The whole cruise phenomenon is still a bit baffling to me. Spending a week on a ship that’s bound to make many of us at least a little sick, living in a tiny room just never has seemed like an ideal vacation to me. But I have many many friends and family members who have been on many cuises lately and they almost all seem to love it. I did go on one cruise to the Bahamas, which I liked fairly well and wrote an article about. Since then, I’ve had friends and family cruise around South America, through the Mediterranean and to Morocco, down the Danube, and through the Baltic Sea so I’ve heard lots of stories.
The cruises in the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic are not much different in nature than the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico cruises. Tpically, they are 7 days with daytime port of calls in popular cities on the route. For my parents’ latest cruise, they left from Barcelona and had stops at the Canary Islands, Casablanca, Valencia, and one more city in Morocco. And all I got was a t-shirt from Morocco.
Carnival is probably the most popular cruiseline for cruises leaving from the USA and while they still have a presence in Europe, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Holland America are the two most popular ones. Each company has their own little identity but for the most part, the companies are equivalent in service provided. I recently had some other friends cruise the Adriatic from Venice to Naples to Athens, Greece, and back on Holland America. All of these people had been on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises to Mexico or the Bahamas and they all agree that the entertainment was better on the Europe cruises. That’s not saying that entertainment programs on the 4 day Bahamas cruises are bad – they are still very good – just not as original. Probably longer cruises pay more and can get better entertainers.
January through March is a great time to go cruising in the Mediterranean. The weather is beautiful and places aren’t so filled with tourists. Yes, the ocean may be a little chilly but with highs regularly close to 70 in January along the Mediterranean and Adriatic coast, what more could you want?
Another type of cruise is a river cruise. The Danube River, flowing through scenic southern Germany and in to Hungary, is a good river to cruise on. These cruises are definitely not the magnitude of the Sea cruises simply because of the space constraints in the water. These ships typically only have 300 -500 passengers instead of the 3000+ that the bigger ships hold. On the Danube River cruise, you get to stop at a lot of small German cities and see the Black Forest and get more of a feel of the countryside rather than just the beaches and ports that you get on the bigger cruises. Even with the smaller ships, they sometimes need help getting the ships through so they have things called locks that raise the water level in sections of the river where a ship is. Otherwise, certiain parts of the river might be too shallow to pass. The Rhine River is also a good river for river cruises in Europe.