Passport to Europe by Water
River cruises are often described as your very own floating hotel that dock in the heart of regions that ocean cruisers can’t go. Today’s river cruise vessels are at the cutting edge of comfort, style and technology and allow you explore the sights and sample the local cuisine easily. With it growing popularity, it is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry.
Travelers find the pace and comfort of a river ship the ideal way to explore the real heart and soul of Europe.
One major benefit of a river cruise is you are not to rushed from port A to port B; you can relax and enjoy the delights of the countryside you are passing through, and get to know the soul of the country. A cruise along one of Europe’s many rivers and canals permits you to enjoy the panorama of the surrounding countryside, which is always in view. River Cruise ships, in contrast to larger cruise ships, are smaller vessels generally accommodating between 100 to 200 passengers in comfort. While children are welcome, most activities are geared towards adults.
River cruising is also one of the most cost efficient ways to see Europe. The most expensive parts of your trip – lodging, transportation and most meals – are prepaid in US dollars, saving you from over paying for exchange rates and transaction fees. Aboard river ships you will find elegant dining rooms, spacious sun decks, comfortable lounges, fitness facilities, and sometimes swimming pools and bikesn. Cruises include meals, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, most shore excursions and evening entertainment. Some lines even include gratuities and open bars.
The river cruising season lasts from March through October with fabulous Christmas cruise markets available in November and December.
Where do you start?
Consulting with someone knowledgeable of each line is ideal, as there are many options and it is important to choose the line that best suits you to get the most out of your river cruise experience. Cruises are typically one to two weeks on the age-old waterways of Europe including the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Elbe, Seine, Rhone, Saone, Po, Douro and Volga.
Flowing from Switzerland to Amsterdam, Holland, the Rhine passes towns and cities in France and Germany that harbor centuries of history and culture. The Moselle flows into the Rhine from northeast France and Luxembourg. You’ll sail through spectacular scenery, dotted with fairytale castles and discover some of the oldest and most historic cities along the way.
Originating in the Black Forest in Germany, the Danube flows through central Europe to the Black Sea in Romania. A Danube cruise is a lesson in history about the days when Vienna ruled an empire and more recently, when an Iron Curtain divided Europe. With the curtain gone, you can explore cities that were all but closed to the west for more than 40 years.
The Rhone flows from Switzerland and into Lyon, France, where it converges with the Saone. This river cruise sails through Provence and Burgundy, two of France’s top wine-making regions. You’ll cruise past acres of vineyards and have ample opportunities to taste the local grapes.
Rising in north central Spain and flowing southwest and into northern Portugal is the Douro. If you like scenery, you’ll love cruising the Douro River, which twists and turns through steep, vine-clad slopes and rocky outcrops as it makes its way from Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal, to the Spanish border. An added attraction is port, the fortified wine that took its name from the city. The drink is a local celebrity, so there’ll be plenty of tastings en route.
Starting in the Czech Republic, the Elbe River flows into Germany and empties into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, near Hamburg. This is a cruise for anyone who loves discovering the past. You’ll have a bit of time in Berlin and Prague at the start and end of the cruise, and even discover the birthplace of the Reformation along the way.
The Seine rises in France, flows north through Paris into Normandy and empties into the English Channel at Le Havre. This is a favorite with gardeners because it visits Monet’s garden in Giverny. It is also a top choice for Francophiles and all those who want to see the Second World War landing beaches.
Flowing through central Russia, the Volga River enables you to explore the great cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Golden Ring – towns with breathtaking churches and fascinating open-air museums.
Rising in the Alps on Italy’s western border and emptying into the Adriatic Sea in the east, The Po is the longest river in Italy. Cruisers experience everything from quaint fishing villages to large historic cities. Most Po River cruises visit Venice, one of the world’s most romantic and interesting cities.