Nav­i­ga­tion for wan­der­lust

Get­ting around Europe is easy. Brian John­ston looks at the trans­port op­tions that will of­fer the best ex­pe­ri­ences.

Marlborough Express - - TRAVEL -

It would be dif­fi­cult to nom­i­nate my favourite ex­pe­ri­ence on the move in Europe. It might be the rack rail­way that clangs up Mt Rigi in cen­tral Switzer­land, press­ing your back against your seat as but­ter­cup-stud­ded mead­ows and snowy peaks grow ever more ex­trav­a­gant be­yond the win­dows.

It might be sail­ing out of San­torini in Greece at sun­set, the cliffs of the vol­canic is­land turn­ing to gold as drinks are served on the deck of a cruise ship. Or it might be driv­ing along the back roads of the Dor­dogne re­gion in France through half-tim­bered vil­lages and ap­ple or­chards.

There are abun­dant rea­sons to love Europe as a travel des­ti­na­tion, and cer­tainly get­ting around is eas­ier than any­where else.

It has more trans­port op­tions to more places than any other con­ti­nent, and gen­er­ally of high qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and safety. des­ti­na­tions re­ally should be seen from the sea: there’s no bet­ter way to ad­mire the Nor­we­gian coast, Sval­bard is­lands or the ap­proach to Ko­tor in Mon­tene­gro.

Cons

You have to stick to coastal des­ti­na­tions, leav­ing much of Europe un­ex­plored. Big-name cities such as Rome, Paris, Lon­don and Ber­lin, al­though vis­ited on shore ex­cur­sions, are of­ten dis­tant from cruise ports.

An­other down­side is that you sel­dom see ports in the evening, or have the chance to en­joy the at­mos­phere and re­gional cui­sine of lo­cal restau­rants.

Cons

Europe im­poses size re­stric­tions on river-cruise ves­sels thanks to locks and low his­toric bridges.

Space is tight in cab­ins, and pub­lic ar­eas and ameni­ties are lim­ited, al­though cruise itin­er­ar­ies gen­er­ally have you off the ship most of the day. Com­mu­nal din­ing re­quires so­cia­bil­ity. Shore ex­cur­sions of­ten fo­cus on run-of-the-mill sights.

Some com­pa­nies also of­fer ad­di­tional-charge ex­cur­sions of a more var­ied na­ture. Last-minute deals are now rare, and you re­ally have to book up to a year in ad­vance to get a good price and the cabin cat­e­gory you want.

ISTOCK

The ap­proach to Ko­tor, Mon­tene­gro, is mag­nif­i­cent. Driv­ing the Amalfi Coast will be one of the most chal­leng­ing, but re­ward­ing, drives of your life.

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