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Why you need to cruise the Mediterranean in winter with Royal Caribbean

08 Jan 2024
Calista Kiper

I cruised on Enchantment of the Seas this November for my first Mediterranean voyage. 

Mediterranean cruises are not uncommon, but taking them in early Winter is not nearly as popular.

The 7-night sailing traveled from Athens, Greece, to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Palma de Mallorca, and Barcelona, Spain. 

Despite the colder weather and occasional wind, this winter cruise was a perfect opportunity to explore the Mediterranean for the first time.

Winter is the off-season for Mediterranean cruises and tourist spots. The Mediterranean slows down as crowds flock to the Caribbean during the cold winter months. 

It’s the best time to take advantage of the cruise deals and calmer crowds in tourist areas.

Here are several reasons why you should consider sailing the Mediterranean in winter with Royal Caribbean. 

Read more: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

Avoid crowds 

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April to October. The busiest and most popular cruises fall between July and August.

For a less crowded cruise, we recommend sailing during the off-season, such as in winter.

While Caribbean cruises will be crowded with passengers during the popular winter season, the Mediterranean has a peaceful off-season.

This is also a great way to enjoy a smaller ship—just like I did. Smaller ships will have an even smaller occupancy and are unlikely to be completely full in the off-season.

I noticed the benefit I gained from fewer crowds in nearly every aspect of the cruise.

For example, I bought my shore excursions only a week before the cruise, but hardly any had sold out!

When I got in line to take tender ships to ports, the process was speedy and required very little preparation beforehand.

When we embarked on our tours, they were unhurried and calm, with few crowds.

I could almost always find seating in the Windjammer and pool deck, famously difficult places to stake out a spot.  

During the wintery off-season, you can enjoy a peaceful, unhurried cruise.

Milder weather

If escaping extreme weather is a goal for your cruise vacations, don’t fear!

In general, the weather in the Mediterranean is mild, with only two distinct seasons: summer and winter. 

Cruising during winter is a great way to avoid the scorching summer heat. 

Since most European exploration requires a lot of walking, avoiding the hot weather is a great benefit for those of us who hate getting tired and sweaty.

While the weather cools down in the Mediterranean winter, it still isn’t as cold as other places with four distinct seasons. 

In early November, when I visited, it remained in the 60s and cloudly, with a few days of sunshine. 

The only unpleasant aspect of the wintery weather was some frequent wind, which made it hard to stay on the pool deck. However, this was also due to the speed of the ship’s movement on sea days.

It wasn’t too chilly while I was exploring tourist sites, and I appreciated that we weren’t getting hot and sweaty.  

Read more: ​​I’ve been on 3 European cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

Onboard comfort

Not only was the weather milder than other wintery places, the cruise ship was also a comfortable place to stay.

Royal Caribbean ships are equipped to handle many weather conditions. Being on a cruise ship provides a lot of protection from the elements because you don’t have to go far for anything you need.

If you stayed on land, you might have to walk from the hotel to the restaurant in the rain. 

But on a cruise ship, you can simply take an elevator up a few floors and be served a gourmet meal. Then, you can take the elevator up a few more floors for dance parties, bars, pools, and more! Everything is right at your fingertips.

Even on days when the pool deck was cloudy and windy, I could hop into the hot tub and warm up immediately.

If you are wanting to travel in the winter but need to branch out from the warm Caribbean, consider Mediterranean cruises! 

Take advantage of deals

I actually found my Enchantment of the Seas cruise in a list of Royal Caribbean last-minute deals

My cruise was the last Mediterranean cruise Enchantment offered before her re-positioning to Tampa, Florida. 

Booking immediately before or after a ship’s repositioning is a great way to take advantage of cruise deals.

Many ships transition from Europe to the Caribbean in winter, so try booking your Europe cruise right before they set sail!

This is the best way to get deals and smaller crowds on a cruise, but you can also find deals on land.

Since it’s the off-season, accommodations, and excursions also offer deals for tourists

Read more: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Authentic cultural immersion

One limitation of cruising is the quick, touristy stops at ports of call. When you only visit a port for one day, you only have time to visit the most popular tourist spots.

Sometimes, stopping at a cruise port feels like a disingenuous experience crowded with other tourists and overworked locals.

In an off-season trip, however, the tourist influence fades away, and local life quiets down.

I definitely sensed this difference on my winter cruise. 

Mediterranean destinations have such a rich, ancient cultural heritage and history. An off-season visit allowed me to get a more intimate immersion into this culture. 

I got the impression that I was visiting thriving, independent communities rather than seeing a false front for tourists.  

This could have the added disadvantage of locals trying even harder to get you to spend your money in an area, but that wasn’t my experience at this time.

I felt that shop owners and servers had a bit more time to care for each customer’s needs instead of feeling hurried. They also gave me a wide berth, so I wasn’t faced with the usual pushy hawkers. 

I also recognize that this change could be something unique about visiting Europe itself—rather than popular cruising destinations such as the Caribbean. 

Either way, it’s a great reason to visit the Mediterranean during an off-season and experience more authentic international travel.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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