European Cruises - Things you should know before going

With so many places to see and yet so little time, what better way to explore Europe than taking one of the many European cruises it has to offer. No matter where you come from it’s a must that you visit Europe. Its history is hiding in every corner waiting to be discovered, and its charms will make you want to come back over and over again. Europe is a traveler’s dream destination, having something to offer to everyone. 
But as it so often happens when we’re planning a journey we’re faced with many choices, and that sometimes can be overwhelming. Yet to have multiple choices is still better than to have none. As long as we have a slight idea of what it is we want we can slowly start picking.

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Ocean European Cruises

In recent years European cruises have to take a big swing, with numerous new ships every year. Whichever European cruises you pick, whether you’re taking in the colorful Mediterranean cliffs or the British Isles’ Celtic cliffs, Europe’s wonders will delight you over and over again.

Culinary excellence from popular classics like Italian pasta and Spanish tapas to lesser-known cuisines from Amsterdam to Zagreb will be a delight for all your senses.

Best Ocean European Cruise Lines

European cruises give passengers a modern and at the same time ancient view of their most famous regions. From cruises that sail up the Scandinavian fjords to boats that cross the many islands and cities of the Mediterranean, to vessels that cross Europe’s great rivers, these voyages present an authentic buffet of Western culture.

Some of the cruise lines that provide the best itineraries are:

  1. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  2. Viking Ocean Cruises
  3. Seabourn Cruise Line
  4. Celebrity Cruises

Most Popular Destinations for European Ocean Cruises

Imerovigli, Greece
Imerovigli, Greece

This is one of the most important distinctions between the cruises, and probably the most important decision to make when choosing. Do you feel like warm temperature, sunsets on beaches and Mediterranean food; or maybe you’re more into colder climate and Scandinavian vibes. 

Maybe you want something more medieval or landscapes of astounding hills and changing scenery. Whatever it is you want, you can be sure Europe will offer it to you. But that will also determine the type of cruise you’ll be taking.  

Best Eastern European cruises

Eastern Mediterranean

Crushing through the Eastern Mediterranean can be one of the most satisfying travel experiences you’ll ever have, from its beautiful coastline and ancient architecture to its renowned cuisine and fascinating culture. The cities in this area are the patriarchs of Europe, and many of them are visited by the finest Eastern Mediterranean cruises. The ideal itinerary is ready and waiting if you want to stand on top of the Acropolis in Athens or discover Dubrovnik’s old town’s ancient gateways.

Most Popular Cruise Ports

  • Athens, Greece

Today, when cruises to Athens, tourists flock from around the world to explore its history. After all, across the fabric of entire cultures, Athens’ sculpture, theater, architecture, and philosophy had ripple effects. Today, Athens is a blend of ancient and modern. Piraeus serves as the

main port for Athens. Archeological and maritime museums, the hilltop quarter of Kastella, Mikrolimano’s seafood restaurants, and the Piraeus Wall’s remnants are attractions here.

  • Venice, Italy

Eastern cruises very often depart from Venice, so a cruise from Venice is an utter must.

 You’d be astonished everywhere you look by the sheer beauty of the city’s architecture and its ridiculous richness of art; by the organic nature of the place, as if it had evolved rather than built. The creative ways Venetians have found both to adapt their city to the modern world and ensure that it does not sink into the lagoon is impressive.

  • Istanbul, Turkey

This is one of the most captivating cities in the world. As the ship pulls into port, cruise passengers get a striking glimpse of the minaret-pierced skyline. Here the riches are plentiful; tourists marvel at the Blue Mosque’s great architectural victory, the Chora Church’s glorious frescoes and mosaics, and the fabulous Grand Bazaar.

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia

This Pearl of the Adriatic, situated on the Dalmatian coast, is a medieval Mediterranean city renowned for its Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture. Several cruises visit the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and traverse the ramparts of the city’s iconic walls for panoramas of its majestic churches, palaces, monasteries, and fountains.

Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s most friendly cruise destinations, considering the magnificent 13th-century walls surrounding the city.

Eastern Europe Cruise Excursions

Every shore excursion provides unforgettable experiences in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Few routes throughout the world deliver such a concentration of iconic places in total harmony with nature’s remarkable diversity and beauty.

Here’s a list of a few amongst many shore excursions:

  • Taka an Istanbul
  • Master Class in Culinary.
  • Exploring an Alien Landscape in Kusadasi
  • Scale Mount Srd’s Heights in Dubrovnik
  • Freewheeling in Kotor
  • Via Athens, Mixing Tradition, Nature and Wine in Corinth (This full-day excursion offers your group an opportunity to discover a number of the top sights of Athens).
  • Standup Paddle boarding in Santorini

Western Europe Cruise

Western Mediterranean

On the west side of the Mediterranean, there are so many classic European cities that you’ll be surprised by how much you can see on a single cruise. The bulk of the journeys leave from Barcelona or Rome and visit the main ports of Spain, Portugal, France, Monaco, and Italy.

The emphasis on these Western European cruises is on cities, so expect more time at museums than lazing on the beach.

French Riviera Cruises

The French Riviera is one of the most beautiful locations on Earth where the crystalline sparkle of its azure waters rivals only the sparkling nightlife and the bejeweled people. To visit the blissful French Riviera, take a cruise on the southeastern corner of France’s Mediterranean coastline. There are few places on the globe that rival the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur.

The French Riviera is also renowned for the giant yachts of St Tropez, the star-studded Cannes film festival, and Monaco’s high-end resorts, known primarily for its warm weather, sparkling blue waters, high rollers, and crowded beaches. However, this costly and excessively crowded place is to be loved for a reason – it is trendy and beautiful, with great weather and even better food.

Taking a cruise on the French Riviera will take you to the astounding ports of Cannes, Cassis, Marseille, Sanary-sur-Mer, St Raphael, St Tropez, Toulon, Villefranche-sur-Mer (Nice), and Monte Carlo (Monaco).

Most Popular Cruise Ports

  • Barcelona, Spain

This city has it all with its fantastic museums, architecture, and history, plus beautiful beaches. The ships that dock closest to the terminal entrance are just about a 10-minute walk from Las Ramblas, a busy trendy area popular with tourists right in the center of the city. You can peruse souvenir stands throughout the day, watch buskers, or pick up some local art. There are several alfresco cafes, pubs, and nightclubs at night to kick off your cruise holiday.

  • Rome, Italy

Whether the Coliseum is more breathtaking than the Pantheon or St. Peter’s Basilica is challenging to determine. Rome is a gem, even if you walk the side streets and come across piazzas and cafes. Civitavecchia, the Rome cruise port, offers opportunities to see the city’s many famous sights, historical wonders, and fascinating local culture. Exploring Rome during your cruise vacation can feel a bit daunting since your cruise ship will dock a distance from the city. Still, if you book the right excursion, you’ll have no problem seeing most of the eternal city.

  • Tuscany, Italy

One of the largest ports of call along The Mediterranean Sea, Livorno, Italy, is the gateway to beautiful Tuscany. Make sure to visit La Venezia, a Venetian-style canal district in the historic center of the city dating back to the Medici period, on cruises to Livorno, Italy. Tuscany itself is like no other destination, boasting an almost unlikely combination of old and modern, rolling hillsides and industrial skylines. The Renaissance masterpieces of art and architecture that you can find in Florence and Pisa are like no other.

  • Naples, Italy

Naples is one of Italy’s not so secret gems. The Naples cruise port is situated next to the marina and the ferry port, in the south of the city, and it is within walking distance of the historic city center with its landmarks. Naples’ cruise port is one of the largest in the Mediterranean and has a vast new cruise terminal with many cruise passengers’ amenities. You can discover historical landmarks, masterpiece artworks, and sumptuous food with a lively historic center set around a striking harbor bay.

Western Europe Cruise excursions

Western European cruises give you an opportunity of an abundance of shore excursions

  • Explore the Ruins of Herculaneum
  • Visit Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
  • Get a Taste of Local Life in the French Riviera
  • Marvel at Masterpieces in Tuscany
  • Channel Your Inner Gladiator at the Colosseum

Best Northern Europe Cruises

Cruise to Northern Europe and see a wide range of cultures, magnificent palaces, history, and stunning natural beauty. You have routes to explore some of the most remote and uncontaminated parts of the world, from the British Isles to Scandinavia, through the Baltic States and Russia, where nature flaunts all its splendor.

Most Popular Ports

  • Geiranger, Norway

In the world ranking, Geiranger will comfortably make the top 10 cruise ports.

This does not include the most picturesque port of call on this list. Imagine that your ship is sailing through the famous Geiranger fjord and cruising to a small town that looks like a movie scene. Light cascades, steep rock walls, and snowcapped mountains all around you.

  • Bergen, Norway

Set inside a protected cove on the North Sea, Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city after Oslo.

Although sunshine is not rare, it’s the prevailing mist that holds an umbrella close at hand for its people. Bergen is postcard-beautiful, nestled between green mountains, snow-capped fjords, and the unpredictable sea.

  • Amsterdam, Holland

A stop in Amsterdam provides the opportunity to explore the sights of one of the most vibrant, diverse, and historic cities in Europe, one with a well-earned reputation for people of all stripes as a laid-back and welcoming city. Naturally, tourists are attracted to the historic center of the town, where you can find some of the world’s best art museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.

  • Copenhagen

One of the best European capitals to fall in love with is Copenhagen. The sights of old houses, cobbled streets, and the skyline dotted with towers and turrets add beauty to the fairy-tale.

Copenhagen is a city where it is easy to find and discover things to do on foot or excellent public transport, where everyone speaks perfect English. Here the food is new and creative, and there is plenty of locally brewed beer, which is best enjoyed sitting by the sea on a sunny day.

  • Stockholm

Stockholm is a city of culture. You’ve got lots of choices on what to see and do. Visit 1 of the city’s 70 museums, read about their history, or indulge in Stockholm’s iconic atmosphere. In Stockholm, every single island is unique; they all have an identity and a style of their own. This makes Stockholm a real gem to discover because something new is still to be found.

  • Petersburg

The Port of St. Petersburg is northwestern Russia’s largest port, serving as one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations and the main gateway between the Baltic Sea and Russia.

St Petersburg is a combination of Venice and Versailles at the western end of Russia, with canals and royal palaces. Two days are spent here on most Baltic cruises.

Northern Europe Cruise Excursions

A cruise across Northern Europe is sure to give you a holiday that you won’t forget. You can enjoy one of the many cruise excursion like:

  • Take the Countryside and Old Town Cycling Tour in Tallinn
  • See Copenhagen’s most famous attraction- Tivoli Garden
  • Historic rooftop Sweden
  • Petersburg city tour

Best European Cruises for Families

A family cruise vacation to Europe is the right choice for you if you are looking for ways to combine history, culture, and fun. All these top cruise lines have itineraries around the pond: Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney, and Celebrity. Some of their large ships are being sent to Europe by Princess, Norwegian, and Carnival cruise lines.

During the summer months, when traveling to this area, Royal Caribbean has increased its kid-friendly programs. Celebrity also operates a trip that stops at major ports, drawing first-timers.

Featured Ocean Cruise Itineraries

  • 7-Night Venice the Adriatic & Greece, Viking Jupiter

Track the magnificent shores of the Adriatic between romantic Venice and classic Athens and reveal the glories of civilizations of the past. This new Viking cruise ship departs from Venice and offers the itinerary of the magical cities of Split, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu (Kerkyra), Greece; Katakolon (Olympia), Greece and Piraeus (Athens), Greece. Each stateroom has a private veranda. There is destination-focused dining with several options for alfresco; local beers and wine with lunch and dinner complimentary.

Any time of the day, you can enjoy the Nordic-inspired Snow Grotto spa, aft-facing, glass-backed infinity pool. 

  • 7-Night Western Mediterranean, Disney Magic

As you sail to the Renaissance cities of Livorno (Florence, Pisa), Italy and Civitavecchia, you will get within sight of Europe’s most storied cities. You will also have the opportunity to explore the French Riviera’s rustic destinations, like Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo. Outstanding services, sparkling entertainment, and family-friendly surroundings are all features of this Disney cruise ship. There’s Animator’s Palate, Lumiere’s, and Carioca’s inventive dining venues, and the upscale and romantic adults-only restaurant Palo. Kids will enjoy the AquaLab water playground and the AquaDunk thrill slide, and adults can unwind at the Peaceful Cove Pool.

  • 10-Night Baltic, Norwegian Dawn

This ten nights Baltic cruise offers you the opportunity to visit nine great Northern European cities (Visby, Gotland, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russian Federation; Tallinn, Estonia; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Gdynia (Gdansk), Poland; Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany; Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Copenhagen, Denmark). The Norwegian Dawn allures you to stretch out and enjoy your time aboard, with some of the largest staterooms at sea.

With 15 dining options, including steakhouses, Asian, French, Italian, O’Sheehan’s & more, gorgeous entertainment, a fun casino, three swimming pools, and six hot tubs, you’ll have no trouble filling your time. There are also fun bars & lounges, including the Mojito Bar Sugarcane. It provides the ultimate experience & fun-filled casual environment for Freestyle Cruising.

European River Cruises

European river cruises provide more immersive experience than the large ocean cruise ships can. Immerse yourself in quite villages and towns in the heart of Europe and explore the history, cultury, and magnificent landscapes at your own pace. 

Food lovers can indulge in many different local cuisines, get close to the food making process and learn great recipes from local chefs. Wine tasting, pasta making, are just some of the experiences you can have while cruising the rivers of Europe.

Best River Cruise Lines in Europe

What could be better than seeing Europe’s countryside slowly, consuming long meals soaked in wine, visiting the most famous historical sites? On a river cruise, the dream is real.

  • Crystal River cruises

When they blazed into the market, Crystal took the world of river cruising by storm, introducing their exacting ocean standards to European river cruising. Crystal stands out as something very distinctive, with four sister ships – Bach, Mahler, Debussy, and Rave.

  • AmaWaterways

The dream of AmaWaterways is to have the most outstanding experience possible on river cruises. They claim that they accomplish this by offering custom-designed ships, providing the Luxury Experience, and being the only River Cruise Line integrated into the Chaînes Des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest & largest food & wine society.

  • Viking River cruises

Viking, possibly the best known of the river cruise companies, promotes their “longships,” featuring large suites and enticing outdoor dining verandas. When gazing at the scenery along the rivers, you can enjoy Viking’s destination-focused dining.

Most Popular Destinations for River Cruises

There’s so much to see as you sail along the Danube River via vibrant Budapest, marvel at the Netherlands’ tulips, visit the vineyards along the Rhine River. Cruise the rivers of the Rhône and Saône and enjoy the incomparable riches of the country, or sail over three spectacular rivers, the Garonne, the Dordogne, and the Gironde, and enjoy the remarkable heritage of southwestern France. 

Discover the hidden gem, the Douro river that winds through the UNESCO-listed Douro Valley’s spectacular landscapes.

Rhine River European Cruises

Rhine River, Koblenz, Germany
Rhine River, Koblenz, Germany

As you cruise on the river Rhine, you will dock at historic ports of call that offer unforgettable sightseeing and cultural experiences in both the cities and the surrounding countryside. Here are some of the most famous ports of call.

  • Amsterdam

Many trips to the Rhine begin and end in the Dutch capital, where you can continue to enjoy the aquatic pleasures with a cruise around the region’s famous canals.

  • Koblenz, Deutschland

This town marks Germany’s confluence of the Rhine and Main Rivers.

  • Strasbourg

A blend of German and French theme, architecture, and cuisine is showcased in France’s border town. It is also one of the most popular embarkations and departure ports for cruises on the Rhine River.

  • Cologne

Cologne is a vibrant city with a full slate of cultural, historical, and scenic activities to enjoy, unlike many smaller German towns that cruise along the Rhine.

Shore excursion

Cruising the Rhine River allows you to see many attractions. In the Netherlands, you can visit the Keukenhof Gardens. In Strasburg, have a tour of the old town, and in Cologne, climb the top of the Cologne Cathedral. Taste the famous white wines of the area, the origins of its terraced vineyards dating back to the Roman period.

Eastern Europe - Danube River Cruise

Budapest, Danube River
Budapest, Danube River

While cruising the Danube, there are many things to do and see. A walking tour is the most popular shore excursion in Nuremberg. The key sights you can see on your tour of Regensburg are the Gothic St Peter’s Cathedral. In Melk, Benedict Abbey and a Guided Bike Tour to Durnstein are the most popular shore excursions. 

However, in Viena, the main three tours are the Spanish Riding Academy tour, the Palace of Schonbrunn, or the city tour. Budapest’s most famous excursion is a guided city tour, which will allow you to experience both sides of the city.

Shore excursions

The Danube is most famous for first-time cruisers. Starting your journey in Germany, where the Danube also originates, the centuries-old city of Nuremberg is one of the first places you’ll stop at. Then you’ll move on to Regensburg, one of Germany’s most preserved cities. Budapest’s Hungarian capital is split down the middle by the Danube River, and the two parts, Buda and Pest. Also, Vienna is regarded as one of the Danube highlights and is rich in music, art, and culture. You’ll have a seat for beautiful scenery, historic cities, wine regions, regardless of the cruise you take.

Christmas Market River Cruise

There are Christmas market itineraries for any river cruise line that navigates Europe. These include Viking, Uniworld, Emerald Waterways, Avalon, AmaWaterways, and Crystal River Cruises.

Christmas Markets are among the brightest and most friendly practices in Germany and one of the longest operating ones. Each city puts its unique spin on them, often quirky (sometimes several different spins). But markets in Nuremberg still take center stage. They are a little like the holidays themselves-a present that continues to offer.Frankfurt, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam are other standard Christmas market departure ports. Expect to stop at ports such as Vienna, Bratislava, Salzburg, Regensburg, Strasbourg, and Copenhagen, known for their flashy Christmas markets.

Luxury & All-Inclusive River Cruises Europe

From the biggest names in river cruising, pick an all-inclusive package, and enjoy first-class service, drinks, meals, escorted port visits, and much more. There is nothing that can compare to an all-inclusive river cruise if you love to sail in style.

There are only a handful of companies that sell all-inclusive river cruises. Uniworld is one of the few providers of ‘real’ all-inclusive river cruises. You’ll be spoilt for options from the moment you walk aboard. Other all-inclusive cruises are Scenic and APT Luxury River Cruises. Crystal River cruises offer the most extensive luxury suites and all European river cruises with the highest staff-to-guest ratio, which helps each guest feel at home when they walk onboard.

Best European river cruises for Young Couples

Older, often retired passengers are the focus group for river cruises. They are this market’s heart. But this is beginning to change a bit as cruise lines court younger adults with trendy new ship designs and active routes. A brand specifically targeting the younger market is being launched by Uniworld. It has made the most daring push in the industry, introducing two ships designed to attract younger guests, The A, and The B. They will ramp up your typical river cruise excursions by inviting passengers to kayak down the Seine, taking part in guided runs around Amsterdam, and dancing to local DJs.

Best European river cruises for Families

Families are increasingly heading to Europe for river cruises and features that attract parents, including dedicated tours and programming. A river cruise is much more organized than an ocean cruise, with everyday port stops and shore tours included in the fare. That means that there are fewer foreign charges racked up by families, and there are no unfilled days at sea.

There are two family-friendly boats, AmaStella and AmaViola, which were launched by Amawaterways. Another luxury line pioneering family river cruises is Tauck, which’s all about bringing families together. Uniworld has also started to include more family-friendly itineraries.

Featured River Cruise Itineraries

  • 7 Night Rhine Getaway Northbound, Viking Sigyn

Viking River offers this extended itinerary, visiting quite a few European cities. Departing from Basel, it goes to Breisach Am Rhine, Germany; Strasbourg, France; Speyer (Heidelberg), Germany; Cruise Middle Rhine River; Koblenz, Germany; Rudesheim, Germany; Cologne, Germany; Kinderdijk, Netherlands, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. This modern vessel has state-of-the-art technology, architecture, and luxury. 

They provide intimate, luxurious, and convenient accommodation, comparable to that of a boutique hotel. You can enjoy the restaurant’s exquisite cuisine or a light snack at the Aquavit Terrace, and with a 360-degree view, a shaded lounge room, and an organic herb garden, relax on the Sun Deck.

  • 7 Night Magna on the Danube, AmaMagna

Departing from Budapest, this seven-night cruise embarks at six Ports of Call (Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Krems, and Linz, Austria; Passau and Vilshofen, Germany). The ship has elegantly appointed staterooms, with balconies for the most part. You can spend your time dining at La Chaine des Rotisseurs, enjoy free local beer & wines for dinner and lunch. A wide range of leisurely and more active shore excursions are also available.

Need to know/FAQ

What is the best time to cruise in Europe?

The European cruising season spans the months from April through October. In April and May, the weather is mild, and July and August are getting hot. Flowers are blooming; the northern you go, the days grow longer, and temperatures fall to a cool breeze at night temperatures. Summers are brief and sweet in Europe, and that’s why the summer is the high season. However, during spring and fall, you can embark on some cruises to avoid crowds and for better pricing.

The cruising season for the European River runs from March to December, although late spring or early fall is the best time to take a river cruise in Europe. Between June and August, a summer cruise promises bright sunny weather and warm temperatures, perfect for appreciating Europe’s scenic landscapes. Lately, December cruises on the traditional European Christmas markets on the Danube and Rhine rivers are becoming increasingly popular because of the opportunity to see centuries-old holiday decorations adorning Europe’s major countries.

European cruise tips and tricks

Before going on your European cruise trip, make sure you do all your research on all the ports of call. It can come in handy to have a plan B of what to do. There’s much to do anywhere you dock, but it’s essential to see what’s most interesting for you. Also, check the wheater. It can be unpredictable sometimes, and you wouldn’t want to spoil a good mood.

Another critical question before your river cruise is tipping. You need to know what to do in Europe with tips on river cruises. You may be familiar with either pre-paying your tips or adding them to your onboard account if you have sailed on an ocean cruise, or they are included in the cost of your cruise. You will not have to think about tipping anyone with some river cruise lines, as all gratuities for onboard workers, onshore tour guides, and bus drivers are included in your cruise’s upfront price. This is not always the case, however. A range of river cruise lines will provide onboard workers gratuities. Make sure you review the tipping policy for the cruise line.

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