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What Is The Best River Cruise To Take In Europe

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Uncover History Along The Eastern Danube

6 Best European River Cruise Lines. Which One Is Right For You?

Beyond Budapest, the Danube cuts its way through the southern Carpathian Mountains under the vast skies of the steppes as it winds towards its marshy delta in Romania. Along the way are cool cities such as Novi Sad and Belgrade, interspersed with forested countryside in Bulgaria and Serbia. Theres ancient history in Veliko Târnovo, the former capital of Bulgaria, the medieval fortress of Baba Vidin and wind-sculpted rock formations at Belogradchik. But this is also an opportunity to learn about the tragedies of the much more recent Balkans conflict, which kept this stretch of the river off limits for decades.

Several lines have now added the eastern Danube to their river cruise collections, some of them providing an extension to Bucharest, all grand boulevards and brutalist architecture, and mysterious Transylvania, a region of jagged mountains, where vampires are still very much part of the local psyche.

The harbour at Veere

Frequently Asked Questions About River Cruises

What is river cruising?

Its a form of leisure boat travel along inland waterways most popularly along the worlds major rivers, including the Mississippi, Danube, Rhine, Volga and Yangtze. River cruise boats are smaller than ocean liners to maneuver smaller waterways and can carry up to 250 guests. This reduced capacity makes the whole experience of river cruising more intimate than typical ocean cruising.

Are river ships different from other cruise ships?

River ships are much smaller in size compared to giant ocean liners, so they cater to fewer guests. It is easier to get to know some of the other travelers on a river ship. Also, because rivers are shallow, river cruises tend to be smoother sailing than ocean liners.

How long does a typical river cruise last?

River cruises are typically just over a week in length and include several port stops during each passage. Instead of spending many days at sea, you will spend less time sailing on a river cruise and can expect to awaken each day in a new port.

What are some amenities found on river cruises?

Ocean liners often sail with amenities such as pools, fitness centers, casinos, entertainment venues and so on. River ships tend to have fewer onboard amenities and instead offer educational, cultural or culinary experiences to keep things lively on board.

What can I expect a river cruise to include?

Whats the best season for a river cruise?

What should I pack for a river cruise?

What type of person enjoys a river cruise?

Set Sail On A Luxurious Adventure Down Some Of The World’s Greatest Rivers With These European Cruise Companies

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Theres something utterly romantic about exploring Europe by boat.

Whether youre travelling down the Danube through Austria, Hungary and Serbia, where castles and charming towns emerge around every turn, or along the River Rhine through Switzerland, Germany and Amsterdam, where dramatic mountains and heritage canals paint the landscape seeing Europe by river is an experience like no other.

Keen to board the ship and set sail? These are the companies offering river cruises with the most arresting landscapes in Europe.

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European River Cruises Highlights

  • Glide through countries filled with captivating history, impressive cities and spellbinding beauty.
  • Unpack once and wake up to a new city every day to the sights, sounds and flavours of Europe.
  • Relax without having to navigate roads, your cruise is an all-in-one travel experience.
  • Enjoy ultimate luxury from the second you step on board youll be spoilt for choice.
  • Danube: With a dozen languages spoken on its banks, the Danube is a haven for traditional delicacies and panoramic views.
  • Rhine: Explore fairytale castles and vineyards along the banks which highlight the value of the historical towns that line the waters.

Budget River Cruise Tours In Europe Reviews

The best European river cruises for families
  • “We had some trouble because the level of the river was low, and so a lot of our tour…”

    Festive Season on the Legendary Danube with 2 nights in Prague

  • “We read the Nicko cruise reviews regarding the German language predominance and made…”

    8 days Cologne-Belgien-Holland-Cologne

  • “The boat and meals were excellent, the land tour to Arles should be in the day time…”

    The Magic of the Provençal Rhône and the Camargue

  • “I was warned that Croisi was a budget cruise company, but I was pleasantly…”

    The exceptional region of Bordeaux

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Scenic Luxury Cruises And Tours Review Which Recommended Provider

Scenic specialises in luxury river cruises in Europe and Asia. It’s not cheap, but there are no nasty-surprises because everything’s included in the initial price, so the company still earns four start out of five for value for money. You have a choice of at least two excursions at every stop, while on-board, you’ll be treated to high-quality cabins, lots of space, excellent food and friendly and helpful staff.

, or read our full Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours review for more information.

Ready To Plan Your Own River Cruise

Youve probably already heard from friends and acquaintances about their river cruise experiences. Even if youre not ready to get on board with your own cruise, you might want to start exploring cruise companies websites. River cruising is growing in popularity for many reasons, mainly for authentic experiences that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace in intimate luxurious surroundings. What could be better?

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Ocean Versus River Cruising

River cruising is very different to ocean cruising and its much closer to an escorted bus tour around a particular region. Its a more curated experience with less choice and options. Your whole day is more planned, and it is a more regimented and organised experience, similar to going on a tour around the region or a bus with a guide.

You travel shorter distances than you would on an ocean cruise. Across a week you might only travel a couple of hundred kilometres, whereas on an ocean cruise you often travel many hundreds of kilometres every day as you move between the different destinations.

It is a more intensive look at a particular region. It is a very different experience. Dont think of it as an ocean-style cruise on a river.

European River Cruises Reviews

Experience the best of Europes Rivers: Your 13-Day River Cruise with CroisiEurope
  • “We took a Danube tour in Aug 2017 and had a fantastic time! Great staff, well organized,…”

    The Beautiful Blue Danube

  • “We loved the overall itinerary, initial start times & pace of tours. The staff was…”

    Captivating Rhine 2022

  • “The staff were excellent! All very hard-working, polite, very attentive – always…”

    The beautiful blue Danube from Passau to Budapest

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What Is The Most Scenic River Cruise In Europe

The Top 10 Best European River Cruises For 2020

  • Tulip Cruises. A Tulip Time cruise is one of the most iconic river cruises you can take.
  • Douro Cruises. Scenic Azure on the Douro.
  • Moselle Cruises. Crystal Bach on the Moselle.
  • Main Cruises. Uniworlds River Empress in Wurzburg.
  • Christmas Markets Cruises.
  • With So Many River Cruise Adventures To Choose From We Help You Narrow Down The Best River Cruises In Europe

    A romantic river cruise on the Rhine past famous medieval castles.

    There are almost an overwhelming number of river cruises in Europe that vacationers have to choose from when planning a trip. All the best cruise lines offer itineraries along picturesque rivers in Europe, with castles, wineries, historic sites and much more, just minutes away from your ship.

    Heres an overview of what would-be cruisers can expect to experience when traveling on a river cruise in Europe. Once you narrow down which region is most appealing to you, researching the best cruise line for you is the next step. Which river would you like to travel on first?

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    Dressing For The Season

    If youre traveling outside the peak of summer weather can be quite changeable so clothes you can layer are ideal. Check the long range weather forecast on a site like Accuweather when planning out what to wear on a Viking river cruise to help.

    We have noted different quantities for items based on season in our packing list below but here is a quick guide on what to wear on a river cruise in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall:

    Ama Waterways Enticing Douro


    Discover Portugal and Spain via the Douro River on this seven-night, round-trip voyage to and from Porto via the ancient city of Lamego and the Spanish city of Salamanca. Meet your fellow passengers over a welcome dinner aboard the AmaVida, a 106-passenger vessel with all the modern comforts including WiFi, a spa, fitness room and sun deckor sister ship AmaDouro, most of whose staterooms have balconies. The regionally-inspired meals are served in the main restaurant or al fresco dining area and come with unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks. You’ll soak up the history of ancient Lamego, tour the fortified village of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, embark on a drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Salamanca and much more. From $3,299 per person.

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    A World Of River Cruises Beyond Europe

    But, of course, the world is larger than just Europe.

    When you think river cruise, Europe probably springs to mind first. Europe is, in fact, the biggest destination for river cruising.

    Yet its also possible to drift on inland waterways in many different countries, including in Egypt , China, the U.S., India, the Far East and South America.

    You can sail on everything from a six-person luxury barge to a floating river hotel.

    Weve been fortunate to enjoy several of the worlds best river cruises in China, Egypt , Namibia, Myanmar and our most recent, in France on the Seine River .

    Indeed, ever since our first river cruise, weve been hooked on meandering slowly along rivers, soaking up some of the worlds most historic and cultural sights.

    Were pretty sure that once you take your first river cruise, you too will be seduced by river cruising.

    Dont miss! See our ultimate Cruise Guide youll find boatloads of cruise reviews

    Oberoi Hotels & Resorts:

    Some of the most luxurious Nile cruises are offered by Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.

    The Oberoi Zahra river ship has glass showers with full-length view windows and a misting system to keep you cool on the sundeck and outdoor restaurant.

    And get this. A fleet of air-conditioned black Mercedes vans shadows the ship onshore. When the ship docks, theyre waiting and ready to whisk you away to see the tombs, temples and 5,000 years of Egyptian history.

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    River Cruise Line Reviews

    Of the 16 providers we’ve reviewed, just five are good enough to earn Which? Recommended Provider status: Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, APT Luxury Cruises and Tours, Emerald Waterways, Viking River Cruises and Riviera Travel.

    Not only can you rely on them to organise a fantastic cruise, but you can also count on them to promptly return your money if things go wrong and your cruise can’t go ahead. Unfortunately, that’s more than can be said for many cruise companies.

    Types Of European River Cruise Outfits

    We Tried The Best European River Cruise For Under 40s! | River Cruise Ship Tour
    • Casual clothes for cruising Comfortable but smart casual clothing is the go when cruising in Europe. A t-shirt or sleeveless vest with jeans, capris or a skirt is enough.
    • Comfortable shoes Comfortable shoes are a must for European travel.
    • Non-formal evening wear There often isnt time or a need to change for dinner on a river cruise so dont feel you have to. We usually prefer to change for dinner, even if that means a quick freshen up and changing from a t-shirt into a nicer top. Lightweight, chiffon evening tops are great to pack for evenings on cruises. Wear them over jeans or capris. They dont take up much space but add a little oopmh to your outfit.
    • Formal evening wear Most European river cruises do not have a formal night. If they do, youll find the dress code for river cruises isnt as strict as for ocean cruises. Theres no need to go over the top on formal night on river cruises in Europe. You can wear black pants and dressier top or a simple black dress and pashmina. No need to bring heels, your sandals will do fine. Pop on a statement necklace and youre good to go. Men can pack a sport coat if they like but a long sleeved shirt and pants will do.

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    Crystal Cruises Dazzling Danube Celebration

    This 10-day cruise stops in seven European cities in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia. Setting off along the Danube from Vienna, you’ll pass through the beautiful Wachau Valley go for a guided walking tour in Melk visit historical landmarks in Budapest, and discover the modern art scene and Communist-era architecture of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. Cabins aboard the Crystal Mozart start at 219 square feet, and all have large picture windows, king or twin beds, 40″ TVs and coffee machines. Unique to Crystal River Cruises, the all-inclusive rate covers one meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant in each destination. From $3,899 per person.

    What Is The Best Rated River Cruise Line

    The top 10 winners in the category Best River Cruise Line are as follows:

    • Viking River Cruises.
    • Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.
    • American Cruise Lines.
    • American Queen Steamboat Company.

    Which river cruise company is the best?

    Three of the top 10 river cruise lines on the list Crystal, Tauck, and U River Cruises focus all of their efforts on the rivers there. Read on for the full list.

  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection.
  • Tauck River Cruising.
  • Which viking river cruise is the best?


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    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.


    Tauck Budapest To Amsterdam

    Finding the best last minute European river cruise deals ...

    For culture vultures, this two-week cruise along the Danube with Tauck River Cruises covers five countries and myriad cathedrals, monasteries, castles and vineyards on shore excursions from the ms Esprit or ms Treasures vessels. With just 98 passengers aboard the 361-foot ship, cabins are around 225 square feet, and most have floor-to-ceiling windows and French balconies for admiring views of the Rhine Valley, Budapest skyline, the Main-Danube canal and more. Meals in the Compass Rose or Arthur’s restaurants are all included in the rate, as are all guided tours and crew gratuities. The flexible itinerary lets passengers personalize their excursions in Vienna, there’s the option to explore the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg or spend a day at the magical Schönbrunn Palace. From $7,290 per person.

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    Explore The Venetian Lagoon

    With big cruise ships now banned from the heart of Venice, an unobtrusive luxury river cruise boat is the best way to explore the city and the islands of the misty lagoon. Youll dock at San Basilio, on the Giudecca Canal, an easy walk from Piazza San Marco, usually spending three or four nights here with plenty of time to lose yourself among Venices greeny-blue canals, marble palaces and sunlit squares.

    Forays into the lagoon, and water levels permitting, along the River Po, take in islands including sleepy Torcello, Burano, famed for its brightly painted houses, in shades of lime green and shocking pink, and Murano, centre of the glassblowing industry. Most cruise lines offer a day trip to Bologna, including a pasta-making demonstration, while others treat you to a private view of St Marks Basilica after hours with an art historian, an unforgettable experience.

    The Moselle at Bernkastel-Kues

    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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