Cruising the Mediterranean Sea offers port stops packed with rich culture and diversity. Within one week's time, it is possible to be in Italy, Greece and Turkey or France, Italy and Spain. Since travelers often like to budget a little extra time and take their kids to these destinations, the best time to cruise the Mediterranean can have less to do with the weather than with factors like personal or family schedules. Both the peak season and the low season have pros and cons.
High Season ProsSome Americans and Europeans prefer to take Mediterraneancruises during the peak season from May through August. This is when one will be able to find the widest selection of cruise ships and itineraries, and won't have to worry about rain or choppy waves. Since the summer months coincide school vacations, June through August remain the most heavily trafficked months, says travel writer Howard Hillman. Each day, it is possible to expect 11 hours of sunshine and average temperatures of 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, with sea breezes making it feel a few degrees cooler. Summer is the perfect time for visiting the beaches of Spain.
High Season ConsCruise Critic warns of "bigger crowds, higher prices and steamy temperatures" from May to August. Ports become congested and tourists are crawling all over the popular attractions. It is possible to see loads of Europeans, particularly in August during their most popular holidays, and it is likely to see many noisy children. Rooms on ships may be scarce if waiting until the last minute, and prices are usually jacked up during peak travel season.
Low Season Pros
Cruise Critic says the Mediterranean's low/shoulder season includes March, April, September, October and November: "This is the time to cruise the mega-ships minus lots of kids." Spring temperatures warm up nicely, with an average of 74 degrees Fahrenheit by the beginning of May. April and March see dry days and nearly 10 hours of sunshine. Some of the deepest discounts are available during October and November, including "two-for-one" or "free airfare" specials, according to Cruise Critic. Also, the Costa and MSC Italian cruise lines stay in Europe year-round to offer their flashiest ships and most unusual itineraries, to places like Morocco, Egypt and the Canary Islands -- which are too hot to visit during the summer. It is possible to enjoy less crowded ports and attractions, less competition, lower rates and more comfortable weather during spring or fall, adds Howard Hillman.
Low Season Cons
During the later fall months, the average temperature is around 66 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too cold for sunbathing, and winter ushers in only six daylight hours for sightseeing. Northern Mediterranean locations like France and Italy are just above freezing during the winter months. One will have fewer options; and for the most part, older ships will be cruising the Mediterranean at this time – with the exception of luxury lines that remain in Europe year round.
Bottom LineIf taking the kids, it is more probable to go the traditional summer route. In that case, make the best of it – swim often, see Spain's magnificent beaches and drink fresh wine spritzers in Italy. If there is a little more leeway, consider mid-to-late September or late May/early June for the best weather, prices and itineraries. The weather is perfect for shore excursions, and the ports are less crowded. For the best bargains, look to the shoulder months of March, April, October and November. There may be a few concessions as to weather, but there will also be big savings.