Here are my thoughts on Europe cruising for all you readers thinking about booking a Mediterranean sailing.
On the whole, I found trying to see Europe from a cruise ship to be somewhat frustrating. I’m used to exploring on my own, on foot, and getting an in-depth view of each new city. My mistake, I found, was trying to do the same on a cruise vacation, where I wasted a lot of time trying to get my bearings or shuttling back and forth on tour buses. I think I’d almost prefer an itinerary that calls at smaller, lesser-known ports, rather than the big-name cities where I want to see all the highlights but can’t.
My recommendation to Europe cruisers is to accept the fact that you won’t see everything in one day or get a great feel for each city. The port stops are more conducive to wandering through town and pausing in a church or cafe every now and then, rather than checking off a whole list of must-see sights. Fiercely independent travelers may want to swallow their pride and do the hop-on-hop-off bus, so as not to waste time when you want to see several attractions.
If you’re signing up for shore excursions, choose ones that involve more time in each place and less time on the bus, even if that means you see fewer destinations. An excursion that focuses on an activity, such as biking or wine tasting, may give a narrower but ultimately more rewarding experience of a place—more so than a jam-packed sightseeing tour.
Always expect crowds if you’re cruising during the peak summer months. Major European cities, such as Rome, will be chockablock with tourists to begin with, and port towns will often have multiple cruise ships docked in the harbor. Bring your patience, and remember that touring Europe can be quite exhausting. Make the most of your sea days (i.e. sleep in, lay in the sun, and don’t set a schedule) or even opt to take half a port day off and enjoy the ship when it’s mostly empty. A good pace and the right attitude will ensure a fantastic European cruise.