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