There are so many advantages to seeing a new part of world from your balcony each morning and stepping ashore into a bustling city or cute seaside town without the hassle of navigating roads and a GPS recalculating every few kilometres while everyone gets flustered just getting there.
But there are two great things (actually a gazillion things really!) about a Mediterranean cruise that keep people returning to these famous waters again and again.
The first is the huge choice of ships; from small luxury ships that can dock at more remote ports and offer a much more intimate experience, to the large floating palaces with so many onboard activities and restaurants and bars you’ll be kept as busy as you want to be without even getting off.
The second reason to put a Mediterranean cruise on your bucket list is the remarkable, historic and picturesque destinations you wake up to each day to head off and explore, creating memories of a lifetime.
I think a cruise is a bit like a smorgasbord or a collection of tapas dishes on a large table where you get to sample a tiny taste of everything, but never overindulge in a full meal. Cruises are ideal for your first visit to a place and, a bit like that menu, when you’ve tried everything you can you then go back and plan what you’d like to taste again and eat more of next time. One cruise is likely to get you hooked!
Cruises are also great fun across the generations with plenty of onboard activities for all ages from kids clubs to spas, outdoor movies and adult-only areas, cooking classes to wave pools and rock climbing walls. Not to mention the swimming pools surrounded by deck chairs and outdoor seating for lunching together under a big blue sky.
Here are my tips for how to get the most out of your cruise:
1. You can board your ship any time from about midday, so I’d suggest you get there nice and early, get settled into your cabin, unpack and stow your bags, then head off to orientate yourself with the ship.
2. Book your shore excursions as soon as you can – if you haven’t already pre-booked from home. The best ones fill up quickly, so if you have your heart set on the VIP Tour of Rome (for example) you won’t want to miss out.
3. However, don’t feel that you need to have a booked excursion each day. Some destinations are so easy to get around on your own and at others it’s fun to rent your own quad bike (I did that in Santorini) or negotiate a rate with a private driver (usually cheaper than the ship’s official excursion) and head off for the day (we did this in Kusadasi, Turkey).
4. But beware of being late back if you’re doing your own thing! You will have it drummed in again and again onboard that if you are not on an official tour, the ship will not wait for you! However, don’t let that scare you, just be back early.
5. As soon as you get on, check the itinerary and make plans for your sea days. If you want a spa treatment, be quick to book that in. In fact, head up there for the tours they give on embarking day and grab that hot stone massage appointment quick smart!
6. Meals are something to consider too. All your meals in the main dining room (often at a seated time pre-selected by you or your agent) and the open plan buffet are included, as is tea, coffee, water and some soft drinks. But depending on the size of the ship, there are speciality restaurants that offer really unique menus and service for a special occasion. I’d suggest booking these for sea days as you might find it a rush getting back from your day on shore.
7. Many ships offer a drinks plan that can be purchased once onboard. These are a flat daily fee and will cover unlimited soda and most alcohol (maybe not the top shelf!) If you plan on a cocktail at the end of each day and a couple of wines with your meal, plus sodas during the day, it might be worth it.
8. After your cruise, stay two or three days at the end to spend a longer amount of time exploring, shopping, relaxing, meeting up with friends or even taking a rail trip perhaps to Paris, depending on where you finish.
Oh, and there’s a third reason why Mediterranean cruises are so popular: there is always somewhere new to visit, ships to experience and people to meet. Bon voyage!
What would your top cruising tip be? Let us know in the comments below.