I see this debate come up quite often on different travel groups online and often with friends. When does it make sense to cruise and when does it make sense to just take a land vacation?
For those who don’t know before moving to England last summer we lived in Alaska for six years. Alaska is amazing and a huge flux of tourists come in the summer months including by plane but also from cruise ships. My husband and I actually took an Alaskan cruise from mainland Alaska where we lived down through the islands and to Vancouver, it was an amazing trip, but I would still pick a land vacation to Alaska over a cruise if you had to choose between the two. You can do all the major shore excursion type things such as flight seeing, whale watch tours, zip lining, sled dogs in addition to being able to visit places cruise ships just can’t go to like Denali. Some people though just want something more relaxing so only three days of short seeing is okay with them and then three sea days just to relax. It’s definitely nice to just be able to chill and not have to plan a lot of things on your own. For Alaska almost every cruise line offers a land and sea option which gives you a few days mainland first, definitely a good option but expensive.
I found ourselves facing a lot of the same decisions once moving to England. There’s tons of affordable cruising options here and cruising here in Europe and the Mediterranean is often more affordable in my opinion, especially when taking into account the cost of food and hotel room along with the exchange rate (US dollars to the pound and to the euro). Financially I’ve come out ahead on each of the cruises we’ve planned when looking at cost of getting around, hotels and food. That’s not taking into account the childcare and the entertainment. My cruise coming up out of Southampton works out to $155/night which includes the nightly service charge. That will get us to 9 different ports of call also (France, Spain, England, Germany and the Netherlands).
So when does a land vacation make more sense? In the Mediterranean a lot of people are trying to see major places in Europe which just doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. The port of Civitavecchia which is used to get into Rome is about an hour by train away. Le Havre that is used to the Normandy beaches and Paris often almost 3 hours away. Even if you’re in port 12-14 hours a lot of your day is taken up getting on and off the ship and transporting to and from town. Not to mention a lot of cities like Rome and Paris have so much to see and do you will only get the tiniest taste possible. It’s fun to really explore places sometimes.
Back in October my family joined my cousins family on a trip to Croatia. We rented a big van, stayed at some amazing AirBnB’s for pretty cheap. We got to see so much more than we ever could have done from a day or two on a cruise ship to Dubrovnik, Split or Zadar. You get to explore places in the evenings which is when most cruise ships leave. The same is true for Rome. I find Rome is the most magical at night. I became really emotional walking back from having dinner at Piazza Navona towards St. Peter’s and then to our AirBnB near the Vatican. These are experiences I would not have had from a cruise ship.
Like all things when planning a vacation it just comes down to what you’re looking for. When I am traveling with my kids alone I prefer cruising. I like having the down time I get when they go to the kids clubs and I like waking up and being able to take them to a new place every day and the variety. When I really want to explore an area I’d rather take a land vacation. I’m really looking forward to planning longer trips to Ireland and Scotland so we can go into the country side. I also really want to go to Sweden soon. Those three places are high on my land vacation bucket list while we’re living in Europe. But I’m super excited to not cook over Thanksgiving and cruise the Greek isles in November also. It’s all about balance. Just like I’d never only go to Disney World every year I’d never just cruise and never just take land vacations.