Venice- Mediterranean Cruise

12 Mediterranean Cruise Mistakes to Avoid

Are you going on a Mediterranean cruise? Mediterranean cruises are very different from Caribbean, Mexico or even Alaska cruises. It takes a little more planning to go on a Mediterranean cruise. To help you make the most of your cruise, here are some mistakes that you should avoid.

Mediterranean Cruise Mistakes to Avoid

1. Fly In at Least a Day Early

A common Mediterranean cruise mistake that people make is they try to fly in on the day of departure. As you may already know from my cruise tips, flying in on the day of departure is not a good idea because you risk flight delays, which can cause you to miss the ship. 

This is particularly true for Mediterranean cruises as you have to take an international flight, and going through the airport involves more steps. For example, if your cruise departure port is Civitavecchia (Rome), the airport is 45 minutes away from the cruise port. Adding the time it takes to go through immigration and customs, retrieving your luggage, and waiting for your Uber, you’re looking at a good three hours after arrival just to get to your cruise port. 

What’s more, flights in Europe are often canceled due to airport strikes. That’s why, flying in on the day of your cruise departure is a risky move since you might encounter a flight cancellation or delay, causing you to miss the ship. 

Another reason to fly in early is jetlag. If you’re flying in from the US, you’re likely to experience jetlag, and it’s best to give your body time to rest by flying in at least a day before your cruise departure.

Mediterranean cruise mistakes

2. Spend a Few Days at the Disembarkation Port

Another Mediterranean cruise mistake that people make is taking a flight out on the same day of embarkation. I suggest you stay at least a few nights after you get off the ship. 

For example if you are taking a Western Mediterranean cruise, you’ll most likely get off at either Barcelona or Rome. It’s nice to have some time to explore and see the sights in Barcelona or Rome. You’re already in Europe, it would be a shame to rush back home without taking the time to explore and make the most of your trip.

3. Choose Your Hotel Wisely

Another Mediterranean cruise mistake that people make is they assume European hotels are like the hotels in the US. However, the standards are sometimes not the same. 

For example, you should always check if your hotel has air conditioning. Many hotels in Europe are in older buildings and lack air conditioning. 

Another thing you should know about traveling in European cities is that their metro system (subway) is really efficient and many people use it. So it’s best to find a hotel near a metro station so you can easily commute to the city’s main attractions. But do make sure to read the hotel reviews because some hotels near major train stations can be a bit sketchy and may not be safe. 

You should also take into account how far the cruise port is to the main tourist attractions. For example, if you are getting off at the Civitavecchia Cruise Port which is the port for Rome, I don’t recommend you stay at a hotel in Civitavecchia to tour Rome. It’s too far, it takes an hour and 12 minutes to reach Rome. So if you plan to go sightseeing in Rome, it’s better to book a hotel in Rome, not Civitavecchia.

4. Don’t Overschedule

Many people make the mistake of scheduling back-to-back shore excursions every day when they go on a Mediterranean cruise. This can be too exhausting since Mediterranean itineraries usually have consecutive port days with very few sea days. 

For example, a Western Mediterranean cruise typically has only one day at sea, and you are at a port every single day. Although it is tempting to overschedule and book full-day shore excursions every day, it will leave you feeling exhausted. 

If you are traveling with kids, they will complain. I suggest giving yourself a break and doing some half-day tours. I know it can be hard, especially if it’s your first time in Europe!

5. Don’t Wing It

Some people make the mistake of not booking shore excursions when they go on a Mediterranean cruise. They just try to wing it. But it’s important to note that many of the cruise ports on a Mediterranean cruise are actually far from the main tourist attractions. 

For example, if your cruise stops in Florence, you’ll be getting off at La Spezia, which is 1.5 hours away from Florence, or you’ll get off at Livorno, which is an hour away. Wasting your time trying to figure out transportation to Florence when you’re at the cruise port is not a good idea. 

It’s best to book a shore excursion. I know that the cruise line shore excursion can be expensive, so I recommend comparing prices with independent cruise operators like Viator, which is usually cheaper than the cruise line’s shore excursion prices.

Mediterranean cruise mistakes

6. Book Shore Excursions in Advance

One common mistake people make on a Mediterranean cruise is not booking shore excursions in advance. Many wait until boarding the ship to book, which is often too late since most popular shore excursions are already sold out.

This can lead to a lot of stress. You will end up scrambling to find a shore excursion that you like and also wasting time lining up at the shore excursion desk. 

Avoid all of this by booking your excursions online before leaving home. Don’t forget to compare prices with sites like Viator to make sure you’re getting the best deal. With everything planned and booked in advance, you’ll be able to enjoy your Mediterranean cruise from the moment you step onboard.

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7. Don’t Buy Drinks Package if You Have a Busy Itinerary

One common mistake that people make on a Mediterranean cruise is they buy the drinks package without first considering their itinerary. However, drinks packages can be quite expensive and only make sense if you plan on drinking enough to justify their cost. 

Take, for example, Carnival cruise, which charges $59.95 per person per day. If you’re spending a day at sea, you could probably drink enough to make it worthwhile, but if you’re at port, you’ll likely be spending most of your time outside the ship, which means you’ll only be drinking during dinner and after dinner. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the cruise line charges the same daily rate for drinks packages, regardless of whether you’re at sea or a port. Many Mediterranean cruises are port heavy and will have very few sea days, so it may not be worth purchasing a drinks package since you won’t be able to drink enough to make it worthwhile.

8. Wear Comfortable Shoes

One common mistake people make on a Mediterranean cruise is not wearing comfortable shoes. Since you’ll be doing a lot of walking, it’s recommended that you wear sneakers or walking shoes with memory foam. 

Plus, the streets can be uneven and cobblestoned, so high heels are a definite no-no. It’s best to be practical and wear comfortable walking shoes.

9. European Plug Adapter

It’s a good idea to pack a European plug adapter when you’re going on a Mediterranean cruise. Depending on the ship, you might need one on board, but you’ll definitely need one at your European hotel before or after your trip. 

Most European countries use the Type C plug with two round pins, but some countries have different types. Bringing a universal plug adapter that works with most outlets is a good idea.

10. European Customs

Many first time visitors to Europe don’t realize that there are different European customs, which are different from what we’re used to in the US. 

For example, if you go to a restaurant in Barcelona, don’t be surprised to see a restaurant cover charge (they charge for bread and for you to sit at a table). 

Even water is not free in Europe, in fact, you’ll find that beer and wine are often cheaper than water! And when you order coffee at a café in Italy, you will be charged more if you choose to sit at a table instead of standing at the bar. 

Many bathrooms in Europe are not free either. You will have to pay to use it, so it’s a good idea to have small bills with you.

11. Bring a Head Covering

One common mistake that many people make while on a Mediterranean cruise is not realizing the dress codes that apply when visiting mosques and churches. These places of worship usually require visitors to dress modestly, covering their shoulders, knees, and occasionally their heads. 

Especially if you are visiting mosques in Turkey, you need to dress conservatively and women will need a head covering. I usually pack a shawl or pashmina to cover my head when I go on shore excursions (it also doubles as a blanket on the tour bus). 

Be sure to take a look at my Mediterranean cruise packing list. I’ve got a free downloadable version of it that includes everything you need to pack for your trip, depending on the season you’re traveling in. Whether you’re cruising in the Mediterranean during the summer or fall, there is a packing list for you.

12. Watch Out for Pickpocketing

When you’re on a Mediterranean cruise, it’s easy to let your guard down and forget that pickpocketing is quite common in Europe, more so than in the US. To avoid becoming a victim to these thieves, make sure you travel with zipped bags and keep a close eye on your belongings. 

Personally, I always travel with a slash-proof cross body bag since it’s a common tactic for thieves to slash bags to steal wallets. 

I can’t stress enough how important it is to be careful. For example, my father had his wallet stolen right when he was about to step onto the metro in Paris. Someone stole his wallet from his back pocket, and since he was already on the train, he couldn’t chase after the thief! 

As a tip, for men, I suggest using a crossbody bag with RFID protection and avoiding keeping your wallet in your back pocket. If you want to learn more about how to stay safe on a cruise, check out my anti-theft cruise tips

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