6 Must See Cities in Europe

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For those of us fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most fascinating cities, we don’t always appreciate how wonderful and eye-opening those escapes have been until we stop and think….. we’ve been there!     And yes, many of you reading this blog may have also traveled to these great cities but have ventured on to many more.  For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to experience these destinations, we hope this introductory taste will be enough to inspire you to book your next adventure in 2018.

Paris, France

“What an immense impression Paris made upon me.  It was the most extraordinary place in the world!”  – Charles Dickens

Paris can be many things to many people.  It is romantic.  It is beautiful.  It is rich in history.  It is elegance.  It is extraordinary cuisine.  It is nightlife.  It is lovely streets, lanes and impressive bridges.  It is worth spending time exploring all this amazing European city has to offer.   Of course, you cannot miss the iconic Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum but explore more to appreciate her intrigue – Jardin du Luxembourg, Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, the Hôtel des Invalides…just to name a very few.  And, whatever you do, don’t miss a river view of Paris on a boat ride on the Seine.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With over 50 museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam attracts several million tourists worldwide annually.  The visual impact of seeing Amsterdam for the first time is remarkable with more than 6,800 houses and buildings protected as monuments.  Amsterdam also boasts the largest historical inner city in Europe.  Don’t forget to take in the seemingly endless canals and bridges this magical city offers – try a canal cruise during the day or night, or both.  This may be a city which will require several return trips.

 London, England

“When a man tires of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  – Samuel Johnson

What comes to mind first when you think of London?  There are so many iconic destinations to put on your ‘must see’ list!  Buckingham Palace with its crowd inspiring colorful guard and also where the queen resides in regal splendor; the Tower of London (well worth an entire day) where you will be entertained and educated by the Beef Eaters, hear tales of the ravens and the demise of many political prisoners;  Big Ben – you simply cannot miss looking at this towering jewel of London; Westminster Abbey, where Britain’s monarchs are crowned, some are married and many buried; the London eye which is an enormous ferris wheel measuring 394 feet in diameter sitting on the banks of the Thames.  Our advise for those travelers for their first trip to Europe – check out London first.  You will not need to worry about learning new words in a foreign language to get along on your adventure there.

Venice, Italy

“She is the Shakespeare of cities – unchallenged, incomparable, and beyond envy.” – John Addington Symonds

Celebrated art and architecture are just two reasons to whisk yourself away to the winding canals of Venice.  The 2-mile long Grand Canal, which is shaped like a large question mark, marks the heart and soul of this place like no other in the world.  Places of interest not to miss include Piazza San Marco and all this crowd gathering spot has to offer such as the Doge’s Palace, the sidewalk cafe’s and restaurants, and the famous pigeons hungry for hand-outs; the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge, Palazzo Ducale, Bascillica Di San Marco, the San Giorgio Maggiore Church and the Guggenheim Museum.  Consider going to Venice in the off-season (November through April), which means smaller crowds and cooler temperatures.  Not everyone falls in love with Venice, but if you do you will keep going back.

 Barcelona, Spain

An extremely popular destination for Europeans and Americans alike, Barcelona is a sophisticated and trendy city which overflows with fashion, music, food and dance.  Often referred to as a walking piece of art travelers will be richly rewarded with  impressive architecture such as Gaudi’s Catedral de la Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell which appears to have stepped out of a fairy tale and emulates an English garden city.  300 days of sunshine a year makes this remarkable place an ideal getaway during most any season.  Barcelona is another city which can be quite crowded, especially on days when large cruise ships are in port, so aim to visit this popular destination in the spring or fall.

 Prague, Czech Republic

“Prague doesn’t let go.  This old crone has claws.  One has to yield or else.” – Franz Kafka

Although known as the ‘city of a hundred spires’, Prague actually has nearly one thousand spired buildings and include gothic cathedrals and baroque palaces.  This historic and colorful destination takes time to explore and to get a feel for the pulse of the city.  One of the first must see highlight for your list will be the Charles Bridge, Prague’s signature stone bridge complete with buskers, food, entertainment, and a perfectly framed view of Prague Castle.  Prague Castle is a rambling castle complex that can be enjoyed by simply walking the grounds or taking a tour of the inside walls.  Petrin Hill, a lovely hill in the shadow of the castle complex offers sweeping views of the city.  Either wander up on your own or take the funicular to see the 299-step faux Eiffel Tower, the mirror maze and Stefanik Observatory.  And don’t miss the focal point of the Stare′ Mesto district, the Astronomical Clock which has chimed since 1410.

Passport Requirements When You Cruise

This can be a confusing topic for most travelers , so here is information which provides  you with guidelines and recommendations the next time you plan to cruise.

Basically, whether you are cruising the Caribbean and Bahamas on a popular ship like the Carnival Vista or taking a cultural European river cruise on the Rhine River with Avalon Waterways you SHOULD bring your passport.  On a Caribbean cruise you don’t necessarily have to have a passport but you MUST have a passport when you travel to and throughout Europe and other parts of the world.  Let’s explain:

U.S. Citizens on a closed-loop cruise, one that begins and ends at the same U.S. port, can use a driver’s license or government –issued ID card and a certified and/or notarized birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship.  Destinations on closed-loop cruises that permit passport-free travel for U.S.citizens include Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

So here’s the catch and why cruise lines and travel agents strongly recommend that all guests travel with a valid U.S. passport during their cruise:

  1. If you have a medical, family, personal or business emergency and need to fly back to the U.S. before your cruise ends a passport is required or you could experience significant delays and complications.
  1. If you need to fly to meet your ship at the next available port should you miss your scheduled embarkation in the U.S. port or if you miss a ship’s departure from a port of call. (i.e. too many margaritas in Cozumel and you just could not make it back to your vessel!)
  1. Some ports may have their own entry requirements. Each individual cruise line can provide this information if there are exceptions.

Keep in mind that if you are cruising outside of the Western Hemisphere you definitely need a passport.  If your itinerary includes ports of call in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Eastern Med, Australia or New Zealand you’ll need a passport.  Depending on where you are headed you may also be required to fill out additional visa or reciprocity paperwork.   For example, when cruising to the Baltics with a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia allows cruisers to enter without a visa as long as they remain on official shore excursions, but requires a complicated visa application for those who will tour on their own.  Another example is when individuals enter Argentina or Chile as part of a South America departure, they are required to purchase a Reciprocity Fee for the country they will fly into prior to traveling.

Passport pic for FB

So there you have it. Although it is acceptable to travel without a passport in some instances we highly recommend that you have your valid passport in hand.  Why give yourself added stress if you have an emergency and need to get home with only a driver’s license?   For more detailed information, passport applications and renewals you should visit https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html

One more passport travel tip:  Keep a copy of your passport separate from your actual passport in your hand-carried luggage, wallet, etc.  This applies whether you are cruising or taking a land-based vacation.

Keep Calm and Travel On!