Europe - Western Mediterranean Cruise Guide

skyline of barcelona spain
Barcelona, Spain - by Thinkstock

Why go?

The Western Mediterranean is a popular choice for first-time cruisers, and no wonder: It’s a cornucopia of culture with varied landscapes from cliff-top towns and cosmopolitan cities to volcanic terrain, sandy beaches, and rolling vineyards.

The boot of Italy divides the Mediterranean, and the western region typically includes stops in Italy, Spain, or France and the islands in between.

Exploring this region by ship has its advantages over a land voyage: A cruise can save you money over the conversion to euros and time over the hassle of booking hotels. While many cities are accessible from port, a number of inland treasures — such as Provence (France) and Italy's Tuscan countryside — are a short drive away.

Sailing the Western Mediterranean is like a trip through time. It’s possible to traverse centuries of history in just one cruise. Stunning architectural gems — like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia or Rome’s ancient ruins — are en route, as are some excellent museums situated on cobblestone streets.

There’s also no better place to indulge your cravings than here, where diversity runs from the pesto of Genoa, Italy, to paella in Valencia, Spain. Forage for truffles in Tuscany or sip rosé in Provence. Michelin-starred restaurants abound, as do authentic dives and farmers markets.

More frequently here than in the Caribbean, ships overnight in port; evenings are a completely different experience than during the day. For example, you can hit the casino in Monte Carlo (Monaco), a nightclub in St. Tropez (France), or simply stroll under the twinkling stars. 

When to go

The Mediterranean cruise season starts in April and stretches through the end of October, when temperatures range from the 70s to the mid-90s and ships reposition from the Caribbean, Asia, South America, or elsewhere. June through August are particularly busy months, when school’s out for the summer and families vacation together. During this period, cruise ships bring the crowds with them.

May and early fall are better choices if you want to avoid hordes of tourists — and snag better deals — though the weather can be too chilly for swimming and beaches.

If you want to add a pre- or post-cruise stay, festivals — such as the Monaco Grand Prix or Cannes Film Festival — are abundant in the spring and can be packaged with cruises that embark or disembark in the corresponding ports. A few cruise lines extend their seasons beyond October to include the winter months. Though the weather can be unpredictable, by then the crowds have thinned out significantly. Be aware that some resort towns shutter their establishments for the season.


A wide of variety of itineraries is offered in the Western Mediterranean, so even if you’re a seasoned cruiser, you can revisit the region without experiencing the same itinerary twice. Two important points: The size of your ship will shape your itinerary: The smaller the vessel, the less trodden the ports. Also, many cruise lines offer sequences of itineraries so that cruisers can book back-to-back sailings.

Most itineraries are port-intensive. If you want a relaxing cruise, choose an itinerary that factors in a sea day or two; many of the longer cruises incorporate overnights in port.

Seven-day sailings typically depart from Rome or Barcelona (Spain), Monte Carlo, or Nice (France), depending on the size of the ship, then ply eastward to the Italian Riviera or westward along the coasts of France, Spain, or Portugal, with stops in the Balearic Islands, Corsica, or Sardinia.

Other itineraries circumvent the boot of Italy from Venice to Rome or vice versa, or combine ports in both the western and eastern Mediterranean, such as those on the Adriatic coast or the Greek Isles, or may even hit Morocco or Tunisia.

For a first-time cruiser, a classic route could start in Barcelona, then call in Marseilles (France), Livorno (Florence, Italy), and Naples or Sorrento (Italy), then Citavecchia — the port for Rome. If you’re already familiar with the Western Mediterranean, you could incorporate more off-the-beaten track destinations such as Elba or Villefranche (Nice, France). 

Cruise Lines That Sail Europe - Western Mediterranean

3 Ships - 25 Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises

29 Ships - 2 Cruises
Carnival Cruise Lines

15 Ships - 17 Cruises
Celebrity Cruises

18 Ships - 24 Cruises
Costa Cruises

4 Ships - 30 Cruises
Crystal Cruises

3 Ships - 3 Cruises

4 Ships - 3 Cruises
Disney Cruise Line

14 Ships - 2 Cruises
Holland America Line

19 Ships - 55 Cruises
MSC Cruises

17 Ships - 11 Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line

6 Ships - 33 Cruises
Oceania Cruises

21 Ships - 10 Cruises
Princess Cruises

5 Ships - 21 Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

28 Ships - 19 Cruises
Royal Caribbean

9 Ships - 28 Cruises

3 Ships - 22 Cruises
SeaDream Yacht Club

13 Ships - 22 Cruises
Silversea Cruises

7 Ships - 13 Cruises
Viking Ocean Cruises

6 Ships - 9 Cruises
Windstar Cruises

Latest Cruise Deals


7 Night Western Mediterranean (Barcelona Roundtrip)

Jewel of the Seas

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7 Night Western Mediterranean (Barcelona Roundtrip)

Norwegian Epic

Sail Date: October 25, 2020

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