10 Things I Wish I knew Before Going on my Mediterranean Cruise [Mistakes to Avoid]

things to know before going on a mediterranean cruise

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If you’re going on a Mediterranean cruise for the first time, there are some things you’ll want to know before you go. If you’ve been on a Caribbean or Alaska cruise, a European cruise is different in many ways.

We loved our 7 day Mediteranean cruise from Barcelona to Rome. However, even though I did a lot of research, there were still a few things I wish I knew before my cruise.

In this post I share 10 things to know before your Mediterranean cruise, for the best experience on your cruise ship, ports of call, and embarkation/debarkation ports.

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Things to Know Before Going on a Mediterranean Cruise

1. Booking Flights: Fly in Early & Fly Out Late

mediterranean cruise

When planning your flights for a Mediterranean cruise, it’s essential to think ahead. Arriving at least two days before the cruise departure gives you the necessary time to adjust to the time difference and overcome any jet lag.

It’s also a mistake to not take time to visit your embarkation day port before the cruise. Our cruise began in Barcelona, and flying in 2 days early gave us time to explore the amazing city.

Additionally, consider scheduling your return flight a day or two after the cruise ends. This allows for time to visit and explore your disembarkation port city at the end of your cruise.

In this way, you’ll enhance the overall cruise travel experience, and make the most of your time both on and off the ship.

Related: 37 Carry-on Essentials to Pack ifor a Flight

2. Choose Your Hotel Wisely: Location Matters

mediterranean cruise hotel

When selecting a hotel for before or after your Mediterranean cruise, it’s important to choose wisely.

Here are some things to consider:

Walking Distance

Book a hotel within walking distance or close to public transportation for easy access to major sights. You’ll appreciate being in close proximity to the major attractions and sights to see.

Hotel Reviews

Check hotel reviews carefully. Look for issues with hotel condition, cleanliness and service. Check the recent photos from guests. Unfortunately, not all hotels will be represented in their present condition on the hotel website.


Prioritize safety and security. It’s not worth saving money to stay anywhere that isn’t safe and secure.


Look for hotels with extra comforts and amenities, like a rooftop pool. I never would have have looked for this, but our pre-cruise hotel in Barcelona had a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant with light bites.

It was such a pleasure to have this refreshing retreat after a day of exploration of a busy and bustling city!

3. Balancing Excursions: Mix Long and Short Days

When planning shore excursions, aim for a balance between long and short tours and activities. While it can be tempting to pack in as much exploration as possible in every port, in reality it can be exhausting.

By incorporating lengthier adventures, such as full-day tours or immersive cultural experiences, you can delve deeply into the richness of each destination. However, equally important is carving out time for shorter excursions that provide a more leisurely pace, allowing you to savor the charm of the surroundings at your own rhythm.

It’s also important to plan for moments of downtime aboard the ship. Cruises offer an array of amenities and activities, and taking the time to unwind onboard ensures a more enjoyable overall experience.

Whether it’s lounging by the pool, indulging in spa treatments, or simply appreciating the sunset from the deck, this balance is what makes traveling by cruise a perfect way to travel through the Mediterranean.

4. Navigating Cruise Ports: Unexpected Charges

mediterranean cruise

If you’re coming from North America, there are some differences you’ll want to prepare for in cruise ports.

Pay-per-use Public Restrooms

Depending where you travel, you may find that you need to pay the bathroom. Always keep a few euros for those unexpected pay-per-use public restrooms.

Restaurant Cover Charges

Keep your eye out for potential cover charges in restaurants and cafes offering table service. It’s not uncommon for the price to vary based on if you’re taking food to go or if you’re going to be occupying a table.

Drinking Water

It’s not typical to get tap water at restaurants. You can expect to purchase a bottle of still or sparkling water for table.

5. Protecting Valuables: Guard Against Pickpockets


Safeguarding your valuables against petty theft is crucial when navigating the busy European cities. The Mediteranean region, known for its bustling markets and crowded attractions, can pose pickpocketing risks.

It’s important to be vigilant, even though you’re on vacation. Here are a few tips to avoid pickpockets, tourist scams and being the victim of petty theft.


Don’t place purses or bags on chairs in restaurants or public spaces. Keep your handbag on your lap or wear a cross body bag in the front of you.

For an extra layer of security, consider utilizing a money belt, discreetly tucked away beneath your clothing. This hidden compartment ensures essential items like cash, credit cards, and identification remain close to your person, adding an extra barrier against potential theft.

Protect Your Passport

Consider leaving passports on the ship or in a hotel safe or safety deposit box. Take photos and keep a photocopy or digital copy for added security.

Related: How to Keep Your Belongings Safe on a Cruise Vacation

6. Dine Like a Local: Avoid Touristy Restaurants

mediterranean cruise restaurant

Avoid touristy restaurants in cities like Barcelona, Rome, and Athens to get the best taste, price and experience. Unfortunately, the restaurants in the main tourist areas are often overpriced and lack authenticity.

Instead, try local recommendations and visit restaurants that are a few streets away from the main area. These days, google reviews are a huge help. However, in our experience, you’ll get the best recommendations by asking the locals (shopkeepers, bellhops, residents).

Not only will the food likely be better and more reasonably priced, but you’ll get a small opportunity for cultural immersion, interact with residents, and witness daily life.

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7. Excursion Planning: Book Tickets and Tours in Advance

Whether you book shore excursions with the cruise line, a third party or visit on your own, be sure to book tickets for popular attractions and tours ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

A mistake I made on my Mediterranean cruise, was planning meticulously for the cruise ports of call, while neglecting the land travel portion planning in my embarkation and debarkation ports.

While we had a wonderful time, sadly I missed out on an inside visit of Sagrada Familia while in Barcelona and was limited in tour options in Rome. Tourist sites are popular, so plan accordingly.

Related: Pre-Excursion Checklist: 16 Things to Do Before a Cruise Port Day

8. Pack Smart: Do’s and Don’ts

mediterranean cruise packing

When preparing for a Mediterranean cruise, streamline your packing with versatile clothing that can easily mix and match. This will allow you to create different outfits without overpacking.

When it comes to electronic and tech items, be sure to pack a universal travel adapter and portable chargers. Opt for a foldable tote or pool bag for sea days, and consider a small backpack for onshore excursions.

Pack a basic first aid kit and necessary medications, and don’t forget essential documents. Remember to check weather forecasts for each destination and be aware of cruise line policies and what not to pack for a cruise.

Related: What to Pack for a Mediterranean Cruise

things I wish I knew before my mediterranean cruise
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9. Comfortable Footwear: A Must for Exploring

Comfortable walking shoes or sneakers are a must when it comes to making the most of your Mediterranean cruise. It’s worth investing in stylish, comfortable footwear for your cruise ship and ports.

For warmer days or destinations with a more relaxed vibe, packing comfortable walking sandals is a great choice. Look for sandals with cushioning and support to navigate the cobblestone streets and uneven steps you may encounter in the historic cities of the Mediteranean.

Related: What I Wore on My Mediterranean Cruise

10. Shopping Strategically: Take Advantage of VAT Refunds

If you plan to shop for items in Europe, inquire about VAT refunds to potentially save money on large purchases. This includes luxury handbags, belts and shoes – there are some great opportunities for retail therapy in Rome, Barcelona, Florence etc.

This was something I only became aware of through a participating retail store. However, by applying for a VAT refund, I was able to save about 200 Euros.

It’s a pretty simple procedure. However, it’s a good idea research the specific VAT refund procedures and requirements of the country you’re visiting, as these may vary. There may also be minimum purchase requirements thresholds to meet the criteria for a VAT refund.

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Final Thoughts on Planning for a Mediterranean cruise and Mistakes to Avoid

Planning and getting ready for a Mediterranean cruise is exciting! However, there are some things cruise travelers can do to avoid potential mistakes and ensure a better cruise.

In this post I shared Mediterranean cruise tips as well as lessons I learned during our own cruise vacation.

Have you done a Mediterranean cruise or are you planning to? Please let me know your tips and advice in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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