Europe by Land or Sea?
Many of my clients ask whether they should travel in Europe by land or cruise. Before answering, I ask them several questions. 1) Is this your first trip to Europe? 2) Are you an experienced traveler? 3) Do you pack lightly? 4) Are you a finicky eater? 5) Are you prone to car or sea sickness? 6) Do you like to get the “best bang for your buck” and mostly deal with American dollars rather than exchanging currency?
Many times, I recommend a cruise to clients that are reluctant to travel internationally or who just want to travel with ease to different areas. Most of the crew speaks English, so there is little language barrier and it is also very nice to be able to unpack only once and visit areas quickly to see which areas you would possibly like to come back to later. Travelers can see Europe in an economical way, paying mostly dollars ahead so very little currency exchange is necessary.
There are two ways to cruise in Europe, by river and by ocean. The river cruises slowly make their way down some of Europe’s most famous rivers such as the Seine, the Danube, and the Rhine. You tour during the day and cruise at night. This is a way to see the inner cities of Europe. The ocean cruises cruise along the coastal cities such as the French Riviera and the Amalfi coast as well as the Greek Islands. These cruises crawl along the coast and do not get far out in the ocean so they may not be as rocky as some you could have possibly encountered before. I always recommend eating plenty of food while on a cruise to help stave off sea sickness. It certainly isn’t hard to keep a full stomach on cruises because there is food 24/7 somewhere on the ship. Most ships only sail at night while you are asleep to get to the next port.
April to November is usually the best time of year to cruise Europe. Only a few of the cruise lines operate year-round. My personal favorite time to cruise in Europe is in the fall. Crowds have begun to die down and the temperatures are nice. June through August is the “high season” for cruises and the prices usually reflect that.
The time of year is somewhat driven by where you want to go on your European cruise. Just remember the best time to go to each destination is usually the most expensive. Some of the more popular areas that cruises cover in Europe are broken down into Eastern and Western Mediterranean, Scandinavia and the Baltics, Great Britain and Ireland, Rivers of Europe, Coastal Norway and the Fjords, Black Sea, Islands of the Atlantic, and Transatlantic and Repositioning cruises.
Cruises can be as moderate as you would like to as luxurious as you like. I would certainly suggest calling a knowledgeable travel agent to help you with the type of experience you prefer. They are very familiar with each cruise line and all each has to offer.
If you have never traveled to Europe and would not like the cruise experience, I would suggest joining a tour group. There are many tours that can take you from area to area on land. These tours range from moderate to luxury. You must be aware of all that is included, however, and take special note of several things…. is it a large or small group, which modes of transportation they are providing, included meals, the caliber of hotels provided and their location. Some of the larger tours (least expensive) herd large groups of tourists and stay on the outskirts of the cities in order to save money. On the flip side, some top of the line tours are so luxurious that you only stay in five-star hotels, eat in Michelin star restaurants, and you never have to handle your luggage. Again, your knowledgeable travel agents can guide you with these choices. It is all about you and your preferences.
Some savvy travelers, having been to Europe many times choose to immerse themselves into the culture and rent a villa for a week or so. They rent a car, get to know the locals, and return each year. It is all about experience and what you feel the most comfortable with.
One thing is for certain… do not be afraid to travel in an area you have never been. There are many choices of ways to experience areas and once you realize how easy it can be you will want to continue your adventures!
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