While all major cruise lines have ships in Europe, Royal Caribbean boasts some of the largest. The year-round cruises come with all the typical bells and whistles you'd expect on a big ship: The 15-deck Independence of the Seas—a 4,370-passenger vessel—sports waterslides, an escape room, and the world's first at-sea trampoline park, while the 3000-plus passenger Explorer of the Seas has its own surf pool and 9-hole miniature golf course.
Big ships don't skimp on the itineraries either. Celebrity’s 10-night Ireland & Iceland route sails from Dublin to Northern Ireland, then makes its way around Iceland—with stops to marvel at the natural splendor of the country’s sweeping fjords and hot springs—before returning to Dublin by way of Cork. This year Celebrity added Europe port stops in more low-key spots like Rijeka, Croatia, and Santa Margherita, Italy, for those inclined to explore lesser-known locales.
It's the mother of all cruise ship experiences: a transatlantic crossing from Manhattan to England (or vice versa) aboard an iconic ocean liner. During the late-19th and early-20th centuries, such a trip was the epitome of luxury travel, and Cunard cruise line stood as one of the industry leaders. Relive those glory days with a sailing on Cunard's Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger ocean liner ever built, and the only one still operating today. The ship accommodates over 2,500 passengers, hosting ample Broadway-style productions, gala nights, dance classes, and fencing lessons, among other activities. Evenings are a formal affair, a throwback to the golden era of transatlantic travel, and for a special daytime treat, try the afternoon tea. An onboard kennel—complete with fire hydrants—will shelter your furry four-legged friends during the crossing.
Intimate size, all-suite accommodations, and endless caviar are a few of the perks if you travel with the luxury Seabourn Cruise Line, home to some of Europe's most elegant sailing experiences. The small fleet of vessels carry a maximum of 450 to 600 guests each, and the passenger-to-crew ratio is almost one-to-one, resulting in attention to detail that's unparalleled. (Each suite has a personal stewardess who adds decadent touches like drawing a scented bath upon request or sprinkling the bed with rose petals).
The cruise line has a culinary partnership with Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, who's developed an array of unique dishes for guests. The cultural partnership with UNESCO gives passengers exclusive-access tours: Walk beyond the ropes at Stonehenge to see the towering forms up close or embark on the ultimate archaeologist experience within Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar.