Best European River Cruises

Many people want to explore enjoy the high seas; however, a short cruise with a few thousand other travelers can be a bit daunting. This is where a European river cruise can help adventurers enjoy the ocean and European culture. Now the fastest growing area of cruising, a river cruise can provide a much more intimate travel experience. Dining and entertaining are on a smaller scale, and guests are limited to around 200 or fewer.

Newer river cruise ships are cleverly designed with open-air viewing, floor-to-ceiling windows, and balconies, allowing passengers to see some spectacular vistas. Europe’s rivers are among the most scenic in the world! River cruise ships dock at cities rich in historical landmarks and charming small towns full of local culture. Many ports along the way feature bike and walking tours. Following are some great options for an unforgettable European river cruise:

Viking River Cruises

A highly-reputable cruise company, Viking promotes their elegant “longships” with spacious suites and verandas for outdoor dining with exquisite cuisine. Viking designs their cruise itineraries to help travelers connect with their destinations through the culture, food, and countryside. They offer several different itineraries at a variety of prices.

A favorite is Viking’s 10-day Portuguese “River of Gold” cruise. The itinerary starts in Lisbon, where passengers begin the trip with a walking tour through the city’s ancient streets. Then they’ll head to the wine country of Porto to board. They’ll cruise along the Duoro River, a major river of the Iberian Penisula. Along the way, passengers will get to explore Baroque palaces, visit vineyards in picturesque settings, and explore Portuguese villages. The river cruise ship reaches Salamanca, Spain, on the seventh day and then returns to Porto. The River of Gold cruise offers 8 guided tours in two countries and is priced from $2,799.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

One of the world’s largest river cruise companies, Uniworld is known as the only boutique cruise line in the world. Their amenities include a butler service in-suite and L’Occitane and Hermes bath amenities. Unique and elegant interiors are inspired by the places they visit. All-inclusive pricing includes world-class cuisine.

Uniworld’s popular eight-day “Enchanted Danube” on the S.S. Maria Theresa begins in Budapest with a choice of a walking or biking tour. Travelers will stop in Vienna for a Mozart and Strauss concert and a tour of the city with a chance to sample local delicacies. This cruise’s stopping point is in Passau, where they’ll have another walking or biking tour to explore the city before attending a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner. Pricing starts from $3,349.

AMA Waterways

AMA Waterways is a family-owned leading cruise line featuring spacious award-winning ships and creative itineraries. They focus on stateroom views, exquisite decor, and the best in food and wine at The Chef’s Table specialty restaurant. Prices include several carefully-planned shore excursions. Bike tours are available in several destinations.

Their seven-day “Taste of Bordeaux” tour is popular with wine-lovers. The itinerary takes passengers cruising the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers with visits to iconic chateaux and vineyards for wine tastings. They’ll stop in Pauillac in the Medoc wine region, Saint-Emilion for touring and tastings, and tour a medieval castle in Sauternes. After returning to Bordeaux, travelers can explore the world’s wine capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pricing starts at $3,099.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon focuses on views with their entire European fleet featuring Panoramic Suites and the only open-air balcony currently in the industry. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows give extreme views from both suites and staterooms. Amenities include deluxe beds in spacious quarters with lots of closet space. Bathrooms are quite large, with full showers and L’Occitane bath amenities. The many shore excursions are categorized as “leisurely,” “traditional,” or “independent” choices for exploring on at the passenger’s leisure.

Travelers can cruise along the scenic Rhone and Saone Rivers on their “Burgundy and Provence” cruise. The itinerary begins with two nights in Paris. After exploring the City of Light, passengers will board a train to Beaune and then set sail for Cote d’Azur, the tour’s final destination. Stops along the way include Macon, Lyon, Arles, and Avignon. Travelers can explore medieval cities, Roman ruins, and Chardonnay and Beaujolais tastings, as well as a night on the fabulous French Riviera. This 11-day cruise starts at $3,978.

Emerald Waterways

Emerald’s custom-built Star Ships are the largest that travel Europe’s waterways. The 440-foot long ships have a choice of five cabin types, a heated pool that transforms into a cinema at night, and bar and lounge. Suites have their own private sundeck. Floor-to-ceiling windows drop down from the top for fresh air and a deeper connection to the landscape.

Emerald’s popular “Lower Danube Waltz” cruise is an 8-day excursion between Vienna and Belgrade. Shore excursions include a tour of Vienna’s main attractions and Budapest. The ship sets sail for Pécs at the Hungarian-Croatian border to marvel at its famous architecture. In Osijek, passengers can experience the culture first-hand by having lunch with a local Croatian family in their home. The cruise ends in Belgrade with a tour of Serbia’s hidden gems. Prices start at $3,195.


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