A cruise to Western Europe is ideal for those who want to experience the most popular European countries while traveling with the convenience of unpacking only one time. Western Europe is home to several of Europe's great capital cities including London, Paris and Amsterdam, as well as the wine country of France and Spain.
North American travelers feel very close to the countries of Western Europe and the British Isles, as we share a common language or military and religious history, and many of us can trace our personal roots to these countries in just a few generations. In addition, some of Europe's most famous landmarks and finest museums, churches and cathedrals are found here. The British Isles also have a great concentration of castles and pre-historic sites, so an itinerary that focuses here will offer opportunities for both sightseeing and leisure time, including golf capped off with a pint.
Western Europe is also easy to get to, as flight time from North America is usually less than nine hours and there are plenty of reasonable fares, departure cities and airlines from which to choose. Plus, against today's currency conversion rates, the value of a cruise vacation in Western Europe is unsurpassed when compared to land travel in these same countries.
What can I do on a Western Europe cruise?
Western Atlantic Coast
Rotterdam is the perfect port from which to tour the canals, windmills and tulip fields of Holland.
A port of call on the northwest coast of France in Le Havre provides access to the infamous beaches of Normandy or the town of Rouen, where you will find gothic architecture and medieval history, or Honfleur, which has inspired some of the most famous artists of all time. It may also be possible to visit Paris if you feel like traveling farther.
Along the Spanish coast, you'll find the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, as well as close proximity to the lovely wine country of the Basque Region. Other ports in Spain include the quaint village of Vigo on the western coast, and Cadiz on the southwestern side. From here, it's a short trip to Seville, where the attractions are bull-fighting and flamenco dancing. Lisbon, Europe's smallest and oldest capital, has a long history of occupation by the Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors, giving it an eclectic and mystical appeal.
The British Isles
Most of the ports of call in the British Isles are dominated by medieval castles or abbeys and easily boast more than 1000 years of history. In contrast, in the Irish capital, Dublin, the most pervasive surviving influences come from the 18th and 19th centuries when elegant Georgian mansions were constructed along the river and waterfront. In Waterford, the famous Waterford Crystal Factory offers award-winning displays and you can witness first hand the time-honored skills of glass blowing, cutting and engraving, and you're invited to ship some home!
In Scotland, craggy cliffs sculpted by turbulent seas are in stark contrast to the tranquil, sandy bays and flower-strewn meadows found here. Perhaps Invergordon's greatest claim to fame is Loch Ness, the narrow 23-mile-long body of murky water, home to the elusive monster in the Highlands region. For the best examples of English gardens, a stop in Cornwall is the perfect place. Shopping is great in every port and you'll find everything from goldsmiths, silversmiths, wood carvers, weavers and clockmakers.
Where does a Western Europe cruise go?
Western European itineraries concentrate in ports of call along the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Spain and France, and often call in Brussels and the Netherlands as well. Sometimes the ship will also stop in the Canary Islands, which are located on the northwest coast of Morocco. Typical itineraries sail round-trip from Dover or Southampton, which are the port cities closest to London and call in some of the following ports.
- Le Havre
The Canary Islands and Morocco ports are:
Another popular itinerary in Western Europe is a cruise around the British Isles with ports of call in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Most of the following cities can be included in one cruise:
When can I go on a Western Europe?
Cruises to the countries of Western Europe are usually offered in the spring and the fall, while itineraries around the British Isles typically sail in July when the weather is most favorable.
How do I get there?
The most common departure ports are Southampton and Dover, which are convenient for air travel in and out of London. Air departures from the US usually leave late in the afternoon and fly overnight to arrive in Europe early the following morning, which adds an additional day to the trip. You should also consider a pre-cruise and post-cruise hotel package so that you can enjoy the fabulous cities on either end of your cruise itinerary; otherwise you'll just pass through. Some cruise lines also offer land-tour extensions, often including rail travel, that take you into the interior of those countries.
Almost all major cruise lines offer cruises to Northern Europe including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Radisson Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises, Seabourn, Cunard Line, Silversea, Costa Cruises and Windstar.