The Phoenicians invented Mediterranean cruising more than 3,000 years ago, so you’d be forgiven for thinking there can’t be much new in the sphere of Med sailing by now. The fact is, there’s a LOT to look forward to next year and some hugely tempting voyages.
True, Mare Nostrum, as the Romans called it, is extremely well travelled in modern terms. Fully 30 cruise lines will have ships in the region in 2019, and some ports will see upwards of six vessels a day (albeit, the likes of Venice and Dubrovnik have initiated quotas that help to reduce numbers in their case).
But there are still plenty of out-of-the-way corners that are enormously appealing – the likes of Elba, Korcula (as opposed to Dubrovnik), Malaga, Volos in Greece and even Albania, to name but a few – while the advent of several new ships also adds to the appeal hereabouts.
With that in mind, here are 10 examples of great Mediterranean cruises that should be on your radar in the New Year:
Star Clippers, Mamma Mia Cruise
Okay all you Abba fans here’s a chance to tread in the footsteps of the cast of the wildly successful – and hugely entertaining – Mamma Mia movies during a 7-day Greek isles jaunt on board the fabulous clipper ship Star Flyer, sailing round-trip from Piraeus (Athens) in May. The itinerary includes key film locations on Skopelos and Skiathos, as well as the lovely lesser-known ports of Myrina and Poros, plus Dikili in Turkey. Altogether, now: “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…!” – View this cruise
Crystal Cruises, Cote d’Azur Yachting
That off-the-beaten-track idea we mentioned earlier is well to the fore on this little 7-day jaunt from Barcelona to Nice that dallies for much of the time in the Cote d’Azur, calling at Roses, Port Vendres, Cassis and Pampelonne Beach, as well as overnighting in that chic glamour port of St Tropez. And, when you match a sublime itinerary with the genuine ultra-luxe onboard style of Crystal’s boutique Crystal Esprit you have a true taste of La Belle Epoque as you sample this indulgent version of yachting along the Riviera.
P&O Cruises, Greece & Albania
When it comes to ex-UK cruising, the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company takes some beating, but what happens when they branch out into round-trip voyaging in the Med? A great Easter 7-day sailing from Malta, that’s what! This is definitely one of P&O’s more exotic options, made even more appealing by its one-week duration, and it hits some really attractive destination notes with calls at Piraeus (for Athens) and then Souda Bay and Katakolon, followed by the historic Albanian port of Sarande. The (cruise) road less travelled? You bet. – View this cruise
Voyages to Antiquity, Renaissance Italy
If you enjoy voyaging with a sense of history and tradition, Voyages to Antiquity should definitely be on your list, and their late-May cruise on their classic Aegean Odyssey is a great example of how this type of sailing can still be done. Taking in the 15th and 16th-century heartland of Italy, it calls at Civitavecchia (for Rome), Livorno (for Florence) and the isle of Elba as well as Corsica, and concludes its 16-day wanderings with some Spanish flair, including Malaga and Seville for well-rounded Med flavour. – View this cruise
Windstar, Adriatic Adventure
Combine the boutique sailing vibe of Windstar’s Star Pride with a truly tempting route from Venice to Athens and you arrive at this delightful 8-night June offering that visits Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro as well as its Italian and Greek book-end ports. Any cruise that takes in the bijou Venetian-influenced town of Piran (Croatia) as well as Kotor (Montenegro) AND takes in the Corinth Canal and Delphi in Greece ticks a LOT of boxes for us and underlines how the Med is still developing new offerings. – View this cruise
SeaDream, Spain & Portugal
Technically, Portugal isn’t in the Mediterranean, but we’re prepared to make a geographic exception for this lovely 5-night break that provides a genuine taster of that blissful SeaDream style as well as packing in some serious Iberian charm in its relatively short haul. Starting from Malaga, SeaDream I visits chic Puerto Banus (the main harbour for Marbella) and the southern Spanish gem of Cadiz, in addition to Gibraltar and Portimao, before concluding in Lisbon. Fine wine and mid-summer sunshine guaranteed. – View this cruise
Oceania Cruises, Grecian Glory
When you want an extensive sampling of that laid-back Greek style, the elegant ambience of Oceania is the ideal vehicle to take in this 10-night sailing in July from Venice to Athens that also includes stops in beautiful Kotor and Dubrovnik before the Grecian adventure takes over. What sets this apart from many Aegean voyages are calls in exciting Chania (Crete) and the Christian pilgrimage island of Patmos, as well as Mykonos and Santorini for an in-depth taste of the region. – View this cruise
Ponant Cruises, the Great Corsican Loop
Discover the ‘Isle of Beauty’ in some detail with this excellent voyage that sails round-trip from Nice but otherwise eschews all the obvious western Med ports. The medieval fortress city of Bonifacio, picturesque fishing port Cargese and stunning Calvi – birthplace of Christopher Columbus – will provide plenty of Corsican charm, with the additional chance to visit Italian Elba and the southern Tuscan gem of Porto Santo Stefano. More proof that plenty of offbeat Med options still exist. – View this cruise
Seabourn, A Riviera Retreat
When it comes to a touch of autumn splendour, few places can compete with the Med in September and October, and Seabourn’s delightful 7-day jaunt from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona highlights some fabulous lesser-known Riviera highlights aboard the gorgeous Seabourn Encore. As well as the headline ports of Livorno and Portofino, this itinerary adds 16th-century French duo Antibes and Bandol and Spain’s historic Palamos, with its 6th century stone settlement.
Celebrity, Treasures of the Western Med
Okay, now forget everything we said about off-the-beaten-track and road-less-travelled destinations. This autumn beauty is all about the (new) cruise vehicle involved, the eye-catching Celebrity Edge. Launched this month in Fort Lauderdale, she will be concluding her maiden Med season next October with a 10-night ‘highlights’ tour sailing round-trip from Civitavecchia. The Edge has garnered almost universal praise in its initial blaze of publicity and, coupled with an itinerary that visits Naples, Palma, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Florence, it provides one of the most contemporary backdrops from which to view many of the historic treasures of the region. You see, who said the old and new can’t mix? – View this cruise
Next week: Treadwell & Tenny look back on a cruise-filled year.
Have you cruised in the Mediterranean before, and which cruise appeals to you most? Give us your thoughts in the Comments section below.