European Cruises - Going on a cruise around Europe

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If you've ever wanted to 'do' Europe, you may well have been put off by the effort that could entail. It's not just the thought of hauling suitcases and family from city to city, it's the languages. So many countries where people won't be able to understand you. And some, which shall remain nameless (France), where they will pretend not to understand you, even - or especially, more like - if you're trying to speak their own tongue.

European cruises won't solve all of these concerns but they will eliminate the suitcase problem and lessen the language barrier all in one by providing you with comfort and continuity as you traverse the aquatic highways and byways of the continent. The options for European cruises, coastal and river/canal-based, are enormous. You could sail from Portugal to Spain, through France's Bordeaux region (stopping for the odd verre du vin or three, of course), hop along the Channel Islands, chill out in Amsterdam and end up hitting the tiles in London town. You could explore the Baltic coastline in a liner. Or you could join a yacht cruise in the Greek islands - yachts, which can take up to 300 passengers, are a particularly thrilling way to sail. Destinations for these 'soft adventure' cruises typically include Malta, northern Europe, Greece and Turkey and often attract would-be or actual sailors.

Because of their size, the large ocean-going vessels which cruise the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Baltic region and other European coastal regions are able to offer a wider range of facilities than their smaller river bound cousins: pools, spas and health centres, theatres, casinos and shops. But there are advantages to smaller boats - the classic intimate style of a small vessel such as the Hebridean Princess can match (and some might say surpass) an indoor cinema or pool bar for entertainment value any day.

A good river cruise is an excellent way to explore the scenery and culture of the continent's interior. And much of the landscape on the Rhine, Danube and other European rivers is straight out of a storybook - castles where a maiden might be letting down her hair from a turret; brooding cathedrals and abbeys. These boats will typically carry between 50 and 200 people.

Even more intimate are barge cruises - usually for only 5 to 20 passengers. A barge is perfect for a gently paced holiday with family or friends and areas with a Celtic tinge seem particularly suited. Ireland's beautiful Shannon Waterway and the waters of the Scottish Highlands are both good spots for European cruises by barge.

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