s hard to miss out on anything in this region, as most ports of call feature all of characteristics listed above.

In Athens, the focus is cultural and historical, with sightseeing at the Parthenon and the National Archaeological Museum. Also in Greece, the small port of Katakolon is situated near Olympia, the home of the first Olympics.

Oia's view (Santorini island, Greece)

Oia’s view (Santorini island, Greece)

In Turkey, the lively city of Istanbul is a stunning and boasts plenty to see and do. The Blue Mosque, the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, and the famous Grand Bazaar all offer sightseers with a taste of Turkish history.

Finally, other stops offer passengers a chance to soak up the sun. On the Greek island ports of Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, and Mykonos, beaches are the predominate theme, as most towns are small. Excursions on the Greek Isles are a great way to get in some relaxation and enjoy the laid-back Mediterranean way of life.