Top 10 Tips for a European River Cruise

German river

Forget about flipping through an entire book of sailing suggestions; rather, get all the help you need for your dream voyage be reading the following top 10 tips for a European river cruise. The advice will help you decide if an interior waterway sailing is right for you and how you can make the most of your European vacation.

Top 10 Tips for a European River Cruise

These simple tips are applicable to cruisers looking to take a discount sailing or those with money to spare. Regardless of your budget there are things you should know before you tour Europe up close and personal on a river cruise:

1. Size Matters

River cruises are a far cry from ocean adventures. The intimate voyages are packed with scenery and a myriad of shore excursion opportunities unlike ocean cruises which can feature days at sea with little to look at other than endless blue water. In addition, river vessels in Europe, which are much smaller than ocean liners, can easily navigate the region's narrow waterways. Most European river boats can carry about 250 passengers. The limited space creates a cozy environment, allowing you to get to know your fellow passengers very well. What's more, due to the smaller size of the vessel, most staterooms are located on the outside of the boat, which means you are able to enjoy unobstructed exterior views.

2. Adjust Your Expectations

The small size of European river boats means that you will not be offered the same amount of onboard amenities as those featured on massive ocean liners. Moreover, the type of activities offered on European river cruises are a bit more sedate than those found on larger ships. Sample activities include cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, historical lectures, and concerts.

3. Prepare for More Stops

One of the benefits of taking a European river cruise is that you are afforded the luxury of sailing to the very heart of the historic cities and ancient villages that call the continent home. As such, most cruise itineraries feature more stops than those found on traditional ocean cruises which typically grace the edges of vacation destinations. On a river journey you are given the chance to tour everything from vineyards and medieval castles to historical landmarks and world-class restaurants.

4. Set Limits

More stops means more time exploring top European tourist attractions. In many cases this translates to a lot of walking along ancient cobblestone streets and stairs. If you are planning an extensive shore excursion, it's a good idea to know your physical limitations. If you have a heart condition or other medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor before climbing 300 steps to the top of an Austrian hilltop or a French castle.

5. Timing is Key

If you are looking to take a budget European river cruise, then shoot to sail during the spring and fall. Winter voyages, especially Christmas cruises, are expensive and hard to come by given their popularity. Summer river cruises are also a bit pricey, since demand outweighs supply during the busy travel season when kids are out of school and the weather yields spectacular views of lush flora and fauna in the South of France.

6. Be Selective

European river cruises are readily available throughout the year, so be selective when booking an itinerary. Since there is no shortage of rivers in the region, you don't need to feel as though your choices are limited to the popular Danube and Rhine rivers. Other tourist-friendly European rivers serviced by cruise companies include:

  • Douro
  • Elbe
  • Mosel
  • Rhone
  • Saone
  • Seine
  • Dneiper

7. Review Options

Europe features a plethora of cruise destinations, including:

  • Austria
  • Belarus
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Serbia
  • Ukraine

It's a good idea to review your options before settling on a specific region and cruise company. Some cruises combine water and land packages. An experienced travel agent will be able to help you find the European river cruise that best suits your time frame, interests and budget.

8. Pack Carefully

It's likely that you will be taking a commercial airliner to get to and from your cruise ports, so you need to be mindful of packing light for the flight and cruise. Fortunately, most European river cruises don't feature formal nights, so you can leave your fancy clothes and shoes at home. What's more, most river boats feature onboard launderettes where you can wash your garments. Suites and other upscale staterooms include complimentary laundry service.

9. Learn the Language

There's no faster way to endear yourself to Europeans than to learn the local language. This doesn't mean taking a crash course so you can speak fluent French for your cruise down the Seine. Rather, learn a few key phrases, such as "hello," "thank you" and "excuse me." Your efforts will be appreciated by local shopkeepers and restaurant staff.

10. Consider Theme Trips

If you are overwhelmed by the array of different European river cruise options, then consider narrowing your search by considering a theme sailing. Possible itineraries include everything from a three-night wine tour on the Saone to a 30-day odyssey that encompasses a litany of amazing stops on rivers and tributaries from Amsterdam to the Black Sea.

Planning a Trip

Regardless of which European waterway you choose to tour, it's always a good idea to consult with the experts before you go. Contact a reputable travel agent in your area or query a representative at one of the leading cruise companies that specialize in European river cruises, such as AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways or Viking Cruises.

Top 10 Tips for a European River Cruise