Welcome Back to our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!
As many of you who follow along know, Jamie’s much-anticipated Summer Family Vacation of 2023 was spent cruising through Europe on the Celebrity Beyond! This epic cruise took Jamie and Fam through Italy, Greece and Turkey, and as expected, it was BEYOND amazing! Because the itinerary included so many beautiful and diverse destinations, we’ll be featuring different locations and travel experiences over the course of multiple “Do”s and “Don’t”s Blogs. Today, we’re featuring European Cruising!
So Let’s Go to sail around Europe! But First…
Table of Contents
Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s for European Cruising!
Top Favorites, and Jamie’s “Must Do” Experiences
1. DO Book Early!
The two hottest trends in travel right now are European Vacations and Cruises. Put those together in a European Cruise, and you have sold out sailings on many European itineraries! So, if you are considering a European Cruise for next year or even for 2025, book as early as possible! Booking early will give you the best chance of getting the type of room you prefer, as well as getting you the best pricing, too. That’s right, because here’s some Insider Info for you: most of the travel world operates with dynamic pricing, meaning the more full a cruise or tour or hotel is, the higher the prices go (not the other way around). So don’t wait for a European Cruise “deal,” because, spoiler alert: it’s not happening!
2. DO Splurge on a Balcony Room
But, speaking of what kind of room or cabin you prefer on a Cruise…on a European cruise, you should always splurge on at least a balcony or verandah room (of course, suites and concierge level would be even better, but that’s not in everyone’s budget). Cruising through Europe is not like the Caribbean, where the views are mostly of the open ocean (which is still gorgeous and deserves a balcony if you can swing it); European Cruising gives you views of landscapes and architecture unique to each area, especially as you pass through the straits, and being able to take in the views from your balcony is absolutely worth the extra splurge. Pro-Tip: If your family won’t fit in one room and your kids are old enough, get one balcony room and one inside room right across the hall for the kiddos to ease the cost!
3. DO Take a Longer Cruise if Possible
Many European Cruises are about 7 nights in length, and they are still great if that is the maximum length of time you have, but the 11 and 12 night itineraries are really the best way to experience Europe by cruise. Besides just being a longer vacation to enjoy, the lengthier cruises make stops at some of the less common ports, broadening your experience and deepening your cultural immersion into the country (or countries) through which you’re cruising (more on this later, too). Plus, if you have the option to take a longer vacation, why wouldn’t you, right?
Top Tips that Jamie Learned Along the Way
1. Brush Up on Info about Each Port
While we at Love of the Magic Vacations truly believe that Travel itself is the best form of education, there is definitely room for gaining extra knowledge along the way. One of the best ways to build excitement about an upcoming trip, especially if you’re taking the kiddos, is to have some background knowledge about the locations you’ll be visiting. This can be as simple as watching a movie or reading a book set in the country, or some of the cities, along your itinerary (these options work really well for little kids especially), and it can be as complex as researching each Port to better plan for your excursions at each place (this is a great way to get big kids and teenagers involved). Doing this elevates the excitement when you and your family see in person what you saw in a movie or read about together!
2. Book Small Group or Private Tours in Ports
And speaking of excursions…your research (or at least your quick glances and movie screenings) into each Port will help you pick the tours and activities that will interest you and your family most! When choosing what to do off the ship, try to make as many of your excursions as possible a small group or private tour experience with a local guide. Having a smaller group will allow you a more authentic taste of local life in the area, especially when you have a local as a guide, too! If you can’t find the kinds of experiences you want through the excursions offered by the Cruise Line, your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor will be able to help you find excursions through other trusted companies.
3. Experience Europe’s Beach Clubs
If you’re planning to cruise through Europe during the summer, a Beach Club will likely be an excursion option, depending on the Port, and one that you should choose to experience at least once throughout your trip! If you love the beach (or even if you’re not a huge beach person, but could use a day of relaxation), the Beach Clubs of Europe are definitely something you shouldn’t miss out on! They’re beautiful, they’re chic, they’re picturesque, and they pretty much guarantee amazing views and delicious, fun drinks all day. What’s not to love?
Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently
1. DON’T Wait to Book Excursions
Just like with any Cruise, you should know when your window to book excursions opens, and be ready with your choices and prepared to book as soon as it does (don’t worry, your LOTMV Travel Advisor will send you a reminder about this)! Excursions fill up fast, especially the most popular ones that everyone wants to take, so don’t sleep on your excursion booking window, or you will likely wind up disappointed that your top choices are full if you wait. With that said, there are excursions you can book outside of the Cruise Line’s options, as mentioned above, which your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor can help you with, but even those should be booked as far in advance as possible too, since those options sell out as well.
2. DON’T Opt Out of a European Cruise because of Kids
European Cruises are just as amazing for kids as Caribbean cruises, and maybe even more so. Here’s why: depending on the cruise line you choose (your LOTMV Travel Advisor can help you find the best options for your family), the ship will have plenty of onboard activities for kids, and the excursion options will be family friendly as well. So just imagine spending the day immersing your family into a new cultural experience, and then hopping back on the ship where your kids can get out any energy and be able to choose their own activities for the evening. Plus, for any days at sea, your kids will get full days of onboard activities, including kids’ clubs, water slides, sports facilities and SO much more, which means that parents may even have some time to relax and enjoy those balcony views even more! Totally a win/win for parents and kids!
3. DON’T Skip the Ports and Stay on the Ship
For the most part, the European Ports are the whole reason travelers choose a European Cruise over a cruise elsewhere, such as the Caribbean; the Ports are what give you the European part of the experience! All too often, especially on the longer cruises with the smaller Port stops, cruisers choose to take a “rest” day at a small Port by staying on the ship. Big mistake! Those smaller Ports are exactly the reason taking a longer cruise is so special: you get time in places shorter cruises usually pass over. In fact, some of Jamie’s absolute favorite Port experiences have been at smaller Ports and in destinations she didn’t even know to visit until she was there on a cruise excursion! So get your energy up and get off the boat!
4. DON’T Roam Around a Port Without a Guide
Those just-mentioned Ports that Jamie found to be so special were all because of the incredible local guides who brought each place to life, and knew just where to take Jamie and her family for the most authentic experience of a location. Local Guides really are the best resource of a destination because generally local people who live in a “touristy” area don’t become Guides unless they are super passionate about where they live and what makes it special. Those people who stay on the boat and skip the smaller (and better) Ports are probably the same ones who aimlessly wander around any given Port and head back to the ship without gaining anything meaningful about that place; their mistake is not touring with a Local Guide! Wherever you go, a Local Guide who absolutely loves their hometown will surely make everyone on their tour love it, too!
And…that’s a wrap of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for European Cruising!
Ready to Plan?
Now that you have all of Jamie’s best advice for making the most of sailing through Europe, are you ready to plan your next European Cruise adventure? Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today!
Just like last year, in 2023, a new Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s list will come out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip! And you can find links to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap.
Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?
So far, we have:
And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month! You can find links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month.