Our director Kate Collins created the ideal balance between independent exploration and pre-prepared cruise with her recent European escape. Maximise time, and reduce stress – what more could you want with a holiday?
We give you the lowdown on how the two compare.
Independent exploring vs. cruise ship touring…
You’ve seen the ads on TV, you’ve clicked on photos on your social feeds from friends lounging on their ship decks and balconies, cocktail in hand, but you’re still not sure a cruise is for you. What about independence? The spontaneity of travel?
Our director Kate says you can enjoy the best of both worlds, incorporating a combination of cruise and independent exploration into your dream European getaway. The ideal mix of carefree respite and relaxation, and exciting exploration, she says it’s a great way to see as much as possible, without driving yourself too crazy with itineraries galore and folders full of tickets.
To start their trip, Kate and her partner visited London and Iceland on their own accord, before embarking on their cruise. She says this is a great way to ease into your trip with some luxurious hotels and light exploring before putting your travels in the cruise ship’s hands.
Once aboard the ship, the itinerary is all organised for you, a fuss-free way to tick off your bucket list in no time!
“We visited Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallin, Gdansk, Rostock, Copenhagen, Aalborg, Stavangar, Fiords, Bergen. We would never have managed so many destinations any other way,” Kate says. She says being at sea is a wonderful way to sneak in some down-time as you travel too! “We had one day just at sea, and we thoroughly enjoyed the respite.”
An ideal way to test the waters, so to speak, a cruise allows you to explore a variety of destinations you’ve not yet visited, and help you narrow down your list of those you may like to revisit and linger a little longer. “The itinerary was perfect for us as we have not been to the Baltic before and we would never have achieved so much in such a short time were we to try to get to each city independently. We do need to revisit Stockholm (we thought a driving trip sometime), Helsinki and St Petersburg.”
After their cruise, they took the trip at their own pace once again, choosing to stop by Oslo and Copenhagen before returning home. “After a time [on the cruise], one starts to be regimented.”
Which cruise to choose?
When deciding on your cruise, it’s important to consider a number of elements, including hospitality on-board, room size (and potential for balcony), as well as the destinations and time to explore while stopped at the Ports. As you spend a large portion of time on board the ship, it’s important it is as comfortable and enjoyable as the destinations on the itinerary.
“The ship is very comfortable and there are very nice public lounges, as well as food and beverage areas,” she says. “The suites are spacious with plenty of storage space, although not a walk-in robe (as the Regent and Silversea ships have). The bathroom has a sizeable walk-in shower and ample space. The balcony is comfortable with two chairs and a small table.”
Another important element to consider is the food options on-board, with most ships these days offering a number of different cuisines and dining options. Viking Sea offers Manfredi’s (Italian), The Chef’s Table (degustation), a main dining room (regular a la carte), Mamsen’s Explorer Lounge (smaller meals for breakfast and lunch), Aquavit Terrace (an outdoor barbecue), World Cafe (good quality buffet) and the bar area (drinks and snacks).
“Hospitality is obviously first and foremost on the ship, staff very welcoming to everyone on board. There is obviously a ‘Viking Way’ which is very impressive. The suite was kept immaculate and serviced at least twice a day.”
Although the cruise is an exceptional way to see a great deal in a short amount of time, Kate says the tight itinerary can become exhausting, with strict time schedules to ensure you see and do as much as possible. “We would never have managed so many destinations any other way. However, that is not to say this is my favoured way to travel. You are on the quay side at 9.30am, lunch at 12.30pm, and back on the quay for the tour at 2pm. You then return to the ship in time to have a pre-dinner drink followed by dinner… not to mention the lectures and entertainment in between! We were asleep by 9pm, and ready for another day at 7.30am the next day!”
Solution? Make sure you fit in some time before and/or after your cruise for some time on your own (or with your travel buddy) to take it at your own pace.
If you’d like to find out more about exploring the magnificent sites of Europe – independently or on a cruise – contact Angas Travel today.