European cruises can offer a great vacation experience. These cruises will combine sightseeing with the typical on ship activities. However, if you’ve never been on a Europe cruise, the experience can be overwhelming. You will end up in several ports over several days, and have limited time in each. If you don’t take some time to plan, the vacation won’t be as restful and enjoyable as you hope. Here are 9 great tips to help you maximize your European cruise experience.
Tip 1- Be Realistic
Europe is massive. There is no way you are going to be able to see everything in just one European cruise package. If you enjoy your time, you can always plan another cruise to see different areas next time. Think of the cruise as a way to get a snapshot of the area rather than an all-inclusive tour.
Tip 2- Planning an Itinerary
Keeping the first tip in mind, you should look carefully at the different itineraries available. You’ll find western European cruises, northern Europe cruises, and Mediterranean cruises. Each will port in different areas. Mediterranean cruises will focus more on Italy, the Greek Isles, and Turkish areas. With these cruises you can expect to see Rome, Spanish coasts, Lisbon, and Istanbul. Western cruises will take you to areas such as Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Paris. The Northern cruises will take you through areas such as Iceland, and Greenland, while the Baltic cruises will cover areas such as Stockholm, and Copenhagen. You can spend some time looking over the different calls of port and research the landmarks you are most interested in before you book the cruise.
Tip 3- Think About the Weather
Winter with Mediterranean cruises may be cool and a little rainy, but it’s become a popular time to cruise. Winter cruises won’t always spend as much time in each port, and may be limited to a few ports, but they can be a great way to get a cheap cruise vacation. On the other hand, if you are planning a trip for the typical summer breaks you will want to plan for hot weather and big crowds. If you take some time to research the weather, you can find great Europe cruises that will be everything you dreamed of.
Tip 4- Seasonal Information
Other than the weather you also want to consider the crowds and the businesses. In many places in Europe shops and restaurants close in July and August for vacation. So while it’s a popular time to travel, you may face a lot of closed doors. Going earlier in the year, such as in April and May, will give you mild weather, lower fares, and thin crowds. Planning later in the year, like October, will give you weather that is mostly mild but may be chilly and unpredictable, the lowest fares, and smaller crowds as well. European cruises can be great any time of the year, but plan ahead for a more enjoyable experience.
Tip 5- Prioritize
European cruises will stop in several ports over several days. Most port calls are for a day, if not less. This means you need to plan accordingly. If you try to get too much sightseeing in you will go back to the ship being completely exhausted. You will also probably not have a terribly enjoyable experience. Remember that these cruises aren’t designed to show you everything. Do your research beforehand so you can prioritize what you want to do at each port during the European cruises.
Tip 6- Take Advantage of the Breaks
When you are on a European cruise vacation you will find few chances to just rest on the ship. When you get these rare days between ports, take advantage of them. The ship will have activities that are both high energy and relaxing. You’ll be much better served if you take advantage of the more relaxing activities, such as spa treatments or drinks poolside, in between ports. You can participate in some of the high energy activities when you travel back after the cruise.
Tip 7- Kid Friendly Vacations
A cruise throughout Europe is a great way to enjoy a family vacation. Unlike other types of cruises, these are automatically more kid friendly. You won’t have to worry about half naked people tramping through the beaches with cocktails. While you may find this along the Riviera occasionally, it’s not going to be as commonplace as it would be with Caribbean cruises. You can also find activities both on the ship and off that will appeal to children. Since you won’t have a lot of time in each locale, you won’t have to worry about the kids losing focus. Definitely consider European cruises for a family vacation. If you find discount cruises this can be an affordable option even for larger families.
Tip 8- Off Shore Tours
The leading European cruises will offer organized tours through some of the more interesting places off shore. You need to book these when you book your cruise tickets. A lot of people fear that taking these tours will only give you basic sightseeing opportunities. However, there are benefits to these. First, you don’t have worry about renting a car and navigating your way around an unfamiliar city. Second, they do actually give you plenty of time to enjoy the sights. And most importantly, if the tour bus is late getting back, the ship waits for you. You don’t have to book the tours for each dock. Areas like Venice, Stockholm, and Copenhagen are easy to navigate on foot. Paris, Rome, and St. Petersburg are far larger and much harder to get around.
Tip 9- Finding Souvenirs
Most of us want to bring home some special symbol of our adventures. You may also want to shop for family and friends while you’re abroad. While a ceramic trinket with the cities name may be available in the gift shop of the cruise ship, you can find much more personalized gifts if you venture off the ship. Look for items that are a specialty of the area you are visiting. It doesn’t have to have the name of the city on it to hold special significance. For example, chocolates from Belgium, wine from France or Italy, or hand crafted items found in the street markets of St. Petersburg can also be a fantastic reminder of your cruise to Europe. It’s also cheaper to find trinkets off the ship since the ship will only stock a small supply of souvenirs. This way you can also find something unique at each port to invoke memories of each stop on the European cruises you got to go on.