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Tour Europe by Ship

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ABOVE: A glass wall on Silversea's Silver Spirit reflects the Lisbon waterfront.

A typical cruise day on Silversea's Silver Spirit

imageDuring a 9-night Silver Spirit voyage from Lisbon to Monte Carlo, we began each day by stepping out on our balcony to watch the ship's arrival in port. Then we had breakfast (outdoors, weather permitting) with a view of the harbor.

imageOn days when we'd booked excursions, we headed for the gangway or tender at the appointed time (usually between 8 and 9 a.m.) and went ashore. Most tours lasted only half the day, giving us time to wander around the ports on our own before it was time to sail.

We frequently returned to the ship at midday, had lunch in the ship's air-conditioned buffet or restaurant, checked our e-mail, then went ashore for a few more hours. Many of our fellow passengers took a less strenuous approach: They changed into swimsuits and headed for the pool, where they ate hamburgers and sipped cold drinks while working on their tans.

imageThe ship usually sailed around 5 or 6 p.m., giving passengers time to shower, visit the bars for cocktails if they were so inclined, and enjoy a leisurely dinner before the night's entertainment. After the show, we usually spent time on deck before returning to our cabin, but the casino and bars were open late for the nightlife set.

imageOn "sea days" (days when there was no port call), we sampled a few of the morning and afternoon activities from the Silver Spirit's daily schedule. Lectures, trivia-team competitions, golf instruction, bridge tournaments, water polo, needlepoint, fitness classes, port briefings, and spa treatments were just a few of the options listed in the daily Silversea Chronicles newspaper. Some activities were combined with afternoon tea at 4 p.m., which helped to replace any calories that we'd used up while sightseeing in port.

Not all ships are like the Silver Spirit, of course; smaller vessels may offer a limited range of activities, while a 4,000-passenger "megaship" may offer everything from basket-weaving to basketball. But the basics are common to nearly all ships: A cabin, plenty of food, bars, lounges, and open decks where you can enjoy views and fresh air from the sea as you cruise between ports.

Next page: Shopping for a cruise

In this article:
Cruise types
Port-intensive cruises
A typical cruise day
Shopping for a cruise
Before you book

Also see:
European Cruises - Articles Index