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Date: 01/11/2016

Cruising Europe combines the best of intimate exploration and pampered comfort

As cruising has become more popular, the range of packages available and the luxury services they offer have expanded to satisfy all tastes. Europe offers a huge range of cruising opportunities, whether through its extensive river system or voyaging through its seas to its varied destinations, including warm Mediterranean cities and the atmospheric towns of the Baltics and Scandinavia. While flying is the best means of travel when you need to get somewhere quickly, nothing is better than a cruise for travel that is all about savouring the journey in style with every amenity you need.

Shipshape in sunny climes

Mediterranean cruises can take in a range of countries, from the nations of the western region such as France and Spain to the more easterly Greece and Italy, and even the Canary Islands and North Africa. Some Mediterranean cruises go as far as Israel and Turkey. The hard part of a Mediterranean journey is narrowing the focus and deciding where to go. The western Mediterranean offers beaches, culture, cafes and great shopping, while the eastern Mediterranean is full of antiquities, atmospheric villages and some stunning coastal areas. The best way to see the Greek Islands is obviously on a boat and a cruise here can also include Cyprus, with its beaches and wine producing areas, and the Adriatic coast of Italy and Croatia.

Rivers of delight

Europe is home to some majestic waterways - the Danube, the Rhine and the Seine. Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland are countries that can all be memorably experienced on board a boat. There are ancient castles to see in the Rhine Valley, vineyards and chateaux in France, and breathtaking scenery of magnificent forests and traditional villages along the Danube. While you could easily fly from Berlin to Prague, taking a week or more to make the journey by sailing along the Elbe river is a much more satisfying way of immersing yourself in the culture and landscape of Germany and the Czech Republic. Along the way travellers could stop off and experience the grandeur of rebuilt Dresden or see where the Protestant Reformation was born in Wittenberg. Arriving in Prague by boat and seeing sights such as the Charles Bridge and the Old Town's historic architecture, along with the city's magnificent castle, will not be forgotten anytime soon.

Heading north

The Baltics and northern Europe offer a different range of experiences again, as cruise ships crest waves that once bore the Vikings to new opportunities. Many Baltic cruises stop off in St Petersburg, a glorious mixture of art and architecture that still encapsulates the grandeur of Imperial Russia. A boat is ideal for venturing to admire the beauty of Norway's stunning fjords. A cruise through this region could encompass the thrilling combination of traditional and modern that is Stockholm and stop off at the enchanting medieval town of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia on the Gulf of Finland. From there it is a short distance to Helsinki, the capital of Finland, which was largely rebuilt in the 19th century under the guidance of a German architect named Carl Ludwig Engel. Many of his important buildings are still there. From here it is a pleasant sail to Oslo, the capital of Norway, on the country’s southern coast.