The Best Budget Cruises to Book in Europe

We’ve all heard of Carnival Cruise Lines, but how many Americans are familiar with P&O, Cruise & Maritime Voyages or Pullmantur? There are European-based cruise lines that offer a quality experience for a price that sometimes amounts to a fraction of their U.S. counterparts. While they may sail mostly from European or U.K. ports, some of them are expanding their operations to this country.

Here are some names to remember when planning your next cruise trip:

P&O Cruises

Middle-income, value-oriented Brits are the primary demographic for P&O Cruises. Some of their ships are adults only, while others are family-friendly. Even on ships that include a kid’s club, though, you won’t get the rock-climbing wall or simulated surfing you’d find on the big U.S. lines. P&O sails all over the world from their home base of Southampton, although a few Asia and Australia cruises depart from San Francisco; their Caribbean voyages mostly leave from either Barbados or St. Lucia.

Prices are reasonable across the board, regardless of which region you choose. A 12-day cruise out of Southampton to the Canary Islands starts at $1,023 per person, and a balcony cabin on a 55-night world cruise costs only $11, 742—or less than half what you would pay on other lines.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages

Like P&O, this line caters to middle-income passengers from the U.K., although the clientele is slightly older. There are other similarities as well: activities are traditional, and evening attire is not formal but probably smarter than it would be on a U.S. ship. Prices, however, are attractive: there are sailings out of Australia for up to 10 days that start at less than $1,000 per person, and 14-day Mediterranean cruises begin at $1,459. Cruise & Maritime Voyages sails from a variety of regional U.K. ports.


Spain’s largest cruise line welcomes international travelers, although you’ll hear mostly Spanish spoken on board. Combine a young audience with a distinctly Iberian lifestyle (late dinners and robust nightlife), and you get what most observers describe as a party ship. Prices are downright cheap: 7-day cruises in the Mediterranean, Greek Islands or the Caribbean start at $400-500, and some are even lower. Many observers have described Pullmantur as the Carnival Cruise Line of Europe.

Fred. Olsen Cruises

Family-owned since 1948, Fred. Olsen Cruises is yet another line catering to the British market, specializing in the over-65 set. They sail from ports throughout England to destinations as varied as the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Baltic, Iceland and South Africa. While not the cheapest cruise line in Europe, they have the reputation of offering a solid, quality product and good value for money. Olsen also operates river cruises in both Eastern and Western Europe.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is a large and well-established European cruise line that now also has a significant presence in the U.S. (their Caribbean and Mexican cruises sail out of Miami). The passengers are a mix of Europeans on the Mediterranean cruises, with more Americans on the Caribbean voyages and a local clientele in South America and South Africa; the line caters to families, and you can expect large numbers of children during school holidays. Prices start at a very reasonable level: on some Caribbean sailings, you can snag an inside cabin for less than $500 per person, and a balcony for not much more. The only criticism of MSC is that it remains Euro-centric in its approach to service, which some Americans might find formal and stilted.

Costa Cruises

If you’re not a frequent cruiser, you might associate this line with the unfortunate grounding of the Costa Concordia off the Tuscan coast in 2012. The captain was later convicted of causing the accident and abandoning the ship and is currently serving a prison sentence. Other than that, the company has much to recommend it.

Founded in 1854, Costa Cruises’ 14 ships cater to a predominantly Italian customer base and sail itineraries around the world; despite a large number of Europeans on board, English is the line’s primary language and all crew members are required to be able to communicate in it. Week-long Caribbean cruises start as low as $549 per person, and a 30-night transatlantic adventure can be booked for $1359. The food, service and ambiance are all distinctly Italian.

Should You Plan a Trip on European Cruise Lines from the U.S.?

Absolutely. Even during the busy summer season, you can still book a coach seat for less than $500 on the Norwegian Air Shuttle—even on the popular New York-London route. When you include airfare, you can still save a significant amount on your European cruise. More importantly, you’ll be surrounded by Europeans on board rather than Americans, so the experience will bear a close resemblance to traveling overland. You may sacrifice some bells and whistles and miss the latest virtual reality gadgets, but you’ll make some new friends and be exposed to a different culture.

Source: frugal travel guy

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