The Mediterranean is a treasure trove for travellers seeking everything from world-class cuisine to captivating history and, of course, a wealth of romantic escapades.

Whether it’s savoring wine on a terrace with a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean or gliding through Venice’s canals in a gondola, the region’s medieval architecture, twisting alleys, softly lit restaurants and shimmering beaches provide unbeatable opportunities for love-infused adventures.

The high season starts in the late spring, peaks during the summer months and concludes by the end of September. The best deals can be found during the off-season. Major cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America typically set sail from Barcelona, Athens, and Venice, with stops in cities like Barcelona, Rome, Dubrovnik and Nice. Smaller vessels from lines such as Seabourn, Silversea and Oceania dock in the quaint harbours of charming Mediterranean towns.

Mediterranean ports are generally easy to explore independently, while guided tours are recommended for far-flung, full-day excursions, particularly when time is limited.

Barcelona’s Chocolate Wonderland

The Catalan capital has long been recognized as one of the world’s top chocolate destinations, as Spain was the first European nation to be introduced to cacao beans from the New World in the 1400s. Chocolate, with its Valentine’s Day traditions and alleged aphrodisiac properties, has remained an integral part of Barcelona’s culture.

The city’s chocolate museum traces the history of cacao and even features a chocolate replica of the city. Local experts include Fargas, a chocolatier since the 1800s; Xocoa, known for its chocolate beer; and Cacao Sampaka, famous for its decadent hot chocolate.

Cruise ships dock within walking distance of Barcelona’s iconic Las Ramblas, a bustling, tree-lined avenue. The city is easily navigable on foot and boasts an extensive metro system.

Winter Romance in Rome

During peak cruise season, Rome can be overwhelmingly crowded, making it difficult to fully appreciate the city’s enchanting allure. The most romantic way to experience the Eternal City is during the winter months, when a select few cruises on Italian lines like Costa and MSC make stops in Civitavecchia, the port nearest to Rome.

Winter daytime temperatures hover around 10 degrees Celsius, and a light dusting of snow on the Coliseum can make for a magical experience. Cities become more intimate when shared with locals, and Rome’s cozy enotecas, or wine bars, are blissfully free of tourists during the colder months.

A perfect winter afternoon in Rome might involve strolling arm in arm to the Spanish Steps, making a wish at the Trevi Fountain, and then savouring a bottle of Chianti and a plate of prosciutto at the nearby Antica Enoteca, all without the summer crowds.

Trains from Civitavecchia’s station, just a few blocks from the cruise port, frequently travel to Rome’s central station, with the fast train taking less than an hour. Upon arrival in Rome, utilize the city’s extensive bus and metro system, Metripolitana. Winter cruises to Civitavecchia depart from Savona and Genoa, Italy, and Barcelona.

Dubrovnik’s Summer Festival

Croatia’s coastal city of Dubrovnik exudes romance throughout the year, but its Old Town is especially enchanting during the annual Summer Festival in July and August. Over the course of 47 days, artists from across Europe perform in open-air venues throughout the historic district.

Let your love be serenaded by opera singers in front of the Baroque St. Blaise Church or stroll hand-in-hand along the 13th-century walls as a symphony orchestra fills the air with timeless melodies.

Smaller cruise ships can dock within walking distance of Old Town, while most dock in Gruz Harbor, a 15-minute shuttle ride away, often provided by the cruise lines free of charge. A taxi costs around 8 Euros and can be found at the pier. Cruises to Dubrovnik often begin in Venice or Bari, Italy, and may even start as far away as Athens or Barcelona.

Fragrant Delights in Nice

Nice, the largest city on the French Riviera, is sometimes overlooked as visitors focus on Monte Carlo and the quaint villages of Provence. However, Nice itself offers the charm of the French Riviera combined with the allure of a bustling city.

Let your senses guide you to the Cours Saleya Flower Market, where the aroma of fresh blooms reminds you of the region’s perfumed heritage. Nearby, you’ll find numerous fragrance shops, including Molinard, which has been selling scents from nearby Grasse, the birthplace of perfume, since 1849.

After exploring the market’s plant and flower stalls, relax at one of the many outdoor cafes along the adjacent pedestrian street. Following lunch, take a leisurely stroll to the Promenade des Anglais, the city’s main seaside promenade, for unparalleled people-watching on the Cote d’Azur. With many cruise lines staying late in the region, you can return to the Cours Saleya in the evening, when it transforms into a row of al fresco dining establishments.

Cruise ships dock at Nice’s Port Nice Quai, about 6 km from the Promenade. The port operates a free shuttle to the city center during high season. The flower market and Promenade are within walking distance from there.

Jewels of Jaffa

Many cruise ships spend two days in Israel, allowing passengers to absorb as much of the country’s millennia of history as possible. For a romantic getaway, consider spending one of those days in Tel Aviv’s historic district, Jaffa.

Now an artists’ enclave, wander the meandering alleyways of Old Jaffa, visiting the galleries and museums nestled within its sandstone walls, and take a moment to enjoy the refreshing Mediterranean breeze from a bench overlooking an open square. Jaffa is the ideal place to select a piece of jewelry handcrafted by a local artist, such as Alnoam Gebriela.

For a romantic meal, visit Bistro Noa, situated in an alley just beyond the walls of Old Jaffa, where the dimly lit, eclectic interior design creates an intimate atmosphere.

Cruise ships typically dock in Ashdod, about 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv. A taxi from Ashdod to Jaffa costs around 190 NIS each way. Cruises arriving in Israel depart from Athens, Istanbul, Civitavecchia, and Venice.