There are so many classic European cities on the Mediterranean’s west side, you'll be amazed by how much you can see in one cruise. Most trips depart from Barcelona or Civitavecchia (for Rome) and visit major ports in Spain, Portugal, France, Monaco, and Italy. Cities are the focus here, so expect more time in museums than lazing on the beach. Some routes mix both Western and Eastern Med ports, departing from Barcelona or Civitavecchia and traveling around Italy’s boot to Venice, Athens, or Istanbul.
What We Love
The Food: With choices including Spain’s tapas and sparkling cava, the cheese, bread, and wine of France, and the pastas and pastries of Italy, a Western Med cruise is a foodie’s paradise.
The Fashion: Europeans are historically chic, and enduring trends often start here. If you’re on a budget, avoid the branded stores and hit the markets and small independent boutiques.
Best Known For
Cathedrals: No matter what religion you are, you’ll be impressed by these stunning architectural wonders, from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
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Barcelona, Spain: With its great museums, architecture, and history, amazing restaurants, bars, and shopping — plus gorgeous beaches — this city literally has it all. It’s also easy to get around by bus, bicycle, taxi, or on foot.
Rome, Italy: It’s hard to decide if the Coliseum is more breathtaking than the Pantheon or St. Peter’s Basilica. Rome is a treasure, even if you just wander along the side streets and happen upon piazzas and cafés.
Portofino, Italy: The picturesque jigsaw puzzle of pastel houses built along the sloping shores of the harbor has been photographed a zillion times, and for good reason. The town manages to be both a sleepy old-world fishing village and a favorite spot for the world’s rich and famous.
Naples, Italy: Choose to spend your time in port viewing the historic treasures of Pompeii preserved under volcanic ash for 2,000 years or the stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast — it’s a tough choice. And don't forget the pizza!
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Sleight of Hand: Touristy cities like Rome, Naples, and Barcelona are a pickpocket’s dream — keep your wits about you and an eye on your belongings at all times.
Long Rides: Italy’s major cities aren’t coastal enough to be reached by large ships. It’s an hour into Rome and two or three hours one way to Florence from the nearest cruise ports.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.