Cruising the Mediterranean can be a truly unforgettable experience. From exploring the Roman ruins to the beaches of Spain, and the fabulous food seemingly everywhere, you are sure to have a wonderful time. However, it is also a busy itinerary that can have some challenges. To help with that, here are my 5 tips for your Mediterranean cruise.
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1. Research the ports of call.
Researching the ports of call should start before you book your cruise. There are so many different cruise lines and schedules out there, you need to be sure you are choosing the right one for you. For instance, are you comfortable being in a new port every single day (it can be exhausting!) or would you prefer a couple of sea days thrown in? Is there somewhere in particular you must go or are you open to whatever the cruise has to offer? This will help you narrow down your cruise choice.
Another part of this research is knowing where your cruise ship will be docking versus where you want to tour. To know this, look for something like this on your itinerary “Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy”. See how they put Rome in parentheses? This shows you will be docking in Civitavecchia. If you do some research, you will see it is easily 1.5 hours from Civitavecchia to Rome! So, this is not a port you would be able to just walk off the boat and be in the city. I highly recommend using www.whatsinport.com to help your research. It isn’t the fanciest site you’ll ever see, but it is packed full of the information you need. Simply select the country you are traveling to and choose a cruise port. The site will tell you all about the port, how to get to the tourist attractions or city, currency and language and more. I use this for all cruises, not just the Mediterranean.
2. Check the weather.
When booking a cruise, I will usually check the average temps for when we will be traveling. However, we all know weather changes! When we cruised the Mediterranean last summer, they had an early heat wave. Literally every port we were in people were talking about how it was never this hot so early before. Luckily, we followed the weather before we left so we were prepared. This meant not just with our clothing choices but also making sure we had portable water bottles, hats, sunscreen, etc. There are some sites that make this research even easier:
Cruise Outlook – https://cruiseoutlook.com – Choose your cruise and it will show you the entire itinerary with forecast (free closer to your cruise date or pay for premium for advanced options).
Weather Spark – https://weatherspark.com/compare – The Compare option on Weather Spark allows you to put in two cities and compare the forecasts. For instance, put in your home city and then choose one of your ports to see how the weather compares.
Remember to always bring a light sweater or jacket because evenings on the ship can be cool, regardless of the port weather.
3. Swim at your own risk.
That Mediterranean Sea looks amazing and just calls to you…turquoise waters and beautiful beaches. However, you need to do your homework before you dive in.
First, there are a lot of rocky areas in some of the Mediterranean ports. Be sure, before you go diving in, that you know what you are diving in to! Also, did you know there is a jellyfish season in the Med? Last year, when we traveled, it was earlier than other times because again, it was hotter earlier than in the past. Here’s an interesting article talking about the purple jellyfish outbreaks. I recommend 1) always go to a public beach and not just somewhere off by yourself, 2) if locals aren’t going in, don’t go in. Assume there is a good reason or ask someone.
4. Be open to private tours.
Because of the distance of some of the sites from the ports (like Rome and Florence), tours can be quite pricey. We had not planned for that when we booked our cruise last summer and had a bit of sticker shock! I recommend researching tours that are run by private tour companies versus always going through your ship. Many of them have a guarantee to get you back to your ship on time.
For instance, we used www.italytours.eu for a private tour of Rome – it was cheaper for us to do this for three people than to do the big mega tour through our ship! Honestly, this tour was a highlight of our entire trip. A driver picked us up promptly from the cruise port and a tour guide met us in Rome. It felt luxurious and when our van was able to drop us off next to sites and we saw the mega big tour groups having to walk from further away in the heat, we knew we had made the right choice. We also used them for a small group tour in Florence.
Viator has some great options as well and I love to read the reviews for their excursions.
5. Schedule down time.
This goes back to my number one tip about researching ports. Mediterranean cruises tend to be packed full of ports – ours went to a new port every single day with no sea days in between. Looking back, I wish we had chosen a trip with a sea day or two. It is easy to overbook yourself – getting up early every day to rush out to the port in an effort to maximize your time.
We did a light day in Ajaccio, France. After disembarking, this fun train – The Little Train of Ajaccio – was nearby and ready to take us around town. It was a great way to get the lay of the land, see where we wanted to spend more time and rest our feet! Note: Most of these trains are cash only if you do not book online in advance.
Believe me, after you’ve walked through the Roman Coliseum, down uneven cobblestone streets, and gotten on and off the cruise ship multiple times, you’ll be ready for a nap! Take a look at the ports and decide in advance where you are willing to do a lighter day – maybe stay on the ship for a breakfast in the dining room or come back early for a nap before the evening’s festivities. Even better, schedule some spa time for yourself or take a dip in the pool. Your feet will thank you!
Cruising the Mediterranean with your family can be a trip of a lifetime. By following my 5 tips for your Mediterranean cruise, I hope you can make the most of your trip and create memories to last a lifetime.
Now, go see the Mediterranean! 🧳
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