Not real sure if this is an answer to your question, but many people in Europe speak at least some English. I would think that guides would all speak English, as well as the shop folks in the dock area.
They may not speak it right away, but if you learn a few words in their language, and at least give it a try, they usually respond very quickly. Try and learn "Please" "Thank you" "Hello" "Good-bye", etc.
If nothing else, you can pick up a phrase book or a translator, about the size of a small calculator, and that should help out alot, in case their English is not that good.
We've cruised both the Mediterranean and the Baltic in recent years and have never had much of a language problem in any of the ports...
Of course, in some ports it was probably of great help that we were on shore excursions (St. Petersburg and Athens, most noatably)...that way, with an English speaking guide, there weren't many issues...
But, surprisingly, in places like Tallinn, Estonia - which we did on our own - and Gdansk, Poland - where the afternoon was on our own - and Santorini and Corfu, Greece - where we did only morning half day tours and wandered the afternoons on our own, we NEVER had any kind of problem...
It seems so many people in Europe speak English...and, in the more touristy ports, and especially when doing the typical tourist things, the people you will need to speak with are so dependent on English speaking tourists that English is a necessity...
IOW, don't worry at all...Don't even bother with one of those translation devices...they have limited vocabularies and by the time you type in what you want, you could have just asked in English...
Most places on the main UK / US cruise ship routes will speak English but it's always worth learning even a few basic phrases in their language. Even if you can't get to grips with the grammar, if you make an effort with simple requests such as "two coffees please" the locals will really appreciate it. Nine times out of ten they'll answer in English anyway. If you want to really impress them, finid out what the language of the ordinary people (rather than the state government) is; in some bars in Barcelona for example they really warm to you if you try to speak some Catalan to them. Always say thanks in their language when you leave; last impressions are nearly as important as first.
I've never used an electronic translator but a pocket sized guide / phrase book is priceless. You can even cheat and hide round the corner while learning the local language for whatever you want to ask for before you go into the shop. Make sure you can say "I'm sorry, I don't speak much (whatever language it is)" in case they say somethin you can't understand.
Here's a tip a French woman gave us before we left for France:
When you have a question, ask a young person because English is a required language for all kids to learn now in just about every European country.
We found this to be very true. Although we don't speak French, we got along just fine with lots of smiles, patience and thank-yous. The waiters that didn't speak English were very nice, laughed at their inability to speak English and we laughed at our inability to speak French! We didn't run into 1 single rude or snooty person the entire time we were there.
If you can, learn a few simple phrases like: please, thank you, I would like..., Where is..., and you'll do just fine.
When I was in Rome I was determined to use my admittedly limited Italian every chance I got. Seems I speak Italian with an American accent so I'd barely get started talking before the person I was speaking to chimed in with English. At one restaurant, I kept slogging away in Italian while my waiter kept replying in English! Eventually, a man from England who was sitting at the next table said. You may as well give it up. Your waiter is actually from Hungary and while he speaks Italian as well is much more comfortable in English! I try to learn how to say Hello, please, thank you very much, and help in any country I am visiting. Those phrase books are pretty useless because even if you manage to say "Is this the way to the train station?" the reply you get, if spoken entirely in the other language will not be a simple "yes" or "no, go that way." I went in search of a restaurant in an off the beaten track neighborhood in Rome with some friends. As the only sort of Italian speaker I was in charge of accosting various folks for directions. My "Is X restaurant on this street," was met with a lot of sympathy and a lot of words that I did not understand! But guess what? We found the restaurant. I ordered in Italian. We got tons of food and had a wonderful time.
:lol :lol Reminds me of the Italian maitre d' on our Coral Princess cruise. Every night, I'd try to talk to him in Italian and he'd answer me in English! So much for learning a little of the language! :lol :lol
I know this is three years after the question, but if anyone has a Zune (Microsoft's answer to the iPod) you can download a podcast called "One Minute Languages" in many European languages. The podcast teaches simple phrases like "hello", "goodbye", "please", "thank you", etc. I found the podcast when I was looking for some Norwegian folk music (I'm working on my History thesis; don't ask haha) and found the "One Minute Norwegian" podcast. My family is Scottish and Gaelic and Norwegian are a little similar. It's fun! And Europeans really do appreciate an effort. Good travels!