by Fran Golden
This is the summer of cruise deals in Europe. With several new ships in the market, and some travelers reluctant to travel due to geopolitical concerns, cruise lines are lowering prices and adding perks. But where should you go?
Here’s a handy guide to the top European cruise itineraries.
The Baltic region: Perfect for those who love history and culture, this cruising region combines Scandinavia’s top cities and intriguing St. Petersburg, Russia. You visit such world-class places as Copenhagen, Stockholm, and sometimes Oslo, Helsinki and the fairytale-like Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. Longer cruises may also visit Gdansk, Poland or Warnemunde, Germany (gateway to Berlin). Attractions on your cruise include Old World and strikingly modern architecture, art and design. With an overnight in St. Petersburg there is time to see the amazing Hermitage museum, visit palaces built by the Czars and catch a Russian ballet performance. En-route you’ll also get a peek at breathtakingly beautiful fjords. Some cruises head north too, exploring scenic coastal Norway.
Sailing from: Cruises embark from Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm, and sometimes London or other UK ports.
Western Mediterranean: Perfect for foodies, fashionistas, beach lovers, history buffs and culture-vultures, cruises in this popular region get you to Spain, Italy and France – with access to Rome, Florence and Monte Carlo, among other places. In all, high culture shines, with excellent shopping, gourmet dining, world-class museums and historic attractions. Check off your “Bucket List” such sights as the Vatican and Roman Colosseum, Michelangelo’s David, the ruins of Pompeii, Barcelona’s unusual Gaudi sights and Monte Carlo’s glamorous casino. Some weeklong cruises, particularly on small ships, spend extra time in the French Riviera and Italian Riviera, visiting such desirable destinations as St. Tropez, Nice, Cannes and Portofino. Along the way, are museums dedicated to the artwork of Picasso, Matisse and more.
Sailing from: Most cruises embark from Barcelona or Civitavecchia, the port city for Rome.
British Isles. Cruise to explore Scottish and Irish history, visit pubs, enjoy high tea and kiss the Blarney Stone. Often combined with France, and sometimes Belgium, these cruises get you to castles, World War II sites (including the landing beaches of Normandy) and such must-see cities as Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and London. You may have opportunity to explore Beatles haunts in Liverpool or find yourself looking for the monster on Loch Ness. Shop for Waterford crystal and Scottish woolens or take advantage of opportunity to play on legendary golf courses. There’s also surprisingly beautiful coastal scenery in a cruising area that covers the Irish Sea and English Channel, and sometimes the North Sea as well. Some itineraries include opportunity to do a full-day tour to Paris.
Sailing from: Most of the cruises embark from Southampton, London or other UK ports.
Eastern Mediterranean/Greek Isles: Book a cruise in this region for ancient sights, beautiful beaches and such scenery as whitewashed homes clinging to cliffs above the blue Aegean Sea. In a typical year Turkey is also in the picture, with port calls in Kusadasi (for the amazing ruins of ancient Ephesus) and Istanbul, however, due to safety concerns several lines have dropped Turkey from itineraries this year. The result is you may find yourself with more time to explore Athens and such legendary islands as Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, as well as Corfu or Crete. Itineraries may also visit the Adriatic, calling in historic Dubrovnik and Kotor (Montenegro), as well as Malta. While it’s easy to get immersed in thousands of years of history at the Acropolis and other archeological sites you’ll want to take time too to experience the friendly Greek culture – a meal at a taverna is a must-do. Small ships might hug the Greek coast or focus more on less-visited islands.
Sailing from: Cruises embark from Venice, Athens (the port of Piraeus), with some longer itineraries from Rome (Civitavecchia). In a normal year, there are also cruises from Istanbul.