Whether you’re new to cruising or a long-time fan, Europe is probably the most popular cruise destination for UK holidaymakers. Almost every major cruise line will have European itineraries and you’ll find a variety of cruise styles to suit all tastes.
Split into three main areas – Eastern Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean and The Baltic & Northern Europe – a European cruise is an ideal way of seeing iconic cities, stunning coastal scenery and culture galore, all just a short flight from home. Or if you’re not keen on flying there are more cruises than ever departing from British ports.
River cruising is in its element here too, offering an alternative way to delve into the heartlands of Europe. The Rhine, Rhone, Seine and Danube are popular choices but the Douro in Portugal, Moselle in the Northern lowlands and the Volga in Russia are also growing in favour.
The main European cruise season is May to October when the weather is fine and waters calm but you can cruise year round, particularly through the Advent season to visit the Christmas markets by river. High summer as you’d expect is busy but April/May and September/October offer a little rest bite from the madding crowd.
The Western Mediterranean is the perfect place to start. It’s turquoise waters, abundance of cultural sights and warm climate will make you want to return again and again. It’s a great way to see more than one European city, whilst only having to unpack once. Barcelona, Rome and Monte Carlo never fail to impress, whilst picturesque Spanish villages and Italian coastal towns give a beautiful backdrop to life on board. The Western Mediterranean islands of the Balearics, Corsica, Sicily and Sardinia are also often included in these itineraries.
The Eastern Mediterranean is a real mix of ancient civilisations and beautiful beaches. Cruising the Adriatic and Aegean Seas rarely disappoints. Venice, Istanbul and Athens are popular starting points to visit the rugged Croatia coastline; island hop around tradition Greek harbours or venture into the less-travelled but equally fascinating Black Sea. It’s also a great way to combine water sport and diving activities in the summer or walking or biking tours in the cooler months.
Northern Europe & The Baltic is becoming ever more popular as a cruise destination which isn’t surprising as more cruise lines offer departures from the UK. Scotland and Ireland’s Celtic charm, Scandinavia’s majestic coastal fjords and unique Northern Lights, Northern Europe’s chocolate box towns and Christmas Markets and the grand palaces and museums of St. Petersburg are all but a few highlights. Visiting St. Petersburg is a great way to experience Russia without the headache of Russian visas!
The close proximity of many ports often means less days at sea and many of the Baltic towns are relatively compact and easy to explore independently. If you’re looking for a traditional cruise experience many of the ships that navigate the Norwegian Fjords are smaller traditional ships that will also take foot passenger’s in-between ports, all the way up to the Arctic Circle.