The Mediterranean is one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations with something to suit every type of cruiser. Read on to see East and West go head to head and find out which side of this classic cruise region is best suited for you.

Eastern Mediterranean

One of the things which makes the Mediterranean so popular is the prospect of some serious sun a little closer to home and if the chance to soak up some serious rays is what you want out of your holiday, then an Eastern Mediterranean cruise is the perfect choice. Think idyllic Greek Island beaches, dreamy white-washed buildings and you’ll soon get the idea.

Of course, it’s not all about the weather and an Eastern Mediterranean cruise is also the perfect choice if you like to explore culture and history. The legacy of the ancient Greeks is all around in the Eastern Med, whether you encounter it one some of the region’s most beautiful islands or the ancient Greek capital itself, Athens. Just like those pioneering Greeks, on an East med cruise you’ll also have the opportunity to visit Turkish shores, with the ancient Greek city of Ephesus within easy reach from Izmir and the country’s colourful capital Istanbul offering a heady blend of both east and west. Here’s a taste of what you can expect from two of the East Mediterranean’s most sought-after destinations.


Santorini's breathtaking coastline

Santorini’s breathtaking coastline

This beautiful Greek island sums up everything that’s great about an East Med cruise. Its distinctive black volcanic beaches have a sandy allure all of their own and are the perfect place to enjoy your place in the sun. Take a trip up from sea level however and you’ll be able to see for yourself both the distinctive architecture of the island’s villages and some of the finest ocean views too.


The iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

The iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Always a popular choice, Turkey’s ancient capital is a cruiser’s gateway to the wider east, a melting pot of cultures where Mediterranean and Middle Eastern lifestyles blend together. It’s one of the warmest places you’re likely to visit on your cruise but welcome and inspiring respite can be taken with a tour of the awesome Blue Mosque. Don’t miss the bazaars for the bargain hunt of a lifetime.

Western Mediterranean

For many, a Western Mediterranean cruise is the go-to first choice and probably the perfect choice for first-time cruisers too. Though not as balmy as in the east, the weather is pretty consistent and you’ll no doubt have plenty of opportunity to top up the tan. Remember, this is the region which Spain and the South of France call home and for many, they wrote the book when it comes to beach escapes.

The Western Med is also about world-famous ports and it’s this chance to explore some of Europe’s most celebrated cities which keep people returning to this diverse region again and again. Italy is a West Med constant and how much of it you’ll explore depends on your itinerary but with legendary attractions like Rome’s Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Venice’s Grand Canal all within reach, you’re guaranteed to tick some must-sees off the bucket list. Spain’s cultural colossus Barcelona is another West Med mainstay, offering both beautiful beaches and a wealth of splendid Gaudi works, while the French Riviera also often features. Take a look at some of the highlights of two of the West Mediterranean’s most popular ports.


The beautiful canals of Venice, Italy

The beautiful canals of Venice, Italy

The city on the Water is a natural starting point for many Western Med itineraries and the view of Venice from your cruise ship is a one-of-a-kind cruise experience. The city’s famous canal network is an attraction in itself and is the best way to explore the winding streets and such landmarks as St Mark’s Cathedral and the Doge’s Palace. Of course, a gondola ride’s a must, too.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo's glamorous harbour

Monte Carlo’s glamorous harbour

When it comes to summing up the glitzy Cote d’Azur lifestyle, the words Monte Carlo always come to mind. This playground of the rich and famous features on a good number of West Med itineraries and is home to one of the world’s most famous casinos, a happening square and one of the most expensive collections of yachts you’re ever likely to see, moored in the famous harbour.

Our verdict

Well, it’s certainly a tough one. Both the Eastern and Western Mediterranean certainly have their own appeal and if you’re going to be choosing one, you need to look at what you most want out of your cruise.

The Eastern Mediterranean is the perfect destination for sun-worshippers, especially those who like to seek out a secluded sandy corner or two, away from the crowds. It’s also the ideal choice if exploring ancient history in-depth is your thing when on holiday, as there is always an excellent choice of excursions available to a wealth of incredible Greek sites. Ideal if you’ve cruised the Med before and are seeking out new experiences.

The Western Mediterranean is certainly for you if you enjoy a little of everything but especially love to explore a city and see its most famous landmarks – and there are certainly plenty of incredible cities to choose from in the region. As well as taking in historic landmarks, there are some excellent opportunities for retail therapy across the Western Med’s fantastic ports and cities. Ideal if you’ve never cruised before or want a holiday you know you’ll enjoy.

Still can’t decide? Well, you could always cheat a little and seek out a longer Mediterranean itinerary which offers a little of both East and West. Whatever you choose to do and wherever in the Mediterranean you decide to explore, you’re guaranteed a cruise you’ll never forget. Follow this link to learn more about the Mediterranean cruises currently available.

Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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