By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71 Certified Europe Destination and River Cruise Expert
Since Europe is a continent of peninsulas, a great way to visit Europe is on an ocean cruise. Only 17 of the 51 European countries are landlocked, so there are 34 countries that can be reached by the sea. Of those 17 land locked countries, 2 are easily reached by an ocean cruise (they are the tiny countries of San Marino & the Vatican) and 6 (Austria, Hungry, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland) are visited regularly by river cruises. There are great sailing vessel options for anyone interested in sailing to this region. The choices of cruise ship includes ships in the mass market class, premium class, luxury cruise lines and ultra-luxury cruise lines—something that fits almost all travelers. Perhaps the easiest way to learn about European cruising opportunities is to look at the 3 major areas most cruise lines use to visit many fantastic European ports of call. The 3 areas are the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea & Atlantic Ocean area. Let’s explore these 3 areas together.
THE BALTIC SEA
The Baltic Sea borders Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. We have been on two Baltic Sea cruises and had a great chance to visit ports in 6 of the 9 countries that border the Baltic Sea. To view a PowerPoint PDF of our cruises, please click the button LEARN MORE
Baltic cruises operate between May and September. Most cruises last 10 to 14 days. St. Petersburg in Russia is the big attraction, with so much to see that most cruise ships stay at least two days, but other ports along the way are also crammed full of history and culture. Our favorite port is Tallinn, Estonia—the old town is one of the best preserved walled cities in all of Europe. In St. Petersburg, visiting the magnificent Peterhof Palace and its fountains and the Hermitage rate as some of our best experiences in Europe. Docking in the northern German port of Warnemunde allowed us to visit Berlin. If these weren’t good enough, Oslo’s wonderful harbor, Stockholm’s Old Town, the delightful Copenhagen sights and Helsinki’s harbor area and esplanade make this cruise an exceptional adventure.
THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
There are 13 countries which border the Mediterranean Sea. They are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. We have been on 3 Mediterranean cruises and visited ports in 9 of the 13 European countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. We have also visited San Marino and the Vatican while on these cruises. To view a PowerPoint PDF of our cruises, please click the button LEARN MORE
3 of the 13 countries do not really have good access to most cruise ships. Neum is the only town to be located long Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 12 miles of coastline, making it the country’s only access to the Adriatic Sea and only smaller vessels can port there. Slovenia and Albania also are not major ports but have better access than Bosnia. The remaining 10 countries have great port areas, with the larger countries have multiple ports that offer a wonder gateway to explore this area.
There are many cruise options ranging from 7 to 21 days or more. The cruise season is usually between April and October. By far, this is the most popular area for ocean cruises in Europe, so there is a cruise for just about anyone. Generally speaking, the cruise options are an Eastern itinerary from roughly Italy east to Istanbul Turkey and a Western itinerary from Italy to Spain and sometimes Portugal
The Eastern itinerary highlights the great diversity of Europe—you can see the canals of Venice, the walled city of Dubrovnik, the fjords of Kotor, the sun drenched Greek islands( especially Santorini, Crete and Mykonos), the ancient city of Ephesus and exotic Istanbul to name a few. The region includes the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia, the islands of Greece, and Turkey’s Istanbul and Kusadasi (the port for Ephesus). The cornerstone ports for most Eastern Mediterranean voyages are the cities of Athens (served by the port of Piraeus), Venice and Istanbul. Some cruises also include the Holy land of Israel. One thing is sure—one cruise is not enough—these experiences and sights are so cool you will want to come back for another cruise or two. 2 of our 3 cruises in this region have been on the Eastern itineraries. To view a PowerPoint PDF of our cruises, please click the button LEARN MORE
The Western itinerary features the western side of Italy, Malta France and Spain and the islands of that are part of Italy, France and Spain. The itinerary is ideal for art and history lovers who also wish to explore the region’s landmarks, beaches, cafes and boutique shops. Italy has Portofino, Florence, Rome, and Naples and the Amalfi coast region—all amazing experiences to that range from cliff-side villages, ancient ruins, awesome food and wine and quality shopping. Other key ports include Barcelona, Marseille and the French Riviera, especially Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo. To view a PowerPoint PDF of our cruise, please click the button LEARN MORE
THE NORTH SEA & ATLANTIC OCEAN AREA
There are 11 countries which border this area. They are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (we have visited 10 of the 11 countries). We have been on a great Azamara cruise from the UK to Spain and visited 3 countries on this voyage. To view a PowerPoint PDF of our cruises, please click the button LEARN MORE
The North Sea region is about nature viewing in the Scandinavian Peninsula, in my opinion. Majestic fjords, marvelous archipelagos, magnificent cliff faces–the North Sea coastline has awesome landscapes and unique towns like Bergen, Norway. Or a little further south, immerse yourself in the culture of the cities, such as London, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. Or you can sail all around the United Kingdom and visit Ireland. Further south, the French coastline and the Iberian Peninsula are another delightful region– Bordeaux, France, Bilbao Spain. Lisbon, Portugal and Seville, Spain are all just waiting for you to explore these fascinating cities.
As you can see, at least 3 different cruises just begins to adequately explore Europe’s Oceans and Seas. We have sent many clients to Europe for both ocean and river cruises and we would love to help you get started—just call Hank at 713-397-0188 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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