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Spanning many modern and ancient civilizations, picturesque beaches, dazzling architecture, and mouthwatering food galore, there’s so much to be excited about when it comes to Eastern Mediterranean cruises. The grandeur of this region of the Mediterranean Sea is unmistakable as each port brings more of your imagination to life whether it’s through stunning landscapes, delightful cuisines, the calm crashing of waves, or iconic remnants of empires. There’s much to explore and as one of many European cruise options available to you, let’s count down all the reasons why need to add it to your bucket list.
1. How can you say no to the Greek Isles?
Whether you’re talking about popular islands like Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes or some of the smaller ones such as Paros, Naxos, or Kos, a cruise to the Mediterranean just wouldn’t be complete without at least one stop here. The whitewashed villages with iconic splashes of blue, sandy beaches, volcanic calderas, tiny cobblestone alleyways, and the freshest seafood will make you fall in love with this place ten times over.
2. Explore empires
As a big history nut myself, one of the biggest attractions about the Mediterranean is how well balanced it is between sun and beach with the historic treasures that can be found here what can be literally said to be the cradle of civilizations. With the Romans, Greeks, Persian, Turkish, and Byzantine empires, to name a few, be prepared to be immersed in a time period long past.
Whether you’re walking through the pillars of the Parthenon, the labyrinth of streets of Old Town in Rhodes, staring at awe of the Temple of Artemis near Ephesus, or soaking in the eclectic mix of all the empires that conquered through Chania in Crete, there’s an endless amount of art, culture, and lost treasures to discover.
3. The seafood
On board your cruise, you’ll have have a bounty of restaurants to try but perhaps even better is the opportunity to have a meal on one of the many port days that you will have. The Mediterranean is bountiful for its seafood and it’s one of the best parts about travelling through this region.
I highly recommend trying the fish and octopus in various cooking styles while here and also don’t be afraid to try other local dishes. Your best bet is to do some research ahead of time by looking at lists such as these top restaurants in Mykonos.
4. Get to visit Israel
One of the big benefits of doing the Eastern Mediterranean cruise versus a Western Mediterranean cruise is that you’ll have the opportunity to spend time in Israel through the ports of Ashdod and Haifa.
In Ashdod, you have direct access to one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem. Gaze at the Western Wall, watch the sun shimmer of of the Dom of the Rock, and take a peek inside the al-Aqsa Mosque. Soak in the atmosphere by wandering through the Old City, shopping in artisan markets, and sample Middle Eastern cuisine.
Haifa is a spectacular city that rises from the terraced hillsides of this northern city. If there’s interest, head over to Galilee which is where you get a sense of Christ’s youth and where Jesus was baptized. There’s also the grotto in Nazareth where Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary. From here you’re also treated to quite the panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee.
5. Choose your own adventure
One of the great things about cruising is that it really is up to you what you want to do. If you just feel like staying on the boat and relaxing, you can do that. If you want to plan your own day trip once the boat docks or pick one of the cruise’s own excursions, you can decide. You can do something that’s adventurous and more physically intense or you can just lay back and find the closest beach to camp out at for the day.
Depending on your interests and how you feel as you go along in your cruise, it’s all up to you and that’s one of the beauties of these vacations.
Make sure to read Telegraph’s guide on planning an Eastern Mediterranean cruise.
6. Creature comforts and cruise luxuries
Your days can be quite packed as you go from new destination to another during the cruise. However, unlike conventional travel where you have to drag your luggage around and check-in to a new accommodation when you move to a new place, all you have to do in a cruise is head back to the port and you’re back on familiar grounds.
You’ll likely be tired and hungry at the end of the day so you have all the options whether they be the buffet or a-la-carte. There’s entertainment each night to keep you going once you’re back aboard. When you’re done, you just head back to your cabin and everything is as it was before you head out for the day.
It’s nice not to have to worry about these kind of things and with the the class of cruise ships that come through this region, you’ll be afforded some of the very finest in those comforts.
7. Don’t just see, do!
Traditionally, cruises have always been very similar to mass bus tours where you’re hoarded around from sight to sight. If that’s your jam, that’s totally fine but what I am a bigger fan of are the activities at ports where you actually get your hands a little dirty and where you can learn a thing or two from locals.
Here are a few activities that you should keep your eyes peeled for:
- Mykonos – Here you’ll find jeep experiences to get you to the spots other travelers rarely get to see. Horseback riding is another option that takes you through the unspoiled hillside.
- Kos – Get active and hop on a bike tour from coast to coast.
- Istanbul – Cooking classes are the best which is why I love that this is here. Learn how to make simple Turkish recipes that you can replicate at home.
- Crete – Kayak from Elounda Bay and out to the island of Spinalonga which also includes a swim break at the beach.
- Marmaris – Take a riverboat along the winding canals of the Dalyan River Delta to discover cotton plantations, tombs, Roman theatre, and Roman bath.
8. So many versions of the Eastern Mediterranean
Most cruise itineraries cover one of these 4 regions of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greek Isles: Makes sense right? Islands are meant to be hopped and what better way to do it than with a cruise ship? With places like Santorini and Mykonos as popular than ever, avoid paying the high-priced hotels while still getting to enjoy this not-so-secret vacation destination. These trips typically embark from Athens or Istanbul.
Black Sea: These cruises usually depart from Istanbul or Athens and does an interesting loop of the Turkish coast to Crimea and Russia. Sometimes, the itineraries also include Romania and Bulgaria. It’s more off-the-beaten-track but equally beautiful and interesting.
Holy Land: This is a route that I prefer a bit more than the others because you get a chance to get down to Israel and access to Jerusalem. Most cruises will stay docked at the Ashdod for 2 to 3 days. Other common ports are Limassol in Cyprus, Paphos, in Greece, and Valletta in Malta. Cruises typically depart from Athens or Istanbul.
Adriatic Sea and Dalmatian Coast: If your target is to explore the Adriatic Sea and hit exotic places like Dubrovnik, Montenegro, or Neum in Bosnia, this route is for you. Cruises with this itinerary will usually embark from Venice and will also often make stops in Italy’s Bari and Ravenna. For longer versions of this cruise, they will often come back down Italy’s boot and stop in Naples or Sicily before ending off in Barcelona, Marseilles, or Rome.
9. Dynamic contrasts
If it isn’t apparent yet, the Eastern Mediterranean is truly a region of contrasts and easily ticks off the boxes for any type of traveller out there.
Looking for sun and fun? You can’t go wrong with the Greek Islands.
Love channeling your inner Indiana Jones or Lara Croft? From fortresses, palaces, old towns, temples (both in ruins and restored) that span eras that’ll make your head spin.
Interested in religion? Important sites of Jerusalem, mosques in Istanbul, and Renaissance churches in Dubrovnik are just a small snippet of what you’ll be able to see
Have a love for food? These cruises span cuisines from Greek to Turkish to Middle Eastern, Italian, and Eastern European. Taste buds rejoice!
One thing is constant though – there weather will be perfect, and you’ll always have a tough choice of what to do each day.
10. Start off in one place, end off in another
What makes European cruises in general different from, say the Caribbean, is the fact that your starting port of call is almost always different from your final port of call. In the case of Celebrity’s Eastern Mediterranean Cruises, you start off in Athens and end off in Rome.
This completely opens up the possibilities when it comes to planning your itinerary to Europe. Whether you want to extend your vacation at the beginning, end, or both, you’re guaranteed two incredible locations on top of all the sights you’ll see along your cruise.