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Shoulder Season: the Best Time to Cruise the Mediterranean?

Cruise Advice
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The travel industry likes to call the period between the peak and the off-peak seasons the "shoulder season", it being the critical 'joint' between the expense of peak and the poorer weather of off-peak. Travelling in this 'shoulder season' - which, in the Mediterranean, is generally October and November, and March and April - or even in off-peak (December to February) is becoming more and more popular, and is consistent with other 2024 trends which focus on getting away from the crowds and supporting the local communities. We believe the shoulder season is one of the best times to cruise the Mediterranean - here's our pick of the best voyages.

Yes, the weather may not be totally perfect, but there are many other reasons to travel at this time. The price, the uncrowded ports of call, and - our favourite - the unexpected beauty that can be found in the Med away from the heat of summer.

You'll often also gain a greater appreciation for the region in which you're travelling, as you uncover the day-to-day way of life in communities without a masse of tourists. And, we can help you find some great cruising bargains. How? As many ships reposition for the winter in the Caribbean or Asia, some stay where they are (in the Mediterranean for example) and the fares begin to fall.

rome italy the Coloseum

Windstar

You may be hesitant to try the Mediterranean in winter, but exploring somewhere like Italy grants you a totally new perspective on the country's famously tourist-filled cities. Windstar's winter Mediterranean cruises, departing between November and March, offer a huge variety of voyages on routes between Rome, Barcelona, Venice and Athens and we've received fantastic feedback on these sailings so far.

Our favourites include the January sailings between Venice and Rome that also visit the fascinating walled city of Dubrovnik, one of our favourite ports in the Med. Or, for a little more heat, opt for a Spain voyage in March, where you can try paella in Valencia, stroll historic sites in Cartagena and enjoy overnights in Barcelona and Málaga for a fantastic Spanish getaway without the crowds.

windstar's wind surf in santorini greece

Silversea

Silversea also offer multiple sailings throughout the shoulder season through October and November, ending at the start of December and restarting in mid-March.

Guests have the chance to explore unique islands such as historic Malta and rugged Sicily on board their intimate ships, with overnights in cities such as Seville for rich history and culinary gems, as well as several Athens round trips that take in such delights as the iconic domes of Santorini without the swarms of tourists, ancient ruins in Rhodes and Turkey's incredible Ephesus

silver wind in venice

Seabourn

Seabourn, too, keep their ships in the Med until the end of November, restarting at the end of February, on a huge variation of one-, two-, three- and even fourweek sailings taking in the delights of Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Turkey.

We particularly like the Riviera sailings that call in at icons such as St Tropez and Portofino as well as lesser-known gems like the 'sixth town' of the Cinque Terre, Portovenere; the bustling fishing village of Spain's Palamós; and the beautiful Italian island of Elba.

elba italy

Explora Journeys

Explora Journeys' stunning ships also sail the region on Athens and Barcelona round trips until the end of November allowing you to see Spain and Portugal's most famous cities in a whole new light, with overnights in Lisbon and its colourful cityscape of Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums.

They also offer Greece and Turkey itineraries that call in at glamorous Greek islands like Mykonos and Santorini without summer's crowds, as well as the stunning volcanic island of Milos, ringed by pretty beaches and scattered with charming villages.

milos greece

Crystal

Crystal's autumn voyages run until the end of November between Rome, Venice, Lisbon, Athens and Barcelona on a variety of routes with overnights in colourful Barcelona and charming Livorno allowing you time to venture inland to the rolling hills of Tuscany.

crystal serenity in Lisbon

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent has some wonderful cruises in October and November 2024 and 2025, some of which are part of their new 'Immersive Overnights' collection of itineraries featuring overnights in every port of call, and evening shore excursions to explore iconic cities from a different perspective in ports such as Kotor, Rome, Venice and Athens.

regent's seven seas navigator in Kotor montenegro

Yacht cruises

Sleek, luxury yacht-style cruising also lends itself perfectly to the hidden coves and harbours of the Med, and Emerald Yacht Cruises have autumn sailings until mid-November on board their intimate 100-guest Emerald Azzurra, including cruises between Athens and Dubrovnik for a transit of the narrow Corinth Canal before exploring ancient sites in Greece and Albania and the atmospheric walled cities of Kotor and Dubrovnik.

SeaDream Yacht Club and their 112-guest al fresco-style yachts also offer a variety of Med sailings in October, an excellent time to take advantage of their wine voyages that include exclusive tastings at renowned wineries and special complementary menus.

Emerald Azzurra in Parga greece
Meet the author

Claire is Marketing Manager at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Seabourn and has also sailed with Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is Sweden however she's also enjoyed cruises in the the Galapagos, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe, Greek Isles and the Far East. When she’s not travelling she loves weekends away in the countryside.

More about Claire

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