As I type this I am on my fourth flight to Europe. Though there is a lot to do in Europe, I usually head over for a week, maybe two weeks at a time. Europe isn’t for everyone. It’s nothing like North America. You need to do make sure you’ll enjoy it. Trust me, there’s something for everyone, but it’s all a matter of your personality.
Besides just having your passport, keep these five questions in mind:
1. Can I afford it? Europe is hurting right now for tourism. You can get a seven-night cruise for as low as $499 per person. Just because the cruise fare is very attractive doesn’t mean that your other parts of the trip will be. Take into consideration your airfare, a pre- or post-night hotel stay, shore excursions and private transportation to actually see Europe. Cruise ports in Europe can be as far as a couple hours away from the city. Rome is a prime example. It’s about an hour inland.
2. Can I handle the flight over? Depending on where you are flying from, it can be a long haul to Europe. Jacksonville to Amsterdam was 12 hours (through Washington D.C.) and Barcelona was 11 hours of flight time (through Miami). If you’re coming from say Seattle, you’ll tack on a few more hours. It’s always a good idea to go in a day early (another added hotel cost) or take the red eye over to land on the start of a new day.
3. Am I comfortable in another country? Europe is a bunch of different cultures mixed into one continent. With the different cultures come different languages. Take Barcelona. English isn’t the primary language in there, in fact, mostly only the hotels speak English. You have to be comfortable going to someone else’s culture, or be comfortable with a guidebook or a quick reference smartphone app.
4. Will the whole family enjoy it? Europe offers a lot of walking cities. I’m not going to lie, Rome in the middle of summer is hot as hell. If you have little ones you probably would want to let them opt for the children’s program, or wait until they are a little older. If you’re doing a multigenerational cruise, keep all family members in mind. Do research.
5. Am I a good planner? Planning is a key element when planning Europe vacations. Most European cruise ports aren’t just a place where you can walk off the ship and go do a tour – that’s the Caribbean. Use all the tools available from The Weather Channel, Cruise Critic, cruise line shore excursion sections and folks in your social networks.
A lot of questions can be answered just by researching. Don’t let the sticker prices on a cruise fare fool you. You have taxes, excursions, spending money, airfare and hotel (if you’re doing post- or pre-cruise stays). It’s a big but well worth investment.
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