Eastern Mediterranean cruises are a trip back in time, where almost every port puts you in touch with ancient cities, temples, and amphitheaters dating back 2,000 years. There are lots of opportunities to get into the gorgeous blue water as well, especially if you are sailing through the Greek Isles. Most cruise itineraries depart from major cities such as Venice, Istanbul, or Athens, calling at these spots plus ports in Croatia. Some combine Western Mediterrean cities as well, adding destinations like Barcelona.
What We Love
The Food: Have lunch in port as often as possible to sample the delicious local fare. In Greece, savor mashed eggplant salad, grilled squid, or blood-red tomatoes and tangy feta cheese. In Turkey, it’s all about grilled fish served whole with fresh breads and yogurt-y sauces. While in Italy, the desserts, coffee, and wine are to die for, not to mention the pizza and pasta.
Getting Wet: Swimming, sailing, snorkeling, or kayaking along the coasts of the Greek Isles, Croatia, and Turkey is a great way to spend your day, especially if you’re on a smaller ship with a marina for water sports.
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Split, Croatia: Dating back more than 1,700 years, Split’s Old Town started out as Roman Emperor Diocletian’s royal retirement compound by the sea. Today, it’s an ideal vacation spot for tourists to admire the remarkably well-preserved temples, villas, and town squares.
Venice, Italy: This utterly romantic city of crisscrossing canals, bridges, and narrow streets is a magical place overflowing with stunning museums, public squares, and grand villas.
Santorini, Greece: Cruising into the bowl-shaped harbor treats you to picture-perfect views of tiny whitewashed houses dotting the volcanic cliffs. Get to the top by donkey, foot, or cable car, and then explore the narrow streets of Fira. And definitely have lunch at a restaurant with views of the harbor below.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Crowds: If you’re cruising in July or August, the marquee ports will be packed, especially Venice, Athens, Dubrovnik, and Rhodes.
It’s Expensive: From snacks to souvenirs, just about everything in Europe’s big cities and ports is pricey, particularly restaurants in Italy.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.