Arancini in Sicily

© Peter Benedetti/Pexels

Seven delicious dishes to try when cruising the Mediterranean

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dishes, delicacies and delectable snacks in this sunny part of Europe

March 2024

By Ashleigh Arnott

The heat of the summer sun and the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea make for memorable holidays and even more memorable meals. And while the dishes you’ll find in port stops on our popular Med itineraries will have your tastebuds tantalised – from locally made cheeses to hand-rolled pasta and pastries – they’re also at the core of our onboard menus, too. Princess chefs bring expertise from all over the world to ensure our food is always authentic, whether you choose a plate of spaghetti allo scoglio from modern Italian trattoria Sabatini’s, or a bowl of hearty French onion soup in our traditional dining rooms.

For the days when you do head onshore and fancy a local bite, here’s what to put at the top of your eating agenda…

Gyros in Athens

Don't miss Athens' most famous street food, gyros © Meruyert Gonullu/Pexels

Gyros in Athens

Sharing its roots with Turkish doner kebabs and Middle Eastern shawarma, the Athenian gyros is a truly special sandwich. Its succulent meat is always cooked on an upright spit (its name is taken from the Greek word for ‘turn’), before being stuffed into pillowy-soft pitta with a dollop of fresh tzatziki. As one of the world’s original street foods, the gyros is easy to find at takeaways across Athens, but if you’d rather eat yours from a plate, head to the rooftop bar at Savvas, a family-run restaurant where your gyros comes with a side of spectacular views.

Arancini in Palermo

Crisp, deep-fried balls of soft rice – most often filled with oozing mozzarella, meat ragu or ham – are called arancini because they look like little oranges (the Sicilian dialect word aranciu means ‘orange’). They were originally developed as a way for traders to take nutritious food on long horseback journeys as far back as the 10th century. Nowadays, these delicious spheres are devoured instantly, though you are advised to let freshly fried arancini cool for a few minutes, so as not to burn your mouth on the molten middle. Don’t let the chaotic queuing system at Antica Focacceria del Massimo, a 30-minute walk from Palermo’s cruise port, put you off: the chef here is sublime and their tiny menu won’t disappoint.

Bouillabaisse in France

Enjoy flavour-packed bouillabaisse in the port city of Marseille © henry perks/Unsplash

Bouillabaisse in Marseille

Bouillabaisse started life as the solution to a problem. When the fishermen local to Marseille in southern France found themselves with a surplus of bony fish that they couldn’t sell at market, they used the catch to make a soup, flavouring it with Provençal herbs like bay leaves, thyme and fennel. Nowadays, bouillabaisse also includes shellfish and is served with croutons and a saffron-laced garlic mayonnaise known as rouille. Restaurant Chez Michel, which looks onto Plage des Catalans beach, has specialised in bouillabaisse (and seafood in general) since 1946, with three generations of the same family having kept their recipe a closely guarded secret.

Spaghetti ai ricci di mare in Cagliari

Visit Sardinia between November and April and sea urchin season will be in full swing. While the spiny creatures may not sound too appealing, their roe is nothing short of a delicacy here, and there are even multiple Sardinian festivals dedicated to them. Spaghetti with an urchin-laden creamy sauce is the highlight of Trattoria Stefy Ricci’s short but perfectly formed menu. Trust us on this one!

Kremidopita in Mykonos

Creamy, tangy tirovolia (similar to feta) is put to excellent use on the island of Mykonos, in kremidopita, a delicious cheese and onion pie made with flaky filo pastry, traditionally eaten at Easter, though now available all year round. Fragrant notes come courtesy of locally grown wild herbs that are mixed through the onions, and the pastry is usually made in two layers, resulting in a crispy contrast to the soft filling. You can be sure of an excellent slice (and ocean view) at Mathios Tavern in the coastal village of Tourlos.

Cacio e pepe in Rome, Italy

Find a superlative version of pasta dish cacio e pepe at Ristorante Roma Sparita © Roma Sparita

Cacio e pepe in Rome

No holiday to Rome is complete until you’ve had a bowlful of fresh spaghetti coated in a simple but intensely creamy sauce made from black pepper, pecorino romano cheese and starchy pasta water. Cacio e pepe is thought to have been invented by shepherds in the Apennines, the mountain range that runs vertically through Italy. Their frugal, cheesy meal caught on with the taverna owners of the Italian capital, who served it with an abundance of wine. You’ll find a stunning example of the dish at Ristorante Roma Sparita, where the pasta comes served in an edible pecorino crisp bowl. Buon appetito!

Pa amb tomàquet in Barcelona

Only in Catalonia could tomatoes on bread be a must-order; clearly there’s something in the Spanish sunshine that makes these everyday ingredients sing! An exemplary pa amb tomàquet – spongy slices of coca bread spread generously with smooth, sweet tomato pulp and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil – can be found at Casa Delfín, a Barcelona institution that serves tapas from 8.30am-midnight every day of the week.

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About the Author

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh Arnott

Ashleigh is a freelance writer who plans her travels around delicious dinners, elegant bakeries and rowdy taprooms. She'd always choose verdant hills over sandy beaches and lives in the UK's greenest city, Sheffield, where you are very likely to find her in a good pub with a pint of stout, even in summer.