Cruisers can visit multiple cities -- often multiple countries -- in one weeklong to two-week trip, so they can hit the highlights and only pay airfare once. Instead of logging long hours traveling in a bus, navigating train schedules in a foreign language or moving from hotel to hotel, cruise passengers can enjoy fine dining, complimentary entertainment and one comfortable home base for the entire trip as the ship sails from Spain to France to Italy.
Activities vary depending on where you go. Cultural and historical attractions are present nearly everywhere -- whether that's exploring Roman ruins, visiting famous art museums or touring castles, fortresses and historic homes. Beautiful cathedrals and religious sites are plentiful. Tasty food and wine tours are educational and available throughout all of Europe.
While there are some European cruises year-round, spring, summer and fall are the major times to go. Summertime is the primary time that Baltic and Arctic cruises are offered to destinations in Northern Europe.
The best times to go on a Europe river cruise are often spring and fall, when temperatures are pleasant and crowds somewhat diminished. Travelers looking for a unique spin on a river cruise can opt for a late fall sailing to visit Europe's famous Christmas Markets -- just be prepared for cool weather.
Baltic ports include St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki, while Norwegian fjords sailings call at Geiranger, Bergen and Flam. Western Europe ports include Lisbon, Dublin, Liverpool and Glasgow.
Rhine River cruises visit Amsterdam, Cologne, Strasbourg and Basel. Popular ports on the Danube River include Vienna and Budapest. Other popular river cruise destinations, depending on which itinerary you choose, might include Bruges, Porto, Bordeaux and Paris.
Baltic and Norwegian fjord cruises depart from a range of ports, including Southampton (about an hour from London), Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bergen and Amsterdam. Round-Britain cruises depart from Dublin, Southampton or other ports in England.
European river cruises depart from a variety of ports, depending on the river and itinerary. Danube River cruises depart from Budapest, Passau or Nuremberg; Rhine River from Amsterdam and Basel; Seine from Paris; Rhone from Lyon, Avignon and Arles; Portugal's Douro from Lisbon and Porto; Elbe from Berlin and Prague; and Bordeaux cruises depart from Bordeaux.
Northern sailings take in Scandinavia (including Norway's gorgeous fjord country), Russia and other Baltic capitals along with the U.K., Ireland and Iceland. Some venture north of the Arctic Circle to the very top of Europe.
River cruises bring travelers to even more destinations along the Rhine, Danube and other major waterways -- including Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna and Budapest.
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to Europe. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to Europe. Last minute cruises deals to Europe appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to Europe in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.