Cruise ship

Western Mediterranean Cruises

Cruises in the Western Mediterranean have long been popular with tourists who want to see and experience a little bit of everything while on vacation. The region offers opportunities to enjoy a vibrant cafe scene, shop in exquisite boutiques, immerse oneself in centuries-old art, architecture, and culture, and even soak up the sun on one of the region’s many beautiful beaches.

City of Ponza and harbour before sunrise. Italy

City of Ponza and harbour before sunrise. Italy

Most cruises through the Western Mediterranean region hit coastal regions in France, Spain, and Italy. They might also include stops in Portugal, Morocco, Monaco, Malta, or Croatia. Trip itineraries vary widely, as all of these countries offer their own unique ports and sightseeing. The following guide can help you to plan your next cruise through the Western Mediterranean region of Europe.

Ship Selection

One of the main distinctions between cruises that sail the Western Mediterranean is ship size. Big ships offer extensive on-board activities, including games for kids, casinos, spas, pools, all-inclusive dining, and nightclubs. They also tend to dock at larger ports of call, sometimes starting in Barcelona and passing through major destinations such as the French Riviera, Naples, and Florence to end in Rome. Smaller ships will often hit these ports as well, but they tend to blend their itineraries with villages or island stops. On board, smaller ships don’t have a huge amount to offer passengers beyond fine dining.

The cruise companies that operate in the Western Mediterranean region offer a wide variety of ways to sail. For instance, large, world-renowned cruise companies like Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Holland America offer gigantic vessels with all of the amenities. They cater mostly to North American families, including activities and daycare for kids. Other ships offer a more luxurious experience, such as Silversea, Regent Seven, Seabourn, and Crystal. Some yacht-style vessels, including SeaDream and Windstar, also sail the Mediterranean.

Itinerary

Saint Julian's Bay in Malta

Saint Julian’s Bay in Malta

Most cruise itineraries last between seven and fourteen nights. Some are round trip, beginning and ending in the same city, while others start and finish at different ports. It is possible to depart or end in Dover, Harwich, or the Southampton area in London. However, these routes must cross the Bay of Biscay, which is known for its rough waters. If this is on your itinerary, make sure to pack some seasickness medication.

There are so many different Western Mediterranean cruise itineraries available, that it’s possible to very nearly pick and choose the cities you would like to see on your trip. If you’re interested in seeing the highlights of the region, you can opt for a larger cruise ship that accesses all major ports. On the Royal Caribbean cruise line, the Brilliance of the Seas ship sets sail from Barcelona and allows sightseers to experience the delights of Florence, the watery streets of Venice, Rome’s ancient history, and Naples’ crowded bustling streets. Smaller ships such as the Costa Romantica, which is part of Costa’s fleet, offer short, seven-night itineraries that start and end in Rome and also hit some of Sicily’s picture-perfect villages.

Cityscape of Nice, view from above

Cityscape of Nice, view from above

Highlights

Azure Window in Gozo Island, Malta

Azure Window in Gozo Island, Malta

Some of the highlights of a Western European cruise include Barcelona and its famous church, the Sagrada Familia by the renowned Spanish architect. The rest of the city is vibrant and eclectic, and offers a wealth of museums and Spanish culture.

In Rome, most tourists opt for a tour that hits all of the major sights, including the Colosseum and Vatican City. The Trevi Fountain is a Renaissance-era monument in the city that attracts hundreds of people every day. Other than that, Rome offers delicious, mouthwatering cuisine and one-of-a-kind boutiques and shopping experiences. The Italian city is known for its leather shoes and chic clothing.

Other stops include the history- and art-rich city of Florence. Florence is about 90 minutes away from the port of Livorno, so most cruise-goers choose a day trip that includes a bus ride into the city. Some cruises also offer the option to drive to Pisa while docked at Livorno, to see the famous Leaning Tower.