A cruise is a great vacation choice for couples whether it is for a relaxing honeymoon after a hectic wedding, or a once-in a lifetime experience which should never be enjoyed alone. There are lots of destinations to choose from but for couples who love art, history and culture, Europe is ideal.
There are two types of cruises Europe has to offer. Classic ocean cruises, most of which operate in different parts of the world, and scenic River cruises which can be even more exciting for history lovers.
Here are some of our favorite ocean cruises and a list of river cruises to die for.
This is a premium cruise line headquartered in Miami, Florida in the U.S. It operates six ships (Insignia, Riviera, Marina, Sirena, Nautica and Regatta). Trips span multiple continents with latest itineraries spanning Europe, the Mediterranean, South America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific among other destinations. Cruise durations vary depending on guest preferences. The shortest lasts 7 days and some passengers opt for long voyages which last up to 180 days.
It is preferred to other mid-size cruise ships because of a characteristic low crew to passenger ratio which usually stands at 1 crew member for every 2 passengers.
While at sea, you will not be short of activities. Mind-jogging, educational presentations and easy wine and martini tastings are available on some of the line’s smaller ships like Sirena, Insignia, Regatta and Nautica. Each of these have capacity to accommodate up to 684 guests.
The larger ships like Riviera and Marina can carry up to 1,250 guests. On these you can spend your days enjoying cooking demonstrations from on-board professional chefs or refine your artistic skills with art classes. For fun and relaxation, make your way to the casino and end the day with a treat at the Canyon Ranch Spa.
There are numerous open-seating dining venues to choose from so you never have to eat the same thing at the same place two nights in a row. The Grand Dining Room serves French cuisine picked out of a menu prepared by master chef Jacques Pépin.
The downside to keep in mind while on this cruise is that some on-board services are not included in the cruise fare so you may end up with some unexpected bills.
Royal Caribbean International (previously known as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line) is a world renowned cruise line which was founded in Norway but has its headquarters in Miami, Florida in the United States. It is the largest cruise line by revenue and the second largest by passenger numbers accommodated in its ships.
Despite the word ‘Caribbean’ in its name this line offers cruises to more than 260 destinations in 68 countries and covers a total of 6 continents. Couples in the United States, can board a Royal Caribbean ship in several states including Boston, Seattle, Florida and Fort Lauderdale. Most major international ports also play host to Royal Caribbean ships every now and then.
This is no-doubt a line sailing in the big league. Its smaller ships like the Empress of the Seas can accommodate nearly 2,300 guests while larger metropolis-like ships like Symphony of the Seas can accommodate more than 6,600 guests.
On-board service from crew members is not compromised as each of these vessels have a crew to guest ratio of about 1 crew member for every 3 guests.
Although the Royal Caribbean may not be a first choice for couples looking for quiet, intimate, private time, it is a great choice for couples who are in it for fun, sightseeing and adventure. These are what you get out of the many shore excursions.
All ships have a variety of eateries to choose from and cruises are designed for both adults and children. For couples looking to sneak off for some alone time, there are some adults-only pool areas to hide out without the curious, questioning eyes of the youngsters.
The main downside to this line is that most ships are high-capacity vessels. They sometimes feel crowded especially during holiday seasons.
MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) Cruises is a global cruise line headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the biggest private Cruise Company and the top cruise line in South America, Europe and South Africa. It is the fourth largest cruise line in the world after Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Carnival Corporation & PLC and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
The cruise line has a fleet of 17 ships though MSC Seaside is considered the best of the fleet. It can carry up to 5,179 passengers and 1,413 crew members. Staterooms in the ship give guests between 151 and 1,022square feet of indoor and sometimes outdoor space. At least 70% of cabins have private balconies. Some superior suites have whirlpool tubs. Cabins also have amenities like LCD televisions, sitting areas and minibars.
For fun-loving couples, this ship’s multistory waterpark, bowling alley are great to while the hours away. Adventure-lovers will appreciate the MSC Seaside’s two zip lines which are among the longest sea zip lines in the world. Couples can also make their way to the theatre to enjoy Broadway-style performances, comedy acts or live piano music.
For meals, the ship has nine dining venues including a buffet, a steakhouse and Ocean Cay restaurant for seafood. Pan-Asian food prepared by award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi is available at two of these venues. Chocolate lovers will enjoy gourmet chocolates at the Venchi Cioccogelateria & Coffee bar.
Seabourn is another renowned luxury cruise line with headquarters in Seattle, Washington. It operates cruises all around the world. It targets seasoned, affluent travelers who fall in a more mature age group (40’s to 60’s). There isn’t much in terms of activities for children and this explains why it is not a preferred choice for families. Retiree couples and those celebrating anniversaries are common guests.
You can take a short 7-day cruise to the Caribbean or long 100-day voyage around the world. The latter will see you visit popular cruise destinations like the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Alaska as well as more distant lands like Asia, Australia and even Antarctica.
Seabourn’s five ships can accommodate between 458 and 600 guests. Every ship has a roughly 1 to 1 guest to crew member ratio so personalized service is guaranteed.
All cabins in these ships have sea views. Guests also have access to a fitness center and a salon. For entertainment, there is an on-board casino, several pools and a nine-hole putting course. Live music venues come alive especially in the evenings.
All ships have several dining venues. Most menus are created by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller. Drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) are included in the fare paid for the cruise.
The cruise line has a variety of shore excursions to offer at various ports of call. Guests get to take tours to top attractions in these destinations or take special interest adventures. Other than shore excursions, Seabourn offers Ventures by Seabourn. These are adventure-based excursions organized by a team of expedition experts ranging from scientists to scholars.
The most unpopular part of this cruise is that there is a dress code which is strictly enforced.
River Cruises in Europe
River cruising has grown exponentially over the years and is today one of the most popular forms of leisure travel in Europe. The continent boasts of some of the most scenic rivers in the world, most of which carry rich histories dating back hundreds of years. This is why river cruising simply could not be left out of our list of best Europe cruises for couples.
These cruises in Europe are taken in vessels as large as 38 feet by 410 feet. Specific dimensions depend on the bridges and locks the vessel will need to pass through and under in the course of the trip.
Cruising through rivers cannot quite be compared to luxury ocean cruising. None of the river vessels match the luxury and amenities found in ships but we must add that some river vessels do come close.
Here are some top European river cruises couples will enjoy.
Danube River Cruises
The Danube River is the only major European river which flows from west to east. It flows from the Black Forest of Germany and empties into the Black Sea. It is not only Europe’s second longest river, but also flows through 10 different countries. The cruise however, runs through 8 countries. These are Germany, Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia. This cruise is great for tourists because the Upper Danube is home to 4 world capitals including Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bratislava. Nowhere else in the world is a single river hosted by 4 capital cities.
Lower down, the river goes into the Iron Gates, a historic natural corridor running through the Carpathian and Balkan Mountains. It then flows into the plains of Wallachia, an ancient Roman province. After Belgrade, there are no major cities along the Danube because flooding in this region has been a common occurrence since pre-historic eras.
Rhine River Cruises
Rhine river cruises are known to be the most romantic of all other river cruises. This is what makes it ideal for honeymooners or couples simply looking for a scenic vacation. It starts in the Swiss Alps and ends in Holland’s North Sea. Cruises run through Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. They are most famous for the legendary Lorelei rock and medieval castles along the banks.
Although the Rhine River was a source of division in ancient times, today there are cities along its shores which all provide an excellent blend of scenery and cultures. From the Swiss Alps, the Rhine flows north and forms the border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It again forms an international border between Switzerland and Austria. It then flows west into a picturesque Lake Constance then forms the border between Switzerland and Germany. Rhine’s waters then turn north where it lines the border between Germany and France.
In Germany it flow through the Rhine Gorge, a dramatic geological formation. This length of the river is called ‘the Romantic Rhine’ and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with more than 40 castles and fortresses built in the Middle Ages.
Moselle River Cruises
The Moselle River, sometimes known as the Rhine’s peaceful little sister, flows though France, Luxembourg and Germany. Cruises, however, run through France and Germany. The 339 mile water body flows from village to village offering cruisers views of stone fortresses and fairytale castles. At almost every main river bend are wineries and hillside towns all with rich histories dating back to medieval eras. Riverside cafes allow couples to stop and savor the experience as they munch on traditionally made cheese and sip on some of the region’s sweet floral wines.
The region is known for production of world-class wines and cruisers get to see firsthand why this particular part of the world has earned this reputation. The soil, topography and climate around the Moselle River is perfect for cultivation of grapes. The cool, continental weather is perfectly balanced by the reflection of the sun on the river’s waters. Steep slopes in the region also help to regulate exposure of the vines to the sun and this allows for perfectly ripened grapes.
If you and your spouse were thinking about taking a cruise somewhere, now you know that Europe is probably the best place to go. There are lots of ocean cruise lines with itineraries through Europe, all with amazing shore excursions and activities you will not forget for many years to come. The continent is also home to some of the most scenic rivers in the world so river cruising in Europe is a must try.
The best time for an ocean cruise in Europe is more or less the same as that in North America. The extended summer months running from May through September will ensure you never have to worry about warm clothing and can take a dip every day of the cruise.
The best time for river cruises in Europe is from mid-June to October when the weather is warm and dry. There are some river cruises available during winter months of October, November and December though they are far less popular and much cheaper at this time.