Best European Cruises
For many American travelers, cruise destinations begin and end with Mexico and the Caribbean –- and maybe Alaska thrown in for good measure. So it's easy to miss out on what European cruises have to offer: the same inclusive high seas experience spiced with the best the Old World has to offer in art, sights, and culture. But where to travel?
European Cruise Destinations - Northern Europe
Many cruise companies offer packages that allow you to see the British Isles, Ireland, and Scotland together, or scuttle over to the Netherlands and Scandinavia on the frigid North Sea. Princess Cruises even has 18-day cruises that sail over to Greenland and Iceland, so you can experience their unspoiled natural beauty like an ancient Nordic explorer (sans the blood, freezing, and starvation, natch).
See: Norwegian Cruise Line
European Cruise Destinations - Southern Europe
Not having to worry about hotels and plane tickets means that hitting more than one hot European destination becomes a pleasure instead of a hassle. If you want to see as much as possible, a Southern European cruise is probably the best way to hit the most popular destinations in one swoop, with many itineraries docking in Portugal before heading through the Strait of Gibraltar to ports like Spain, Morocco, France, and Italy.
See: Silversea Cruises
European Cruise Destinations - The Mediterranean
For art-lovers, history fans, and bookish types, what could be more romantic than sailing into Venice on a luxury liner, or cruising into ancient Athens and touching history in the Parthenon and the Acropolis to travel from the seat of the Italian Renaissance to the birthplace of Western thought? Given one's mode of transit, you also might want to leave an offering at the Temple of Poseidon just to be on the safe side.
See: Princess Cruises
European Cruise Destinations - River Cruises
One neat and lesser-known option takes your cruise ship inland and upriver. Slip up the Seine and visit Paris and Versailles or start in Amsterdam and make your way down the Rhone through the Netherlands and Germany to Switzerland. Alternately, one can see for themselves the beauty that inspired Strauss by venturing along the Danube on the popular route from Budapest to Nuremberg.
See: Viking River Cruises, Uniworld
European Cruise Destinations – The Baltic
Cruises on the Baltic Sea afford an opportunity to get a taste of the lesser-seen side of Europe, from Stockholm to Copenhagen to Helsinki. Silversea cruises, for instance, has an itinerary that includes all of the above, plus a three-day layover to sit by the samovar and marvel at the minarets of St. Petersburg, Russia.
See: Holland America
Photo by Diricia De Wet via Flickr