Linda Pearl cruises on Carnival Magic
and learns the difference between a
European and a Caribbean cruise.
Cruising in Europe - Do It
CruiseMates just had the opportunity to send one of its staff members on a European cruise aboard the brand new and beautiful Carnival Magic. Linda Pearl was invited as a member of the media to preview the ship, so she was in a group with all of the familiar cruise journalists you see on various web sites and newspapers.
The wonderful thing about this for Linda was that it was her first time in Europe - which, of course, made it the experience of a lifetime. Naturally we want to say a VERY BIG "Thank You" to Carnival for hosting Linda. She is a popular chat hostess and forum moderator here at CruiseMates and her friends and fans were all very happy to follow along with her.
The odd thing is that Linda's situation is not unusual. Like many cruisers, she limits her cruise experience to the Caribbean and other close to home ports (Linda lives in Boston). She tends to think of cruising as a way to escape the cold weather of the Northeast during those long, cold winters.
But here at CruiseMates we really encourage people like Linda to try a cruise in Europe. Not only is it a cruise, but the destinations are far more fascinating than the usual Caribbean islands. Carnival Magic started off in Venice and sailed to Dubrovnik, Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo and ended in Barcelona. European cruises are travel vacations, for sightseeing, more than just relaxing getaways. And as far as planning the cruise is concerned, the only difference is a longer plane flight (and higher airfare, of course).
The advantages of cruising in Europe, as we have enumerated so many times, are many. The normal European vacation involves going to many different sites - because once you travel to the continent you want to see as much as possible. But you have to choose a means of travel; railroad, car rental, motor coach, etc.
All of the above require packing your clothes is suitcases and leaving them there, because you will be staying in as many as 10 different hotels as you travel from one destination to the next. Think about how much packing and unpacking is involved with that process! Furthermore, you cannot get a decent night's sleep while you are traveling - unless you book a sleeping coach on a train which is expensive, so you end up spending many of your waking hours traveling from one site to the next, and you spend much of your time in these famous cities sleeping.
But with a cruise you arrive at the ship and unpack once - and then settle in for the adventure. The ship sails at night while you are sleeping and docks in different ports during the day - giving you the entire day to see the port of call. All cruise lines offering European cruises understand the main reason you are on the cruise is to see Europe, so they schedule as many ports as possible. Linda had just three sea days on her 10 day cruise, for example.
Smaller cruise lines with smaller vessels often schedule a port each day in Europe and other such destinations, and many of them even offer overnight stays and extra days in important destinations like Venice or St. Petersburg, Russia.
On a cruise you never have to think about your hotel reservation, packing your bags, finding the train station or one of the biggest challenges for me - choosing a restaurant. Restaurant dining is different in Europe, the menus are all a la carte, and so it gets expensive. Service is added onto the bill so tipping is not optional.
I have personally found restaurant service to be much worse in Europe than it is in America. And to be honest, I have had very few meals in European restaurants that I felt compared to what is served on cruise ships - known for their gourmet food. Of course you want to sample the food while in Europe, but I never want to be forced to eat every meal in restaurants in Europe again. How expensive is it just to dine in Europe? In Barcelona I saw a McDonalds where a Big Mac meal deal was almost $15. Imagine how much a fine restaurant costs.
Finally - one style of European cruising has recently become very popular - riverboat cruising. These riverboats offer all of the convenience of a cruise ship, but with the added advantage of always being within view of the shore, so you can enjoy the scenery going by as you dine. Most of the days are spent sightseeing on shore, as on a regular cruise, but the smaller size of the riverboat and the proximity of major rivers to big cities allows the vessel to dock right in downtown Vienna, Budapest, Cologne, Paris, Bordeaux, London and other major cities. There are maybe a hundred river boats in Europe sailing seven to 14-day cruises all the way from Portugal to St Petersburg and from Amsterdam to Odessa, Ukraine.
If you are a regular cruiser you must take a European cruise some day. Our own Linda just got home from her first one, and she was overwhelmed by the experience. "The History Chanel came alive for me." She wrote to us, and in fact I recognize places on television that I have seen in person all the time.
Seeing the world with your own eyes is like filling in a big puzzle. You never really know what a place is really like until you breathe in the air, taste the food, hear the language, see the architecture and watch the people. Cruising is great, and so is world travel - but putting the two together creates a synergy that is greater than either of them separately.
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