We cruisers are forever seeking the next big destination. Maybe a remote island in a faraway ocean or a little known port halfway round the planet. But sometimes we forget – there are great holidays to be had right on our doorstep.
Take Western Europe, for instance. It’s rich in culture and history. And a surprising number of the locals – especially younger ones – speak cracking good English. What’s more, cruise prices within this region are often quite reasonable.
Nowadays, a further attraction of visiting this part of the world is how much easier it is to do your shopping when you step ashore.
I can remember a time when travelling between five different European countries meant five different currencies.
The nuisance factor and resulting waste – because you often had lots of unspent cash left over – made life extremely frustrating for any port-hopping adventurer.
But not any more. Right now the euro may not be enjoying the happiest of times, but for those of us planning a multi-national European holiday, its existence is an enormous boon. In modern Europe you can go a long way with just one currency.
Practise the local lingo
It sounds mean to say it, but the euro offers us another benefit. The currency’s recent woes make life a little easier for those of us outside the eurozone. I’ve no idea how long this will last, but on recent trips I’ve found I’ve been getting more euros to the pound than usual.
And if all that isn’t enough, by going on a Western European cruise, I also get to practise some of those foreign languages I learned at school on native speakers.
The only trouble is that as soon as the locals identify my nationality they switch to English. To make matters worse, their efforts in my language are usually about five times more effective than mine in theirs.
Looking on the bright side, however, this means that language is one less thing you need to worry about during your cruise to mainland Europe.
47 shades of Europe
But what exactly is on offer when you sail to your local continent? Well, last time I checked there were some 47 Western European cruises to choose from.
Prices range from £199 per person to just under £4,500, which covers a fairly broad spectrum of budgets. And with cruises sailing from this month all the way through to December 2013, there should be something available to match your schedule.
Two packages in particular seemed to leap out at me.
Value for money
If you pick your holidays according to how much they cost you per day, then you won’t get many better deals than this 12 night Celebrity Constellation cruise.
Given that an inside cabin on this package will set you back £534 per person, that works out at a mere £44.50 per day. For such a small daily investment you get to spend two days in both Bordeaux and Bilbao, plus enjoy one-day visits to Vigo in Spain and Porto in Portugal.
But you haven’t long to decide. The Constellation sails from Southampton on 6 November returning to the port on 18 November.
From Rome to Copenhagen
Can’t make up your mind which region of Europe you want to visit? Maybe you like the north, you’re fascinated by the west, but also partial to the south.
Well why not combine all three in one holiday? That’s certainly made possible by this 11 night cruise on ms Eurodam.
You start in Rome, sailing from Civitavecchia on 10 May 2013. Your itinerary then takes you to four Spanish cities – Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz and Vigo – as well as to Lisbon in Portugal.
From there it’s north all the way. You call into St Peter Port in Guernsey, then Zeebrugge in Belgium before arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark on 21 May 2013.
The entire trip will set you back £1,614 per person for an inside cabin and that price includes all necessary flights.
Over the years some of us Brits have struggled with the idea that we might be European. Although geography suggests we are, many of us like to feel we’re a race apart.
Whatever our views on this issue, one thing is clear. We live right on the edge of an amazing cluster of European cultures, each of which is worth a visit. But with so many to choose from it can be hard to know which one to select.
Well, a Western European cruise offers a great solution to that problem. In less than a fortnight you can investigate five or six different cultures and still have time to explore the floating resort which is your ship.
When you think about it, it’s jolly decent of those Europeans to berth their great continent just a few convenient miles from our island. The least we can do is pop over and say hello.