You’ve heard stories of the high cost of travel in Europe, thanks to the decline of the dollar against the Euro. The stories certainly should concern anyone setting out to see Europe on their own. Yes, you may pay $8 for a cappuccino in Europe, and the cost of a hotel room can be stratospheric. But a cruise isolates travelers from Europe’s rising prices. Your hotel room, paid for in U.S. dollars, floats along with you from port to port. Your meals are paid for. And you can always get a cappuccino onboard, even on cruise lines that charge for specialty coffees, for just a few bucks.
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So the question is not whether to cruise in Europe, but where to cruise in Europe. The answer? Either the Mediterranean or Northern Europe.
But even within these broad regions, there are choices to be made. Mediterranean itineraries, for example, come in two flavors: Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean, with the toe of the Italian ‘boot’ serving as the dividing line. Northern European cruises sail either the Baltic Sea or the Norwegian fjords.
In the Mediterranean, explore the beginnings of the Greek and Roman empires, visit the vestiges of the Crusades and the Ottoman rulers, marvel at the power and the glory of the pharaohs, and tour many of the religious sites cherished by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Western Mediterranean itineraries cover Spain, France, the west coast of Italy (including Sicily) and occasionally Tunisia. Eastern Mediterranean itineraries visit Italy’s Adriatic Coast, the Greek Isles, Turkey, Egypt, the Holy Lands and Cyprus.
You’ll spend your days exploring playgrounds along the French and Italian Rivieras, on the Costa del Sol, or throughout the Greek Isles. There are cities resplendent with wondrous works of art and architecture, as well as captivating coastal villages that are home to streets made for wandering and cafés made for sitting.
For first-time cruisers in Europe, the Western Mediterranean is an excellent choice. Eastern Mediterranean itineraries are generally better suited to travelers looking to take ‘the next step.’
Traditionally, cruisers who have explored the Mediterranean will follow-up with a voyage to Northern Europe, even though many people are now choosing to make the Baltic their first European destination.
Northern Europe is rich in cultural diversity, historical attractions, and staggeringly magnificent scenery. Most itineraries will combine visits to Copenhagen and other Scandinavian capitals with at least a day or two in St. Petersburg. Other Northern European cruises set sail along the Norwegian coastline, home to breathtaking views of fjords and quaint coastal towns.
A couple of things to keep in mind: consider combining itineraries and taking ‘back-to-back’ cruises. You’ll pay for airfare just once, and you’ll often receive a reduced rate on the second cruise. Plus you’ll see more, and after spending two or more incredible weeks in Europe you’ll truly feel as if you’ve gotten away from it all. And don’t discount cruising Europe during the off-season months (April/May and September through November). The weather can be surprisingly good, and you’ll enjoy thinner crowds at key ports and attractions.
Travel agents can find more cruise articles, pictures and videos on Ralph’s site, www.avidcruiser.com.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com