Best European cruises: 6 ships that stand out across the pond

Prospective cruisers often ask me what the best Europe cruises are, but that question is difficult to answer because Europe is massive. It encompasses some 45 countries and includes such cruise regions as the Mediterranean, the Baltic and Northern Europe, the British Isles and the Canary Islands.

While cruisers are spoiled for choice in this part of the world, it can be difficult to know where to begin when researching voyages.

To help you out, I’ve narrowed down my favorites for the best cruises to Europe for different types of travelers, including families, couples and solo travelers.

Note: Pricing was accurate at the time of publication. Fares are subject to change without notice, and they do not include additional fees or port taxes.

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Best European cruises for families: Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream. DISNEY CRUISE LINE

Disney Cruise Line is great for kids; if you’re planning a cruise in Europe with kids, Disney Dream is a logical choice for best European cruise for families.

Character meet ‘n’ greets, awe-inspiring nighttime entertainment and fun dining experiences mean your kiddos will never be bored. The ship’s stellar kids clubs go above and beyond with a likeness of Andy’s room from “Toy Story” and a replica of the Millennium Falcon from “Star Wars” (with visits from R2-D2 and a squad of stormtroopers).

Disney Dream is not the line’s newest ship, meaning it’s a bit more manageable in terms of both size and price. It’s not the oldest, either, so families will find more things to do on board than on the line’s smallest vessels.

Ashore, Disney’s family-friendly excursions will take you to laze on the beach, explore museums and learn about history.

Disney Dream sails three- to 12-night cruises to Northern and Western Europe, the British Isles and the Mediterranean. Cruise fares start from $308 per person, per night, for a windowless inside cabin. You can visit ports like Belfast and Liverpool on cruises from Southampton; Florence and Rome (Civitavecchia) on Barcelona sailings; and Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Lisbon on open-jaw itineraries.

Related: Best cruise lines for families

Best European cruises for couples: Viking Star

Viking Star in Bergen, Norway. VIKING OCEAN CRUISES

If you’re a couple seeking an upscale Mediterranean experience that offers real value and a chance to reconnect with your partner, look no further than Viking.

The line’s Viking Star sails various Mediterranean itineraries, and the European ports the ship visits offer plenty of opportunities for you to feel the love. Have a phenomenal lunch at a table for two in France, take a pizza-making class together in Italy, get a little giggly at a wine tasting in Greece, or run the casino tables together in Monaco.

Viking includes at least one free shore excursion per port in its fares. That means you can wander Europe’s romantic cobblestone streets hand in hand with your sweetie without paying a penny extra.

While fares aren’t the cheapest you’ll find, you’ll get a lot for your money. In addition to the tours, Viking includes Wi-Fi, specialty dining, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner in its prices.

Plus, all cabins on Viking’s ships have balconies, which is great if you want some fresh air but feel like keeping to yourself. Complimentary room service is available 24/7, so you can order dinner to your cabin for a relaxing alfresco dining experience for two.

Want even more ways to pamper yourselves together? Check out the phenomenal thermal suite in the ship’s spa, which offers sauna and steam rooms, tile loungers and aromatherapy rooms at no extra charge. Or, splurge on a couples massage, which will leave both of you feeling loose and refreshed.

Even better, Viking ships do not allow children on board. It’s a great excuse for you and your significant other to rekindle the romance without other passengers’ kids running around.

Viking’s Mediterranean sailings range from seven to 21 nights. Back-to-back itineraries are rarely the same as Viking Star circles the Med. The ship visits ports such as Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France; Florence (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Sicily and Venice, Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens and Santorini, Greece; and Kusadasi, Turkey.

Fares start from $381 per person, per night, for a balcony stateroom.

Related: The 10 best cruises for couples seeking romance and together time at sea

Best European cruises for seniors: Seabourn Sojourn

Seabourn Sojourn
Seabourn Sojourn docked in La Palma, Canary Islands. (ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY)

If you’re a senior traveler who loves great food and excellent wine, one of the best luxury European cruises you can book is a Canary Islands cruise on Seabourn‘s Seabourn Sojourn.

The small ship carries fewer than 500 passengers, and you won’t find raucous parties or tons of children. Instead, you’ll be met with stellar service, gourmet food, a room with a view (all cabins have at least a window) and relative peace and quiet. The long itineraries are ideal for wealthier passengers with lots of time to travel.

Seabourn Sojourn’s voyages to the Canaries span 10 to 28 days and visit the islands of La Palma, Gran Canaria and Madeira, as well as Lisbon, Portugal. Fares start from $434 per person, per night, for an ocean-view cabin. Extras like Wi-Fi, gratuities and alcohol (including the in-room mini-bar) are rolled into the fares.

Related: Best cruises for seniors who love to travel by sea

Best for solo cruisers: Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic. MICHELE VERDURE/NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

When Norwegian Epic debuted in 2010, it introduced Norwegian Cruise Line‘s first cabins for solo travelers. Designed with single beds and a bit less square footage, these so-called studio cabins are clustered around an exclusive lounge reserved for solos. Special activities allow folks traveling alone to mingle and make new friends.

Since Norwegian Epic began sailing, nearly all of the line’s new ships — Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva — have been built with accommodations for one, which don’t charge occupants a single supplement. However, it’s Norwegian Epic that has a presence in the Western Mediterranean, offering solo cruisers a chance to explore Europe on a ship with staterooms just for them.

On board, passengers have plenty of choices for activities and dining. In addition to the usual cruise-ship offerings — pool games, dance parties, game shows, trivia and movie screenings — Epic offers many fun diversions, including an adults-only beach club at the back of the ship, spa treatments, a bowling alley and even gaming lessons (the latter three for a fee).

The vessel sails five- to 12-night voyages back and forth between Rome and Barcelona, calling on ports that include Naples, Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, Marseille, Cannes and Florence (Livorno). At press time, last-minute fares started from $90 per person, per night, for a studio cabin for one.

Related: The best cruise lines for solo travelers

Best European party cruises: Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady

Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady. VIRGIN VOYAGES

If your Europe bucket list includes the Greek Isles, you don’t want to sail with children, and you enjoy a lively party atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with Virgin Voyages‘ Resilient Lady. The third ship in the line’s fleet, Resilient Lady offers some of the best cruises to the Greek Islands.

Expect a casual vibe where passengers dress up like mermaids, crew dress up like drag queens, and performers look like real people. Toss in an onboard tattoo parlor, a food court (it’s not a buffet), free fitness classes and an app that lets you order Champagne to wherever you are on the ship, and you’ve got a product that has turned the cruise industry on its head.

Wild nights on board include raucous and sometimes raunchy theater shows, impromptu dance parties and Scarlet Night, a poolside bash reminiscent of a rave where everyone’s dressed in red. If that’s not enough, attend enough daily activities, and you might be invited to a secret nighttime tour of the crew bar, drinks included.

The ship offers a regular program of 7-, 10- and 14-night voyages, starting from $148 per person, per night, for an inside cabin. The itineraries involve a mix of ports in Greece, Montenegro, Croatia and Turkey, depending on the specific sailing you choose.

Related: The best adults-only cruises to try if you can’t stand being around kids on vacation

Best European cruises for ‘wow’ factor: Hurtigruten’s Richard With

Hurtigruten Cruise in Norway STIAN KLO/HURTIGRUTEN CRUISES

Looking for a sailing that no other cruise line offers — one that will make everyone on TikTok and Instagram jealous? I’m putting my money on a line you’ve likely never heard of: Hurtigruten.

What began more than 130 years ago as a way for Norway’s residents to move themselves and cargo up and down the Norwegian coast continues today as both a means of transportation and a way for cruisers to experience the country’s culture.

On the cruise line’s Norwegian Coastal Express route, Hurtigruten’s Richard With ship calls on 34 ports in just seven days. Some are quick stops in the middle of the night while cargo is loaded and unloaded, but you technically could get off the ship in each port if you wanted to. That in itself makes this itinerary buzzworthy.

Still need convincing? These voyages also cross into the Arctic Circle and sail into Geirangerfjord (northbound from Bergen to Kirkenes) and Trollfjord (southbound from Kirkenes to Bergen), affording absolutely breathtaking views and, of course, bragging rights.

The two routes can be combined into longer 13-day sailings, meaning you’d sail round-trip from Bergen and see all the fjords. Seven-night northbound itineraries from Bergen to Kirkenes start at $331 per person, per night, for an inside cabin.

Bottom line

Ultimately, the best cruise to Europe is a bit subjective in that it depends where in Europe you’d like to go and what your travel style is. Be sure to weigh a combination of destination, price and onboard vibe when deciding which is best for you and your travel party.

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