A Mediterranean cruise offers one of the most popular cruise itineraries on the planet. From rich history to exquisite architecture and serene landscapes, this part of the world is perfect for a cruise.
If you’re looking for the best Mediterranean cruise ports for your upcoming vacation, we put together a top 10 list along with some notable cruise ports at the end.
Barcelona, the capital of Spain, has a history that dates back thousands of years, and its port is the gateway leading to everything it has to offer. The port is located just south of the city’s Old Town district, and it’s separated into three locations: Adossat Quay Terminals, World Trade Centre Terminals, and Port Vell. Depending on where your ship docks will determine how you get into the city. You’ll most likely need to hop on the Cruise Bus (each terminal has a pick-up spot), which runs to and from the monument of Christopher Columbus.
The monument is situated on Barcelona’s most well-known boulevard–Las Ramblas. You’ll be just a stone’s throw away from top attractions like La Boqueria Market, Liceu Opera House, Erotica Museum, and more. Along the walkway, keep your eyes peeled for the famous human statues and other exciting street performances. So, whether you have a few hours or days to spend around the port of Barcelona, you’ll have more than enough easily accessible activities to choose from.
Along Italy’s gorgeous western coast is the Port of Civitavecchia. Although it’s commonly referred to as the Port of Rome, it’s actually about 50 miles away from the historic city. The town of Civitavecchia is well aware that most tourists coming from the port are on a mission to get to Rome as quickly as possible, and you’ll have a few convenient options to get there. You can hop on the train, take a taxi, or rent a car and be standing in front of the Colosseum in about an hour (most cruise ships will offer a bus service).
If you’ve already been to Rome or are simply not interested in visiting the city, Civitavecchia is a wonderful place to explore. The town has been around since the 2nd century. Visit the National Archeological Museum to come face to face with ancient artifacts and artwork from the region–oh, and it’s free! You’ll also find a pleasant promenade to walk along, lovely cafes to have a coffee in, and interesting shops to pop in and out of.
Athens is a cultural hotspot where tourists can catch of glimpse of Ancient Greek culture, and its proximity to the coast makes it a prime destination for Mediterranean cruises. In turn, the Port of Piraeus, just seven miles from Athens, has become one of the busiest and largest ports in all of Europe. Piraeus was established around the 5th century BC and had a turbulent past. Today, you can explore the town’s landmarks, churches, and museums to learn about its long, fascinating story.
Getting to Athens from the port takes about 20 minutes by taxi or metro. One day in the city should give you enough time to see the main attractions thanks to a reliable public transportation system. If you want your life to be as easy as possible, sign up for a guided tour or buy a ticket for the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus that runs through Athens and Piraeus.
When it comes to picture-perfect cruise destinations, it doesn’t get much better than Malta. The country is just off the tip of southern Italy, and your cruise ship will dock at the Port of Valletta–a natural deep-water harbor. As soon as you step onto land, you’ll be on the Valletta Waterfront, where several clothing and artisanal shops are just waiting to be enjoyed.
Since Malta’s a small island, everything is within reach, and it’s home to some spectacular natural and historical landmarks. History buffs should make an effort to walk through Mdina, the country’s old capital from the 1500s. Or, if you feel like taking it easy, have a beach day and swim in the brilliantly blue water (Blue Lagoon, Golden Bay, and St. Peter’s Pool are a few of the top beach spots).
Visiting Marseille is a treat. The city’s port brings in around two million passengers each year. When you pull into Marseille-Fos Port, your ship will most likely dock at the Provence Cruise Centre. From there, you’ll be about 5 miles from the city center.
If you want to save a few bucks getting into town, walk down to the port’s free shuttle service, which runs every 20 minutes. But before you head to the city, take a moment to appreciate the fact that commercial trading has taken place at Marseille’s Old Port for over 2,000 years–impressive, right?
Marseille is teeming with fun adventures to fill up your day. Head over to the Notre Dame de la Garde, the 19th-century basilica. You can climb to the top of the tower for a stunning view of the region. It takes about 10 minutes to get there from the port, so there’s no need to rush!
Dubrovnik’s port is located in Gruž–one of the city’s suburbs. The city center will be about 1.5 miles away, and if the weather’s cool, walking there is a wonderful way to soak in the environment. But for those who are crunched on time, taking the bus or a taxi will be your best bet.
The small city is well known for its coastal walls and fortresses that have been kept in phenomenal condition. To get a grand view of Dubrovnik and all its glory, take a ride up the cable car, where the sights will leave you speechless. And, of course, you can’t miss out on strolling through Old Town, where you can tour churches, monasteries, and monuments.
The Port of Naples (referred to as Porto Napoli by the locals) is just south of the city. As soon as you step off the ship and leave the cruise terminal, you’ll find the pedestrian walkway that’ll lead you directly to the city center–no bus, train, or taxi needed! The walk takes around 10 minutes, and it won’t take long before you realize why Naples is the tourist hotspot it is today. Chow down on authentic Italian food, tour museums, or just explore the stunning environment around you.
Many people like to squeeze in a trip to Pompeii since it’s only 15 miles from the port. Consider signing up for a tour to ensure you get back to the ship on time. Otherwise, you can take a taxi or the Alibus to the Central Station and take the train the rest of the way!
Santorini, being the popular destination it is, has two ports: Athinios Port and the Old Port. The ports aren’t large enough for cruise ships to dock, so tenders will take passengers to shore. Your ship might stop at both ports to drop off certain passengers who signed up for specific tours starting in Athinios, but everyone else will likely be sent to the Old Port. If you’re traveling during the high season, the transfer process can take a bit of patience but don’t worry; you’ll get there.
On land, visiting Oia Village is a must-do activity. The village is made up of stunningly white buildings that overlook the ocean. It’s a prime spot to view the sunset while enjoying a nice glass of wine. There’s no shortage of top-tier restaurants and picturesque beaches to enjoy, so get ready for an unforgettable experience.
Montenegro’s Port of Kotor is one of the most dramatic destinations in the Mediterranean. It’s located at the end of the Bay of Kotor, which is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, so make sure to be outside as your ship makes its way to the port.
Kotor was established more than 2,000 years ago, around the 5th century BC. The town was ruled by the Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Hungarians, and Austrians until it was finally liberated in 1918. With such an action-packed past, the city has a unique identity that’s unlike any other place in the Mediterranean.
When you arrive, don’t miss visiting Kotor Old Town, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. You can walk along the cobblestone streets and get a taste of the many different cultures that have occupied the area.
The Port of Lisbon recently had its new cruise terminal inaugurated in 2017. Cruise ships will have no trouble docking at the port, which means you won’t have to wait for a tender to take you to shore. At the terminal, you’ll find all the tourist services, souvenir shops, and amenities you could hope for. If you want, you can avoid public transportation and take a lovely 15-minute walk downtown.
Lisbon is known for its captivating culture, and the best way to see all the city’s hustle and bustle is at the flea market known as Feira Da Ladra (Thieves’ Market). It’s just a 10-minute walk away from the port and worth checking out even if you don’t plan on buying anything. Another fun and easy way to see the city is to take the tram (Tram 28) that will take you through the historic district.
Notable Mentions: These are also amazing cruise ports along the Mediterranean that could easily be in the top 10 as well!
Cruise ships dock at Istanbul’s Galataport, the world’s first underground cruise terminal. The reconstruction of the port was primarily completed in 2021, and it’s now one of the most modern cruise terminals operating today. Galataport stretches for just over half a mile and can fit three cruise ships at a time.
Of course, you’ll want to get out and explore the city as soon as possible, but the terminal also has restaurants, cafes, a hotel, and entertainment facilities in case you feel like staying close to the ship.
Istanbul is big, and the most convenient way to get from Point A to Point B is to take the tram. You can hop off at various attractions like Sultanahmet Square, where several museums, churches, and mosques are located.
Mykonos is a little slice of paradise with lovely weather, golden beaches, and exciting nightlife. The main dock on the island is New Port, positioned right next to the small town of Tourlos. Getting to Mykonos Town (also known as Chora) from the port is a straightforward process. You can take a taxi, bus, or ferry for just a few dollars and be in the town center in just a few minutes.
Although the Greek island may be small, it’s been occupied for around 3,000 years. From ancient Greeks to salty pirates, all walks of life have enjoyed its beauty. Today, its culture is as vibrant as ever, and the stunning white architecture (the buildings follow a color code for doors and windows) will leave you in awe.
When you arrive at Corfu, your ship will pull up along a pier at New Port (Neo Limani). If you’re docked at the western pier, you’ll find a nearby cruise terminal with car rental companies, shopping, and a bus pick-up location. Otherwise, a shuttle service will pick up passengers from the piers located a bit farther away.
An excellent first stop for your day on the island is to visit Corfu’s Old Town. It was made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 for its cultural significance that goes back to the 8th century BC. The Old Town is only two miles from the port, so walking there is possible. But, on a hot day, taking the shuttle service or car is recommended.
The closest port to Florence is in the city of Livorno. It’s a multipurpose port that deals with all sorts of cargo and container vessels in addition to passenger ships. To ensure larger cruise ships had space to dock, a section of the port was recently expanded. Stepping off the boat, you should find car rental services, taxis, private van tours, and bus transfers to Piazza Grande (Livorno’s main square).
From the port, driving or taking the train to Florence takes about an hour and a half. If you only have half the day to explore the city, time will be of the essence, so make a game plan before arriving. As always on cruise ships, you can rely on group excursions, so you don’t have to worry about planning the logistics.
For travelers who’d prefer to stay closer to the ship, Livorno has enough attractions to keep you busy. It might not be as exciting as Florence, but you can visit cathedrals, the city’s central market, and Fattori’s Museum.
For some of the best street food in all of Italy, cruise travelers and foodies alike will love visiting the Sicilian cruise port of Palermo. The cruise port is only a 5 minute walk to the downtown area where you can find an area rich in history and unique architecture. Palermo is a melting pot of the different cultures that have lived in the city in the past with a mix of Arabic and Viking influences seen in the buildings and sights. Cruisers can visit the Politema and Massimo Theaters, or enjoy the Piazza Quattro Canti and nearby botanical gardens.
Whatever port you visit on your Mediterranean cruise we hope you find it to be a wonderful experience. We think it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.