The 10 best Mediterranean cruises – still with availability for this summer

Silver Ray
Jolly around the Mediterranean with these slick, state of the art cruises

One warmish, cloudless week is all it takes for some of us to begin conjuring sun-kissed Mediterranean harbours, Hockney-blue seas and – this is a big one – guaranteed sunshine.

Mornings exploring seductive medieval citadels, languorous “catch of the day” lunches on breeze-cooled harbours and sultry evenings sipping apéritifs in tree-shaded piazzas are just some of the reasons we return to the region, year after year.

For the most part, the Mediterranean is not a cheap holiday destination. Even though sterling will buy a little more this summer, the cost of a hire car, hotels and eating out makes that two-week break in the sun a significant expense – particularly if there are several of you.

If you’re budgeting, tied to school holidays or travelling with family or groups of friends, cruising and all-inclusive holidays are a good alternative. The added benefit of cruising is that your hotel moves. Another day; another port.

And cruise ships accommodate multi-generational groups extremely well. From luxurious spas and fine dining to nurseries, climbing walls and family friendly excursions, there’s something for all age groups and most tastes. It’s not too late to sail for the Mediterranean this summer. Here’s a selection to get you started.

Best for: Silver service

Silversea’s refined hallmarks – all-veranda suites, marble bathrooms with baths, a high space-to-guest ratio and personal butlers – will be very much in evidence on the line’s new ship, Silver Ray. After being christened in Portugal in June, the 728-passenger ship will spend her first cruising season in the Mediterranean. There are 544 crew to keep service on track and the design incorporates plenty of glass for uninterrupted sea views.

The vessel's 544 crew will cater to everyone's needs - Silversea

Eight restaurants on board include the Japanese Kaiseki and a new all-day casual dining restaurant, The Marquee. None of the restaurants have a buffet set-up.

From Athens, Silver Ray will sail to Santorini, Corfu, Kotor (Montenegro), Bari (Italy), Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar and Zadar (Croatia) and Trieste, in Italy – and the holiday kicks off with a night at the five-star Grand Hyatt Athens, which has infinity-pool views of the Acropolis.

An Eastern Mediterranean Voyage and Athens Stay costs from £3,999pp, departing on July 18, 2024. Includes a night at the Grand Hyatt and 11 nights on board, with Wi-Fi, one daily excursion per passenger, tips, drinks, flights and transfers included (0844 251 0837; Silversea).

Best for: The other Mediterranean

Corsica’s captivating coast is scalloped by white-sand beaches and sprinkled with attractive harbours where you can pull up a chair and linger for hours with a coffee, gelato or an apéritif.

To truly appreciate the island however, a small ship is best. CroisiEurope’s La Belle des Océans has just 65 cabins, all with exterior views. This itinerary takes in inland and coastal highlights as well as a generous sweep of the destination’s 62-miles of coastline.

La Belle des Océans
Witness the white sand of Corsica's coastline from CroisiEurope - La Belle des Oceans

Leaving the south coast of France, La Belle des Océans sails for the Gulf of Porto, where a collection of pinnacles, islets and outcrops forms part of a Unesco-protected natural park. Equally dramatic are the wild and rugged promontory of Cap Corse, the plunging pink-granite cliffs of Calanques de Piana and the perched villages of the Balagne region, whose fertile hills gave it the name “garden of Corsica”.

There’s time for dipping in turquoise waters in beaches at Calvi and Palombaggia, and the town Bonifacio, crowned by a clifftop citadel, is the departure point for an excursion to Lavazzi, and island archipelago between Corsica and neighbouring Sardinia.

A seven-night Corsica Cruise costs from £2,255pp, departing August 2, 2024 and calling at Nice, Ajaccio (overnight), Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, Bastia and L’Ile Rousse. Includes all meals and drinks and Wi-Fi. The cruise is round-trip from Nice; flights extra (01756 691 269; CroisiEurope).

Best for: Solo travellers

Cruising can be one of the best holidays in the world for solo travellers. Medium and larger-sized cruise ships offer occasional hosted dinners, evenings drinks meet-ups and even group excursions. For those who still find the prospect of solo travel daunting, Solos Holidays offers a handful of cruise holidays that come with a dedicated Solos host and company on tap. The operator’s group page on Facebook is full of informative tips and advice from other Solos guests.

Solos holidays
Epic by name, epic by nature

One trip on the 4,070-passenger Norwegian Epic ship, which was refurbished in 2020, visits Greece and Italy. Solo guests benefit from no single supplements and a private, single occupancy cabin. Epic has adult-only pool areas, Broadway shows and more than 20 different dining options including Japanese, Italian and casual poolside dining. When you fancy some “me time” the Mandara Spa offers more than 50 treatments.

Destination highlights include Valletta, Mykonos, Naples, Santorini and Florence, with excursions to Pompei, Delos and a family-run farm near Sorrento, on the Amalfi coast.

A 10-night Mediterranean Cruise costs from £2,799pp, departing September 16, 2024. Includes flights from Gatwick (regional flights available). Excludes tips, Wi-Fi and drinks (020 8951 2900, Solos Holidays).

Best for: Adventurous families

Turkey’s traditional wooden schooners, or gulets, are a fine way to explore pockets of the Turkish coast. The crew will raise the sails as often as possible and there are plenty of opportunities for gentle hikes, visits to archaeological sites and diving into cerulean bays from the boat.

Responsible Travel’s gulet cruise explores the Gulf of Gokova – a rugged sweep between Bodrum and Dalaman with a rich historical legacy.

Experience the route Mark Anthony took to woo the Egyptian Queen

The ruin-speckled beaches of Sedir, or Cleopatra Island, is where Mark Anthony wooed the Egyptian Queen and at the hamlet of Oren visitors can find Roman ruins, a frescoed Byzantine church and the remains of a Roman bath complex.

There’s sublime snorkelling at the reef-fringed Yedi Adalar (Seven Islands) and at Löngöz Bay, where pine forest meets the water, guests can sleep on deck under the stars. The handsome teak boat has generous deck space with space for sunbathing and alfresco dining. Dishes might include manti (Turkish ravioli with yoghurt and spicy melted butter, mucver (zucchini fritter with fresh herbs), roasted free-range chicken stuffed with Ottoman rice and, for dessert, roasted tahini halva with lemon sauce.

This eight-day Turkey Gulet Cruise roundtrip from Bodrum costs from £1,504pp (children over eight pay full price), departing on August 3, 2024. Excludes flights (01273 823 700, Responsible Travel).

Best for: Rail and sail

Rail and cruise journeys make a great combination. The excitement of arriving in a storied sea port or at a grand railway station is truly hard to beat. This holiday incorporates a cruise along Italy’s Amalfi Coast on a wind-powered teak-and-brass tall-ship, with first-class rail travel and pre-cruise touring in the Puglia region. In the Apulian capital, Bari, you’ll stay at the Hotel Oriente Bari, which occupies a former palazzo and has a roof-terrace bistro with views to the dome of the historic Petruzzelli Theatre.

Rail carriage
Why just stick to water when you can have rails too? - Maureen M. Evans

This summer the line is also offering rail travel from London to Cannes (French Rail & Sail: Ligurian Sea) and Paris to Venice (Venice Simplon-Orient-Express & Amalfi & Sicily Sail).  Cruising round-trip from Rome, Star Flyer calls at Lipari in the Aeolian Islands, Messina in Sicily, Amalfi, Sorrento and Ponza, in the Pontine Islands.

A nine-night Bari Stay and Amalfi and Sicily Sail holiday, including two nights in Bari and seven nights on Star Flyer, costs from £2,995pp, departing on August 15, 2024. Includes flights to Rome, two nights in Bari with excursions in Puglia, first-class rail between Bari and Rome and overseas transfers (01473 242666; Star Clippers).

Best for: Bragging rights

Cunard’s newest ship, the Queen Anne, is sure to turn heads in the Mediterranean this summer. Following her naming ceremony in Liverpool this month, the 3,000-passenger ship will sail from her home port of Southampton for Spain and Italy with female captain Inger Kelin Thorhauge at the helm. Art deco flourishes nod to the brand’s heritage and, like her sister ships Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria, Queen Anne has her own gin blend.

The Queen Anne
The Queen Anne brings back memories of early 20th century oceanliners - Christopher Islon

There is culinary magic from chef Michel Roux in the Queen’s Grill and the 14-strong restaurant line-up sees the addition of the Japanese Aji Wa and Indian-inspired Aranya, overseen by “Chef Jolly”, Surjan Singh. Fresh from the West End comes a truncated version of Pride and Prejudice and this Western Mediterranean cruise leaves plenty of sea days on which to sample the spa, try the first-in-the-fleet top-deck pickleball court, or watch a film around the stylish dawn-til-late Pavilion pool.

Celebrating the botanics of the British Isles the newest gin in the Cunard fleet is infused with herbaceous milk thistle, heather and sea buckthorn, and garnished with rose petals and blackcurrant leaf. Cheers to that.

A 14-night Western Mediterranean voyage sailing round-trip from Southampton to Cadiz, Barcelona, La Spezia, Civitavecchia (for Rome) Cartagena and Gibraltar costs from £1,749pp (0344 338 864; Cunard).

Best for: A multigenerational cruise

Looking for a flight-free multigenerational holiday offering plenty of family entertainment? This cruise around the Iberian coast ticks all these boxes and throws in some rewarding citizen science activity for good measure.

Ambassador Cruise Line is one of several to partner with the marine charity ORCA, giving passengers the chance to learn about and help spot whales and dolphins as they cruise between ports. Last year the line recorded 8,062 sightings and this season will see ocean conservationists join guests on 12 itineraries.

Large family about to go on a cruise
From fancy dress nights to Taylor Swift tribute acts, all generations can have fun here - The Image Bank RF

On this 12-day cruise, Ambiance will visit Porto, Lisbon, Cadiz, Casablanca, Gibraltar, with an excursion from Vigo to the walled city of Santiago de Compostela. With plenty of family activities, a fancy-dress pirate night and artist Hannah Thompson performing a Taylor Swift Tribute, parents are unlikely to have to contend with the dreaded “I’m bored” refrain.

A 12-night Multigenerational Iberian Treasures cruise costs from £1,529pp, departing roundtrip from London Tilbury on August 10, 2024 (0808 303 2573; Ambassador Cruise Line).

Best for: Value for money

From the ancient windmills of Mykonos to the birthplace of civilisation at the Minoan Palace at Knossos in Heraklion, a Greek islands cruise packs in major sights and multiple islands with minimum hassle. Once you’ve approached islands like Santorini from the sea, you won’t want to do it any other way.

New for 2024 is an escorted cruise-and-stay itinerary from Riviera, bookending a week at sea on the 630-cabin Celestyal Journey with a luxurious overnight stay in Athens and a two-night post-cruise beach stay on the Athens Riviera between Piraeus and Cape Sounion.

The recently refurbished Journey has seven restaurants, eight bars, a spa and gym and an outdoor pool and sundeck. The fare includes guided tours of Kusadasi, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos and there’s free time to explore Thessaloniki and Milos, in the Cyclades. Pre- and post-cruise stays include tours of the Acropolis and the magnificent Temple of Poseidon, whose 16 remaining Doric columns overlook the sparkling Aegean.

A 10-night Athens and Greek Island cruise calling at Thessaloniki, Kusadasi, Heraklion, Santorini, Mykonos and Milos costs from £3,199pp, departing on September 13, 2024. Includes return flights and transfers, breakfast at the Wyndham Grand Athens and Dolce by Wyndham Attica Riviera, tips, tours and some drinks with meals on board (01283 523431;Riviera Travel).

Best for: Young families

Complimentary round-the-clock children’s clubs are a big draw for parents travelling with P&O Cruises. And for those on a budget, so is the option to spread the cost of the cruise over several months if you book direct with the cruise line. This school-holiday cruise from Valletta in Malta spends two weeks in the Mediterranean with opportunities to explore Athens, Mykonos, Heraklion, Chania and Cephalonia in Greece, and the Sicilian city of Catania and the whitewashed towns of Puglia, in southern Italy.

Little girl eating ice cream
Little ones can make their own adventures on P&O Cruises - E+

Excursions won’t disappoint. In Cephalonia there is a boat trip to White Rock Beach and Vardiani Island, where turtles can be spotted, and on Corfu an action-packed day at one of the Med’s biggest waterparks, Aqualand. From Valletta in Malta there’s an open-sided double-decker bus ride to Golden Sands Beach.

On board the 3,100-passenger Azura, families can take advantage of four swimming pools, live music and comedy, an open-air cinema, a sports court, gym and spa and a children’s club and night nursery.

A 14-night Mediterranean Fly Cruise costs from £1,579pp, including flights (options for Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, London or Manchester) transfers and tips (0344 338 8003; P&O Cruises).

Best for: Foodies

With the only Nobu restaurant at sea, plus a food and wine pairing restaurant and a new collaboration with global restaurant brand Beefbar, helmed by Riccardo Giraudi (aka the “Beefboy”), Crystal is plating up some unmissable food on board Serenity and Symphony.

Crystal Cruises
Dine at the only Nobu restaurant at sea

UMI UMA is one of the luxury line’s specialty dining venues and is masterminded by the master chef himself, Nobuyuki (Nobu) Matsuhisa. Signature dishes include Nobu-style black cod marinated in saikyo miso, with baby peach and young ginger, grilled Chilean sea bass and wagyu fillet steak. The sushi is probably the best you’ll eat at sea.

Following extensive refurbishments last year passengers will find larger suites, a pickleball court and a revamped spa and gym. Offering LED light-therapy technology and cryotherapy treatments the redesigned spa, Aurōra, is the place to splash out on a facial. This week-long cruise calls at Santa Margherita Ligure on the Amalfi coast, Saint Tropez and Palma de Mallorca.

A seven-night French and Italian Rivieras cruise from Monte Carlo to Barcelona on Crystal Symphony costs from £4,395pp. Includes return flights, drinks, Wi-Fi, tips and overseas transfers (020 7399 7670; Mundy Cruising).