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Cruises in Europe

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Cruises in Europe

Post by rockygirl » Wed September 26th, 2012, 3:39 am

Due to illness, I have not taken a real vacation in about eight years.

I'm thinking I'm up to one this year and have been seriously considering a European cruise. I can walk long distances, but I walk very slowly, and worry about the pace of a land tour.

What I'm worried about is that I might not experience "enough" of a city going on a cruise--although I am aware that I can usually add days before or after the cruise.

Has anyone been on a European (especially Amsterdam to St. Petersburg) cruise who can suggest some cities that can be seen in a meaningful way in just a few hours?
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Post by Susan » Wed September 26th, 2012, 12:13 pm

I've been on a number of cruises, all Caribbean except for one Canadian and one European and have made "normal" trips to a number of European cities. Definitely there is not enough experience of a city on a cruise. Cruise lines do offer land excursions when the ship is in port run by local tour groups. I would recommend that instead of trying to figure out an unknown city in a few hours and worrying about getting back to the ship before it sails. If there is a problem causing a delay with a land excursion offered by the cruise line, the ship will wait until that excursion returns. I recall sitting on the pool deck when my ship was docked in Nassau in the Bahamas and watching another ship sail away while some late passengers were running down the dock.

We combined a cruise with "normal" trips to two cities for a trip to Europe in 2011. We flew to Copenhagen and spent three days there which we felt was not enough. Then we took a train to Stockholm where we stayed one night as our cruise was leaving the next day. The cruise was for five days: two days at sea, one day in Helsinki and two days in St. Petersburg. After the cruise we spent four additional days in Stockholm and flew home from Stockholm.

It is a big advantage going to St. Petersburg on a cruise as visas are not necessary as long as you are going on an organized tour. My grandfather was Russian and I have always been drawn to things Russian and have read a lot about the Romanovs. I never dreamed I would actually be in Russia. They really want tourism there, but they are still catching up with the rest of Europe. We went on an 8 hour tour each day (both tours were Romanov related) with wonderful guides who were university professors. Both days, the bus did a bit of driving around St. Petersburg, so we got a feeling for the city. Both tours also had several photo stops where we got off the bus and took photos of famous sites. On day one, we went to the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul and toured the cathedral where the Romanovs are buried. We went to a huge souvenir store and had lunch at a local restaurant complete with vodka and caviar. In the afternoon we toured the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. On day two, we went outside of St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo where the Romanovs had summer palaces. We toured the spectacular Catherine Palace and its grounds. We had lunch at a local restaurant and were serenaded with live Russian music. When we went back to St. Petersburg, we took a cruise on the Neva River, the river that runs through the city. All costs (admissions and lunch) were included in the tour prices.

Do I feel like I know Helsinki, where the ship docked for one day? No, but I do feel that I had more of an experience in St. Petersburg because the ship spent two days there and I went on two all day tours. Currently I am reading The Bronze Horseman which takes place during the siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II and I can definitely visualize the city and many of the settings. I know that a cruise would have been the only way I would have gone to St. Petersburg, but as for other European cities, I'd rather go the "normal" way.
Last edited by Susan on Wed September 26th, 2012, 12:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Post by Madeleine » Thu September 27th, 2012, 8:56 am

I think with most cities of a decent size you'd need several days to explore each one - I've been to Paris 3 times, each time spending about 3 days there, and there are still things I haven't seen or done yet.

Amsterdam is quite compact so you might be able to get the flavour of it in a day, but you'd never be able to do somewhere such as Rome in a day. What places are you hoping to visit apart from the two you mentioned?
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Post by Gabriele Campbell » Sat October 20th, 2012, 6:21 pm

It depends a bit on the way cruises and land tours are organised. I've done a Baltic Sea one with a smaller ship this spring and it gave me enough time for several of the places. But I do walk fast and I've done most of the exploring on my own after previous planning what to see and how to best combine it. Plus, we did get 8-10 hours for most places and two days in St.Petersburg. I'm also mostly interested in the Middle Ages, so I concentrated on that.

You would need more time for Stockholm, but since I lived there back in the 80ies it was more like revisiting my favourite haunts. :) Helsinki doesn't have any Mediaeval achitecture, so decided for a tour to a smaller, really old town nearby instead. But the time was sufficient for Visby, Riga, Tallinn and Gdansk, and even the tour to Malbork Castle gave me enough time since I skipped lunch and went off on my own after telling the guide. I'm a castle geek and I do need a few hours for a big one like that. :)

Petersburg was the only place I only did by organised tours because of the visum thing.

Of course, what you do not really get is an impression of the life in those places like staying in a hotel, dining out and such would give you.

And yeah, Paris would require more than one day. :D

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