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Celebrity Infinity alongside in Piraeus, the port for Athens, Greece (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

What's New for the 2024 European Cruise Season

Celebrity Infinity alongside in Piraeus, the port for Athens, Greece (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Senior Editor, News and Features
Aaron Saunders

Last updated
Apr 12, 2024

Read time
4 min read

The 2024 European cruise season is about to kick off in earnest, and this year offers more to love when it comes to river and ocean cruises that explore every reach of the continent – and beyond. From sailings that explore the sun-splashed Mediterranean to voyages through the history of Northern Europe, the Baltics and Western Europe, the European 2024 cruise season is all about quality over quantity.

Here are some of the sailings we’re most excited about at Cruise Critic:

Carnival Offers More Cruise Options in Northern Europe and the Med

Dover (Photo:GlennV/Shutterstock)

Carnival Cruise Line is gearing up for one of its most impressive European seasons in recent memory. Europe has never been a major focus for the Fun Ship line, but this year offers some truly tremendous itineraries through the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.

Running from May to August, Carnival’s 2024 European cruises take place solely onboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend. But unlike most single-ship deployments, Carnival Legend won’t be staying in one place: it will offer a variety of eight-to-12-day cruises departing from Barcelona, Spain and Dover (for London), UK.

And ‘variety’ is the key word, here: Carnival Legend’s sailings from Dover, for example, include a 9-day exploration of the British Isles; a 12-day roundtrip voyage to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Iceland; and even one-way sailings along the coastal ports of Western Europe between Dover and Barcelona.

What’s more, these sailings are – in keeping with Carnival’s ethos – value-priced when compared to other cruise lines.

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Cunard Plans a Large Roster of Transatlantic Crossings

A passenger looks out over the stern of Queen Mary 2 on the Atlantic. (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

If you’re looking for the ultimate in relaxation, a transatlantic crossing is the way to go. While some typically contain ports of call, those operated by Cunard – particularly aboard its flagship, Queen Mary 2 – typically have no ports of call at all. And the intoxicating combination of days at sea only serves to lull passengers into a blissful state of shipboard routine that is as convivial as it is enjoyable.

This year, Cunard is offering a wide array of transatlantic crossings aboard Queen Mary 2 between New York and Southampton, UK. Several special voyages also embark in the French port of Le Havre, or in the German seaport of Hamburg. And some of Cunard’s most beloved “theme crossings” return in 2024, including the Literature Festival at Sea (November 13, 2024), Anthony Inglis and the National Symphony Orchestra’s 15th Anniversary crossing (October 4, 2024), and London Theatre at Sea’s Eastbound crossing on June 15, 2024.

The one to catch this year, however, may very well be Queen Mary 2’s August 23, 2024 crossing between New York and Southampton. The voyage will mark Queen Mary 2’s 400th transatlantic crossing since entering service in 2004, and the mood onboard will no doubt be festive.

Watch out for other transatlantic crossings, too -- sometimes the smaller Queen Victoria and the forthcoming Queen Anne are deployed on crossing duty.

Uniworld Introduces Five New River Cruise and Rail Combination Itineraries

Uniworld's S.S. Bon Voyage (Photo: Uniworld)

In many ways, the marriage of river cruising and rail travel is a perfect combination. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has offered special “Cruise and Rail” itineraries for several years now, but in 2024 the line is introducing five brand-new voyages that combine a Uniworld river cruise with a luxury train journey.

The new 19-day “Milan, Venice, Istanbul & the Balkans” combines a voyage along Italy’s famed Po River from Venice roundtrip, and combines that with a rail journey aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express that whisks passengers, over the course of seven days, between Venice and Istanbul.

The Golden Eagle Danube Express also plays a starring role in Uniworld’s 15-day “Grand Alpine and Enchanting Danube” that begins with a Uniworld river cruise from Passau to Budapest, and a rail journey from Budapest through Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy.

These combination river cruise and rail journeys are a fabulous way to see more of Europe’s inland countries and cities, and to experience the wonders of luxury rail travel on the continent.

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Celestyal Cruises Introduces an Entirely New Fleet of Mediterranean Cruise Ships

Exterior photo of Celestyal Discovery (Photo: Celestyal Cruises)

You might not have heard about niche ocean cruise operator Celestyal Cruises, but this could be the year that all changes. The line – which has long had a fleet of older cruise ships that offered somewhat fewer amenities than many big-ship cruisers would like – purchased two ships in the past year that have completely revitalized its fleet.

Celestyal Journey (Holland America’s former Ryndam) and Celestyal Discovery (AIDA’s former AIDAaura) have now both entered service for Celestyal Cruises, replacing the former Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia that were built in the early 1980’s. This gives Celestyal more modern ships, more current amenities, and more creature comforts than it has known in the past – and that’s a great thing for this fun, destination-immersive brand.

Celestyal’s big claim to fame are its spectacular Greek Islands sailings. This summer, the line offers 3, 4 and 7-night voyages through the Aegean roundtrip from Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens).

Three and four-night sailings call on classic ports like Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes and Patmos, along with Kusadasi, Turkey; while weeklong voyages add in lesser-known ports like Milos, Greece and Thessaloniki.

These itineraries may not be new, but the ships operating them are – and they’re a great way to explore the Greek Isles this year by the folks who know it best.

Publish date April 01, 2024
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