American Cruise Lines

American mainstream cruise lines can generally be separated into two categories, “premium” and “mass-market.” If you dream of a sophisticated, graceful European cruise experience, a premium American cruise line would be the way to go. Premium ships are all about excellence, in service, dining, accommodations and port excursions. Attracted by the resort-like feel of the mass-market cruise, travelers who choose this type of American cruise line want all the comforts of home, nonstop entertainment and plenty of onboard activities. On some American cruise lines your surroundings will be so characteristically “American”, you might not even remember you’re cruising Europe until you dock at port!

Mass-Market Cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines

By far, the most popular mass-market American cruise line is Carnival. Carnival is famous for impressive entertainment, an energetic staff and nonstop fun. With it’s costumed musical revues, two-dozen bars and an onboard casino, this American cruise line is a bit like Las Vegas on the water. Carnivals’ European cruise ships hold 3,700 passengers and provide seemingly endless opportunities for “living it up” at sea. The Carnival Liberty is already sailing Europe, and the Carnival Freedom is scheduled to set sail in 2007. European cruise itineraries include destinations in the Mediterranean as well as a transatlantic voyage.

Norwegian Cruise Line

If you’re looking for a resort-like feel from a cruise, but are not as budget-minded, you may enjoy a European cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Dream or their newest ship, the Norwegian Jewel. Norwegian Cruise Lines feature Freestyle Cruising, which gives passengers more dining options, a relaxed dress code; and unique to Norwegian Cruise Lines, the ability to stay in your room on the last day until it is time for you to disembark. The Norwegian Dream holds nearly 1,800 passengers, while the Norwegian Jewel has a capacity of almost 2,400. European cruise itineraries include destinations in the Mediterranean and the Baltic capitals.

Royal Caribbean International

Greek Isles

Greek Isles

Royal Caribbean International set the standard for mega cruise ships when it launched the Sovereign of the Seas in 1988. Despite hefty competition from Carnival and other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships keep getting bigger and bigger. Royal Caribbean puts an emphasis on entertainment and activities – they even have a rock-climbing wall on board! Royal Caribbean has six different ships cruising Europe, including the 3,114-passenger Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas. For a slightly smaller ship, although still large enough for mega ship status, set sail on the Brilliance of the Seas and the Jewel of the Seas, both with a capacity of 2,501 passengers. Legend of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas, the smallest ships in Royal Caribbean’s European fleet are no less impressive, carrying 2,076 passengers. There are dozens of Mediterranean and European cruise itineraries to choose from, including the Greek Isles and shorter European capital tours.

Premium Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity is well known for consistently delicious food, unique culinary shore excursions, and deluxe spa services. Staterooms are more comfortable than most American cruise lines, and the service is impeccable. A more affordable premium cruise, Celebrity offers dozens of cruise itineraries in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Celebrity also offers special Cruisetours, which include an extended land tour completely guided by an expert in the area’s history, art, architecture and culture. Celebrity’s European cruise fleet includes the Constellation and the Millennium, both with a capacity of around 2,000 passengers; and the Century and the Galaxy, both carrying around 1,800 passengers, though the Galaxy is slightly larger.

Holland America Line

With its roots Europe, Holland America Line is one of the highest-rated premium American cruise lines. Now owned by Carnival, this understated, elegant cruise experience is augmented by improved entertainment and more activity choices. Cruising Europe aboard a Holland America ship is mellow compared to the mass-market American cruise lines, with an emphasis on tradition and opportunities to learn about European art, history and culture through various lecture series. You can choose from one of Holland America’s 27 unique itineraries aboard one of five ships. The largest ship in the fleet, the Noordam, carries 1,918 passengers; the Rotterdam, Maasdam, and the Amsterdam have a capacity of around 1,300 passengers; and the intimate Prinsendam, carrying around 800 passengers, is known for long cruises – 50 to 100 days – to exotic destinations. European cruise itineraries include destinations in the Mediterranean, Western and Northern Europe, as well as transatlantic voyages.

Oceania

If your ideal European cruise demands serene, comfortable surroundings and a focus on decompressing rather than exciting nightlife and physical activities, Oceania may be the perfect choice for you. Oceania offers longer cruises around Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Greek Isles aboard the Regatta, Insignia and Nautica. With less than 700 passengers onboard each of Oceania’s European fleet, the smaller ship size a offers you a chance to see destinations not available on other cruise line’s itineraries.

Orient Lines

This American cruise line has one ship cruising Europe, the Marco Polo. Orient Lines has created a European cruise that is inspired by cruising in the last century, where Americans would embark on a “grand tour” of Europe for at least a month. The Marco Polo, with a capacity of around 800 passengers, tours most of Europe and the Mediterranean on 17- to 36-Day itineraries. Also owned by Star Cruises, the service is excellent, and they pride themselves on their guided land CruiseTours.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises gained fame thanks to the popular 1970s TV show, “The Love Boat.” Now also owned by Carnival, Princess Cruises offers 24-hour “personal choice” dining, guided land Cruisetours and an abundance of staterooms with balconies. You’ll find many of the entertainment and activity options you would find on an American cruise mass-market line, with a slightly more upscale feel. Their European cruise fleet includes four ships – the 2,600-passenger Golden Princess, Grand Princess and Star Princess; as well as the Sea Princess, which has a capacity of 1,950 passengers. You can choose from dozens of itineraries in the Mediterranean and Greek Isles, Scandinavia and Russia, the British Isles and Northern Europe; and transatlantic tours.