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We're getting to the point of "been there done that" in the Caribbean and starting in 2020 are going to branch out to cruising in Europe (and Alaska).  We've flown all around the US and are very comfortable here, but have never been to Europe and pretty much know nothing about traveling there.  As I'm researching the 2019 itineraries assuming the 2020 will be similar when released, I'm looking at all these embarkation ports and I have no idea where to start.

Which ports in Europe are the easiest for new European travelers to cruise from?  I'm thinking of proximity of airport to cruise ports, ease of transportation to and from, that kind of thing.  I speak a little Spanish, can probably figure out a little Italian based on my minimal French.  I'm thinking Southampton is the easiest language wise, obviously.  But will it be a hassle to get there from the airport area? I expect to fly in the day before, so do you stay near the airport or cruise ports?  Are there some ports better than others for this?

Am I making sense?  LOL I'm at the beginning stages of researching and planning, and figured I needed somewhere to start.  Thanks!! 

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Don't let language get in the way, many europeans speak english. I haven't cruised in Europe but lived in Germany for ~6 months, I learned to read some German particularly things like bathroom and menus and road signs for crossing and such but beyond that I had next to no spoken German and it was fine. If you can learn please thank you and remember to ask for the washroom you'll be fine. In general they are pretty welcoming- mind you I haven't been there since the new administration took office so some may have different views currently. Europe is awesome- Venice and Amsterdam were my FAVORITE. I wish I had the chance to visit England and Ireland but they didn't fit in my plans. Paris was neat but I won't go out of my way to visit again. My SO has been to Croatia and LOVED it, I haven't been but can't wait. I don't think you can go wrong in Europe! The Med is beautiful it is quiet warm in the summer in some areas and AC isn't as common there as the US. 

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2 hours ago, KathyC aka KathLuvsGH said:

I expect to fly in the day before

May want to plan on flying in two days before, maybe three, so you have a chance to adjust to the time zone change. Southampton is 5 hours ahead; while Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Venice are all 6 hours ahead. Same with Copenhagen or Amsterdam and neighboring cities in Denmark, where you'll depart for most Scandinavian trips.

 

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27 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

May want to plan on flying in two days before, maybe three, so you have a chance to adjust to the time zone change. Southampton is 5 hours ahead; while Barcelona, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Venice are all 6 hours ahead. Same with Copenhagen or Amsterdam and neighboring cities in Denmark, where you'll depart for most Scandinavian trips.

 

Ugh hadn't thought about that.  We're looking at 10-12 nights, to be able to see more places since the air is going to be pretty expensive.  Will be a graduation present for one of our two sons, so will be four of us traveling.  Want to get my money's worth on that airfare.  LOL 

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@KathyC aka KathLuvsGH  You'll love cruising the Med.

Rome to the port of Civitavecchia is at least an hour, and could be more depending on traffic. However, there is a train.

London to the port of Southampton is about 90 minutes plus, depending on traffic. I didn't like sailing out of Southampton, just my personal opinion. No special reason.

The port of Barcelona is less than 30 minutes from the airport. Lovely city with easy visits to Las Ramblas, the Black Madonna (Montserrat), La Sagrada Familia and much more. Paella is amazing.

We've sailed from the above three ports with visits to Florence, Naples, Venice, Nice, Marseilles, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Paris, Scotland, Ireland, Croatia and Greece. Never had a problem with language or safety. My husband and I got by with our high school Italian, Spanish and French.

Whatever cruise you choose, you'll have an amazing time.

Gail

 

 

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To me, it's all about the ports.  Where do you want to go?  England, Italy, Eastern Europe, Spain, France?  Think about that first.  Which port cities would you like to spend extra time in before and after the cruise?  Certainly Rome, Barcelona and Venice are at the top of that list.   Do you want to go to Pompeii?  Greece?  Monaco?  Let the itinerary drive your choices.  You can speak English everywhere nowadays.  Europeans (unlike us) are very multi-lingual.  I never worry about transfers and airport proximity because you do have to arrive at least a day ahead anyway.   Relatively speaking, Southampton is pretty far from London (like an hour and a half) but London is just so great to visit!  I always arrive several days ahead because there is so much to see.  The fun is in the adventure of new things.

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Europeans in general speak a fair amount of English so the language barrier is likely to be less of an issue, especially when it comes to things like "taxi to the port" vs. an in depth discussion of the painting styles of various middle ages artists ...

We flew into Athens a couple of summers back and did the Athens to Barcelona 10 night cruise with stops all along the coast as we went. Getting to the port in Athens was a breeze (see "taxi to the port" above). By the time we flew in it was "the next evening" after leaving Florida mid-morning. Crashed at the hotel more from exhaustion than time of night as soon as we got there. Spent the next day doing sightseeing in Athens, crashed again due to exhaustion and voila jet lag was solved. Taxi to the port the next morning was about a 30 minute ride.

Disembarkation in Barcelona was similar, 20 minute taxi ride to the hotel that morning, spent the day exploring  Barcelona on foot and then 20-30 minute tax ride to the hotel the next morning.

As suggested above I would look at the itineraries of the cruises and consider that along with any other cities you have on your "bucket list" and then pick the one that best fits rather than worry about the best port to get on/off ... that's 2 1/2 day events out of a 14 day trip .. worry about the other 13 days :)

For example, if London is on your list of cities you have always wanted to do and there is an itinerary you like out of Southampton ... target a Southampton cruise with a day or two pre/post cruise for time in London. If on the other hand the Grecian isles is your thing ... then plan on flying to Athens and looking at cruises out of Athens hitting the islands.

 

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We are doing a 12 night Mediterranean from Rome to Rome  (Civitavecchia) in October with stops in Naples, Sicily, Malta,Barcelona 2night, Mallorca, Sete, Nice and Marseille. We're going to Rome one day early and staying two nights after as my husband is of your mindset-if we pay for airfare we want to get the most out of the trip. However, we booked last February through AIR2SEA and our rates were actually very good. This is our third European cruise (second on RCCL) and we trust the cruise lines to get us there and take care of us if there is a problem and we are staying in the cruise line pre and post hotels so our transportation to and from ship is included. We are probably paying more than other hotels but the lack of worry is worth it to us. We just have to show up where they tell us and all is taken care of. As a newbie or an oldie (like us) you may want to consider that option.

I agree language should not be a problem as almost everyone speaks English. The only place I got a cold shoulder was in the Paris airport (of course). 😂

 

 

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11 hours ago, yaya luvs to cruz said:

The port of Barcelona is less than 30 minutes from the airport. Lovely city with easy visits to Las Ramblas, the Black Madonna (Montserrat), La Sagrada Familia and much more. Paella is amazing.

I agree, Barcelona would be my choice, as @JLMoran says, minimum of 1 day ahead because the flights from the east coast are usually a +1 on the day, which when I went did not make any sense until I researched, we live in Oklahoma, and typically fly American, so we had to get from Oklahoma to Dallas (DFW) and then to Charlotte, in Charlotte we had to wait for a flight that left around 9pm eastern time (Day 1), on the plane we had dinner, went to sleep, had breakfast and landed around 8am Barcelona (Day2, so the +1 day), we had all day to look around Barcelona, had an early dinner and went to bed early. If you research jet lag this is one of the ways they say to get over it, don't take nap, even if you really feel like it, because a nap will mess up your sleep cycle even more. Last bit of advice is that if it is at all financially possibly try and fly business class, on American you have your own lay flight bed, made sleeping through the night much easier.

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Coming from a German with an extensive history of travelling Europe - mostly by motorhome: Whatever destination you decide on - English will always get you through. Non-touristy regions of France or rural areas in Eastern Europe can be quite a different story - but you won't visit those on a cruise so language isn't really a factor for your choice.

The ease of getting from airport to port also isn't much of a factor - apart from Rome (Civitavecchia) and to a lesser extent Southhampton, it's easy to do by public transportation. If you want more convenience, you can always pre-book a shuttle service online.

Another thing you don't need to worry about: limiting your choice of cruises because of the cities you might want to visit pre or post cruise. If you're not picky avoid the traps when booking, flying is dead cheap in Europe and it doesn't take that much time. Depending on your port choice you won't have a direct flight anyway - you could do a stopover. Amsterdam or London are well worth it, Frankfurt is so-so.

So what should be the deciding factor? Well, what kind of cruise do you want?

If you plan to throw a few beach days in, the Mediterranean in the summer will be your best option. The Med cruises also offer much concerning culture, history and architecture. Western Med usually has the bigger and better-known cities, Eastern Med (Adriatic coast) also offers some nice scenery. Not sure about Royal, but with European cruise lines Western Med is usually the least expensive.

Baltic cruises are also full of history, culture and architecture, but with more variety than the Med. Personally, I’d take a Baltic cruise over a Med cruise any day, but you might take your chances with the weather. On the other hand, if you’re lucky you could experience St. Petersburg’s white nights.

If you’re more into nature and landscapes, a Norwegian Fjord cruise offers breathtaking views with a few lovely – albeit small – cities thrown in. This cruise is definetly on my bucket list, I’ve already toured Norway by motorhome and want to see the Fjords again but from a different perspecitve. Only downsides: coldest weather in Europe and these cruises are quite expensive.

And now we move on to my least favourite options: UK/Ireland or Western Europe (Atlantic) cruises. Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to see in these regions and Ireland is my favourite destination – it’s just better suited for a land vacation. There isn’t much to do and see in many of these ports and the real destination is a long coach or railway trip away. Common examples: Southampton (London), Le Havre (Paris), Zeebrugge (Brussels), Cherbourg.

I just realised that Royal also offers cruises to the Canaries. They usually offer good weather and beautiful landscapes, but not that much on the accounts of culture or architecture – they’re very much off the beaten track. While I thoroughly enjoyed our Canaries cruise, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a first European cruise – you might want to keep it in mind when you reach the point of ‚been there done that‘ in Europe.

If you’ve made it to the end of this plethora of text, feel free to ask if you’ve got any questions.

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My wife and I did our first European cruise in 2016 with the same apprehension you have shared. Language is not an issue. We did not run into any language barriers. Barcelona is my choice. We did the 12 night Venice cruise out of Barcelona. We arrived 3 nights early to time adjust and see the beautiful city. You don't need to stay very close to port as anywhere in city is just a short taxi ride. Airport was a 20-30 minute taxi ride to town.  Europe opened up a whole new world of cruise travel. Next we head to Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific in 2020. Relax, enjoy and you will have a great time!!

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France is the only country that i have struggled with people talking english, its not that they cant its just the fact they dont want to. 

Was in a resteraunt and menu was in french, asked for a little help as somethings i didnt understand, i was told in english that no one spoke english. After a little bit of a wait i asked again for assistance and was told the same and if i didnt understand menu just to leave. So i finished my beer i hadnt paid for and left. The chance of free beer was a good enough reason to leave and grab a pizza from next door lol 

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@Neaxan, thanks for that post! As I've been looking at possible future itineraries for Europe, I keep coming back to Med (Eastern being first choice for the Adriatic Coast and Greece, then Western for the Italian and French ports) or Norway. Glad to know from your personal history that my instincts were picking two of the best options. Now I just have to wait for schedules and finances and budgetary stars all to align.

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11 hours ago, Ray said:

France is the only country that i have struggled with people talking english, its not that they cant its just the fact they dont want to. 

Actually, it's both. The French are very proud of their language, but they also avoid speaking English because most aren't very good at it. If I start out in French they'll usually switch to English (or German in Alsace) whenever the conversation reaches a dead end. Guess my French is pitiful nowadays 😂

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28 minutes ago, Neaxan said:

Actually, it's both. The French are very proud of their language, but they also avoid speaking English because most aren't very good at it. If I start out in French they'll usually switch to English (or German in Alsace) whenever the conversation reaches a dead end. Guess my French is pitiful nowadays 😂

Must admit i do the same no matter where i go, i always learn the basics ie how to say good morning,  good night thank you etc

Only ever had issues once while in middle East, i asked filipino guy who worked for me to teach me some Tagalog ( filipino) so he did! Good morning , how are you etc

Walked in to bar later that day and said confidently " malaki dede " followed by "cig e who bood ney" ( not how its spelt but how it sounds) turned out i wasnt saying " good evening how are you today, in fact i had just said to the female waitress " nice boobs lets get naked" 

Just as well waitress had a good sense of humour and a bad right hook lol 

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We cruised the Mediterranean back in 2013 and had a fantastic time. The cruises are very port intensive (on our 12 night cruise there were 10 port days) so the cruise line is less important as you are away from the ship a lot. I would look for the best itinerary and go from there. We actually cruised on Ruby Princess for that cruise. It left from Civitavecchia (Rome) and had a stops in Italy, Greece, Croatia, and finished with an overnight in Venice.

It was a great cruise and all the ports were easy to get to. Prior to the cruise we rented an apartment at the Cinque Terra and caught the local train to the port on the day of the cruise. A couple of people we met didn’t speak English but it never caused us an issue. Nowadays you can always use google translate if you get stuck.

We are cruising out of Southampton next year on Independence. We are going to catch the train down from London and spend the night before embarking on our cruise.

Once you do it once you will see how easy it is. Europe is a great place to cruise around as a taster but there is so much to see and do that you just to go back and spend more time. Croatia was like that for us.

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