When researching how to book a cruise, it’s important to not only look at the ship’s onboard offerings but what destinations are available to explore in each of the cruise destinations. Not all your time will be spent on the ship, and it’s important to know what kind of culture and culinary offerings they have in each of the ports of call. In this post, we will share our tips on how to pick the best Europe cruise tour destinations. We include several Mediterranean cruise stops, as well as recommendations for a Northern Europe cruise trip. Check out these top European cruise destinations specifically chosen for food and drink lovers.
Europe Cruise Tour Destinations
Some of the best cruise ports in Europe happen to be located in some of our favorite food and drink destinations in Europe! As food and travel bloggers, we are always focused on the culinary aspect of every trip we book. That’s why we picked these 7 destinations to visit on a cruise in Europe. Some of these destinations might be pretty common to see on a Mediterranean cruise itinerary, but hopefully at least a few of them could be entirely new or surprising.
The Canary Islands feature on many transatlantic cruise holidays. When sailing from the US to Europe, the Spanish Canary Islands are often the first stop. And, the islands are a great destination for food and wine lovers. The islands include Tenerife, Lanzarote, and Gran Canaria. There are amazing Canary Islands wines to try. You can visit some of these volcanic wineries on some of the cruise excursions. The food in the Canary Islands is also entirely different from the rest of Spain, with a lot of influences from Africa. Try to track down papas arrugadas con mojo, or wrinkled potatoes with spicy sauce. The Canary Islands are the perfect port for a luxury Mediterranean cruise itinerary.
Many people associate European cruise holidays with the Mediterranean, but there are a lot of options for Northern European cruises that hit some truly interesting destinations. One great destination that often gets overlooked is Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. It’s home to a troubling history but one that makes the destination unique. You can book a cruise excursion that teaches travelers about the famous troubles, perhaps on a black cab tour. There are also amazing foods to try in Belfast as well. This includes afternoon tea with scones or classic Irish salmon. Or, go traditional and grab a pint at one of the oldest pubs in Belfast, like the Crown Liquor Saloon.
Cadiz and Seville
The best European cruises are ones that allow travelers to get out an explore some of the best that Europe has to offer. Look for Mediterranean cruise routes that allow you to not just explore the port of call, but that allows for day trips to explore deeper. One such port of call is in Andalusia, in Southern Spain. Cadiz is a stunning white-washed city built around a tradition of fishing.
A great option for a day trip during a Cadiz port of call is to the stunning city of Seville, just a little north of Cadiz. Some of the top things to do in Seville include tours of Plaza Espana and the Seville Cathedral. Where Seville really comes alive is in the food scene. It’s one of our favorite destinations in Spain for food mostly because of its tapas culture. Even during an afternoon exploration you can hit a few different tapas bars and try some of the tastiest food there is in Southern Spain. Look for cazon en adobo, a marinated and fried whitefish or montadito pringa, a tasty pork sandwich.
Bilbao and San Sebastian
As an alternative to a Western Mediterranean cruise, some cruises in Europe hit other Iberian ports of call. This is also a great option for summer cruises when the temperatures soar in the south. One great destination on the northern coast of Spain is Bilbao, home to some of the top art museums in the world, including the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
For food lovers looking for a pilgrimage, take a day trip to San Sebastian, just east of Bilbao. The Basque country is most known for pintxos and cider. Spend an afternoon wandering through San Sebastian’s Old Town hoping from one pintxo bar to the next. Look for the gilda, the original pintxo, which includes an olive, pepper, and anchovy on a skewer. Eat it in one bite.
Lisbon has to be one of the best destinations for food in Europe, and certainly, one of the least appreciated. Travelers flock to Spain, but Portugal often gets overlooked. It’s becoming more common for cruises in Europe to stop in Lisbon. It’s a beautiful city set across seven hills. The architecture is stunning, with traditional buildings covered in intricate tilework. The food is also amazing with a focus on fresh pastries, seafood, and pork dishes. Try a pastel de nata, the famous Lisbon custard tart, or the Lisbon bifana, a delicious pork sandwich.
Travelers to Italy tend to flock to the main cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Sure, it’s possible to visit Rome and Venice on many European cruises. Often cruise travelers overlook Naples. Naples is a great European cruise port for day trips. Travelers can visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. For food travelers, though, Naples is a must visit for its most famous dish – pizza. True Napoli pizza is an experience. But, there are other great dishes to try in Naples including sfogliatella, a flaky pastry, or cuoppo, fried fish served in a cone.
One of the most popular Mediterranean cruise stops has to be Barcelona. It’s also one of the most popular cities in Europe for travelers. It’s an international city, under the influence of the famous artist and architect Antoni Gaudi. Barcelona also has an amazing dining scene, with some of the top restaurants in the world and lovely Barcelona food markets. It’s also a great city to explore on a Barcelona food tour. If short on time and looking for a classic Catalan experience, check out La Champagneria, which is not far from the Barcelona cruise port.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.