Looking back over the last 12 months, we can all probably agree that 2017 was a rough year for Europe. Terrorist attacks in such destinations as London, Barcelona, Manchester and Stockholm; concerns about overtourism; and alarming reports of the melting Greenland ice sheet and its implications for the global sea level have rendered some of us numb from the onslaught of bad news.
That said, Europe's appeal endures. And in fact, some destinations, like Switzerland and Iceland, had near record years in incoming arrivals.
Those of us who love the Continent all have our own reasons for doing so, but common factors include the Old World charm, the cuisine, the wine, the culture and the diversity of language and history among various countries situated so near one another.
In short, as long as planes fly, I'll continue to visit Europe, and I won't be alone.
With that in mind, here is my list of some of the good news that came out of Europe this year.
Low-cost air access continues to make transatlantic flights affordable for a wider chunk of the traveling public. Norwegian Air is spreading its tentacles across Europe and Wow is adding more U.S. gateways. Meanwhile, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) began operating its lower-cost Go Light product on all U.S. routes Dec. 14. The service trims about $35 on average from fares for passengers without checked luggage. Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings is poised to take over Air Berlin flights between Dusseldorf and New York, Miami and Fort Myers, Fla., next spring, and International Airlines Group, which also owns British Airways, is establishing a base at Paris Orly in 2018 for Spanish low-cost transatlantic carrier Level. Service in 2018 will include roundtrip service to Barcelona from Newark and Boston.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, luxury travel continues apace. Travel Leaders Group's luxury agents, for example, report a 64% bump in bookings over 2016. Crediting the strong U.S. economy, the Travel Leaders Group's 2017 Fall Travel Trends Survey named European river cruises, Mediterranean cruises and Ireland among its top destinations.
Overtouristed destinations are finally taking a stand against the presence of cruise ships in their ports. Dubrovnik is looking to trim cruise arrivals by half, from 8,000 passengers a day to 4,000, for example, and Venice is making a move against large ships with a permanent ban, along with the development of a terminal in nearby Marghera, set for completion in about four years.
Cruise lines such as MSC Cruises are looking hard at the development of lesser-known ports to siphon passengers away from overcrowded spots. MSC, for example, is calling at Sarande in Albania.
Meanwhile, at presstime the latest deal between the U.K. and the European Union promises to retain an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, although details are still vague on how to achieve this long-thorny issue in Brexit talks. The idea of the reinstatement of border guards and passport checks between these two countries is a depressing scenario that almost no one wants to see happen.
At the risk of dipping my toe into political waters, the re-election of German's Angela Merkel, widely considered a stabilizing force in a rapidly changing Europe, and the election of France's Emmanuel Macron, also a mainstream presence on the European stage, have gone a long way to reassure jittery travelers about the future of the destination.
Finally, who doesn't love a royal romance? The recent engagement of Britain's Prince Harry -- to an American, no less -- is already spawning wedding-themed packages and specials from companies like CIE Tours and Le Boat.
Here's hoping 2018 will bring us so much good news that we won't be able to fit it all in one column.