Chapter : Why You Should Consider European Cruises
It could take years to explore all there is to see in Europe. After all, the continent is home to 50 countries, each distinct from one another in culture, people and history. So, even though Europe is the second smallest continent on earth, it surely does not lack in diversity.
France is the most visited country on the continent attracting 83.7 million tourists a year, followed by Spain which attracts 65 million visitors annually. On the other hand, San Marino, one of the smallest nations in the world, is also one of the least visited. Nevertheless, San Marino is stunningly beautiful with medieval structures and mountaintop vistas.
If you want to stand next to architectural masterpieces, experience a mix of charm and modern amenities, and taste culinary pleasures you cant find elsewhere, it is time to head to Europe one of the most inspiring and culturally rich continents on the planet.
Well focus mainly on Scandinavia, which is part of northern Europe and consists of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and, some say, Finland and Iceland. These countries offer plenty of sightseeing opportunities by boat, making them ideal cruise destinations. They are also known to consistently score high in happiness and longevity studies.
In this chapter, well explore northern Europe for a peek at the things that add to their happiness. Youll discover reasons why you should cruise around Europe and get a dose of happy for yourself.
Planning A River Cruise: 7 Mistakes You Think Youre Too Smart To Make
Contemplating a river trip in Europe? Its all the rage nowadays, and river cruise lines are racing to introduce new and better ships to meet the insane demand from travelers. A river cruise is a scenic and effortless way to travel, for sure, but take heed: Many of the rules that apply when choosing a hotel or a big ocean cruise ship dont carry over to river boats. To get the best value for your dollar, here are seven things to keep in mind.
Mistake No. 1: Splurging on a balconyYoud probably assume a balcony is criticalfor the view, the fresh air, the photo ops, the extra space, the privacy. A balcony is a big plus at a resort and on a huge ocean ship, but on river boats it can actually be a drawback: River ships have a width limit , which means that cabins can only be so wide, which in turn means that a balcony takes away from your interior room space. If its chilly or rainingas it sometimes isyoull value the interior room space more than the balcony. Also, a balcony lets you see only one side of a river, whereas elsewhere on the ship you can see both sides at once. And who wants to miss half a river?
My cabin aboard Avalon Tapestry II on the Seine River in Normandy.
With cabins that transform into open-air terraces, who needs a balcony?
Looking out my window from the other side of the bed.
If Id opted to go with everyone on the bus, I would have missed riverscape like this.
Parking the Avalon Tapestry II in Paris
Heres the ships gym.
Pro: Unpack Your Suitcase Once
A unique pleasure of cruising is that you only have to unpack once, since your floating hotel travels with you. This is especially easy for anyone whos traveling with family or are themselves a chronic over-packer. Not having to re-pack your suitcase allows you to better observe and enjoy whats going on around you.
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Viking River Grand European River Cruise Review
In the course of two-weeks, we would cruise on three rivers the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. Along the way, Viking Lif had 12 scheduled cruise ports to visit before docking in Amsterdam. A couple of port tour excursions offered day trips to other nearby ancient towns, and I highly recommend those options.
Tips When Booking A Solo Cruise
You might be thinking, but I’m not a cruise person. The thing is, there are as many different types of cruises as there are people. You may not like all the bells and whistles of a 3,000 passenger Caribbean-based ship, but find the small size of an Asian river cruise ship or a boutique yacht-like Latin Trails’ 16-passenger Sea Star Journey more than appealing. Try not to make a general assumption about cruising before you’ve done your research, and you may find yourself very pleasantly surprised.
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Examples Of Windstar Northern European Cruises
Dramatic fjords, unexpected waterfalls, brightly painted fishing villages popping from backdrops of gloomy mountains. Much of northern Europe is so visually striking you will feel as if you had sailed right into a cinematic masterpiece. However, unlike a film, the scenery you will witness aboard a Windstar cruise is real.
The mist-shrouded hills and waterfalls adorning seaside cliffs like strands of crystals, the fresh sea air and spooky castles they are all yours to take in. Here are a few of our cruises which bring you close to the magnificence and wonder of Scandinavia.
1. Norwegian Splendors
Our Norwegian Splendors Cruise, starting at $2,599 per person lasts seven days and takes you on a round trip beginning in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Youll sail through Sognefjord, the longest fjord in Norway, and explore three other Norwegian destinations before heading back to Edinburgh.
Throughout your journey, youll have opportunities to learn about Viking and Scandinavian culture, sail emerald green fjords, feast on local cuisine and more.
Your journey begins at Edinburgh Castle. The castle stands 443 feet above sea level on a volcanic crag and was built as a fort in 600 A.D. Edinburgh Castle has a dark and fascinating past, from housing royalty to prisoners of war. It still stands, dominating the Edinburgh skyline and captivating onlookers.
2. Around Iceland
3. Star Collector: Fish and Ships: Best of the British Isles
Cruise Holidays Around The Mediterranean And Europe
Sunway have selected a number of great Mediterranean and European cruise options to provide you with the ultimate cruise experience. Taste the wonders of the European Capitals or enjoy the sun of the Mediterranean and Turkey.
Mediterranean and Europe Cruise Special Offers
Price subject to availability and/or change. Terms & Conditions apply.
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Younger Travelers Are Scarce
If you see a young person on a traditional river cruise, chances are it is an older grandchild who was chosen to accompany grandparents. Travelers under the age of 13 aren’t likely to be found.
Many river cruises simply are not programmed for families. The entertainment programs, water slides and rock-climbing walls found on many ocean-going ships are far less likely on the river.
For years, the target audience for these trips has been the baby-boomer generation, and the median age on traditional ships is probably in the mid-60s. Many of the passengers are retired and simply want to spend some quiet time exploring places they’ve read about all of their lives.
As with any general rule, this one has notable exceptions. Some river cruise lines have sought out younger markets. Tauck, for example, offers its Bridges itineraries to destinations such as France. Family activities include a scavenger hunt through the Louvre. Uniworld markets a series of “family friendly” cruises designed for multi-generational family excursions.
Keep in mind that family friendly doesn’t always mean budget friendly.
If you want to show your children Amsterdam, Vienna or Budapest, you’ll need to think about train travel. River cruises usually cater to older adults.
Europe By Train Car Cruise Or Land Tour
Are you overwhelmed by the endless options available when considering a trip to Europe? Youre not alone. Our savvy Travel Experts have experienced Europe by train, rental car, ocean cruise, river cruise, guided tour, bicycle you name it! Check out our top tips to help you decide which type of travel best suits your vision of the perfect European getaway.
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European Cruise Ports Worth Getting Off The Ship For
A cruise vacation is a fun, convenient, fuss-free way to travel, especially if youre tackling a large region like Europe. But with many of the newer ships now offering Michelin-star dining, adrenaline-pumping activities and relaxing sanctuaries, some cruisers are more than happy to spend their port days on the ship, rather than exploring the beautiful European cruise ports. While the onboard features and amenities are certainly what makes the cruising experience so remarkable, there are five cities you cant miss during your Europe cruise, for the simple fact that there isnt another city quite like it.
Day Five: Melk Austria And All That Glitters Is Mostly Gold
Melk is a curiously monastic community with resplendent Melk Abbey high on a hill overlooking the Danube. Cobblestone street wind through town, leading to the Abbeys grand entrance. Monks from the Abbey stroll through town and work in the Abbey as they have for more than 900 years.
Plan to spend about an hour inside the Abbey. You can walk up to the entrance or take a motor coach to the top of the hill.
The baroque interior is dazzling, the library has over 80,000 medieval manuscripts and several hidden doors. Leave time to step outside for a sweeping view of the city and Danube below.
Its a pleasant stroll over a little bridge back to the river ship, or take the motor coach again. The town is lovely with cafés and small boutique shops.
With a Be back on board at 3:45pm, we were welcomed with an Austrian apple strudel-making demonstration. Then the habitual cocktail hour, daily port briefing and the slow walk into the dining room. Another satisfying multi-course dinner and off to bed.
Every night on the river cruise theres entertainment in the lounge. So far, weve had the onboard musician at the keyboard and dancing, Slovakian folk dancing show and the goulash event. With days so busy, evening entertainment has been kept to a minimum. I think Viking knows that wed be exhausted.
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Con: Just The Highlights
If you like to take things slow and soak in a destination, cruising is also a bad fit. For example, imagine trying to see New York, Washington, D.C., or San Francisco in eight hours or less. Thats often what cruising forces you to do in equally storied cities such as Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Nice, Budapest, and more.
On top of that, most cruises only focus on a major section of Europe, say the Western or Eastern Mediterranean, Scandinavia, the Black Sea, or inland rivers. You cant fault cruising for that sizable geography, but its something you should know before boarding.
TIP: While April through November is considered the best time to cruise Europe , you can enjoy even greater savings by booking in the spring or autumn shoulder seasons.
Take Advantage Of All Of The Dining Rooms
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
On a Viking cruise, diners can visit any restaurant without incurring any additional charge. Many travelers play it safe, sticking with contemporary American fare at the buffet, but our Viking source strongly recommended exploring all of the ships culinary options.
A simple place to start: Mamsens, a chic deli located on every Viking ocean cruise ship.
Located in the Explorers Lounge, Mamsens serves traditional Scandinavian fare inspired by Ragnhild Hagen Viking Chairman Torstein Hagens mother, or Mamsen, as she was known to the family, our source wrote. The deli, named in her honor, serves cuisine inspired by her kitchen, from sweet rolls with cloudberry jam, salmon gravlax, open-faced sandwiches to her heart-shaped waffles served with jam or gjetost and Norwegian brown goat cheese.
Youll also want to check out Manfredis Italian Restaurant and The Chefs Table, the cruise lines premium restaurants. Some suites come with a guaranteed reservation, but if youre grabbing a stateroom, try to visit the restaurants early in your voyage.
And if you enjoy your experience at one of those premium restaurants, feel free to head back later in the trip at The Chefs Table, the menu changes every three days.
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The Danube Began To Look A Little Ominous
What I saw from the old bridge didnt look too good. The Danube was rushing past us downstream heading towards the Black Sea, its terminus. Trees were submerged. The water was creeping up to the lower levels of the medieval buildings.
While we were in Regensburg, Viking Lif sailed from Straubing to Regensburg to meet us. This was a chance for passengers who simply yearned for a quiet day onboard to just cruise.
Back onboard with time to freshen up before the daily briefing. But tonight, the meeting took a sudden twist. The Program Director proceeded with an expected announcement.
To paraphrase, Lee said, Pack your bags, were changing river ships in the morning. It was a very busy evening for everyone. We would disembark with our carry-on luggage the next morning at 8:30 AM in Deggendorf, then board a bus to meet sister ship, Viking Skadi, in Nuremberg. Our Viking Grand European Tour was about to take a twist.
You Can Avoid Overpaying For Drinks
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
If youre planning on drinking regularly no judgments here, were talking about a vacation there are a couple of ways to keep your budget in check.
The most obvious: Pay for the Silver Spirits beverage package, which offers unlimited beers, cocktails, premium wines, juices, espresso drinks, and mineral water for the entire cruise. Prices vary depending on the length of the cruise, but for around $19.95 per night per guest, youll never have to worry about what youre spending.
Is that worth it? If youre planning on drinking several glasses of wine per night , its certainly a decent purchase. If that doesnt sound like a great value , theres another option.
You can also buy local wine and bring it onboard, a Viking Cruises representative tells TravelAwaits via email. Each stateroom on Viking Longships and Vikings ocean ships have a refrigerator, and a corkscrew is also available onboard.
As with all other aspects of your cruise, the trick is to plan ahead. Make a list of planned expenditures, then do the math to see whether you can justify the Silver Spirits package. If not, you can always grab a few bottles of the good stuff during a shore excursion.
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If Youre A Savvy Traveler You Probably Know About Viking Cruises
Courtesy of Viking Cruises
The cruise line provides luxurious river and ocean cruises, with luxurious being the key word while most people think of a cruise vacation as a by-the-numbers affair, Viking has redefined guest expectations by providing a carefully cultivated all-inclusive experience.
The companys ships employ a unique modernist aesthetic that simply feels different from what youd get from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or any of the other industry leaders, and their approach has paid dividends. When youre sitting in the Explorers Lounge perusing vintage maps or enjoying a thermal bath on the spa deck, youll know why Viking Cruises are held in such high regard.
Of course, the ships features might not matter if the routes were boring. Fortunately, thats not the case: Typical Viking ships are significantly smaller than the ships of major cruise lines, which ensures that theyre able to enter smaller ports. As a result, Viking Cruises offer incredible itineraries with unmatched onboard amenities.
How We Decide What Stateroom To Book
Some cruisers say, “once you get a balcony you’ll never go back,” but we don’t find this to be the case for us. When booking a cruise, we take into account all of the things we mentioned above, but ultimately, for us, it comes down to how much of a premium we have to pay to get a balcony. Sometime we get an inside stateroom, sometimes an ocean-view, and other times we get a balcony. It just depends.
Often, while weighing the costs and benefits, we think about if the extra cost would come close to paying for another cruise, even a small one. Because we’re privileged enough to cruise frequently, if the savings can get us sailing again even sooner, we’re inclined to take the savings and enjoy the sea-views from public spaces.
A note on cost: Sometimes there may be incentives travel agents have that make the price difference to move into a verandah a bit more manageable. My travel agent has come to me several times explaining that I can get a balcony for barely more than an ocean-view. This is another great reason to use a good agent.
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Food Costs And Choices
As with all cruises, river voyages typically include most of your meals as part of the total costs. Meals tend to be served at one sitting, with open seating. Every table has a view.
Unlike many ocean-going trips, some river cruise lines often include beer, wine or soft drinks with dinner at no added charge. These offers vary, sometimes widely, by line.
Breakfasts and lunches are often served buffet-style, although a chef will prepare cooked-to-order omelets or sandwiches at one end of the buffet table.
Fixed food costs are a bonus for budget travelers since these expenses often are unpredictable on many trips. Train travelers usually eat in the cities they visit and sample local cuisine. On river cruises, you will miss out on this essential part of learning a new city’s ways.
Cruise lines might serve goulash in Budapest and apple strudel in Vienna. But if you are intent on sampling these local specialties at local restaurants in port, you’ll need to put forth extra money and effort.
If lavish shipboard entertainment is your chief priority, river cruises probably won’t satisfy.
Unlike ocean-going cruise lines that stage Vegas-style shows and provide floating casinos, the river cruise entertainment is limited to far more basic offerings.
You can visit the galley for a look at how more than 400 meals a day are prepared in a relatively small space.
You might see a folk dancing exhibition one night, or watch the crew become the cast in a talent night presentation.