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The worst months to cruise to Europe

09 Apr 2024

Planning a European cruise? There are a few months you might want to avoid booking your dream vacation.

Side by side image of cruise ship with Rome Italy

Cruises within Europe offer a contrasting experience compared to those in the Caribbean. Whereas cruising to The Bahamas might involve spending your days lounging in a pool chair, European cruises are all about sightseeing.

From exploring ancient castles in Portugal to touring Viking museums in Norway, there are countless ways to immerse yourself in Europe’s history and nature on a cruise. Not only that, but European cruise itineraries are diverse, too. You can travel anywhere from the British Isles to Canary Islands, and even venture to the crossroads of Europe and Asia in Istanbul.

Odyssey of the Seas anchored in Santorini

When planning such a monumental vacation, it’s important to know what to expect, and to plan your trip during the most ideal time to visit. Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April to October, and each month brings pros and cons.

While there’s not necessarily a “right” or “wrong” time to cruise to Europe, there are a few factors to consider when picking the best time to cruise.

Here are the worst months to cruise to Europe, based on the weather, crowding, and cruise destination.

If you’re cruising to southern Europe, the worst months to visit are July and August

Beach in Zakynthos, Greece

During the initial planning stages of a European cruise, you might assume the peak of summer is the best time to book a sailing. After all, you’re dreaming of sipping wine in a sunny Italian piazza, not bundling up in a parka in Greenland.

And while summer can be a great time to visit Europe, it can also be extremely hot and crowded. For those booking cruises in southern Europe—Mediterranean and Adriatic itineraries—summer heat waves are a major concern.

It’s not uncommon to see temperatures in the high 80s and even low 90s in cities like Palermo and Valencia during the months of July and August. Although these temperatures may be tolerable on a beach vacation, they are anything but ideal when sightseeing in European cities.

Colosseum Rome

Roaming the ancient streets of Pompeii or touring the Acropolis in August’s blazing heat is enough to exhaust any cruiser. If you must cruise to Europe in the peak of summer, take caution when booking shore excursions.

If drastic temperatures are forecasted, consider booking excursions on the water rather than in the city, such as a catamaran tour around Santorini or beach day in Positano.

Related: 30 Best European cruise tips

Additionally, consider bringing extra clothes to change into when visiting cathedrals. Although it’s required to cover your shoulders and knees in the Sistine Chapel, you don’t need to cover up all day—if you do, you could potentially overheat.

Instead, pack a scarf and a lightweight skirt or pair of pants in your day bag that you can quickly put over your clothes before entering religious sites.

Not only are temperatures high in the summer, but crowds are at their peak, too

Mykonos Greece beach

A European summer is a dream for many cruisers. After all, nothing screams relaxation quite like sipping a rosé along the French Riviera. And while summertime in Europe is undoubtedly dreamy, it comes with one major downside: massive crowds.

Whether in Santorini or Tenerife, you’re almost guaranteed to face large crowds in the summer. Not only will your cruise likely be fully booked, but shore excursions will book up quickly and you’ll be navigating your way around thousands of other visitors in each port of call.

August in particular can be an exceptionally busy time in Europe, as Europeans traditionally plan several weeks of vacation during the month. In August, you should plan to encounter even higher crowds than earlier in the summer, particularly in southern Europe.

Related: How to beat the crowds on your cruise ship

Valetta Malta street

Truthfully, though, there’s a good chance you will not notice a difference between July and August crowds. Crowds are high in Europe throughout the peak season, and while there may be more crowds in August, it’s going to feel crowded during any summer month.

No one likes dealing with crowds, but they are inevitable when cruising to Europe in the summer. While they certainly aren’t bad enough to cancel your plans, you shouldn’t expect quiet, calm sightseeing days in port either.

Another con of cruising in July and August are the higher costs

Odyssey of the Seas pool deck

The last major downside of cruising to Europe in July and August are the higher costs. Due to the school calendar, most families plan European cruises in late June, July, and early August. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these months see the most demand, which results in higher prices.

Let’s look at a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise on Allure of the Seas. You can expect to pay $400-500 more for a balcony cabin when cruising in July versus September. If your schedule is flexible, why not wait until September to cruise?

Related: How much does a European cruise cost?

Not only will there be fewer crowds, but you can put those savings toward a shore excursion or cruise add-ons like drink and dining packages.

Aside from the cost of your cruise fare, airfare prices peak in the summer. A roundtrip flight to Rome, for instance, might cost $900 in May, but could skyrocket to $1,500 in July. When traveling with a large group, these extra costs will easily add up.

The best months to cruise the Mediterranean and Adriatic are May, early June, and September

Rhapsody of the Seas ship

Knowing the drawbacks of cruising southern Europe in the peak summer season, what are the best months to cruise?

Generally speaking, the most favorable months for a cruise to the Mediterranean and Adriatic are May, early June, and September. During these months, you will find lower prices, more comfortable temperatures, and fewer crowds.

Related: Ultimate Greek Isles cruise guide

Because the school year is still in session in most of Europe and North America, you will see fewer families onboard, and the lack of demand leads to lower cruise fares. Plus, you’re less likely to spend your port days sweaty and miserable, as temperatures will generally be more mild (although that’s never guaranteed!).

While crowds will start to increase in June, sticking to the first half of the month is recommended, as crowds will not yet have hit their peak.

If you’re cruising in northern Europe, however, avoid sailings in early spring and late fall

Norway cruise ship in fjord

Europe is a diverse continent, and the best time to cruise one region may be the worst for another. While some cruisers may book a sunny getaway to the Greek Isles, others are more interested in visiting ports like Amsterdam and Dublin.

Although sticking to the spring and fall is preferable for cruises to southern Europe, it should be avoided when visiting northern European countries. Simply put, the weather in these regions is more unpredictable, and the shoulder season can come with less-than-ideal conditions.

While that Norway itinerary in May might be the cheapest option, waiting until June, July, or August might bring sunnier skies and warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, this means spending more on your cruise fare and airfare, but it’s almost always worth the trade-off.

Should you cruise to Europe in October?

Jewel of the Seas in Iceland

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season usually ends in October, and like any month, October comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

One plus of sailing in October is the weather. Unlike the scorching 90 degree days of August, you’ll find the weather more pleasant in the fall. Temperatures in Mykonos, as an example, are around 70 degrees in October compared to the mid-80s in August.

In addition, there will be fewer crowds in October compared to during the summer. Once the school year is back in session, European tourist attractions become quieter, making sightseeing days a little bit less hectic for visitors.

Related: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

La Coruña Spain port

As far as drawbacks, though, you will find fewer itineraries offered in October. During this month, Royal Caribbean begins to send its ships back to North America for the winter Caribbean season. By the end of the month, only a few ships remain in Europe, and almost all itineraries visit southern European destinations, where the weather is still comfortable in October.

Even with these drawbacks, October can be a fantastic time to cruise to southern Europe for those who want lower fares and fewer crowds.

Cruising is all about having the right mindset. With the right expectations, there’s no “best” or “worst” month to cruise to Europe

Streets of Europe

While there’s no denying that some months offer nicer weather conditions and crowd control than others, no time of year is completely perfect. Sure, May might offer excellent conditions for traveling to Sicily, but the same cannot be said about cruising to Iceland.

Even if you sail during the “worst” month to cruise to Europe, you will still, more than likely, have a wonderful cruise experience. For most cruisers, the highs of cruising to Europe far outweigh the lows.

Visiting 2000-year old archeological sites, tasting local delicacies, and being awestruck by breathtaking fjords can be worth the high temperatures and crowds.

If you board a European cruise expecting tranquil days in port and no lines at tourist sites, you’re going to be disappointed.

If you go in with an optimistic mindset, on the other hand, any month will provide a remarkable cruise vacation.

How to get from Venice to Ravenna cruise port with the shuttle (and vice versa)

12 Feb 2024

One of Royal Caribbean’s most popular cruise embarkation ports in Europe is Ravenna, Italy, and if you’re cruising from the port this summer, here’s how to get there.

Venice Italy and cruise ship side by side image

In 2021, the city of Venice, Italy banned large cruise ships from entering the Venetian lagoon. This ban came with major implications for the cruise industry, which frequently offered cruises departing from the city to visit ports in the Adriatic Sea and Greek Isles.

Instead of stopping cruises in this region altogether, Royal Caribbean began offering itineraries departing from Ravenna, Italy instead of Venice. Yet while itineraries may still call Ravenna the “Venice” cruise port, the reality is that Venice is located roughly 90 miles away from Ravenna.

The majority of passengers cruising from Ravenna fly into either Venice or Bologna, Italy, and it can be challenging to figure out how to get to the cruise port from these cities.

Related: 30 best European cruise tips

In this guide, we’ve compiled the most up-to-date information on how to get to and from the Ravenna cruise port so you can start your European cruise vacation without any stressful setbacks.

Option #1: Royal Caribbean shuttles from Venice to Ravenna cruise port (and vice versa)

Venice Italy Rialto Bridge view

From Venice to Ravenna cruise port (embarkation day)

The easiest way to reach Ravenna’s cruise port from Venice is by booking a Royal Caribbean shuttle.

Royal Caribbean offers a shuttle service from two locations in Venice. The first is from Marco Polo Airport, and this is the best option for those flying to Venice on the day their cruise begins. As of 2023, the shuttle cost $45 per person.

Note that it takes around 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Ravenna from Venice, so if you are flying to Venice on the same day as your cruise, it’s crucial that your flight arrives before 11 AM. To avoid the risk of missing your ship, it’s recommended that you arrive as early as possible on embarkation morning.

Alternatively, the safer option is to arrive at least a day before your cruise begins.

The second location to catch a shuttle from Venice to Ravenna is from Tronchetto, a parking and bus station in the historical city center of Venice. This option is ideal for those who are spending time in Venice prior to their cruise. As of 2023, this shuttle cost $58 per person.

The shuttle location in Tronchetto is a twenty minute walk from Piazzale Roma in Venice, or you can take a people mover for €1.50 per person.

Shuttles must be booked by calling Royal Caribbean or your travel agent, upon which you can find the most up-to-date schedules for the shuttle buses.

From Ravenna cruise port to Venice (disembarkation day)

Ravenna Italy walkable street

Royal Caribbean offers a shuttle service from the pier in Ravenna to Venice's Marco Polo Airport on disembarkation morning, but only for flights departing after 11:45 AM.

As of 2023, this shuttle was priced at $45 per person, and it takes roughly 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Venice’s Marco Polo Airport on the shuttle.

If you are not headed directly to the Venice airport from Ravenna, there is also the option to be dropped off in Tronchetto instead. As of 2023, this shuttle service cost $58 per person, and is a convenient option for those spending time in Venice after their cruise.

Option #2: Take the train from Venice to Ravenna (and vice versa)

Italy train

From Venice to Ravenna cruise port (embarkation day)

In addition to a shuttle bus, another way to get from Venice to the Ravenna cruise port is by train. Taking the train from Venice’s Santa Lucia station to Ravenna’s train station takes a little over three hours and comes with an overall cost of around $40.

The train from Venice to Ravenna is not direct, and it requires a change in either Bologna or Ferrara, Italy. Although having to change trains might seem stressful, you will find train stations easy to navigate and with plenty of signage.

Because the train is not direct, you will not find “Ravenna” listed on the train platform in the Venice train station. Instead, look at your ticket for the correct train number. If you have to make a change in Bologna, you will first board a train to Bologna, not to Ravenna.

Train tickets can be purchased online through Trainline or on the Trainline app. Alternatively, you can book tickets upon arrival to the station, but it’s recommended to book in advance.

Once you arrive at Ravenna’s train station, you can reach the port either by booking a Royal Caribbean shuttle bus or by taxi. The taxi ride should cost around €25 from the train station to the port.

If you would prefer to book a Royal Caribbean shuttle bus from Ravenna’s train station to the cruise port, contact Royal Caribbean or your travel agent for more information.

From Ravenna cruise port to Venice (disembarkation day)

Venice canal

Royal Caribbean offers shuttle buses from the Ravenna cruise port to Ravenna’s train station on disembarkation morning. It takes twenty minutes to reach the train station, from where you can hop on a train to anywhere in Italy.

These shuttle buses cost $10 per passenger and can be booked at Guest Services once onboard your ship.

Like en route to Ravenna, you will need to make a change in Bologna or Ferrara, Italy to get to Venice. Most transfer times in this direction are around a half hour, which gives plenty of time to make the connection.

Taking the train to Santa Lucia station in Venice drops you off directly in the historic center of the city. Therefore, this option is convenient if you plan on spending time in Venice after the cruise. If you’re simply heading to the airport, one of Royal Caribbean’s shuttles is a better option.

Staying in Ravenna before or after the cruise

Ravenna Italy person cycling in the city center

One benefit of taking the train as opposed to a shuttle bus is that you have the schedule flexibility to spend time sightseeing in Ravenna. As a small Italian city, Ravenna offers a quaint, walkable city center and is famous for its elaborate mosaics and Byzantine architecture along with its fresh cuisine from Italy’s Emilia Romagna region.

For those interested in exploring a more local side of Italy before or after their cruise, Ravenna is worth a short stay.

Option #3: fly into Bologna instead of Venice

Bologna Italy at sunset

Even though Royal Caribbean refers to Ravenna as the Venice cruise port, there are other major Italian cities within a similar distance to Ravenna, such as Bologna and Florence.

Arguably, in fact, it’s more convenient to fly into and out of Bologna when cruising from Ravenna as opposed to Venice. The city is located just an hour's drive or direct train journey from Ravenna, making it much easier to reach the cruise port compared to flying into Venice.

The downside with flying into and out of Bologna is that there are no direct flights from the city to the United States, so a connection will be necessary. Venice, on the other hand, offers direct flights to several cities on the east coast along with Chicago.

To get between Bologna and Ravenna’s cruise port, you can book a shuttle through Royal Caribbean or take the train. As of 2023, Royal Caribbean’s shuttle to Bologna’s airport cost $40 per person, and was only available for flights departing after 10:50 AM.

A shuttle was also offered from the cruise port to Bologna’s train station for $30 per person, which is helpful for those taking a train from Bologna to elsewhere in Italy.

Finally, another way to get to Bologna is by taking the $10 shuttle bus from the cruise port to Ravenna’s train station followed by an hour train from Ravenna to Bologna, which costs around $10.

Why you need to cruise the Mediterranean in winter with Royal Caribbean

08 Jan 2024

I cruised on Enchantment of the Seas this November for my first Mediterranean voyage. 

Mediterranean cruises are not uncommon, but taking them in early Winter is not nearly as popular.

The 7-night sailing traveled from Athens, Greece, to Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Palma de Mallorca, and Barcelona, Spain. 

Despite the colder weather and occasional wind, this winter cruise was a perfect opportunity to explore the Mediterranean for the first time.

Winter is the off-season for Mediterranean cruises and tourist spots. The Mediterranean slows down as crowds flock to the Caribbean during the cold winter months. 

It’s the best time to take advantage of the cruise deals and calmer crowds in tourist areas.

Here are several reasons why you should consider sailing the Mediterranean in winter with Royal Caribbean. 

Read more: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

Avoid crowds 

Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season runs from April to October. The busiest and most popular cruises fall between July and August.

For a less crowded cruise, we recommend sailing during the off-season, such as in winter.

While Caribbean cruises will be crowded with passengers during the popular winter season, the Mediterranean has a peaceful off-season.

This is also a great way to enjoy a smaller ship—just like I did. Smaller ships will have an even smaller occupancy and are unlikely to be completely full in the off-season.

I noticed the benefit I gained from fewer crowds in nearly every aspect of the cruise.

For example, I bought my shore excursions only a week before the cruise, but hardly any had sold out!

When I got in line to take tender ships to ports, the process was speedy and required very little preparation beforehand.

When we embarked on our tours, they were unhurried and calm, with few crowds.

I could almost always find seating in the Windjammer and pool deck, famously difficult places to stake out a spot.  

During the wintery off-season, you can enjoy a peaceful, unhurried cruise.

Milder weather

If escaping extreme weather is a goal for your cruise vacations, don’t fear!

In general, the weather in the Mediterranean is mild, with only two distinct seasons: summer and winter. 

Cruising during winter is a great way to avoid the scorching summer heat. 

Since most European exploration requires a lot of walking, avoiding the hot weather is a great benefit for those of us who hate getting tired and sweaty.

While the weather cools down in the Mediterranean winter, it still isn’t as cold as other places with four distinct seasons. 

In early November, when I visited, it remained in the 60s and cloudly, with a few days of sunshine. 

The only unpleasant aspect of the wintery weather was some frequent wind, which made it hard to stay on the pool deck. However, this was also due to the speed of the ship’s movement on sea days.

It wasn’t too chilly while I was exploring tourist sites, and I appreciated that we weren’t getting hot and sweaty.  

Read more: ​​I’ve been on 3 European cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

Onboard comfort

Not only was the weather milder than other wintery places, the cruise ship was also a comfortable place to stay.

Royal Caribbean ships are equipped to handle many weather conditions. Being on a cruise ship provides a lot of protection from the elements because you don’t have to go far for anything you need.

If you stayed on land, you might have to walk from the hotel to the restaurant in the rain. 

But on a cruise ship, you can simply take an elevator up a few floors and be served a gourmet meal. Then, you can take the elevator up a few more floors for dance parties, bars, pools, and more! Everything is right at your fingertips.

Even on days when the pool deck was cloudy and windy, I could hop into the hot tub and warm up immediately.

If you are wanting to travel in the winter but need to branch out from the warm Caribbean, consider Mediterranean cruises! 

Take advantage of deals

I actually found my Enchantment of the Seas cruise in a list of Royal Caribbean last-minute deals

My cruise was the last Mediterranean cruise Enchantment offered before her re-positioning to Tampa, Florida. 

Booking immediately before or after a ship’s repositioning is a great way to take advantage of cruise deals.

Many ships transition from Europe to the Caribbean in winter, so try booking your Europe cruise right before they set sail!

This is the best way to get deals and smaller crowds on a cruise, but you can also find deals on land.

Since it’s the off-season, accommodations, and excursions also offer deals for tourists

Read more: What to wear on a Mediterranean cruise

Authentic cultural immersion

One limitation of cruising is the quick, touristy stops at ports of call. When you only visit a port for one day, you only have time to visit the most popular tourist spots.

Sometimes, stopping at a cruise port feels like a disingenuous experience crowded with other tourists and overworked locals.

In an off-season trip, however, the tourist influence fades away, and local life quiets down.

I definitely sensed this difference on my winter cruise. 

Mediterranean destinations have such a rich, ancient cultural heritage and history. An off-season visit allowed me to get a more intimate immersion into this culture. 

I got the impression that I was visiting thriving, independent communities rather than seeing a false front for tourists.  

This could have the added disadvantage of locals trying even harder to get you to spend your money in an area, but that wasn’t my experience at this time.

I felt that shop owners and servers had a bit more time to care for each customer’s needs instead of feeling hurried. They also gave me a wide berth, so I wasn’t faced with the usual pushy hawkers. 

I also recognize that this change could be something unique about visiting Europe itself—rather than popular cruising destinations such as the Caribbean. 

Either way, it’s a great reason to visit the Mediterranean during an off-season and experience more authentic international travel.

Is it worth booking an inside cabin for a Mediterranean cruise?

20 Dec 2023

A Mediterranean cruise feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so how important is your cabin choice for this itinerary?

Mediterranean cruise offers a cruise that has visits to places to a captivating blend of history, culture, and landscapes. Naturally, you'll want to take full advantage of the experience.

One of the first decisions you'll make while preparing for your cruise will be choosing which cabin to book.

Depending on your personal preferences and budget, it can be a tough call to choose which type of cabin is best for your cruise. Is it worth saving money to book a cheaper, windowless inside cabin? Or should you splurge for a balcony cabin instead?

The Mediterranean is not like a Caribbean cruise that you may have experienced many times.  If it's your first cruise ever, you might be debating if the money saved with an inside cabin is going to lead to regret later.

To help you make your decision, I’ll delve into the pros and cons I experienced when I booked an inside cabin for my Mediterranean voyage.

Inside Cabin vs. Balcony

In my case, I knew pretty quickly that I could rule out purchasing a balcony cabin (or a suite).

The cost is steep, ranging from $1,000-2,000 more than an inside cabin.

Since I was traveling alone, it also didn’t make as much sense to spend a lot of money on a room I wouldn’t be sharing with anyone. 

I didn’t need the extra space or privacy, and a balcony isn’t as fun without someone to stargaze with you! 

Inside cabin on Enchantment of the Seas

Traveling solo also comes with a single supplement fee, meaning I was charged extra for traveling with just one person in a stateroom. It wouldn't make sense for me to make an even higher leap in price.

In addition to the extra cost, my Mediterranean cruise also took place in early November, meaning we were already entering winter. 

While the weather wasn’t extremely cold, it was windy and cloudy, with some choppy seas. 

Sea day

On those windy days, I got too cold to even enjoy the sun on the pool deck.

In hindsight, this tells me that I would not have spent time on a balcony, where a roof blocks off from the sunlight but still exposes you to the wind. 

However, if it’s still important that you have a private outdoor space, you may want to consider booking a balcony.

For my personal needs, it didn’t make sense to shell out that extra money. 

Inside Cabin vs. Oceanview Cabin

Balcony room on Serenade of the Seas

With a balcony ruled out, I could next consider whether I wanted to book an oceanview cabin.

Cruise pricing can vary from ship to ship and sailing to sailing, but a standard oceanview cabin costs about $25-40 more per night than an inside cabin.

For my 7-night cruise, this would have added at least $200 to the price of booking. 

Since an inside cabin is more budget-friendly than an oceanview cabin, this made my cabin a smart choice.

While the cost wasn’t that significant of a difference, it made enough of a change that I could allocate money to other aspects of my cruise.

For example, saving $200 is $200 more than I could spend on a shore excursion or souvenirs at our destinations.

In the end, I chose to book a windowless inside cabin. I used several categories to determine if this decision made the most sense for my cruise.

Read more: I always stay in an inside cabin on a cruise ship. Here's why I actually like these rooms

Time spent in my stateroom

One unique aspect of a Mediterranean cruise is its frequent port stops at new locations. A Mediterranean cruise usually focuses on the destinations and cultural experiences. 

With the close multitude of islands in the Mediterranean Sea, you can expect your cruise to be port-intensive. 

If you plan on taking advantage of time at the ports of all, a cheaper cabin is a more practical choice.

ancient temple. Lindos. Rhodes

With so much time spent off the ship, your cabin preferences can take a backseat since you’ll only be returning to sleep.

It makes more sense to spend time enjoying shore adventures and onboard activities than to waste money on a cabin.  

Better locations for seasickness

For those of us prone to seasickness, the location of your cabin may be more important than having a nice view.

Some find that being in the middle of the ship and on a lower deck helps minimize the feeling of motion and ease seasickness.

Inside cabins are more often located in the center of the ship, away from any windows and balconies. Not only that but there are also more to choose from on Royal Caribbean ships, making it easier to choose your cabin location when you book one.

For my cruise, my cabin was located midship on Deck 2, which is a perfect location when it came to seasickness and noise level.

Read more: The 5 best cabin locations on a cruise ship

Plenty of space

For a Mediterranean cruise, which requires days of travel from the U.S., taking a longer cruise is the best way to maximize your travel time.

I chose a 7-night sailing to get full advantage of my time in the area. 

And for this longer sailing, it makes sense to want a larger room with more space for all your luggage.

Space was an important factor for my Mediterranean cruise cabin, but an inside cabin still made the most sense for this situation.

Most standard oceanview cabins are about the same size as inside cabins. For an even larger room, I would have had to upgrade to a spacious or ultra-spacious oceanview cabin.

Since that would raise the cruise price even further, an inside cabin was sufficient space for me in the end.

Even though I was traveling alone, I felt that my stateroom would have had more than enough floor and storage space for two people traveling over a period of 7 days.

Ideal sleeping conditions

After a long day of walking around the pebbled streets in places like Greece and Spain, you’re going to want a good night of sleep.

For me, the best conditions for a sound 8 hours of sleep are the dark, cool, and quiet inside cabins on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Especially in a quiet location, I can sleep soundly without waking up at all through the night. It’s the perfect way to relax after a long day.

Read more9 ways to sleep better on a cruise ship

It's not your imagination - Royal Caribbean is sending fewer ships to Europe

10 Nov 2023

If you’re planning a European cruise with Royal Caribbean in the next two years, you will have fewer ships and itineraries to choose from when compared to previous seasons.

Royal Caribbean recently announced European itineraries for the summer of 2025 - and it’s apparent the cruise line is continuing to reduce its presence in the region. By the summer of 2025, only six ships will be sailing in Europe for the cruise line. 

For comparison, Royal Caribbean had nine ships sailing in Europe for the summer of 2023. This is a 33% reduction in the number of cruise ships from Royal Caribbean’s fleet that will be deploying for the European season. 

Based on double occupancy, the passenger capacity in 2025 for European itineraries will be reduced by about 23% from the 2023 European season. Deploying larger ships to the region has salvaged some of the lost capacity due to the reduction in ships for Royal Caribbean. 

For the summer of 2024, the European region will only receive seven ships from Royal Caribbean’s fleet - one of which includes the Ultimate World Cruise on Serenade of the Seas.

Despite unexpected, increased demand for European cruises in the last quarter, Royal Caribbean is continuing to focus on increased capacity to its private island: Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

Over the years, Royal Caribbean has been slowly reduced the number of ships sailing in the European region. This downward trend is all but confirmed by the 2025 European deployment schedule.

Although Royal Caribbean has been reducing ships in Europe, the cruise line is sending bigger ships to the region.

For the 2024 and 2025 European seasons, Royal Caribbean has opted to increase the size of ships sailing around the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. In prior years, the cruise line would sail mostly Vision and Radiance-Class ships in the region, which are among the smallest in the fleet.

The largest ship will be Allure of the Seas, which is an Oasis-Class ship that will be returning to Europe for the first time since 2015. Sailing from the UK once again will be Independence of the Seas, which is a Freedom-Class ship that will replace Anthem of the Seas. 

Other large ships sailing in the region include Odyssey of the Seas, followed by Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas. Brilliance of the Seas will be the smallest ship sailing Europe next summer, which has a capacity of 2,140 passengers.

Voyager of the Seas docked in Costa Maya

Compared to other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean’s European presence is much smaller. For example, competitor Norwegian Cruise Line will be sending eight vessels to Europe in 2024 and 2025. The cruise line’s two newest ships - Norwegian Viva and Norwegian Prima - will both be sailing in Europe during this time.

For Royal Caribbean’s European season, Odyssey of the Seas - which first debuted in 2021 - will be the newest ship sailing in the region. Allure of the Seas is the second newest ship from 2009 followed by Independence of the Seas, which was built in 2008. Royal Caribbean’s other ships scheduled to sail in Europe are all 20+ years old. 

Larger ships are restricted to certain ports due to their size, leading to less varied European itineraries. 

Allure of the Seas docked

Although Royal Caribbean is planning to send bigger ships in the coming summers, this comes with its own set of challenges. Most important, larger ships cannot access certain ports due to size restriction. 

Sailing larger ships around Europe means Royal Caribbean’s itineraries are less varied. You can still find port-intensive sailings, but options are more limited. You’ll only be able to cruise from five departure ports in Europe starting in 2025: Southampton (London), Ravenna (Venice), Civitavecchia (Rome), Piraeus (Athens) and Barcelona.

Notably missing from the European summer schedule in 2025 include the British Isles, Arctic Circle, Baltic cities and Iceland. Royal Caribbean has always offered these European itineraries in the summer, but these sailings in particular are missing from the 2025 schedule. 

If you are looking for more diverse itineraries such as these, you will likely need to check out another cruise line, including sister brand Celebrity Cruises. Even with a smaller fleet, Celebrity Cruises is planning to send six cruise ships to Europe for 2024 (2025 sailings have yet to be released). You can find longer sailings to more interesting, unique destinations throughout Europe. 

Royal Caribbean also released a handful of short European itineraries with very few long sailings scheduled.

Nice, France

One of the most surprising shifts in Royal Caribbean’s planned deployment schedule is the shift towards shorter European sailings. Interestingly enough, there are quite a few short sailings between 2 and 5 nights. 

Although Royal Caribbean has amped its weekend sailing options to the Caribbean, this is one of the first times we’ve seen the cruise line offer shorter itineraries in Europe. For example, you can book a 5-night cruise to Germany and Belgium on Independence of the Seas. In addition, Explorer of the Seas and Allure of the Seas each offer a few 5-night cruises to Italy, France and Spain. 

Looking at the 2025 summer schedule, Royal Caribbean’s website only shows two 12-night sailings. There is one 12-night cruise on Odyssey of the Seas to Greece and Turkey while Independence of the Seas is only sailing one 12-night cruise to the Canary Islands. The deployment schedule for the summer of 2025 shows a few 9-night and 10-night itineraries throughout Europe, but the vast majority are 7-nights.

This is a diversion from Royal Caribbean’s typical European summer schedule, as the cruise line has always offered multiple itineraries for 12-night to 14-night cruises.

Despite "roaring demand" demand for European itineraries, Royal Caribbean is focusing on increased capacity at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In a recent 2023 Q3 earnings call, CEO Jason Liberty specifically called out the unexpected, strong demand for Europe in 2023. 

“While the Caribbean remains a standout performer this year, we were particularly pleased with the strength and quality of cruising demand for European itineraries. This acceleration of demand for Europe contributed to the better-than-expected yield performance for the quarter,” stated Liberty. 

In fact, the accelerated demand for Europe resulted in better-than-expected yield performance for the quarter and is expected to increase revenue for these itineraries. However, according to Royal Caribbean, Europe only accounts for just 17% of the cruise line’s capacity compared to the Caribbean’s share of 55%.

Royal Caribbean is clearly pivoting from other markets to focus on increasing capacity to its private island: Perfect Day at CocoCay. With the new adults-only Hideaway Beach planned for the end of the year, the cruise line is aiming to increase the number of guests to the private destination.

“Obviously, we've planned to open Hideaway Beach at the end of this year in time for Icon and Utopia - that’s going to increase our ability to add more gas to Perfect Day by about 3,000 people. So that allows us then to continue to increase our capacity into Perfect Day,” said President Michael Bayley during the earnings call. 

Royal Caribbean Blog followers expressed disappointment and frustration over the 2025 European deployment schedule. 

With a more limited selection for European itineraries in the coming summers, some cruisers expressed frustration with Royal Caribbean.

To start, many followers mentioned the disappointment with Royal Caribbean’s planned itineraries from Southhampton. “Very poor from Royal for Northern European…Indy has such poor itineraries and nothing for Iceland/Arctic circle? It’s as though we’re an afterthought. Not impressed,” said Mark Middleton on Facebook

“I don’t see Scotland or Ireland. We booked a Scotland/Ireland with NCL. We are pretty loyal to Royal Caribbean but wanted and needed more time to pay it off. Plus with some research it looked like RC was going to be more with nothing included," said Jennifer McCrory.

Follower Lynsey Bolton felt similarly, commenting, “Gutted as no 14 night Med/Canaries cruises for Summer 2025 from Southampton. Will have to try an alternative cruise line but desperately wanted to cruise with RC again!”

In addition, the cruise line has opted to swap the newer Anthem of the Seas with Independence of the Seas - something that many view as a downgrade.

User DS shared, “Real shame that Royal treat the UK clientele so poorly and have put Independence back in Southampton. All other cruise lines bringing new ships while Royal brings a 15-year old tired ship urgently in need of cabin refurbishment. Many UK residents will almost certainly now go elsewhere.”

Other followers were disappointed in Royal Caribbean’s decision to sail older ships to Europe. “Come on Royal Caribbean!! These sailings are second rate for Southampton and Europe .... we deserve better and newer ships too!” said Alison Guest.  Follower Sean Chan agreed, posting, “Love how Royal dumps old ships for Europe itinerary.” 

Royal Caribbean reveals 2025 European cruise itineraries

08 Nov 2023

Following the release of 2025 Alaska cruises, Royal Caribbean has now opened bookings for 2025 European cruises.

Allure of the Seas aerial

A variety of different itineraries will be offered throughout the region. You can cruise to Northern Europe, Norway, the Mediterranean, Greek Isles, and more!

Six cruise ships will sail around Europe between April and October 2025, including Allure of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas.

Here's a breakdown of which ships will be deployed to Europe and where they will be sailing from:

Independence of the Seas will return to the UK and offer cruises from Southampton in 2025.  For the last six years, Anthem of the Seas has offered cruises there, but Royal Caribbean has made a change for the 2025 cruise season.

Independence of the Seas will offer cruises of varying lengths that visit Spain, Portugal, Northern Europe, Norway and more.

Allure of the Seas aerial rear

Allure of the Seas will return to Europe in 2025 and split her time between Barcelona, Spain and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy.

The schedule has Allure of the Seas conducting a transatlantic crossing in February 2025, and then there's a gap in her schedule until April 2025, fueling speculation of a long overdue refurbishment.

Allure of the Seas had her Royal Amplification ship upgrades cancelled in 2020 due to the cruise industry shutdown, and thus, hasn't received the same upgrades her other Oasis Class sister ships have.

Royal Caribbean has not made any official statements confirming Allure of the Seas will be amplified in 2025.

Allure will offer primarily Western Mediterranean cruises, along with a few shorter cruises at the beginning and end of the cruise season. 

Brilliance of the Seas side docked

Brilliance of the Seas will move from Miami to Barcelona in April 2025, and then reposition to Athens (Piraeus), Greece to offer Greek Isles cruises. In August 2025, Brilliance moves to Barcelona and then Southampton to presumably return to the United States for the winter.

Explorer of the Seas will call Ravenna, Italy its home and offer Greek Isles and Adriatic Sea cruises.

Odyssey of the Seas will move from New York to Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy and visit destinations in Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

Read moreWhy Odyssey of the Seas is worth your attention

Voyager of the Seas will also be based in Civitavecchia, and offer 7-night cruises to Greece, Turkey, and around the Adriatic.

The new sailings are available to book via Royal Caribbean's website.

What are the best months to take a European cruise?

In general, the best months to cruise the Mediterranean and Greek Isles are May, June, September, and October. While outside of the peak summer season, these months see more favorable weather. Plus, you'll find fewer land-based tourists at popular attractions. 

You are more likely to spend time visiting cities, rather than lounging on the beach like you would if you were taking a cruise to The Bahamas or Caribbean. Walking around ports Rome, Athens, and Barcelona can be uncomfortable in July and August. 

Rhodes, Greece

Because of the cooler climate, the summer months see lower temperatures in Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Iceland. You'll also have the most daylight. 

RelatedWhen is the best time to go on a cruise?

Booking your 2025 European cruise as early as possible is the best way to ensure that you get the lowest price


The lowest available rate for Royal Caribbean cruises tends to be when itineraries are first released. This, however, does not mean that you cannot find a good deal on a shoulder season voyage closer to the sail date. 

Those with their hearts set on cruising during the peak season should book as easy as possible, though. Over time, prices will go up as more and more cabins are reserved.

Norway flag

Additionally, some highly desirable cruise cabins (i.e., suites and staterooms with unique layouts) sell out quickly or jump in price after the sailings are released. 

Plus, you will be able to be on the hunt for the best airline tickets when they're released and start budgeting for cruise add-ons like shore excursions, as they can be more expensive in Europe than in places like The Bahamas and Caribbean. 

More 2025 deployments coming soon

There's plenty more deployments coming for the 2025-2026 cruise season.

The new deployments will take a small break for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then we can expect 7-night Caribbean cruises to kick things back up in early December.

2025-2026 deployment schedule
  • Week of November 13, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 1)
  • Week of December 4, 2023: 7-night Caribbean (Phase 2)
  • Week of February 12, 2024: Short Caribbean, Los Angeles & Northeast 
  • Week of February 19, 2024: Long Caribbean

Keep in mind the sailings could be released at any point within that week, and not necessarily on the first day of the listed week.

More about European cruises:

I’ve been on 3 European cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

17 May 2023

As someone who cruises for a living, I always see passengers making the same mistakes over and over again. From flying the same day as their cruise to wearing the wrong shoes, there are rookie mistakes that should be avoided when cruising anywhere in the world.

I recently returned from my third European cruise, a Western Mediterranean itinerary visiting Italy, Malta, Spain, and France. European cruises are among the most popular itineraries Royal Caribbean offers, but navigating the ins and outs of cruising Europe can be challenging for first time travelers to the continent.

During my most recent sailing, along with two others last year, I noticed passengers making the same few mistakes that were negatively impacting their experience both in port and onboard. Whether cramming too many activities into one day or walking around with a painful blister, I couldn’t help but wish those passengers could have read these tips before their cruise began.

Here are the top 12 mistakes you should avoid on a European cruise.

Booking shore excursions in every port

Many cruisers, especially those visiting Europe for the first time, think they need to book an excursion in every port. For most case scenarios, I advise against doing this, and instead having a mix of excursions and self-exploration.

Shore excursions are convenient when on a European cruise, as they allow you to experience each port’s top destinations, whether the Colosseum in Rome or Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that shore excursions are necessary in ports where the city center is far from the port. If your itinerary visits Florence, as an example, it will take around 90 minutes to reach the city center from where your ship docks in Livorno.

Although you could try to visit Florence on your own, traveling so far without an organized excursion may increase your risk of missing the ship.

Related: What happens if you miss your cruise ship?

So while excursions are almost required in some ports, they aren’t necessary in others. Some cities, such as Valletta in Malta, are located just a few minutes’ walk or a short shuttle bus ride from the port.

In these ports, I find it more enjoyable to walk around on my own without worrying about a tour group. With a little research ahead of time, you can experience the destination’s attractions on your own, which can save you time, money, and increase flexibility while visiting.

Cramming too much in one day

Shore excursion or not, try not to cram too much into a single port day on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

It’s tempting to try and experience as much as possible during each port day. With only a few hours in each port, I always see cruisers rushing around trying to tick items off a list. More often than not, they don’t look like they’re having fun.

Sometimes less is more, especially when planning a cruise ship port day. Try not to rush from museum to cathedral to restaurant to souvenir shop to museum to cathedral. Instead, pick one or two things you’d like to see and spend ample time at each destination.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

I find that when I try to cram too much into one day, I see “everything” but at the same time experience nothing. Picking one or two attractions allows me to fully immerse myself in the destination without feeling too overwhelmed and exhausted.

In fact, my favorite moments when cruising Europe haven’t necessarily been the port’s “highlights” but the small moments, such as people watching in a park or strolling through picturesque, cobblestone streets without a destination in mind.

Not accounting for hot temperatures

Royal Caribbean’s cruise season runs from late April to October each year, and temperatures can get uncomfortably warm during the peak summer months.

On a Caribbean cruise you can counteract a hot, humid day by swimming in the beach or pool. On a European cruise, though, you’re more likely to spend your days walking around cities and sightseeing rather than taking a dip in the ocean.

In the middle of summer, walking around cruise ports in Europe can get extremely warm. It’s possible to see temperatures in the 90s which, under a beating sun, can quickly make you feel miserable.

Related: What is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

Keeping temperatures in mind when planning your cruise is recommended. If your schedule is flexible, consider cruising in the early or late season when temperatures are more mild. If you are cruising during the summer, be sure to stay hydrated and plan the majority of sightseeing in the morning before it gets too warm.

Taking an afternoon break in the shade, such as when dining in a restaurant or grabbing a drink, can also help make warm summer days more tolerable.

Flying in the day before a European cruise

Airplane in the clouds

Most flights to Europe are red-eye flights, meaning they depart North America in the evening and arrive in Europe the following morning. Although we always suggest heading to your cruise port the day before your cruise begins, it’s advised to fly to Europe two days before embarkation day.

If your cruise starts on Wednesday and you fly to Europe Tuesday night, you will arrive in Europe just a few hours before your cruise begins. This does not leave much, if any, wiggle room for airline delays and cancellations.

Related: 7 tips for a great Mediterranean cruise

Plus, extensive travel time from airport to port may be required in select European cruise ports. If your cruise embarks in Ravenna, Italy and you fly into Venice, you’ll need to take a multi-hour train or shuttle bus journey from the airport to the Ravenna cruise port.

Therefore, flying two days before your cruise begins gives you an entire ~24 hours to spend in your embarkation city before your cruise begins. You can use this time to sightsee, recoup from jet lag, and kick off your vacation early.

Only booking Western Mediterranean itineraries

Western Mediterranean itineraries are the most popular cruise itineraries in Europe. They visit some of the continent’s most famous cities—Rome, Florence, and Barcelona, among others—and offer a nice starting point to exploring Europe.

Regardless of their popularity, I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed cruising on other itineraries in Europe far more than the Western Mediterranean. I found ports in the Western Mediterranean to be much more crowded than other destinations and many required lengthy distances to reach the city center from the port.

Related: Western Mediterranean cruise guide

Most of these destinations really require several days to experience the city’s highlights—I personally find (most of) them more suitable for a land-based vacation.

When visiting Naples, for example, it’s practically impossible to visit the city, Pompeii, and Amalfi coast in just one day. The same goes for a city like Rome, where you’ll be so rushed on a one day tour that it could be more stressful than relaxing.

There’s nothing wrong with booking a Western Mediterranean itinerary, and I definitely enjoyed my recent cruise in the region, but don’t overlook cruises to other European destinations like the Adriatic, Greece, Norway, and northern Spain and France.

If you are planning a Western Mediterranean cruise, I highly recommend spending a few days in your embarkation/disembarkation cities before and/or after the cruise. This will give you extra time to see and experience things you simply cannot fit into a short port day.

Not grabbing lunch in port

I always have lunch or snacks in port while cruising in Europe even though there’s included food onboard my cruise ship.

As delicious as the food on a Royal Caribbean cruise can be, I still make it a point to try local cuisine while in port. After all, how could you cruise to Italy and not try fresh pasta or visit France without eating a crêpe?

Related: Must-eat foods on a cruise to Italy

One of the most common mistakes I see cruisers make, whether they realize it or not, is avoiding spending money on food in port. Instead of heading back to the ship for lunch, why not enjoy a meal at an outdoor restaurant? Not only will you get to taste local cuisine, but it will provide ample people watching opportunities and allow you to take a breather on an otherwise busy port day.

Even if you don’t have time for a full sit-down meal, hop in a local bakery or ice cream shop for a snack. Trying local food can offer just as much insight into a port’s culture as visiting monuments or museums, and it’s a whole lot tastier!

Wearing brand new shoes

I should really follow my own advice.

Here at Royal Caribbean Blog, I constantly advise readers to never wear new shoes in port, especially if your port days will require heavy walking.

Just last month, as I prepared for my Western Mediterranean cruise, I bought a new pair of white sneakers. Not wanting to get them dirty, I decided to wait until I got to Europe to break them in. Let’s just say this was a huge mistake, and I spent the next five days with a massive blister that negatively affected my time in port.

Related: 22 unpleasant cruise ship problems you aren’t prepared for

If you’re planning a European cruise, be sure to break in any new shoes before the trip. Wear them to run errands, take your dog for a walk, and even to work. While blisters are not enjoyable regardless of when you get one, it’s a lot better to recover from a blister at home rather than on a cruise.

Getting tender tickets too late

Depending on your cruise itinerary, you may have to use a tender port to travel from ship to shore on a port day. One of the most common mistakes I see cruisers making when visiting Europe is waiting too long to get tender tickets.

Certain ports in Europe, including Mykonos, Santorini, and Kotor, are tender ports, meaning you cannot walk directly off the ship onto a pier. For these ports, you must collect a tender ticket which you will use to board a smaller boat to bring you ashore.

Related: What does tender mean on a cruise ship?

Royal Caribbean will provide information on where and when you can collect tender tickets. I strongly advise getting a tender ticket as soon as you can, even if it means waiting in line for a few minutes before tickets begin being distributed.

The earlier you get a tender ticket, the earlier your ticket’s number will be called, which signals when you are allowed to disembark the ship. If you wait too long to collect a ticket, you might find yourself waiting onboard for a few hours before you can disembark.

Being careless with belongings while in port

One of the worst situations that can happen on a cruise is losing your personal belongings, whether a phone, camera, wallet, or passport.

It’s easy to be distracted on a port day. You’re in a completely new environment where your senses are engaged with the sights, smells, and sounds of the destination. Nevertheless, it’s critical to remain aware of your surroundings at all times, including where you put valuables while sightseeing, or you may lose your belongings.

Related: Where to keep SeaPass card, phone, and cash when on a shore excursion?

I’m not innocent of making this mistake. Last year, when on a cruise to Kotor, I accidentally left a personal belonging on our table at lunch. Luckily I realized my mistake before getting back onboard and the waiter recognized me and immediately handed me the belonging.

Fortunately the situation resolved itself without any issues, but it easily could have gone worse if I didn’t realize I had left something or if someone else had taken the item before the waiter cleaned our table.

You should never keep valuables in your back pocket while sightseeing, especially in busy areas. Likewise, I recommend putting your backpack or purse at your feet or on your lap while dining outdoors—hanging it from the back of your chair makes it easier for pickpockets to snatch.

My favorite travel essential is an anti-theft backpack that only opens from a zipper against my back. I never have to worry about someone opening the bag without me knowing, making me feel secure when on busy public transportation or in tourist areas.

Related: 40 essential things to bring on a cruise

Not walking leading up to the trip

Most cruisers will experience a lot more walking on a European cruise compared to their day to day life at home. One of the most common mistakes on a European cruise is not realizing the amount of walking that may be required in your cruise ports.

Most places in North America are not nearly as walkable as European cities. This means that many Americans and Canadians, especially those living in the suburbs and rural areas, are not accustomed to walking long distances every day.

Because of this, many visitors to Europe find themselves (and their feet) exhausted from walking. To avoid feeling exhausted, one of the best ways to prepare for a European cruise is to increase your walking time while at home.

If you don’t already, start incorporating daily walks into your routine. If possible, walk a few miles each day in the shoes you plan to wear on your European cruise. Although you might feel sore initially, it will make your time sightseeing in Europe more enjoyable.

Taking out currency ahead of time

First time cruisers to Europe may assume they should take out European currency in the United States before flying to Europe, but this isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s almost an antiquated practice.

Avoid the hassle of figuring out where to order euros from the United States and visit an ATM once in Europe instead. ATMs are widely available in all European ports, and it’s much easier to take out cash once you arrive.

Related: How much cash should you bring on a cruise?

Plus, you probably don’t need much cash, either. Most places in port will take credit card payments, even family-owned businesses. In fact, some destinations, such as the United Kingdom, may have businesses that are completely cashless.

If you’re cruising to countries using the euro, I still recommend taking out around 100 euros. It’s possible you may come across small restaurants and souvenir stands that do not accept cards, so having cash on hand may be useful.

Disembarking the ship too late

I’ve been to over a dozen diverse European cruise ports, but one thing remains the same in all of them: the earlier you get off the ship, the fewer crowds you’ll experience.

One of the worst mistakes I see people making over and over when cruising Europe is disembarking the ship too late. Your experience in port can vary widely if you disembark at 8AM versus 11AM, so waking up early is completely worth it.

I always make sure to disembark the ship in port as soon as the gangway opens. During the morning hours, temperatures are more pleasant and crowds are far fewer. Even in a busy cruise port like Mykonos, which is known for huge crowds, I’ve had areas of the town completely to myself.

Around 11AM you will begin to notice huge crowds in many ports. Streets become crowded and hard to walk through, beaches fill up, and transportation from the port to the city center may require waiting in line.

If you wake up early and do your sightseeing in the morning, you can take the afternoon to relax, whether enjoying a glass of wine at a waterfront bar or swimming in the Mediterranean. Navigating crowds isn’t fun for anyone, and getting off the ship early helps make your experience much nicer.

I boarded my first European cruise. How different is it from a USA cruise

15 May 2023

How different is a Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe from one in North America?

Cruising from England

I asked myself that question when I booked my first cruise on the other side of the pond, sailing on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton.

Royal Caribbean strives itself on providing as consistent an experience as it can across the fleet, but there are bound to be regional differences. In fact, cruises from Asia on Spectrum of the Seas have their own suite class and benefits!

Read moreRoyal Caribbean suites guide & review

In my pre-cruise planning, I realized there would be a few nuances that would make this different from most other Royal Caribbean cruises I've sailed on.  Of course, "different" doesn't mean "bad" either.

Arriving in Southampton

Yesterday I boarded Anthem of the Seas and the experience could not have been smoother, but I found as we sailed away a few differences than I was used to when it comes to embarkation day. I'll have another post later to cover the nuances of the entire voyage.

Read more30 Do's and Don'ts for the first day of your cruise

Here are the 4 things I noticed that were different about a European cruises compared to one from the United States.

Jet lag makes getting acclimated difficult

Cabin on plane

Many of you know not to fly to your cruise the same day it begins, but when you're flying to a different continent, you need more time pre-cruise to get in position.

Read moreFlight attendant shares 20 tips to minimize air travel fiascos

The tip of flying in a day early is meant to ensure a travel delay doesn't impact your ability to make the cruise if there were a travel delay, but the time change can wreak havoc on your ability to enjoy the beginning of the cruise.

Street in London

Jet lag is annoying enough on its own, but if you're extremely tired in the afternoon and wide awake at 2am, that can lead to a very frustrating start to the cruise.

Most people acclimate to their new time zone in 2 or 3 days after arriving, but that's more than a quarter of your cruise. Considering how much is happening onboard, you don't want to spend your days sleeping and nights awake and annoyed.

Empty London street

If at all possible, it's a good idea to fly in and spend a few days pre-cruise in the city you're sailing from.  

Read more4 mistakes & 7 things I did right on my Royal Caribbean European cruise

I flew in two days before my cruise set sail, which meant I was set with England's local time. The added bonus of exploring London was lovely as well.

Big ben

Not only will this allow you to get on local time, but you'll likely want to explore these historical cities.

Getting to the cruise port requires more steps and planning

Train station in England

You might disagree with me on this point, but I found the logistics of getting from airport/city to cruise terminal more complicated than in the United States.

No matter which city you sail from in the United States, you can easily go from airport or hotel to cruise terminal via taxi, bus, or ride share.  Each cruise terminal in the United States is located less than an hour from a major airport (assuming traffic isn't a factor).


My cruise from Southampton required a great deal more forethought and planning than anything I've done before.

To get from London to Southampton, I had to:

  1. Take a taxi or subway ride to Waterloo Station
  2. Take a 2 hour train ride from London to Southampton
  3. Take a 2 minute taxi ride or walk 10 minutes to the cruise terminal

On top of all of this, I had to factor in the issue of a nation-wide rail strike that crippled mass transit in the two days before the cruise departed.  

England train

I tried to think of the worst commute to a cruise terminal in the United States, and settled on Galveston or Los Angeles as being the most difficult to get to the terminal from where you might start your journey.

Galveston used to be very difficult given the distance from the Houston area airports to Galveston island, but now that Lyft and Uber are allowed to operate, it's become considerably simpler.

Royal Caribbean cruise ships sailing from Los Angeles actually sail from San Pedro, and that's just a longer car ride away.

Trains in England

In both cases, most people use a taxi or car service to get to them, and it's essentially one step to go from their starting point (i.e. hotel or airport) to cruise terminal.

I might be overly critical of a cultural difference in attitudes towards public transportation, but at the very least, planning my commute from London to Southampton required more planning than any US cruise.

Different beers available

English beers

One nice benefit of cruising in Europe is there are more beers to choose from.

I've always found Royal Caribbean's beer selections to be lacking, especially in today's world of craft beers. If you want something more than big-name beers, it's slim pickings on Royal Caribbean.

In an attempt to be more appealing to the high number of Brits onboard, Royal Caribbean offers more beers than normal.

You'll find more ciders, as well as a few different brand of beers.

When a ship returns to the United States after a European cruise season, they sometimes have a few leftovers on the first sailing back, but they go quickly.

Read more30 Best European cruise tips

Some examples of beers you won't find in the States include Magners Irish Cider, Old Speckled Hen, Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger, and Sipsmith.

Beer drinkers are sure to find more brews to enjoy on a European cruise.

Electric kettle in the cabin

Electric kettle

One thing you'll never find on a Royal Caribbean cruise in the United States is an electric kettle in your cabin.

Since tea is such a big part of English culture, an electric kettle is included in cabins for guests to use.

Usually electrical appliances are forbidden because of a fire hazard, but I'm guessing these kettles are vetted for safety and offer the convenience English passengers want.

Read moreWhat can you not bring on a cruise

Boarding was as easy as the USA

Boarding ship in Southampton

Not all cruise ports are built equally when it comes to the embarkation process, but I'm happy to say the check-in and boarding process in Southampton was just as good as any port in the United States.

I arrived around 11:30am and boarding had already begun, so it was quite a quick process.

Checking in at Southampton

There were ample porters to take luggage, and then the security check and checking in went quite quickly.  

Since I completed my pre-cruise check-in, it was just a matter of double-checking everything and being on my way.  

Considering how janky the pier check-in process has been in ports like Los Angeles, Southampton was a breeze!

I’m going on my first European cruise: Here’s what I think I should do

02 May 2023

After years of cruising exclusively in North America, I'm ready to try my first Royal Caribbean cruise in Europe.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

A cruise to Europe had been on my radar for a long time, but timing and a cruise industry shutdown prevented me from getting there until now. Thanks to a semi-last-minute opportunity, I'm taking my first European cruise and it'll be a Norwegian Fjords cruise later this month.

I'm booked on a 7-night Norwegian Fjords cruise on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton, England that will visit Haugesund, Geiranger, Olden, and Bergen, Norway.

Geiranger Fjord, Norway

Not only have I always wanted to try a cruise from Europe, the idea of a colder weather cruise held much more appeal to me as I enjoy a break from the endless summer that I "enjoy" living in Florida.

While the Royal Caribbean cruise ship experience is fairly consistent across the fleet and around the world, cruising to Europe is bound to bring its own differences and nuances that will be a challenge compared to what I'm used to.

Besides the obvious travel requirements to get from the United States to England, I realized there's going to be a number of changes on how I cruise and logistics I have to plan for prior to my arrival.

I've done about as much research as I can leading up to my cruise in just two weeks, and here are the things I'm planning to do before I take my first European cruise.

Convert some cash into Pounds and Euros

World currencies

While I don't think anyone would not take US Dollars, I believe it's a good idea to get at least some cash in both Great British Pounds and Euros for when I'm off the ship.

Royal Caribbean certainly takes dollars (like in the casino), but I'll be spending a few days before and after the cruise in London (more on that later in this post), along with time on shore in Norway.

At first I thought I would just rely on a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, especially since credit cards are so widely used in Europe. But I think having at least some spending cash in local currency will greatly benefit me, especially if there's street foods or other quick transactions necessary.

Currency exchange windows

My plan is to get cash for my cruise before the cruise from my bank, and then do a currency exchange once I get into London. Airport currency exchange kiosks are convenient, but one benefit of having a few days in London before my cruise is I can take the time to get a better rate at spot in the city.

I'm not entirely sure how much local currency I'll actually need and/or want to change, but I figure there will be additional opportunities to do so again later.  Plus, I could always change back to Dollars prior to my flight home.

Buy a travel adaptor

Travel adaptor

Between the Airbnb I booked, trains I'll take, and places I'll visit, I'm going to need to keep my phone and laptop charged and my US plugs won't work.

I didn't own any travel adaptors, so I set out to find one that will work in both England and Norway. 

In my research, I found a ton of similar devices that would do the trick. I settled on the EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter (this is an affiliate link, which means I get a small commission but there's no extra cost to you) primarily because it was the Amazon recommended option and seemed to be priced well among its peers.

It's an all-in-one adapter that has 4 USB-A ports (2.4A), 1 USB-C port (3A), and 1 AC socket.

Spend a few days pre-cruise in London

London townhouse

No matter where you cruise, it's a good idea to always fly in at least one day before your cruise begins.

I'll be spending two nights before my cruise in London, which will provide plenty of time to adjust to local time and more importantly, see the city.

Street in London

I've never been to London, so I booked an Airbnb in the Mayfair district so that I could be centrally located.  My plan is to explore on my own and start my trip off with sightseeing and plenty of local food.

London seems like a very easy city to navigate via the London Underground (tube), so I'm optimistic about my chances of working a lot in.

Take the train from London to Southampton

Train to Southampton

Anthem of the Seas sails from Southampton, which is about an hour and a half away via a train ride.

It takes about an hour and there's lots of trains that go there and it seems like the most cost-effective way to get there. I could also take a taxi or bus, but traffic concerns are pushing me towards the train.

Waterloo station

Once I get to Southampton Central Station, I'll take a taxi.  I believe it will cost around £10/$13 and takes 10 minutes by taxi.

My only concern with this plan is there could be a rail strike planned for that weekend. The idea of strikes impacting travel like this is quite foreign in the United States.

I can always fall back on an Uber ride if all else fails, so I'll leave that as my contingency plan.

Skip excursions in some ports

Rib boat Norwegian fjord

If I've learned one thing from my friend Emma Cruises, it's the importance of doing things on your own in port in Europe.

There are lots of shore excursions you can book, but most of the towns in Norway are small towns you can easily walk and do things on your own.

View of Bergen in Norway

Certainly in Bergen, my plan is to forgo any tour and explore on my own. The funicular railway seems quite easy to do on your own, plus the city has lots to see.

In other ports, I do have Royal Caribbean tours booked simply to get easily to the fjords.  My overarching goal is to see the fjords and natural wonders of Norway, so I want to ensure I see them.  To that point, I have booked a few tours through the cruise line.

Olden, Norway

I don't think booking a tour through Royal Caribbean is a mistake by any means, but I'm sure I could book similar tours on my own for cheaper. The only risk with going through Royal Caribbean is if the weather is worse when your tour is slated, you may not get a great view compared to someone who was able to go later because they went on their own schedule.

No matter where you book your tours, it's very important to book them as early as you can because of how quickly shore excursions are selling out.


In the case of Haugesund, we leave early (7am to 3pm), so I decided it was more important to stick with the cruise line.

Given it's my first time in Norway, I'm a bit apprehensive about getting around, so I'm probably being more cautious than necessary.

Pack for Norway like an Alaska cruise

Ship in Geiranger

In doing research for a Norwegian Fjords cruise, it became quickly apparent how similar the weather is to an Alaska cruise.

Just like Alaska, the weather can change rapidly, so you'll need proper clothing to adjust to rain, sun, cold, and warm conditions.


In short, the weather in Norway can be highly variable, and can also change dramatically from morning to afternoon.

The best strategy is to pack in layers. This means going with the three layers to pack:

  • Base layer: t-shirt and jeans
  • Warm layer: Fleece or down jacket/sweater
  • Waterproof layer: Thin waterproof jacket suitable for when it rains

At the very least, I'll pack my waterproof shoes, a waterproof jacket, jeans, and a couple of hoodies.

Since I have proper clothing from my Alaska cruise last summer, there isn't much I have to buy specifically for this cruise.

Read moreThe worst cruise packing mistakes to avoid

Lots of sun (even at night)

Bergen, Norway sunset

Another similarity to Alaska cruises is how late the sun sets in Norway.

Summer in Northern Europe means the sun sets much later than what we're used to at home.

The average sunset time in May in Norway is 09:49 pm.

Seascape of Norway

It's an adjustment, but after a day or two you'll get used to it.  In my Alaska cruises, I don't recall ever struggling to go to sleep, although it is odd to see sunlight outside your cabin.

I don't think I'll need to go to the lengths of packing an eye mask, as the cabin curtains usually does the trick for me. Even when I take an afternoon nap, the room can get quite dark.  I will need to remember to pack a hair clip to ensure the curtains stay together.

Book a balcony cabin

Oceanview balcony cabin on Anthem of the Seas

If there aren't enough Alaska cruise comparisons yet, one more is the importance of booking a balcony cabin.

Even though I'm going solo on this cruise, I decided to book a balcony for the casual scenery viewing opportunities.


As the ship sails up and down the coast of Norway, there will be lots to see around us and my plan is to either be in the cabin or my balcony so I can quickly see things going by.

When I was in Alaska last year, we didn't have a balcony and I regretted not being able to quickly pop outside to see what was happening and then back inside. 

Royal Caribbean reveals 2024 European cruise itineraries, with Oasis and Anthem going back to Europe

16 Nov 2022

You can book a Royal Caribbean cruise for summer 2024 beginning today!

Oasis of the Seas aerial

The new sailings are available to book via Royal Caribbean's website, offering a variety of ships and itineraries during the summer months when Royal Caribbean deploys its cruise ships to the region.

There are sailings between May and October 2024 to book across 6 different ships.

Anthem of the Seas docked in Southampton

Here is a breakdown of where the ships will be sailing from:

Anthem of the Seas will sail from Southampton, UK and offer cruises of various lengths to destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway and the Canary Islands.

Explorer of the Seas will sail from Barcelona & Venice to offer primarily Adriatic and Greek Isle cruises.

Jewel of the Seas will sail from Amsterdam and offer 11-, 12-, and 13-night cruises around the British Isles and Iceland. Jewel will also offer Arctic circle sailings, including a 17-night Iceland and Greenland cruise.

Oasis of the Seas will sail from Barcelona and Rome and offer Spain, France & Italy cruises in the Western Mediterranean.

Odyssey of the Seas docked in Haifa

Odyssey of the Seas will sail from Rome to offer Greek Isles and Holy Land cruises to Israel.

Serenade of the Seas will sail from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Barcelona as it participates in the World Cruise.  Two segments of the 274-night world tour will include European stops.

The Ultimate Middle East and Med Cruise begins in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, visiting Greece, Turkey, Croatia and more along the way before reaching Rome. In store on the Ultimate Europe and Beyond cruise, starting in Barcelona, are culture-rich destinations like Spain, Ireland, France and more.

Voyager of the Seas will sail from Ravenna and Rome, Barcelona, and Athens, Greece on 7-night sailings to Greece, the Western Mediterranean, Egypt and Israel.  (Cruises open Friday, Nov. 18)

View the full itineraries here:

This is the second 2024 deployment released so far, as Royal Caribbean released Alaska 2024 cruises last week.

Year-round and summer Caribbean cruises are scheduled to be released during the week of December 12, 2022, with the rest of the 2024 sailings to be released "soon". Historically, this means the rest will be released in the early spring, around March or April.

Booking early can save you money

Thinking about booking a cruise a year and a half away may seem excessive, but it is one of the best ways to get the best price on a cruise.

Generally speaking, the lowest prices for cruises are available when new itineraries are released, such as these Europe 2024 sailings. Over time, prices will go up as more and more cabins are booked up.

If you are interested in a suite, the importance of booking early is even more apparent, as these cabins usually jump up in price quickly after release.

Couple using tablet in Europe

No matter what the price is today, you can always take advantage of a lower price later with the Best Price Guarantee program, which allows for repricing of cruises in case of a price drop up until final payment date. This is available to residents of the United States and Canada, as well as select other nations.

Besides cost savings, booking early also ensures you get the exact cabin you want. A lot of cruise fans gobble up the most desirable cabins when new sailings hit the market, such as suites, extra large balcony rooms and other unique staterooms.

Best Months to Cruise the Mediterranean

Odyssey of the Seas in the Mediterranean Sea

From the sunny beaches of Spain to the historic ruins of Greece, there is something for everyone in the Mediterranean. But when is the best time to cruise the Mediterranean?

In general, the best months to cruise the Mediterranean are May, June, September, and October. The weather is warm but not too hot, and the seas are typically calm.


April and May are ideal months to cruise the Mediterranean. The weather is comfortable and the crowds are thin, making it the perfect time to explore everything the region has to offer. 

Overall, these months offer the ideal combination of weather and conditions for a relaxing and enjoyable cruise.

Planning on booking a 2024 cruise? These stories will help:

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