Tour Europe by Ship
Four ways to cruise
European cruises fall into four categories:
Dozens 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.)
On 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.)
From 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.)
A few companies, such as Peter Sommer Travels, offer cruises aboard 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
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