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How to Choose a European River Cruise

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European river cruises, once just a small niche in European travel, have grown exponentially in the last decade as one of the newest favorite ways to explore all that the countries of Europe have to offer. Deciding which European river cruise is right for you can be a tricky task, but if you can just answer a few questions for yourself, the decision should be much easier. It’s all about figuring out exactly what kind of experience you want from your river cruise, and each river offers unique adventures for travelers of all interests. 

If you’re looking at river cruises, you’ve probably already answered the first question: How do you want to experience Europe? From aboard a river cruise, your hotel travels with you, meaning that you have access to all of the destinations on your itinerary without having to pack and unpack in new hotels every few nights. Plus, you won’t have to worry about travel time to the next city since you will cover that distance in the comfort of the riverboat. 

So then the question is, Where do you want to go? You probably already have a destination, or at least a region, in mind, and the many rivers that wind through Europe can accommodate your desires. 
  • First-time cruisers might want to stick to the major Rhine or Danube Rivers for a classic river cruise that offers an excellent taste of all that Europe has to offer. Both of these rivers take you through seemingly storybook landscapes of castles, ancient cities with countless architectural styles, rolling green valleys, and living history. 
  • The Danube River flows through eastern and central Europe, cruising through green hills perfect for biking, docking in major cities like Nuremberg, Vienna, and Budapest to name a few), and giving wine aficionados a chance to sample the famous flavors of the Wachau Valley. 
  • The Rhine River highlights the central and western European cultures, especially in Germany, where travelers delight in the numerous castles, wine regions, renowned beers, and active exploration opportunities for hiking and biking. 
  • If you’re hoping to explore France, consider a cruise on the Seine River from metropolitan Paris to the coasts of Normandy, passing through charming towns and villages along the way. Or a cruise of the Bordeaux region will enchant wine-lovers. Cyclists and architecture buffs will appreciate Rhone and Saone River cruises
  • The Douro River is an excellent choice for those hoping to experience the Iberian cultures of Spain and Portugal. Starting in aptly named Porto, the Douro flows through the verdant Portuguese countryside into central Spain. 
When you want to go is an essential aspect to consider. Many choose to travel during the warm summer months, which coincides with the high season throughout Europe. If you don’t mind waiting in lines for tours or encountering bigger crowds at each site, this can be a great time to visit, especially if you have schedule constraints. 

If you are able to travel in the shoulder seasons of the early spring or autumn months, you will see the European landscapes in their seasonal transitions, boasting unparalleled beauty and a full palette of new colors. With the right jacket, the slightly chillier weather during these months shouldn’t deter you!

Rhine and Danube River cruises during November and December highlight the traditional and fascinating Christmas Markets of central Europe, where vendors light up the old towns and bring the plazas to vibrant life with handmade crafts and delicious holiday recipes that have spanned generations. 

There aren’t too many options for European river cruises from January to early March, but if you have your heart set on visiting Europe during that time, you might be able to find a great deal. 

Of course, you also have to consider how much you want to pay. The luxury river cruises are upwards of $400 per day, but they do offer everything you could hope for in comfort, service, and itineraries. There are also some excellent first-class cruises that won’t be quite as expensive and will offer a similarly enchanting river cruise experience. If your goal is just to see and experience Europe, but your budget is a bit lower, there are economic options as well.

Talk to one of our expert Trip Planners today for help sorting through all the options and finding the perfect Europe adventure for you!


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