Cruising can be the ultimate escape, offering you the chance to relax in style and luxury while simultaneously allowing the freedom to explore new places with ease. Cruises offer variety, options, good food, and a touch of romance. Cruising can range from the very affordable to the very expensive, depending on which cruise line, destination, and duration you choose, but at the end of the day there are cruise options to fit every travel preference and budget.

There are many reasons why people love European cruises. Perhaps you’ve already done your share of Mexican Riviera or Caribbean cruises and are ready to proceed across the pond. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Europe and want a sampler of as many different places as possible (cruises are great for that). Whatever your reason, European cruises are a great option for a family vacation, romantic getaway, or adults-only adventure.

But where to start? If you’re new to cruising the continent, you may find the bevy of options overwhelming. That’s why WorldMark by Wyndham Travel has compiled this list of handy information and recommendations for you — to help you streamline your decision-making process for what type of cruise you’d like, where to go, and when to book. Read on for a comprehensive overview of your options for European cruises.

Ocean versus river.

The first major decision you’ll need to make is whether you’re looking for an ocean or a river cruise. Ocean cruises in Europe stick to ports of call that are accessible only by sea — the Mediterranean, the Aegean, the Adriatic, and the Baltic. River cruises, however, offer the chance to hit ports of call along Europe’s major rivers, giving the chance to see more inland territory in a smaller geographic region. Ocean cruise vessels are larger, often accommodating thousands of passengers, while river cruise vessels (with few exceptions) tend to cap out around 200 passengers. Ocean cruises have more amenities — think waterslides, movie theaters, casinos, etc. — while river cruises tend to be more low-key. Once you’ve chosen either ocean or river as your preference, you can go on to selecting your destinations and duration.

Ocean options.

Europe is a vast continent, home to more than 40 countries and numerous bodies of water, large and small. Most, but not all, European cruises include a Mediterranean Sea component, some blending into other large areas like the Adriatic and Aegean seas, while others hit the Baltic Sea, the English Channel, the North Sea, and even the Black Sea. Which ocean cruise you pick will depend largely on which countries and ports of call interest you most.

Western Mediterranean.
Cruises on the western side of the Mediterranean Sea hit countries like Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, with some cruise lines offering ports of call in places like Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Common Ports of Call
• Barcelona, Spain
• Lisbon, Portugal
• Marseille, France
• Rome, Italy

The Adriatic.
Cruises to the Adriatic Sea make stops in countries like Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Montenegro.

Common Ports of Call
• Venice, Italy
• Athens, Greece
• Dubrovnik, Croatia
• Kotor, Montenegro

The Aegean.
Cruises to the Aegean Sea visit primarily the Greek Isles and Turkey.

Common Ports of Call
• Athens, Greece
• Santorini, Greece
• Istanbul, Turkey
• Limassol, Cyprus

English Channel/British Isles.
Cruises through the English Channel visit countries in the British Isles like England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and in addition some cruise lines offer a port of call in France.

Common Ports of Call
• Dublin, Ireland
• Liverpool, England
• Edinburgh, Scotland
• Holyhead, Wales

Scandinavia and the Baltic.
Cruises that go through the Baltic Sea hit countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, with less common stops in places like Poland, Estonia, and even Russia.

Common Ports of Call
• Oslo, Norway
• Stockholm, Sweden
• Helsinki, Finland
• Copenhagen, Denmark

Eastern Mediterranean/Holy Land.
Cruises on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea hit countries like Greece, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey, with some cruise lines offering ports of call in places like Cyprus, Jordan, and Crete.

Common Ports of Call

• Athens, Greece
• Jerusalem, Israel
• Alexandria, Egypt
• Istanbul, Turkey

River regions.

Europe is home to more than a dozen major rivers, some of which run through multiple countries and touch many of Europe’s biggest metropolitan areas. River cruising in Europe has come in vogue in recent years, with multiple luxury river cruise lines rising in popularity. River cruise options include most major European countries, from east to west and everything in between. As with ocean cruises, which river cruise you choose should be determined by which countries you most want to visit.

Upper Danube.
The Danube is one of Europe’s longest rivers, so Danube cruises are generally broken up into upper and lower regions. Upper Danube cruises go through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary.

Common Ports of Call

  • Munich, Germany
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia

Lower Danube.
Cruises on the lower part of the Danube River go through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Common Ports of Call

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Belgrade, Serbia
  • Vukovar, Croatia

The Rhine.
Rhine River cruises take you through the Middle European countries of Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Common Ports of Call

  • Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Basel, Switzerland
  • Cologne, Germany
  • Heidelberg, Germany

The Seine.
The Seine River begins and ends within the borders of France, so all ports of call on Seine River cruises are in France.

Common Ports of Call

  • Paris, France
  • Giverny, France
  • Normandy, France
  • Rouen, France

The Bordeaux.
Like the Seine, the Bordeaux River begins and ends in France, so all ports of call on Bordeaux cruises are in France.

Common Ports of Call

  • Bordeaux, France
  • Cadillac, France
  • Saint Emilion, France
  • Libourne, France

The Duoro.
Duoro River cruises go through the western European countries of Portugal and Spain.

Common Ports of Call

  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Porto, Portugal
  • Salamanca, Spain
  • Regua, Portugal

What's next?

Now that you’ve reviewed your options for ocean and river cruises and hopefully pegged your next amazing cruise getaway, it’s time to cover a few additional important points. These questions and answers should help get you perfectly well prepared to book your next vacation on the high seas.

When should you cruise?

August being the most popular times. If you’re looking for warm (and even hot) weather and don’t mind crowds, summer is the best time to go. If you prefer lower crowds and still warm weather, May through June and September are better choices. Baltic cruises tend to be the exception — since they’re farther north, spring and fall tend to be much colder on the Baltic, so the summer months truly are the best (and warmest) time to for a Baltic cruise.

When should you book?

For all cruises, booking well in advance is always a good idea. Seasoned travel agents recommend booking a cruise nine to twelve months in advance, paying close attention to seasonal cruise sales and promotional offers. If your travel plans are flexible, you can sometimes capitalize on an amazing deal on a last minute booking, as little as a few weeks before your cruise departs.

What should you pack?

Outside of your clothing and toiletries, there are several key things you won’t want to forget at home when you cruise through Europe. Here are the top five most important things to remember to throw in your luggage before you hit the high seas.

1. Passport — you’ll need it to get into the European countries you cruise through, and to get back home when you’re done.
2. Comfy Walking Shoes — you’ll be exploring some of Europe’s most majestic sites, and much of it will be on foot so be prepared with appropriate footwear.
3. Chargers & Adapters — you’ll want to keep your electronics charged, so make sure to pack the appropriate cords and cables, plus a voltage adapter if needed.
4. Secure Bag — you’ll want someplace safe to store your wallet and phone while you’re exploring, so whether that’s a fanny pack or a cross-body, it’s good to be conscientious because pickpocketing really does happen.
5. Shawl/Head Covering — if your cruise takes you to sites of religious significance (which many European cruises do), some places will require ladies’ heads, shoulders, arms, and legs to be covered. A shawl, wrap, or scarf should do the trick.

WorldMark by Wyndham Travel can help you plan and book.

If you have questions, need guidance, or are ready to get your next European cruise booked, give WorldMark by Wyndham Travel a call at 800-953-5511 and let their friendly Travel Advisors help curate the perfect itinerary, just for you. You’ll be vacationing on the high seas before you know it!

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