Cruising is arguably the best way to travel through Europe. Instead of packing and unpacking, figuring out the rail, and losing precious vacation time in airports, cruisers will unpack once, relax as the ship travels to the next port, and disembark fresh and ready to explore each new port. The best part of cruising in Europe is the price. Cruising is great value for money, and once you factor in hotels, transport, food and sightseeing, travel in Europe can be expensive. Cruises will include accommodation, food, transport and entertainment, leaving you with more money in your pocket to spend on shore excursions. The European peak season is from June to September, and you can often save some money by traveling in the shoulder seasons (April to May or late September to late October). The bonus is it will often be cooler in the shoulder season, with less tourists at the main attractions, although there may not be as many itineraries available.
The hardest part is figuring out what you want to see in Europe. Whether you're interested in the main sights, or want to get off the beaten path, there's bound to be an itinerary to suit you. First time cruisers might like to try an itinerary that includes the main highlights such as the European Explorer Cruise with Celebrity. You'll visit Holland, France, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece, and Turkey. Return travelers to Europe can try something different. Royal Caribbean has a twelve-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise that includes England, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Estonia. Itineraries range from one to fifty-four nights, so whether you've just got a few days off work, or you're retired and have all the time in the world, you've got a myriad of options.
River cruising in Europe is the current darling of the cruise world, and allows you to see places you usually wouldn't see. You'll dock at tiny towns and peaceful villages, as well as main cities that you won't see on the usual cruises since they're too far from where you dock. Some of Europe's greatest cities were built along waterways, and river cruising takes you right to the front door of some of the biggest cities in Europe. Some of the most popular itineraries are Amsterdam to Budapest, Paris to Prague, and Budapest to Prague. Most cruises are between ten and eighteen days, and because the ships are much smaller you'll have a more intimate experience and get to know your fellow cruisers. The scenery outside is constantly changing, and cruise lines have built ships that will allow you to relax and take in the sights of Europe as you drink a glass of champagne. Enjoy local food, and entertainment as the ships dock and chefs and entertainers board the ship for dinner. For those who are after a kid-free, luxurious experience, river cruising is for you.
So who should you river cruise with?
Avalon has panorama suites which have floor to ceiling windows and open-air balconies, with beds that face the window so you can have breakfast in bed while enjoying the view. They also have excellent air credits and early-bird deals where you can find great savings. Viking are the world's leading cruise company, and will often offer two-for-one cruises and airfares. They pride themselves on attention to detail and outstanding customer service, and are the most award-winning cruise line. Uniworld has an average capacity of just 130 guests, and more European river itineraries than any other cruise line. They're completely all-inclusive, and even include shore excursions, free wifi and airport transfers. Whichever cruise line you choose, do your research and book early. Many travel agencies will have both cruise and Europe expos, where they'll release the best deals. Booking at least nine months in advance will also get you the best discounts
The excursion opportunities in Europe are almost endless, and you'll have to be careful you don't get burnt out as you try to fit everything in. Sometimes the best excursions can simply be jumping off the ship and exploring independently. Try finding the best pizza in Rome, the best café in Paris, or the best cathedral in Florence. Europe is packed full with museums, as well as can't-miss sites like the Eiffel Tower, London Eye, Big Ben, Colosseum, Buckingham Palace, St Peters Basilica, the Louvre, and the leaning tower of Pisa. Many cruise ships will hire out bicycles so you can explore cities at your leisure, or take a walking tour but don't forget comfortable shoes as high heels definitely aren't suitable for cobbled streets!