Why Go?

Once the cradle of ancient civilization, the Eastern Mediterranean still bustles: Centuries- and millennia-old monuments embed modern-day cities; mosques and markets stand on grounds that sultans once ruled; and further afield, crumbling ruins command cliffs, and whitewashed villas cascade down to sandy beaches.

The Eastern Mediterranean stretches from the Adriatic Sea — east of Italy to Croatia —southeastward to the Greek Isles and Turkey, and into the Holy Land and Egypt. Though the Western Mediterranean has traditionally been recommended for first-time cruisers, passenger numbers have been growing on this route.

Despite the fact that some of the region's sights attract throngs of camera-bearing tourists, the Eastern Med harbors off-the-grid hideaways if you delve further inland or anchor at whispered-about ports.

Touring the Eastern Mediterranean by ship is also convenient and efficient. You won’t have to deal with inter-island ferries in Greece or brave high-season traffic on Croatia’s coastal roads.

The ports serve a wide variety of interests: History buffs can explore the colonnaded library and well-preserved temples at Ephesus or revel in the ruins of stadiums at Olympia. The beautiful churches, palaces, and fountains of 13th-century sea-power Dubrovnik have justifiably been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The more adventurous travelers have plenty of terrain to explore, too. Ride a four-by-four on Corfu’s stony roads through olive groves, or mount a quad vehicle and traverse the dusty hills of Cyprus.

Relaxation is an option here as well. Though itineraries can be jam-packed with sights, you can choose to take things at a slower pace: Lounge on gorgeous beaches, poke around sleepy village shops, or sip a glass of wine from a vineyard.

Foodies will also find something to write home about. The region has an abundance of fertile farmland and fruit groves. The results are delectable, and famous local specialties (think grilled octopus, spit-roasted lamb, spinach burek) taste better here than anywhere else.

When To Go

Cruise season in the Eastern Mediterranean runs from April to October, with the majority of sailings scheduled from May through August — when resorts are in full swing, waters warm enough for swimming, and the forecast (more often than not) sunny.

In Greece, Easter is also peak season, and August is particularly crowded. Shore excursions book up fast in the summer, so reserve early if you’re sailing then.

By September, soaring temperatures have cooled down and tourist throngs thinned. This is the time — along with early spring — to save some money or score a good deal.

And remember: The strongest of the regional “Meltemi” winds coincide with the high-traffic months, and they can create rough sea waters and even change the course of sailings.

Routes

Adriatic Sea: Itineraries typically leave from Venice and sail to southern Italy, as well as along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. It’s a scenic voyage of fishing villages, islets, and coves. Smaller ships anchor at off-the-beaten-track destinations, such as Pula and Korcula, Croatia; or Kotor, Montenegro, while other sailings integrate ports in Turkey, Greece, or Italy.

Greek Isles: Popular with honeymooners and couples, these cruises embark from Venice, Athens (Piraeus), or Istanbul and frequently hit the islands of Santorini, Mykonos, or Corfu. Some routes focus on antiquity, with stops in Olympia (Katakolon) or Ephesus (Kusadasi). These itineraries are a good choice for those who want to mix relaxation and culture.

Holy Land: The ports of Nazareth (Haifa) or Jerusalem (Ashdod) often figure into longer itineraries that also include stops in the Greek Isles, Turkey, Malta, or southern Italy. These cruises often take on an ancient civilization theme. 

Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Itineraries

Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruises

Ports

  • Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
  • Heraklion
  • Santorini, Greece
  • Bari, Italy
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Ports

Katakolon (Olympia), Greece - Heraklion - Santorini, Greece - Bari, Italy - View more ports

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1878 Eastern Mediterranean Reviews

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Best of Greece by lodonnell00

Sail date: / Traveled as: Couple
Ship: Viking Venus

As usual, my husband and I had the best times at Viking Ocean cruise. Never disappointed. Always beautiful views, excellent food and dining, professional staff ready to please all guests!

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3 Comments

Enjoyable Greek Isles cruise by bboolean

Sail date: / Traveled as: Couple
Ship: Norwegian Jade

This was a really good cruise from a ports-of-call perspective, and NCL did a nice job with many of the onboard experiences. The worst thing (and NCL is not the only cruise line guilty of this) are the misleading offers that are served up when purchasing the cruise. "Free wifi" is a gross overstatement, for example. It's a limited number of minutes and is "by cabin" instead of "by person." In the end, both of us had to upgrade to the unlimited plan at a notable cost ... truly no savings from the promotion at all.

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7 Comments

Fantastic onboard experience by vhkerkstra

Sail date: / Traveled as: Couple
Ship: Norwegian Epic

Loved cruising again! It wasn’t the itinerary that was as important to us as the onboard experience. We encountered a lot of rain during the first part of the cruise so I would suggest thinking twice about visiting that area past the middle of October. But we enjoyed our trip very much in spite of the weather.

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Was this review helpful? 8
6 Comments

Once on board we were fine! by jambpw

Sail date: / Traveled as: Couple
Ship: Seven Seas Splendor

One of the many things Regent does well is the early morning departure for the popular sites. Although it is tough getting up early after a lovely meal and show, the early arrival is so worth it as we visit before the crowds arrive. We so look forward to these trips that it is sad to see them end. Regent does an outstanding job of ensuring guests have the experience they have paid for.

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3 Comments

Beautiful but very busy cruise by tessmac

Sail date: / Traveled as: Large Group
Ship: Norwegian Jade

The prep work (forms and COVID relatated documentation ) was overwhelming. Neither or NCL was that helpful. Once the cruise was over NCL was done with me as a customer. I requested an explanation of credit card charges and NCL would not simply tell me what the charges were for. I was not contesting the charges but just want to know what they were. NCL NEVER explained the charges and discontinued any communication with me. VERY Disappointed with this experience in the worst of customer service help!

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9 Comments

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