Dear potential traveler,
Have you decided it’s time to finally heed the call of the Mediterranean? Are you prepared for lazy days at sea and soul-enriching days on land?
If you’ve always longed to cruise the Mediterranean, it’s time to follow your dreams, even if you’ve never set sail before. A Mediterranean cruise is perfect for first-time cruisers who want to sample the culture, beauty and history of Mediterranean destinations in one convenient trip. So, if exploring Pompeii, dining in Barcelona and sunbathing in Greece all have spots on your bucket list, you can find a cruise to cover them all.
We understand your first Mediterranean cruise can feel a little intimidating, especially since there’s so much to see and do. We’re excited to help you plan the cruise you’ve longed for, and show you what to expect. Consider this our letter to you, or an invitation rather, to listen to your desires and visit one of the most enchanting regions on earth.
Where to Go in the Mediterranean
Over 20 countries make up the Mediterranean region, and ports include everything from rugged beaches to shimmering cities. It’s where travelers go to eat fresh seafood in small, sleepy towns or shop the latest fashions steps away from medieval churches.
A cruise is an ideal way to see many different Mediterranean countries in one voyage without worrying about how you’ll travel to each port or where you’ll stay. For example, a cruise itinerary might include stops in Portugal, Morocco and Spain or take you from Rome to Athens and stop at Sicily along the way. Since many ports are close to one another, you may visit as many as five different countries in a week.
With so many options, how do you decide where to go? To ensure you have the most gratifying cruise possible, consider the areas you want to see most. For example, are you aching to spend a relaxing afternoon on the sunny Amalfi Coast? Consider a cruise that takes you to Italy’s coastal gems. Or maybe you dream of celebrating life to the tune of flamenco. If so, a cruise that stops in Spain may be perfect for you. To help you narrow your options, here are a few Mediterranean destinations that are sure to satisfy your senses:
- Rome: Rome may include some of your bucket list items, such as tossing coins in the Trevi Fountain or staring in awe at the perfectly proportioned Pantheon. This is the place to go to experience la dolce vita and see some of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.
- Venice: Venice is the epitome of romantic cities, and where you’ll find gothic architecture built on a misty green lagoon. If you want to glide through a fairy-tale-like city while aboard a gondola, make sure your cruise trip includes Venice.
- Athens: Lovers of theater and Greek mythology will want to visit Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world. If you stop at Athens, save time to admire the Acropolis, once the home of the gods, perched on a hill overlooking the sun-kissed city below.
- Lisbon: If sandy beaches, exciting cuisine and world-class museums make up a dream vacation to you, you’ll be glad your ship anchors at Lisbon — Portugal’s vibrant capital city.
- Dubrovnik: You’ll find everything you could want in a medieval city by the sea in Croatia’s Dubrovnik. From exploring Old Town to kayaking sapphire waters, Dubrovnik is perfect for an experience that combines Croatian culture and Mediterranean bliss.
- Barcelona: Consider a cruise that includes Barcelona to visit architectural masterpieces, taste to-die-for paella or people-watch at cheerful cafes. Barcelona is brimming with contagious energy you may not want to skip.
Can’t decide between Greek ruins or contemporary museums? Choose a cruise that takes you from Barcelona to Athens so you can hit all the top sites.
When to Cruise the Mediterranean
After you know where you want to go, you need to figure out when. First, think about what’s most important to you. Do you need to spend days sunbathing on the beach or swimming those crystal clear waters? If warm, sunny weather is important to you, you may want to cruise during peak season, which typically runs from May through August. Although you can expect crowds, especially during July and August, you’ll have beautiful beach weather to enjoy.
If you prefer traveling during low season when ports and attractions are less crowded, consider exploring the Mediterranean in March, April, September or October. The early spring months are pleasantly warm, with fewer crowds and ideal weather for hiking or strolling through ancient cities. The fall months offer cooler weather and shorter days, but it’ll be comfortable enough to tour attractions. You can also enjoy food and wine festivals throughout the region during the fall.
It may be difficult to find Mediterranean cruises in the winter when the water can be rough, temperatures drop and rainy weather prevents sightseeing. However, a wintertime cruise means the fewest crowds. If peace and solitude are most important to you, you might prefer a cruise in the late fall or winter.
Choosing Your Cruise
Other than figuring out where and when you want to travel, you’ll want to consider a few more factors, such as:
- Weather: You want to feel comfortable as you explore different sites, so consider what the weather will be like when and where you choose to go. If you want to avoid intense heat but have your heart set on Greece, for example, consider going there in the spring or fall when the heat is less oppressive. Similarly, Morocco gets very hot in the summer, so you might plan to head there in the fall instead.
- Vacation time: How much time do you have to cruise? The average Mediterranean cruise is seven days, while some can last two months or longer. You can narrow your options quickly if you only have a set amount of time available.
- Expeditions: Once you have a list of potential cruises, write down the different ports and excursions offered in each cruise. Consider the places you feel you must visit and the ones you can live without. For example, if you decided you want to sail to Rome, decide whether it’s more important to visit Sicily or Barcelona along the way. Investigate each itinerary and weigh the pros and cons.
- Traveling companions: Consider who you plan to cruise with and how that affects the journey. If you’re traveling with your significant other, choose an itinerary together, and leave room for spending quality time with each other, such as going on a winery tour or strolling through a romantic garden. Do you plan to travel in a group of friends? If so, gather your traveling companions, compile a list of a few destinations, and take a group vote to see where that leads you.
- Cultural experiences: One of the best parts of traveling is having new cultural experiences. Consider the type of cultural experiences you long for and how to fit them into your cruise. If you want to explore a country’s culture through their art, you might choose a cruise that takes you to a vibrant city like Barcelona, where you can visit museums. If you prefer a more immersive experience, consider a cruise that’ll sail you to uncrowded seaside villages where you can slow down and chat with locals. Also, think about cultural events you may wish to attend, like festivals or other celebrations.
Envision how you want to feel, and the experience you want to have overall. Research your cruises and narrow down your top choices. You may not be able to see it all in one voyage, but remember — you can always cruise again.
What to Pack for a Mediterranean Cruise
Properly packing for your cruise will help ensure your journey is as comfortable as possible. Here are tips to help you build your perfect cruise packing list so that you can prepare for your voyage stress-free:
- Documents: It’s always a good idea to check the travel documentation requirements for your specific cruise at least six weeks before embarkment. Generally, you’ll only need a passport to enter most Mediterranean European countries, but visa requirements can change. Other documents to bring include cruise documents, airline tickets, proof of medical and travel insurance, copies of prescriptions, emergency contact numbers and copies of passports and tickets.
- Clothing: Packing for a Mediterranean cruise is easier than you may think. The first step is to research your cruise line’s dress code. Many cruise lines ask guests to dress casually elegant when dining in the ship’s restaurants, so there may not be a need to pack an evening gown or suit. It’s most important to bring clothes that make you feel comfortable throughout your voyage. Typically, you’ll want to pack breathable, light clothes, a hat and a sweater — just in case it gets chilly at night.
- Comfortable shoes: Consider the activities you plan to do throughout your journey and bring the right shoes for your excursions. If you intend to spend a lot of time at the beach, make sure to pack flip-flops. If you want to do a lot of walking, pack comfortable walking shoes. Don’t forget to bring stylish but casual shoes for onboard dining or special restaurants, like a pair of cozy flats.
- Toiletries: Make sure to pack enough sunscreen to save yourself from having to buy some at a port. The Mediterranean is one of the sunniest places in the world, and you might see as much as 11 hours of sunshine each day during the summer. Otherwise, you shouldn’t need to pack too many toiletries, and your cruise line should provide some essentials for you.
- Medication: Don’t forget to bring your medications, and pack enough in your carry-on bag just in case there’s a luggage delay. Consider bringing motion sickness pills as a precaution and prevent queasiness, even if you’re not prone to seasickness. Consider packing other items like earplugs, bug spray and hand sanitizer.
- Camera: You’ll want a way to capture the sunset over the sea, so remember to bring your camera, extra memory cards and batteries to prepare for all of the picture-perfect moments that lie ahead.
- Money: Although you won’t need money onboard, it helps to have some cash on hand for making small purchases at each port. You shouldn’t have trouble finding an ATM where you anchor, so there’s no need, nor is it recommended, to bring too much money with you.
Overall, it’s best to pack as light as possible. If you happen to leave something behind or run out of an item, you can always buy what you need later.
What to Expect on Your First Mediterranean Cruise
If you know what to expect and how to plan, you’ll enjoy smooth sailing from beginning to end. Here’s what you can expect on your first cruise before and after you step aboard:
- Planning: Expect to make a packing list to ensure you don’t forget any necessities and know that you’ll need to arrange transportation to and from the departure port. It may be a good idea to spend a day or two in the city where you’ll embark. That way, if your flight runs late, you can still make it to your cruise on time. Also, plan your excursions ahead of time, including booking any tours in advance, and know what you wish to do at each port.
- Cashless system: You won’t need to use cash to pay for anything on board, as most cruises run on a cashless system. Instead, any extra charges will go on your account. Your cruise line can explain everything that’s included with your cruise ticket and items or services that cost extra.
- Exquisite cuisine: To some travelers, cruising is all about the food. You can look forward to seemingly endless food options and 24-hour room service when you cruise. If you sail with Windstar Cruises, expect delicious food prepared with fresh local ingredients included in your cruise.
- Exceptional service: Cruises are designed to make guests feel pampered, comfortable and satisfied. The cruise staff will go the extra mile to make passengers happy.
- Relaxation: A cruise is ultimately about relaxing, slowing down and savoring the finer things in life. So, prepare to leave your worries at home and set your spirit free.
Lastly, expect to be awe-struck. A Mediterranean cruise will take you to sun-drenched cities set on ancient seaside cliffs, all surrounded by an iridescent sea. You won’t believe your eyes until you step off the ship and realize — no, you’re not dreaming.
Browse Mediterranean Cruises With Windstar
Whether you’ve never cruised before or have sailed the Mediterranean dozens of times, you could spend a lifetime exploring this part of the world. At Windstar Cruises, we know the Mediterranean region is unlike anywhere else. We take our guests to a variety of destinations to provide a unique, enriching adventure from secluded islands to buzzing cities. Our small, elegant ships are designed to accommodate travelers who want to leave crowds, and the ordinary, behind. To plan an unforgettable voyage, browse our Mediterranean cruises or contact a Windstar Vacation Planner today!
If you’re ready to experience the beauty of Mediterranean in person, contact one of our vacation planners today!