Top 10 tips for a Mediterranean cruise

This guide of 10 Mediterranean cruise tips will help you maximise your time in port, stay safe on a Medditernian cruise and save money on your next Medditernian sailing.

1. Cruise in the winter and save money 

The most popular time to cruise the Mediterranean is in the spring, summer and autumn months. This is when most cruise lines reposition ships from other parts of the world to the Mediterranean. While you will see more choice of cruise lines and itineraries it’s not always the best time to cruise the Mediterranean. The weather is hot, sometimes too hot, and the cruises can be very busy due to the school holidays. The increase in demand leads to higher prices and fewer deals available in the summer.

Costa Mediterranean cruise tips

Cruise lines such as MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises sail the Mediterranean year-round. During the winter months, you can find some cheap Mediterranean cruise deals. We have seen cruises for less than £50 per night in the winter.

While the weather is cooler and more unpredictable, the sights are just as impressive. In fact, we prefer to sail in October and November as its cooler than the summer months which can be too hot.

Mediterranean weather by month

Average temperatures for Barcelona. Data taken from WeatherSkark.

Tempriture °C Tempriture °F Number of Wet Days
January1355 5 (16%)
February1457 5 (18%)
March1559 8 (26%)
April1762 8 (27%)
May2373 8 (26%)
June2577 6 (20%)
July2984 4 (13%)
August3086 6 (19%)
September2678 8 (27%)
October2475 9 (29%)
November1457 5 (17%)
December1457 6 (19%)

2. Save money by planning your own shore excursions

Plan Your Ports

Cruise excursions are very expensive and you can save loads with research, planning and organising your own day in a port.

There is so much to do in each Medditernian port that we recommend you plan what you are going to do in each port. Time is limited in each port so its good to know what you are doing and make the most of it.

Most Mediterranian ports are packed with Art Galleries, Museums, historic buildings and markets. You can tour many of these yourself and a lot of them are even free.

If you are looking for something more relaxing there are plenty of open-top sightseeing tours. These are a good way to easily get a flavour and overview of a place. Remember that some cities, such as Rome and Barcelona, are notoriously bad for traffic so you may spend most of your time in traffic jams. If you would like something more guided and personal there are plenty of third-party tour operators that offer tours and experiences cheaper than the cruise line. TripAdvisor and Viator are a good place to find tours. Remember that you will need to be back to the ship before the all-aboard time as the ship will not wait for you.

3. Book attractions in advance

Book Attractions In Advance

Art Galleries, Museums, historic buildings can be very busy, particularly in the summer months. A top Mediterranean cruise tip is to book any attractions you would like to visit in advance.

Booking in advance is usually cheaper and you don’t have to wait in line which is important when you only have a few hours in a city.

Most of these allow you to book online and you can use a credit or debit card.

4. Use Local Transport

MSC Musica
Valetta cruise port is close to the city – Photo: Cruise with Ben & David

Getting around most Mediterranean ports is quite easy. You can find good local public transport links such as trains, metro, tram or buses. This is so much cheaper than cruise line transfers. We have seen cruise transfers for $30 per person when local transport was only €5 for an unlimited travel day pass.

While some ports are steps from the city centre such as Barcelona, Valetta or Gibraltar, remember that other ports, such as Civachevecia for Rome, are a fair distance from that city they advertise. Keep this in mind when planning out your day.

Most cities such as Genoa, Barcelona and Monaco are very walkable. We recommend picking up a local map, you can usually find these in the port, or download a good map app. google Maps even allow you to download maps to your phone so you don’t have to be connected to the internet.

5. What to pack for a Mediterranean cruise

Medditernian Cruise Packing Tips
During the winter we recommend you pack for all seasons. Photo: Cruise with Ben & David

Depending on the season there are a few essentials you will need to pack for your Mediterranian cruise. These medditernian cruise tips for your packing help you be prepared, no matter what time of year you sail.

Whatever season you sail you will be doing a lot of walking so comfortable walking shoes or sneakers/trainers are essential.

What to pack for a summer Mediterranean cruise

If you are sailing during the summer months we recommend you pack plenty of sun lotion, sunglasses, a sun hat or umbrella and light clothing. The summer months get very hot so pack a refillable water bottle and stay hydrated at all times.

On an evening it may get a little chilly, especially on the open decks, so we also recommend a light jacket, shawl or jumper/sweater too. In the summer you may also get the odd rain shower so always carry an umbrella or poncho.

What to pack for a winter Mediterranean cruise

During the winter the weather is more unpredictable. We recommend you pack for all seasons. There are days when is unseasonably cold and others where is unseasonably hot. We have even experienced multiple seasons in one day.

We always take layers and this way we can layer up or layer down if it warms up during the day. We still pack plenty of sun lotion, sunglasses and a sun hat plus a winter hat and scarf too if it’s a chilly day. The nights are also particularly chilly so pack a warm coat for the evening. An umbrella or rain jacket is also essential for the winter months.

Wherever you are sailing on, our Cruise Packing List can help you pack for your next cruise.

6. Be Aware of Pickpockets

Pickpockets are a big problem in many Mediterranian cities. While this should not put you off visiting a city, you should remain vigilant and keep this in mind.

Our Mediterranean cruise tips to stay safe from pickpockets are;

  • Keep your cash, cards and phone in a zipped pocket.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you.
  • Preferably use a credit card or currency card to pay for more expensive items.
  • Leave any valuables on the ship.
  • Don’t flash your expensive mobile phones, watch or jewellery around.
  • If you are using an expensive camera, keep it strapped around your kneck or wist.
  • Use an anti-theft backpack with an anti slash feature.

7. Never buy anything from a people selling on the street

You will find many people selling all sorts of goods in the streets. These are usually counterfeit sunglasses, handbags and clothing. Do not buy anything from these people as this is strictly illegal.

If someone approaches you firmly say no and walk away. Do not allow them to put anything on you such as a wristband as this locks you into a sale.

9. Don’t buy at the airport 

Gibraltar Port Shopping
Gibraltar is a popular cruise port for shopping.

If you would like to take any gifts, wine, cigarettes or food home with you we recommend you buy in the port rather than the airport. You may think that Airports are cheaper for duty-free but we always see wine cheaper in local supermarkets or at the ports duty-free shop.

Some ports have a much lower tax for certain items than others so plan your shopping in advance. Gibraltar is a popular port for shopping as there is no tax on purchases. For example, a carton of cigarettes is around £21-£23 and a bottle of spirits is around £12-£15.

Even though you are not allowed to bring alcohol back onboard, the cruise line will keep it for you until the end of the cruise.

10. Don’t Over Plan

Make time to relax on your Medditernian cruise.

The last of our Mediterranean cruise tips is to relax and enjoy yourself. Medditernian cruises are very port-intensive and tiring. On a 7 night sailing, you will have usually one sea day and two sea days on a 14-night sailing. These days a usually long and involve a lot of walking so its essential to carve out time for yourself to relax.

Also, don’t try and do everything in a port. It’s impossible and you are guaranteed to exhaust yourself. If you missed something, you can always catch it on your next cruise. Remember to leave time for yourself to grab a coffee, have a stroll around a market, do some shopping or grab lunch. This is how you can really experience a port.

Watch our Mediterranean Cruise Tips video

If you are looking for more Mediterranean cruise tips a great place to start is by watching our MSC Seaview Medditernian Cruise series.

David McDonald
As one half of Cruise with Ben & David I am a huge cruise enthusiast and have sailed on over 30 cruises. On dry land, I am a Head of Design at a digital media company based in London. I have had the opportunity to work with brands such as the Financial Times and The Telegraph.