Europe is home to fantastic cruise destinations, and many beautiful sites in the region are accessible through small boat cruises. A small boat cruise in Europe is especially suited for travellers who want to discover the region’s history and natural beauty without the need to navigate the roads and spend plenty of time planning where to stay.
Here are the five European destinations for luxury small boat cruises.
- The Fjords – Norway
When cruising in Europe, consider the Norwegian fjords. There’s a wide variety of route options, but the most popular itineraries start in Bergen, which then goes to Oslo, Flam, the Geiranger and Geirangerfjord, Stavanger, Svalbard, and Eidfjord.
Steeped in history, Bergen is the port of call of most Norwegian cruises. The best way to explore the city is on foot, especially in the old wharf area, home to numerous restaurants, shops, and museums. Oslo is the next stop from Bergen. The bustling city is home to various museums centred around Norway’s maritime industry. Next, your cruise will take you to Flam, a beautiful small town sandwiched between snow-capped mountains and the Aurlandsfjord. The Geiranger and Geirangerfjord are some of the highlights of your cruise, especially the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord and its majestic waterfalls.
Stavanger is the next stop from Geirangerfjord, home to some unique museums, including the Norwegian Petroleum Museum and the Norwegian Canning Museum. From Stavanger, the next stop is Svalbard, one of Norway’s Arctic islands, famous for its unique wildlife, such as polar bears and arctic foxes. The final destination is Eidfjord, a tiny village in Hardangerfjord.
- The Seine River – France
Cruising along the river Seine from Paris is an experience you’ll never forget. Take in the elegance and culture of the world’s most romantic city, the charm of Normandy, and the picturesque coastal towns. A river cruise along the River Seine, provides the perfect opportunity to see France from a different perspective, as you get to sit back and relax whilst taking in the most impressive sites.
You’ll find many route options when cruising the Seine, but most trips will start in Paris, where you’ll take in the major sights like the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower before heading to the charming region of Normandy. You’ll stop at Vernon to visit the house and gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny. Your journey continues to Les Andelys, Rouen, and Honfleur.
Honfleur, the final stop of your small boat cruise, is a pretty little town believed to be the inspiration for most of Monet’s paintings. Here, you’ll find the beautiful harbour lined by colourful houses, while narrow streets wind their way towards ancient towns. It’s also an ideal base for day trips to the gorgeous Normandy coast.
- The Venice Lagoon – Italy
The Venetian Lagoon is an enclosed bay in northern Italy along the Adriatic Sea, where the picturesque Italian city of Venice is. It is a popular destination for a luxury small boat cruise in Europe, especially for those who want to explore the charm of Venice.
Of all the islands within the Venetian lagoon, the most popular ones are Murano and Burano. In Murano, you’ll witness the glass-making demonstrations in one of its glass factories and laboratories. Meanwhile, Burano is famous for its colourful houses and lacemaking industry. You will then cruise to Chioggia, a charming little town dubbed Little Venice. Here, feast on the freshest seafood from local markets before arriving in Venice, where you can enjoy romantic gondola rides and visit the city’s iconic sites.
As you take the gondola ride in Venice, marvel at the maze of canals and beautiful bridges, including the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sights. After your gondola ride, stroll through the city and head to Piazza San Marco, the central square, home to the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica. Visit the Doge’s Palace, Santa Maria Della Salute, and the Museo Ebraico di Venezia before retreating to your boat to relax in your suite.
- The Dalmatian Coast – Croatia
The stunning Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is one of Europe’s best destinations for a luxury cruise. As you sail through its sparkling turquoise waters, marvel at the majestic coastal scenery that will surely take your breath away! There are several small ship cruises sailing around Croatia, allowing for the best way to see multiple sites in one trip. Your cruise will take you to picturesque seaside villages, gorgeous islands, and sophisticated waterfront resorts where you can relax and enjoy some fun activities.
Most luxury small boat cruises in Croatia will depart in the UNESCO-listed cities of Split and Dubrovnik. It then goes to the gorgeous coastal town of Opatija, a charming town on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea. The Dalmatian Coast stretches to the southern Bay of Kotor from Rab Island, offering a great selection of magnificent historical landmarks, beautiful beaches, and fun activities.
The most popular cruises to the Dalmatian Coast start in the historic city of Split to the walled city of Dubrovnik. The scenic route will visit various idyllic islands for a unique and unforgettable journey. Before leaving Split, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy a scenic stroll around the country’s most popular attractions, including the massive Diocletian Palace, a majestic complex built for the Roman emperor Diocletian during the 4th Century AD.
- The Oxford Canal – England
The South Oxford Canal is one of England’s prettiest waterways, linking the Thames to the Midlands during the 18th century. Nowadays, the canal offers superb cruising opportunities taking you through the gorgeous English countryside of stone villages noted for their magnificent scenery and beautiful bridges.
Meanwhile, the North Oxford Canal goes through Braunston village, meeting the South Oxford Canal at Napton Junction. After climbing Napton locks, you’ll find a beautiful town on Napton Hill. This 11-mile summit section spirals through scenic hills towards Claydon before going down to Oxford.
Continuing your cruise, venture into the picturesque Cotswold village of Cropredy, famous for its striking thatched stone cottages, beautiful churches, and pubs, before arriving in Banbury. The route will then take you to the gorgeous Cherwell valley past Lower Heyford and into Oxford, where you’ll find its historic University. This small boat cruise can take up to a week on a return trip. Allow time for short breaks and exploration.