Cruising along the Mediterranean Sea is wildly popular, and it’s not hard to understand why. There are a wide variety of unforgettable experiences to be had, from embarking on cultural expeditions to explore the ruins of ancient cities and temples, to lounging on vibrant beaches illuminated by copious amounts of sunshine, to stepping into other worlds filled with spice-soaked Middle Eastern color.

And because of the popularity of these holidays, there are a vast array of cruises to choose from, so you can practically customize your trip to suit your personal travel tastes.

Cruise lengths vary in duration, ranging from around 7 nights all the way up to 30. Opt for the longest cruise that your budget allows, so that you can get as much out of the experience as possible. All of the large cruises lines operate in the region, so there are plenty of reputable, quality ships on the water that are filled with plenty of amenities.

Because of the sheer number of ports of call in the Mediterranean, the region is broken up into two regions for the purpose of cruising: Eastern and Western.

The Eastern Mediterranean cruises often begin in Rome, Athens, or Istanbul. Itineraries include stops in all of those cities, as well as the major Greek isles, the ancient city of Ephesus (home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), and Venice. An Eastern Mediterranean cruise can be an experience of contrasts, from ancient ruins to Middle Eastern mystery to traditional European attitude.

The Western Mediterranean cruises often depart from Barcelona, Spain. There are many different experiences that can be created in that region. Depending on the itinerary you choose, stops can include France – Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes – or Italian ports – Naples, Capri, Livorno, Rome. There might also be stops in the Ballearic Island chain, including Mallorca and Ibiza, and even Sicily and Corsica.

The cruise ships offer all of the comforts and amenities of a hotel or resort on dry land. There are swimming pools, fitness centers, spas, game rooms, casinos, theaters, and even opportunities to surf and rock climb aboard. Nightly entertainment includes dance clubs, musical shows, and movies.

Food is readily available aboard the ship, with buffets served at all hours, and formal dinners served nightly. Many ships now offer less strict food plans that give passengers the ability to eat food court style, choosing when and where they dine.

There is such a wide variety of activities to experience on a Mediterranean cruise, once you step off the ship. You are only limited by your imagination and your interests. Take advantage of the excursions offered through the cruise line if you are unfamiliar with the ports of call.

Tour ancient ruins, temples, cities, theaters, and more. Experience the grandeur of Renaissance art and architecture. Explore museums filled with priceless antiquities, works of art that span the history of Western civilization. Eat at amazing restaurants and cafes, and enjoy the local street fare as you explore the outdoor markets and bazaars.

Go on a deep sea fishing excursion, a sunset cruise, or simply relax on a sailboat all afternoon. Snorkel or dive along the crystal blue Mediterranean waters.

Explore the charming little towns on the islands. Get to know the locals and experience their hospitality and warmth.

The best time to take a Mediterranean cruise is in the spring and autumn months. The weather is warm, the crowds are dwindled, and there are deals to be had.

Summer is the high season, when the air and water are hot, and it is unbearably crowded in many of the ports and cities in the region.