Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Angela Merkel’s well-intended refugee policy may come back to haunt Europe this year.

The German chancellor’s decision to accept more than 1 million refugees last summer is being second-guessed after a wave of New Year’s Eve assaults in German cities, most notably Cologne.

And other European cities reported some of the same problems on New Year’s Eve, including Helsinki, Finland.

It seems evident that the EU essentially lost control of its borders for a few months last summer and it doesn’t know very much about some of the people who gained entrance. That suggests to me there will be a continuing series of incidents that will make cruising to Europe undesirable in the minds of many North American travelers.

The question is: What are the alternatives?

There are plenty of safe places to cruise. That is, places where the odds of becoming involved in a terrorist incident are lower than in Europe. Alaska, the Caribbean and Tahiti came to mind.

But while all of these places have their historical and cultural attractions, they aren’t the same as the ones found in Spanish, French and Italian cities around the Mediterranean or the string of ports in the Baltic.

It is difficult to put together a substitute for European architecture, music, food and culture. Of the 802 Unesco World Heritage sites, 131 are in Western Europe, including the Cologne Cathedral.

So where are the most sites found outside of Europe? China has 48, Mexico 33, and Australia, Brazil and Japan 19 each. Cruises to those countries might be attractive for cultural travelers.

The U.S. includes 23 World Heritage sites. Another strategy might be to book pre- or post-cruise stays in homeports such as Los Angeles, Seattle, New York or Miami, which have some of the dining, arts and museum sites that cultural travelers are looking for.

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