Cruise Trips: Adventure over Relaxation (Part 2)

Despite the relaxing image, a cruise trip can be as adventurous as any vacation, depending on the ship and itinerary.

You get the idea. Not only did we mostly live out of our suitcases; we spent half our vacation time looking out the windows of trains and buses. Our meals were unpredictable and unsatisfying, especially as we all tried to save money for souvenirs and other treats.

Seeing Europe like this is still common for many travelers. Restaurants are expensive, with everything a la carte and impatient waiters. Some hotels have obscure rules like locking the doors at 9:00 p.m. and turning the hot water off at night. The trains' routes are not planned for the panoramic vistas. You spend more time poring over train schedules, packing and lugging your bags around than you do sightseeing.

Some young people still backpack through Europe. They land in a city and take a taxi downtown to find a hostel with straw mattresses. But older individuals want creature comforts and intellectual stimulation at the same time. Local travel options are far too cumbersome for serious travelers.

Car Rentals Renting a car gives you more freedom, but also the challenge of driving in a foreign land, where you run the risk of getting horribly lost trying to read maps and freeway signs with foreign names and hieroglyphic symbols that mean nothing to you. As you navigate the spider-web streets of ancient cities, you battle local drivers who ignore streetlights and consider the white lane lines as mere suggestions. The cost of petrol is three times higher than the worst days of the energy crisis in America.

A Better Option -- Guided Tours Because of the above drawbacks, many experienced travelers opt for motorcoach tours where everything is prearranged. Hotels and restaurants are pre-selected and included in the tour cost. Bus tours are actually a decent choice: Experienced guides tell you what you are seeing, and you never have to worry about navigating or negotiating cab, restaurant, hotel or train fares.

The only drawback to bus tours is the accommodations. You still find yourself in a different hotel every day or two. You must unpack and repack. Your beds and bathrooms will vary from acceptable to horrible.

Cruise Trips -- The Best Vacation Option Now let's look at cruise trips. You touch down in your foreign airport and find a cruise line representative waiting to take your bags. You are guided to a coach and driven to the ship, where you are greeted with champagne and shown to your stateroom. Your bags arrive at your door soon after. You unpack once and go to dinner.

The next day you wake up, eat breakfast on the vessel, and take a tour provided by the cruise line. If it is a larger ocean-going cruise ship, you pay for the tour; but if it is a river cruise -- which I highly recommend -- the shore tours are included in the cruise price. Your river cruiser will often stop close enough to the important sites to walk there, or the line will provide a coach.

You can eat lunch in a local restaurant if you want, or you can return to the ship for a fare-included gourmet meal prepared by an expert European chef who knows and uses local ingredients. Overnight, the riverboat or cruise ship sails to the next location. You eat dinner, enjoy the nighttime entertainment and go to bed. When you wake up, you are in a new destination, ready to repeat the previous day's timetable but with all new sights.

Continue Article >> Cruise Trips -- The Best Vacation Option (Cont.) (Part 3)

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