To cruise around Europe is to treat yourself to fantastic culture, history and of course, food that’ll make your taste buds sing. Do yourself a favour and start planning your ocean odyssey today. These are our top five recommendations:
1. The Baltics
The easily-forgotten world of Northern Europe is a spectacular cruising route. With paths once voyaged by Vikings and governed by Russian czars, even today, with ever-modern aesthetics, the landscape remains enchanting.
Baltic cruises can cover Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Our best picks are the ones that have at least one overnight stay in Russia’s St. Petersburg. There is so much to see, that one day is never enough. Don’t worry about visas - if you take the cruise line excursions, they are all taken care of. We also love the history-rich regions such as Tallinn in Estonia, and Warenmude in Germany which is the gateway to Berlin. No single cruise will reach all countries and Baltic cruising is restricted to the summer months, so you have to be choosy. Many major cruise lines frequent these waters with cruises between 10 and 14 days, while smaller ships tend to increase the amount of overnight stays to give you a more immersive destination experience. Your HOT consultant can help refine your options.
INSIDER’S TIP: The Baltic Sea is a large body of water but because it’s somewhat isolated from the ocean, the water is often calm with no long sea days. Perfect if you prefer little motion. If you cruise into Stockholm, set your alarm early and observe the thousands of enchanting islands as you cruise into port.
2. Eastern Mediterranean
Ideally, the Mediterranean isn’t a one-time cruise. It’s very likely you’ll want to return over and over which is ideal, because it’s an extensive region. Many cruise lines offer seven-night cruises, journeying through eastern or western Med, with a handful of longer itineraries combining the best of both. The eastern Mediterranean itineraries as they are called include the Adriatic and Aegean seas. Essentially everything on the eastern side of Italy, including Greece, Croatia and Turkey, with some ships also offering longer voyages to include Egypt, Cyprus and North Africa. Peak season is June to September, but the temperature soars in July and August, so our favourite season is May, June or even mid-late September for pleasant climates and less crowds.
INSIDER’S TIP: Saturated in history, enjoy excursions to ancient landmarks such as Ephesus from Kusadasi, or summit the Acropolis in Athens for that ultimate selfie. To avoid heat fatigue, aim to mix activity days with lazy lunches and beachy afternoons.
3. Western Mediterranean
Western Mediterranean arguably delivers the full-house of European destinations: Italy, France and Spain, and then all the lesser-known internal gems such as Corsica, Sardinia Sicily, Malta and Tuscany. So it’s no surprise that a wealth of cruises frequent this region, along with ample ships and dozens of itineraries – you’re really spoilt for choice. As rule of thumb, one-week cruises are destination-heavy, with a new port almost every day, so if you need some extra R&R, ask for longer cruises offering 12 to 14-nights. The most popular joining ports are Barcelona, Venice and Rome, so it’s always recommendable to add at least three nights pre or post cruise. Or venture further inland for a more in-depth experience. Of course, this is the Med so one of the biggest highlights is the fresh local food. Look for itineraries with multiple overnights in port or late departures and disembark for delicious dining complete with sunset views.
INSIDER’S TIP: Cruises in this region are virtually year-round, but April to October is the most popular and weather-reliant. If you want to avoid the crowds at the tourist hot spots consider early and late season departures.
Instant inspiration! Already a serial Europe-cruiser? How about one of these alternatives? Click Here for our top 6 global cruises for Kiwis.
4. The UK & Iceland
Possibly one of the most dramatic cruise itineraries on offer, the British Isles is a compelling, rugged bunch of wind-whipped terrain, and Iceland is spewing with volcanic activity and lunar landscapes. From the hustle of London, with its whispers of Victorian chatter, to The Golden Circle - a great loop of Icelandic land where you’ll find Geysir, the spouting hot spring, and Gullfoss, a thunderous waterfall – these routes may no longer be treacherous, but they still feel super adventurous. Many itineraries skim Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland Islands, including Lerwick, Britain's most northerly town, before steaming ahead to Iceland, where immense volcanic mountains, canyons and geothermal fields beckon you off-ship. You definitely want to look at booking the ships excursions in this region to make the most of your time available in port.
INSIDER’S TIP: Unless you’re like the Scots and possess skin as thick as gumboots, The Shetlands can be nippy. Duck inside a tearoom for a hot, strong brew - or more likely, the local pub, for an even stronger one. Pack something warm to take ashore and remember the further north you cruise in the northern summer, the longer your days become. IE, more time to fit in extra adventures!
When it comes to holiday highlights, Greece strikes the jackpot. With it’s awesome history, beautiful coastline, idyllic islands and wonderful dining plus the glorious Greek sunshine, it always tops the charts when it comes to the most popular cruise destination. Cruising around the islands presents beach after beach of golden sand, while the mainland is freckled with ancient cities and staggering ruins. Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-biggest city was once governed by The Byzantines, Ottoman and the Romans, and its eminence remains today, with only a handful of cruise lines visiting this impressive citadel. To the contrary, multiple ships dock in the pretty Greek port of Katakolon because it's just a 40-minute drive from Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games. And then there’s Athens with its pinup good looks; notably the Acropolis which towers over the city.
INSIDER’S TIP: Greek island cruises aren’t completely history-centric, there can be many days spent exploring the sublime shoreline. Corfu and Mykonos have the best ‘come hither’ beaches, while a visit to the Drogarati Cave presents an otherworldly cavern coated in stalactites and stalagmites. And you truly haven’t seen a sunset until you have experienced one in Santorini...
Instant inspiration! Live like a local in the ancient city of Athens. Click Here for some ideas far removed from the well-trampled tourist haunts.
This is just one of the many great cruise options that we offer. Click here to see all our current cruise offers.