Best Time to Cruise Europe

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Want to hit the high seas or take a river cruise around Europe? Here’s some pros and cons to cruising during the high or low season.


When to go: November, December and March
Pros: Less crowds, better deals, lower airfare
Cons: Cold weather shorter days

For cruisers seeking to dodge the crowds and heat, off-season trips are ideal. While many cruise lines in northern Europe will shut down during the coldest months of the year (January and February), there are some options during the late and early winter. For example, some river lines promote holiday-themed cruises during November and December. These cruises attract shoppers because they include seasonal events and stops at local Christmas Markets, that offer local art, crafts, and food in a street market setting. (For more on these holiday-themed cruises, check cruise lines Avalon Waterways and Viking Cruises.)

Travel journalist Wendy Perrin in a blog article titled “How to Make a Low-Season European River Cruise Awesome,”says cruises can cost about $1,000 less per person in March, April, November or December and passengers save even more by not splurging on a balcony (since you won’t spend much time sitting in it).

During colder months, cruisers may also find better deals on cruises throughout the Mediterranean.

Peak Season

When to go: April to October
Pros: Great weather
Cons: Crowded ports, less bargains, high airfare

No surprise, the warmer months are the most popular times to tour Europe by sea. This time of year is when cruisers can expect to see some gorgeous landscapes. According to Cruise Critic, cruisers prefer this time of year especially for trips to the Netherlands and Belgium, when tulips are in bloom. Although, it’s worth noting that some rivers can be adversely affected by either harsh rain storms or extreme heat.

Europe Travel Expert Rick Steves says despite peak months, he advises travelers to visit Scandinavia (which has a brief tourist season), Britain, and Ireland during this time to take advantage of longer days and weather. On his website, Steves’ also mentions that may of the key cities in these countries still have low crowds all year.

Cruises to the Mediterranean are also available year-round, with peak months from May through September, typically. Heat-loving cruisers prefer this time of year, although temperatures can soar over 90 degrees and some ports can be jammed. Greek Islands and Canary Islands also see ships from March through December.

Shoulder season varies by destination. According to Steves’, it can be April through mid-June and parts of September and October.

European Cruises by Location:

Baltic Sea — Russia, Scandinavia
Eastern Mediterranean — Greece, Croatia, Italy (sometimes Turkey and Israel)
Western Mediterranean — Spain, Monaco, Italy
British Isles, Western Europe — England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland
Norwegian Fjords
Canary Islands

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