For enjoying the coastal playgrounds of Europe or heading to the shores of the Holy Lands, cruising the Mediterranean Sea yields centuries-old ports steeped in history, culture, and religious icons, and tranquil little island villages.
The Mediterranean manages to reach into the past while delivering an incredible present. And port to port, measure for measure, your decision on where and when to go will be affected by many factors, including the weather, sea conditions, annual events, and pricing.
Overall, the best time to cruise the Western Mediterranean is from early April to late November.
In the spring, the weather is cool but comfortable and the crowds are small. Mediterranean cruises don’t really have the spring breakers that you find in North America, so there will be fewer children and university students if that’s a factor for you. The seas can be rough at times and rain is a definite possibility, but there are far worse places to be when it’s raining.
Early summer sees mild sailing conditions and milder weather, but the water is not really swimmable yet if you’re on the beach. The nicer weather of course brings higher fares, but this time is less busy than July and August, which yield the absolute best weather, sunny and dry, with the best sea conditions. Heatwaves are something to expect now, but nights are cooler, especially back on board. Keep in mind that Europeans are also on holiday during this time.
In the fall, you can still enjoy decent weather, and the crowds dwindle as do the prices. This is also a good season for traveling if you’re planning to visit any vineyards. Winter in the Western Mediterranean is to be avoided, as the sea is very rough and many local businesses will have closed up for the season. All the more reason for you to head to the Eastern Mediterranean at this time, is to visit countries that are hot and dry from October through March.
Consider a cruise to the more exotic destinations like Crete, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and around the Persian Gulf. Here, you are guaranteed winter sun and terrific weather for combing the religious sites, cruising the Nile River, or exploring the vibrant, modern cities that underline the Persian Gulf.
Best Time to Book a Cruise
The best time to make a cruise booking is from six months to a year in advance of the sailing. And as a general rule of thumb, booking early is your best bet.
The best cruise ship rates are those that are offered when fares are first released for sale. Booking right out of the gate also allows you to snap up the top-tier cabins or the most preferred routes and dates before they sell out. Know that there will definitely be sales to take advantage of by holding back, but biding your time is a bit of a gamble. You may not be comfortable waiting until the last minute and you may not get exactly what you want.
If you’re looking to cruise on popular dates such as during school holiday breaks, peak religious periods, or annual festivals, book extra early. With luxury cruises and new ships, the earlier the better, because the prices will increase as the ship fills up.