The 11 Best European Cruisesby Dana McMahan | August 02, 2016
Americans have always had a fascination with the concept of the “Grand European Tour,” where you set off in search of discovery, exploration, new sites to see, and flavors to savor. But then you hit the age-old question when it comes to these kinds of Continental migrations: Does your dream European vacation have too many must-sees in too many spread-out cities? Covering such a collection of can’t-miss cities by land takes more time than most of us have. The solution? Hit a new spot every day by traveling at sea. It just makes sense, especially in places like the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, where the civilizations grew up around the water.
There’s no denying it: A European cruise is the best version of a modern day incarnation of the old Grand Tour. Pack once, and you can be off to Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome, and Athens all in one unforgettable trip. Or, take the northern route and you can see everything from Oslo to Copenhagen and Stockholm … maybe even those stunning Norwegian fjords, all under the spectacular Midnight Sun. On a cruise, you don’t even have to plot the route, figure out transportation between cities, book train tickets, or rent cars.
First, you do have to pick your playground and your priorities. How do the ancient cities of Istanbul and Athens sound? History lovers can take an exotic Eastern Mediterranean cruise for a taste of the near East combined with ancient Greece, where you can wander the Grand Bazaar and marvel at the Acropolis.
Always wanted to do Rome in a day — literally? It wasn’t built that fast, it’s true, but you can race past the highlights in one unforgettable afternoon on a Western Mediterranean cruise. Plus, you’ll also get a tantalizing array of Italian ports, and probably forays into France and Spain, too. Your trip might include swimming the grottoes of Capri, high rolling in Monte Carlo, and tucking into tapas in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas.
Or, consider a smorgasbord of northern European cities. Sail away on a Baltic cruise to the magnificent fjords of Norway, and fairy-tale charm of Bruges. Or you can focus on the British Isles with their cliffs and pubs and whisky distilleries. Or take the classic long way home, with a transatlantic sailing from Southampton to New York.
And itineraries aren’t the only way that European cruises offer a wide variety of choices. Best of all: Whether you’re packing for a boisterous family vacation or a romantic getaway for two, you’ll find there’s a ship that’s just right for you. In fact, there may be too many to choose from. We’ve rounded up our favorites, ranging from a decadent 62-passenger yacht to the world’s biggest mega ship. Our choices include ships from a wide variety of cruise lines, with a broad range of price points.
These ships will transport you in more ways than one, bringing the best of Europe to your feet every morning, and the best of onboard experiences en route each night. Bon voyage!
Dana McMahan is a Detroit-based contributor to ShermansCruise who also writes for the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.