The best way to discover Europe

Europe is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, but hopping from one European city to another is not cheap. Fortunately there is a way to discover as much of Europe as you can on a budget: a cruise. Not only are cruise vacations generally up to 40% more affordable than comparable land-based vacations, cruise ships make it easy to see several of Europe’s legendary cities in only a few days.

The Mediterranean is one of the most popular cruise regions in the world, exceeded only by the Caribbean and Alaska. While many ships sail between Barcelona and Rome – visiting ports in Spain, France and Italy – giving travellers the opportunity to visit such attractions as ancient Pompeii, the magnificent art and architecture of Florence and the Roman Colosseum, others journey to the legendary Greek Isles including romantic Santorini and party island Mykonos. Other bucket list destinations include the canals of Venice, the Parthenon rising high above Athens and the old city of Dubrovnik – which stars as King’s Landing on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Beyond the Mediterranean, European cruise itineraries explore the modern cities of Scandinavia (such as Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo) and St. Petersburg, Russia, where the palaces of the Czars are among the stunning cultural attractions.

On British Isles sailings there may be opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone and listen to bagpipes on old Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Explorers looking for the beauty of nature may set sail to Norway, to see it’s magical fjords, and cruise beyond to Iceland and Greenland.

Cruises are a practical, comfortable and economical way to see Europe, whether you travel on a contemporary mega ship, an intimate small- or medium-sized ship or the grand ocean liners of Cunard. There are sailings for all budgets and tastes.

Ultra-luxury line Seabourn, who has four ships in Europe this summer, offers the convenience and comfort of a moving luxury resort. On select Seabourn sailings, Ventures by Seabourn excursions immerse guests in the destination with kayaking and Zodiac experiences run by a team of expedition experts.

With cruising a fast-growing trend among Americans and Europeans alike, cruise lines tend to show off their newest and most innovative ships in Europe during the prime summer season. This year is no exception.

Holland America Line‘s Nieuw Statendam, a stylish new ship for foodies and live music lovers was christened earlier this year by Oprah Winfrey. HAL’s flagship will set sail to the Baltics (including Scandinavia and St. Petersburg), Ireland and the Mediterranean. Nieuw Statendam is one of six ships the line has exploring Europe this summer.

AIDA Cruises, recently named by Reader’s Digest as Germany’s most trustworthy cruise company, will have its 13 ships in Europe this season. This will include the AIDAnova, launched last year as the world’s first cruise ship powered with environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas, or LNG, setting a new standard in green cruising.

Italian line Costa Cruises, with 11 ships in Europe, will debut the LNG-powered Costa Smeralda in October. The Italian cruise line’s new flaship is designed to take guests on a “tour of Italy” with onboard areas devoted to the fun, festivity and flavors of the country. The ship will sail one-week cruises visiting Italy, France and Spain.

The seven ships of British line P&O Cruises set sail from Southampton, England, to the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, Baltic, British Isles and other destinations on itineraries that range from “Short Breaks” to in-depth exploration. Some of the ships are family-friendly while others – including the Aurora, fresh from a multi-million-dollar upgrade – are exclusively for adults. For P&O Cruises holidays departing after May 2019 tipping is not required on board.

Have plenty of time or a fear of flying? Why not travel to Europe on Cunard‘s glamorous Queen Mary 2. The ship offers a regular schedule of transatlantic sailings between New York City’s scenic Brooklyn port and historic Southampton. Or you could enjoy a touch of British style and elegance while exploring destinations such as Norway, the Baltics, the British Isles and Iceland on the Queen Victoria or the Queen Elizabeth, which returns to Europe in July after first marking the venerable line’s return to Alaska for the first time in 20 years.

Princess Cruises has five ships on the European continent this summer, sailing to 130 ports, from the far reaches of the Mediterranean to Norway and the northernmost tip of Europe. The line’s highly anticipated, MedallionClass Sky Princess is set to debut in Europe in October.

Carnival Cruise Line will introduce its newest and largest ship, the LNG-powered Mardi Gras, on sailings in 2020 between Venice and Barcelona. In between exciting port visits, guests will be able to ride the first rollercoaster at sea and dine in the first seagoing restaurant developed with legendary chef Emeril Lagasse.

Also, in 2020 Carnival Legend will operate the cruise line’s most diverse Europe schedule ever, visiting 34 ports in 14 countries. The totally transformed Carnival Radiance, currently sailing as Carnival Victory, will debut in Europe following a $200 million, 38-day dry dock that will take place in Cadiz, Spain.

Even as cruise ships explore the waters of Europe, they also bring reminders of home. You’ll find both local and familiar dining options (you can get a good burger!), fitness centers outfitted with the latest equipment, lavish spas and high-speed Internet access that lets you stay connected – whether you are Instagramming photos of such iconic places as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona and the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo or just checking in on family and friends.

Among the benefits of cruising is you only have to unpack once and have the luxury of a room steward who tidies up your cabin twice a day, leaves chocolates on your pillow and makes you feel like a VIP. Furthermore you don’t have to worry about currency fluctuations because you’ve paid upfront for your accommodations, cuisine, entertainment and activities.

Onshore, there’s opportunity to soak in the sun on glistening beaches, visit world-class museums, shop for souvenirs, visit cafes and learn about lost civilizations. So what are you waiting for?

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