Best Cruises: Europe
Mediterranean & Greek Isles
The SeaDream II takes full advantage of its 112-passenger yacht size on its seven-night round-trip June 18 sailing from Athens with a transit of the Corinth Canal (pictured here), a port call in Albania, and stops at Greek ports too small for most cruise ships. Rates start at $4,726; seadream.com.
Italy & Croatia
The stunning scenery of Italy's Amalfi Coast and Croatia's Dalmatian Coast are complemented by gourmet cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and special winemaker dinners aboard the Sunset Wine Cruise. The eight-night sailing from Rome to Venice with the Sunset magazine team (including Wine Editor Sara Schneider) departs July 20. Rates start at $3,299; winecruisegroup.com/sunset-wine-cruise-2016.
Holland America's Norse Legends sailings depart from Rotterdam and Amsterdam, take in Norway's spectacular fjords, and are available in seven-, 14-, and 21-night itineraries. The longest, an August 21 voyage aboard the new 2,650-passenger Koningsdam, includes visits to Iceland and Scotland. Rates for seven-night sailings start at $999, and rates for the August 21 trip start at $3,199; hollandamerica.com.
Viking Ocean Cruises debuted last year with a single 930-passenger ship that sold out immediately; this year the company launches two additional ocean vessels for itineraries, including the 14-night Viking Homelands trip from Stockholm, with stops in Gdansk, Helsinki, and Copenhagen, as well as an overnight stay in St. Petersburg. Rates start at $5,099 and include 11 guided tours; vikingcruises.com.
Many cruises simply sail past this historic river’s grand castles. On Tauck’s 12-night voyage from Amsterdam to Basel aboard its spacious new 130-passenger vessel, guests visit inside several and even dine in one. Excursions include tours of medieval towns and the Black Forest spa town of Baden Baden. Rates start at $4,890; tauck.com.
Waterways of Holland & Belgium
April is prime time for Holland’s riotous tulips, which is why many river companies offer lowlands river cruises in spring. Vantage Travel’s 10-night trip aboard the new 176-passenger River Voyager goes beyond the blooms and includes visits with bulb growers, plus excursions to the massive seasonal garden of Keukenhof, beautiful windmills, home visits with locals, the medieval cities of Bruges and Antwerp, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Rates start at $2,999; vantagetravel.com.
Europe’s Wine Country
Amawaterways’s wine-themed cruises sail with expert speakers; its seven-night April 19 voyage features winemaker Markus Niggli of Lodi’s Borra Vineyards as guests sail on a 106-passenger ship along Portugal’s Douro, where vintages are appearing on top global wine lists. Rates start at $3,267; amawaterways.com.
The Seine and Soane Rivers
Wine is just one of the attractions on Viking’s 14-night Paris-to-Avignon sailing that combines the Seine in the north and Soane in the south, with visits to Monet’s Giverny, Normandy’s beaches, and medieval cities, plus winemaking in Beaujolais. Rates start at $4,111; vikingcruises.com.
French Country Waterways caters to foodies and wine lovers on luxury barge trips including historic sites and the countryside along France’s extensive canal system. Its Champagne region trip aboard the eight-passenger Princess includes bubbly tastings at family-owned Ployez-Jacquemart and dinner at the vaunted Les Crayères in Reims. Rates for April to mid-July sailings start at $6,299; fcwl.com.
The Coast of Spain
Known for its culinary explorations on board and off, Oceania’s 10-night voyage aboard the newly refurbished 684-passenger Sirena sails the rugged coast from Barcelona to Lisbon, with stops in Palma de Majorca, Ibiza, Casablanca, and Gibraltar. Rates start at $4,599; oceaniacruises.com.
The Danube River
From Bucharest to Budapest, the Danube flows through the Eastern Europe nations of Serbia, Romania, Croatia, and Hungary. The 10-night trip departs June 12 and includes a choice of excursions, village visits, and the use of bicycles, in the 169-passenger vessel Scenic. Rates start at $4,290; scenicusa.com.
Italy & The Dalmation Coast
When it launches in spring 2016, Regent’s new 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer promises to bring peak luxury to sea. The line is all-inclusive, a rarity for oceangoing cruises. Its 10-night September 14 voyage from Rome to Venice visits Sicily, Positano, and Rome before heading to yacht-friendly ports along the Dalmatian Coast. Rates start at $9,199; rssc.com.
Norway & The North Pole
For adventure travelers, spotting polar bears, walruses, and other Arctic wildlife are highlights of 10-night wildlife-viewing expeditions aboard 12-passenger ships with Blue Planet Expeditions. Sailings leave from Svalbard, Norway, and head north toward the North Pole. Rates start at $10,950 with no single supplement; blueplanetexpeditions.co.uk.