Unless your heart's set on sailing the Greek Isles, beaches might not be the first thing that come to mind when planning a Mediterranean cruise. The region lures visitors with its culturally rich cities, food and wine, and historic landmarks.
But behind all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and alfresco cafes are picture-perfect beaches -- where lolling around before your next tour of ancient ruins is totally warranted. Add some sun beds and sand to your itinerary at one of these five best Mediterranean beaches to visit by cruise ship.
Elia Beach, Mykonos
Greece has the upper hand when it comes to Mediterranean beaches, offering more than 6,000 islands sprinkled with pristine shorelines and sheltered coves. One of these beaches can be found in the popular cruise destination of Mykonos.
Less than 30 minutes from the port, Elia Beach provides a peaceful respite from the island's usual party scene. Beachgoers here can enjoy the sound of the waves, excellent snorkeling and an intimate beach club/restaurant with padded loungers that are totally worth the splurge.
Su Giudeu Beach, Sardinia
Take one look at Su Giudeu beach, and you'll see why Sardinia is nicknamed "the island of a thousand beautiful beaches." In fact, some might argue Su Giudeu is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean -- which makes the hour it takes to get there from the main cruise port in Cagliari worth the effort.
Despite its alluring emerald-green waters, pink sand and rocky islets that are great for snorkeling and diving, Su Giudeu remains fairly secluded compared to its neighboring beaches. Soak up some sun at the local beach club, take in the views from its "nature path" or sample local delicacies at one of the nearby local restaurants.
Photo: Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
Bellevue Beach, Dubrovnik
Croatia is beginning to get recognized for its stunning shoreline along the Dalmatian Coast, and cruisers can enjoy one of the country's most popular beaches minutes from the Dubrovnik cruise terminal.
Bellevue Beach, a five-minute ride or 30-minute walk from port, features stunning natural cliffs and a sheltered area for swimming. The stairs can be steep and the area can be rocky, but visitors are rewarded with clear water, caves to explore and a local cafe on the beach for refreshments.
Photo: Anna Lurye/Shutterstock
Bolonia Beach, from Gibraltar or Seville (Cadiz), Spain
Cruisers willing to make the 90-minute trek to Bolonia from the Port of Cadiz (Seville) or Gibraltar will be rewarded with an untarnished stretch of golden sand and a giant bay, earning it a spot as one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean.
Bolonia is home to rolling hills, Roman ruins and only a few small bars, restaurants and hotels -- making it ideal for beachgoers who want a dose of nature, history and local charm. Feeling cheeky? Visitors can also enjoy a number of quiet isolated coves officially designated as nude beaches.
If you have more time in port, consider tacking on a visit to one of Bolonia's surrounding Andalusian villages, where whitewashed buildings and Moorish culture abound.
Photo: Lukasz Janyst/Shutterstock
Paloma Beach, from Nice or Monaco (Monte Carlo)
Named after renowned designer Paloma Picasso, who once frequented the area with her father Pablo Picasso, Paloma Beach is a perfect hideaway for those who want a taste of the high life. The beach welcomes visitors with a chic yet timeless atmosphere, crystal-clear water dotted with yachts, and a restaurant serving up fresh fish and a wine list heavy on Cote de Provence rose.
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.