I have always dreamt of sailing a big ship, and would like to take a trip on one where I can also be a part of the crew and learning about sailing as I go. I know one option already, which is the Christian Radich here in Norway (a beautiful ship, but unfortunately above my price range!) but I would like to know if there are other possibilities like this?
You are definitely in the right continent for sailing! I have been on sails boats in several different countries and loved them all. Alas, I know a few sailors so mine were private trips but, havving said that, you can definitely join in on tours or group trips.
First the country options:
Italy is great for sailing with a long coast and many protected coves. On the western side, the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are know sailing destinations. From the east coast, you can take group trips to Croatia.
Thee Dalmatian coast of Croatia is known for its boating culture. You can rent small sailboats with a skipper to island hop around Dubrovnik or even join larger sail boats for a coastline cruise that may go as far as Montenegro. This region has the added benefit of including great day stops and lots of winneries ;)
One of the quintesssential seafaring nations of the Mediteranean, Greece offers all kinds of group and charter sailing options. You can choose between comfy island hoping or longer days at sea.
The Mediteranean coast around Bodrum is known as a sailors paradise. Again options for groups or charters are abundant and prices are some of the best in Europe for the quality. Brilliant seaside destination.
A less known option but made better for it, is the Black Sea. Cruising companies do offer great deals for smaller sailing boat cruises or charters, and the scenary can be quite stunning. The Bulgaria coast is a personal favourite.
Of course you would know about the Scandinavian countries which are all a bit more expensive than the southern European option.
Last but not least, you may also consider the UK. England in particular has several providers that offer sailing vacations along the coast and with trips to some of the southern islands.
If you aren't looking for a leisurely sailing tour and want to get your hands a bit 'dirty' by participating as one of the crew, I suggest you look into coastal cities and their sailing clubs. Some sailing institutes and clubs will offer 'working' group trips during the summer months in their rather impressive vessels.
Large group tour companies such as Intrepid travelers organise fixed-date trips based on interests and sailing is quick becoming a very popular option, so check with them if you are looking for well priced experiences on larger vessels.
Hope this helps.
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Consider Sailing Croatia! There are more than a 1000 islands, countless bays, ports, and beaches for you to drop anchor in.....
On top of that, there's a great cultural heritage, with thousands of Roman and Greek forts, Croatian cathedrals, ancient towns etc.
Great food, lovely people, and crystal clear sea, and the climate is perfect, with warm waters, and amazing weather in the spring, summer, and a part of autumn. What more could you wish for?