If sky-high summertime prices scared you away from a European cruise this year, now is the time to reconsider. With “shoulder season” approaching—that sweet spot between high season and the end of the season—cruise lines of all stripes are lowering fares to entice travelers to make one last trip to Europe before winter descends. You can find some excellent buys for August through December embarkations for itineraries that focus on the Mediterranean, Baltic region, and Northern Europe. Remember that as summer sets in Europe, airfares will also get cheaper as carriers look to fill empty seats on flights to gateways like Rome, Venice, Athens, London, and Copenhagen. Check out these cruise bargains and see if one may work for you.—Andrea M. Rotondo
Cunard Queen Victoria
Details:Seven-night Venice, Italy to Athens, Greece
Ports of Call: Dubrovnik, Croatia; Crete and Santorini, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey; and two sea days
If you have no interest in racing from one port to the next, this itinerary with two sea days allows you to experience all the ship has to offer as a destination unto herself. Don’t miss afternoon tea or the thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool at the Royal Spa.
Embarkation: Aug. 20, 27; $114 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cunard Queen Victoria
Details:Seven-night Helsinki, Finland to Rostock, Germany
Ports of Call: Overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; overnight in Stockholm, Sweden; and one sea day
Are you an adventurous traveler? Do you speak Spanish? Then take a chance on one of these inexpensive voyages aboard Pullmantur Monarch. The Spanish line doesn’t market to Americans but if you’re willing to get a bit out of your comfort zone and meet some European travelers, you’ll be fine.
Embarkation: Aug. 6; Sept. 3; $128 pp /pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s St. Petersburg Travel Guide
Details:Seven-night round-trip out of Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
Ports of Call: Sicily, Italy; Valletta, Malta; Barcelona, Spain; Marseille, France; and Genoa, Italy
If this itinerary doesn’t interest you, MSC Cruises offers a variety of other seven-night round-trip voyages out of Marseille, France and Genoa, Naples, Venice, and Rome, Italy from September through December. Rates start at $799 per person for September itineraries, $699 pp for those in October, and $419 pp for November and December sailings.
Embarkation: Nov. 28; Dec. 5, 12; $60 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s MSC Cruises MSC Splendida
Croisieres de France Horizon
Details:Seven-night round-trip out of Paris (Calais), France
Ports of Call: Stavanger, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Flam, and Bergen, Norway; and two sea days
Horizon is an intimate ship with a capacity of 1,442 so you’ll spend less time in line and more time enjoying the ship—or heading ashore for an excursion.
Embarkation: Aug. 6, 13; $86 pp/pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Norway West Coast Travel Guide
Princess Caribbean Princess
Details:12-night round-trip out of London (Southampton), England
Ports of Call: St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands; Cork and Dublin, Ireland; Liverpool, England; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Invergordon and Edinburg, Scotland; Paris (Le Havre), France; one sea day
For just $100 per night, this nearly two-week-long itinerary offers a tasting menu to Northern Europe’s most popular ports. The overnight in Glasgow is the highlight. This ship draws both families and couples. There’s a fantastic kids club as well as an adults-only Sanctuary sun deck.
Embarkation: Aug. 12; $100 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess
Cunard Queen Elizabeth
Details:14-night round-trip out of London (Southampton), England
Ports of Call: Hamburg, Germany; Copenhagen, Denmark; Stockholm, Sweden; Tallinn, Estonia; overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia; Kiel, Germany; Skagen, Denmark; and five sea days
Queen Elizabeth is Cunard’s newest ship. For cruisers who love old-world elegance, ballroom dancing, sipping afternoon tea, and dressing for formal nights, this is a dreamy voyage that pairs Baltic ports with five sea days.
Embarkation: Aug. 2 (cheapest); $107 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cunard Queen Elizabeth
Details:Nine-night round-trip out of Copenhagen, Denmark
Ports of Call: Rostock, Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and two sea days
This ship may be 15 years old, but with a 2015 refurbishment under its belt, it’s in terrific shape. There are 11 restaurants onboard and an array of bars and lounges so even when the ship is full with just above 2,300 passengers, the public areas don’t feel crowded.
Embarkation: Aug. 27; $89 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Norwegian Star Guide
Croisieres de France Zenith
Details:Seven-night round-trip out of Marseille, France
Ports of Call: Barcelona and Port Mahon, Spain; Rome and Livorno (for Florence/Pisa), Italy; and Corsica, France
Croisieres de France does not market its cruises to Americans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book this steal of a Mediterranean vacation. Just be aware that most everyone else on the ship will be from France or another European country and announcements will not likely be made in English.
Embarkation: Sept. 10, 17, 24; Oct. 2, 30; Nov. 6; $43 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s French Riviera Travel Guide
Details:13-night round-trip out of London (Southampton), England
Ports of Call: Ponta Delgada and Madeira, Portugal; Tenerife and Grand Canary, Canary Islands; overnight in Lisbon, Portugal; and six sea days
The high points of this voyage are two calls in the Canary Islands, an overnight in Lisbon, and six days at sea. Be sure to visit the upper deck Lawn Club (with real grass), luxuriate in the Canyon Ranch spa, and upgrade to a suite for access to private VIP clubs and restaurants.
Embarkation: Sept. 3, 17; Oct. 3 (cheapest), 16; $92 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Celebrity Eclipse Guide
Details:11-night Copenhagen, Denmark round-trip
Ports of Call: Warnemunde, Germany; Gdansk, Poland; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Riga, Latvia; Tallinn, Estonia; overnight in St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and one sea day
This Baltic voyage is especially appealing due to the range of ports, from the ultimate overnight in St. Petersburg to lesser-known destinations like Klaipeda in Lithuania and Latvia’s Riga. MSC Opera is a good choice for families. A limited number of suites are available if you’d like to upgrade your onboard experience.
Embarkation: Sept. 3; $134 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s MSC Cruises MSC Opera Guide
P&O Cruises Aurora
Details:Seven-night round-trip out of London (Southampton), England
Ports of Call: Bergen, Olden, Geiranger, and Stavanger, Norway; two sea days
This 2,000-passenger ship is not one of P&O’s newest vessels but its British flair lures English passengers as well as other English-speaking cruisers. This particular itinerary is a winner. Enjoy Norway’s fjords as the seasons just begin to change.
Embarkation: Aug. 5; Sep. 11; $143 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s P&O Cruises Aurora Guide
Details:12-night round-trip out of Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
Ports of Call: Olympia and Athens, Greece; overnight in Istanbul, Turkey; Kusadasi, Turkey; Rhodes and Crete, Greece; and Naples, Italy
Here’s a terrific value to sail aboard Holland America’s newest ship, Koningsdam, for 12 nights this fall. The ship—the cruise line’s most luxurious to date—is getting rave reviews when it comes to service, cuisine, the adults-only Retreat sun deck, and onboard entertainment.
Embarkation: Sept. 30; Oct. 12 (cheapest); $92 pp / pn
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Holland America Guide