Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Wed June 03 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | June 3, 2015 1:00 AM ET

    6 Standout European Summer Cruises

    6 Standout European Summer Cruises

    Photo of Norwegian Epic courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

    Summer is here, and the European cruise season is underway. This year marks a number of new ships, trending destinations, and unusual itineraries. From river cruises, expeditions, and mainstream vessels, here are six standout summer cruises in Europe.

    Abercrombie & Kent’s Hotel Barge in France

    Those who prefer small ships and river cruising will have the best of both worlds aboard the 12-passenger Panache, a hotel barge that plies the Marne-Rhine Canal in northeastern France. The cruise begins in Strasbourg, France, a charming, historical city that feels like a fairy tale. Here, passengers can tour a 12th century cathedral or enjoy a private wine tasting before traveling on to the “hops region” for tours of local breweries in village of Wingersheim.

    The cruise also includes visits to a market in Saverne and a glassblowing workshop near Lutzelbourg. In between shore excursions, relax in the spa tub on the sundeck and gaze at the stunning scenery floating by. Several summer departure dates are available with Abercrombie and Kent.

    Tauck’s Luxury Voyage Around Iceland

    Although it’s an independent nation, Iceland is often categorized as part of Europe, and has experienced a growing interest from the cruise industry. While a number of cruise lines including Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line are calling on the island’s major port of Reykjavik, Tauck is operating a seven-night cruise aboard the elegant Le Boreal that calls on seven ports around the island.

    Additional excursion programs take visitors deeper into Iceland to experience its dramatic geology, visit fishing villages, and witness wildlife like the bird colonies on Grimsey Island — located on the Arctic Circle. The ship embarks from a Reykjavik on August 5.

    Musical Baltic Cruise with Noble Caledonia

    Visit seven Baltic countries aboard the 100-passenger, MS Serenissima to experience the beautiful architecture, gardens, marketplaces, and history on a music-themed voyage. The 11-night cruise embarks from Stockholm, Sweden on June 26 and calls on Tallin Estonia, where passengers can stroll medieval streets before taking in an evening concert in a 15th century town hall. 

    The ship also calls on St. Petersburg, Russia for a tour of Peterhof Palace and gardens before visiting Rundale Palace in Riga, Latvia. Other highlights include a private organ recital in Kaliningrad, Russia and a visit to castle ruins on the island of Bornholm, Denmark.

    Off-the-Path Cruises to England, Ireland, and Scotland

    Princess Cruises has a unique 12-night voyage that circumnavigates the United Kingdom aboard one if its newest vessels, the Royal Princess. The ship sets sail July 20 from Southampton and will make three calls in Ireland: Dublin, Cobh, and Belfast before cruising to Queensferry, Greenock, and Invergordon, Scotland.

    Onboard the Royal Princess guests can unwind at the adults-only Sanctuary, award-winning Lotus Spa, or they can bring the family to experience the kids and teens club, pools, and laser shooting range.

    Rare River Cruise in Spain and Portugal

    River cruising is extremely popular in France, Germany, and Austria along the Rhine and Danube Rivers. Only a handful of ships cruise in Portugal and primarily sail along the Douro River — making CroisiEurope’s summer voyage aboard the 176-passenger, MS La Belle de Cadix one of a kind. Instead of exploring northern Portugal (and the Douro River), the ship embarks from Seville, Spain and sails along the Guadiana and Guadalquivir Rivers to Alcoutim and Vila Réal, Portugal by utilizing the Gulf of Cadiz.

    Shore excursions like palace and cathedral tours are included in the cruise fare, as well as extra perks like free Wi-Fi, use of a Samsung Galaxy tablet, plus wine, beer, and spirits. Departure dates are available in June and September.

    Italy and Spain on NCL’s Game-Changing Ship

    Beginning this year, Norwegian’s game-changing ship, the Norwegian Epic (famous for its solo-traveler cabins), will be based in Europe year round. Throughout the summer, the ship will be sailing a seven-night, round-trip itinerary from Barcelona — making it convenient for travelers to arrange airfare.

    The Epic will stop in Cannes, France as well as Rome, Naples, and Livorno (Tuscany) Italy.

    Onboard the 4,100-passenger ship there is no shortage of things to do: guests can dine in one of 21 dining venues (many of which are complimentary), relax in the Aqua Park, take in a Broadway show or ballet, go bowling, or take in the Cirque Dreams and Dinner show.


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
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