The Best Summer Cruises, From Alaska to the Galapagos
When you just can’t decide where to spend your summer vacation — whether it’s a family trip, couples getaway, group of friends, or solo — a cruise might be the answer.
Can’t settle on a destination? You can visit several on a cruise without changing hotels, packing and unpacking, planning airport transfers, and paying for local transportation. Don’t have time to research and create an itinerary? All the planning is done for you. You can select your desired itinerary and even decide which optional excursions you want to take.
Worried about managing your budget or dealing with unexpected expenses? With a cruise, you have a good idea of the costs up front, including extras like shore excursions, gratuities, entertainment, and beverages. You can compare the cost of the cruise with the expense for hotels, meals, tours, transfers, and entertainment on a land-based vacation.
For families — or for any group — the onboard entertainment options make it easy for everyone to do what they want to do, even if it means heading in different directions for an evening. On many cruises, games and entertainment are arranged for age-appropriate groups, keeping everyone busy and happy, especially mom and dad who get to have their own time knowing the kids are supervised and entertained.
Dining problems can also be solved when there’s a buffet or menu with various choices. Most cruises offer afternoon and midnight snacks plus 24-hour room service — no one goes hungry on a cruise.
We have researched some of the popular cruises, both river and oceangoing, to provide an idea of what is available this summer. Amenities, passenger capacity, stateroom size, length of cruise, tours, and prices are among the many variables to consider when planning a cruise. An experienced travel agent can be a helpful resource for this decision.
We hope these examples will get you started thinking about a cruise this summer, whether you’re a first timer or an experienced cruiser looking for a new place to explore.
Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands
AmaWaterways is offering their “Enchanting Rhine” river cruise with dates throughout the summer, the perfect time to explore historic cities and villages, glide past elegant castles, and indulge in the ship’s onboard amenities. Over seven nights, guests visit Breisach, Germany; Strasbourg, the capital city of Alsace; Heidelberg and Cologne, Germany before reaching Amsterdam. Along the way, guided walking and bicycle tours, an aerial gondola trip above the Rhine, wine and beer tastings, canal tour in Amsterdam, and other optional excursions add to the experience.
The uniquely designed ships, accommodating about 160 passengers, offer spacious staterooms, balconies, heated pools, panoramic views, comfortable lounge areas, and several dining venues including a Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. Prices start at $3599 per person, and optional nights in Zurich or Amsterdam can be arranged.
Summer is the time to explore Alaska. Many lines offer cruises in small to large ships passing glaciers and the rugged coastline. Lindblad-National Geographic Expeditions takes their passengers in relatively small ships ranging from 62- to 100-person capacity, allowing them to sail where larger ships cannot — along the shoreline and through narrow waterways, closer to wildlife and scenery.
Seven different itineraries ranging from six to 15 days on various summer dates are available. All include knowledgeable guides, a photo instructor, trained naturalist, wellness specialist, enrichment activities, and adventures such as kayaking and hiking. As an example, the 8-day “Exploring Alaska’s Coastal Wilderness” sails from May to September with views of glaciers, floating icebergs, brown bears, humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, and more. The cost ranges from $5,990 to $11,770.
This summer, cruisers can visit the Galapagos aboard the Celebrity Flora, a new Celebrity Cruises ship designed specifically for the destination, with luxurious suites, a stargazing platform for guided or individual night sky enjoyment, new tenders with ramps that make landings more convenient, and a library for learning more about the Galapagos during the cruise.
Sailings throughout the summer on the Celebrity Flora include the 10-night “Galapagos Outer Loop Itinerary” beginning in Quito, Ecuador with stops at volcanic islands to see blue-footed boobies, sea lions, pelicans, sea turtles, flamingoes, tropical birds, and more. Snorkeling, swimming, Zodiac rides, and hiking activities allow travelers various ways to explore the islands. Prices vary depending on sailing date, but average is listed at $9,999 per person for an Aug. 16 departure.
Oregon to Washington
With departures from Portland throughout July and August, the American Cruise Lines “Columbia and Snake Rivers Cruise” features eight days aboard one of their modern riverboats. Three ships ply the Columbia River: American Pride, Queen of the West, and the newest, American Song, all offering complimentary Wi-Fi, private balconies, spacious staterooms, and more.
The trip takes cruisers to the historic town of Astoria at the western end of Lewis and Clark Trail, to view and learn about Mount St. Helens, the powerful volcano that erupted in 1980, along the Columbia River Gorge, with waterfalls, cliffs, lakes, streams, and wildflowers. Complimentary and optional excursions at each port enhance the experience and education along the way. Prices vary depending on the ship and sailing date, but start at around $4,000 per person for July departures on Queen of the West.
On the Norwegian Cruise Line “7-Day Hawaii,” passengers board the newly renovated Pride of America in Honolulu for a week of visits to waterfalls, beaches, volcanoes, and a total of four Hawaiian Islands. Overnight stops in Maui and Kauai provide extra time to explore the islands, and all-day visits to Kona and Hilo offer opportunities to take advantage of a variety of optional excursions, at additional cost.
Weekly departures throughout summer make it possible to visit each of the islands, with time in Honolulu at either end of the cruise. Excursions include helicopter tours, snorkeling, catamaran sailing, Zodiac rides, volcanoes, farms, and cooking classes. Prices begin at $1,599 for an inside stateroom and $1,799 for an ocean view.
Copenhagen, Denmark to Stockholm, Sweden
This 10-night luxury cruise, “Baltic Treasures,” aboard Crystal Serenity begins in Copenhagen before sailing to Berlin, Germany; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; and Stockholm, Sweden, with a variety of tours to choose from in each port. Three days in St. Petersburg with 40 optional excursions provide opportunities to visit the opulent Winter Palace, the Hermitage Museum, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral with its gold-plated dome, the Faberge Museum, and more.
Onboard entertainment includes musicians, dancers, magicians, lounge pianists, and traditional Broadway revues. Also offered are wellness programs, educational opportunities, art classes, and lectures by experts on current topics. Fares for the Crystal Cruises July 7 sailing start at $6,250.
Venice, Italy to Athens, Greece
Seabourn Cruises "7-day Adriatic and Greek Glories" will be departing on June 29, July 27, and Aug. 24 aboard Seabourn Odyssey with opportunities to explore Venice, its canals, and the Islands of Murano and Burano before boarding. The next port will be Vodice, a seaside town on the Dalmatian coast, and then on to Montenegro and the medieval town of Kotor. At the Greek island of Corfu, an optional excursion takes guests through olive groves and traditional villages. Visits to Cephalonia, Sparta, and ancient Mycenae blend ancient history, Greek mythology, and World Heritage sites before arriving at the port of Piraeus for Athens. Optional excursions at the destination include the Acropolis and tours with private drivers.
Ocean view staterooms start at $4,799 with additional costs for optional excursions. Onboard dining options range from casual to formal to in-suite dining.
Port Canaveral, Florida to Bahamas
Disney Cruise Line’s “4-Night Bahamiam Cruise from Port Canaveral” begins with a Sail-away Celebration on the ship’s deck—a party with Disney characters, music, and dancing. Then, sail overnight to Nassau to explore the historic town, swim with dolphins, or see the coral reefs and tropical fish from a semi-submarine. Wake up the next day on Disney Castaway Cay, a private island for Disney guests with beaches, lagoons, snorkeling, boating, and adults-only Serenity Bay. The next day at sea provides time to enjoy the ship’s freshwater pool and fun in clubs designed for kids, teens, tweens, and adults.
Dates throughout July and August aboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy include three, four, and five night cruises with similar destinations. Per person prices start at $1,865 (three nights), $3,645 (four nights), and $4,399 (five nights). Visit Disney World or tour the Kennedy Space Center before or after the cruise.
Tahiti, Society Islands
The seven night “Society Islands and Tahiti Iti” cruise by Paul Gauguin Cruises begins in Papeete, home to a colorful public market, boutiques, and the Pearl Museum. From there, visit Tahiti Iti for waterfalls, beaches, caves, and quiet beauty and then on to Huahine, Taha’a, Bora Bora, Moorea before returning to Papeete for a few days. Activities on the islands include snorkeling, diving, kayaking, swimming with reef sharks, cruising in glass bottom boats, catamarans, and outrigger canoes. On Bora Bora, experience the Lagoonarium, a natural aquarium with sharks, turtles, rays, and ocean fish.
The luxurious Paul Gauguin was designed for the shallow seas of the South Pacific and boasts spacious suites and staterooms, three dining venues, and spa. Several summer sailings are available, and prices start at $4,995 including airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco.
London, England to Norway
The “7-Day Norwegian Fjords” from Princess Cruises begins in London with optional excursions to Windsor Castle or Stonehenge. The next day is spent in the North Sea cruising towards Norway. On the Sapphire Princess, guests can enjoy the freshwater pools, hot tubs, games, shops, and dining at one of several venues. The first port is Stavanger, where the Vikings once sailed, and where historic buildings still remain. At the next port of Olden, optional excursions include cruising among glaciers and motorcoach tours. Other ports and excursions offer views of mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and medieval seaport towns before returning to London after another day at sea.
Two summer departure dates are available — July 6 and Aug. 10 — with a starting rate of $1,099 per person for an interior room.
Hungary, Austria, and Germany
On the eight-day “Romantic Danube” river cruise aboard Viking River Cruises, passengers board in Budapest, Hungary and tour the city’s picturesque mansions and historic buildings. Stops along the way include Vienna with shore excursions to explore the Opera House, Schonbrunn Palace, and optional concert. The Danube cruise continues through the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to Passau, Germany with an optional trip to Salzburg to see settings from "The Sound of Music" film. The cruise ends in Nuremburg, Germany.
Departure dates throughout the summer offer many options, with cruises in both directions between Budapest and Nuremburg aboard Viking’s Longships. Enjoy the shoreline views from the ship’s verandas or dine al fresco as you pass the sights along the Danube. Prices start at $2,999 and vary depending on the stateroom and date, with airfare additional.
This Story Originally Appeared On Travel + Leisure