The reasons behind this are as varied as the ports themselves. While southern Spain seethes with the package holiday crowd, in both high and low season, cruise ship guests have the opportunity to see some of the country’s cultural hotspots and truly incredible natural wonders.

Add the rich cuisine of the country into the equation and top it off with some locally grown wines and you’re onto a winner. All this can be experienced with the kind of prestige and good value you’ve come to expect from cruises to Spain, so if you’re curious as to what’s on offer, check out our guide to some of the most popular ports in the nation.

Popular ports in Spain

Malaga sea front

Barcelona

Barcelona is the most stylish live wire of all the Spanish cities, boasting everything from Art Deco architecture to vibrant dining subcultures. It’s a popular destination for first-time cruisers, yet also has an evergreen appeal that dab hands at cruising will love too.

It’s no cliché to say Barcelona has it all and as a result, any kind of cruise guest can feel immersed here. Couples can stroll the Gothic Quarter, to follow in the footsteps of Picasso, or sip coffee on the terrace.

Families can marvel at the outlandish legacy of Gaudi, whose wavy and surreal building designs have made this a city like no other. The cable car up to the heights is another must-visit on your next Spain cruise.

Malaga

If you think a package holiday has shown you the real Malaga, think again. Cruises give you access to the more cultured side of this Spanish staple and the view of the Moorish fortress of Alcazaba looming over the city from your deck, as you glide into port, more than sells that notion.

Naturally, touring the 8th century structure is a must, although Malaga’s upbeat automobile museum also shows off the city’s more modern history.

Beyond glimpses into the past, you can, of course, relax on the beaches and tuck into some gazpacho at a waterfront diner. Take an afternoon’s stroll through the SoHo art district of the city, or get out into nature with a kayak tour through the city’s forgotten coves.

Palamos

Cruises in Spain don’t just focus on the big cities. Palamos, tucked along the Costa Brava region of Spain, began life as a fishing village before hitting the headlines as a covetable holiday retreat. For cruisers, there are few places in Spain more capable of giving you that authentic homespun feel.

Beaches here are nothing short of impressive, with Sa Conca and Cala S’Alguer both offering a secluded way to savour the sun. Waterfront family restaurants serve up the catch of the day here and you can learn more about the legacy of the town at the fishing museum.

If it’s art you’re after, don’t miss the chance to hop on a bus and head to neighbouring Figueres, to visit the Dali Museum. It lets you peek into the mind of a long-lost, but still beloved, local legend.

What are the best cruise ships for a Spain cruise?

Spain’s popularity means that the country is visited by some of the world’s most desirable cruise liners. Here are a few solid choices that balance affordability, amenities and style, while making Spain and its surroundings an easy port of call, thanks to sailings all year round.

Marella Dream

While the entertainment catches the eye onboard this cruise ship, it’s well rounded in all other aspects too. Marella Dream’s Broadway Show Lounge is a two-storey treat that dazzles with its musicals and stage shows. The Kids’ Club keeps little hands out of mischief, allowing grown-ups to sample the spa and sauna, to rejuvenate ahead of sunny Spanish days. Of course, the food here is top notch too, boasting Pan Asian dishes, thick stone-cooked steaks and plenty of lavish desserts.

Marella Explorer

With 10 bars and 10 restaurants onboard this huge and inviting cruise ship, this is how to see Spain and beyond, in the best way. Marella Explorer dazzles and inspires from bow to stern, thanks to West End performances and live music acts.

The Kids’ Club gets little ones stuck into the latest gadgets and some homegrown arts and crafts. Sushi, tapas and homemade ice cream are among the best treats to enjoy here, together with fast food favourites and rich, succulent pork chops. When it’s time for mum and dad to get some alone time, The Veranda is an adults-only retreat, with day beds and sun loungers to enjoy.

Shore excursion ideas

Spain is overflowing with things to see and do, but here are a few firm favourites in terms of shore excursion suggestions for your next voyage.

Kayaking around Palamos

Palamos is home to many of Spain’s most enticing coastal secrets. Kayaking, under the guidance of a professional, is open to anyone of any skill level and offers the chance to paddle your way into the coves, caves and hidden beaches and bays surrounding the town. You’ll have the chance to see where local fishermen ply their trade on the waves, while soaking up local folklore about the myths of the Med.

Horseriding through Vigo

The Galician region of Spain is home to some of its most incredible views. Seeing these on horseback, taming both meadows and mountainous landscapes with your trusty steed, makes for an unforgettable onshore adventure. Guides and local legends will steer your journey in the right direction and you simply follow where the wind takes you.

The Dali Museum

Spain has produced countless talented artists and continues to do so today, yet Salvador Dali, beloved for his eccentricities as much as his work, remains a treasured legend in Figueres. The museum here not only shows many of his most inspiring works of art, but also looks at the man behind the myth, exploring his life and how it shaped his creations.

Top ports of call in this destination