Spanning from Russia to the Atlantic Ocean, with shores on the mild Mediterranean and the frigid Arctic, knowing the best time to plan your cruise to Europe is an important part of planning the trip. Generally speaking, since Europe is in the middle latitudes of the northern hemisphere, there are four seasons, the warmest and most popular time to visit is the summer. Depending on where you are, the spring and fall shoulder months can offer a good alternative for lower prices and less tourist traffic, but the weather can sometimes be cool. September and October are generally considered the best months for European river cruises and Mediterranean cruises. Winter is the least popular time to visit, with the exception of Christmas and European Christmas Cruises to traditional markets.
Central & Eastern Europe: Rhine & Danube River Cruises
The Rhine & Danube are two of Europe’s longest rivers, winding through eastern & central Europe. You’ll find that the best time to enjoy a river cruise through this part of Europe is the summer and fall when you’ll experience warm weather and sunny skies. The season tapers off in the fall as temperatures begin to drop and begins again in the springtime as the returning sun begins to burn off the cold winter temperatures.
We feature a number of December cruises that explore the region’s traditional Christmas markets; on these tours, you’ll do many of the same tours and activities that you might on a summertime cruise, but the focus is on the Christmas celebrations in each of the ports. Do beware that during the deep winter months of January and February, the temperatures especially along the Danube River in eastern Europe can be downright frigid and unpleasant, and these months should be avoided.
Summer: 73ºF (23ºC)
Fall: 55ºF (13ºC)
Winter: 37ºF (3ºC)
Spring: 48ºF (9ºC)
Western Europe: Douro & Seine River Cruises
The Douro River flows from the Atlantic Coast of Portugal through central Spain; the Seine flows from Paris to the North Sea at the English Channel. These two regions have relatively similar temperatures throughout the year. Summer is a warm & sunny season, followed by a comfortable fall, and a chillier winter with snowfall, then a spring that brings warmer temperatures gradually back to the region. Many of our cruises through Portugal & France focus on wine tasting and vineyard tours, which are also best enjoyed during the warm summer months.
In central Spain, you’ll find that the summers can sometimes actually be quite hot and uncomfortable, but river cruises tend to prevent this feeling because the constant movement creates a refreshing breeze on the sundeck.
Summer: 68ºF (20ºC)
Fall: 54ºF 12(ºC)
Winter: 41ºF (5ºC)
Spring: 48ºF (9ºC)
Southern Europe: Mediterranean Cruises
There’s really never a bad time to visit the Mediterranean, but there’s no denying that the summer months are the most popular. The huge Mediterranean Sea plays a big role in keeping the temperatures moderate and mild all year round. Towards the winter, when the temperatures throughout Europe drop, the Mediterranean beaches aren’t as idyllic as the warm summer months when you can enjoy their temperate and refreshing sun-kissed waters.
Summer: 81ºF (27ºC)
Fall: 61ºF (16ºC)
Winter: 52ºF (11ºC)
Spring: 66ºF (19ºC)
Northern Europe: Arctic, Scandinavia, United Kingdom, Russia
The best time to visit northern Europe (including the Arctic region, Scandinavia, the U.K., & Russia) is during the summer. This is the period of time you will have the greatest access to the most visitor sites while they are open. It’s also when you will experience the warmest temperatures – depending on where you are traveling, you might experience all four seasons in one day, with a crisp morning, a balmy day, and a chilly evening/ night. At the higher latitudes of these countries, you will also enjoy very long days and shorter nights.
If you are planning to travel during the shoulder seasons (fall & spring), you might find better deals, but there is a chance that you will encounter nasty weather that can occasionally be quite unpleasantly cold. There’s also a chance that certain sites, especially the more remote destinations in the national parks and wildlife areas, could be closed for the season or simply inaccessible. This is a good way to see the Northern Lights without the frigid temperatures.
The winter months are generally a bad time to visit and very few trips are offered in winter. This is when you will encounter sub-freezing temperatures and icier conditions make navigating these waters more difficult for cruises. However, if seeing the Northern Lights display is a dream of yours, then the long nights of the northern winter could make it the perfect time, and we do offer several polar lodges that provide a great way to experience the northern winter from a comfortable base camp.