Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now’s a great time to go –

6 months ago Comments Off on Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now’s a great time to go –

USA TODAY cruise editor Gene Sloan shares his thoughts on cruising in Europe in the first of a new monthly column, Cruise Insights


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In the weeks after the Paris terrorist attacks, bookings at Europe-focused Viking River Cruises dropped by more than 50%.

Not just in France, where the California-based company offers trips on the Seine that begin and end in Paris. But across all of Europe, a continent that spans more than 2,500 miles.

Bookings at Viking and other river lines that cater mostly to Americans dropped for cruises on the Douro River in Portugal, the Rhine in Germany, and the Danube in Austria and Hungary as well as on such French rivers as the Seine and the Rhone. Ocean cruise lines that sell to Americans, too, saw a significant decline in bookings for a wide range of Europe itineraries, particularly in the Mediterranean.

Think about that for a minute. Do you find it a little nutty? If not, you should. Something happened in a single European city, and overnight Americans backed away from an entire continent of 3.93 million square miles. 

Nearly six months later, bookings by Americans for Europe cruises remain in a funk, with the downturn exacerbated by the more recent terror attack in Brussels as well as an incident in Istanbul.

In short, many American cruisers now are scared of Europe. Travel executives say they’re shifting trips to the closer-to-home Caribbean or Alaska. Or they’re just staying home. “Staycation” is back in the vocabulary.         
Does this make sense? Has the risk of hopping on a river cruise to Durnstein, Austria (pop. 886),and other cozy little Danube river towns really changed because of what happened in cities as much as 1,000 miles away? Is there suddenly more danger in a voyage down the Croatian coast from Venice? 

I’m here to tell you no. Put away those worries. Go ahead and book that European dream trip. 

I’ve been to Europe half a dozen times since the Paris attacks, visiting nearly a dozen countries from England to Greece, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that there’s no reason to fear the Continent.

Let’s put things in perspective. Yes, there have been several major terrorist attacks in Europe. They were horrible and tragic. But such incidents remain rare, and they’re no reason to stop traveling to Europe or, more generally, overseas.

If anything, the attacks are a reminder that terrorism can happen anywhere, whether at a Paris cafe or a marathon in Boston or in the heart of New York City. 

Studies have shown humans often are a poor judge of risk. As travel advice guru Wendy Perrin recently suggested in this insightful story on the topic, you just might be more at risk staying home this summer than heading to Europe. Roughly 12 million Americans visited Europe last year, but just one was killed in the Paris attacks. Far more Americans have died in terrorist incidents within the United States than overseas over the past decade. Your odds of being killed in a car crash (one in 19,000) are several orders of magnitude higher than your risk of dying from terrorism (one in 20 million). Even getting hit by lightning is more likely. 
Europe remains a wonderful place full of history and culture, great food, and warm and welcoming people. Sure, there may be more terrorist attacks to come in Europe. Indeed, there likely will be, just as there will be in countries around the world, including the USA. But as Perrin points out, that doesn’t translate into a high degree of risk for the individual traveler in Europe. 

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Meanwhile, on a purely financial basis, now is a great time to go to Europe — at least for Americans who are paid in U.S. dollars. The greenback has risen roughly 25% against the euro over the past five years, meaning that everything from that beer and brat in Munich to that Sacher torte in Vienna is that much less expensive. 

Buffeted by declining sales, cruise lines also have been rolling out perks in recent months to lure people back to Europe. Some river lines are waiving the “single supplement” normally charged for single travelers occupying a cabin for two. Some ocean lines are throwing in free drinks, gratuities and other extras with new bookings. In general, there are “bargains aplenty,” as CruiseCritic editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer Brown wrote last week in a column that noted that she, for one, wouldn’t be canceling any trips to the Continent.  

Bottom line: If it’s worries about your safety that have you thinking twice about a cruise in Europe this year, it’s time to reconsider.  

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USA TODAY Cruise recently got a sneak peek at Viking Cruises’ newest ocean ship, Viking Sea, in advance of its christening Thursday in Greenwich, England. For our deck-by-deck tour of the vessel, scroll through the carousel below. 



Afraid to cruise in Europe? Nuts! Now’s a great time to go –

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