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Luxury European River Cruises

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A luxury European river cruise experience let's you float comfortably through scenic valleys and cultural capitals in style without unpacking your bags or changing hotels. Cruise along the Rhine, Danube, Douro, or Seine Rivers which wind through the cultural hearts of Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands. For thousands of years, Europe's diverse cultures and ancient cities have developed into what is now a veritable melting pot of customs, traditions, art, architecture, music, and you can experience them all floating aboard a luxury-class river ship. Below you will find a selection of the top luxury river cruise lines and hand-selected river ships as recommended by the European river cruise trip planning experts at Adventure Life. Tell us about your dream trip, and we'll help you make it reality.

8 Best Luxury Rhine River Cruises for 2024-2025

8 Best Luxury Danube River Cruises for 2024-2025

3 Best Luxury Seine River Cruises for 2024-2025

Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
Paris & Normandy$38998Aug 18, 2024The best way to see historic buildings and the beaches of Normandy is on a river cruise from Paris through the countryside. Visit Claude Monet's …
Normandy & Gems of the Seine with Highlights of Paris$1559013Aug 26, 2024Board the luxurious Scenic Gem on this 13-day Seine River cruise. Experience some of the highlights of the Seine from the glittering lights of Paris, …
Normandy & Gems of the Seine$1499011May 20, 2025Board the luxurious Scenic Gem on this 11-day Seine River cruise. Experience some of the highlights of the Seine from the glittering lights of Paris, …

6 Best Luxury Douro River Cruises for 2024-2025

Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
Delightful Douro$101908Aug 14, 2024From windswept seaside meanderings in Porto to the astonishing beauty of the Douro Valley, this 8-day Douro River cruise aboard Scenic Azure will let …
The Unforgettable Douro$1429011Jul 25, 2024Cruise the beautiful Douro Valley on an 11-day river cruise. Discover the treasures of Porto, the vineyards in Regua, Vinhateiro & the Côa Valley.
Delightful Douro with Lisbon$1124011Aug 11, 2024Start your 11-day tour and cruise with a 3 night stay in Lisbon before a stunning all-inclusive river cruise along the Douro river from picturesque …
Lisbon & Secrets of the Douro$901511Jul 24, 2024Immerse yourself in authentic Lisbon before heading to the Douro aboard Emerald Radiance. Leaving the metropolis of Porto behind, navigate a path …
Secrets of the Douro$82908Jul 27, 2024Board Emerald Radiance and leave the metropolis of Porto behind, navigate a path through Portugal’s countryside, where vineyards and landmarks …
Secrets of the Douro & Lisbon$901511Aug 3, 2024Aboard the Emerald Radiance to travel to the Douro, and immerse yourself in real Lisbon. Navigate away across Portugal's countryside to reach …

Travel Guide to Luxury European River Cruises

Highlights of a Luxury European Cruise
There's no such thing as a bad European cruise, but if you opt to explore the region aboard a luxury cruise, it will be an absolutely unforgettable experience. Here's what you can expect on a luxury cruise of Europe:
  • Plush and spacious rooms that feature either large picture windows, floor to ceiling windows, or perhaps even a balcony.
  • The best amenities aboard your ship, including multiple social areas, big decks, and perhaps even spaces like a spa, fitness center, or pool.
  • Gourmet food prepared by world class chefs and a menu that reflects international and local fare.
  • Lounges and full service bars where you can relax in comfort.
  • Itineraries that are suited specifically to your interests, featuring such activities as wine and beer tasting, biking and hiking, city explorations, visits of the ancient castles, fortresses, and ruins of Europe, and much more.

How to choose a European River Cruise

Where to Go?
That is entirely up to you! Each country, city, town, and village has its own unique charm and exciting activities for travelers of all ages and interests. Cruises along the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Main Rivers will acquaint you with eastern and central Europe, like Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. The Rhone and Seine Rivers showcase the best that France has to offer, while the Douro River offers exclusive access to Portugal and Spain. There is a river cruise to satisfy every traveler's dreams, so start by choosing which region appeals most to you!

How Long?
European river cruises range in length from just 3 or 4 days all the way to 15 days. The most popular option among travelers are the 8-day river cruises, since these offer enough time to really explore a region in depth, visit many of the main attractions along the river, and even visit multiple countries along the way. If you opt for a shorter cruise, they should generally be extensions to your Europe vacation. Whether you choose to do a couple 4-day cruises of different regions or a land-based Europe tour with a 3-day cruise extension, for example, they can be fun ways to add to your vacation. Generally, though, they should not be the only thing you do. Longer cruises, especially the 10-15-day cruises, are the best way to maximize your experience, since these cruises tend to visit two or more countries as they navigate the major ports of each European river. They're a great value but they are typically much more expensive than weeklong cruises.

On which riverboat?
The vessels we have hand-selected for the European River cruises were specifically designed to explore their respective regions of Europe. Their length, comfort, and style reflect classic riverboat design. All of the vessels feature a panoramic sun deck, a lounge and bar, elegant dining rooms, and comfortable air-conditioned rooms. You'll find that while the general design of each boat is similar, the style and appointments of each is unique to the region. Contact us if you need guidance in selecting the best boat for you.

What is there to do and see?
Everything! No matter what your interests, Europe river cruises have something to thrill and delight you. Many of the tours revolve around wine tasting and sampling the renowned local cuisine, prepared fresh by cooks and chefs whose family recipes have been passed down for generations - you might even get a chance to participate in a cooking lesson! Active explorers will love the chance to hike and bike throughout the lush river valleys and rolling hills of Europe. And each trip includes plenty of historic walking tours of the towns, villages, and major cities that narrate the story of Europe's rich past. 

European River Cruise FAQs

Why should I choose a river cruise?
River cruises are the best way to see, explore, and experience all that Europe has to offer. Many of the historic towns and villages in Europe were built right on the rivers, meaning that the cruises along the Douro, Seine, Rhone, Rhine, Danube, Main, and Moselle Rivers that we offer give you exclusive access to the main destinations of Europe. Plus you'll never have to worry about packing or unpacking your suitcase as you move from one hotel to the next since your accommodations go with you as you explore each region. We make sure that the cruises featured are all-inclusive experiences, so once you've paid the price of the ticket, your lodging, onboard meals, and daily excursions are all part of the price. If you want to wake up every day with new views and a new destination waiting to be explored, plus gourmet meals and an exciting itinerary, then a European river cruise is right for you.

What should I look for on a riverboat?
River cruising vessels in Europe are unlike any other cruise ships in the world. While the giant sea-faring ships will frequently feature many onboard spaces and activities right on the boat, European river vessels feature elegant and comfortable accommodations that provide a "home base" for your daily excursions into the tranquil villages, scenic nature, historic cities, and main sites and destinations along the European waterways. You can expect multiple cabin or suite options, a crew that offers unmatched service, and bar/dining areas with signature local and international cuisine. The panoramic sun deck on each of the cruise vessels allows you to breathe in the crisp, fresh European air as you travel through sweeping river valleys and breathtaking vistas of a pristine part of the Old World that has remained untouched even today.

Should I get a room with a balcony?
It all depends on what your priorities are, but they can often be an unnecessary additional expense. The way these river vessels are designed, each room faces out, which means that even rooms without balconies tend to have large picture windows that allow you to see the scenic nature of the European river valleys. Plus, there is ample deck space on the panoramic sun deck where you can take in the majesty of verdant Europe from all sides. Unless you have your heart set on a balcony, then a great alternative is getting a room with large windows or a sliding glass door that opens right out towards the fresh air (known as a "French balcony").

What is dining like?
Rich, savory food that highlights the local palate is at the heart of any good cruise. When we hand-pick the river vessels for each itinerary, we make sure that they offer only the best cuisine, prepared by gourmet chefs. We also recommend enjoying the local delicacies in each town you visit, to experience the authentic atmosphere and delicious food.

Do river cruises ever visit destinations that aren't on the river?
Definitely! Many of the destinations, like small towns and historic cities, are right on the river, giving travelers easy access; but there are also several popular destinations that you can get to from the main ports along the rivers of Europe - once you dock for the day, you will have options to take a motor coach to any destinations that aren't on the river. This includes inland vineyards, castles, and other landmarks.

Will my vessel have WiFi?
It's possible, but don't count on it. More and more vessels each year are WiFi capable, but it's not quite standard yet. Plus, you might be out of range of WiFi even if your vessel does have it depending on where your cruise explores. Closer to the big cities, you can generally count on it.

What kind of power outlets are there? Will I need a converter?
In Europe the power is 220v, not the 110v like in North America, but typically devices can handle both without the need for a converter. You will need plug adapters for either two round prongs (European style) or three flat prongs (British style).

How can I save money on a river cruise?
If you're hoping to save money on a European River cruise, then check out our Deals & Promotions page to find the best offers each season. We can also help you track the river cruises of your choice and let you know when there are specials and deals that you might be interested in. We advise travelers to avoid saving money by booking cheaper cabins - cabins that save you a lot of money tend to sacrifice space and often the breathtaking views that make river cruises in Europe such a wonderful experience.

Are European River cruises a good family vacation?
Certain European River cruises are great for family vacations - look for cruises that have activities perfect for the ages of your family members. If you are traveling with kids, then the cruises with lots of easy activities are ideal. If you have adolescents, then consider an active cruise, with opportunities for biking, hiking, and faster-paced exploration. Among adults, the cultural and wine-tasting cruises are a popular option. There's a perfect river cruise for every family.

Do Americans and Canadians need a passport and visa to travel on European River cruises?
All citizens of North America traveling to and throughout Europe need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months. Due to changes in visa laws in recent years, it is not necessary to apply for a visa before traveling to Europe as long as you plan to stay less than three months. These laws are subject to change in the future. Make sure to check current European visa requirements

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