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Your Best Large Ship European Cruises

Big ship European Cruises…are they for you?

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Cruises in Europe on "big ships" cover many countries and lots of ground.

They offer a great value…but be careful that you don’t suffer from vacation burnout…

European cruises on the bigger ships are often a port-after-port affair with few or no sea days. That’s fine if you want to see a lot but if you want to relax…other types of cruises in this Tutorial may be more appealing to you.

Who wants to be in Athens and miss the Acropolis or in Rome and miss seeing the Vatican…don’t forget it takes an hour from the Rome port – Civitavecchia – to Rome.

In most other cities it’s a lot shorter, but it can easily take an hour to get off a big ship…and another hour to get from the bus to the ship again.

So first look at six items when you’re planning to book a European cruise…on a large ship

  1. Select the right ship…how big do you want her to be…do the ship’s features interest you?
  2. Choose the right itinerary…ask yourself what cities you would like to visit...how long does the ship stay in each port…does she dock on a pier or anchor in the harbor?

    Especially on the big ships with thousands of passengers think about wasting time on a tender and…how many “days at sea”, if any?

    Ships in Europe usually sail in the late afternoon so you can spend your money on board in the evening…

  3. Pick the right cabin…do you need a balcony, a premium suite…look at your budget and ask a friend who has sailed on the ship or a good travel consultant who knows it inside out.

    If possible don’t book cruises online or with companies that pressure you to give your credit card now…

  4. Have an idea of your total cost…how much does a cruise really cost?

    A lot more than you expect...drinks, shore excursions, and tips really add up in a week…ask a friend or good travel agent for advice.

    Cruise companies like to keep the basic price low…so ask!

  5. Find the most affordable way

    • Book the minimum cabin
    • Sail on off-peak dates or on a repositioning cruise
    • Don’t take all the “overpriced” cruise line’s shore excursions. Yes, most are overpriced and you travel with three or four coaches at the same time. Make the trips more interesting. Look at the Shoretrips Alternative under "Helpul Websites" at the end of this page.
    • Plan ahead and do you own thing in some ports…

  6. Customize your cruise…consider what you want to do in each port...look at the shore excursions on the web including the European Travel Resource Center…

And a few more general tips…

  1. Do you plan to book a table in one of the ship’s “specialty restaurants” on a day at sea? If possible don’t do this on the second and sixth night of a week’s cruise…when the regular dining room brings you the best food.
  2. Do you want to go to a spa? Book it for a day at sea…no rushing back to the ship for a massage when you could spend time enjoying Rome or another exciting city.
  3. If it’s possible for you…board early and pre-register online…with 2000+ passengers it gets crowded.
  4. Seek out the quiet areas if you don’t have a balcony…ships have decks with little used areas.
  5. If you don’t like your dinner seating…try to switch…we did…no use spending money and not enjoying it…

Where can you sail in Europe on the Biggies…

  • The Western Mediterranean…cruises focus on Italy’s west coast (for Rome and Florence), the French Riviera, Spain and Portugal.
  • The Eastern Mediterranean…revolving around Greece and its islands, Turkey, Croatia and even Venice.
  • The British Isles and Western Europe…covers Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Several of these areas are combined with Baltic cruises.
  • The Baltic and Northern Europe…Baltic cruises are popular and include stops in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki…plus they always have a stop in St. Petersburg.

    A different type of cruise, the Norwegian Coastal Steamer, that is in effect an overnight ferry, travels along the Norwegian Coast from Bergen to the North Cape and back in twelve days. (The company is now called Hurtigruten)

A few more sensible tips for a European cruise

  • Give yourself a break…see how many “sea days” a cruise has…you’ll appreciate the occasional “days off” from the frantic sightseeing in ports.
  • Avoid long sightseeing trips…from Le Havre visit Normandy instead of Paris…unless of course you don’t expect to come back to France in the future...Paris is still my favorite city!
  • Do something other than taking all shore excursions…take a walking tour of Helsinki, kayak the canals of Copenhagen and stop for coffee in Stockholm’s Old Town.
  • Of course in Europe wear very comfortable shoes wherever you go…basically decide when to go out on your own and when to stick to shore tours.

  • Consider the timing…if you don’t like crowds or cold weather…go from April to early June or September and October…or late June to early July if you’re limited to school holidays…
  • Shop smart…skip the expensive souvenir shops…visit the souvenir sections of the big departments stores…and local supermarkets for food items.
  • On a European cruise take each city as a sampler…if you like it plan to go back…if you feel you’ve seen enough take it off your "to-do" list.

So…what’s the best way to book your Big Ship European Cruise?

  • Decide on the destination you want to visit…port cities…
  • Ask friends who know you well for recommendations or find a good travel consultant.

    Travel consultants sell a lot of cruises and have been on many ships. They can give a much better service and a lot more personal attention than the ones who don't specialize in cruises.

  • Remember…for cruise lines and online booking services you are a number…for travel consultants you’re a friend that they want to please as much as they can...but find a good one who knows the ship inside and out!

Two more helpful web sites…

  • What is the best European cruise for you?

    CruiseCritc offers reviews on boat-by-boat and port-by-port, evaluates cruise lines and itineraries, and recommends cruises suitable for families, couples, adventurers or mature travelers.

    You can find lots of valuable information.

  • What is the best sightseeing for you on your European cruise?

    Shoretrips offers links and reviews to local firms that offer a much better value than trips sold on the ship. (Also look under France Sightseeing & Excursions for your special discounts on shore excursions from Nice, Monaco, Cannes & Marseilles.)

    Especially on the big ships you might want to think about hiring a private car or minibus and driver (driver-guide) for you and a few of your friends for shore excursions…it’s certainly different from traveling with hundreds of other passengers in several coaches.

    Discuss shore excursions with your travel consultant before you leave home…cruise companies won’t give suggestions or opinions, but advice from your consultant can make the cruise a lot more enjoyable for you!

    For more information on European cruises visit the European Travel Resource Center.

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