Europe has it all: mouth-watering food, captivating history, stunning architecture, and rich cultures. But with so many places to see and ways to travel, choosing what to do can feel as complicated as picking a 40-year mortgage with life insurance.
You may have considered cruising, self-driving or large-group land tours. However, we propose a lesser-known method of seeing Europe: small group touring. We’ve highlighted some of the reasons you might choose a cruise and compared this with our approach. Hopefully this shows you an exciting alternative to exploring the Old Continent.
You step on board, walk down the corridor and dump your suitcase in your room. Now, you can unpack and relax knowing you won’t carry your bags until your cruise finishes. Phew. That means your stylish evening tops and lucky underwear are accessible without having to dig down to the bottom of the suitcase.
Most staff on a cruise speak English. This makes communication easier compared with the languages and dialects you encounter in small towns on land travel routes.
The customer service you receive on the ship will be at a high and consistent standard as everyone is representing the same brand.
You can enjoy your day, head to bed for a long sleep, and wake up in a new country the next day. This means there’s less time travelling to a destination and more time while you’re there. Great for seeing as many cities as possible in a short amount of time.
There’s less risk with the quality of dining on board a cruise ship as it’s all managed under one roof. Whereas the food quality can vary when you eat at local markets while you travel on land.
Sometimes you need your own space, especially on a long trip. Cruise ships provide the perfect opportunity to accidently lose your significant other and go enjoy the cinema or dip in the pool by yourself. Me time is important.
With 16 people or less on our mini-coaches, you’re sure to make friends. You’ll find that even passengers in the back seats talk to the guide and feel involved. The whole atmosphere on board is relaxed, and by the end of the day everyone is comfortable with each other. We regularly get told by our customers that they made lifelong friends with passengers they met on our tours.
We stop every 45 minutes or so. More time off the mini-coach means more memorable experiences. On the other hand, cruise ships only stop at the ports large enough to take them and never venture off the beaten path.
During a cruise you get a new guide for every shore excursion you do. These interactions can be fleeting and the guides knowledge may be limited to just that activity. Whereas on our tours you have the same guide for the whole trip. This means you build a relationship with them, pick their brain for answers to your questions, and enjoy their world-class storytelling.
When you go ashore in a coastal town eager to try some local wine and delicacies, your options are limited by the nearby options. You simply can’t wander too far from the cruise ship before it departs again.
Instead, imagine you tour deep into the vineyards of La Rioja and learn where wine has been cultivated since the Roman times. Being far from the crowds creates a truly immersive and rich cultural experience.
Small-group travel means you’ll encounter unique dialects and locals who haven’t grown tired of large volumes of tourists. This opens your eyes to their way of life and provides an authentic holiday.
Cruises only stop in big ports along the coast, so a lot of locations in-land are off limits. By going to small villages you’ll enjoy unique experiences. Your interesting photos will stand out amongst your friends’ clichéd snaps of the Eiffel Tower or Colosseum.
Unfortunately, cruise ships can be toxic for the environment. Pollution from the exhaust fumes, trash, and sewage that can enter the ocean directly are particularly bad.
The UK’s Channel 4 station did an undercover investigation into cruise pollution. They found the air quality on the upper deck of one cruise ship measured the same as what you’d expect from the most polluted cities in the world (e.g. Shanghai or Delhi).
Besides pollution, having thousands of cruise passengers descend on a town at the same time erodes the environment.
We operate modern fuel-efficient vehicles to minimise environmental impact. We also tax ourselves £10 for every tonne of carbon we produce. This money goes back to community and environmental projects throughout the destinations we visit. You can find out more about our responsible travel practices here.
Small groups can go off the beaten track to help the economies of remote villages and communities. We can stop at that tiny café you’ve been eyeing up and help support them, while you enjoy your locally sourced latte.
It’s not something you think about when you plan your trip, but cruise ships carry thousands of passengers. This means they can become a breeding ground for nasty viruses and germs. So if you don’t want a runny nose or a tickly throat to affect your trip, you should think about travelling in smaller groups.
You can give our guides suggestions of places you want to see, even if it’s not on the itinerary. If the driver and your group like the idea, they’ll go there. On the other hand, try tapping the Captain of the cruise on the shoulder and asking to stop at a different port, and you’ll simply get a stern look.
For a long time, cruises have been a staple for people wanting to explore Europe. These giant floating hotels are great for whistle-stop touring to get an appetiser of many countries. However, if you want an immersive cultural experience, where you make friends, meet locals, try unique food, go off the beaten track, and contribute to the community and environment; then a small-group tour is for you.