The Best Mediterranean Cruise Ports
Are you planning to visit the Mediterranean and wonder what the best cruise ports are? Look no further.
Table of contents
- Best Time Of The Year to Visit Cruise Ports In The Mediterranean
- The Best Western Mediterranean Cruise Ports
- Mahon, Menorca
- Civitavecchia (Rome)
- Valletta, Malta
- Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports
Best Time Of The Year to Visit Cruise Ports In The Mediterranean
Mediterranean cruises usually run from late spring to late fall, with a peak season in July and August. Some European cruise lines (Costa or MSC) run Mediterranean itineraries year-round. Make no mistake, the summer months are ideal for the weather and the temperature, but they are also the busiest. Sometimes there are up to 5 cruise ships in port, and all the attractions are full of tourists. In some smaller destinations such as Santorini or Kotor, it might be almost impossible to walk.
Off-Season Mediterranean Port Visits
If you decide to go off-season, the weather might be cold, and suntanning might not be an option, but ports are usually pretty quiet, and exploring some of the most popular destinations would be much more pleasant.
Another advantage of visiting the Med offseason is the fact that it is way cheaper. Indeed, you can find cruises that are 60% cheaper than the summer.
The Mediterranean is one of the most popular cruise destinations. Here you can find some tips on the best ports, itinerary and time of the year to sail.
The Best Western Mediterranean Cruise Ports
Western Mediterranean cruises usually start in Civitavecchia or Barcelona, and they sail around the Tirreanean Sea and the Western Mediterranean. Typical ports are:
Barcelona is easily one of the most important cruise ports in the Med. Admittedly, Barcelona is probably the busiest embarkation and disembarkation port in the Mediterranean. In this vibrant city, there is a lot to do and see. Indeed, there is so much that it deserves its very own article.
Swim at Valencia Beaches
The most popular beach in Valencia is La Malvarossa. Indeed, it’s the beach that attracts the most visitors. It is a mixture of urban and beaches, that’s what makes this City interesting! There is a promenade lined with palm trees and plenty of restaurants and bars, serving excellent local dishes like Paella or Fideuà.
La Malvarrosa beach is split-up into three core areas. These are Las Arenas, the Malvarrosa, and Patacona beaches. Indeed, all of these beaches are clean, family-friendly, and a great place to spend a low-cost, relaxing time on holiday. And you can also choose from one of the many beaches along the city’s coastline. It is perfect for relaxing and sight viewing! Malvarrosa is where Valencians go to sunbathe, and what I love about it is can enjoy the sun, sea, and excellent view for FREE!
Visit the Central Market in Valencia
The Mercado Central (Central Market) is the primary market in Valencia’s city center. This 1920s market, situated in Ciutat Vella or the old city, is one of the oldest running food markets in Europe. It is the best place to stop for breakfast or a quick lunch. I Admire the glass domes and mosaics and the bustling crowds where I can have a taste of the local produce such as Jamón, artisanal cheeses. Since the weather in the markets is usually scorching hot, it is the perfect place to grab a Central Market Organics pulp-free Valencian orange juice for $3.98 (US$4.50). It’s undoubtedly among the most beautiful places in Valencia!
Explore the Valencia Cathedral
Founded in the 13th century on the site of a mosque, the unusual Valencia Cathedral incorporates several architectural styles, artistic treasures, including the authentic cup used by Jesus in the Last Supper, the famous Holy Grail!
What I love about this is its exterior, it has a Gothic look! Inside, you can admire the 15th-century paintings from the renaissance by famous Valencian artists like Jacomart. Try and experience of climbing up to the 207 steps of the Cathedral tower and enjoying the beautiful view of the entire city of Valencia is also a MUST! Entrance Fee is €2 (US$2.50).
Source: Christian from BCN Travel
Discover Ibiza Cathedral
Dedicated to Santa María la Mayor, Ibiza Cathedral is located right at the top of the old city. I always enjoy having a scenic view of the whole city from the top, and I’m happy I experienced its spectacular outlook over the water.
The cathedral keeps many works of art, among which are several notable pieces. For example, there are two Gothic panels of Saint Tecla and Saint Anthony, painted by Francesc Cornes in the 14th century. Additionally, there’s another two from the 15th century by the master Valentí Montoliu that represent Saint James and Saint Matthew. Best of all, admission is free.
Catch Sunrise at Aigües Blanques, Ibiza
Aguas Blancas Island has a beautifully soft and fine golden sand and textured with high cliffs. It has flawless surroundings with a dramatic effect! To be sure, it’s an official nudist beach but still very mixed; some go naked, while others don’t.
I find this beach best in the mornings and midday, as the high cliffs cast shade in the late afternoon, and it’s best for watching the sunrise. A perfect way to start your day!
Watch A magnificent sunset at Cala Comte, Ibiza
Cala Comte is a beach in the southwest of the Spanish island of Ibiza.
I felt relaxed and free while watching the magnificent sunset at this sandy and crystal clear beach. The beach has shallow crystal clear blue and turquoise waters. Also, the constant flow of sea currents in the area ensures it stays that way. Entry to the beach is free.
Source: Christian from BCN Travel
Gibraltar is a tiny piece of England in the Mediterranean. Everything here is British or British Influenced. The most famous attraction of Gibraltar is the renowned Rock with the big Monkey colony. You can either take the gondola to the top. Alternatively, you may choose one of many taxies that wait at the base of the mountain. You can read more about our adventure on top of the Rock here.
Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, is one of the lesser-known cruise ports of the Mediterranean, yet a place worth visiting. The city, perched on the hills and overlooking the sea, has a lot to offer to visitors. For example, even those that only spend a day there will have lots to see and do.
Where To Find The Best Sunset
Source: Claudia from My Adventures Across the World
visiting Mount Etna, which is an imposing figure over the city – the most active volcano in Europe. I’ve been there when it has erupted, which isn’t that much fun!
Visit Taormina, a town perched in the side of the cliff where you can see the high rollers living la dolce vita
visit Siracusa, where there are plenty of Greek ruins to keep history buffs occupied.
Source: Anthony from The Travel Art
Naples is one of the most fun and alive city in Italy. It is much more than a gateway for Pompeii or Capri.It is such a great city that we think it deserves its very own article that you can read here.
In Genova, we opted for the Hop On Hop Off bus again. Indeed, this allowed us to visit the most famous monument in the city and decide what we wanted to see or skip. First, we got off near Columbus house wand we started our walk in the narrow streets of the old town. The city is quite impressive, clean, and very alive.
Next, we ended up at the San Lorenzo Cathedral. This church is quite magnificent, but the best part was paying €5.00 and walking up the bell tower. The view of the city from there is remarkable (Photo below). We were able to see our cruise ship in the distance. A must-do while visiting the city.
After that, lunchtime was approaching, and we wanted to try the typical Genovese Focaccia. We found a gem of a restaurant, right by Porta Soprana, Restaurant Locanda Tortuga. Wow, I was ever happy we stopped. Admittedly, the focaccia was incredible, nothing like I’ve had before. It is made of two extra-thin layers of dough with some delicious creamy soft cheese in the middle. If you read this article and you stop in Genova, please promise me you will go and try it.
After lunch, we walked back toward the cruise ship by the area of the aquarium. Indeed, this was the area of the old docks that have been restored and repurposed as an attraction area. It makes for an excellent place for a stroll.
Livorno is the port in the Mediterranean where cruise ship passengers could visit Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre. Perhaps, some might even go far as San Giminiano. The town itself is impressive with the Old Fortress and the canal around it but, unless you have been to Florence and Pisa before, not worth spending your time.
Follow the cobblestone street until reaching the Le Suquet Church and Clock Tower, and experience views for miles of the Bay of Cannes and the city itself.
Other Must-See and Do’s
Off the Beaten Path
If you love seafood, a must-have is the lobster stew. We ate at J’agaro, which is a family run business and gives you that fantastic local flavor.
Teatro Principal de Mahon
Source: Debbie Brisky, Beach Monkey Travel
Malaga might not have the fame of Barcelona or other Mediterranean cruise ports, but that’s why I think it’s so attractive. The city is always abuzz but never overcrowded. The historic old town is one of Spain’s prettiest. Malaga is a labyrinth of pedestrian-only streets, paved with marble that sparkles in the sunshine. In recent years, the old town has got a renovation, almost entirely. Indeed, Malaga has received a facelift to its collection of impressive 19th-century architecture.
Explore the Historic Malaga Cathedral
Built between 1528 and 1782. Nicknamed La Manquita, which means “one-armed lady.” The name comes from the fact that to this day, it is still unfinished but yet it’s still incredible and a must-see in Malaga. Explore a little bit of the Cathedral, and you’ll notice something a bit different from others: it only has one bell tower! What I love about it is like in Valencia Cathedral, it has a ROOFTOP, and you can learn more about the history of the building and catch some impressive views out over the city! Admission Fee is just €10.00.
Malaga’s Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden makes up a big part of Malaga’s history. Indeed, a prominent family moved to Malaga and built it back in 1855 when they decided to bring plants from all over the world to decorate around this massive property. Imagine it has a historic garden, the Around the World in 80 trees section, the forest pathway. You’ll love it for sure, like me! It’s like the western section with the mirador, viewpoint! Believe me! The Botanical Gardens are indeed a pleasant visit, and if you go on Sunday, you get free entry.
Relax at Malagueta Beach, Malaga
If you’re looking to get away from the noise of the City without venturing far, try visiting Malagueta Beach. To be sure, it’s the nearest beach to the downtown area! Bring a towel and lay in the sun or under the many palm trees decorating the loving golden shore. Oh, I love this beach! Also, don’t forget to take a photo with the famous Malagueta sign before leaving!
Source: Patricia from Eusko Guide and Christian Petzold, BCN Travel
Palma de Mallorca
One of the best ports to visit on your Mediterranean cruise is Palma de Mallorca. The Spanish city on the Balearic Islands prides itself on a long history and stunning nature.
The iconic Santa Maria of Palma, also known as La Seu, is the biggest attraction in the city.
The Gothic cathedral was built between 1229 and 1601 and is one of the largest Catholic cathedrals in Europe. It is at the top of a Roman citadel in the Old Town of Palma. The impressive temple is visible from the sea promenade and is the last sight you’ll see when leaving the harbor.
After visiting La Seu, wander the streets of Palma’s Old Town. Stop at the ancient Arab baths, explore the Museum of Mallorca, and admire the architecture and everyday life at Plaza Mayor. The square frequently hosts an outdoor crafts market and welcomes tourists in its shops, cafés, and restaurants.
Fans of historical rides shouldn’t miss the narrow-gauge wooden train to Sóller. The scenic journey on the 1912 tracks takes about an hour and is worth the trip.
Tour the Catedral de Mallorca
The Catedral de Mallorca is an architecturally stunning building that’s undoubtedly worth a visit. Antoni Gaudí and renowned contemporary artist Miquel Barceló designed the interior. I’m fascinated with the beautiful stained glass windows and the impressive interior of the Cathedral! The Entrance fee is $7.00 (US$8)
Witness the stunning scenery at Cova de Portals Vells, Mallorca
Portals Vells beach is peaceful and calm, popular with locals as there are generally lesser crowds here due to its small size. Even if it is a small beach, I find it stunning! It offers lots of sandy inlets to explore. Then, after you get your fill of swimming and sand, you can hike down and see both the stunning scenery and crystal clear water.
Explore the paradise of Cala del Moro, Mallorca
La Cala del Moro is a cove of sand and rocks, located on the southeast of the island. Europe has many beaches to explore, but I think Caló del Moro is one of the best you’ve ever seen in your life. To be sure, the walk to the beach is more like a strenuous 30-40 minute hike, but I can say that it is well worth it to witness its most epic scenery! It has plenty of rocks on which I can sit and relax while enjoying the idyllic views.
Source: Christian Petzold, BCN Travel and Naddya from NTripping
Civitavecchia is the port of Rome. It is about one hour away from downtown Rome, and you can get there quickly by train, bus or taxi. In Civitavecchia itself, there is not much to see or do. It is just a hub for the Eternal City.
Valletta is a small, port capital city located on the main island of Malta in the Mediterranian Sea. Valetta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its rich historical past, naming it the European Capital of Culture in 2018. It includes a significant collection of sites to explore with unique historic buildings seemingly on every corner. Valletta has a history with the military and charitable Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Valetta got built by hand starting in 1565. Named after Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette, this fortified city has hundreds of monuments, all within a relatively small space. Indeed, this makes it one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.
Churches and Palaces
Valletta is the home of some of Europe’s most exquisite artworks, churches, and palaces. Narrow streets are full of tiny quaint shops and cafés, while Valletta’s main streets have larger famous brand boutiques for fashion, music, jewelry, and more. Valletta is bustling by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere by night, that gives the feeling that you are walking back in time.
Best Things To See & Do In The Mediterranean Cruise Port of Valletta
St. John’s Co-Cathedral and Museum, featuring art by Caravaggio and Mattia Preti & other Religious Sites
The National War Museum, housing artifacts from the first wars of Malta, The Nativity Museum, where you can discover and become a part of the Birth of Jesus & other Museums & Galleries
Theatres & Opera Halls, where you can experience magnificent, on-stage performances
Enjoy a stroll through the Upper Barrakka Gardens, Hastings Garden and the Lower Barrakka Gardens for a panoramic view of the sea or other Gardens
Catch a bargain at the Valletta Market or other Shops
Take a Train Tour to learn about Malta’s history
Go Boat Diving or Shore Diving into the unreal, blue waters of the Mediterranean
Explore a variety of cuisines while Dining the City of Valletta
Visitor Attractions, to engulf yourself in Maltese culture and history
Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports
These cruises focus mostly on the Adriatic sea and the Greek Islands. They usually start either in Venice or Athens. Typical ports are:
Piraeus is the port of Athens. It is r about 20 minutes away from downtown and the Parthenon. The best way to reach downtown Athens from Piraeus, in our opinion, is by Hop On Hop Off bus. At the cruise port, you can catch the bus that takes you right by the Acropolis.
In Athens, the most important thing to do is to visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Be aware, it can be hectic, and lines can be extremely long. It is better to buy the tickets in advance to avoid more waiting at the ticket office.
Venice is likely one of the most famous and beautiful cities in the world. Indeed, it is one of the very best cruise ports in the Mediterranean. For example, it’s both a famous and unusual city with canals instead of streets. Every corner of Venice offers a different photo opportunity and a new postcard. You can read more about Venice here.
Some cruise lines make round trips from one port others use one port for boarding and another for debark.
Split is also a beautiful place to go for a stroll, and beyond the obvious Riva (the waterfront promenade), I strongly recommend having a walk in the Marjan Forest Park. This hillside park is a real delight with its fabulous lookout points to the sea and Split’s historical center.
The Old Town of Dubrovnik is one of the most beautiful places in Croatia, with a variety of local stores and restaurants to explore. It is also known as one of the central locations for the filming Game of Thrones. Stradun, the old promenade, divides the town into two parts – northern and southern. It is a favorite place for tourists since all of the craft shops, local restaurants, and galleries are all there. Croatia’s coast is also known for its tiny stone beaches and crystal clear sea.
Source: Jovan from KommandoTech
You can step off the boat to discover the stunning Mljet National Park. Interestingly, the park borders two saltwater lakes, and has a small island – St. Mary Isle – at its heart, which is home to a 12th-century Benedictine monastery that you can visit via small boats.
Biševo Island, Croatia
Many people have never heard of Kusadasi, Turkey. Still, it is one of my favorite ports on Mediterranean-Aegean cruises because it is the gateway to the ancient ruins at Ephesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Rivaling the archeological site at Pompei, the former port city of Ephesus boasts layers of history from ancient Greece to the times of the Roman Empire and the advent of Christianity.
Impressively, you can see the ruins of Hadrian’s Temple, the Great Theater, the Celsus Library, and the fabled House of the Virgin Mary, along with mosaics and wall paintings. Also incredibly, you can even see Roman baths and latrines to get a glimpse into daily life during ancient Roman times. To me, the columned ruins of Ephesus are a transformative experience you cannot miss.
Source: Christina from Blue Tail Travel
If you are willing to consider the Balkan region in your Mediterranean piece, then I would suggest the inclusion of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site ancient walled city on the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. It is an accessible cruise port, but more laid back than the (even more famous) Dubrovnik seaport a few hours north of it in Croatia.
Top things to do in Kotor
- Hike up the Old City walls to Kotor Fortress for unbeatable views of the Bay of Kotor
- Explore the stunning Bay of Kotor by hop-on-hop-off bus, motorboat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or a semi-submarine (for visitors with kids)
- Get lost in the labyrinth of streets of the compact walled Stari Grad (Old Town), with its high concentration of medieval stone churches
- Feast on super-fresh seafood and impressive local wines in one of the many local eateries set up in the Old Town’s squares.
- Shop for local cheeses and wine at the Kotor Farmer’s Market
Source: Nick from Spiritual Travels
The Old Town in Corfu is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It still has a lot of Venetian Influenced architecture. One of the most famous monuments is the Old Fortress, built on a peninsula connected to the town by a narrow bridge.
A visit to Corfu must include a stop at the Achillion Palace, built in the 19th century by the Empress Sissi of Austria.
Kefalonia is an excellent starting point for a 7-night cruise of the Ionian Islands as it’s location is in the sea between Italy and Greece, and with a very different culture, climate and landscape than the dryer and more popular Cyclades islands of the Aegean Sea.
Heavily wooded and influenced by the powerful Venetian city-state back in the day, Italian influence can be seen everywhere, from architecture to menus in local restaurants – a visit to the village of Fiscado is a must, with excellent local restaurants and tavernas.
Kefalonia is famous as the venue for the filming of “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” starring Penelope Cruz, Nicolas Cage, and Christian Bale. Also, easy access is via the airport at Argostoli, offering commercial flights as well as general aviation.
Source: Ann from N&J Senior Charter Broker
Crete is a large island of the Eastern Mediterranean. It is world-famous for the beautiful beaches with crystal clear turquoise water.
While visiting the island, the town of Chania is worth a visit. Chania is quite lovely, and it has a charming little marina with lots of cute restaurants and tavernas. Also, we particularly enjoyed the market where it is possible to buy classic souvenirs and natural sponges.
You can get to the center of Chania is very well connected with the port by a shuttle bus that runs every 10 minutes, and it costs €1.70 per person.
Santorini is a magical isle – it is in the air, the fresh breezes from the expansive seas surrounding this volcanic island. Interestingly, the volcano actually “blew its top,” creating the bay on the north side of the island where your yacht will anchor.
Also, Santorini offers the famous red, black, and grey volcanic stone beaches (no sand beaches), an archeological dig, top-class resorts/spas, and a genuine volcanic caldera.
Famous Oia Town
Top of the list is the amazing sunset view to be enjoyed from the one-of-a-kind village of Oia, with brilliant white stone houses and resorts climbing up the hillside from sea to the mountain top. Also, arriving yacht passengers enjoy a fantastic view of Oia when approaching the anchorage. Santorini offers an atmosphere and an ambiance unmatched elsewhere – but don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.
Source: Ann from N&J Senior Charter Broker
The Island of Mykonos is known worldwide as the party Isle and will not disappoint, but there is so much more to warrant a two-night stop. There, Mykonos offers a plethora of beautiful, sandy beaches – some with beach clubs, restaurants, and bars, some quiet and restful, and a windsurfer’s paradise at the northside (reliably windy) Ftelia Beach.
Source: Ann from N&J Senior Charter Broker
At the port of Epidaurus, Greece, hop ashore to discover the ancient site of Epidaurus, renowned as a healing sanctuary. Its 4th century BCE theatre is breathtaking and acoustically so perfect that even today, 13,000 spectators can view performances without any amplification.
Although Israel might not be the first destination that pops into your mind for your next cruise adventure, it’s a beautiful country with warm weather year-round. Indeed, it makes Isreal a great cruise destination.
Not only does the Mediterranean country boast sunny blue skies and clear, calm waters, but there is much to do during port excursion days. For example, how many times have you not wanted to get off the ship because port excursions aren’t exciting enough? To be sure, your port days in Israel will be anything but boring.
Admittedly, since Israel is such a small country, you can cover a lot of ground from the moment your ship docks for the day. Also, if you just want a relaxing beach day, Ashdod and Haifa boast beautiful shores to relax on. Or, if sightseeing is more your thing, from your port stop at Haifa or Ashdod, you can find yourself walking the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and standing in front of the historic Western Wall in the old city of Jerusalem.
You can visit the biblical birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem or float in the salty Dead Sea waters. If you’re more of the cosmopolitan city type, head to Tel Aviv and discover what this city that never sleeps is all about. Explore the prominent white architecture and eat your way through hummus and shawarma in the Carmel Market. Gone are the days of boring excursion trips. From the cruise ports in Israel, you can discover a lot of history, beauty, and vibrant cities, all within a few hour’s drive.
To be sure, the easiest way to ensure you get to all the sites you want to see and still make it back to your ship in time is to take a cruise excursion tour that provides pick-ups and drop-offs at the port get set with your ship’s arrival time and departure times.
Source: Shira from Tourist Isreal
Have I forgotten a port in the Mediterranean? If so, please comment below, and I’ll get it included!
Rick Orford is the co-founder and Executive Producer of Travel Addicts Life. He has a passion for traveling, healthy living, and making friends all over the world. Aside from travel, Rick is a best selling author and writes about personal finance on The Financially Independent Millennial.
You guys have the best posts! So, we are looking at a 17 night transatlantic westbound from Rome to Miani and stopping in lots of ports you mention. Cannes, France, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, pain and Lisbon, Portugal….. but my only concern is that it is sailing Dec 5- Dec 22nd. What are you thoughts about a cruise at that time? It goes from Lisbon to the small island of Ponta Delgada to Bermuda and then ends in Miami. Friends are going and trying to convince us to join them! If anyone would have an opinion that I can count on – it would be you two!! Thanks for a great post and always – the photos!!!
Thank you Ilene! 17 nights transatlantic sounds fantastic! On which cruise line?
What about Patmos, Rhodes, Cyprus, Volos, and Istanbul? These ports are all on my upcoming Med cruise on NCL Jade. Your insights would be appreciated, thank you!