Set Sail Around the Mediterranean – How to Make the Most of Your Cruise Experience
With clear blue waters, beautiful beaches and breathtaking sceneries, sailing across the Mediterranean can certainly make for an unforgettable experience. You’ll have the opportunity to soak up the sun along some of the most stunning coastlines in the world, explore charming little towns and villages, visit famous cultural landmarks, and discover a colorful blend of cultures, languages and traditions.
However, if this is the first time sailing across the sea of legends or your very first sailing experience, the idea of venturing into its mesmerizing blue waters might also seem a bit daunting. From deciding where you want to go to planning the little details of your trip, there are many aspects to take into consideration before you set sail. So, if you want to make the most of your cruising adventure, this guide can steer you in the right direction.
Timing is key
You may think that summer is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean since that’s when most tourists plan their trip to the region and operators start rolling up their offers. But even though summer is the most popular period, you can enjoy lovely Med cruises all year round given the mild climate and forgiving weather even in winter months.
If you want to avoid the crowds and all the hustle and bustle created by tourists during the summer months, it’s best to plan your journey off-season, in spring or fall. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from both in terms of cruise lines and itinerary choices and you won’t have to deal with any chaos when you get to the docks. And probably the most important benefit of planning a sailing trip during shoulder season is that you get to save money as services tend to be a lot cheaper than in peak season when demand is high.
Destination, destination, destination
Choosing the destinations that you want to include in your sailing itinerary is probably the most exciting part of planning as the Mediterranean boasts some of the most beautiful locations in Europe. There are 21 countries and territories with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea, with the most popular destinations including the French and Italian Rivieras, Greece, Croatia, Malta, Turkey and Spain.
However, the wide variety of options is both a blessing and a curse as it can make it more difficult for you to decide on a route. That’s why you need to start your research in advance and think about the things that you want to do and see on your sailing trip. If you want to enjoy a diversity of cultures and visit popular landmarks, the locations mentioned above will offer you all that and more. But if you prefer to take the path less traveled, less touristy destinations like Tétouan, Polignano a Mare, Hydra, or Navagio Beach might be more up your alley.
Choose your boat
The one thing that you absolutely need if you want to sail the Mediterranean is obviously a boat. Fortunately, since the region is a sailing heaven, you don’t have to own or buy a boat, as there are more than enough yacht charter services in the Med providing vessels of all shapes and sizes so you can the one that best suits your needs.
If you decide to charter a boat, keep in mind there are two types of services you can opt for: manned and bareboat. With a bareboat charter, you only rent the boat without a crew, while manned charters also include a crew that will sail the vessel and other services, depending on the company you choose. However, if this is just the first of many sailing adventures that you intend to plan in the future, purchasing your own sailboat can also be a great idea.
The rules of the sea
If you want to charter a boat and sail the Mediterranean on your terms you need to prove you know the rules of the sea and have the necessary skills. This means you have to hold a valid International Certificate of Competence (ICC). You can obtain this certification through NauticEd.org, or the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). The process is relatively simple and implies either passing an online RYA skipper course and undergoing five days of practical training at RYA, or taking a one-day in-person theoretical and practical exam at RYA and that’s it, you’re officially a sailor in your own right. The option you choose depends on your knowledge and sailing experience. Beginners are advised to complete the course and the five days of training while more experienced sailors can choose the latter option.
Plan trips in advance
Sailing across the Mediterranean from one port to another can easily get expensive and exhausting but you can save time energy and money if you plan your trips on land well in advance and organize your day before you reach the docks. Most Mediterranean destinations are brimming with all sorts of activities, landmarks and tourist attractions, so if you don’t have a clear schedule, your excursions can get a bit hectic.
If you want things to run smoothly, you can book sightseeing tours in each location you plan to visit. Alternatively, you can create your own unguided tours, and book attractions and activities separately, but that requires a little more research on your part.
Finally, you’ll have to decide what you’ll take with you on your sailing adventure. While traveling lightly is always best, the items that you need to pack for your journey largely depend on the season. If you plan to sail during summer months, light clothing, a sun hat, sunglasses, pullovers or thin jackets, and obviously a lot of sunscreen are a must. In winter months the weather can be quite unpredictable, so apart from the previously mentioned essentials you’ll also have to pack clothes for all seasons plus an umbrella or a rain jacket.
Remember that planning is key if you want to enjoy an unforgettable journey across the Med, so keep these tips in mind and get ready to sail away.