With its laid back lifestyle, rich cultural heritage and wealth of history, the Eastern Mediterranean is a region well worth exploring.
A treasure trove of fascinating places to visit, an Eastern Mediterranean cruise offers an incredible journey. There’s simply no better way to discover some of the most diverse countries in the world – such as Venice, Greece, Turkey and Egypt – than on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise.
Eastern Mediterranean cruise possibilities are endless. Most of the itineraries offer a mixture of history, culture and beautiful beaches – so there’s something for everyone.
The capital and largest city of Greece, Athens is one of the most sought after destinations on earth. Accessed via the port city of Piraeus, it’s a place steeped in history – making it a fascinating place to explore. Home to awe-inspiring architecture, legendary cultural attractions and some of the world’s oldest landmarks, there’s an array of must see sites here, including the ‘Temple of Olympian Zeus’ ‘Hadrian’s Arch’ and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ‘Acropolis’. Other highlights include the ‘National Archaeological Museum’ and ‘Lykavittos Hill’ – which is the highest peak in Athens and offers the most amazing views of the city. For a taste of local life, then visit the central market of Athens – ‘Agora Market’ –many a bargain can be found here.
Then there’s the opportunity to soak up the history, myth and ancient wonders of the stunning Greek Islands. Home to archaeological ruins, monuments and traditional villages, photo opportunities abound. To name just a few of the islands, there’s the scenically dramatic Santorini where you can marvel at the volcanic crater or uncover the mysteries of the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Rhodes is the place where you can venture inside the ancient walls of the citadel to discover the medieval city left behind by the Knights of St John. In Mykonos, take a stroll through its picture-perfect town and stumble across tiny churches, shrines and charming little shops along the way. Mykonos has an added highlight too – it’s the closest to the uninhabited island of Delos. The birthplace of Apollo, Delos dates back to the third millennium B.C and is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world – definitely a place worth exploring if you ever get the chance. Other Greek Islands on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise can include Crete, Corfu, Zakynthos, Samos, Paros and Kos.
Situated in North Africa, Egypt borders Libya, Sudan and Israel – as well as the Mediterranean Sea to the North – and, to the east it borders the Red Sea. Famous for its historical legacy and biblical connections – such as Moses – it makes for an amazing adventure. Boasting some of the world’s most famous monuments, during your time here you can marvel at the ‘Great Pyramids of Giza’ and ‘The Great Sphinx’. In the southern city of Luxor you’ll discover the ‘Karnak Temple’ and the ‘Valley of the Kings’ – the last resting place of the ancient pharaohs. In Cairo – the capital of Egypt – the ‘Egyptian Museum’ can be found. Containing the treasures of Tutankhamen, the museum should definitely be a priority on your list of things to see whilst in Cairo. As well as being rich in history, Egypt’s got its fair share of beautiful beaches too. Blessed with a rich and varied marine life, snorkelling is very popular here.
The Turkish city of Istanbul is a really captivating place. Bursting with minarets, mosques, synagogues and the glistening golden domes of orthodox churches that characterise the skyline, plenty of photo opportunities await. A true Turkish treasure, must see sites include the ‘Blue Mosque’ – a world famous religious site and the ‘Grand Bazaar’, which is a maze of narrow streets jam packed with 4,000 shops, stalls, restaurants and artisans’ workshops. Other highlights include ‘Sophia church and museum’, the ‘Turkish and Islamic Art Museum’ and ‘Topkapi Palace’, which is famed for its jewels and stunning gardens.
Nestled in the south-western corner of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a wonderful walking city for lovers of culture and history. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it’s home to centuries-old monasteries, churches and synagogues. During your time in delightful Dubrovnik you can stop by at the ‘Pile Gate’, the entrance to the walled city; visit the 14th-century ‘Franciscan Monastery’; or check out Europe’s second oldest Sephardic synagogue. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant café scene. And, with a fine selection of beaches on offer, Dubrovnik offers the best of both worlds.
Another highlight of an Eastern Mediterranean cruise as got to be Venice. Built over more than 100 islands – involving more than 150 canals and 400 bridges; it’s like no other city in the world. The square in the heart of Venice ‘Piazza San Marco’ is where the city’s most famous landmarks can be found including ‘St. Mark’s Basilica’, the ‘Campanile Bell Tower’ and the ‘Doge’s Palace’. The square is also home to several world-famous cafes and an array of art galleries. And, of course, a romantic gondola ride down the ‘Grand Canal’ is a must.
Then there’s the port of Civitavecchia, which leads the way to Rome – a land of inspiring ancient sites. There’s so much to see – but to give you just a taster, there’s ‘St. Peter’s Basilica’, the ‘Sistine Chapel’, the ‘Colosseum’ and the ‘Pantheon’. More than a museum, the ‘Pantheon’ holds concerts and other special events too. For these historical attractions, Rome is worth a visit alone. And, with designer names like Prada, Gucci and Armani, Rome doubles up as a shopaholic’s paradise too.
Discover the unique past of Malta with its pre-historic temples, early Christian churches and fascinating World War II sites. Popular attractions include ‘Palace of the Grand Masters’, ‘The National War Museum’ and ‘St. John’s Co-Cathedral’ – the final resting place for many knights. Other sites include the colourful ‘Upper Barracca Gardens’ and, not forgetting, the enchanting series of caves that are the ‘Blue Grotto’. Naturally illuminated, the caves are situated on the southern coast of Malta.
An unforgettable adventure…
The above overviews are just a slice of what you can expect on an Eastern Mediterranean cruise. The ultimate adventure, they’re the perfect way to experience different cultures and cuisine – all in one holiday.
When it comes to the best time to go, most of the Eastern Mediterranean cruises set sail from spring through to autumn. That being said, winter cruising is becoming more and more popular – as the weather is milder then, there are fewer crowds and prices tend to be cheaper too.
By Ian Lewis