Guide to European River Cruises
Cruises: the perfect option for those seeking a hassle-free vacation. Like ocean cruises, river cruises are inclusive of all meals and excursions, and on select boats, Wi-Fi as well as beer and wine. But there are several major differences between the two that are important to note. For one, distances between destinations are much smaller on river cruises, so there is not nearly as much downtime as on an ocean cruise. Simply put, less time is spent sailing. Thus, river cruises are perfect for the traveler looking to see as much as possible during their vacation.
Something else to consider is that unlike ocean cruises, river cruises have a season. Most depart April through December, skipping the rainy spring season. If water levels get too high, ships won't have enough space to pass under bridges. Similarly, during droughts, river travel can be an issue as well. But all things considered, river cruises are a fantastic option to maximize sightseeing. Here's a guide to the most popular European rivers to cruise down.
Crossing Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands, the Rhine is Europe's number one river cruise destination. The most popular itinerary sails between Amsterdam and Basel, where the highlight is the region's many medieval castles. Other points of interest include ancient wineries, Lorelai Rock- a famous slate cliff in the Rhine valley, and the 630-year-old Gothic cathedral in Cologne.
Beginning in Germany, the Danube flows east through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, and Bulgaria before emptying into the Black Sea in Romania. A highlight of any Danube cruise is visiting Austria's Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its verdant landscape and charming small towns. Many Danube cruises also visit the awe-inspiring palaces of Vienna and the plentiful thermal baths of Budapest.
For those looking for an in-depth French experience, a cruise along the Seine is the perfect choice. This river meanders through Paris and Normandy before emptying into the English Channel in Le Havre. Passengers can expect fabulous views of legendary Paris landmarks like Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, as well as visits to historic cathedrals in Normandy. Additionally, an excursion to one of the many D-Day landing beaches along Normandy's coast is found on nearly all Seine itineraries.
Sailing 130 miles from Porto, Portugal to Vega de Terron, a small-town bordering Spain, cruises down the Douro river offer an experience a little more off the beaten path. Highlights include sailing past the world's deepest lock at Carrapatelo, and a visit to famed 18th-century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies Church, just outside of Lamego. All ports of call are sure to include plenty of the region's famous wine.
Top 5 Routes for "European River Cruises"
- Cruise Critic An authority on all things cruise-related, this article from Cruise Critic provides an in-depth guide to European river cruises.
- The Telegraph This helpful piece not only spells out the differences between ocean and river cruises, but also provides several helpful tips for before and during the river cruise experience to help you make the most of your trip.
- River Cruise Advisor This link provides guides to popular European river cruise ports, enabling you to figure out which cruise destinations match your interests.
- Conde Nast Traveler This top ten guide provides helpful wisdom for first-time river cruise passengers.
- Cruise Critic This website not only provides direct links to book cruises, but also provides reviews of popular routes and cruise ships.