Frequently Asked Questions
Where will I go on a European cruise?This depends on your itinerary. Choose a cruise to Northern Europe and you may see the stunning fjords of Norway, shop for local handicrafts in Germany or tour the beautiful palaces of St. Petersburg. Or, experience the romance and beauty of famous Mediterranean ports like Rome, Athens, Nice and Barcelona.
When is the best time to take a European cruise?
The high season stretches from April to October, but some cruises visiting Central Europe and the Mediterranean are offered year-round. Visitors can avoid summer's sizzling temperatures and surging tourist crowds by traveling during the "shoulder seasons" in spring (April and May) or fall (September and October). Temperatures are still comfortable during these months, and there's less competition for the beaches and top historic sites.
How long do European cruises last?
These trips typically last seven to 14 nights, but there are some shorter and longer sailings available.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports are required for all international visitors. Visa rules vary by country. Your Vacations To Go travel counselor can answer your visa questions or guide you to the appropriate embassy or consulate if necessary.
Is English spoken?
It is spoken and understood at most hotels, shops and restaurants connected to the tourist trade. However, visitors might learn a few basic phrases before setting sail.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
Currencies vary depending on your port of call, but the euro is accepted in almost all European countries. Some of the other currencies commonly used include the pound sterling in the United Kingdom, the Swiss franc in Switzerland, the Russian ruble in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Turkish lira in Turkey. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Tipping is customary almost everywhere, but be sure to review all bills before handing out gratuities. Sometimes, service is included in restaurant bills. If not, a tip of 5%-10% is customary on restaurant bills. Taxi drivers generally receive 5%-10%, and service staff, such as maids and porters, generally receive 1 to 2 euros.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, jackets for cooler climates, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
Many churches and cathedrals in Europe require some degree of modest attire for visitors. You may not be permitted to enter if wearing "too short" shorts, and women may be asked to cover bare shoulders (it's a good idea to tuck a lightweight scarf into your purse or tote).
What should I pack?
European cruises offer countless excursions in some very diverse countries. Most excursions involve sightseeing with a minimal to moderate amount of walking, although some tours may include extensive walking or climbing of stairs. Think about the kinds of activities you will want to try -- swimming off Santorini, touring the Vatican or a walking the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town, for example -- and pack accordingly. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits if traveling in summer; protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers are advisable no matter when you travel. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters; these same devices come in handy for U.S. citizens who plan to overnight in hotels at some point during their vacation, as much of Europe and Asia uses the 220-volt outlet.
How do I make a telephone call from Europe?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Air conditioners are less common in most countries in Europe, and some hotels do not provide air conditioning automatically. More expensive hotels will offer completely air conditioned buildings, while other hotels may only offer air conditioning in individual rooms. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? Can I haggle over prices?
Europe is a shopper’s paradise, although items can be pricey. You’ll find options ranging from upscale department stores and trendy boutiques to outlet malls and flea markets. Be aware that a value-added tax (VAT) is added on most goods, but it’s usually included in the price. You may want to ask before making your purchase, and non-E.U. residents shopping in the European Union can receive at least a partial refund of the tax by applying for a VAT refund. Give haggling a try if you feel comfortable--it’s considered commonplace to negotiate price in markets and small shops, but don’t press your luck with a flustered shopkeeper.
How do I get around?
Europe is a tourism hot spot full of experienced guides, offering car, bus, boat, scooter and helicopter tours. On your own, try taxis and public transportation when sightseeing in European capitals; smaller cities might offer bicycle rentals or pedestrian-friendly town squares and streets. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Rental rules vary by country, but most companies require renters to be at least 21 years old to rent a car. However, most major tourist areas are accessible via public bus, train or ferry, and easily navigated on foot, making car rentals largely unnecessary in this region.
What can I do there?
With so many cultures and countries to explore in Europe, the potential activities seem endless. Most activities focus on the history and culture of the continent, with sightseeing tours that highlight Europe’s grand cathedrals, churches, museums, castles and palaces. You’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the world’s most well-known historical sites, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome, and if you enjoy the great outdoors, you’ll be delighted with the amazing scenery and gorgeous beaches. Food is an integral part of Europe’s culture, so as you travel from one destination to another, you’ll want to set aside time to dine in local restaurants, cafes and pubs.
Do you have any photography tips for travelers in Europe?
There's plenty of historic beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards. If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.