When you think of taking a Europe cruise, you think about the huge, ever-enlarging cruise liners, operated by the biggest names in the cruise world, sailing off to popular ports such as Barcelona, St Petersburg and Venice, right? Sure you do. But there’s actually much more to the industry than many travelers realize. For example, have you ever considered a Europe cruise that actually steers clear of the major ports of call, sailing down canals, and showing visitors the small-town, unexplored charm of the continent? After all, Europe is much more than the Colosseum, Big Ben and the Red Square!
Once a necessity for transport and trade, the local economy relied upon the convenience of the canals as early as the 12th Century. Today’s economy also relies on the canals, but in a different way as they are now used primarily for tourism purposes, and are seen as a historical and somewhat quaint icon of the continent and a nod to the golden age of the past. Italy and The Netherlands are two of the most famous canal destinations in Europe, but Sweden, Germany and France are also known as being top canal vacation spots.
Canal cruises put a spin on the traditional Europe cruise itinerary. Sailing down France’s Burgundy Canal, travelers can explore the historic city of Dijon, home to the 1000-year-old Dijon Cathedral crypt, ancient, cobbled, narrow streets, and, of course, the world famous Dijon mustard. Germany’s Mecklenburg canal network boasts a number of nature reserves that incorporate bird and plant species not found outside of the region. The archaeological wonder that is Sweden’s first Viking settlement at Birka can be reached via the Gota Canal.
If you think you’d be forfeiting the luxury of the multimillion dollar cruise ships by taking a canal cruise, then think again! There’s nothing suboptimal about the vessels used for this alternative method of cruising at all. While they may be smaller than ocean-going Europe cruise liners they frequently host the latest technology, luxurious amenities, and top quality entertainment. With open-air dining venues, fitness centers, spas, Internet access, salons and games areas, these ships can certainly give their larger counterparts a run for their money.
These Europe cruise lines vacations with a twist are becoming increasingly popular, and a number of operators have recently announced the future launch of new ships to keep up with demand. Not only are travelers able to veer off the beaten track, taking in sights not even the guidebooks know about, but, as with ‘traditional’ Europe cruise options, there are a huge variety of routes and themed journeys focusing on different cultural experiences, such as photography and cuisine. There’s something to suit all tastes, so why not give canal cruising a try?