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I’m going on my first European cruise: Here’s what I think I should do

02 May 2023
Matt Hochberg

After years of cruising exclusively in North America, I'm ready to try my first Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

A cruise to Europe had been on my radar for a long time, but timing and a cruise industry shutdown prevented me from getting there until now. Thanks to a semi-last-minute opportunity, I'm taking my first European cruise and it'll be a Norwegian Fjords cruise later this month.

I'm booked on a 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton, England that will visit Haugesund, Geiranger, Olden, and Bergen, Norway.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

Not only have I always wanted to try a cruise from Europe, the idea of a colder weather cruise held much more appeal to me as I enjoy a break from the endless summer that I "enjoy" living in Florida.

While the Royal Caribbean cruise ship experience is fairly consistent across the fleet and around the world, cruising to Europe is bound to bring its own differences and nuances that will be a challenge compared to what I'm used to.

Besides the obvious travel requirements to get from the United States to England, I realized there's going to be a number of changes on how I cruise and logistics I have to plan for prior to my arrival.

I've done about as much research as I can leading up to my cruise in just two weeks, and here are the things I'm planning to do before I take my first European cruise.

Convert some cash into Pounds and Euros

World currencies

While I don't think anyone would not take US Dollars, I believe it's a good idea to get at least some cash in both Great British Pounds and Euros for when I'm off the ship.

Royal Caribbean certainly takes dollars (like in the casino), but I'll be spending a few days before and after the cruise in London (more on that later in this post), along with time on shore in Norway.

At first I thought I would just rely on a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, especially since credit cards are so widely used in Europe. But I think having at least some spending cash in local currency will greatly benefit me, especially if there's street foods or other quick transactions necessary.

Currency exchange windows

My plan is to get cash for my cruise before the cruise from my bank, and then do a currency exchange once I get into London. Airport currency exchange kiosks are convenient, but one benefit of having a few days in London before my cruise is I can take the time to get a better rate at spot in the city.

I'm not entirely sure how much local currency I'll actually need and/or want to change, but I figure there will be additional opportunities to do so again later.  Plus, I could always change back to Dollars prior to my flight home.

Buy a travel adaptor

Travel adaptor

Between the Airbnb I booked, trains I'll take, and places I'll visit, I'm going to need to keep my phone and laptop charged and my US plugs won't work.

I didn't own any travel adaptors, so I set out to find one that will work in both England and Norway. 

In my research, I found a ton of similar devices that would do the trick. I settled on the EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter (this is an affiliate link, which means I get a small commission but there's no extra cost to you) primarily because it was the Amazon recommended option and seemed to be priced well among its peers.

It's an all-in-one adapter that has 4 USB-A ports (2.4A), 1 USB-C port (3A), and 1 AC socket.

Spend a few days pre-cruise in London

London townhouse

No matter where you cruise, it's a good idea to always fly in at least one day before your cruise begins.

I'll be spending two nights before my cruise in London, which will provide plenty of time to adjust to local time and more importantly, see the city.

Street in London

I've never been to London, so I booked an Airbnb in the Mayfair district so that I could be centrally located.  My plan is to explore on my own and start my trip off with sightseeing and plenty of local food.

London seems like a very easy city to navigate via the London Underground (tube), so I'm optimistic about my chances of working a lot in.

Take the train from London to Southampton

Train to Southampton

Anthem of the Seas sails from Southampton, which is about an hour and a half away via a train ride.

It takes about an hour and there's lots of trains that go there and it seems like the most cost-effective way to get there. I could also take a taxi or bus, but traffic concerns are pushing me towards the train.

Waterloo station

Once I get to Southampton Central Station, I'll take a taxi.  I believe it will cost around £10/$13 and takes 10 minutes by taxi.

My only concern with this plan is there could be a rail strike planned for that weekend. The idea of strikes impacting travel like this is quite foreign in the United States.

I can always fall back on an Uber ride if all else fails, so I'll leave that as my contingency plan.

Skip excursions in some ports

Rib boat Norwegian fjord

If I've learned one thing from my friend Emma Cruises, it's the importance of doing things on your own in port in Europe.

There are lots of shore excursions you can book, but most of the towns in Norway are small towns you can easily walk and do things on your own.

View of Bergen in Norway

Certainly in Bergen, my plan is to forgo any tour and explore on my own. The funicular railway seems quite easy to do on your own, plus the city has lots to see.

In other ports, I do have Royal Caribbean tours booked simply to get easily to the fjords.  My overarching goal is to see the fjords and natural wonders of Norway, so I want to ensure I see them.  To that point, I have booked a few tours through the cruise line.

Olden, Norway

I don't think booking a tour through Royal Caribbean is a mistake by any means, but I'm sure I could book similar tours on my own for cheaper. The only risk with going through Royal Caribbean is if the weather is worse when your tour is slated, you may not get a great view compared to someone who was able to go later because they went on their own schedule.

No matter where you book your tours, it's very important to book them as early as you can because of how quickly shore excursions are selling out.


In the case of Haugesund, we leave early (7am to 3pm), so I decided it was more important to stick with the cruise line.

Given it's my first time in Norway, I'm a bit apprehensive about getting around, so I'm probably being more cautious than necessary.

Pack for Norway like an Alaska cruise

Ship in Geiranger

In doing research for a Norwegian Fjords cruise, it became quickly apparent how similar the weather is to an Alaska cruise.

Just like Alaska, the weather can change rapidly, so you'll need proper clothing to adjust to rain, sun, cold, and warm conditions.


In short, the weather in Norway can be highly variable, and can also change dramatically from morning to afternoon.

The best strategy is to pack in layers. This means going with the three layers to pack:

  • Base layer: t-shirt and jeans
  • Warm layer: Fleece or down jacket/sweater
  • Waterproof layer: Thin waterproof jacket suitable for when it rains

At the very least, I'll pack my waterproof shoes, a waterproof jacket, jeans, and a couple of hoodies.

Since I have proper clothing from my Alaska cruise last summer, there isn't much I have to buy specifically for this cruise.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Lots of sun (even at night)

Bergen, Norway sunset

Another similarity to Alaska cruises is how late the sun sets in Norway.

Summer in Northern Europe means the sun sets much later than what we're used to at home.

The average sunset time in May in Norway is 09:49 pm.

Seascape of Norway

It's an adjustment, but after a day or two you'll get used to it.  In my Alaska cruises, I don't recall ever struggling to go to sleep, although it is odd to see sunlight outside your cabin.

I don't think I'll need to go to the lengths of packing an eye mask, as the cabin curtains usually does the trick for me. Even when I take an afternoon nap, the room can get quite dark.  I will need to remember to pack a hair clip to ensure the curtains stay together.

Book a balcony cabin

Oceanview balcony cabin on Anthem of the Seas

If there aren't enough Alaska cruise comparisons yet, one more is the importance of booking a balcony cabin.

Even though I'm going solo on this cruise, I decided to book a balcony for the casual scenery viewing opportunities.


As the ship sails up and down the coast of Norway, there will be lots to see around us and my plan is to either be in the cabin or my balcony so I can quickly see things going by.

When I was in Alaska last year, we didn't have a balcony and I regretted not being able to quickly pop outside to see what was happening and then back inside. 

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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