Choosing Your Ideal European Cruise

An ideal cruise is a one that exceeds your expectations, providing you with everything you need to make the most of your time on and off ship. In order to create your checklist for the ideal European cruise, you will need to consider the following:

1. Where Would You Like to Go?

Most European cruise itineraries focus on one region of Europe, much as you might do if you planned a land visit to Europe. For instance, you might choose to cruise the Baltic Sea, with stops in Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. Or, if cruising the Mediterranean is more your style, you could book a roundtrip cruise from Rome, with multiple stops in Greece, Italy, and stops in Turkey and Croatia. Perhaps your ideal cruise takes place in Norway, as you tour the majestic fjords.

If you have never been to Europe, you may want to take a cruise designed to give you a taste of major cities, like Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Athens. Although this type of European cruise does not offer you much time at each port, you can enjoy life on board ship and get a taste of the places you would like to visit again.

Ocean Village cruise ship in Monte Carlo

Ocean Village cruise ship in Monte Carlo

2. What Type of Cruise Ship Do You Prefer?

A ship’s size directly affects your European cruise experience. The largest ships, or “mega ships” are not able to dock in as many ports as medium-sized or smaller ships. Mega ships can carry 2500 or more passengers, and have the feel of a traveling resort. With onboard shopping malls, movie theaters and a myriad of activities, you will certainly never be without something to do. However, with so many passengers on board, you will find yourself waiting in a lot of lines, especially when disembarking at port. Cruising Europe in a large ship is generally a smoother ride than smaller ships, and the atmosphere is more casual and relaxed.

The mega ships are the newest versions of the more traditional cruise ships that carry less people, but still have plenty of amenities and activities for guests to enjoy. If your ideal cruise includes the elegant, formal dinners cruising is so famous for, a mid-size ship may be the your best choice. However, some of the cruise ships of this size have been sailing for decades, and it shows. When booking your European cruise on a mid-size ship, make sure to inquire about the age of the ship.

If your idea of an ideal cruise involves a more intimate environment where you can be closer to the water, a smaller ship or alternative ship may be your best option. Smaller cruise ships are able to visit most of the European ports, and the shore excursions are often free. The atmosphere is relaxed and the meals are generally informal, although there are luxury cruises on smaller ships. Alternative sailing ships offer activities geared toward the adventurer, and intimate surroundings offer opportunities to forge new friendships with other passengers. If you are prone to sea sickness, a small ship is not the ideal cruise for you. Small European cruise ships lack the stabilizers present on the larger ships.

3. What Would You Like to Do?

You may prefer to choose a cruise ship based on the type of amenities and onboard experiences available to you. While most European cruise ships are well known for the varied cruise activities, some ships will have more of what you want than others. Spa treatments, casinos, live entertainment and shopping are all available to you on the mega ships and on many of the mid size ships as well.

For those who want an ideal cruise experience that seems tailored to their specific interests, a themed cruise is the best choice. Ever more popular, European cruise companies have added to the value of cruising by offering group or topic-specific cruises. Singles cruises, art and history cruises, food and wine cruises and others offer passengers classes, lectures and themed shore excursions.

When choosing your ideal cruise, give some thought to your ideal shore excursion as well. On a European cruise, ports of call are unique to one another and offer endless opportunities to experience the local culture, art, food and people. You can disembark with other passengers and go on your own adventure, or sign up for a guided tour of the area. Some shore excursions include special activities, such as hot air balloon rides or tours of wineries.