Passengers travelling by sea are expected to win new compensation rights if their journey is delayed or cancelled.
Currently, ferry passengers generally have the right to a refund or a space on a later sailing if their journey is disrupted.
Airline customers get more protection, such as compensation if a flight from a European airport is affected.
Similar EU rules for sea passengers are likely to come into force in two years.
The European Parliament has voted in favour of specific rules for any waterway travel within the EU.
If their ferry crossing is cancelled at present, travellers should be able to claim a refund owing to a breach of contract, but no extra compensation would be paid.
However, they are not be able to claim compensation for any lost time in their holiday destination. These claims are generally made through travel insurance - if a policy offers sufficient cover - or to a credit card provider.
If the new regulations are adopted, as expected, rights would include:
- Refund or re-routing if a journey is cancelled or delayed for more than 90 minutes
- Free meals and accommodation of up to three nights - costing up to 80 euros (£66) a night - for travellers stranded by a cancellation or delay
- Compensation of between 25% and 50% of a ticket price if a journey is delayed or cancelled
- Free assistance for people who are disabled, as well as compensation for damage or loss of their mobility equipment.
Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission and in charge of transport issues, said the change in regulations would "extend passenger rights to further transport modes".
"This means that passengers travelling by water will benefit from the same basic quality service standards wherever they travel in the European Union.
"We hope that the European framework of passengers' rights might soon be completed by the adoption of a regulation on rights for passengers travelling by bus and coach."