European River Cruises - Best Tours & Trips 2019
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Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.
Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.
Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.
Price Per Day
Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.
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Rivers & Seas
Cities & Attractions
Flights & Transport
Continents & Regions
- Visit the Abbey of Hautvilliers where the monk Dom Perignon first made Champagne
- Visit to the world famous cellars of Moet and Chandon for a tour and tasting
- Visits to small family-run vineyards
- Visit Meaux and Coulomniers, one of the centres of Brie cheese
- Visit the magnificent Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte
- Enjoy riding along the Danube Bike Path
- Discover the Old City in Passau
- Visit 'Donau Auen' National Park
- Enjoy a casual bike tour of the main sights and explore Budapest
- Explore Zmeinaya Bay is located in Chivyrkuyskiy Bay and is well-known for its healing hot springs
- Ogoy Island is quite big island in Maloe More (Small Sea) that is located next to Baikal Lake
- Visit Taltsy - open-air museum of wooden architecture
- Opportunity to visit Listvyanka is a village located on the shores of Lake Baikal in 70 km from Irkutsk
- Enjoy wine tasting in Melk and beer tasting in fascinating Regensburg
- Special onboard and onshore experiences presented by local chefs, entertainers, artisans, and experts
- Visits cities in four European nations
- Enjoy the beauty of river Danube.
- Visit fascinating abbey at Melk, a 900-year-old Benedictine monastery
- Opportunity to tour Regensburg a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Get an opportunity to visit 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Discover Netherlands
- Visit Marksburg Castle, the only Rhine fortress never destroyed
- Discover Berlin’s modern chic, Potsdam’s rococo whimsy
- Experience cruise along Elbe which is one of Europe’s most unspoiled rivers
- Opportunity to visit 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Explore Wittenberg’s and see the historic landmarks.
- Explore Prague
- Get an opportunity to Visit 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Enjoy the amazing river cruising across Amsterdam
- Explore Budapest enjoy innovative, efficient metro.
- Discover Vienna
- Experience a tour of Bamberg, with its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Enjoy the fascinating river cruises across Danube.
- Opportunity to visit 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Explore Hungary
- Experience a tour to Bratislava and See attractions like the medieval Town Hall
- Visit to Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Discover Passau
- Enjoy Cochem Walking Tour and Reichsburg Castle
- Explore amazing Paris
- Experience Bamberg bike tour
- Discover Prague
- Get an opportunity on cruising across Rhine Gorge
- Visit large churches like St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Neo-gothic New Cathedral.
- Explore the cities Vienna and Linz
- Enjoy the cruise through the Dhanube River
- Visit the Wachau wine region
- Explore Prague
- Enjoy walking tour to Regensburg, Linz
- Discover Vienna city tour
- Visit Budapest
- Explore Lisbon
- Discover Guimaraes and visit UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Visit Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo
- Visit Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Explore Madrid
- Onboard welcome reception
- Choice of excursion to Black Forest, or guided visit to Badische Winzerkeller
- Guided tour, visit to La Petite France district and the gothic cathedral
- Special treat; choice of visit to Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum, or cable car ride to the Niederwald Monument in Rüdesheim; scenic cruising through the Rhine Gorge; time at leisure in Boppard
- Choice of guided tour in Frankfurt, or guided tour in Seligenstadt
- Guided tour
- Guided tour, visit to the Bishop’s Residenz
- Guided tour, see the Old Town Hall
- Full day guided tour in Munich
- Choice of Roth guided tour, or Nuremberg guided tour, or Nuremberg Rally Grounds tour; lecture on board
- Guided walk; beer tasting on board
- Guided walk
- Guided tour of the Benedictine Abbey in Melk; scenic cruising through the Wachau Valley
- Guided sightseeing
- Guided tour, see Heroes’ Square
- Your breathtaking river cruise begins on the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland
- You’ll sail to Breisach, your starting point for a Black Forest excursion, and to the city of Strasbourg, France, along the way
- 19 day river cruise from Budapest to Paris
- Sail along the Danube, Main, Rhine, and Moselle Rivers
- Deluxe 14-night cruise in an outside stateroom
- Fishermen’s Bastion and Heroes’ Square
- Nuremberg Rally Grounds tour
- The Marienplatz
- Reichsburg Castle
- Visit Medieval Gothic Cathedral at Cologne
- Explore Regensburg
- Discover Nuremberg
- Explore Würzburg
- Visit the Residenz Palace and gardens
- Visit multiple Christmas Markets on the scenic river route from Budapest to Amsterdam
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Top European River Cruises Experiences
Tagging along with the chef and shopping the local markets for the nights dinner.
Stepping off the ship to experience the heart of the area.
Listening to the sounds of music performed by locals.
Sipping wine from a regional vineyard.
Strolling the cobblestone roads of historic European cities.
Savoring the tastes of local gastronomic delights.
European River Cruises Trip Reviews
5 European River Cruises Tour Reviews - Summary 80% Recommend
European River Cruises Tours and Travel Guide
European River Cruises Attractions & Landmarks Guide
River cruising is one of the hottest segments in worldwide cruising right now, and river cruising in Europe is the most popular location for it. The Rhine, Danube, Seine and Volga are perennial favorites, but don't overlook the Rhone, Saone, Garonne, Gironde, and Dordogne in France; the Elbe in central Europe; the Moselle in Germany and Luxembourg; the Guadalquivir in Spain; the Douro in Portugal; the Po in Italy, Sweden's river-like Gota Canal, and others. You'll get intimate looks at Europe's cities, villages, and scenery that you'll find nowhere else, and have a wide variety of ships and lines to choose from.
Picture yourself floating on one of the great waterways of Europe, magnificent scenery passing by. Your vessel stops in the many places that you read about in history or geography books. Your ship introduces you to the splendors of Europe and facilitates immersion into the local culture. You might be sailing to visit the lands of your ancestors or to experience the local food and drink.
Relaxation prevails on board. Local entertainment and lectures about the ports of call engage guests, but do not overwhelm them with multiple choices for a plethora of activities as is found on ocean going counterparts.
What to Expect on a European River Cruise
Brochures display photos of gorgeous scenery, famous cathedrals and romantic castles. Those images lure guests to experience the European rivers. But what else should you consider when choosing to travel on a river cruise?
1. Ships have fewer passengers
No getting lost in a crowd or waiting in long lines. Unlike ocean going ships, the ship is rarely the destination as the point of cruising the great rivers of Europe is to explore everything offered in the port. Researching your chosen river cruise operator ensures that you will find a perfect match for a river cruising style that meets your needs.
Cabins on the river cruise ships accommodate two people so larger family groups will need to book another cabin. Connecting cabin options exist, but groups with young children should be aware of the programs or lack thereof, for children on board. Some of the river cruise lines have minimum age restrictions, an important consideration when planning.
2. Review the inclusions
In general, river cruises include many amenities, but it is essential to review those inclusions and decide what matters most to you. Certain shore excursions may be included with options for other excursions available for purchase.
Several Europe river cruise lines offer bicycles or walking sticks. Priority access into popular attractions saves guests from waiting in long lines or allow them to experience special events designed solely for them.
3. Multiple river choices
With many rivers to choose from, deciding on the perfect one comes down to the itinerary and special interests of guests. For example, there are many themed cruises, like those focused on wine or Christmas markets. A popular choice for first time cruisers of the European rivers is the majestic Danube, but there are lesser known rivers like the Douro in Portugal that attract those seeking to explore a new country or lesser-known region.
4. Consider your physcial level expectations
Keep in mind that river cruise ships often dock together and it is necessary to climb from one ship to the next to reach shore. It's a great opportunity to check out other ships, but also poses a problem for those with physical limitations. Combine this with cobblestone roads and a lack of handicap-accessible staterooms and you realize that these cruises accommodate only those with the physical ability to negotiate difficult terrain and the agility to climb from ship to ship.
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