Is it ever the wrong time to cruise the Mediterranean? Sitting down to a fresh plate of seafood paella and a glass of chardonnay is a lovely experience year-round. Whether you cruise the Mediterranean in the winter, spring or fall, you’ll have plenty to see, taste and explore –– all in one voyage. From Athens to Barcelona and everything in between, the Mediterranean offers unforgettable experiences all year.
With that said, you likely have specific preferences when it comes to world travel, and seasons can affect the type of experience you have. By considering when to cruise the Mediterranean, you can plan a voyage that suits your needs and desires best. Weigh the pros and cons of peak season and low season in this enchanting part of the world to decide what time of year is best for you to travel.
What’s Important to You?
Before you consider the pros and cons of the different seasons, it’s a good idea to consider what’s most important to you. What do you want to experience most during your Mediterranean cruise? What elements are critical to having a satisfying voyage?
Here are questions to ask yourself before you book your cruise. Your answers to these questions will help you determine the best time of year to visit the Mediterranean according to your unique travel preferences.
1. Do You Mind Crowds?
How do you feel about crowds of people on your trip? The peak season for Mediterranean cruises runs from May through August, with July and August being the most popular months. Peak season is when students are out of school, and vacationers flock to the warm, sunny beaches and coastal attractions. If you don’t mind a lot of fellow travelers and would prefer to visit when it’s hot and sunny, you might want to cruise the Mediterranean in the summer. On the other hand, if crowded places make you uncomfortable, it’s probably worth cruising the Mediterranean when everyone else has returned to work or school.
2. What Weather Do You Enjoy?
Next, consider the type of weather you enjoy the most, so you’re comfortable as you explore different sites. A Mediterranean climate typically ranges between 30 F and 100 F, with hot, dry summers and wet, mild winters. You’ll also want to think about rain and how much you’re willing to tolerate to avoid crowds. For example, November is the wettest month in Rome, and July is the driest. July is also during the peak tourist season in Rome. So, ask yourself what’s more important –– avoiding rain or avoiding crowds?
Overall, many Mediterranean destinations rarely see extreme temperatures on either end of the spectrum, but the weather is still something you’ll want to consider. If you feel like you need sunny, warm weather to enjoy your cruise to the fullest, you may want to prioritize the weather when planning your trip. If you don’t mind rain or look forward to slipping into a cozy sweater when temperatures drop, you’ll have more options to escape the crowds.
3. What Activities Are Important to You?
Consider what you want to do the most at each port. For example, are you looking forward to celebrating art during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival? If so, make sure to book your cruise to Croatia some time from mid-July to the end of August. Maybe you can’t wait to tour different wineries and leave all your worries behind. In that case, you may want to cruise the Mediterranean in the fall to attend autumn wine and food festivals.
The goal is to think about what you want to do during your adventure, whether that be sunbathing on a Mediterranean beach or eating pizza with locals as you watch the rain trickle down medieval rooftops. It’s all about the experience you want to have.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Peak vs. Off-Peak Season
After you do some soul searching and consider your traveling priorities, it’s time to consider the pros and cons. Comparing the pros and cons will help you get a complete picture of what to expect during each season, and ultimately help you choose the right time to cruise.
Peak Season Pros
Peak season, which generally runs from late spring to the end of summer, has its benefits, and there are reasons why many travelers sail this time of the year –– despite the crowds. Here are a few reasons you may want to cruise the Mediterranean in spring or in summer:
- Gorgeous beach weather: If you want your Mediterranean cruise to involve as much beach time as possible, peak season might be the best choice for you. You can expect seemingly endless sunshine and ideal weather for swimming or scuba diving. If swimming isn’t a priority to you, consider visiting in May or June when the weather is warm and sunny, and beaches are a little less crowded. The water may not be warm enough for swimming in the early part of peak season, but you can enjoy lounging on the beach.
- Longer days: During peak season, you’ll have more daylight than if you travel in the off-season. More sunlight may be perfect if you want as much time as possible to explore outdoor attractions. For example, you can take your time kayaking off the coast of Croatia or hiking along the shores in Malta. You don’t have to worry as much about heading back before it gets dark.
- Vast selection of cruises: Peak season is a busy time year, which means you’ll be able to find a wide range of cruises to suit your dreams. So, if you can’t decide whether you want to stroll along the Grand Canal in Venice or dine at the base of Mount Etna in Sicily, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a cruise that allows you to do both.
- Exciting and energetic: If you want to experience the magical energy and excitement of the Mediterranean when ports are alive with travelers and locals, you’ll enjoy peak season. It can also be a great time to travel if you love to kick back at a bustling cafe and people-watch.
- Lighter packing: When you travel when the weather is warm, you can leave bulky winter jackets, sweaters, and layers of clothing at home. Swimsuits, capris and sandals take up a lot less space in a suitcase.
Peak Season Cons
Although the Mediterranean looks picture-perfect during the summer, with crystalline waters hugged by lush vegetation, many travelers know it’s a feast for the senses during this time of year. Therefore, you can expect the disadvantages that come with crowds. Here are the main cons of cruising during peak season:
- Crowds: For some travelers, hordes of tourists are enough to make them reconsider cruising during peak season. During the summer, you can expect to find tourists from around the world flocking to popular attractions and beaches. Although it’s possible to cruise to more secluded ports during high season, you’ll want to consider traveling during the off-season if avoiding crowds is your priority.
- Must plan carefully: With more people traveling during the summer and increased demand for rooms on a cruise, you need to plan further in advance to ensure you can book your dream vacation. You’ll also want to plan weeks ahead of time to find better deals on airfare during peak season. So, if you like to travel on a whim, know that it can be challenging to find available accommodations during the summer unless you book well in advance.
- Heat: The Mediterranean, particularly in southern regions, can feel sweltering during July and August. For example, temperatures in Athens average 82 degrees F in July and August, but can sometimes climb to 90 or higher. You can still make the most of a summertime cruise, just be prepared for excursions by bringing plenty of water and sunscreen.
- Longer lines: If you’d rather spend less time waiting for a seat at a popular restaurant and more time eating regional fare, you might prefer off-season travel. During peak season, you can expect an abundance of travelers waiting to explore popular destinations and eateries alongside you.
Off-season generally includes the fall, winter and early spring. Many travelers recommended cruising during the “shoulder months” or the months that fall between low and high seasons, such as September or April. Late September, for example, could be the perfect month to enjoy pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Here are reasons to book a Mediterranean cruise when everyone else goes back to their routines:
- Fewer crowds: Late fall, winter, and early spring is when kids are in school, and families are done vacationing until summer rolls around again. Fewer travelers means the top attractions and ports will be less crowded and easier to enjoy. If you want to soak in the views of the Amalfi Coast while feeling like a local, travel during the off-season.
- Cooler temperatures: If you’re not in love with the heat, you’ll probably enjoy cruising the Mediterranean during the off-season. During the spring, for example, when the temperatures in the 50s and 60s, you can hike or relax at a waterfront cafe without breaking a sweat. If you cruise in the spring just before peak season begins to rise, you can also enjoy plenty of sunshine.
- Holiday shopping markets and festivals: During the winter, you’ll find holiday markets where you can shop for handmade treasures, sample regional fare, and listen to traditional music. In general, the holiday season can be a great time of year to experience the traditions and customs of Mediterranean regions. The off-season also offers various festivals, such as Las Fallas in March in Valencia or the Feria de Abril –– a week-long festival in Seville in April where you can go for food, live music and plenty of flamenco dancing.
- Time with locals: When you explore the Mediterranean during the off-season, you get to see life through the eyes of locals. You can dine at restaurants that stay open all year to serve locals, and have an authentic experience as you taste traditional food and listen to the chatter of another language. Without crowds of tourists demanding attention, you can also enjoy spending time with business owners and waitstaff who won’t feel as rushed. Cruising during the off-season allows you to slow down, and imagine living in a place surrounded by water, sunbaked houses, and breathtaking coastlines.
During the off-season, you can wander beaches and listen to the sounds of nature, shop for treasures at a leisurely pace, and ponder history as you gaze at medieval churches undisturbed. But, despite the peace and solitude that comes with an off-season cruise, it’s essential to consider the cons:
- Holiday hours: There are plenty of holidays throughout the Mediterranean that are celebrated during the off-season. Depending on where you go, this may affect business hours, and some stores, restaurants or attractions may be closed unexpectedly. Make sure to check the holiday calendar before you plan your trip, and consider if you’ll get to see and do everything you wanted to do.
- Poor weather: The weather is probably the biggest reason to avoid cruising during the off-season. During the winter, for example, rough water and strong winds can put a damper on your plans. Also, during the late fall and winter, temperatures are usually too cold to sunbathe on the beach. Lastly, the off-season months can see a lot of rain, so consider if you’re okay carrying an umbrella with you. Overall, if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors and don’t have much tolerance for cold or rain, you may want to plan a cruise for the spring or summer.
- Fewer options: During the colder months, it may be hard to find an itinerary that hits all the destinations on your bucket list. Many cruises head to the Caribbean during the winter to escape the cold and because hurricane season is over. You may have to wait until the end of winter to find a Mediterranean cruise that meets your needs.
- Closed attractions: During the winter, some attractions and tours may not be open, especially popular attractions that rely on tourists. If you want to travel without crowds, make sure the attractions you want to see will be open during your visit, and also check their business hours. However, if you plan on visiting museums and dining at top-rated restaurants, off-season may be the perfect time to cruise to the Mediterranean.
Start Planning Your Mediterranean Cruise With Windstar
Cruising the Mediterranean allows you to see the places of your dreams in a single journey, and there are options for every type of traveler. Whether you prefer uncrowded fishing villages or glamorous coastal cities, you’ll find something to take your breath away at any time of the year. The key to a pleasurable journey regardless of the season is to prepare ahead, know what to expect and remember to relax –– you’re exploring one of the most desirable regions in the entire world.
At Windstar Cruises, we’re ready to accommodate you. Whether you prefer the buzz of summertime beaches or the tranquility of sleepy harbors in the off-season, we offer Mediterranean cruises year-round. All of our cruises are designed to evoke your sense of wonder and bring you close to authentic experiences you’ll never forget. To start planning your Mediterranean cruise, reach out to a Windstar Vacation Planner today!
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