Going On a Cruise For The First Time to the Mediterranean – Guide

Essential Tips and Hacks for First-Time Cruisers Exploring the Mediterranean.
Discover the allure of your first Mediterranean cruise. From the moment you step on board to the excitement of exploring ancient ruins and savouring local flavours, this section sets the stage for an unforgettable cruise.  

Cruise ships in Santorini, Mediterranean.

  1. What to Pack to ensure your trip goes smoothly the first time.
  2. Navigating the Ship: Tips for Getting the most out of your Cruise.
  3. Maximizing Port Days: Making the Most of Every Stop.

1.  What to Pack to ensure your trip goes smoothly the first time.

Layers Are Key:

The Mediterranean climate can vary, so pack layers to adapt to changing temperatures. From breezy coastal evenings to sunny days exploring ancient ruins, versatile clothing is your best friend.  The weather although when it is sunny in the Mediterranean is stunning but you can get caught out at the Vatican in Rome in a rain shower.  Make sure you have a foldable waterproof with you.  I always take this with me it has helped me out many a time. 

Comfortable Footwear:

With cobblestone streets and various terrains at port cities, bring comfortable walking shoes for shore excursions. Don’t forget water-friendly options for beach days!  I am obsessed with these stylish comfortable walking shoes perfect for looking good in the Mediterranean.  They come in several different pastel colours are double-stitched and are made with 80% & 20% Soybean-Based Compound Outsole, Removable Twill Covered EVA, Vegan, Washable Shoes. 
Woman with backpack applying suncream on boyfriend's face 

Sun Protection Essentials:

Shield yourself from the Mediterranean sun with sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Protecting your skin is crucial during both on-deck lounging and onshore adventures.  I use EltaMD UV Clear Face Sunscreen, and SPF 46 Oil-Free Sunscreen.  It is a little pricey but when it comes to my skin it is important to protect it.  If you do get sunburnt Aloe Vera is amazing for the skin, just cools it down and is a natural healer.

Power Up:

Make sure you pack a universal power adaptor because some ships have US, EUR or even UK plug sockets.  Some ships even have a mixture of plug sockets.  You can expect to find 3 or 4 power outlets in the average cabin.  You can buy them on the ship in the boutiques onboard but they charge an absolute fortune.  So make sure you take at least one I use this one, I’ve had it a long time now and it serves me well.  For my American Cruisers try this one
Also, please note that power strips are not allowed on ships, they will be confiscated due to the risk of due to the possibility that the surge protector will overload the circuit and cause potential electrical damage or fires. Alternatives include USB charging stations, multi-socket outlets, or outlet adapters to ensure all your gadgets stay charged. 

2.  Navigating the Ship: Tips for Getting the most out of your Cruise.

Download the Ship’s App:

Many cruise lines have apps that provide daily schedules, dining options, and onboard activities. Downloading it before embarkation will keep you informed and organized.  If you have booked your cruise already, then the cruise line will have sent you the link to download the App.  Many cruise line apps you can use pre-cruise and during the cruise. 

Explore Onboard Dining Options:

Don’t limit yourself to the main dining room. Explore speciality restaurants and themed buffets for a diverse culinary experience.  This is also something you should research, as soon as the booking opens for your cruise there is a flurry so you do need to have researched where you want to eat and get it booked.  If it is already booked then ask to go on the Waitlist you will be surprised how many cruisers book and then cancel or don’t show up.

Book Excursions Early:

Popular shore excursions can sell out quickly. Research and book your desired excursions in advance to secure your spot and make the most of your time ashore.  But there are plenty of independent booking options that actually could save you a ton of money.  All are perfectly reviewed and capable of picking you up and dropping you off back at the ship in time.  Check out some tours (some are free) using this link.

Rome, Mediterranean.

Attend Cruise Orientation:

Familiarize yourself with the ship’s layout by attending the cruise orientation. It’s a great way to learn about onboard facilities and activities.  Instead of sitting through a long talk I usually switch my TV on as soon as I arrive on the ship.  While I am unpacking I will start watching the ships information channel, then the shore excursion talk covering all the ports we are visiting.

3.  Maximizing Port Days: Making the Most of Every Stop

Plan Ahead:

Research each port of call in advance to prioritize must-see attractions. Having a rough itinerary will help you make the most of your time onshore.  There is an extensive Mediterranean port overview on this website here is the direct link.  By doing a bit of homework and joining communities found on Facebook such as the Cruise Shop Save Facebook Group you can find out some shortcuts, tips and insider secrets.  Click this link to join.

Local Currency:

Ensure you have local currency for small purchases and tips. Some places may not accept credit cards, especially in more remote areas.  Simply visit your bank before you travel and take out some Euros.  Some Mediterranean countries are not part of the EU such as Turkey but in Turkey, they will gladly take your British pounds or US Dollars.  Just make sure you know the exchange rates Download the app XE 

Be Mindful of Time:

Philip Stein Watch

Adjust your watch or phone to local time at each port. This helps you stay on schedule and ensures you don’t miss the ship’s departure.  You can get these dual-time watches.  Philip Stein does them, I love them.  Check out the latest models on their website https://philipstein.com use my code for up to 30% off at checkout – MELID30


Pack a Day Bag:

Have a small backpack for onshore excursions with essentials like water, sunscreen, a hat, and any necessary documents.  This is essential or even a backpack, but I will say do be careful with your bags there are a lot of pickpockets in Rome and Florence.  Do still visit these cities but keep your bags in front of you.  Put your backpack on in front of you as if you were holding a baby.  

Mediterranean Magic: Choosing the Right Cruise Line

Dive into the world of Mediterranean cruise lines and find the perfect fit for your travel style. Whether it’s the luxury of a boutique cruise or the entertainment-packed experience of a larger ship, discover the cruise line that suits your preferences.  Some cruise lines do the Mediterranean better than others.  Here is a list of great cruise lines to choose from:
  1. Azamara:

    Azamara is a boutique cruise line that offers immersive and destination-focused experiences. With smaller ships designed for more intimate voyages, Azamara emphasizes longer stays in ports, allowing passengers to delve deeper into the local culture and attractions.

  2. Celebrity Cruises:

    Known for its modern luxury and innovative design, Celebrity Cruises provides a sophisticated cruising experience. With a focus on culinary excellence, stylish accommodations, and high-quality service, Celebrity Cruises caters to travellers seeking a premium and contemporary cruise adventure.

  3. Costa Cruises:

    Costa Cruises, an Italian cruise line, is known for its vibrant and festive atmosphere. With a Mediterranean spirit, Costa Cruises offers a diverse range of itineraries and onboard activities, appealing to a broad audience looking for a lively and engaging cruise experience.

  4. MSC Cruises:

    MSC Cruises, with a distinctly Mediterranean flair, combines elegance with cultural enrichment. With a focus on luxury and sophisticated onboard experiences, MSC Cruises explores destinations worldwide, providing passengers with a blend of comfort and cultural immersion.

  5. Norwegian Cruise Line:

    Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is synonymous with freestyle cruising, offering a flexible and relaxed approach to onboard activities and dining. With a fleet of modern ships, NCL caters to a diverse audience seeking a more casual and freestyle cruise experience.

  6. Oceania Cruises:

    Oceania Cruises is renowned for its culinary excellence and luxurious cruising. With mid-sized ships, Oceania provides an intimate and refined atmosphere, perfect for travellers seeking gourmet dining, personalized service, and immersive cultural experiences.

  7. Princess Cruises:

    Princess Cruises offers a premium cruising experience with a perfect blend of elegance and relaxation. Known for its exceptional service and diverse itineraries, Princess Cruises caters to a wide range of travellers seeking a sophisticated and enriching cruise adventure.

  8. Royal Caribbean Cruises:

    Royal Caribbean International stands out for its innovation and adventure-packed ships. With some of the largest vessels in the industry, Royal Caribbean offers a diverse array of onboard activities, entertainment, and destinations, appealing to families and adventure enthusiasts alike.

  9. Viking Ocean Cruises:

    Viking Ocean Cruises is known for its destination-focused itineraries and cultural enrichment. With small to mid-sized ships, Viking provides a serene and immersive cruising experience, emphasizing cultural exploration and enrichment.

Charting Your Course: Best 7-Day Mediterranean Cruise Itineraries

Explore hand-picked itineraries for a week-long Mediterranean cruise. Uncover the must-visit destinations, cultural highlights, and scenic wonders that make each day at sea an enriching experience:

1. Barcelona to Rome: The Western Mediterranean Extravaganza

Day 1: Barcelona, Spain Embark on your cruise in the vibrant city of Barcelona. Explore the iconic Sagrada Familia or stroll through the historic Gothic Quarter before setting sail.

Day 2: Marseille, France Discover the charm of Marseille and visit the historic Vieux-Port. Take a boat to Château d’If or explore the bustling markets and cafes.

Day 3: Florence/Pisa, Italy Dock in Livorno and choose between exploring the Renaissance art in Florence or marvelling at the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Day 4: Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy Journey to Rome and immerse yourself in the city’s rich history. Visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and indulge in authentic Italian cuisine.

Day 5: Naples, Italy Explore the archaeological wonders of Pompeii or take a boat to the enchanting Isle of Capri. Don’t forget to savour authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Cruise port of Naples, Mediterranean.

Day 6: At Sea Enjoy a day, taking advantage of the ship’s amenities and relaxing before your final destination.

Day 7: Rome, Italy Disembark in Civitavecchia and spend a day exploring more of Rome or catching your departure flight.

2. Venice to Athens: The Adriatic and Aegean Marvels

Day 1: Venice, Italy Begin your cruise in the romantic city of Venice. Explore the winding canals, visit St. Mark’s Basilica, and enjoy a gondola ride.

Day 2: Dubrovnik, Croatia Discover the medieval charm of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Walk along the city walls or explore the historic streets and vibrant markets.

Day 3: Kotor, Montenegro Sail into the stunning Bay of Kotor, surrounded by mountains. Visit the medieval old town and hike up to the ancient fortress for panoramic views.

Day 4: Corfu, Greece Explore the lush landscapes of Corfu. Visit the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or relax on the beautiful beaches.

Day 5: Santorini, Greece Experience the breathtaking beauty of Santorini with its white-washed buildings and crystal-clear waters. Explore Oia, known for its stunning sunsets.

Church in Fira, OIa, Santorini, Mediterranean.

Day 6: Mykonos, Greece Visit the lively Mykonos with its iconic windmills, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful beaches.

Day 7: Athens, Greece Disembark in Athens, the cradle of Western civilization. Explore the Acropolis, Parthenon, and other ancient wonders before concluding your cruise.

3. Rome to Barcelona: Western Mediterranean Delights

Day 1: Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.  Embark on your journey in Civitavecchia and explore the historical treasures of Rome.

Day 2: Naples, Italy.  Discover the archaeological wonders of Pompeii or explore the beauty of the Amalfi Coast.

Day 3: Palma de Mallorca, Spain.  Relax on the beaches of Palma de Mallorca or explore the historic Old Town with its impressive Gothic cathedral.

Day 4: Marseille, France.  Experience the cultural richness of Marseille and its picturesque Old Port.

Day 5: Monte Carlo, Monaco.  Indulge in the luxury of Monte Carlo, visit the famous casino, and explore the charming streets of this glamorous principality.

Day 6: Barcelona, Spain.  Conclude your cruise in Barcelona. Visit the famous Park Güell or stroll along the lively La Rambla before disembarking.

Day 7: Barcelona, Spain.  Extend your stay in Barcelona to explore more of this enchanting city or head to the airport for your departure.

These 7-day Mediterranean cruise itineraries offer a perfect balance of cultural exploration, historical wonders, and picturesque landscapes. Depending on your interests, you can choose the itinerary that resonates most with your travel preferences.

Sailing Through Seasons: When to Book Your Mediterranean Cruise

Booking your Mediterranean cruise at the right time is crucial to secure the best deals and ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience. Here are some considerations for when to book your Mediterranean cruise:

  1. Book Early for Choice and Discounts:
    • 6-12 Months in Advance: For the best selection of cabins, itineraries, and early booking discounts, consider booking your Mediterranean cruise 6 to 12 months in advance. This is especially important if you have specific preferences for cabin location or if you are planning to travel during peak seasons.
  2. Take Advantage of Wave Season:
    • January to March: Wave Season, which typically runs from January to March, is a popular time for cruise promotions and special deals. Cruise lines often offer incentives such as onboard credits, free upgrades, or discounted fares during this period.
  3. Last-Minute Deals for Flexibility:
    • 2-3 Months Before Departure: If you are flexible with your travel dates and cabin preferences, you might find last-minute deals 2 to 3 months before the departure date. However, keep in mind that availability may be limited, and this approach is riskier for popular itineraries or peak travel times.
  4. Consider Off-Peak Times for Savings:
    • Off-Peak Seasons: If your schedule allows, consider booking during the shoulder seasons (spring or fall) to take advantage of lower prices. Cruising during off-peak times not only offers potential cost savings but also provides a more relaxed and less crowded experience at popular tourist sites.
  5. Be Mindful of Peak Seasons:
    • Summer and Holiday Periods: The summer months, especially June to August, are peak times for Mediterranean cruises. If you plan to travel during these months or over holidays, it’s advisable to book well in advance to secure your preferred accommodations and itineraries.
  6. Monitor Promotions and Sales:
    • Throughout the Year: Keep an eye on cruise line promotions and sales throughout the year. Cruise lines may offer limited-time deals, discounts, or added perks, and staying informed can help you snag the best offers.
  7. Consider Repositioning Cruises:
    • When Announced: Repositioning cruises, which occur when cruise ships move from one region to another, can offer unique itineraries at attractive prices. Keep an eye on announcements for repositioning cruises that include Mediterranean ports.

Remember that booking early provides the advantage of more choices, but last-minute deals may offer significant savings for those who can be flexible with their plans. Ultimately, the best time to book your Mediterranean cruise depends on your preferences, budget, and flexibility.

Must-see, tour and shop in the Med

When embarking on a Mediterranean cruise.  The diverse array of destinations provides a rich tapestry of cultural, historical, and scenic experiences. Here are must-see attractions, recommended tours, and shopping suggestions at key Mediterranean ports:

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Mediterranean.Barcelona, Spain – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Gothic Quarter.

Tour: Gaudi Architecture Tour or Barcelona City Highlights.

Shop: La Boqueria Market for fresh produce and local delicacies, Passeig de Gràcia for high-end fashion.

Rome, Italy, Mediterranean.Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican City.

Tour: Skip-the-Line Colosseum and Vatican Tours or Rome Highlights Tour.

Shop: Via Condotti for luxury brands, Campo de’ Fiori for local crafts and souvenirs.

Acropolis Athens, Greece.Athens, Greece – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Tour: Acropolis and Museum Tour or Athens City Highlights.

Shop: Plaka District for traditional Greek crafts, Ermou Street for modern shopping.

Dubrovnik, MediterraneanDubrovnik, Croatia:

Must-See: Old Town Walls, Stradun, Rector’s Palace.

Tour: Game of Thrones Filming Locations Tour or Dubrovnik City Walk.

Shop: Old Town Market for local products, Dubrovnik’s Konavle Artisan Village.

Venice, Italy, MediterraneanVenice, Italy – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Grand Canal.

Tour: Gondola Ride and Serenade or Venice Walking Tour.

Shop: Rialto Market for fresh produce, Murano Island for glassware.

Santorini, Greece, MediterraneanSantorini, Greece – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Oia, Fira, Akrotiri Archaeological Site.

Tour: Santorini Caldera Cruise or Wine Tasting Tour.

Shop: Fira’s Gold Street for jewellery, Oia’s Boutiques for local crafts.

Naples, Italy, MediterraneanNaples, Italy:

Must-See: Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Tour: Pompeii and Amalfi Coast Day Trip or Naples City Sightseeing.

Shop: Via Toledo for fashion, Spaccanapoli for traditional crafts.

Istanbul, Turkey, MediterraneanIstanbul, Turkey – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace.

Tour: Bosphorus Cruise or Istanbul Old City Walking Tour.

Shop: Grand Bazaar for traditional goods, Istiklal Street for modern shopping.

Iconic Windmill - Myknons, GreeceMykonos, Greece – Click here for more information on this port:

Must-See: Mykonos Windmills, Little Venice, Delos Archaeological Site.

Tour: Delos Island Day Trip or Mykonos Walking Tour.

Shop: Matoyianni Street for fashion, Mykonos Market for local products.

Cannes, France, Mediterranean at night.Cannes, France:

Must-See: La Croisette, Palais des Festivals, Le Suquet.

Tour: French Riviera Day Trip or Cannes Walking Tour.

Shop: Rue d’Antibes for upscale shopping, Forville Market for local produce.

Remember to check the cruise excursions offered by your cruise line for guided tours and experiences at each port. These recommendations provide a starting point, but each destination has much more to offer for those eager to explore and immerse themselves in the local culture.
Your first Mediterranean cruise is not just a vacation; it’s an immersion into a world of diverse cultures, delectable cuisines, and awe-inspiring sights. Armed with this detailed guide, you’re now well-equipped to savour every moment of your cruise, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Bon voyage!

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