The European Cruise Experience

A European cruise ship is a floating playground, with seemingly limitless options for recreation, entertainment and dining. Amenities, activities and dining experiences differ from cruise to cruise, but the essence of the cruise experience is the same on all European cruises - one of absolute pampering, with stewards, waiters, spa technicians, activity directors and other staff and crew all working to ensure you have the time of your life.

When You Arrive

When you arrive at your ship, you will have to go through customs and the check-in process, after which you will be shown to your room. Shortly after you arrive, your cabin steward will familiarize you with your cabin and answer any questions you may have at that time. Your steward is assigned to you for the entire cruise, and can assist you with cabin needs or issues, how to get around the ship and the ship’s safety regulations. The European cruise experience is not do-it-yourself ; it is designed to meet your every need, often before you knew you needed it!

Onboard Activities

Enjoying the cruise experience is made easier by a ship bulletin delivered to your room each day. Highlights of the days activities, dining options, points of interest at ports of call, and safety tips help you decide how to spend your day. Whether you are inclined to relax poolside after a luxurious spa treatment, or spend the day improving your golf swing, European cruises are designed to make your cruising dreams come true.

On larger ships, you will be acutely aware of the crowds of people shuffling to meet assigned dining times, to sign up for classes or catch a first-run movie at the onboard cinema. Regardless of the size of the ship, it is in your best interest to review all of your European cruise materials in advance, and sign up for the things that interest your first day onboard.

Dining Options

Dining in a cruise

The food on European cruises is legendary. Every type of dining option is available you onboard, including come-as-you-are buffets, formal dining and pizza parlors. It would be difficult to find an area of the ship or a time of day when delicious food was not available!

Show-stopping food is an essential element of any European cruise experience. Your eating adventure begins with a breakfast for early risers, and continues well into the evening, with the famous “midnight buffet.” In between, your ship may offer a full breakfast buffet, lunch buffet, formal dining or casual dining, and several snack times throughout the day – even an afternoon tea!

Aside from the dinner, most meals and snacks are served buffet style, and are open for a two or 3-hour window for passengers to enjoy at their own pace. On most European cruises, seating for dinner is often pre-assigned, but you can ask your maitre d' to reassign you if you like. Just be sure to do this early on in the cruise. Your dining time is also pre-arranged, and there is often a formal dress code. Larger ships do offer a more casual dining atmosphere, and more and more cruise ships are adding specialty restaurants. Room service is also available, at no additional charge. The European cruise experience is constantly changing to accommodate passengers and their desire for even more choices.

Alternative Ships

The cruise experience is quite different on alternative ships, with fewer choices for dining and activities. However, you are able to take advantage of more of the activities, as there are fewer passengers to compete with for sign up times. Also, some of the alternative European cruise ships are able to offer water sports activities directly from the ship, as opposed to during shore excursions. Retractable platforms allow passengers to scuba dive right from the ship, as well as enjoy water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and other water sports.

When You Leave

On the final day of your cruise experience, you will again go through customs, settle your bill with the ship, and tip your steward, maitre d’ and wait staff and any other crew you would like to thank. Your ship’s daily bulletin will provide you with tipping recommendations, but be prepared to tip between $10 and $12 per day for your steward, maitre d’ and head waiter.