It’s no wonder that the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most popular cruising destinations across the globe. From the islands of Greece to Turkey, France to Italy, each country that lies along this majestic ocean touts its own incredible cuisine, architecture, historical sites and modern culture—which is why exploring this region on a cruise is like experiencing several vacations all in one.
Wondering where to start? Read on for a list of the top things to see and do when you’re on a Mediterranean cruise.
1. Rome, Italy
Civitavecchia is the gateway to the ancient city of Rome. This one metropolis houses the Colosseum, the Forum, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica and a host of other architectural masterpieces that reveal centuries of history and culture. Here, the splendors of the past form a glorious backdrop to the daily Roman pursuit of la dolce vita.
Royal Caribbean offers dynamic excursions to all of the sights listed above, as well as the chance to extend your visit with an overnight stay, to get off the beaten path and explore Bracciano Lake with a wine tasting, or to tour the city on a charming three-wheeled Vespa.
2. Nice, France
Nice is a cosmopolitan city where you’ll find a colorful Old Town, elegant Belle Epoque architecture, French Riviera chic and more. The ship arrives just outside the city limits in the picturesque bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
While you’re there, there’s plenty to see. Start with a visit to the Rock of Monaco, which overlooks the ocean and the city, for some Instagram-worthy views. You can easily explore the Old Quarter on foot, gazing at the pastel-colored buildings or browsing the local shops and taking a break at the neighborhood cafes. Monaco is less than an hour away, and it makes an ideal short trip to see the beautiful Prince’s Palace, the vaulted passageways of Palace Square; the 19th-century cathedral where Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, is buried; as well as visit the world-famous Monte Carlo casino.
3. Barcelona, Spain
A European center for art, architecture, design and tapas, this stylish city has its own personality. The soul of old Barcelona remains in the Gothic Quarter, and outside the medieval district, you’ll discover iconic landmarks and more.
Culture lovers shouldn’t miss the Picasso Gallery, made up of several adjoining 15th-century palaces that contain more than 2,000 pieces of the artist’s work. Stroll along Las Ramblas, a tree-lined promenade where street vendors and performers vie for your attention as you stroll. Amid the fray of churches and cathedrals, there’s Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished Sagrada Familia, whose eight soaring spires and spectacular main façade evokes a fantastical gothic style, making it an iconic symbol of the city.
While in town, you can’t miss the chance to dive into the culinary delights for which the area is famous. Head to the Boqueria Market to see stands of fresh produce and an unbelievable lineup of cured meats and cheeses on display, or taste the local goods at Santa Caterina Market, too.
4. Funchal, Portugal, Madeira Island
Insiders know that Lisbon may be Portugal’s official capital, but Funchal is its official capital of leisure. Stunning architecture alongside beautiful decorative paving makes for unique scenery that blends seamlessly with the natural formations, flowers and plants on the island of Madeira.
Take a scenic drive along the coves and bays along the coastline, past the colorful fishing village of Camara de Lobos, before tasting the area’s famous wine at the Madeira Wine Lodge. You can then stop for pictures at Cabo Girão, the second-highest sea cliff in the world, along the way.
5. Gibraltar, UK
A tiny peninsula and outpost of Britain attached to Spain’s Costa del Sol, Gibraltar has played a major role in history, thanks to its famous Rock, the massive headland that offers views of the sea, the ocean and two continents.
Start your visit by taking a cable car to the rock, located at the southernmost tip of Europe, at 14,000 feet—where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the African coastline, the Costa del Sol and a panoramic shot of the city below. You can visit the stalagmite and stalactite formations in St. Michael’s Cave, as well as the lighthouse at Europa Point, too.
You can also catch a glimpse of the city’s famous Barbary macaque monkeys in the Apes’ Den (legend has it that the moment one leaves Gibraltar, it will cease to be British).
If you’re looking for a getaway as culturally rich as it is luxurious, the Mediterranean with Royal Caribbean is for you. Look at our itineraries to plan your next vacation.