When you think of cruising, more often than not your mind will wander to warm and sunny climes, white sand beaches and quaint port cities teeming with history. With so much to uncover, it comes as no surprise that a Mediterranean cruise is one of the most highly sought-after holidays.
As a widely diverse and culturally eclectic region of the world, it can be difficult to know how to prepare for your first ever Mediterranean cruise. To arm you with the top tips and advice, we spoke to four cruise enthusiasts for their insight and guidance for making the most of your first Mediterranean cruise holiday.
What Mediterranean countries can you cruise to?
Cruise Critic Editor, Kerry Spencer, spoke to us about some of the key destinations in the Med, as well as what you can expect from a Mediterranean cruise itself.
“The Mediterranean Sea touches the borders of many cultured destinations such as Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Croatia and the islands of Greece, and is generally delineated into Eastern or Western Mediterranean territories.
“The cornerstone ports of Eastern Mediterranean cruise voyages include the cities of Athens, Venice and Istanbul and encompass a broad range of destinations such as the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia, Turkey, the islands of Greece and the Black Sea – which feature key ports in Turkey, Ukraine and even Russia. Some cruises also dip down into what’s called the Holy Land, with stops in Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.
“The Western Mediterranean is also exceptionally diverse. This cruise region spans the two continents of Europe and Africa and includes Italy, France and Spain, as well as Morocco and Tunisia. Destination highlights include Barcelona's Las Ramblas, a day trip to Capri from Naples or Sorrento, or an excursion to the wine-making villages of the French countryside.”
First timer’s tips for cruising the Mediterranean
Think about what you want to get out of your cruise
When browsing voyage itineraries, you’ll want to consider what you want to do on your cruise. Do you want to go exploring off the beaten track, learn about a destination’s ancient history or while away the afternoon on the beach? Take some time to think about what you want to do on your Mediterranean cruise.
“In many instances, cruise lines tend to mix a bit of Western Mediterranean with the Eastern, so there are many exciting, Mediterranean cruise itineraries to choose from to suit all interests,” says Kerry. “Most itineraries offer a combination of history, culture and beaches, yet some lines are more focussed on the history and culture side with dedicated tours to Venice, Athens, Katakolon (Olympia), Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Haifa and Ashdod (for Jerusalem).
“Other itineraries might focus more on beaches, water sports and general fun-in-the-sun activities – especially around the Greek Isles, Crete and Cyprus. Make sure you do your research to ensure you are getting the exact cruise that ticks all your boxes.”
You’ll also want to consider the type of cruise, as small Med cruise ships offer more exclusive destinations and intimate experiences than bigger ones.
“If you are lucky enough to be travelling on one of the smaller cruise ships, your itinerary may well include islands and ports that you’ve never heard of and unlikely to reach on a traditional holiday,” Fiona Maclean from Unattached London told us. “My first trip took in the charming island of Monemvasia, connected to the mainland by a causeway off the east coast of the Peloponnese in Greece. It’s not a standard cruise line stop – in fact the meaning of Monemvasia, ‘one entrance’, gives you a clue!”
Consider the best time to go on your cruise
Fiona told us when she personally prefers to head off on a Mediterranean cruise.
“The Med for me is best in spring when the coastline and islands come alive with flowers. From April to June the weather can be patchy but it’s warm enough to do away with winter clothes and you may well get a tan.”
If you are planning to go on your cruise in the height of summer, Kerry says to make sure you plan ahead for any big attractions you plan on visiting. “The Med is busier in the summer months, so tickets and tours get booked up quickly. We highly recommend that you make any shore excursion reservations early if you have your heart set on seeing a particular sight.”
Pack for sunny weather and potential heatwaves
What you need to pack will depend on the time of year you’re going on your cruise, but if you are visiting during the hottest and driest months of the year (May to September), you will want to consider the possibility of a heatwave, says Heather. “I would recommend packing for beautiful Mediterranean sunshine, but also the potential heatwaves we’ve experienced across Europe over the past couple of years.”
Don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes and plenty to drink, says Kerry. “Port days can be long and arduous on your feet – so make sure you have comfortable and sturdy shoes on and water to see you through the day.”
If you’re cruising during autumn and the colder months, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared for a drop in temperatures and the possibility of rain. So, make sure you pack a jumper, waterproof coat and trousers just to be on the safe side.
If you plan to visit any religious buildings on your cruise holiday, Kerry says to be mindful that Orthodox churches, synagogues and mosques usually enforce strict dress codes. “Whether you’re a man or a woman, make sure you cover your shoulders, midriff and knees. Some tourist sites offer shawls for bare-shouldered women, but it’s much easier to bring one from home.”
There really is something for everyone on a Mediterranean cruise, and ensuring you pack appropriately and cruise at a time of year that suits you will ensure you have an unforgettable time that will keep you coming back for more.
Can we help you plan your first Mediterranean cruise? Browse our variety of cruise itineraries today or get in touch with our cruise specialists for help on finding the perfect cruise.