Table of Contents
You don’t have to search all that hard to find the best Italy cruises — most leading cruise lines offer dozens of itineraries that visit Italian ports, often in conjunction with neighboring countries France, Greece and Croatia.
The reason? Italy has it all: coastlines on both the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, historic port cities (Rome, Venice and Naples among them) and spectacular islands (including Sicily, Sardinia, Capri and Elba).
For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
Plus, with a cruise season that runs from early April through late October (and even year-round for a few cruise lines), Italy offers something for everyone. Travel here to find an alluring mix of impeccably preserved historic sites, renowned regional cuisines and natural wonders waiting to be discovered.
Here are eight of the best Italy cruises for every type of traveler.
Best Italy cruises for cultural immersion: Azamara
Azamara pioneered the concept of single-country itineraries, which allow for greater cultural immersion and even overnight stays in select ports. The cruise line’s 11-night voyage in October 2024 is one of its most comprehensive.
The sailing begins in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and ends in Rome (Civitavecchia), with visits to seven more Italian ports and Tunis, Tunisia. You’ll explore Genoa, Livorno (overnight for Florence/Pisa), Porto Santo Stefano (on the Tuscan coast), Cagliari (on Sardinia), Trapani (on Sicily), Amalfi and Sorrento.
This voyage is aboard the 684-passenger Azamara Onward, one of the cruise line’s four virtually identical ships. (All are former Renaissance R-class ships built in the early 2000s and renovated over the past several years.) The vessels’ intimate size and Azamara’s focus on cultural experiences and shore excursions emphasizing history and food (including cooking classes and market tours) make for an immersive cruise itinerary.
Other Italy-Intensive voyages in 2023 and 2024 include the following: a 10-night voyage in October 2023 aboard Azamara Quest, a 10-night voyage in April 2024 aboard Azamara Pursuit, and a seven-night voyage in May 2024 aboard Azamara Quest.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Best Italy cruises for small-ship lovers: Windstar Cruises
It’s rare to find a cruise itinerary so fully focused on one specific region of Italy, but Windstar Cruises’ small ships — three classic sailing yachts and three all-suite motor yachts, which accommodate 148 to 342 guests — allow it to offer cruises to less-frequented ports.
Windstar’s 10-day Sicilian Splendors, aboard its 342-passenger sailing yacht Wind Surf, is available on multiple dates in 2023, 2024 and 2025. The ship will cruise round-trip from Rome and call on six Italian ports: Catania (for Mount Etna), Porto Empedocle (for the ancient ruins at Agrigento) and Trapani (for its signature colored salts and Marsala wines), all in Sicily; the island of Lipari (the largest of seven Aeolian Islands); and Sorrento and Amalfi on the stunning Amalfi Coast. The cruise also visits the neighboring islands of Malta and Gozo.
Five-masted Wind Surf is the world’s largest sailing ship. It manages to be intimate without feeling claustrophobic, although it is worth noting that none of its staterooms or suites has a balcony. There is, however, ample deck space for relaxation, with a pool and two hot tubs, as well as inviting alfresco bars and dining areas.
Related: The 2 classes of Windstar ships, explained
Indoors, the ship’s restaurants and social spaces, such as the Veranda Restaurant, Stella Bistro and the Compass Rose Bar, are light-filled, with elegant neutral decor refreshed in 2019.
Musical entertainment takes place in the Wind Surf Lounge and Compass Rose Bar, and Windstar’s excellent dining program reflects an ongoing partnership with the James Beard Foundation. In select tender ports, passengers can enjoy a watersports platform and take out sea kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Best Italy cruises for onboard pampering: Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
If enjoying yacht-style indulgence as you explore Southern Italy is on your cruise wish list, consider the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s 10-night Rome to Valletta itinerary in May 2024. This cruise visits scenic hot spots such as Sorrento and Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast, history-rich Siracusa in Sicily and three ports (Gallipoli, Taranto and Otranto) in lesser-known Puglia, located on the heel of boot-shaped Italy, before passengers disembark in Malta.
Ritz-Carlton, which entered the cruise realm in 2021 with its 298-passenger luxury yacht, Evrima, offers an all-inclusive “yachting lifestyle” experience. This leisurely sailing features overnights in Sorrento and Taranto and two sea days with ample ways to enjoy onboard pampering. The ship’s spacious suites are designed with a contemporary residential feel and range in size from 300 square feet with an 81-square-foot terrace to 1,091 square feet with a 635-square-foot terrace.
Evrima also offers nine bars and dining venues featuring menus created to reflect the ports visited. For culinary indulgence, guests can book a table at S.E.A., a specialty dining experience designed by Chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the Michelin three-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The ship also features chicly designed spaces for relaxing and socializing, such as the Pool House lounge overlooking an aft infinity pool, a second pool located next to the alfresco restaurant Mistral, a panoramic Observation Lounge and a full-service Ritz-Carlton Spa.
Related: The best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity
Best Italy cruises for foodies: Silversea Cruises
The three newest ships in the Silversea Cruises fleet — Silver Moon, Silver Dawn and 2023’s first-in-class Silver Nova — all feature the cruise line’s immersive culinary program known as S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste). When Silversea’s next ship, the 728-passenger Silver Ray, debuts in 2024, it will also take its guests on culinary-focused journeys — among them an 11-day Rome to Venice itinerary in June 2024.
The itinerary includes calls on seven ports in Italy: Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Palermo, Siracusa, Trieste and Venice. The sailing also visits ports in Malta, Montenegro and Croatia.
Silversea’s sailings blend food-centric excursions — such as a visit to a family farm for a tasting of fresh cheese, salami and olive oil in Sorrento — with the onboard S.A.L.T. program to make sampling local cuisine a natural part of the cruise experience. The day-to-day menus at S.A.L.T. Kitchen are all inspired by the ports visited. The Terrain menu focuses on that day’s port while the Voyage menu draws from the best flavors of the entire itinerary.
Passengers aboard Silver Ray should definitely pack an appetite — in addition to S.A.L.T. Kitchen, the ship features seven other restaurants. They are La Dame for haute French cuisine, Atlantide for signature fine dining (think caviar and lobster), Kaiseki for Japanese sushi and teppanyaki (as well as pan-Asian dishes), Silver Note for tapas-style dining and live music, The Grill for casual burgers and salads, La Terrazza for handmade pasta and other Italian specialties, and Spaccanapoli for thin-crusted Naples-style pizza. With 11 nights aboard, there’s time to sample all of them.
Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining
Best Italy cruises for families: Norwegian Cruise Line
If an Italy adventure with the entire family sounds like the perfect cruise vacation in 2024, Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Viva, launching in August 2023 as the sister ship to 2022’s Norwegian Prima, is an ideal playground for guests of all ages.
The most Italy-focused itinerary? The 10-day Mediterranean: Italy, Greece & Croatia cruise (offered aboard 3,099-guest Viva in late June and late September 2024) calls on six ports in Italy — Rome, Livorno, Naples, Messina, Siracusa and Trieste — as well as the islands of Corfu and Malta; Koper, Slovenia; and Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia.
This itinerary is rich in history and culture, including the ancient landmarks of Rome, the archeological wonders of Pompeii and the Leaning Tower of Pisa near Livorno, plus the beauty and culinary treats (sweet cannoli and savory arancini) of Sicily, where Viva makes two port calls. Though the cruise ends in Trieste, the wonders of Venice are just 90 minutes away, so adding a few extra nights to explore its colorful, canal-laced islands is a must.
Onboard Viva, you’ll enjoy more than a dozen dining options (five of them complimentary, including the casual and family-friendly Indulge Food Hall), 16 bars and lounges and all the fun activities/entertainment (including a production of the Broadway hit “Beetlejuice: The Musical”) that the line offers.
Related: Best cruise lines for families
Top amenities include the three-deck Viva Speedway for exhilarating go-kart racing, three thrilling slides (two of them 10-story corkscrew dry slides and one tidal-wave-style waterslide), virtual-reality gaming in the Galaxy Pavilion, tech-enhanced minigolf and more. Also, Viva’s generous outside deck space — especially Deck 8’s Ocean Boulevard with its lively Indulge Outdoor Lounge and sleek Infinity Beach pools — is ideal for scenic cruising in the Mediterranean and Adriatic.
Best Italy cruises for couples: Oceania Cruises
The sophisticated onboard ambiance and a romantic itinerary are a lovely combination, and couples can enjoy both on the 12-night Mediterranean Tapestry sailing offered in June 2024 aboard Oceania Cruises’ newest vessel, Oceania Vista.
The 1,200-passenger ship, which debuted in May 2023, will visit four top ports in Italy — Venice/Trieste in Northern Italy, Taormina in Sicily, Amalfi/Positano in Southern Italy and Civitavecchia for a day in Rome.
Beyond Italy, this itinerary offers a sampling of scenic locales in six other Adriatic and Mediterranean countries with a possible pre-cruise stay in Venice. You’ll visit Korcula and Split in Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Igoumanitsa and Katakolon in Greece; Ajaccio, Corsica; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Marseille, France; and Barcelona, Spain.
Oceania caters to couples seeking an upscale cruise experience with a culinary focus. Onboard Vista, the atmosphere is sleek and polished, with interior decor awash in elegant neutrals of varying patterns and textures, all woven together into a soothing mosaic (in some cases, literally, as tiled vignettes are used throughout the ship). Vista’s bars and lounges, especially the Martini Bar and the Grand Lounge, are so chic you’ll want to get dressed up every night to enjoy one of the craft cocktails on their newly enhanced menus.
All specialty dining is included in the cruise fare, and stand-out meals at Polo Grill (for an excellent steakhouse menu), Toscana (for authentic Italian, including recipes by Vista’s godmother Giada De Laurentiis) and Red Ginger (for flavorful pan-Asian) are just a reservation away. Two new eateries, Aquamar Kitchen and Ember, serve wellness-focused cuisine and casual American comfort food, respectively, and an expanded Culinary Arts Center lets guests who love to cook take hands-on classes.
Best of all, Vista is an all-balcony ship, so every stateroom features access to fresh air (French Veranda Staterooms don’t have an outdoor sitting area, however). Veranda Staterooms and Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms offer a spacious 290 square feet of indoor space — and some of the best standard bathrooms at sea with roomy walk-in showers and ample storage.
Related: The best cruises for couples seeking romance and together time at sea
Best Italy cruises for travelers on a budget: Royal Caribbean
To score a budget cruise fare in the Mediterranean, it helps to look for sailings aboard a cruise line’s older ships. If Italy is your main focus for a future cruise, it’s hard to beat the seven-night Western Mediterranean itinerary in September 2024 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas.
It visits five Italian ports: Venice/Ravenna, Messina in Sicily, Naples, Rome and Livorno (for Florence and Pisa). The ship also calls on Marseille and Barcelona. Voyager’s Italy-focused cruise is a jam-packed itinerary with just one sea day.
Ideal for both couples and multi-generational families, the 3,600-passenger Voyager of the Seas (which debuted in 1999 and was last refurbished in 2019) features seven restaurants (including three complimentary dining venues and specialty restaurant favorites Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table) and eight bars/lounges.
The ship has been “amped-up” so guests can enjoy features found on Royal Caribbean’s newer ships: Perfect Storm waterslides, FlowRider simulated surfing, Battle for Planet Z laser tag, Voyager Dunes minigolf, Studio B ice-skating shows and reimagined spaces for kids and teens.
Nights aboard Voyager of the Seas will be filled with complimentary entertainment options: production shows in the Royal Theater, pub performances by guest entertainers and bands, game-show competitions, pool parties, outdoor movie nights and a ‘70s disco party.
Best Italy cruises for adults-only ambiance: Viking
Is Venice at the top of your wish list? Does an adults-only cruise on a ship with serene, Scandinavian-inspired interior decor and complimentary wine or beer with lunch and dinner sound ideal?
If so, check out Viking’s 15-night Italy, the Adriatic and Greece itinerary, which sails from Athens to Rome and visits six Italian ports — Venice/Chioggia, Bari, Crotone, Messina, Naples and Rome — with three days spent in Venice. As a bonus, you’ll also visit ports in Greece (Katakolon and Corfu), Croatia (Dubrovnik, Split and Sibenik) and Montenegro (Kotor).
Offered on multiple dates in fall 2023, 2024 and 2025, this itinerary is chock full of port experiences; there are no sea days, and a total of 13 cities are visited. Viking includes one free guided shore excursion in each port, usually a panoramic bus tour or historic walking tour. Use that as an overview and then explore on your own or book one of the cruise line’s longer or more specialized excursions. Onboard guest speakers also offer insight into the ports visited and the cultural landscape.
The cruise line’s nine ocean ships are all identical and accommodate 930 passengers, most of whom are couples over age 55. Onboard dining is available in eight restaurants, including the main venue, The Restaurant and the buffet-style World Cafe, the casual Pool Grill and the Norwegian-focused Mamsen’s. Guests can also reserve dinner at two specialty restaurants (at no extra charge): Manfredi’s for Italian cuisine and The Chef’s Table for multi-course, wine-paired menus that rotate throughout the cruise.
Afternoon tea is served in the elegant Wintergarden. The Aquavit Terrace overlooking the aft infinity pool is a sunny spot to enjoy alfresco dining.
If you’re willing to come back early from port, Viking’s ocean ships offer plenty of ways to relax on board. All passengers enjoy complimentary access to the ship’s thermal suite in the LivNordic Spa. It features a thalassotherapy pool, steam room, sauna and snow room. The Main Pool has a retractable roof and can be enjoyed no matter what the weather. However, if you want to live it up at night, note that the ship does not have an onboard casino.
The best Italy cruises offer access to some of the country’s most-loved cities, as well as a chance to explore some of its sunny islands and lesser-known coastal ports. No matter the itinerary, you’re guaranteed to enjoy the splendid landscapes, treasured antiquities and, of course, the incredible gelato.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: