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Setting sail for Europe

December 13, 2009|By ON THE SPOT

Catharine Hamm — Question: I would like to go to Europe, but I am too afraid to fly. I know there are cruises from New York (where I live) to England, but I'd like to stay in Europe for probably close to three weeks. Is this possible?

-- Stephanie Kreppein, Smithtown, N.Y.

Answer: Yes, it's possible, and if money is no object, it's relatively easy to do.

Cunard, which is almost synonymous with transatlantic crossings, has a series of them in spring, summer and fall that may be easier, logistically, than piecing together repositioning cruises (although there are many of those). But for simplicity, let's consider that the Queen Mary sails from New York on April 29, May 21, June 7, July 6 and 19, Aug. 8, Sept. 12, Oct. 12 and Nov. 1 to Southampton, England, on a seven-day crossing. It makes the six-night westbound trip starting in Southampton on May 15, June 1, July 13, Aug. 2, Oct. 1 and 19, and Nov. 10.

Now, the moment you were waiting for: the price. And that's the bad news, especially for the solo traveler.

A standard inside cabin on the April 29 sailing begins at $907 (and that's wait-listed). That's per person, based on double occupancy. If you don't have a second person with you, you're going to pay that second fare, bringing your total to $1,859, not including some taxes.

If you return June 1, the lowest category cabin begins at $995 for this voyage, also not including some taxes. The price for this leg will run you $1,990, so your round-trip fare will be $3,849, assuming you don't have a roommate. Compare that with the $719 airfare I found for travel about that same time and you're paying a $3,000 premium.

That said, a ship trip has its upsides. For one, there's no jet lag. Clocks are moved about an hour a day, so there's little to disrupt the body's circadian rhythms. For another, you won't be crammed into a metal tube for six hours with a bunch of surly people to whom you may be related.

And this suggestion from Jason Coleman, a cruise consultant whose title is "president and chief visionary" of Jason Coleman Inc. in Los Angeles, is an even better idea: He suggests taking a third and possibly fourth cruise while in Europe -- a Baltic voyage (starting at $1,099 per person) or perhaps a Mediterranean cruise (starting at $1,999 per person), both on the Grand Princess. Together they would add about $6,000 more to the tab, but remember that your passage includes food and accommodations. A traveling companion would cut this total to about $4,925 (excluding taxes and tips but including nearly everything else).

To learn more about what's out there that can work, you'll want to consult a travel agent, because this will take some calendar crunching. Still, we've gone from a work-around for a problem to a vacation that sounds like heaven on the high seas. As I'm writing this, I'm looking at the vacation calendar for next spring and wondering whether I have anything to wear to those darn formal nights. . . .

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