Here's the question: If you want to see Europe, is it better to on a cruise or go on your own?
Having experienced both earlier this month — nine days on a cruise ship, nine days on land — we thought our journey might be helpful to anybody planning or even thinking about going to Europe.
Let's say you're thinking about a conventional 7-day cruise or a 7-day visit to (in our case) Italy. Rather than take the upscale Oceania Riviera (right) that we cruised on, we'll use Royal Caribbean's more middle-of-the-road Liberty of the Seas (below), one of a dozen Royal Caribbean ships currently in Europe.
Whether it's "better" to do one or the other is always going to be subjective but there are some fiscal areas to consider, especially because by North American standards, Europe is expensive:
1. If you plan to drive for a week, expect that it will cost you at least 75 cents a mile…that's for a car rental, gas at $10 a gallon, parking (at a premium) and tolls (about 11 cents a mile). Drive 1,000 miles and you'll spend $750, more unless you shop around to cut corners.
2. Gratuities on a ship or baggage handlers on land is pretty much a wash: about $11 a day whether you're cruising or staying in hotels.
3. You'll eat and sleep cheaper on an average cruise ship than you will at average restaurants and average hotels.
4. If you travel everywhere in, say, Italy by planes and boats and trains, you'll likely spend more than you would by renting a car. While cruising avoids the stress of driving and getting lost a few times a day, using public transportation can be stressful, too — you have to get to the bus or train station station on time…assuming you can find the station.
5. Our estimate for hotels, food, transportation and tips for a week is that it will be, conservatively, close to $3,000 for two people. A Mediterranean cruise for two — which covers "for hotels, food, transportation and tips" — on Liberty of the Seas, for a week, is just under $1,700 (not including shore excursions). Travelling on land also doesn't include what can show up in the mail weeks later…a photo radar speeding ticket!
You be the judge… is the the best way to see Europe is by cruising or by land?