When I was young I was lucky enough that my parents used to take me on trips with them, which is one of the reasons I love travelling so much today. Especially my dad always used to travel for work and he took me with him when possible. Being a TV producer, one of the projects that allowed us to travel the most was a travel documentary set on cruise boats. I’ve been on a number of cruises around the Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Caribbean and Middle East. I haven’t seen it all but I can confidently say I’ve seen a fair few cruise ports around the world. For this post I’ve teamed up with Celebrity Cruises to bring to you a compilation of the best cruise ports in the Mediterranean. If you’re planning a Mediterranean cruise but you’re not sure what harbours to visit, this is the guide for you!
Best cruise ports in the Western Mediterranean
Barcelona is one of the cities that receive the most cruise passengers every year. Perfectly located in the Mediterranean it’s one of those iconic locations that you can’t miss. Even if you only have a day in Barcelona you’ll still be able to see plenty of the famous Gaudí artworks around the city, maybe sample a few tapas and do some shopping on the Rambla. If you feel like venturing off the beaten track make sure to pay Bunkers del Carmel a visit, it’s a park on the outskirts of Barcelona with a stunning view over the city.
Travelling on from Barcelona another popular Spanish harbour for Mediterranean cruises is Seville. Seville is the capital of the Andalusia region and is particularly famous for flamenco dancing, the huge gothic cathedral (also the largest gothic cathedral in the world) and the beautiful Real Alcazar complex. Seville is also home to Plaza de Espana, a picturesque square that the Star Wars fans might recognise as Naboo. Smaller than Barcelona it still has plenty to offer cruise passengers, if anything the reduced size makes it easier to see as much as possible of the city in the brief time you have on land.
Palma de Mallorca
Continuing with the Spanish harbours an extremely popular cruise destination is Palma de Mallorca. Palma is a city on the Spanish island of Mallorca, in the western Mediterranean. Palma de Mallorca has something to offer for everyone. With its beautiful beaches, stunning nature and history there is something for every type of cruise passenger. The Santa Maria cathedral, a massive gothic cathedral that overlooks the harbour of Palma, is one of the main attractions. You can easily spend a day in Palma de Mallorca walking along the tourist harbour, getting lost in the cobbled side streets and admiring the view from the top of the Santa Maria cathedral. Palma de Mallorca is also blessed with pleasant weather all year round, which makes it a great destination to spend the cold European winter months.
While the city of La Spezia in Italy might not have much to offer in itself, it is perfectly located to discover other beautiful parts of Italy, such as Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terre. The five towns of Cinque Terre; Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso, are a short 20-minute train away from La Spezia. Whether you decide to adventure there alone or on an organised excursion from your cruise ship one day is plenty of time to see the five towns and walk at least part of the famous Sentiero Azzurro, the cliffside hiking trail that connects them.
Pisa and Florence are a bit further away, respectively about 1 hour and 2 hour drives away, but it is still possible to visit Tuscany on a day trip from La Spezia. In Pisa you can admire the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and Piazza dei Miracoli, whilst in Florence you can explore the bustling central streets, visit the museum degli Uffizi, the Duomo cathedral and end the day watching the sunset over the rooftops of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, before heading back to your cruise ship for dinner and an evening show.
Sardinia in Italy has the most beautiful beaches and water I have ever seen. If you’re looking for an awesome beach destination during your Mediterranean cruise, make sure Cagliari harbour features in your travel itinerary. Personally I have only ever visited the north of Sardinia and the famous Archipelago of la Maddalena, known for it’s pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. I have heard the south and Cagliari are just as beautiful.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a popular cruise harbour thanks to its strategic location in the French Riviera. When you visit Villefranche during a cruise you have the options of either enjoying the peaceful town of Villefranche, or doing a day trip to the most chaotic and bustling Nice. Both are great depending on what you’re looking for. If you want to peacefully stroll along the harbour and get lost in the small side streets of colourful houses, Villefranche is for you. If you want to experience life in the French Riviera head to Nice to check out the high-end fashion shops, trendy bars and tasty restaurants.
Best cruise ports in the Eastern Mediterranean
Dubrovnik is a personal favourite destination of mine. Located along the Dalmatian coast it’s the perfect location if you’re looking for an interesting historical Old Town, matched with stunning beaches with clear turquoise water. I visited Dubrovnik on several occasions, both on cruise and not, and it’s easily one of my favourite cities in Croatia. The most famous attraction in Dubrovnik is the walk on the Old Town walls, which takes around 2-3 hours depending on how many stops you do to take photos. Dubrovnik is also the set of Game of Thrones (anyone recognised it as Kings Landing?) and you will find a number of Game of Thrones walking tours going on around the Old Town. Add to that fun sunset kayaking tours, a cable car with epic views over Dubrovnik, beautiful beaches and great food, and you have one of the best cruise ports in the Mediterranean!
Another popular cruise destination in Croatia is Split. Similarly to Dubrovnik it is also blessed with a dramatic coastline, white sand and turquoise water beaches, and a historical Old Town. Somewhat smaller than Dubrovnik the Old Town of Split will take less time to visit than in Dubrovnik, giving you more time to visit the surroundings areas. Split is particularly famous as a great destination from which to go on day trips to Krka National Park, where you can go swimming in Krka waterfalls, Omis, where you can go zip lining in the Cetina canyon, and to Hvar and the surrounding islands. If you’re looking for a city that will really add a touch of variety to your Mediterranean cruise, Split is the one.
For many cruises that visit the eastern Mediterranean Venice is the highlight of the trip, and rightly so. The famous Italian city with its romantic canals, dreamy gondola rides and beautiful architecture makes every traveller that visits it fall in love. Venice is built on more than 100 islands, all connected by canals. The city centre of Venice is entirely pedestrian, since there are no roads, there are no cars either! It’s the perfect destination to walk around the canals and get lost amongst the Renaissance and Gothic palaces. Visiting Venice by cruise can be especially magical once you set off from the harbour, and cruise past the outskirts of Venice. From the bridge of your cruise ship you’ll be able to see Piazza San Marco and the other highlights of Venice as you sail past.
Kotor in Montenegro was one of my favourite places I visited during a cruise, which I had not expected to love that much. The Old Town of Kotor is surrounded by fjord-like mountains, with stunning views over the town and cruise boats anchored in the middle of the fjords. Everything from the natural landscape to the historical old town feels like you’ve stepped into another time and another world. And the beauty doesn’t end when you leave Kotor, as you leave the port you still have a fair amount of time spent cruising in the fjords before you’re back in open sea.
Have you been on a cruise in the Mediterranean before? What other harbours did you visit and how did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! These are my personal favourite cruise harbours that I visited on my various cruises in the Mediterranean. Whether for their historical beauty or natural landscapes, they are the destinations that in my opinion can’t miss from a Mediterranean cruise. I hope you find this post useful in planning your own Mediterranean cruise!
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Disclaimer: This post was created in collaboration with Celebrity Cruises. All thoughts and opinions are my own.