Packing Advice for a 3-Week Mediterranean Cruise

by Janis on April 5, 2017

Packing for a Mediterranean CruiseWe love reader questions. Here is a question from Robin:

“What clothes do you suggest for a 21-day cruise on Princess from Barcelona to Athens April 15- May 6th?”

While Robin did not specify which Princess ship or specific itinerary she will be sailing on, we are guessing that it will be something like this one:Princess 21-day Western Med and Greek Isles cruise on Majestic PrincessThis Princess itinerary is a 21-day “Collectors” cruise that sails to the Western Mediterranean and Greek Isles on the on the new Majestic Princess.

If you’d like a short list of general tips, check out this prior post: Cruising the Mediterranean? 10 Tips to Make Your Cruise More Enjoyable. For a more comprehensive guide to packing for this cruise, read on below.

What to pack for a 21-day Mediterranean Cruise in mid-April and early May? 

Amalfi Coast, ItalyWhenever we are thinking about packing for a cruise or any vacation, we start with four questions. 

  1. What might the weather be like? What are average temperature ranges for the time of year?
  2. How easy will it be to do laundry or get out laundry done?
  3. How many bags can we check on the flight without paying extra, and what is the weight limit?
  4. What kind of activities and/or events do we need to dress for?

What might the weather be like? What are average temperature ranges for the time of year?

While the weather is generally favorable around the Mediterranean Sea throughout the year, average temperatures are significantly different in April than in August.  We checked the weather in the cruise starting point (Barcelona, Spain in April) and ending point (Athens, Greece in May.)

During the average April in Barcelona, it rains five days out of the month while the high temperature is 65 degrees F and the low temperature is 51 degrees F.

For Athens, in May, the average high temperature is 77 degrees F while the average low temperature is 60 degrees F, and rainfall typically occurs on four days.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

How easy will it be to do laundry or get out laundry done?

All Princess cruise ships offer on-board laundry, pressing and professional cleaning service for a fee. If you are traveling in a full suite, or are an Elite Captain’s Circle member, you get complimentary laundry and professional cleaning service, with a 48-hour turn-around.

All Princess vessels also have self-service launderettes where washers, dryers and laundry products are available for a small charge. If you plan to go this route, consider your cruise itinerary, as there are only three sea days out of a 21-day cruise. Most cruise vacationers won’t want to miss time in port to do laundry, nor spend their few days at sea in a packed laundry room. (If we have to do self-service laundry on a ship we try to do it during an off-peak time for the laundry such as during early-seating dinner.)

How many bags can we check on the flight without paying extra, and what is the weight limit?

Airlines differ significantly on luggage allowance for international flights. Be sure to check your carrier in the class of ticket purchased as to the amount, size and weight of luggage that you can check and/or carry on the flight.

In general, if you are flying internationally between the United States and Europe on a U.S. legacy airline such as Delta, United or American, each passenger is allowed to check one bag weighing up to 50 pounds, plus carry on the flight a small roller bag that fits in the overhead, plus a personal item such as a purse, briefcase or small back-pack that fits under you seat without paying to check a bag. In Business Class, you might get two or up to three bags per person, perhaps even weighing up to 70 pounds each.

Be sure to check with your air carrier as you don’t want a surprise charge for an overweight bag.

What kind of activities and/or events do we need to dress for?

Think about the kinds of activities you plan to do, and what clothing is needed for each. Many Mediterranean cruise destinations are ancient, and that means comfortable walking shoes that are supportive for uneven surfaces. Do you plan to use the ship’s gym, spa or pools? What clothing will you need?

What will you wear for dinner? On a 21-day cruise on Princess, you may have four formal nights. What clothes, accessories and shoes will you need for those? A hint for men who want to dress up for formal but don’t want to take a suit and ties to Europe: rent a tuxedo through the ship.

We can’t tell you what clothes are right for you to pack. We can tell you what we would pack for such a trip.

luggage for 21-day Mediterranean CruiseFirst, the bags we’d take:


1. Two extra-large wheeled duffel bags, one each. Ours are from Patagonia and Eddie Bauer — we’ve traveled with these all over the world. They hold a ton of stuff, are easy to maneuver, and are light but tough. We would check these bags on flights, weighing them with our Digital Luggage Scale to make sure they are not over the 50 pound limit, either on the way over, or for the return when we invariably have acquired more stuff. To help organize items in these duffles, we use packing cubes, mesh bags, quart-size plastic bags

2. One carry-on size roller-bag. Mr. Jones’ is from Briggs & Riley. If we are only flying in a day early or even arriving the day of departure, we don’t want to get on the ship with no clothes. So we carry one roller-bag with our essentials to cover us for a few days. This bag expands, if we get crazy buying stuff and need to check it on the flight home.


3. Our carry-on backpack and briefcase to hold our computers, tablets, phones, charger cords, key travel documents, medicine, and for Mrs. Jones, her make-up in quart-size plastic bag and a small cross-body purse.

4. A lightweight, Stowaway Packable Daypack for carrying camera, water bottle, maps, etc during day trips and shore excursions. (I don’t want to carry a purse most places.)

For packing, we think about the clothing and shoes we will need by how we will be spending our days. In this case, there are four main categories:

1. Day-time active wear: clothes to wear each day as we are exploring in ports.

For springtime in the Med, we’d follow the adage to “Dress like an onion – in  layers so you can add-on or peel off as the weather of the moment dictates.”

We’d plan for three layers that can mix and match:

  • A t-shirt or light top (take 7)
  • A sweater, sweatshirt, hoodie, a button-down type shirt and/or a vest. (take 3-5 to rotate)
  • A waterproof jacket, shell or raincoat with a hood (take 1)

With these toppers we would wear jeans, khakis, or other comfortable, casual pants. Perhaps throw in 1-2 pairs of walking shorts.  (We’d take 4-6 pairs each.)

2. Evening dinner wear which we would get laundered/pressed as need as rotate during the 21 days:

  • I would take 6-7 dresses and 2 pair of black dress slacks with 3-4 tops. At least three outfits would be suitable for formal nights.
  • For Mr. Jones, we would pack a dark suit, 2 dress shirts and ties, 3-4 pair of dress slacks or khakis, 3-4 long-sleeved button-down shirts and 3-4 polo shirts.

3. Other Clothing/Toiletries/Electronics/Misc.:

  • Exercise wear for workout on the ship
  • Underwear for 10-14 days (still assuming some laundry but you can always take old and toss as you wear), plus any special garments for formal wear
  • Hose, tights
  • Nightwear for sleeping
  • 1 swimming suit each, plus a cover-up and flip-flops or other shoes to wear to the pool/hot tub.
  • Sunglasses
  • Packets of sunscreen, Insect Repellent Towelettes, and sanitizing hand wipes (by carrying the kind in foil packets, they are lighter and don’t count as liquids in your flight carry-on bag)
  • Foil packets of Shout Stain Remover Wipes to clean up spots
  • Two dual plug-in charger cords
  • Two Collapsible Travel Trays (we each have one to keep items such our keys, jewelry, etc. organized in one place.)
  • Travel size packets of tissue and cloth handkerchiefs for Mr. Jones
  • Each of us packs our laptop computers, mouse, computer power cord, iPad and iPhone and dual charge cord — we tend to keep up on work even when traveling
  • For camera’s we use our iPhone but if you take a camera be sure to include chargers, back-up batteries and photo cards.
  • We used to carry books, puzzle books, DVDs for entertainment on flights, buses and trains. Now, we load our iPads with games, movies/television shows from Apple and Amazon Prime. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial we access our favorite guidebooks and other books we’ve bought via our Kindle app. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can try Kindle Unlimited free for 30 days with this link:Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial
  • We each take two sets of tiny inexpensive, earbud headphones . (We find this item easy to lose or misplace so we keep one with our phone and one spare packed in our carry-on bag.)
  • We carry a lightweight plastic wine corkscrew with us – the Mediterranean is a fantastic place to find a local bottle of wine.

4. Shoes

I have a hard time limiting my shoes. I would take these:

    • 1 pair formal dress heels (black)
    • 1 pair of dress sandals (light color)
    • 1 pair of black flats (wear on plane)
    • 1 pair of tennis shoes suitable for gym /exercise

If either of our bags are overweight, this is where I will edit.

Mr. Jones is a shoe minimalist.

What would you pack for a 21-day spring cruise in the Mediterranean? 

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