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Suggestions for First European Cruise

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My husband and I have cruised on 15 cruises mostly to the Caribbean.  We are looking to expand our travel by booking a European cruise.  Offer us some suggestions for a good cruise to start with.  We don't really want to start in a crowded, high crime big city...that we know.  Any suggestions would be wonderful. We enjoy history, museums, and eating local foods. Also what would be the best time to travel to whatever area you suggest.  We prefer to travel during off season times but with our first trip we will bow to the experts!! 

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Posted (edited)

You can’t go wrong with the Baltic cruise. History, beautiful, people friendly cities and museums galore. Weather can be a bit hit and miss, but June to August is probably best. Each stop a new country with new food to try. 

Edited by Highpeaklad

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I would imagine many of your Caribbean cruises started in Miami surely that’s a crowded high crime big city! 

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Baltics May or June.  August is holiday time in Europe and all the venues would be crowded so I would avoid that month.

 

A totally different cruise would be a river cruise in Europe, also May or June.  Awesome.

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Look for an itinerary that starts in a city like Rome or Venice, and finishes somewhere else and visits some of the amazing Mediterranean islands on the way. You are really wasting opportunities if you don’t spend at least a few days at your start and finishing posts!

 

Ports like Valletta and Santorini (no matter how many times you visit) are both magical and a great introduction to the history, myths and legends of the region.

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Posted (edited)

I loved our first Mediterranean cruise, and felt it was a great overview and first European cruise. It was R/T from Barcelona, and hit a couple of stops along the French Riviera and several stops along Italy. We spent 3 nights pre-cruise in Barcelona and really enjoyed that city immensely. 

We have since been to Greece, and the Greek Isles and also LOVED that trip (including Ephesus in Turkey). Santorini was my absolute favorite--you're sailing inside an ancient caldera and looking up at the white-washed buildings atop the 900 foot high walls of the ancient volcano! Amazing scenery! 

In both cases, the shoulder seasons of April/May and Sept/Oct are quieter and less expensive (and less hot!)

Edited by redhead9

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2 hours ago, Edinburghgirl1 said:

I would imagine many of your Caribbean cruises started in Miami surely that’s a crowded high crime big city! 

No actually we sail out of Ft Lauderdale.  We stay pre-cruise in Palm Beach.  Just have read a lot about pickpockets and petty criminals in some big cities.  Not saying we don't have them in the US, just know if we have that type of experience on our first European cruise, I will never get my husband to go on another one!

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2 hours ago, ghstudio said:

venice to barcelona.......in the fall

What ship did you sail this itinerary? Did you spend extra days in both cities (pre and post cruise)?

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24 minutes ago, redhead9 said:

I loved our first Mediterranean cruise, and felt it was a great overview and first European cruise. It was R/T from Barcelona, and hit a couple of stops along the French Riviera and several stops along Italy. We spent 3 nights pre-cruise in Barcelona and really enjoyed that city immensely. 

We have since been to Greece, and the Greek Isles and also LOVED that trip (including Ephesus in Turkey). Santorini was my absolute favorite--you're sailing inside an ancient caldera and looking up at the white-washed buildings atop the 900 foot high walls of the ancient volcano! Amazing scenery! 

In both cases, the shoulder seasons of April/May and Sept/Oct are quieter and less expensive (and less hot!)

Thank you for your help.  The Greek Isles are tops on our list! Are also considering the British Isles.

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From one Carolina Girl to another, Charleston can be just as scary as any European country.  The key is to be aware and watch your things like a hawk. 😉

 

DH and I have been on 12 European cruises and loved them all!  Never felt unsafe.  We have sailed in and out from Rome (first European cruise and also favorite port to sail from), Barcelona, Amsterdam, Venice, Germany (River Cruise), the U.K. (London/Southampton), and Dublin. 

 

Our preferred time to cruise is in Fall or early to late Spring.  We prefer the cooler weather, even if it means there may be rain.  It's easier to keep warm than to keep cool.  Our river cruise was in late August on the Danube.  Surprisingly, we did have a few cool and wet days.  And while sailing through Ireland and Scotland one May, we had perfect weather.  

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Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, SCGirl3211 said:

Thank you for your help.  The Greek Isles are tops on our list! Are also considering the British Isles.

 

We were on the Constellation...actually B2B cruises venice-rome then rome-barcelona but they also do venice to Barcelona on a single cruise.  Both Barcelona and Venice are wonderful cities to visit, well worth 2-3 days each.  The cruise takes you to the French Riviera, Florence (although a long bus ride excursion) or Pisa; Rome, Dubrovnik (game of thrones...) plus.  An excellent introduction cruise to Europe.   Not sure which ship is doing this cruise in 20/21 but I'm sure Celebrity will offer it.

 

Alternatively, the Baltic is also a fascinating cruise....visiting Berlin, Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Norway.......I'd make that my second or third cruise.

 

Celebrity also does Rome, Athens, greek islands, Ephesus (incredible ruins) plus ....and if you crave the greek islands on your first trip, it's excellent.  Make sure you get to Turkey/Ephesus....you may never have heard of it, but check it out....

 

We are doing a loop around the UK next year..on Princess which has a much better itinerary.  If you haven't been to the UK....just fly to London, stay there and do land trips.   We lived there for 2 years and the cruise takes us some places we just never visited, but we've seen (lived in) London.  A great first trip to Europe would be 3-4 days each in London and Paris...forget the cruise 🙂

Edited by ghstudio

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I second the Mediterranean cruises. Much more interesting and exciting than the Baltic and you will see so many sights you have studied and read about, especially in Ports like Rome, Venice, Florence and Barcelona. I have been traveling regularly to Europe for over 40 years and still remember my first views of the Forum, Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo’s David, Sagrada Familia, St Marks square, etc. These are the familiar sights we all know in the countries of the Mediterranean region and it is thrilling to see them in person.

 

Any itinerary between Lisbon or Barcelona to Rome or Venice is great, also Istanbul if it is on the itinerary. Greek islands are beautiful too, but Athens not so much. Also the Adriatic is gorgeous.

 

But do NOT go during June, July or August when temperatures are ridiculous, crowds are huge and you get mosquitoes galore. Best months IMO are April, May, late September to October.

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Lots of good advice on here already, and my suggestion is just to immerse yourself in research on the ports then pick a cruise that visits a few of your favourites. As for thieves, I take precautions and haven't experienced problems, although I know many have. Get a quality cross-body handbag with zippered closure and a strap that cannot be cut easily. Make sure it is at the front of your body when walking in the larger cities. Do not interact with anyone, even a child, who wants to give you directions or tries to engage you in conversation. This is unfortunate, but distraction theft is common. That said, I agree that both Europe and the Baltic cruises are worth going on. I will never forget stepping out on the veranda at Santorini in the early morning. "Jaw-dropping", and I mean literally. Looking forward next month to seeing the statue of David, the Alhambra, Herculaneum, and Gibraltar. You can't do everything in one cruise for sure. 

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I would recommend 2 itineraries. First one is a Barcelona to Greece cruise. We did the Celebrity Eclipse cruise last October. Mallorca, Messina, Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Rhodes then Malta. 4 sea days. Most ports were easy to see in one day. We went in mid Oct.

 

Our next European cruise will start in Venice and end in Rome. We will stay 2 days precruise in Venice and 4-5 post cruise days in Rome. The large European cities simply have too much to see in one port day. I have already been to Rome and Venice (4 days Rome, 2 in Venice) and I want to see more. 

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We have enjoyed three Mediterranean cruises. We have spent a lot of time in Rome, Italy in general and Greece.  We have never had an issue at all with crime but I am a careful traveller.  I always make sure my bag is over my shoulder and is one of those "pick pocket" proof bags ie, it has lock on the zippers etc.  We don't engage the scammers on the streets either.  

 

We have loved every single moment of our cruises on the Med and really you can't go wrong!  Please don't let fear stop you.  Our last cruise was only a two months ago and it was as amazing as our first cruise ten years ago.

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I recommend the Eastern Med itineraries.

 

Forget about the „high crime“ worry! As you can see in my signature we live in both worlds - Miami and Europe. I can tell you that Miami, that’s probably where most of your Caribbean cruises started, is far more criminal and violent than any city on the Europe itineraries.

 

Just as in any city around the globe with many tourists the only things you have to be weary about is pickpockets and purse snatchers. Behave accordingly, don’t present your valuables and leave your purse at home when possible and you’ll be fine.

 

Enjoy a European cruise - which is far more diverse and interesting than any Caribbean cruise 😉

 

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Here is an almost identical thread from 2017.  Take a look.  Has many good suggestions that have not changed.

 

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2630955-first-time-to-europe-anniversary-trip/?tab=comments#comment-56715204

 

My post from the above (#22):

 

For a first time in Europe cruise I suggest you do "Europe's Greatest Hits!".  

 

Summer is quite hot.  May & Sept should be beautiful.  October and Nov can be rainy.

 

Long ago we did a Venice to Barcelona itinerary.  Stops should include: Venice, Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo & French Rivera, Barcelona.  Great introduction to some of Europe's great sites.

 

As suggested, stay a few days in the cities of embarkation and disembarkation.

 

Also, if time permits, flights and trains in Europe are very cheap and it's all so close.  After Barcelona get on a train to Paris for a few more days.

 

ONE IMPORTANT SUGGESTION:  When you pick an itinerary look at what day of the week you are in each port.  Many top museums are closed on Monday and the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel) is closed Sundays.  Don't be there on those days! 

 

 

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If you've never been to Europe before, why not start with the British Isles?  We're generally friendly, we speak English, we have loads of history and museums and interesting foods ( steak and kidney pie, fish and chips with mushy peas and even deep fried Mars bars!)

As has been previously stated, May and June are perhaps the best months in Europe.  The Med gets really hot and crowded in August (peak holiday times), the Baltic countries are often cooler and more pleasant.

I'm sure you will have a great time.

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20 hours ago, ghstudio said:

venice to barcelona.......in the fall

 

Our first was out of Barcelona, we arrived 3 days early. I would love to do that again. 

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, Emmandjay said:

If you've never been to Europe before, why not start with the British Isles?  We're generally friendly, we speak English, we have loads of history and museums and interesting foods ( steak and kidney pie, fish and chips with mushy peas and even deep fried Mars bars!)

 

 

On a lighter note: and hurry while it’s still Europe 😂

Sorry, couldn’t resist...

Edited by Miaminice

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As you travel more, you will find that the news accounts of what's happening in the city you will be visiting bear little resemblance to reality....at least the reality you'll see.  There is street crime in every major city (well Singapore might be the exception).  If you stick to the tourist areas which most do, you are not going to have a problem.  Pickpockets are always a threat....but you just take reasonable precautions....lots of articles about those.  Have you visited Cartagena, Colombia...Port au Prince, Haiti...anywhere in the Dominican Republic....all high crime cities. 

 

Barcelona has had pickpockets in the news forever....we've never encountered them and we've been there many times, including a full week just off Las Ramblas (heart of tourist area). Rome has them too...you just don't read that much about them. 

 

Is UK safer: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42749089

 

Good site to look (and then worry) about crime in cities you are thinking about visiting: https://www.numbeo.com/crime/

 

Don't worry about Barcelona....enjoy whatever cruise you select.   

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44 minutes ago, Miaminice said:

 

OMG, there are pickpockets in Barcelona!!! 😱 who would have thought?! 😂

There have always been pickpockets in Barcelona, but things are changing, pickpocketting has turned into a plague and some are even turning to violent muggings.

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