Europe is a treasure trove of history, culture, and stunning landscapes. A European cruise is an excellent way to explore this diverse continent and create lasting memories. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the most popular cruise lines, the best times to sail, and answer frequently asked questions to help you plan the perfect European cruise vacation.
Most Popular Cruise Lines for European Cruises
1. Viking Cruises
Viking Cruises is renowned for its luxurious river and ocean cruises throughout Europe. With a focus on destination immersion, Viking provides guests with enriching experiences both onboard and ashore. The cruise line offers a wide range of itineraries, from the scenic beauty of the Baltic to the sun-soaked Mediterranean.
2. Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International is known for its innovative ships and exciting onboard activities. With a variety of European itineraries, including Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles, Royal Caribbean caters to adventurers of all ages, offering family-friendly entertainment and a host of dining options.
3. Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises combines modern luxury with immersive travel experiences. Their European cruises take guests on unforgettable journeys through the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles. With a focus on fine dining and exceptional service, Celebrity Cruises provides an upscale vacation experience.
4. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line offers a casual and flexible cruising experience, making it a popular choice for European vacations. Their “Freestyle Cruising” concept allows guests to dine and enjoy entertainment at their leisure, without fixed schedules. With a variety of European itineraries, Norwegian Cruise Line has something for everyone.
5. MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises, an Italian-Swiss cruise line, is known for its stylish ships and Mediterranean flair. With itineraries throughout the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles, MSC Cruises offers a range of vacation experiences, from family-friendly to luxurious.
6. Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises, with its exceptional service and diverse itineraries, is a popular choice for European cruises. Travelers can explore the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles while enjoying a wealth of onboard dining, entertainment, and enrichment options.
7. Holland America Line
Holland America Line offers a refined and elegant cruising experience, with a focus on destination immersion and enrichment. Their European cruises encompass the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles, providing guests with a range of cultural experiences and scenic beauty.
Azamara, a boutique cruise line, specializes in destination-focused itineraries with longer port stays and unique shore excursions. Their European cruises, which cover the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the British Isles, provide an intimate and luxurious vacation experience.
Now that we’ve covered some of the most popular cruise lines offering European cruises, let’s dive into frequently asked questions to help you plan your journey.
Popular Ports and Attractions on European Cruises
European cruises offer a wealth of fascinating ports and attractions to explore. While each itinerary is different, here are some popular ports and attractions to consider when planning your European cruise:
- Barcelona, Spain: This vibrant city boasts stunning architecture, including the famous Sagrada Família, Park Güell, and the Gothic Quarter.
- Rome, Italy: Explore ancient ruins like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon, and don’t forget to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain.
- Athens, Greece: Walk through history at the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and the Ancient Agora.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia: Wander through the picturesque Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and walk along the city walls for breathtaking views.
- Santorini, Greece: Relax on black sand beaches, explore the whitewashed villages, and marvel at the caldera views in this iconic Greek island.
Northern Europe Ports
- St. Petersburg, Russia: Immerse yourself in Russian culture and history at the Hermitage Museum, Catherine Palace, and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
- Copenhagen, Denmark: Visit the famous Tivoli Gardens, stroll down the colorful Nyhavn waterfront, and snap a photo of the iconic Little Mermaid statue.
- Stockholm, Sweden: Wander through the historic Gamla Stan, visit the Vasa Museum, and explore the beautiful Stockholm archipelago.
- Oslo, Norway: Discover the Viking Ship Museum, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, and the stunning Oslofjord.
- Reykjavik, Iceland: Explore the Golden Circle, soak in the Blue Lagoon, and experience the unique landscapes of this island nation.
Booking Tips and Tricks
When planning your European cruise, consider these tips and tricks to help you save money and make the most of your vacation:
- Book early: Cruise lines often offer early booking discounts, so start researching and planning your cruise well in advance.
- Be flexible with your travel dates: Prices can vary significantly depending on the season and month. Traveling during the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) may offer better deals and fewer crowds.
- Look for last-minute deals: If you have a flexible schedule, you might find fantastic last-minute deals on European cruises.
- Consider booking a repositioning cruise: These cruises occur when a ship changes its homeport and offers one-way itineraries at a discounted rate.
- Work with a travel agent: A knowledgeable travel agent can help you find the best deals and navigate the myriad of options available when planning a European cruise.
By following these tips and researching your options, you’ll be well on your way to planning an unforgettable European cruise adventure.
Packing for a European Cruise
Knowing what to pack for your European cruise can make your vacation more enjoyable and stress-free. Here are some essentials and tips to help you prepare for your journey:
- Clothing: Pack versatile clothing that can be easily layered, as temperatures can vary greatly between different European destinations and weather conditions. Include comfortable walking shoes, casual clothes for daytime activities, swimwear, and formal attire for evenings and special events on the ship.
- Travel documents: Bring your passport, cruise documents, and any necessary visas for the countries you will be visiting. It’s also a good idea to have photocopies of these documents in case of loss or theft.
- Medications and toiletries: Remember to pack any prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter items like pain relievers, motion sickness medication, and sunscreen. While some toiletries may be provided by the cruise line, it’s a good idea to bring your own favorites, especially if you have specific preferences or allergies.
- Adaptors and chargers: European countries use different electrical outlets than the United States, so be sure to pack a universal adapter. Also, bring chargers for your electronic devices, such as your phone, camera, and tablet.
- Money and cards: Bring a combination of cash, credit cards, and debit cards for use on your trip. Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage while abroad.
- Snacks and reusable water bottle: Although food is plentiful on the ship, having some snacks for port days can be helpful. A reusable water bottle will help you stay hydrated during your excursions and reduce plastic waste.
- Guidebooks and language resources: Research your destinations in advance and consider bringing guidebooks, maps, or language phrasebooks to help you navigate and communicate while in port.
- Travel accessories: Pack items like a travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs to help ensure a comfortable flight and good night’s sleep on the ship. A lightweight daypack or crossbody bag can also be useful for carrying essentials during port excursions.
Cruise Photo Packages
Cruise lines often offer professional photography services to capture special moments during your vacation. Here are some tips for making the most of cruise photo packages:
- Research your cruise line’s photo packages in advance: Familiarize yourself with the various photo packages offered by your cruise line, as well as their prices. This will help you budget and decide which package is the best fit for you.
- Check for promotions and discounts: Cruise lines may offer promotions or discounts on photo packages, either in advance or once you’re onboard. Be sure to inquire about any available deals to save on your cruise photos.
- Capture special moments: Make the most of your photo package by posing for pictures during formal nights, themed parties, and special events. You can also schedule a private photo session with the ship’s photographer to capture more intimate and personalized moments.
- Review your photos regularly: Cruise photographers take many photos throughout the voyage. Be sure to review your photos at the ship’s photo gallery regularly and select your favorites to be included in your package.
- Digital and print options: Consider whether you prefer digital copies, printed photos, or a combination of both. Digital copies offer more flexibility for sharing and printing, while printed photos provide a tangible keepsake of your vacation.
By planning your packing list and exploring cruise photo packages, you’ll be well-prepared for your European cruise adventure and ready to capture lasting memories.
FAQs About European Cruises
What is the best month to take a European cruise?
The best month to take a European cruise depends on your preferred destinations and interests. For Mediterranean cruises, May to June and September to October offer comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds. For Northern Europe and Baltic cruises, the summer months of June to August provide the warmest weather and longest days, perfect for exploring the region’s stunning landscapes and historic cities.
What is the cheapest month for a European cruise?
The cheapest months for a European cruise are usually during the shoulder seasons – April to May and September to October – when temperatures are milder and tourist crowds are smaller. During these periods, cruise lines often offer discounted rates and promotions to fill their ships. However, it’s essential to consider that weather conditions might be less favorable, and some attractions might have limited operating hours.
Where does a European cruise take you?
A European cruise can take you to various destinations, depending on your chosen itinerary. Mediterranean cruises typically visit ports in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Croatia, while Northern European cruises may include stops in Scandinavia, Russia, the Baltic States, and the British Isles. Some cruise lines also offer “Grand European” itineraries, combining both Mediterranean and Northern Europe destinations.
Is there a cruise ship that goes from the United States to Europe?
Yes, several cruise lines offer transatlantic cruises from the United States to Europe, typically sailing from cities like New York or Fort Lauderdale. These itineraries often take place during the spring and fall seasons, when cruise ships reposition between their summer and winter homeports. Transatlantic cruises can last anywhere from 7 to 21 days, depending on the route and the number of ports visited.
How long is a cruise from the USA to Europe?
The duration of a cruise from the USA to Europe varies depending on the itinerary and the cruise line. Most transatlantic cruises take approximately 7 to 14 days, with some longer itineraries lasting up to 21 days or more. These cruises typically include several days at sea, allowing passengers to enjoy the ship’s amenities and onboard activities.
What are the best cruise lines in Europe?
The best cruise lines in Europe depend on your preferences and budget. Luxury cruise lines like Viking Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara offer upscale experiences and destination-focused itineraries. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises cater to a broader audience, with a mix of family-friendly activities and diverse dining options. For a more refined and elegant experience, consider Holland America Line or Princess Cruises.
How far in advance should I book a European cruise?
It’s generally recommended to book a European cruise at least 6 to 12 months in advance, particularly for high-demand itineraries and accommodations. Booking early can secure your preferred cabin type and location, and you may also benefit from early-booking discounts and promotions. However, if you have a flexible schedule, last-minute deals can offer significant savings, but with a more limited selection of cabins and itineraries.
How much cash should I take on a European cruise?
The amount of cash to take on a European cruise depends on your spending habits and planned activities. Most cruise lines have a cashless system onboard, allowing you to charge expenses to your room account. However, it’s a good idea to bring some local currency for each port of call to cover incidental expenses like souvenirs, snacks, and transportation. Consider budgeting between €50 and €100 ($55 to $110 USD) per day, depending on your plans and personal preferences.
Do you need a passport to go on a European cruise?
Yes, you need a valid passport to go on a European cruise. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your return date. Additionally, depending on your nationality and the countries visited, you may also require a visa. It’s crucial to research visa requirements well in advance to ensure a smooth and hassle-free vacation experience.
Do European cruises include food?
Yes, European cruises typically include food in the base fare. Most cruise ships offer a variety of dining options, such as buffet-style and main dining rooms, where meals are included without any additional charges. Additionally, many cruise lines offer specialty restaurants onboard, which may require reservations and an extra fee. Room service is also available on most ships, sometimes with a small surcharge for certain items or late-night orders
In conclusion, European cruises offer a unique and memorable way to explore the diverse cultures, history, and landscapes of this incredible continent. With numerous cruise lines and itineraries to choose from, there is a European cruise to suit every traveler’s interests and budget. We hope this comprehensive guide has provided valuable insights and inspiration for planning your dream European cruise vacation. Happy sailing!