Europe has its fair share of landlocked countries, but many of its most significant cultures and powers arose among seafaring nations. Its highly indented coastline now provides a lifetime’s exploration of ancient ruins, cliffclinging towns, battlemented islands, major cities and chic holiday retreats.
Europe’s coastal landscapes are magnificent too, with the Norwegian fiords, Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and Greek islands of the Aegean Sea among the most sought-after cruise destinations.
Arriving in historic ports such as Venice, Valletta and Istanbul would melt hearts of stone as centuries of fabulous architecture unfold. On the approach to Stockholm, ships tiptoe through myriad islands crowned with pine trees and cheerful yellow summer houses, before the city’s church spires and gabled old town emerge in the pale Nordic light. In contrast, the French port of Nice is all peacock-blue waters. A looming rocky crag is topped by gardens and a ruined castle, and rows of grand hotels and mansions nestle among palm trees against a backdrop of rugged hills.
A cruise is a fine way to avoid the tedium of travel practicalities, as you don’t have to book hotels, organise ground transport, heft and repack suitcases, or try to find decent restaurants.
On the whole, cruising is good value, depending on what your fare includes. It would be difficult to imitate the itinerary yourself on land within a budget that might be as low as $200 a person a day.
There’s always the pleasure and time saving of letting someone organise on your behalf, and, of course, some European
Value for money and ease of travel are what attract many to river cruising which, much more so than ocean cruising, provides almost everything as part of the package deal. River cruising has also become incredibly varied, offering ultra-luxe and budget ships, long and short itineraries, packages for families and solo travellers, and cruises themed on special interests such as music, wine, cuisine and culture.