See the Continent by water: European cruises offer travelers a new (and simultaneously old) view of its most iconic regions. From cruises that sail up Scandinavian fjords, to boats that traverse the Mediterranean’s many islands and cities, to vessels that ply Europe’s great rivers, these journeys present their passengers with a veritable buffet of western civilization. Many boats now feature spas, heated pools, French balconies, and—yes—WiFi. Travel + Leisure looks at the latest developments in European cruises and evaluates the options based on the best routes, accommodations, amenities, and values.
Travelers aboard Mediterranean cruises partake of pristine beaches and ancient ruins, Renaissance palaces and medieval castles. And don’t forget the famous Mediterranean diet! (Pass the olives.) Many cruise routes navigate the coasts of Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, but journeys that visit Istanbul, North Africa, and the Canary Islands are available as well. Glam up for a cocktail reception in Monaco’s Grand Casino, indulge at a private wine tasting at a Sicilian family vineyard, or sample tapas and sherry during a high-drama flamenco performance in Andalusia.
Cruises that travel the Baltic Sea can carry their passengers from the wonders of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum to the stunning fjords of Norway. Winter cruises expose travelers to the icy beauty of Europe’s north (as well as its cozy holiday markets) but summer cruises—the most popular time of year for Baltic tours—reward passengers with a more temperate climate, lush meadows bursting with flowers, and nearly 24 hours of daylight.
River boats now cruise up and down the Danube, the Rhine, the Main, the Moselle, the Rhône, the Seine, and the Elbe, as well as smaller Dutch and Belgian waterways. The river cruise industry is a crowded field, but it means there are that many more options for travelers. Many river cruises are all-inclusive of airport transfers, WiFi, alcohol, excursions, and tips. Meanwhile, onshore activities may include biking and hiking tours, a night at the opera, walking tours of historic sites and museums, as well as opportunities to sample regional cuisine—and sometimes even lessons on how to cook it. Did we mention butler service? What could be more European than that?
Looking for a sun-dappled sail through the Cyclades? A journey through the dramatic landscapes lining the Baltic? A leisurely river cruise through Europe’s great capitals? T+L is here to help you navigate.