Cruise Guide: Europe entices mass market lines to extend season

By Mike Coleman

More American travelers will be intoxicated by Europe’s charm this summer – from the comfort of a balcony stateroom no less – than at any time in modern history.

Mass-market cruise lines have gone so far as to unveil new ships in European waters for a season that in some cases has extended to nine months, an almost unheard of practice just a few years ago.

It began this month in Venice, Italy, when Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled its new 2,974-passenger Carnival Freedom. She’s now sailing 12-day voyages to the Greek Isles and Turkey, a first for Carnival. The ship will make extended calls at a variety of Mediterranean ports through October. Trips include stops in Livorno, Naples, Messina and Venice; Barcelona; Cannes; Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; Athens, Rhodes and Katakolon, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

In its most dramatic European deployment ever, Princess Cruises will position five ships, ranging from 680 to 3,100 passengers, on seven to 24-day itineraries to destinations as varied as Iceland and Egypt. The line’s season runs from April to December, featuring 81 departures on 31 itineraries, calling at 110 ports. In May, look for Emerald Princess and Royal Princess to debut, following a dual christening ceremony in Santorini, Greece.

Meanwhile, with 60 years of experience sailing the waters of Europe, Costa Cruises is offering a diverse cruise schedule with 273 year-round departures, deploying 10 ships both seasonally and annually throughout the year. The line’s cruising grounds include the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, the Greek Isles, Northern and Western Europe and the Baltics.

Family-friendly Disney Cruise Line will add European flair to its itinerary roster, repositioning a ship in Europe for the first time ever this summer. The sailings, operating roundtrip from Barcelona, include eight ports of call.
The entire MSC Cruises fleet of eight ships will be positioned in Europe for the majority of the year, with departures available from Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Rome, Venice, Bari and Barcelona. Three are positioned in Northern Europe, up from two in 2006. MSC Orchestra will debut this spring from Venice, on a series of seven-night itineraries.

Norwegian Cruise Line will deploy Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Jewel on seven and 12-day itineraries that explore the Baltic capitals roundtrip from London; Egypt and Greek Islands sailings between Istanbul and Athens; and Mediterranean voyages between Istanbul and Barcelona. In October, Norwegian Gem, the line’s newest ship, will offer three exclusive Mediterranean itineraries from Dover and Barcelona.

No fewer than six Royal Caribbean International vessels ply a diverse array of European cruising grounds on itineraries that run the gamut – from three to 12 nights. Destinations include the Baltics, the British Isles, the Canary Islands and Spain, the Greek Isles, Italy, France, Malta, the Netherlands, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries.

Premium cruise brands are into the act as well. Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Windstar have each deployed ships to the region.

Each of the cruise operators highlighted in this week’s column are members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade organization representing the interests of 21 cruise lines and some 16,500 travel agencies.

Cruise Guide: Luxury lines offer Europe on a silver platter

By Mike Coleman

It will be banner year in Europe for cruise ship passengers, especially those planning luxurious getaways. 

The world’s best cruise lines will be rolling out the welcome mat, the best of food and drink, and land programs never before equaled in the history of modern cruise ship travel. Look for itineraries to cover virtually every part of the region, with a special emphasis this coming spring and summer on Croatia’s increasingly popular Dalmatian Coast, Italy’s Puglia region, the Greek Isles and the coast of Turkey.

Crystal Cruises will deploy both of its award-winning ships to Europe. Crystal Symphony offers voyages to Western Europe, the Baltic countries, Russia, the North Cape/Arctic and the British Isles. Crystal Serenity, meanwhile, blankets Western Europe, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and Canary Islands. The line also launches its first-ever roundtrip cruise from Toulon, France with maiden calls at Sochi, Russia, and Eidfjord, Norway.

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 will be visiting destinations in England, Norway, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy. The venerable Queen Elizabeth 2, meanwhile, is scheduled to call on Italy, Norway, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, Greece and Malta. In December, Queen Victoria enters service with a 10-day, Maiden Christmas Markets Voyage from Southampton, followed by a 16-day Canary Islands sailing.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises will be offering Europe on a silver platter. Seven Seas Voyager sails Southern, Western and Northern Europe, while Seven Seas Navigator makes the Mediterranean her home for more than six months, canvassing nearly the entire region, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Greek Isles to the Aegean Sea. Maiden calls include ports in Croatia, England, Greece, Spain, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Seabourn Cruise Line’s fleet of three yacht-like ships will sail from the fjords of Norway to the Crimean coast of the Black Sea, arriving in the Mediterranean in spring, where Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Spirit remain through fall. Seabourn Pride departs the Mediterranean in May, heading northward to summer in Scandinavia, Russia and the Norwegian fjords.

Silversea Cruises’ entire fleet – Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow – will embark on itineraries of seven to 17 days visiting Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe ports. Highlights include an itinerary that explores the northern regions of Sweden and Finland around the Gulf of Bothnia and another that spends six nights in Valencia during the America’s Cup yacht race in June.Each of the five luxury cruise operators highlighted in this week’s column are members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade organization representing the interests of 21 of the world’s most popular cruise lines and some 16,500 travel agencies.