So it is time now to start thinking about next summer’s ( that’s 2010 ) European cruise if you want to get the ship, date and cabin of that you want. And, after taking cruises in Baltic, Mediterranean and northern European waters, I have been looking at the necessary requirements for picking a ship to be different than in the Caribbean.

On a Europe cruise the focus is much more on what is not on the ship itself but whats going on ashore. You will normally be going  ashore at roughly 8:30 a.m in the morning and you are driving or walking until late afternoon. In the Caribbean though,  there are many more days spent at sea and the focuses are on the ship and all its activities, facilities and entertainment. On European cruises, many passengers simply miss the floor shows and head for bed earlier, tired out and in need of rest for the next early morning start.

Here are three very important criteria in choosing the right ship for a European cruise:  1) Itinerary, 2) Time in spent port and 3) dress policy.

When comparing boats, check the length of stay in each port — you will want as much time as possible in sightseeing-orientated destinations, after all how many times in your life will you visit cities like Rome and Florence?

On a Baltic cruise, the two best ports are St. Petersburg and Stockholm.  In the first city, aim for a ship that stays in port three days instead of two.  Believe me, there is so much to see that you’ll want a longer visit to get the most out of the city!

These days, however more and more cruise lines are removing or greatly reducing nights when formal wear is necessary.  If you don’t want to bring along a suitcase full of nice clothes, check the suggested dress codes of ships.

On a European cruise, you may want to not choose the extra cost of a balcony cabin since the ship is in port nearly every day. It is much better to spend the money you will save on shore excursions and shopping. Another critical area is shore excursions.  Princess is the pick for the best excursions available at the moment. They just have the edge over other cruise lines because of the volume of passengers they carry every year.  They have first shot at the best guides, and can demand special treatment and have the ground arrangements perfected.

To conclude; the perfect European ship will offer casual dining in the Lido restaurant at night, important when you are worn out from sightseeing to get dressed up and dine for several hours. Oceania, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line offer the best casual dining options.