The Mediterranean has long welcomed travelers, resulting in a never-ending list of options for Mediterranean vacations. With its turquoise waters, spectacular beaches and quaint seaside towns, AdventureSmith believes the best way to see the Mediterranean is by ship—small ship.  

How to choose your small ship for the best way to see the Mediterranean? Start by reading our Mediterranean cruise advice below, then contact one of our Adventure Specialists for further customized Mediterranean cruise information.

IN THIS POST – Mediterranean Cruise Advice:
When to Go
How Much to Pay
Best Way to See the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Cruise Advice
Where to Visit in the Mediterranean & How Long
Choosing Your Ship
Private Yacht Charters
Mediterranean Cruise Lines
Cruise Reviews
Why Book With AdventureSmith
More Mediterranean Cruise Advice

Aerial view of a Croatian port town with terra cotta roofs, beige stone buildings, lush green hillsides, docked small ships & turquoise water.
Photo by: Adventure Specialist Andrew Browning

When to Cruise the Mediterranean

A common question we answer is “When is the best time to visit the Mediterranean?” Spring and fall are both the best time for a Mediterranean cruise. 

Most small ship Mediterranean cruises operate spring through fall, with departures as early as March and as late as November. The prime summer months are very hot and busy with travelers, especially August when many Europeans are on vacation. 

The best way to see the Mediterranean is therefore during early- and late-season. At these times, departures often have more space and are less popular for family travel; popular ports are also less busy.

Mediterranean Cruise Cost

Our clients often ask “How much does a Mediterranean cruise cost?” A Mediterranean cruise costs anywhere from $1,700 to $17,000, depending on the operator and their inclusions.  

Aboard a Mediterranean small ship, swimming is always included, with certain itineraries making time for swim stops in secluded coves inaccessible to the big ships. Many Mediterranean small ship cruise lines keep trip costs down by excluding the shore activities; instead offering optional, added-cost guided shore activities, or free time to explore on your own. This allows travelers to tailor their experience.  

Additionally, some Mediterranean cruise lines serve partial board, designating dinnertime in some ports as on-your-own opportunities to taste the local cuisine. This also helps keep your Mediterranean cruise cost low, but be prepared to purchase your own meals when needed. 

Want an all-inclusive Mediterranean cruise package? Our partners at Lindblad Expeditions offer small ship Mediterranean packages at a comparably higher price, but all meals, bar tabs, port fees, gratuities, shore excursions and activities are included, in addition to an onboard historian, naturalists and top expedition guides. 

Mediterranean city stone building with arches & pillars, lit up at night beside a stone walkway.

Small Ships: The Best Way to See the Mediterranean

We believe that the best cruise ship for Mediterranean cruises is a small ship. When doing your Mediterranean cruise comparison, consider the benefits of going by small ship.  

These ships are often owned and crewed by knowledgeable local companies with decades of experience. The best small cruise ships in the Mediterranean offer attentive service, gourmet food, private tours inaccessible to big groups, insightful guides and access to unique, off-the-beaten path places.

Mediterranean Cruise Advice

Your Adventure Specialist will provide our Mediterranean travel planner with time-tested tips on the best way to see the Mediterranean. That said, here are some basic travel tips for Mediterranean cruises:

  • Euros and Croatian Kunas are recommended currency, when credit cards are not accepted.
  • If your itinerary crosses open water, consider our tips to prevent and treat seasickness. 
  • Religious sites will require shoulders and knees to be covered 
  • While small ship cruises are casual, you may choose to dress up when overnighting in port. 
  • Go with a guide to learn the most about each visitor site 
  • Bring more than one bathing suit if you plan to maximize the multiple swim stops 
  • Secure travel insurance to cover your time both on and off the ship 
  • Use our Mediterranean small ship cruise deals to save money for on-shore meals and excursions 
Swimmers in turquoise water with a small ship in the background & a white-sand beach in the foreground, on a sunny day in the Mediterranean.

Where to Visit in the Mediterranean & How Long

How long is a Mediterranean cruise? Most small ship cruises in the Mediterranean last for 8 days, with longer itineraries (around 13 days) either traveling farther than most or making more stops.

Since most itineraries last 8 days, the first step when choosing a Mediterranean small ship cruise is deciding where to visit in the Mediterranean.  

Following is an overview of travel regions, with regional notes on the best places to visit in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean can be separated into four broad categories based on where trips operate.

Mediterranean map showing Italy, Croatia, Greece & surrounding countries, with the Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Ionian & Aegean Seas noted.

Dalmatian Coast Cruises: Croatia, Albania, Montenegro & Greece

The southernmost shoreline of Croatia, running from the island of Rab south to the Bay of Kotor, is a popular stretch of coastline. Almost all Croatia cruises visit this region, solidifying it as one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean. 

Historic hillside towns made of brick and terracotta drop down to the sea in dramatic fashion, with fortified castles standing guard at the water’s edge (some of which can be seen in the TV series “Game of Thrones.”) This trendy region offers ancient Roman marble palaces, quiet beaches on small off-shore islands, cultural dances by engaging locals, world-renowned wine tasting and delectable dishes.

View from beige stone walkway down to a seaside town in the Mediterranean, with green hills, church steeple & terra cotta roofs.

Greece & Turkey Cruises

Many cultural cruises in the Mediterranean focus on Greece, operating round-trip from Athens. Sailing the Greek isles in the Aegean Sea offers hidden coves with crystal blue waters, ancient history and rich cultures.

With over 200 islands, where are the best places to visit on a Mediterranean cruise in Greece? We recommend the Cyclades and the Peloponnese Peninsula. 

The southeastern Cyclades islands feature iconic Greece with colorful fishing boats, azure waters and whitewashed villages cascading down scrabbled slopes. This classic region of Greece is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean.

The Peloponnese Peninsula (southernmost mainland Greece) reveals gods, warriors, underground waterways, magnificent temples and impressive caves. Visit classic islands like Delos, Mykonos and Santorini while adding unique stops such as mystical Patmos and Turkey’s Bodrum with its Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 

Stone pillars of ancient ruins in Athens, Greece, on a sunny day.

Iberian Peninsula Cruises: Spain & Portugal

Cruises along Spain and Portugal’s southern coasts reveal colorful seaside ports, cobblestone streets, Moorish castles, flavorful food and wine, and brilliant artwork. With its mix of art, food and history, the Iberian Peninsula is top pick for cultural cruises in the Mediterranean. 

On the Glories of Spain & Portugal itinerary, take advantage of optional visits to historically rich sites like the Alhambra in Granada and the birthplace of bullfighting. A bonus is adding a UK stamp to your passport while passing through the tiny British territory of Gibraltar.

Overlooking beige, turreted stone castles & a vineyard near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Italy Small Ship Cruises

Stretching along Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Italy’s west coast, the Adriatic Sea is host to most small ship cruises in the Mediterranean. A few Adriatic Sea itineraries include visits to Italy, with its own sites of antiquity, unspoiled clifftop towns, and infamous food and wine. Italy has long been one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean, but the small ship experience provides unique insights and exclusive access to sites not often visited.

Seaside clifftop town in Italy with brightly colored buildings looking onto a marina filled with boats.

Choosing Your Mediterranean Small Ship

Choosing a small ship in the Mediterranean means experiencing this popular region in a small, like-minded group, with active options such as fishing and swimming along the way.

So, what are the best small cruise ships in the Mediterranean? Your best cruise ship for Mediterranean cruises depends on the type of ship you want.

AdventureSmith’s Mediterranean ships are all small enough to slip into secluded bays and most offer swimming right from the boat. Elegant interiors are complemented by teak sundecks with panoramic views, inviting chaise loungers and common spaces optimized for indoor/outdoor living. 

The best small cruise ships in the Mediterranean range from historic tall ships to sleek modern yachts. Here we detail the options for your best cruise ship for Mediterranean cruises:

Luxury, Modern Yachts

Visit old-world ports from stylish mega yachts that offer modern flair. Our Mediterranean yachts offer luxury amenities, state-of-the-art technology, classy interiors and a range of cabins from economic below-deck options to upscale, upper-deck VIP cabins with private balconies.

Large white & black yacht sits in blue water beside a large cliffed island.
Photo by: Adventure Specialist Andrew Browning

Classic Motorsailors

Our motorsailors combine time-honored sailing techniques with modern technology. Step aboard these warmly decorated vessels, such as the Galileo, for a true nautical feel, air-conditioned interiors and sweeping views.

Classic motorsailor with white sails, wooden upper deck & blue hull cruises in open water beside Mediterranean islands.

Historic Tall Ships

The elegant 58-guest Sea Cloud: Lindblad celebrates the romance of vintage tall ships, enabling her guests to step back in time. This charming, historic Marjorie Merriweather Post sailing yacht tall ship cruises the Mediterranean with hand-rigged sails, gold and marble bathrooms, antique furniture, fireplaces and walk-in closets.

Lindblad mediterranean luxury yacht cruising in full sail on blue waters.

Luxury Expedition Ships

At 185-245 guests, these ships represent the larger end of the Mediterranean ships that we work with, but the experience remains detailed and personal. Our luxury expedition ships offer 5-star, white-glove service, the finest cuisine, powerful stabilizers for a smoother ride, and a unique daily menu of onboard activities including performances, culinary tastings, lectures and more.

Large gray & white expedition ship with French flag sits in glassy water as travelers disembark onto black Zodiacs.
Photo by: Adventure Specialist Andrew Browning

Private Yacht Charters

Mediterranean yacht charters offer an exclusive way to cruise the Mediterranean, with your own cruise director and hand-picked fellow travelers. Mediterranean cruise group bookings aboard small ships enable bespoke, intimate adventures, making them perhaps the best way to see the Mediterranean. Families, affinity groups, working groups and friend networks all can design their own postcard-perfect Mediterranean vacations and retreats aboard private yachts such as the Variety Charter Yachts (complete with their own tender vessel and jet ski).

Private white yacht cruises in open Mediterranean waters with jet ski & tender cruising beside.

Mediterranean Cruise Lines

The large volume of Mediterranean cruise lines can be overwhelming. Our pared-down selection of operator partners are hand-picked for their focus on active-yet-relaxing options, cultural excursions, attention to detail, safety, flexibility and deep knowledge of the regions in which they operate, including the Mediterranean. Especially in this popular region, we recommend small ship Mediterranean cruise lines for a more intimate, enriching experience.

Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

The internet offers a vast array of small ship Mediterranean cruise reviews. Most offer trusted Mediterranean cruise advice, but some need to be taken with a grain of salt. Negative reviews are often the result of a mismatch between the interests of the traveler and the type of cruise they took.

The best review of boutique cruises in the Mediterranean such as ours, is a personal referral. Ask your booking agent to get you in touch with a past client who has traveled to the Mediterranean on a comparable trip or ship. Reputable agencies will gladly refer their past clients, helping you choose the best cruise for your interests, ability and budget.

Why Book the Mediterranean With Us

The small ships we work with mean a more personalized approach to a popular destination. Our travelers enjoy one-on-one correspondence with a dedicated Adventure Specialist. Plus, we provide recommended flight consolidators and an extensive pre-cruise planner with packing lists, reading lists and answers to common questions.

After reading our above Mediterranean cruise advice, do you still have questions? Or do you have Mediterranean cruise advice of your own? Contact us to ask your question and we’ll make this guide even better.

Man dives into turquoise water beside red rocky shoreline on a Mediterranean small ship cruise.

Get More Mediterranean Cruise Advice

Speak with one of our experts to help you choose the best way to see the Mediterranean. We are award-winning Mediterranean small ship cruise specialists with a focus on exclusive tours and custom travel for individuals, couples, families and small groups. Our staff has decades of experience guiding, arranging and selling cultural cruises in the Mediterranean.

We offer firsthand knowledge, personal service, sustainable practices and unbeatable prices, including a continually updated selection of Mediterranean small ship cruise deals. Contact us today for more Mediterranean cruise advice and to begin planning your unique small ship experience in the Mediterranean.