European River Cruise Faqs
Why should I choose a river cruise?DouroSeineRhoneRhineDanubeMainMoselle What should I look for on a riverboat?Should I get a room with a balcony?What is dining like?Do river cruises ever visit destinations that aren’t on the river?Will my vessel have WiFi?What kind of power outlets are there? Will I need a converter?How can I save money on a river cruise?Deals & PromotionsAre European River cruises a good family vacation?Do Americans and Canadians need a passport and visa to travel on European River cruises?current European visa requirements
Europe River Cruise Highlights
Visit any number of beautiful and culturally rich cities on a European River Cruise: Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Lyon, Berlin, Kiev, or Budapest. Art lovers must visit the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. History and architecture buffs will appreciate the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the Prague National Theater. For those looking to stay active abroad, there are plenty of bike paths, kayaking opportunities and hikes like those in the foothills on the Swiss Alps to try.
Interested In Booking A River Cruise In Europe
Each river cruise in Europe is unique and brings its own highlights. Some offer tremendous city views others focus on more rural and remote landscapes.
Furthermore, some rivers are better suited to beginner cruisers. Before booking a cruise, its best to do your research about the best time of year to go.
We provide customized recommendations to travelers interested in European river cruises based on their budgets, travel preferences, and bucket lists. Get your personalized cruise match by visiting our Recommendations page.
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So What Is A Christmas Market
The fabled Christmas Markets are the real pull on these cruises. Many North American travelers may be unaware of these, as Christmas Markets are not a North American tradition. They are essentially street markets. Usually set up outdoors, Europes Christmas Markets can offer an incredible variety of local crafts and wares and perhaps best of all delicious local Christmas delicacies. Mulled wine and cider are popular wintertime beverages, and are typically sold in these markets as well. For culture mavens, theres no better time to truly embrace local customs than at Christmas.
Unlike the North American full-body contact sport that is Christmas shopping, Europeans have the option of shopping in the Christmas Markets, as opposed to shopping malls. But Christmas Markets are also social experiences: People will gather here after work to enjoy a nice meal and some delicious mulled wine or hot chocolate. Its fun to enjoy the pleasant, convivial atmosphere. Theres no fighting for parking. No battling checkout lines. Just people enjoying the company of others.
Of course, the opportunity to experience some of Europes grandest cities in their snow-covered glory is another reason to take a Christmas Markets river cruise, although, of course, there is no guarantee that youll experience snow. Weve done more than half a dozen Christmas Markets cruises, and wed assign a 50/50 chance of seeing snow on any given cruise.
Day 1 Arrive in Frankfurt, Germany
Day 4 Bamberg
Best River Cruise Companies Overview
With the average price of a European cruise coming in just shy of £280 per night, river cruising might not look like a budget holiday. But factor in food, drinks and daily excursions, which are all typically included as standard, and the figures start to sound more reasonable.
Take Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, top of our annual river cruise survey. It promises an all-inclusive experience, so you wont face any on-board surprises. Plus, youll get free beer and wine with lunch and dinner, as you do with Emerald Waterways, APT Luxury River Cruises and Viking River Cruises, three of our other Which? Recommended Providers this year.
Of course, you wont find the range of on-board facilities of the vast ocean liners, but then you wont be spending whole days at sea either. River cruises get you straight to city centres so theres more time for sightseeing and excursions. That said, with nearly all meals taken on board and usually only one dining option youll want to be sure the food and drink pass muster.
In the table below, we show the results from our annual river cruise survey. Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours remained top of our table for the second year running with impressive customer service scores. Its sister company Emerald Waterways came joint second with APT Luxury River Cruises, Viking River Cruises was rated fourth, while Riviera Travel came fifth. All five brands received our Which? Recommended Provider Rating.
Before Shopping For A River Cruise Consider Creating A Checklist
“Price is clearly a part of it, but within that price are a lot of things that can add value,” observes Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways. “I would look at the age of the ship, the size of the cabin. A lot of prices starting at the lowest category look very similar, but on a newer ship you may be getting 35 percent more space in your cabin.”
Other questions to tick off: Are there nice bathroom amenities? What is storage like? Can you fit luggage under your bed? What are the optional tours, and how much do they cost?
“If you don’t have a list of things to ask about,” Clark adds, “you may get a similar price at two operators, but one of them may be giving you a lot more in terms of value.”
Concluding Thoughts On River Cruises
Bottom Line:River cruising is a great option for culture-hungry travelers. Pay attention to the travel package details to get the best value for your money.
River cruise lines make researching their adventures fun, with video tours and details to suit the needs of many different types of travelers. Our three river cruise lines, for example, have well over 100 river ships between them and offer destinations around the globe. Consumers who dive into this research and understand the details of the packages they consider will get the most out of the experience. It also helps to get input from friends, family and acquaintances who have taken part in a river cruise experience. Look for feedback on travel websites and customer review forums. Finally, working with a travel agent can help you understand your options, and get you started on the voyage thats right for you.
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River Cruise Prices Are More Inclusive Than Ocean Cruise Prices
In 2011, Tauck became one of the first river lines to go all-inclusive, including beverages and tips. Others have followed suit, though “inclusive” doesn’t always mean that all extras are included. Some lines include port charges, gratuities and alcohol in their base fares others do not. Still, ocean cruisers will likely be surprised at what river cruise fares do include.
“The biggest difference between ocean and river cruising is that daily shore excursions are included,” says Richard Marnell, senior vice president of marketing for Viking. “You do not get nickeled and dimed once you are onboard. The vast majority of what you are going to do is paid for, so you can budget well in advance.”
Wine and beer included with dinner? Imagine that. Complimentary airport transfers? Free Wi-Fi? On river cruises, these are staples.
Book A Cruise On Scenic
Typical starting price: $2,195 for 7 nights
Where do they sail: Danube, Main , Rhine, Moselle, Rhône, Douro , Seine, Bordeaux, Volga , Mekong , Irrawaddy
Duration: 7 to 21 nights
Specialty cruises: National Geographic, Christmas markets
Onboard amenities : Laundry, wellness area, gym, massage services, hair salon, Wi-Fi, e-bikes, L’Occitane products, pillow menu, shoeshine
Inclusive: Meals, butler service, gratuities, transfers, excursions, beverages , minibar fully restocked daily, chef-prepared picnics, 24-hour in-room dining, entertainment
Pros: Having a butler on call is a big perk. They will tend to your needs throughout the journey including nightly turndown service and laundry concierge. Scenic also has the Tailormade App, which works as an audio guide and offers independent city tours, and an offline navigation system.
Cons: There are different levels of service depending on the cabin category you book. For example, guests staying in suites enjoy exclusive dining, priority reservations, and a private Captain’s cocktail party, while those staying in standard rooms will lack many special perks.
Scenic operates custom-made vessels and a variety of cabins types. Standard suites are sparse, small and lack balconies. A good mid-tier option is the Royal Balcony suite, which comes with a great view and perks like daily fruit skewers, canapes, and petit fours. All upgraded suites come with butler service, nightly turndown, and a laundry concierge.
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Which River Cruise Should You Pick
The variety of Emerald Cruises river cruise itineraries means theres an adventure to suit everyone, whatever your tastes and interests may be. The wonderful cruises and tours we offer showcase the enigmatic, unique, and picturesque qualities of some of the worlds most iconic waters, so whatever river cruise you choose, their distinct personalities will inspire awe and wonder from start to finish.
Here, well run through the highlights of each river, an example itinerary, and what type of holiday its best suited for…
One Of The Best European River Cruises
No, its not a Danube River cruise. Or a Rhine River cruise. Or even a Douro River cruise in Portugal.
Its a Seine River cruise in Normandy, France.
Lets travel back in time to France. The year is 1883.
Claude Monet was clickety-clacking on a train through the quaint village of Giverny when he spotted a charming two-storey house through the window. He instantly fell in love with its pink crushed-brick façade and jaunty green shutters and moved in.
Here he gardened and painted, and in time created his celebrated water-garden. It served as the inspiration for his series of masterpiece Impressionist paintings on water lilies.
For some 40 years , Monet continued to live and paint in this enchanting little slice of Normandy.
Monet picked well.
We too were enchanted by Giverny when cruising the Seine River one of the best river cruises in the world for a destination-rich itinerary.
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European River Cruise Deals And Sales
Up to $1,500 off 2022 Europe river cruises w/flexibilty
Up to $1,000 off per couple on 15-day Europe cruise + flights
Up to $1,500 off 2023 cruises
Up to $1,500 off Europe cruises
Up to 50% off river cruises
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for Travel Weekly, Escape, Showpo, The Nibbler and Hostelworld. She was also the editor of kids magazine DMAG. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney and has visited 55 countries .
Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas in these delectable destinations!
What’s The Best River Cruise Line In Europe
We’ve shortlisted Scenic Cruises, APT and Avalon Waterways as some of the best river cruises in Europe based on features such as user ratings, variety and options and extras.
In 2020, Crystal Cruises was named as the best river cruise line at Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Awards. It impressed with its high level of detail, customer service and luxury, which one guest stated was better than any five-star hotel they’ve stayed in.
U By Uniworld, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Tauck and Viking Cruises were also highly placed at the Travel+Leisure awards.
According to online tour booking agent TourRadar, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways, G Adventures, Leufner Cruises, Portugal Travel Centre, Scenic Cruises and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection are top of the list. All have average review ratings of 5 out of 5 stars on the site.
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Getting To And From A River Cruise
A consistent pain point in customer reviews of river cruise lines involves travel to and from the ship, which for travelers can be a stressful aspect of a trip. Common complaints include air travel thats either difficult to book, inconvenient, poorly managed or not available around the travel dates. Manage your flights online. Pick your seats early and check in frequently before your travel date to make sure nothing has changed.
Depending on how close the airport is to your ships port, you might consider taking an Uber or a Lyft from the airport to your port location or hotel if youre staying in one the night before. This saves on not only car rental costs but parking costs while youre on your cruise.
Best Danube River Cruises
Waltzing its way from Germany’s storied Black Forest and through ten countries in Europe before spilling into the Black Sea, the Danube River has inspired countless artists, writers and composers with its stunning power and beauty. Discover the best Danube River Cruises for you from the always-popular Blue Danube to the ever-sophisticated Royal Danube, Berlin & Krakow.
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Active & Discovery Cruises
Everyone travels to see new things, but many travel to do new things as well. Avalon offers activities for travelers with varying interests and for all energy and fitness levels. From action-packed experiences and interactive discoveries, to traditional sightseeing, you can tailor a vacation to suit your interests and pace.
Nile River Cruise Prices
Nile River cruise prices aren’t cheap on average, they’re $500 per person, per night. But they offer up a good mix of itineraries — three-, four- and six-night river cruises with as many as six nights in Cairo. Some of the lines also sail on Lake Nasser. Peak demand is between October and early January, with the shoulder season spanning from mid-January through early April. The low — and hottest — season is between May and the end of September. The variance in pricing between high and low seasons can be as much as 25 percent, though prices have been at historic lows as many lines look to entice travelers back to the Nile.
The good news: The price of airfare to Egypt tends to stay pretty stable, even when purchased last minute. Otherwise, plan to travel in low season or at the end of the shoulder. What to watch out for: Many of the tours include domestic flights, which are an extra cost. Egypt also requires a visa, which can be obtained at the Cairo airport upon arrival for $25. Flights from the U.S. to Egypt aren’t as frequent or as convenient as flights to Europe, but theycan be cheaper. Round trip fares start at around $700 from the Midwest and East Coast and $900 from the West Coast.
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Europe River Cruise Prices
If price is an important consideration, look at Europe first. Fares start at about $200 per person, per night, for budget-priced river cruises and range up to $500 per person, per night, for an all-inclusive luxury experience. Cruise tours typically span seven to 21 nights. Seven-night Rhine or Danube cruises are the most affordable. It’s worth noting that France has the highest Europe river cruise prices.
Europe also has shoulder seasons when cruises can be had — if not on the cheap, then at least more cheaply. Hands down, mid-May through late September are the most popular months for European river cruises, and sailings during that time are usually 15 to 20 percent higher in price. Business slacks off a bit in the heat of July and August, as do prices by as much as 10 percent.
Price-sensitive travelers should consider late March and late fall, when cooler temperatures prevail and crowds thin out — shoulder-season river cruising is one of Europe’s best-kept sercrets.
Holiday Christmas market cruises in November and December are priced lower than those during any other time of the year, offering the best deal in Europe overall — though these are also becoming more expensive as they gain in popularity. There are no sailings in Europe in January or February.
American Queen Steamboat Company:
If youd like to cruise closer to home, the American Queen Steamboat Company is one of a handful of river cruise companies operating in the United States.
Their newest ship is the 245-guest American Countess, which debuted in March, 2021.
A former gambling boat, she was almost totally rebuilt.
The main dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows so you can enjoy panoramic riverside scenes while noshing on USDA prime beef and Southern favorites like Louisana shrimp creole. And while still a paddlewheeler, the cabins are more modern than those in the lines other ships .
With the companys trademark red paddlewheel at the stern, the American Countess offers Mississippi River cruises between New Orleans and Memphis, where bourbon tasting, Mark Twain river tales and Ragtime piano performances are all part of the onboard experience.
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Our Search For The Best River Cruises
1.We searched for the top river cruises from an extensive list of more than 20 luxury river cruise lines.
2. We evaluated more than eight premium river cruise lines based on our expert-guided buying criteria: destinations and itineraries, service, food and accommodations, and more.
3. We provided you the best three river cruises for first-timers.
The approach we took to narrow down the top river cruises was as follows:
We began our search with 20 river cruise companies. These companies offer river cruise packages around the world and each package offers different features, amenities and entertainment.
We analyzed river cruise companies based on well-known travel review sites.
We found and removed companies with an excessive amount of negative reviews. For example, river cruise companies that chartered ships rather than use their own fleet were cut.
We delivered the best river cruise companies so you can start planning your trip.