From the pristine beaches and ancient ruins of the Eastern Mediterranean to the artsy and flavorful countries of the Western Mediterranean, this region is easily one of the most diverse in the world. Revel at Spanish and Italian architecture, soak up some sun in Greece, explore antiquities in Istanbul and Malta or get a taste of the French countryside on the outskirts of Nice, Monte Carlo or Cannes. Some Med itineraries dip down into northern Africa; the Canary Islands are also a popular stop for repositioning cruises.
The crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea sparkle year-round, making cruises in the region a hot ticket for passengers around the globe. (Even Australians make the long trek during their winter.) But with so many ports spanning the Med, how do you pick which itinerary is right for you? Generally, Mediterranean cruises are divided into Western Mediterranean – Monaco, Spain and France -- and the Eastern Mediterranean, which includes but is not limited to Croatia, the Balkan countries, Greece and Turkey. Italy does double duty, serving as an embarkation/debarkation homeport for both (usually Rome for Western Med cruises and Venice for eastern routes); Italian ports of call feature in both itineraries, as well. It's hard to go wrong with either. Both itineraries include UNESCO-approved cultural and historic sites that will help you complete your bucket list. Both also offer fabulous ports of call with outstanding cuisine and local wines, beaches for all sorts of travellers and opportunities for shopping. Keep in mind that either itinerary will be port-intensive; this is not a cruise where you spend lots of time lolling near the ship's pool. Read on to find out how to choose between an Eastern Mediterranean vs. a Western Mediterranean cruise.