"Sign me up for a Europe cruise," you say to your travel agent, handing over your credit card and passport. She looks back at you with a bemused smile.
"Which one?" she asks. "Seven-night Mediterranean? How about a 12-nighter? Would you prefer to see the Baltic capitals, Greek Islands, or the U.K.?"
Doh! The options for Europe cruises are as vast as the Continent's coastline is long. For each cruising region within Europe, you'll find different types of shore excursions, climates, and itinerary lengths. Some voyages highlight city life, while others focus on historic and cultural experiences, impressive scenery, or visits to small towns. Some offer several days at sea, while others jam-pack your schedule with port after port.
If you don't know where to begin, start with the best. These top 10 Europe cruises are sure to please everyone from the first-time visitor to experienced cruisers looking for less-touristed ports-of-call. The difficult part is choosing which itinerary to try first.
12-night western Mediterranean
The 12-night western Mediterranean cruise is the "stereotypical" Europe cruise for a reason: It's a highlights tour, and first-timers will recognize many of the cities on the itinerary.
Carnival's Mediterranean cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom is a perfect example. It sails round-trip from Civitavecchia, the port of Rome; this makes planning air travel a snap. The cruise includes stops at Naples (for Pompeii and Capri), Venice, Sicily, and Livorno (for Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre), Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Barcelona, Spain; and Cannes, France.
Once you return from a 12-night Mediterranean cruise, you'll feel like you've seen a good chunk of Europe's best.
Seven-night western Mediterranean
The shorter western Mediterranean cruise is a more recent addition to the Europe lineup. These trips are great for travelers who want to combine a cruise with a land tour or who don't have a lot of vacation time.
Royal Caribbean offers a seven-night cruise round-trip from Barcelona aboard the Voyager of the Seas. The ship calls in Villefranche (for Nice), France; and Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, and Sicily, Italy. Royal Caribbean even throws in one day at sea so you can recover from the back-to-back sightseeing and enjoy the ship before you head back to land. With current prices starting at $709 per person plus taxes, these shorter sailings are a more affordable option.
Eastern Mediterranean sailings focus on the ports of Greece and Turkey, and often depart from or call in Italy as well. These sailings are great for history buffs because they visit many ruins and historic sites.
Celebrity offers seven- to 14-night eastern Mediterranean cruises on the Galaxy, but its 11-night round-trip itineraries offer the greatest choice of sail dates and visit the key spots. The ship departs from Civitavecchia (Rome) and calls at Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Piraeus (for Athens), Greece; Istanbul and Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy.