April to November is the best time of year to cruise Europe, and you will have the widest selection of ships during this time. Note that a few cruise lines operate in the Mediterranean year round, so if you must travel during the winter, there will be a ship available. June through August is the "high season" for most itineraries, with the prices during the other months being lower. Depending on where you are cruising, the spring and fall may be actually preferable since it won't be so hot. Sometimes tourist facilities close during the off season or have shorter opening hours, but your savings could be substantial. The time of year is somewhat driven by where you want to go on your European cruise. Just remember that the best time to go to each destination is usually the most expensive.
Mediterranean - Best temperatures are in the spring and fall. Greece, Turkey, the Rivieras, and southern Italy and Spain get especially hot in the summer, with temperatures approaching 90 degrees away from the ocean.
Scandinavia and the Baltics - Cruises usually run to northern Europe only from late May to early September, with the late summer providing the best weather (70s or higher). Mid-June to early July is particularly interesting because of the midnight sun, which only disappears for 3-4 hours each night. Hurtigruten operates its Norwegian coastal voyages year-round along the western coast of Norway, so you can see the midnight sun in the summer and the Northern lights in the winter.
Great Britain and Ireland - Late summer and early fall are the sunniest months. Temperatures are generally much cooler (only in the low- to mid-60s) than on the European continent.
Rivers of Europe - River cruise ships operate on the great rivers of Europe from early spring through November and again for the Christmas markets in early December. Summer is the best weather, but the fall colors are spectacular and the temperatures are moderate. "Tulip" cruises operate in the Netherlands from March through mid-May, with April the best month for tulip-maniacs.
Atlantic Islands, Portugal, and western France - Cruise ships often visit Madeira and the Canary Islands as part of Caribbean/Mediterranean repositioning cruises in the spring and fall. These islands have good weather and moderate temperatures year-round. Ports of call in Portugal and western France are popular in the late spring and early fall when ships are repositioning between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Temperatures are moderate during these times and it may be rainy in the spring.
Now let's look at where you should go on a European cruise. What are the differences between eastern and western Mediterranean or Baltic and coastal Norway?
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