I’m sorry for the length of this, when I started it I was thinking 1 or 2 paragraphs and the next thing I knew, it was an essay, and now I’ve had to break it up, so part of it is in the comments section.
I’m a relative newbie to a lot of you on this site but doing my best to make up for lost time. Now that the kids are grown, we’ve been to Europe 4 times in the past 5 years and a 5th trip planned and booked for next June (Scotland).
I’ve read some passionate opinions on this site about what some posters will call the proper way to travel, travelers vs. tourists, mass tourism and cruisers are evil. My wife and I have cruised twice; once out of Rome that included a weeklong stay in Rome at the end of the trip and the 2nd cruise was from Venice and included 5 days in Venice prior to the cruise. We’ve traveled on our own, spending a week in London and then driving from Bath and through the Cotswolds, and then in June we did the RS Loire Valley to the South of France which included a few days on our own at the beginning and end of the tour. Next June will be on our own again with a week in Edinburgh and then another week driving around the Highlands and making bucket list stops on the isle of Mull as well as an overnight stay at a haunted castle. I wanted to share my adventures and opinions of various travel methods.
Our first European adventure was a cruise out of Rome on a 5000-passenger megaship, and we loved it. The purpose of choosing the cruise was familiarity with that style of traveling combined with a bit of nervousness of going somewhere unfamiliar. For us at the time, it was the right choice. For those of you who complain about mass tourism, honestly, I was oblivious until we got back to Rome for our weeklong stay. We tended to be the first off the ship and wandered on our own, and since we are such planners, we tended to be ahead of the crowd or at spots that other cruisers didn’t visit.
What we liked about the cruise; unpacking once, multiple destinations, paying upfront for almost everything, and the food and entertainment in the evening. On our post cruise stay in Rome though, I did learn a couple things that at the time, I didn’t know I was missing, which was seeing places in the evening and interacting with locals. We stayed in Trastevere and every night we were out with the rest of the neighbourhood in the piazzas just taking in life.
The 1st trip was a success and so we did a 2nd cruise which started with 5 days in Venice before setting sail, and it confirmed that we really enjoyed spending our evenings and early mornings at a location; the changing light adds a new dimension to the scenery. We also threw in a day trip by train to Verona, which I doubt we’d do on a cruise for fear of not getting back in time. We still thoroughly enjoyed the cruise even though we had started to spread our wings a bit further.
3rd adventure was England. We rented an apartment in London, arranged some tours, figured out the Tube, and generally spent about 12 hours a day outside of our apartment. We made a day trip to Brightling Sea to visit family we’ve never met and who were as curious about us as we were about them. Then off to Bath by train for 2 nights and then renting a car and driving through the Cotswolds. While the first day driving was a bit stressful, I got used to it and the freedom to travel when and where we wanted was my favourite thing about doing things on our own. The advantage was the freedom of the trip and the adventure, the disadvantage to some would be all the planning on your own, driving on the other side of the road and getting lost occasionally.
Continued in the comments section...