There couldn’t be a better moment to discuss the pros and cons of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation as we are just back from our holiday tour across the Mediterranean sea with kids. It´s a travel experience many consider at some point, especially if seeking to visit more than one European country on one single trip. Based on my 3 cruise trips, let me share my honest review with all the pros and cons I found along the way.
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Cruising: Yes or No
How cruising has become my thing
Over the years I kept reassuring everyone that cruising was not my type of vacation. And here I am – writing this article on the 3 Mediterranean cruises he have done as a family.
I went on my 1st Mediterranean Cruise simply out of curiosity. But then, my travel dynamic has changed after having kids. We still hike a lot in Spain, set off on new road trips, and even recently went wine-tasting in La Rioja. But many of my past adventures, like driving around Iceland in 5 days or having a spontaneous weekend in Malta, would be a complete nightmare with the little ones on the road.
Plus, what is even more important – my kids are currently excited about all the holiday ideas that me and my husband used to avoid. Amusement parks, all-inclusive resorts, and cruises – these seem like top things they are never hesitant to try. I mean, it’s also understandable – exploring the Roman ruins might be educative, but a huge cruise liner with all the shows, lights, activities, and lavish decorations simply takes children’s ´s breath away.
This is basically the reason why we have already done three Mediterranean cruises. Based on my experiences, I am ready to share all the pros and cons of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation with those of you who consider trying it.
Booking & reading reviews
You can check lots of useful reviews and opinions via Cruise Critic.
To make your own plans at every cruise stop, you can get one these guides: Rick Steves Mediterranean Cruise Ports, Lonely Planet Cruise Ports Mediterranean Europe, Mediterranean Cruise Ports Marco Polo, National Geographic Traveler: Ports of Call and Beyond, Cruise Guide to the Europe & The Mediterranean and Mediterranean By Cruise Ship, 8th Edition: The Complete Guide to Mediterranean Cruising.
To organize it all, you might find handy packing with you a beautiful journal: My Mediterranean Cruise Journal – A Travel Planner, Cruise Ship Companion: Record Your Journey at Sea, Cruise Travel Diary, Bon Voyage! My Cruise Journal, or My Cruise Journal – Notebook to Record.
Helpful & inspiring books about cruising
There are a few useful books on cruises you might be interested to read – Tips From The Cruise Addict’s Wife, Best Cruise Tips: 303 Cruise Hacks Saving You Time, Money & Frustration, CRUISING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS, and Cruise Control: A Complete Guide to Carefree Cruising.
Cruising with kids
If you plan a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation with kids – spark their wanderlust before the trip via virtual tours (you can check Spain Virtual Tours here) , travel books, or books about Cruises (like Lonely Planet Kids How Ships Work , Working Boats: An Inside Look at Ten Amazing Watercraft, How to Draw Cool Ships and Boats, and Hey Kids! Let’s Visit a Cruise Ship).
Get them their own Kid’s Cruise Travel Journal and Cruise Ships Coloring Book. Especially, if it’s their first time cruising: the little ones will behave so much better once they know what to expect, and how the whole cruising ship world works.
All About Our 3 Mediterranean Cruises
The 1st Cruise (from Venice|Italy to Santorini|Greece)
My first Mediterranean cruise took place in 2012. Back then it was simply something I have never tried before and was eager to experience.
The main stops on that 7-day Mediterranean Cruise vacation were Venice(Italy), Bari(Italy), Dubrovnik(Croatia), Katakolo(Greece), Rhodes(Greece), and Santorini(Greece). Overall, I was new to cruising and enjoyed experiencing something new, but I opted for more off-the-beaten-track trips across Europe. Nevertheless, after my first Mediterranean Cruise vacation, I have completely fallen in love with Greece and the Island of Santorini has made it to my list of the most romantic travel experiences around the world.
This trip was with Costa cruise line, you can read more reviews about the company and its different ships via Cruise Critic.
The 2nd Cruise ( from Tarragona|Spain to Corcega and Sardegna)
Our second Mediterranean Cruise Vacation was meant to be our first international family getaway with a 10-month-year-old baby and a 2-year-old toddler. This 11-day trip included lots of new places we have never seen before, like Savona/Italy (which we had missed during our romantic trip to Tuscany), Mahon/Menorca, Ajaccio/Corcega, Elba Island/Italy, Naples/Italy, Toulon/France, and Porto Torres/Sardegna.
Also we made stops at a few familiar destinations like Tarragona/Spain and the top Spanish islands of Mallorca and Ibiza. This vacation was the most challenging one of my three Mediterranean Cruises (mainly cause my kids were so small, we couldn´t use Kids Club on board as they were under 3, and the tripl lasted for 11 days). After the cruise I felt like I needed another vacation to recover.
Nevertheless, I would still have repeated it anyway.
Seeing so many places in 11 days with small kids would be completely impossible on any other kind of trip. Hitting the road with babies and toddlers has its own challenges no matter where you are heading. Many might say that this effort was not worth it, as children won´t even remember anything while being so small. No way! – Till the present day my oldest daughter (and she was only 2 y.o. back then) keeps reminding us of all the shows and experiences on board (especially how she went to party with Peppa Pig that one day lol).
This trip was also booked with Costa cruise line, you can read more reviews about the company and its different ships via Cruise Critic.
So, my kids made me realize that the whole cruise trip (and the huge ship itself) had a huge impact on them. So, we were almost forced to go on another Mediterranean Cruise in the nearest future.
The 3rd Cruise (From Barcelona|Spain to Rome|Italy)
And so it was. Last week we returned from our third Mediterranean Cruise vacation. This trip was the least interesting in terms of sightseeing (as we´ve already been in all the cities the cruise was making stops at), but the best one in terms of our experience.
First of all, my kids have grown up (now they are 5 and 3 years old), so being on the road with them got so much easier.
Secondly, we could use the Kids club a few times.
Thirdly, visiting the destinations we have already seen has dropped the pressure of not being able to enjoy a new place fully (as it happens on every Mediterranean Cruise Vacation due to a limited time at any destination, especially with kids).
For this trip, the itinerary included Cannes/France, Genova/Italy, La Spezia/ Italy, Rome/Italy, Mallorca/Spain, and Barcelona/Spain. Both me and my husband were secretly disappointed that our kids enjoyed the cruise ship and all the shows on board more than they did with the new European cities and museums. But I guess, it was also quite predictable right from the start. At their age kids usually love shows, fun, lights, and dancing, and tend to complain about the summer heat and queues at landmarks.
You can check our room, food, and other details of this Mediterranean Cruise Vacation on my IG Highlights. The cruise line we picked for our 3rd Mediterranean cruise vacation was MSC – you can read more reviews about them via Cruise Critic.
So, let me sum it all up a bit and talk more in detail about the pros and cons of a Mediterranean cruise vacation, based on our three trips.
Pros and Cons of a Mediterranean Cruise
Pros of cruising the Mediterranean Sea
Going on a Mediterranean Cruise definitely has some significant perks if compared to other types of travel, otherwise, it would never be as popular as it is.
1. No packing/unpacking
On a cruise, you hit a new place every single day, but you only pack/unpack twice – after boarding and when you are leaving the ship. It is definitely convenient and time-saving for every single human being on Earth, but for those of us traveling with small kids – it is an absolute game-changer.
Those of you who are parents would know that traveling light with kids is almost a mission-impossible kind of task. Therefore minimizing packing/unpacking frees up a lot of time you can spend on smth else. You don´t need to move around overloaded with staff, you simply unpack at arrival and forget about it till the end of your Mediterranean Cruise Vacation.
2. Multiple countries and destinations
Another huge plus of the Mediterranean Cruise Vacation is the variety of destinations, countries, and cultures you might briefly see in one single week. It´s never dull, unlike staying in the same place for a week might feel for many.
If you are traveling with kids, visiting different countries along the way is a great way to open up their minds. They are getting exposed to new languages, cultures, and architectural wonders across Europe every single day. So it´s quite a unique experience for the little ones.
3. Social life
Going out, dressing up, sipping cocktails, enjoying sunsets, meeting people, and making friends. Social life possibilities are unlimited on any Mediterranean Cruise Vacation.
This works even for people traveling with kids. Firstly, you can always leave them at the Kids Club to enjoy a quiet child-free dinner. Secondly, you can meet other families with kids and share a few child-friendly activities altogether. Thirdly, your kids might make new friends from other countries and have their own social life going on.
Usually, there are lots of activities and events organized on board, so that even people traveling alone could meet like-minded souls.
4. The Kids Club
If you are planning to use the Kids Club a lot – do your research well as it might be one of your top criteria to pick one cruise ship or another.
Some Mediterranean Cruises might even offer a nanny service and clubs for babies on board. During our second Mediterranean Cruise vacation, this might have been such a game changer. Our ship had a few playgrounds, but no club/activities for babies. Both of my girls were under 3 and after 11 days of our Mediterranean Cruise Vacation I ended up so burned out after chasing them around all the time. Being able to have time for myself, even 20 min a day, would make things much easier.
By the way, it also helps if you are traveling with parents or friends, so you could at least have a few hours of rest in case your baby gives you a sleepless night. But if it´s just you and your partner traveling with small kids, having an opportunity to leave your child on a playground with other kids under the supervision of professional staff might be great for the whole family. Even as babies our children are always looking for company of their own age wherever they go.
While you would probably find me in a quiet place with views reading a wanderlust book, most people pick a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation because of the non-stop entertainment. The day before you usually have the next-day schedule of events. It usually includes theatre shows and performances, music concerts, parties, dance classes, yoga, etc., sale events, and so on all day long.
It is simply impossible to get bored on board as you can find something for all tastes and preferences. It´s also a great experience for kids – my girls have enjoyed musicals, different dancing and magic shows, and even a circus – all in one single week.
This one is controversial for me. On one hand, you have all the types of food and cuisines on board available 24/7 hours. Most of the cruise ships have additional restaurants, which you can visit for an extra payment. First 2-3 days I really enjoyed trying everything, but the last few days it all started tasting the same way for me. But maybe it’s just me. Most people claim the food is one of the biggest perks of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation.
The staff is generally friendly and willing to help. Many tourists say they got pampered on cruises. Personally, I mostly enjoyed the room service cleaning two times per day. If traveling with kids, a great cleaning service is that one small thing that ends up making a big difference. Let´s say if my kids would spill something on the sofa – I could easily press the cleaning button, go out for a dinner, and at my return, it would all be fixed.
Cons of cruising the Mediterranean
This might not be a disadvantage for people who love the buzz and looking for busy social life. But for me, personally, this feels like one of the biggest cons of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation.
Even a room with a balcony does not guarantee privacy to enjoy a cozy book with views. As with so many neighbors around someone is always making noise. Plus, most Mediterranean Cruises have one or two days of navigation within the itinerary, meaning that every single guest will spend this day on board. This day pool is almost impossible to access, and a buffet is such a nightmare as well.
2. Limited time at any destination
Having a limited time at each destination is also not for everyone. In bigger cities, you barely get a chance to see a few of the local sights, while constantly checking up on your timing to return on time. Plus, getting out of the dock area can be more time-consuming than one could initially expect.
For some places, the whole experience of disembarking might even feel stressful.
For instance, on our last Mediterranean Cruise Vacation, the ship made a stop at Civitavecchia, located only 86 km from Rome. Even though it seems close enough to make the most of your day, in fact, you will spend much more than an hour in order to get to Italy´s capital (unless you rent a car or get an organized tour).
The whole organization at this port is probably my worst cruise experience so far. The bus inside the port was taking everyone to another bus stop, where we were supposed to get another bus to the train station. Plus, the line to get tickets at the train station was huge. So the actual train ride from Civitavecchia to Rome took us 1,15h, but two buses and buying train tickets – another 1,40 h. It basically left us with a few hours in Rome and the whole day spent on the road.
Staying connected is almost never a part of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation. Internet onboard is slow and expensive.
While you get cell service with most European carriers at ports, during navigation, you are mostly disconnected from the rest of the world. On our 3rd Mediterranean cruise, the company had an app for agenda and internal communications, but it worked horribly. After constantly, switching on/off my phone and trying to locate each other via texts in the app, we quickly returned to the old times when people had to organize themselves without cell phones.
4. Extra charges and prices on board
Excursions, dining, SPA, photos, and almost everything you will try to buy on board will be overpriced.
Make sure to get a drinks package before your trip, because you might break the bank overwise. By and large, you need to constantly follow your ship account, to keep track of charges. On our last cruise, we put 150 on our account before the trip and they were not activated for some reason. At the reception desk, they fixed the problem (after waiting 40 min in line). But if we would not have checked it – there could have been problems and delays at disembarking.
Another small detail I did not like on our last Mediterranean Cruise Vacation was that they automatically charged 1 euro per every guest for their charity foundation. You could claim the money back at the reception desk, but wasting time in line to get back one euro barely seems a wise decision.
So, by and large even with reputable cruise companies you need to keep an eye on your spendings and bills all the time.
As I´ve previously said, this one is quite controversial for me. First 2-3 days I really enjoyed trying everything, but the last few days it all started tasting the same way for me.
On the other hand, even if you enjoy the food, too much good food around 24/7 might also be a problem for those trying to stay in shape.
6. Small cabins
Cruise ship accommodations are designed to make the most of the space, so those who are used to wide spaces might not feel comfortable inside. On our last Mediterranean Cruise Vacation, we had a balcony, which slightly made things better. But still, your personal space will be quite limited anyway.
Large cruise ships still have significant emissions, even though some of them invest in upgrading fleets. This is also a fact to consider, as the future of travel definitely lies in sustainable choices.
It would be fair to add that for me, personally, the pros overweight the cons if traveling with small children. Even living on a huge cruise liner for a week, seeing the horizon in the middle of the sea, experiencing the shows, and meeting other kids from all over the world is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the little ones. I feel like they´ve grown up so much via our Mediterranean Cruise Vacations and tried tons of new things in one single week.
I feel like our 3 Mediterranean Cruise Vacations will stay in our family memory box forever as one of the coolest experiences ever shared.
Therefore, it might end up being one of your top travel experiences as well. You should simply consider all the pros and cons of a Mediterranean Cruise Vacation before deciding whether it’s the right holiday choice for you.
- Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda or Booking
- Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide and Viator
- City breaks&sightseeing: Go City helps to avoid multiple entry fees and paper tickets
- Flights: To find the best deals I like WayAway
- Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via RailEurope, Omio, and Busbud
- Car rental: To find the best deals I use Rental Cars
- Transfers: For individual transfer services I like Kiwitaxi
- Cruise Reviews: To find the best cruise offer I check out Cruise Critic
- Suitcases&Luggage: To eliminate problems of early arrivals/late departures I find helpful Radical Storage
- Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: AirHelp is really useful for all flight cancellation or delay claims
- To avoid roaming fees I use Airalo eSIMs around the world
- For Bloggers: To monetize my blog I use Travelpayouts