Sailboat Charter vs. Mediterranean Cruise:
Which one is right for you?
Are you thinking about exploring Europe on a Mediterranean cruise? Cruising is a great way to get a taste of Europe, but if you want a more intimate trip, a Sailboat charter might be a better option for you. I recently went on a Sailboat charter trip from Sardinia to Corsica with Intersailclub and it was a wonderful holiday. But while you are on a boat in both instances, your experience will be vastly different depending on whether you choose a sailboat or a cruise to explore the Mediterranean.
Which one is more expensive?
While I don’t think there is a wrong or right way to travel, I want you to know about all your options. For example, many of my friends and family (and myself as well), thought that a sailboat charter must be much more expensive than a Mediterranean cruise.
That is not necessarily true though, but it depends on your travel style. If you book an inside cabin, don’t drink and don’t do any excursions, then the cruise will probably be less expensive. On the other hand, a cabin on a sailboat charter might have a higher ticket price, but it includes much more than most cruises.
Depending on where you are sailing, your miscellaneous spending/eating out will most likely be less with a sailing holiday, because you’ll spend more time on the boat and explore more off-the-beaten-path locations and hidden beaches, rather than major cities and cruise ports where you’d be spending additional money on food, souvenirs, excursions and more, but you might want to make sure you have all the right gear for your sailing holiday.
Major cities and attractions vs hidden gems
Another big difference between a Mediterranean cruise and a sailboat charter is the itinerary. A sailboat is obviously much slower and cannot cover the same long distances as a cruise ship. So you have to decide whether you want to visit the main tourist hubs like Barcelona, Venice, and Dubrovnik, or do you want to cover a smaller area and explore hidden bays, beaches, and little fishing villages on your trip.
Many of the major cruise ports have 5 or more large cruise ships dock at the same time during high season. That means you’ll be exploring the city with 15-20000 other cruise daytrippers and it will be really hard to get off the beaten path during your 6-8 hours on shore. But it is a great way to see the major sights and check them off your bucket list.
If you do a sailboat charter, you have a much more flexible schedule. The weather and wind have a big influence on where you’ll go, so if you are a planner, who needs to know every detail about your trip weeks in advance, a sailboat vacation might not be the right thing for you. Also, you are most likely to do much less sightseeing. Instead of visiting top tourist destinations, you’ll explore small fishing villages and go swimming on hidden beaches that you can only get to by boat. At many of the beaches we stopped at, we were the only ones there. It was magical.
If you are willing to go with the flow and your motto on vacation is less is more, than sailing on a charter yacht might be your dream vacation.
Luxury vs Adventure
I am not saying that a sailboat is not luxurious, on the contrary. But if you are looking for Spa treatments, fine dining, and high-class entertainment, then a cruise will be a better option for you. On a cruise ship, you will have much more amenities and more variety to entertain yourself and the whole family. If you are not careful, all the various offers can actually be quite stressful.
I remember my first cruise, where my husband and I headed from activity to activity on our first day, listening to lectures to touring the galley and learning to fold animal towels. It was exhausting and we learned our lesson quite quickly to slow down and relax. Whether you take advantage of the activities or not, the offer is there and you will find something for every age and interest.
On a sailboat cruise, you have fewer activities and structured entertainment. But let me tell you: It wasn’t boring for one minute. While we were navigating, we could either get a hands-on crash course in sailing and help out, or relax and enjoy the ride, read, or lounge in the sun.
After we anchored, we either took the Dinghy to shore to explore the local town or swam and snorkeled, relaxed on the beach and played in the waves.
When we got hungry, our fabulous onboard chef had already prepared a delicious home-cooked meal with fresh ingredients and local flavors. At night, we drank wine and watched the sunset, ate dinner and talked with the other guests until finally the gentle swaying of the boat would rock us to sleep.
3500+ Passengers vs 6-15 Passengers
One of the most significant differences is obviously the number of passengers. It is actually quite interesting that you can feel much more alone on a boat with thousands of other passengers, than on a boat with just a handful of people.
In times, where popular tourist destination like Barcelona and Cinque Terre are fighting over-tourism and are thinking of limiting the number of tourists that go there, the impact of cruise ships is tremendous.
If you are on a sailboat, you can dock at the smallest port and explore small villages, where your money will go directly to family-owned business and restaurants and the sustainable flow of tourists mainly has a positive impact on the local economy.
On a sailboat, you are much more in contact with your fellow passengers and most likely, you will get to know them well fairly quickly. Aside from the Captain and the onboard chef, there was only one other couple with us on the sailboat, so after just a few days, these strangers turned into our little boat family and we still stay in touch to this day.
Sailboat Charter vs. Mediterranean Cruise: Which one should you choose?
While I can’t make the decision for you, I hope my points will help you decide which is the best option for your trip to Europe.
I personally would prefer the sailboat charter, because I love to explore off-the-beaten-path places and am not a fan of mass-tourism. I also like to support local, small businesses rather than large international corporations.
On the other hand, if I were to travel with extended family, which many cruise ship passengers do, I would prefer a cruise, because it allows for a nice mix of shared activities and enough space to do your own thing.
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Disclosure: Intersailclub invited me and my husband on this incredible sailing holiday. However, I am trying to be as objective as possible and my opinions are my own!