Tag Archives: yacht charters

Aerial view at famous european travel destination in Croatia, Dubrovnik old town.

How to Avoid Cruise Crowds in Europe

When you plan a trip, do you factor in when cruise ships will be visiting the places on your itinerary? A lot of us do (cruisemapper.com is my go-to), since several large ships at once can overcrowd a place, pouring out tens of thousands of tourists in a day.

This is one reason why certain European cities—historic coastal ports—have enacted restrictions on cruise-ship visits. Venice, a popular cruise port where space is tight, now prohibits vessels larger than 25,000 tons. Dubrovnik, Croatia’s ancient walled harbor, now limits the number of cruise passengers to 4,000 per day. And this summer, the city council of Amsterdam, a hub for river cruises, announced a ban on cruise ships docking in its historic center. Amsterdam’s dictate is still unfolding, but it would require ships to dock at less convenient places outside the city center.

Indeed, Amsterdam recently announced that, in 2024, it will increase its tourist taxes to the highest level in Europe. Guests in hotels will see an increase from seven percent in 2023 to 12.5 percent, plus an additional 3€ for any additional occupants. Cruise travelers will also pay more, from 8€ to 11€ per passenger, per day. And cruise ships calling at Scotland’s ports will be charged a new cruise tax in 2024; timing and fees have not yet been determined.

Venice’s new rule limits entry to the small ships operated by Ponant, Ritz-Carlton, Scenic, Sea Cloud, Star Clipper, Windstar, and the occasional river vessel. Larger ships must dock in off-the-islands manufacturing towns, such as Fusina and Marghera, or in cities even farther away, such as Ravenna and Trieste, both more than a two-hour drive from Venice. Below is the cruise-ship pier in Fusina and the waterbus that shuttles cruise passengers from there to Venice. It’s a 45-minute ride each way…and certainly not as glam as docking in Venice itself.

The cruise-ship pier in Fusina, 45 minutes from Venice.

The cruise-ship pier in Fusina, 45 minutes from Venice. Photo: Teijo Niemela

I love traveling by sea. More and more, though, I’m drawn to small ships, or even private yacht charters, where you need not worry about which ports you’ll be allowed into and they’re not overcrowded when you get there. Check out the articles below for water-borne trips that will keep you away from the masses.

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Unusual Ways To See the World by Water

There are parts of the world that are best seen from the water, and there is a growing array of unusual itineraries and small ships for doing so.  We’re not talking about Caribbean islands or Italian coastlines as viewed from a cruise ship so huge that it can only dock in the big industrial harbors. No, we’re talking about floating along France’s scenic canals by barge, sightseeing by houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala, India, or exploring remotest Antarctica by small expedition ship. Cruise expert Carolyn Spencer Brown joined Wendy and Brook for a WOW Week Travel Talk on new ways to explore the world’s waterways in 2023.  Watch the video and be surprised by everything you’ll learn.

Small-ship experiences you can find around the globe include:

Expedition ships: These small ships typically navigate parts of the world that it would be hard to experience any other way, such as the Arctic, Antarctica, and pristine portions of Alaska’s shoreline. In such pockets of the world, water-based travel is often your only option: You can’t drive from place to place, and it may be cost-prohibitive or too unreliable to get around via private, chartered aircraft. When these expedition ships are between seasons (say, repositioning between the Arctic and the Antarctic during the spring and fall), they may offer delightfully off-the-beaten-path itineraries that nip into tiny islands, landings, and anchorages. Carolyn and her husband sailed through the Swedish and Finnish archipelagos on a 100-passenger expedition ship, and he, a native of Finland, had never been to most of the small places they got to explore.

Yacht charters: Yachts and sailboats in the British Virgin Islands, Greece, Croatia, the Mediterranean, and many other parts of the world enable you to go where you want to go, drop anchor when you like, and choose who you want to vacation with (meaning, you’re not on a ship with strangers). You can even charter a private boat in India: In Kerala, traditional wood and thatched houseboats called kettuvallam ply the serene, rural backwaters, rivers and canals. You can charter a private boat or book a cabin on an 8-person “cruise” kettuvallam. Read about Wendy’s gulet charter on the Turquoise Coast and Brook’s catamaran charter in the Caribbean.

River boats: You may be familiar with the relatively large (160- to 190-passenger) cruise ships in Europe that ply the Rhine, Danube, Rhone and Seine, but there are many other rivers around the world where smaller vessels go to more exotic places, such as the Amazon in Peru, the Mekong for exploring Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Chobe River for the wildlife of Africa. On the Nile, instead of a Westernized river ship, you can opt for a wind-powered dahabiya. Dahabiyas are local boats that hold up to 12 people and can take you to places beyond the reach of traditional conventional vessels. Read about Billie’s experience sailing the Nile on a dahabiya.

European barge charters: Barges, often holding from 8 to 24 travelers, primarily ply the canals of France and are one of the best ways to explore the countryside, at a snail’s pace. Work barges have been repurposed as small passenger vessels—some quite luxurious, others cozy and comfortable. You’re provided with a captain and a cook, and you travel so slowly that you can easily grab a bike from your barge and meet it in the next village—with time to sip a glass of vino at an outdoor cafe. Read about Wendy’s barge trip through the French countryside.  

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Read more

A Private Gulet on Turkey’s Aegean Coast: Wendy’s Family Trip

Sailing the Caribbean Sea in a Private Yacht. This Could Be You.

The Best Way to See Egypt. Especially If You Don’t Like Boats.

How to Know if a Barge Cruise in France is Right for You.

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

private yacht floating in Tahiti French Polynesia

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