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Winter is my favorite time to cruise in the Mediterranean. The crowds are less, the weather is not scorching hot, the atmosphere is more calm and relaxing.
A winter cruise in the Mediterranean is a completely different experience though. While the weather is usually still milder than many places, it is definitely not a beach-y vacation. But if you want to see some amazing destinations, explore and are ok with it not being hot, you are in for a real treat.
10 Tips You Need To Know Before Your Mediterranean Winter Cruise
I recently was invited on a 8 day Eastern Mediterranean cruise by Celestyal Cruises and my husband and I had a wonderful time. Until March 31, 2020 they have an amazing sale going on with cruises starting at $489/person. Hurry up and see if you can snatch a deal. This was my first winter cruise and I have a few helpful tips for you next Mediterranean winter cruise that you need to know before you go:
Pack Layers & Pack Light
Leave your thick sweaters at home. They are bulky to pack, hard to wash, and heavy. They also can be uncomfortably hot when you are inside. And the Mediterranean countries do not get super cold, even in winter.
I highly recommend to pack layers instead. Bring clothes that you can mix and match with each other. I like to bring a few long-sleeve shirts or blouses, a few tank tops for colder days underneath, and a few cardigans in various warmths.
As a top layer, I bring this 3-in-1 jacket from Tommy Hilfiger. I love this jacket. So convenient and perfect for every occasion.
For travel pants, I like to bring 1-2 thin jeans, 1 pair of slacks and 1 pair of hiking/travel pants, and a few leggings. I can layer those under my other pants if it is really cold or wear with a longer tunic-style shirt.
For dressier occasions, I bring 1-2 nice tops to wear with slacks, a few fun scarfs, as well as a long-sleeve dress.
My husband brings a few undershirts, a few button-down shirts, and a few thin sweaters or cardigans to layer on top the button down shirts. He also brings 1-2 long-sleeve button downs, a sport coat, jeans and 1 pair of slacks as well as 1-2 ties.
Laundry is usually pretty cheap on cruises, so take advantage of that as well. We paid only 20 EUR for a large bag with next day delivery (~ 1 weeks worth of underwear and socks for 2 people, 8x shirts, 4x pants, 2x pajamas). This makes your suitcase easier to handle, and leaves more room for souvenirs.
While winter is technically off-season, most cruise companies reduce their number of sailings to accommodate for lesser demand. That means, even in the off-season, but especially if you are traveling during major holidays, the best cabins for winter Mediterranean cruises can book up quickly.
If you plan to travel during Thanksgiving week, Christmas break until the first week of January, I highly recommend to book a few months in advance. If you are more flexible and can travel during non-peak time, I would highly recommend it to avoid the biggest of crowds.
Find A Great Winter Cruise Itinerary
Picking a great itinerary is especially essential on a winter cruise in the Mediterranean. Cruising during that time is less about fun in the sun and beach time, but more about cultural and historic places.
Pick a cruise that takes you to places that have more to offer than beaches and snorkeling, such as great museums, castles, or palaces so you have some indoor alternatives in case the weather is not so great.
On our recent cruise in December, we visited 3 continents: Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Turkey. While we were lucky with the weather in each of our destinations, we spent quite a bit of time inside. And remember to pack a good raincoat in case you do experience some not so great weather.
Know What To Expect From A Winter Cruise
Yes, the winter in the Mediterranean is milder than in most places. Freezing temperatures are rare, but they do happen. So does rain and the occasional gloomy day. So if you are looking for HOT weather and beach time, snorkeling excursions and sunbathing, a Mediterranean winter cruise might not be the right thing for you.
However, if you prefer milder, spring-like temperatures, fewer crowds, and a romantic walk on the beach makes you equally as happy as frolicking in the water for hours, a winter cruise might be just the right choice for you.
Prepare For Rougher Seas
As the weather is colder during the winter months, the sea can also be a bit rougher than in the summer. We had two rough nights at sea, where we sailed across the open water of the Mediterranean. While it wasn’t dangerous in any way, the waves were very noticeable and strong enough that some of our belongings rolled off our table and shelves. Our ship, the Celestyal Crystal, had stabilizers which made it a lot smoother though.
If you have even the slightest notion to get seasick, I highly recommend to bring your medication along and take it, if need be.
Plan Your Shore Excursions Carefully
Do some research about the weather at the ports on your itinerary before you sign up for any excursions. Also check if there are any alternatives offered, if the weather is bad and if you can get a refund for bad weather or if it is considered “an act of god”.
If you do decide to sign up for an activity that takes place mostly outdoors, make sure that you bring some appropriate clothing. I always say: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing mixed with a bad attitude.” If you can stay warm, dry and have a positive attitude, you can still have tons of fun, even if the weather is not so great.
Pay Attention To Time In Port
Depending on the cruise line, you have more or less hours in port. Make sure that those hours in port are taking advantage of the most daylight hours. During the winter, it can get dark quite early, so make sure you pick an itinerary that offers you the most daylight hours in port.
This was one of the reasons why I really fell in love with Celestyal Cruises. They have some of the longest times in port I have ever seen on any cruise line. In Egypt, we had 15+ hours of shore time. Some of their cruise stops in Greece even offer overnight stays in some ports (Mykonos), so you can watch the sunset from land and take advantage of the local nightlife.
Helpful Things You Should Pack
- Rain coat (I already mentioned my favorite one above!)
- A waterproof bag or a few ziplock bags to keep things like your camera or passports dry in your purse/backpack.
- Books/Kindle to keep you occupied during sea days and not so great weather.
- Travel Towel for your backpack/purse – just in case you get caught in a downpour.
- The right attitude to make the best out of your trip.
Check If Kids Clubs & Other Amenities Are Open
During winter cruises, some of the amenities on the ship might not be open due to low demand. For example, not all bars might be staffed at all hours, or the kids club might be closed during non-school holiday sailings. Make sure to check ahead, if you plan to use specific amenities during your winter cruise.
If you are cruising during the winter Holidays, I not only recommend to book early, but also a few other things. When you are away from your home, family, and friends for the Holidays, you might want to bring along a little something to remind you of them.
Our cruise ship was beautifully decorated for the Holidays. There were Christmas trees and Gingerbread houses everywhere. We sailed during the first half of December, but if I were to sail during the Holidays directly, I would bring 1-2 of my favorite Christmas decorations from home to put up that remind me of home. I also would have a scheduled Face-Time call to connect with my loved ones at home and wish them Happy Holidays. Maybe there is a way you can bring your favorite Holiday tradition with you on your cruise?
Also keep in mind that people like to dress up more festively during the Holidays, so maybe bring 1-2 more dressy outfits for your dinners and Holiday parties. Maybe you even have a special Holiday-themed outfit you want to bring for some photos?
Don’t forget the presents – if your traveling companions do that kind of thing. However, I think a Holiday cruise might be the perfect occasion to focus on giving experiences rather than things. That way, you don’t have to worry about packing, wrapping, and breaking your gifts and can rather make some amazing memories together.
A Mediterranean winter cruise is a unique experience, but certainly a lot of fun. I actually prefer cruising in the winter, because I don’t like HOT weather and prefer to visit places when they are not as crowded.
To book this winter cruise I mentioned above, just go to the Celestyal Cruise website and read more details about sailing dates, cabins and of course to go through the booking process.
A big thank you again for the team from Celestyal who invited us on this cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean in December and made this trip possible. Thank you Chuck, Marios, and Frosso for taking such great care of us.
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Top 10 Helpful Tips For Your Mediterranean Winter Cruise was written by Maria Haase for EuropeUpClose.