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Tour Europe by Ship

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ABOVE: Compagnie du Ponant's L'Austral is anchored in Dubrovnik's harbor during a 7-night Adriatic cruise from Venice.

Four ways to cruise

European cruises fall into four categories:

Sea cruises

imageDozens of ships offer cruising in the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the North Sea, and other coastal regions of Europe. These vessels are similar in concept to the transatlantic ocean liners of yesteryear, and they carry anywhere from 100 to 3,000 or more passengers in cabins and suites. Most newer ships offer private balconies, and nearly all have amenities such as swimming pools and nightly entertainment. (See our reviews of ocean cruises.)

River cruises

imageOn the Rhine, the Danube, and other great rivers of Europe, luxurious cruise boats glide past the local scenery and stop often to allow sightseeing on shore. These boats are low in profile, to fit under bridges, and they typically carry 50 to 200 passengers. (See our illustrated River Baroness review to learn about a seven-night cruise from Paris to Normandy and back.)

Barge cruises

imageFrom the 1800s through the mid-20th Century, small barges hauled freight over a vast network of canals and secondary rivers in Europe. Today, many of those barges have been converted into luxury cruise vessels. Because the typical "hotel barge" carries only 6 to 12 guests, barge cruising is more intimate than a ship or a riverboat. It's also slower-paced, with daytime stops and overnight mooring at small villages. (See our illustrated La Renaissance hotel-barge review.)

Yacht cruises

A few companies offer cruises aboard large sailing yachts in the Mediterranean and Aegean. These "soft adventure" cruises appeal to sailors and aspiring sailboat owners.

Because most first-time cruisers prefer ocean and river ships, mainstream cruising--especially "port-intensive" cruising--is the focus of this article.

Next page: Port-intensive cruising

In this article:
Introduction A typical cruise day
Cruise types Shopping for a cruise
Port-intensive cruises Before you book

Also see:
European Cruises - Articles and Reviews Index
European Cruise Guide

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Click or tap photos for cruise reviews:

  • Norwegian Jade
  • River Countess
  • La Bella Vita
  • River Baroness
  • L'Austral
  • Silver Spirit
  • Costa Magica
  • Renaissance
  • MSC Poesia
  • Rotterdam