We are definitely veteran cruisers but were new to touring by land with a group so it was inevitable that we would make comparisons of the two types of travel. Here are our thoughts on the differences with a final thought on preferences.
Accomodations: There are definitely significant differences in accommodations between these two. When you cruise you get to choose your type of room, you remain there for the entire trip meaning you can unpack and settle in. On our land tour we always had nicer hotels, baggage was unloaded from the bus and taken to our room each evening then picked up each morning and put back on the bus. However…you could never unpack since the next morning you were off to a new place. Also, we couldn’t choose the type of room other than bed type so it was hit or miss with views, etc. Many of our rooms were extremely nice – balcony views of mountains, large windows, nice showers. Other rooms were very basic in the European style. Each morning it was adventure figuring out a new shower, hoping the hair dryer would work, and getting packed up in time for bags to be ready for pick up. Some hotels had shampoo, soap, washcloths – others just had one liquid soap that was supposed to be for hair, body, and everything. Luckily, we were prepared and brought our own shampoos and conditioners; however, I wished that we had also brought washcloths as about half the hotels didn’t supply them.
Advantage – Cruising just for the convenience of choosing your room and not having to unpack each evening
Food: This is definitely subjective, and bear in mind this is coming from one of the pickiest eaters in the history of the world! When you cruise, all meals are included – you pay extra for soft drinks, liquor, etc. but there is basically an unlimited supply of food 24 hours a day. Our tour included buffet breakfasts each day and several dinners, other dinners were included with optionals we purchased as extras. Being very picky, I didn’t like it that there wasn’t a choice of what to have each evening. All dinners were served with soup, salad, entree, and dessert; however, we were all served the same thing. I don’t like soup, don’t care for most salad dressings, so ended up eating mostly meat and dessert. I must say though, I didn’t starve while we were gone and I never heard any complaints about the quality of the food. For lunch we generally grabbed a snack to hold us over until supper while we were out for the day.
Advantage – Cruising again, strictly for having the choices in what to eat
Sightseeing/Ports/What to see: We saw many things on the land tour that could never be seen from a ship or on a cruise – travel during the day was always full of towns and sights to look at – primarily because we mostly traveled on country roads through small towns instead of on large highways. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a group tour, most of these sights were only available to see for a quick second as we passed by – there was no way to stop at all of the places we would have liked to have seen. If we had been on a ship we couldn’t have seen them at all! The advantage to the ship is that you mostly travel at night while you sleep so you wake up at a new port most days with a whole day to explore. If you are cruising during the day you aren’t confined to a bus seat, there is a lot to do and it isn’t so confining. Our travel on the bus was always during the day so that meant there were days that we spent a good deal of time on the bus instead of exploring new things. After a while it was tiring to spend that much time on the bus with just short stops in towns that we would have liked to enjoy further.
Advantage: Cruising – more time in port for exploration, less time sitting on a bus. Land Tour gets the nod for more options of places to go though – a ship can only get you to a nearby port, not inland!
Travel Companions: Here is where we found a huge advantage for land tours – our group consisted of 47 members that travelled together for 2 weeks. We were able to share this experience on a much more personal level than we could with three to four thousand cruisers on a ship. It was really enjoyable to eat dinner with new friends each evening and relive our day’s experiences.
Advantage: Land Tour
As I read through this post, I’m afraid that this may seem like a negative reaction to land tours and it isn’t meant to be. We would definitely do another land tour if the proper itinerary presented itself. Given a choice of an itinerary available by land or cruise we would definitely do the cruise as it is in our comfort zone and offers more flexibility with choices.