The 5 best Mediterranean cruises 2023

Each year, cruise lines find more ways to combine the extensive port destinations of the Mediterranean coastline into one exciting vacation. Our top 5 Mediterranean cruise itineraries for 2023 offer the best of eastern and western Mediterranean ports. Book early to get the best cruise deals and sail on board the cruise ship that best suits you and your family.

A cruise to the Mediterranean is an ideal vacation for a multi-generation cruise, where there are excursions and activities to suit all ages. Multi-generation cruising is a growing trend as you discover what great value for money your family cruise offers. From youngest to oldest, you can be together as much as you please, or take time for yourself on board.

1) Barcelona to Rome – Royal Caribbean

  • Route: 7 nights Barcelona, Cannes, Nice, Genoa, Portofino, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome
  • Cruise line: Royal Caribbean
  • Cruise ship: Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean offers port-intensive Mediterranean cruises throughout the summer. One of the most popular itineraries starts in Barcelona, Spain, and visits Cannes and Nice in France, Genoa, Portofino, and Florence, then onwards to the last port of call in Italy, Rome.

Barcelona: Start your vacation by spending a few nights in fantastic Barcelona. You will find a guide to a cruise from Barcelona here. The article will help you choose a hotel and has lots of tips for transportation and sightseeing.

Cannes: Your ship is tendered, and Celebrity will transport you into Cannes on small tender boats. Visit guest services early in the morning before breakfast to get your tender boat ticket. If you have not booked a ship excursion, you may have to wait for a tender boat.

The ship, however, stays tendered in the port for a full day, allowing you to explore Cannes. Stop by the local market, shop on Rue Meynadier, walk the famous La Croisette, or have lunch at a seafood restaurant. Alternatively, experience a fantastic shore excursion to, for example,

Nice, on the classy French Riviera in the Côte-d’Azur region, it is in a class of its own with a beautiful promenade and beach. And nearby, you can visit glamorous Monte Carlo with a bus excursion or a short 25-minute train journey.

Genoa is a city rich in history and is well worth exploring with a local guide.

Portofino is probably one of the prettiest places in Europe and a fantastic addition to this cruise itinerary. Choose how to spend your day by following our tips and suggestions here.

Livorno port is 90 km from Florence and 30 km från Pisa. Choose how you want to spend your day we recommend that you book transportation or an excursion before you leave home. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Florence and about 45 minutes to Pisa.

While both the cruise line and independent tour operators offer a combined shore excursion to visit both these locations, we recommend choosing just one to maximize your time there. Otherwise, it’s all a bit of a rush. Most cruise guests who do the combined excursion say they wish they had more time in Florence. We agree – it’s a fantastic city!

In Rome, you sail into Civitavecchia, 80km from central Rome. With good transport links, you will easily be able to enjoy Rome and get back to your ship in good time. All it takes is good planning.

By the time you reach Rome, you’ll probably want to slow down your pace and make more of your visit. Rome is one of the finest cities in the world, and we recommend you stay at least three days after your cruise. Hotels, sightseeing information and transportation tips for Rome can be found here.

You must book an open-jaw flight ticket to Barcelona and home from Rome for this cruise.

2) Athens to Barcelona – Celebrity cruises

Route: 10 nights Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Valletta (Malta), Rome, Florence/Pisa (La Spezia), Nice (Villafranche), Provence (Marseilles), Barcelona
Cruise line: Celebrity Cruises
Cruise ship: Celebrity Apex

A 10-night cruise means more ports on your itinerary. This fantastic cruise offers stops in Greece, Malta, Italy, France, and Spain. Seeing so many places in the same vacation – you only need to unpack your suitcase once – is why many love cruise vacations. Not only that, you are traveling in style.

Elegant Celebrity cruise, a luxury cruise line, starts your cruise from Athens. We recommend at least three nights to enjoy the city before you start your cruise. Discover the magic of ancient Greece before you sail.

Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most beautiful Greek Isles in the Aegean Sea.

You then sail towards the western Mediterranean, you stop at the island of Malta and its tiny Baroque capital, Valletta. Malta is the sunniest spot in Europe and was rightfully voted as the European Capital of Culture a few years ago.

In Rome, a one-day stop relies on good planning if you are to see all the main tourist sights. A popular golf cart tour takes you to places of prominence, or book a guided tour with your cruise line.

Florence and Pisa can be visited from the port of La Spezia, as can Cinque Terre or Portofino. Florence is a gem. It’s always a dilemma for many on which shore excursion to choose from in La Spezia, as the whole region is stunning.

The ports of Nice and Marseilles in France give you a glimpse of the Cote d’Azur region and will most likely make you want to return to France again to spend more time here.

From Marseilles, visiting the region of Provence is an unforgettable experience. And in Nice spend some time in the city and experience its famous beach and walk the Promenade des Anglais. Alternatively, book a shore excursion and visit jet-set Monte Carlo.

End your cruise by spending time in Barcelona, one of the most loved cities in Europe. And a city that has it all: a rich culture, fantastic architecture, great food, and an abundance of sunshine. We recommend booking a hotel and spending 2 or 3 nights here before traveling home.

You must book an open-jaw flight ticket to Athens and home from Barcelona for this cruise.

3) Rome to Barcelona – Seabourn

Route: 10 days Rome, Sardinia, Corsica, Portofino, Monte Carlo, Cavalaire-Sur-Mer, Sete, Valencia, Palma, Barcelona
Cruise line: Seabourn
Cruise ship: Seabourn Sojourn

Start your vacation with an exciting four days of sightseeing before your cruise from Rome. This allows you plenty of time to soak up the history and culture of this awe-inspiring city.

The smaller ships of the luxury cruise line Seabourn allow an exciting cruise itinerary. Destinations such as Sardinia and Corsica will enable you to visit some of the lesser-known ports in the Mediterranean. Stunning towns and villages give you a glimpse of authentic Mediterranean culture and sun-drenched landscapes.

The beautiful town of Portofino rivals the destinations of Italy’s Amalfi coast and will have you rushing to book your next vacation to Italy as soon as you return hotel. Further up the curve of the Mediterranean coastline, Cavalaire-Sur-Mer is your first port of call in France. This stunning, sun-soaked family destination is a little piece of paradise with bays and beaches of fine golden sand and incredible underwater fauna and flora.

Further along, the coast before you reach Spain is the port of the fishing town of Sete. Lively and cosmopolitan, enjoy the many small restaurants and cafes lining the small canals of this authentic French Mediterranean port.

Reaching Spain and the ports of Valencia and the city of Palma de Mallorca gives you two completely different experiences of Spain – one on the mainland and one island destination.

End your cruise with at least three nights in sunny Barcelona. Find the best hotels in Barcelona for cruise guests and explore the Catalan culture and fantastic architecture. If you want to go further afield, we recommend a day trip to Montserrat’s Royal Basilica and the Benedictine abbey.

You must book an open-jaw flight ticket to Rome and home from Barcelona for this cruise.

4) Barcelona to Barcelona – Norwegian Cruise Line

Route: 9 days Barcelona, Cannes, Florence/Pisa (Livorno), (overnight), Rome, Naples, Cagliari (Sardinia), Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Barcelona
Cruise line: Norwegian Cruise Line
Cruise ship: Norwegian Epic

As one of the top Mediterranean cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line offers its free-style cruise concept on this fantastic 9-day itinerary, starting and ending in Barcelona, Spain.

Spend a few nights in Barcelona before or after your cruise. We have some excellent recommendations of hotels for cruise guests and detailed walking tours on our Barcelona page.

From the port town of Livorno, a day trip to Florence and Pisa is possible. Florence is a gem, and you will want to come back again to see the city and the beautiful surrounding region of Tuscany.

Visiting Rome and your cruise ship will dock in Civitavecchia, with good train connections to central Rome. Suppliers such as Get Your Guide and Viator offer excellent tours of the city, so you manage to see the major sights in one day. We promise you will want to visit again.

In Naples, we recommend a day trip to either Capri, Pompei, or the stunning Amalfi coast. It’s a tough choice; each of these destinations is outstanding.

The Spanish ports of Palma and Ibiza offer you the chance to visit two of Spain’s most popular island destinations. Long known as party destinations, the islands are also gaining a reputation for outstanding nature experiences, hiking trails, unique wildlife, and action sports such as hand gliding, rock climbing, and kitesurfing. The towns are busy; the beaches are sun-drenched. Check out our article on Palma de Mallorca to find out how to easily do your day excursion from the cruise terminal.

You must book a return flight ticket to and from Barcelona for this cruise.

5) Venice to Monte Carlo – Oceania Cruises

Route: 10 days Venice, Split, Kotor, Igoumenitsa, Argostoli, cruising in the Straight of Mesina, Taormina, Amalfi/Positano, Rome, Porto Vecchio, Portofino, Monte Carlo.
Cruise line: Oceania Cruises
Cruise ship: Sirena

Oceania Cruises has luxury Mediterranean sailings and is one of the best cruise lines to sail in this region. Oceania has christened this route, “Adriatic & Amalfi Coast Jewels,” and the name reflects the incredible destinations you will visit.

You must book an open-jaw flight ticket to Venice and from Nice for this cruise. Nice is the closest international airport to Monte Carlo where this cruise begins.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.