I love to travel and some time ago discovered I also love to write, combine this with my husband's photography and we get to share it all with you. Please follow us on Facebook.
Published December 2nd 2022
Dreaming of a Europe River Cruise
A European river cruise is the dream of many, a trip of a lifetime for most. I have been fortunate to do two in the past few years and both have been absolutely fantastic.
There are many things to think about when contemplating a river cruise through Europe. Where, when, and which travel company are just a few of the choices you will need to research and make decisions on. Many of these choices are purely about personal preference however I hope this article will provide you with information that will help you to make those decisions.
The flagship cruise for most of the companies offering cruises through Europe is the 15 day Amsterdam to Budapest (or reverse) river cruise. Stopping at iconic towns along the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers such as Cologne, Rudesheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Linz, Melk and Vienna with some minor variations, you cannot go wrong with this cruise regardless of provider for your first taste of European river cruising. Be careful though, it's addictive!
If Amsterdam to Budapest is not your thing, however, there is a wealth of cruises on offer. Cruise through beautiful Portugal and Spain, or maybe sit back and relax as you cruise the Seine through France. The Rhine River Valley from Basel to Nuremberg sounds delightful, or how about Milan to Venice taking in the fantastic Italian culture?
You also have the option to add on at either end of your cruise if there are other places you want to visit. For example, on our last cruise, we began in Prague before travelling to Budapest to join the river ship, then travelled to Paris from Amsterdam at the end of the cruise. All on the same tour.
Ghent, Belgium on the way to Paris. Photo: Annette Vandersluis
While each company has its own name for their cruises, they are all reasonably comparable across the product. What does change however, dependent on the company you decide to travel with, are the inclusions.
Regardless of where you decide to go, excursions are designed for all ages and fitness levels and each location often has multiple options. No one needs to miss out.
APT, Scenic, Tauck and Uniworld are what is known as all-inclusive. This means that during the river cruise portion of any journey, all meals, drinks, tours, airport transfers (airport to ship, ship to airport) and gratuities are included.
APT and Scenic also include in their itineraries exclusive and signature experiences. These are not available to those touring independently and are quite simply experiences of a lifetime.
Travelmarvel owned by APT and Emerald Cruises owned by Scenic provide similar itineraries to their more expensive sister companies, but with less inclusions and do not offer drinks outside of meal times. If travelling Emerald you can purchase EmeraldPLUS which enhances the standard tour offerings.
The cabin level you purchase will depend on the added extras that you enjoy. For example, purchasing a more expensive tier class but not necessarily better cabin may give you butler or laundry services, that cheaper tiers do not. There is of course, more luxurious cabins available for those who like to treat themselves.
All seasons have their pros and cons. Travel in the European spring (March – May) and you will enjoy cooler days and nights and less crowds, although you can experience intermittent warm days. Late May can be prone to high river levels as the snow begins to melt in the Alps and finds its way downriver. This can result in ships having difficulty getting under low bridges and may mean ship swaps. The company will transport you between river ships by bus generally including sights you might not have seen otherwise, along the way.
Summer (June – August) is beautiful in Europe although the crowds are bigger and it can get quite hot. During our most recent tour in August 2022, we experienced multiple days over 30 degrees celsius and while the climate on the boat was pleasant, many of the European buildings that you may tour are not set up for these temperatures. Touring therefore can be hot and uncomfortable if you experience high temperatures.
Steam train to Esztergom, Hungary. Photo: Annette Vandersluis
Just as high river levels in spring can be problematic, low river levels can be an issue in late summer, resulting in ship swaps. River level issues do not occur every year, but if you are wanting to travel during the months when this can occur you need to be aware of this potential.
Autumn (September – November) anywhere can be stunning with beautiful colours emerging as nature prepares to sleep during the winter. Autumn in Europe is no exception, and you will experience similar conditions as spring, although early autumn will emulate late summer progressively cooling as the months go by. By this time river levels should have returned to normal so travel in mid to late September and into October should be devine with cooler temperatures and less crowds.
The beginning of winter brings the beautiful Christmas markets and associated river cruises and while we have not yet experienced this stunning time of year in Europe, it is definitely on our to do list. Cooler to cold temperatures and less crowds mean as long as you have the right weather clothing, touring at this time is sure to be magical.
You can book direct with the company of your choice, however we choose to book with Global Journeys. An Australian company located in Queensland, Global Journeys specialises in discounted online bookings for tours and cruises throughout the World and are often cheaper than booking direct.
Don't be put off by their online nature, you can visit them anytime at 10 Sunshine Beach Road, Noosa, call them on 1300 282 168 or email at email@example.com. We have been booking with Global Journeys for the past six years and they have been amazing, including during the madness that was COVID when we needed to cancel multiple bookings.