Whether you are a history buff, a club hopper, or you simply want to worship the sun, a Mediterranean cruise offers something for everyone. Every major cruise line offers a Mediterranean trip - Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, and Windstar Cruises - so you'll have plenty of options from which to choose. Here are some travel tips to help you plan.
Must-sees. The Mediterranean is a big area and each cruise line offers some variations in its itinerary. You probably don't want to miss the French Riviera (ooh la la!) or Italy's Amalfi Coast, but perhaps you believe that the Greek Islands deserve a trip all their own. The destinations will vary, so decide on your must-see locations ahead of time to help you narrow down your choices.
Pace. Would you rather spend a few days at each port or would you prefer to see as many places as possible because you never know when you might have the opportunity again? There's no right or wrong here - only personal preference. But if you are more of a slow lingerer, then a cruise with a whirlwind pace is not the right choice for you.
Style. Cruise lines tend to have a "signature" style. You'll want to find the one that matches your own personal style. When it comes to entertainment, do you prefer educational lectures or a casino? Some allow children while others don't. Do you like a 24-hour food buffet or do you plan on catching up on some much-needed shut-eye? All of these factors will contribute to the atmosphere on the ship and it's important for you to decide on your preferences. If you like all the bells and whistles, go for the boat with the climbing wall, ice rink and wave pool. You know yourself better than anyone else - what's your idea of a good time?
Time of year. The best time of year to plan a trip depends upon your priorities. If you are trying to save money or book a slot at the last minute, you'll need to travel off-season. Otherwise, you'll probably want to go during peak season (June 1 - October 31) and expect to pay a peak season surcharge.
Advance planning. If you want to go during peak season, it's a wise idea to plan your trip well in advance. Of course, you can always hire someone to plan your vacation and book a cruise for you, although that's a service you'll pay for. If you reserve in advance, you're also more likely to get a cabin upgrade.
Extras. Is the water that's served bottled water? If you want a latte instead of a cup of plain joe, is that an "extra"? What is standard to one cruise line is extra to another and it is worth your while to compare so that you won't end up feeling nickel-and-dimed.
Tipping protocol. Different cruise lines have different tipping protocols and it's worth reading up on them in advance. If the suggestions seem out of line, then that's a cue that it may not be the right choice for you.
Point of departure. There are package deals that include a transatlantic flight, and cruises that include travel from the point of departure only. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples by checking details such as the airline and flight times. You might do better to use frequent flyer miles than to go for the package deal. If you have a fear of flying, there are even Mediterranean cruises that leave from Florida so that you can avoid an international flight. The trip will take you close to two months, but it does exist!
The Internet is your friend. You'll be able to access just about everything you need to plan (and envision) your Mediterranean cruise online, including the maps and photographs that will inspire you when the details get overwhelming! You can also browse the Web to find cruise deals and get an idea of what this type of vacation may cost. Also, check out review sites for first-hand accounts of your fellow travelers' experiences.