Help Deciding Between Two Cruises

My husband and I are trying to decide between two different European cruises in September, with comparable prices/airfares. 1) 10 nights - From Copenhagen to Norway (Oslo), Scotland (Inverness & Glasgow), Ireland (Dublin & Cobh/Cork), France (Cherbourg), ending in London. 2) 12 nights - Roundtrip from London, to 4 ports in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, 2 smaller towns), Germany (Hamburg), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Belgium (Brugges), France (Le Havre) We don't have funds for excursions/tours (perhaps unavoidable only in Inverness or Cherbourg). We plan to take public transit from the cruise ports to cities/towns when necessary and to just walk around ourselves. To that end, the time in port is generally several hours longer on the first cruise, but without excursions, this might not matter. I realize that travel is immensely personal and it is really hard to tell other people what to do. That being said, I would appreciate any and all advice that can be offered. Here are some other considerations: - Is it worth it to visit Scotland and Ireland, when our visit would be mostly limited to the cities/towns and we wouldn't get as much of a feel for the true beauty of the countries?
- Are these good ports in Scotland & Ireland? - I have read that Norway is among the most expensive countries in Europe. Is it good, then for us to see so much of it when many of the costs are included in our cruise, or should we avoid it? My husband loves wildlife and nature best, but it doesn't seem like we will have the option to see these without excursions or tours, wherever we go. I like these things as well, but also enjoy architecture, history, art, and civilization. I appreciate any advice or suggestions that you may have. Thank you so much!

Posted by Marni
Atlanta
8 posts

I didn't have enough room to include the following details above: In terms of potential for overlap, we have previously been to the UK (London), France (Paris), Belgium (Brussels & Ghent), Italy (Venice) and Germany (Munich), although we did not spend more than 2-3 days anywhere, and several (Belgium and Germany) were for only a day. We were lucky enough to visit Iceland for a week last year, which has the potential to be somewhat similar to Norway, in terms of language/culture and scenery. Copenhagen's harbor area has the potential to be similar to Ghent and Venice as well as to Amsterdam, which we would see on the other cruise (and possibly briefly on the Copenhagen cruise, if we take advantage of a long layover). So you can see I have been agonizing over this and don't know which way to go. If we had a lot of disposable income, I wouldn't be so worried, but this is definitely the last overseas vacation for at least 10 years, so I want to make the most of it. Another question - which itinerary is more interesting or unique, given what we have already seen?

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3496 posts

First, have you been to cruisecritic.com? You can get a lot of information about both port stops and the individual cruise lines and ships. If you go to the Roll Call section, you can find the sailings you are considering and see what people who have booked them are planning. You can even join in the conversation and ask questions. The people who post there are often putting together private excursions which are both cheaper and smaller than those offered by the ships. They are also often better because they choose what they want to see and do - and not spend hours for meals and shopping that are often built into the ships' excursions. Even if you don't join a private excursion, you will find lots of information on what there is to do and see in each port. I was on a cruise that went to Bergen, Flam and Geiranger. Definitely scenic. You have to sail into the fjords to get to each of them. It was worth getting up at 5.30 to go on deck ( very warmly dressed) to enjoy the fjords. Yes, Norway is expensive, but you don't have to spend a lot of money. In Bergen, I walked around the pretty little town (found a self-guided walking tour online - Frommer's maybe), then visited the art museum, not very expensive. In Flam you can take the scenic train ride - about $60 each - really beautiful, or you can just go hiking through the village - again very pretty scenery.

Posted by Greta
Chippewa Falls
10 posts

Both of these cruises sound wonderful! Norway will be expensive but beautiful however Scotland and Ireland are also very beautiful! I think you should google free things to do in the cities / ports that you will be stopping at. I am going on a 6 week European trip this summer (with two cruises included) and that's what we are doing. We are looking at free things to do in each of the cities. I am amazed at the number of free things available! I think either way, you will not be disappointed!
Good Luck!

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

Marni, both cruises sound good. I would be leaning toward choice number two (just my preference; may not be yours) because Norway, Germany, Amsterdam, Belgium and France (Le Havre) IMHO gives you a wide range of sights. Norway will give you breathtaking nature scenery and quaint old town districts in the places named. Hamburg will give you an entirely different type of architecture to explore. In Amsterdam, head straight for the Van Gogh Museum. Le Havre was heavily bombed during WW2, so for quaint old architecture that will wow you, you will have to head south to the nearby town of Honfleur, which is charming. As for trip #1, Scotland is best seen if you get out into the open countryside. Best big city in Scotland to visit is IMHO Edinburgh. If you decide that neither one really calls out to you, think about a Rick Steves Tour instead. Whatever trip you choose, have a great time!

Posted by Marni
Atlanta
8 posts

Thank you for all of your thoughtful responses! Chani, I have perused cruisecritic.com. There seem to be pros and cons for most of the ports. Once we decide, I will certaintly spend more time exploring the site. Greta, that is a great idea. I had googled "Things to Do/See" but hadn't thought about the free aspect. Rebecca, I do see your point of view in favor of cruise #2. I just didn't want to do things that would be too similar to what we have done before, and I was afraid that four ports in Norway might be boring, and that Norway might be quite similar to Iceland. Also, I am having a hard time giving up Copenhagen, Ireland, and Scotland, although I was also thinking that seeing only the cities in Ireland/Scotland might be limiting. Any more thoughts? I can look into the Rick Steves tours, but I have a feeling they will be beyond our budget. Also, my husband really enjoys cruising and dislikes prolonged exposure to large groups of people. He's also not really a fan of history, art, and architecture, so we have to compromise. I am careful not to drag him to too many museums or he might die of boredom!

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
644 posts

Marni, are you saying you are leaning towards cruise #1? If so, at the end of your trip you could take the train from London up to Edinburgh, stay 2 nights, fly home from Edinburgh. That would not take much extra money at all. Once you see the sights in Edinburgh the first day, you could use a small tour company to do a day trip out to the Scottish countryside. I recommend Rabbie's Tours (small mini tour bus).

Posted by Marni
Atlanta
8 posts

Yes, I am leaning towards cruise #1, because I believe it will provide the most diversity compared to where we have previously traveled. We will get a taste of Norway and Denmark, exposure to both Scotland and Ireland, and a few hours in Amsterdam via a layover. Cruise #2 would be a lot of Norway (which I am still afraid might be similar to Iceland, although I have not found any comparison between the two countries online despite much searching) and aside from Hamburg and Le Havre, wouldn't really add anything to make up for what would be missed from the first itinerary, and what we have already seen. I know that Norway will be lovely, but I am not sure it is worth forgoing Copenhagen, Scotland, and Ireland.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3496 posts

If this helps, the cruise I took (3 stops in Norway) included 2 days in Reikjavik - the scenery was very different.

Posted by Marni
Atlanta
8 posts

Chani, that is helpful. When we were in Iceland, we traveled outside of Reykjavik for much of our trip. We traversed the Ring Road around the perimeter of the country, and saw a lot of scenery including the fjords. I was more thinking that the Norwegian fjords could be similar to the Icelandic fjords.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7185 posts

As a general rule, I'd say pick the itinerary that takes you to places where a day is sufficient to visit (usually eight to ten hours). That involves picking up some guidebooks at the library and deciding what you would really like to see if you visited each destination. Is one day enough? When traveling, I plan for no more than two major sights in a day (but keep some ideas in my back pocket in case I have extra time) - on a cruise, your time is even more limited. I don't like cruising to a city that needs three days to see, unless I've been there before and want to visit only one or two specific sights this time. Also consider where the ship docks and how much time you will lose trying to see the sights you would like to see. You can find this information by scouring cruisecritic.com. Some lines/ships dock right in town, others dock away from downtown - requiring extra time and transportation, and some ports require you to "tender" into town which can eat up a big chunk of your day. Cruisecritic.com is also good to see what people chose to do when they were in port. While I think most of the contributors rely to heavily on ship excursions, once you know the activities you can always find a way to do it on your own much more economically (both money and time).