Cruise Europe

Cruise Planning Guide

An unforgettable journey awaits cruise visitors calling on ports in Europe

There are many reasons to choose a European cruise itinerary: great food, architecture, culture, and history are just a couple of reasons.   The best time to cruise in Europe is in the late spring and early fall.  Summer brings the warmest weather but the ports tend to crawl with tourists. The winter brings the best prices but unpredictable weather. After picking the time of year to cruise, cruisers need to select a region to cruise.

If you are planning a cruise in Europe (one of my favorite destinations, by the way), then be ready for a grand adventure. One of the advantages of cruising in Europe is that you can unpack once yet you get to call on many ports along the way seeing many sights without the hassle of planes, trains, busses, or rental cars. For some people this is a great value because they get to sample the city and then perhaps a return visit will be in order to take a deeper dive into a destination.

My biggest tip is to make a budget ahead of time and make sure to coordinate your airfare, pre or post hotel plans, restaurant reservations, theater tickets, museum tours well in advance of the trip.

Savvy travelers will research the ports of call listed on the cruise line’s itinerary to determine how easy it will be to navigate the city on one’s own. After all, lets face it, while the cruise line’s shore excursions are nice, there are times when you need a break from your fellow passengers. Knowing where the ship will dock is a key to determining if a city can be explored on one’s own. For example most river cruises offer shore tours as part of the their all-inclusive price. While the tour is a great option, there are times when you can break from the group, explore on your own and then head back to the ship at your own pace. If you opt to do this, make sure to tell the tour guide and for sure know when the All Aboard time is so you don’t miss the boat as she heads to the next port-of-call. As you can tell, I am not one to follow the herd, but I know when it’s a good time to use the ship’s tours and when I feel most comfortable exploring on my own. 

Of course, there are also other shore excursion companies that offer semi-private and small group tours. These are great options as well, especially if they can guarantee that you will be back to the ship in time for departure or they will pay for you to meet the ship at the next port of call. 

Answers about cruising better in Europe and the Mediterranean.  Information about planning a cruise vacation in Europe and cruising the Med. What to do? When to go? What cruise line to take. Vacation planning tips and resources about planning a cruise vacation to Europe.

Cruise Destinations

Mediterranean

Set sail May – September

Athens (Piraeus), Greece
Barcelona, Spain
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
Istanbul, Turkey
Venice, Italy

Northern Europe

Summer Cruise Season

Copenhagen, Denmak

Stockholm, Sweden

Oslo, Norway

Helsinki, Finland

St. Petersburg, Russia

Tallin, Estonia

Western Europe

Set sail May – September

Southampton, England

Guernsey, England

Liverpool, England

Belfast, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Edinburgh, Scotland 

 

River Cruising

May – September

Budapest, Hungary

Vienna, Austria

Wachau Valley

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Cologne, Germany

Paris, France 

Photo by Carrie Finley

When it comes to cruising in Europe, it's all about picking an itinerary.

Cruising in Europe is an amazing proposition. There are so many cruises to choose from. Depending on what you want to see, you will have no shortage of places to visit. I suggest planning to stay a day in advice and for sure a day after the cruise ends to keep the magic alive. 

Carrie Finley

Editor’s Picks: Popular Cruise Ports in Europe

What is the best cruise in Europe?

  • Western Mediterranean: This popular cruise itinerary includes ports in Spain, Italy’s west coast, and France’s French Riviera.
  • Eastern Mediterranean: This region takes cruise visitors to Greece, Italy, Croatia, and Turkey.
  • Western Europe and British Isles cruises: These cruises include cities in the UK and Ireland, Amsterdam, the Atlantic coast of France, and Belgium.
  • Northern Europe and Baltic: Northern European cruises head to the west coast of Norway and/or north to Iceland and Greenland.  Baltic cruises call on multiple countries and ports in Denmark, Sweden, Finland,  Russia, Estonia, Germany, and Norway.

When is the best time to sail in Europe?

Although a resourceful person will be able to find a European cruise any time of the year, the best time to visit is during the spring (before the summer crowds) or in the fall. Cruising in the summer is a great option, especially in the North (Baltic and Scandinavia) where the weather is most likely to cooperate. River cruising is a popular choice, but don’t forget that Christmas Markets cruising on the rivers is available in December.

The cruise season begins in May and ends in September.  Generally speaking, the height of the season is late June through July.  The shoulder seasons tend to be colder and wetter, but that is not a guarantee that rain and snow are not likely in the summer months.

What cruise lines offer cruises in Europe?

There is plenty of cruise product to meet the varied needs of cruise guests: luxury visitors, families, and those looking to explore the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and points in between.

What are the most popular cruise options in Europe?

Picking an itinerary will be the most challenging part of the cruise planning process. Some would-be cruise peeps look for special offers, onboard credits, and incentives to make a decision based on price. Other cruisers will focus on ports and unique experiences for complete destination immersion.

Tip: check your air options before making a final decision and plan to spend time before and after your cruise to maximize the experience.

  • Baltic Cruises
  • Black Sea Cruises
  • British Isles Cruises – British Isles of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Canary Islands Cruises
  • Eastern Mediterranean calling on Adriatic coast of Italy (Venice), Croatia, Greece and Turkey
  • Greek Islands Cruises
  • Western Mediterranean – cruises usually begin in Barcelona, Venice, or Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy. Ships might call on Gibraltar, Portugal, the West coast of Italy, southern coasts of France and Spain, and islands such as Corsica, Mallorca or Ibiza 
  • Northern Europe Cruises – Scandinavian capitals like Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; and Helsinki, Finland, and Baltic Sea ports such as Tallinn, Estonia, and St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Norwegian Coastal Cruises – western coast of Norway and its fjords
  • River Cruising
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