** Note: 2016 Update. The below post is a summary of five original posts for booking the five stages of my Europe 2012 trip. I made the amalgamation of posts when I transitioned from joelbrown.com.au to travelexplored.com in January 2017 **
Time is ticking away as I move towards departing for Europe with just 50-days until I leave for London. In the last week, I have been putting in a lot of time researching a number of destinations. Right now I feel that I have a good plan ready to start getting some bit booked.
Breaking The Trip Down
I have split the trip into five segments to make it a little easier to handle, rather than looking at everything as a whole. These segments are as follows,
Segment #1 : 15-days Europe pre-cruise
Segment #2 : 10-days USA pre-cruise
Segment #3 : 29-day Transatlantic cruise
Segment #4 : 17-days Europe post cruise
Segment #5 : 10-days Canada post cruise
As it stands the time frame for each segment is locked in based on the bookings I have already made. Below I will briefly cover What I have established for each segment. Keeping in mind that this is the plan and most of this is still not booked.
Segment 1: Europe pre-cruise
My original plan for Europe was to spend plenty of time exploring Europe in Depth. The plan has changed somewhat with this first segment being around 15 Days. However, this also includes 2 days it will take to travel from Brisbane to London, with an overnight stop in Seoul, South Korea.
I will be staying in four different cities for this segment, including London, Vienna, Berlin and Manchester. London and Manchester are just overnight stays to avoid problems if there are any flight delays.
I originally chose Vienna, sort of at random. However, the more research I have done the more I feel excited about visiting the city. An additional benefit of Vienna is the ability to join tours to visit two other countries. These are Hungry and Slovenia, I am unsure if I will take advantage of this, but the option is there. I have allowed 10 days in Vienna, which I hope will not be too much.
Berlin has been a change from Frankfurt since my first plan. The main reason for this has been from my research, Berlin seems like a much more tourist friendly city. Berlin does seem to have a lot to offer both from a historical point of view and here and now perspective. I have allowed 3 days in Berlin.
Segment #2: USA pre-cruise
The USA arrived on the itinerary for my Europe trip when I booked the Transatlantic cruise. Due to the timing of my trip, the cruise was going Eastbound from the USA to Europe. Since I was going to be in America anyway I figured it a good chance to visit New York, and Fort Lauderdale pre-cruise.
New York, USA
When you fly to America from Australia,most often you arrive in Los Angeles. If you want to get to New York it is over 5 hours, each way to fly. I decided it would be great opportunity to visit while I needed to be on the East Coast for the cruise. I have allowed 4 days in New York.
Fort Lauderdale, USA
Fort Lauderdale is where I embark for the Transatlantic cruise, so I thought it a good place to visit beforehand. Having allowed five days here, and I would have wanted to be overnight here anyway. From my research, there is not a lot here, but hopefully, I can fill in the time.
Segment #3: Transatlantic cruise
The Cruise is a Transatlantic & Mediterranean cruise for a total of 29 days. A total of 11 days is at sea, with seven of those days just to cross the Atlantic. There will be 16 port visits in five different countries, with two overnight stays in port. Looks like a great cruise to me and it will be my longest cruise to date.
There are four ports of call in Portugal. The first two are both islands off the coast of Portugal names Horta and Ponta Delgada. These are followed by an overnight stop in Lisbon, and a day in Portimao.
There are three ports of call in Spain. The first is Cadiz (Seville) which is on the Atlantic coast of Spain. After entering the Mediterranean there are calls at Malaga and Barcelona.
Italy has the most ports with five different stops. The first is Livorno (also covers Florence and Pisa) befoe heading south to Civitavecchia (Rome). These two ports are followed by Naples and Catania. The final port for the cruise is an overnight in Venice, but there are port calls to Greece and Croatia before this.
There are three port calls in Greece over three days, which include Nafplion, Katakolon and Kerkira.
Just one port call in Croatia, to the city of Dubrovnik, and the last port of call before heading to Venice to Disembark.
Segment #4: Europe post cruise
The second part of my time is Europe is potentially a little different since I have booked the cruise. The cruise allows me to visit a couple of cities that I otherwise would have wanted to visit by land. I have allowed three nights in each city, giving me two full and two part days in each city. In addition to the main stops, I will also spend overnight in Venice after the cruise.
I have heard nice things about this area along the French Riviera. The toss up was between Nice and Marseille. In the end, Nice won out due to the proximity to Monaco with the potential of a day tour here.
Brussels was a destination I wanted to visit for two reasons. The first was that I have a friend who lives here that I want to visit. The second is that I think it would be a nice city to explore as well.
When you go back on my family tree, there is quite a lot of family from Denmark. As such, there are some relatives that I am able to contact and organise to spend a day with.
Amsterdam is a city with a certain reputation. However, in researching destinations there seems to be more to Amsterdam. I can see from my research there are some interesting places to explore so it is on the list.
Iceland as a destination had never occurred to me as an idea. But when I was booking flights, I had found Iceland Air to provide the best value between Europe and USA. Since I need to fly this route twice I decided to add a few days to see what Iceland is about.
Segment #5: Canada
Initially, I had considered spending some time in America. But in the end, have opted for two stops in Canada before an overnight stop in Los Angeles before flying home.
My choice to visit Toronto is based on spending time with a friend who lives here. Of course, there is going to be sightseeing as well, but it is always nice to see a city with a local.
Vancouver is also a choice based on meeting with a friend that lives in Seattle. They are organising some time off work and will meet me here to enjoy a different city. In the past, I have visited them twice in Seattle so this could be fun.
Seeing the Sights
In most of the cities that I will be visiting I have allowed not much time to see the area. As such I will be looking to balance most stops between a tour and my own exploration.
I have been using a website that I recently discovered to look at some potential tours for each city. The website is www.viator.com and it is very useful with a lot of excellent information on tour options. I like the website because it is in English and saves the problem of trying to locate individual tour operators. As well as if the benefit of booking in advance without trying to find space on a tour when you arrive in a city.
At this stage the above seems like it will be what I go with. However, there is still a lot that needs to be booked and a chance that things could change. But I will look to update along the way as I get things booked and locked in.