I want to take my children (ages 4, 10 and 12) to Europe for the first time. I am tempted to take a cruise because its easy and we can hit a lot of hot spots. Also, we love the water so we want to visit waterfront locations like Capri, Monte Carlo etc..
We like the Disney Cruise line, but also interested in the Norwegian Epic because of the 2 bedroom staterooms in the Haven.
However, I have never been a fan of cruising because they drop you off in a cruise port for a short amount of time which does not give a true representation of what the town and culture is really about.
I would love advice and/or tips!
I've never been on a cruise, so I can't give you a comparison, but I did live in Europe for 6 years both in Germany and Spain, and traveled quite a bit by train and car with my 4 children when they were quite young and as they grew.
I love driving vacations because it gives you the flexibility to see the countryside and get a better feel for the place and culture. It also allows you to follow your interests better and get to some of those gems that are just out of reach by boat/taxi/walking in a busy city area.
If you rent a car, do keep in mind different traffic rules per country if you're crossing borders. Many countries require special passes for the windows - a toll of sorts. Driving in Europe really is fairly easy, though I'd advise against big cities and small medieval towns - we often parked and talked/metro-ed in.
Trains are amazing and also show you places/views that you wouldn't normally see. You can still get to beaches and enjoy the water, but have the flexibility of seeing more.
Do ask more questions as you narrow down your locations... where you go can make a difference as well. If you really want to give your kids a good taste of a place, you do need more than a short port visit.
I've got a question for you before I answer your question: what's the "goal" of your travel? What will make you feel like your vacation was what you wanted?
I've lived in Europe for over 5 yrs now and we've taken 3 cruises and take another one to Israel next week.
First off we love it because we have children. The daycare is nice and they have plenty to keep them busy. Second your hotel travels with you. So the kids are going stir crazy in the Crazy European Staus and traffic jams.
You are right on the time and how you're placed in tourist traps. We look at it this way. You have a European sampler package and you get a small sampling of what the places are about. If you want to venture out you should rent a car as we have done many times. Also with the sampler you can always go back to explore more in depth of the places you found interesting when your kids are in college! :-)
I hope this helps. I've never been on a Disney cruise since they arrived only recently and we went on this trip last minute.
We still do a lot of travel with children, but only within 2-6 hrs with a car.