As river cruising continues to grow in popularity, options from which to choose are expanding as well. Once the trip of a lifetime for mature travelers, river cruising has recently started drawing families, solo travelers and a bit younger crowd. That’s not by chance either. River cruise companies are facing increasing competition among each other and the world of ocean cruises too. Rather than looking at different travel companies to find the best European river cruises, we’re going to arm you with information that can be applied as you click online, look in brochures or talk to a travel agent.
The Big Four
Your first European river cruise will probably be on one of the four most popular rivers in that part of the world: the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers as well as the Main-Danube Canal. The 1,100-mile distance from Amsterdam to Budapest sees more first-time river cruisers than any other on the planet. Rightfully so, those rivers bring travelers access to Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and The Netherlands.
Your Personal Interests
One of the best parts of a European river cruise, is what travelers will see along and around river banks. That’s especially true for travelers who have never been to Europe before. Generally speaking, History, Architecture and Geography are hot topics on river cruise ships, but not in the way one might imagine. A river cruise is not an extension of elementary school classes and now all the other kids are grown up. Regardless of the cruise line chosen, travelers find themselves up close and personal with places that are every bit as interesting in the present as they were in their historic past.
Your Specific Personal Interests
Did an ancestor of your serve in the military during a global conflict? If so, you may be quite able to visit the places they may have seen, been injured or died. The rivers we’re talking about here were all used during armed conflicts. Going even more personal, just about any interest we might have can be examined, embraced and more on a river cruise.
Cycling comes to mind as many ships carry a complement of bicycles, free for passengers to use. Sort of like how using a favorite exercise machine found on an ocean cruise just like the one in the gym back home brings an entirely different view to begin our day at sea. That happens on land via rivers too.
Same Song, Different Singer
Unlike ocean cruise lines, river cruise lines actually have a lot more in common than not. While ocean ships face far fewer restrictions in size, river cruise ships do. They must be able to pass under bridges and through locks. On a European river cruise there are a bunch of them. On the 1,100 miles of waterways between Amsterdam and Budapest, over sixty will eventually lead to need to deviate from the published itinerary. Deviated is more how it will actually go more often than not.
I bring that up here because this is not a deviation like we skipped Grand Cayman on a Caribbean cruise because it would be difficult to maneuver the ship. On a river cruise, while we may not sail from point A to point B exactly as planned, we’ll see the same place. River cruise companies do that by leveraging one of their biggest distinguishing factors: they are not all that far from roads and they know how to use those as well.
European River Cruise Lines
As river cruise travelers sail, they will see ships from a variety of cruise lines, much like at a port of call on an ocean cruise. Popular places along the river will also see a variety of river cruise ships docked along the way. Interestingly, by the end of just about any European river cruise, those on board any given ship can tell you the most plentiful travel companies they encountered along the way.
A good reason to explore the best European river cruises now? Airfares have dropped by an average of 10% over the past 12 months with long haul flight ticket prices down by an average of 7%, according to Skyscanner. That brings reduced price (if not free) airfare; normally one of the most frequent objections voiced by travelers who have been on a Caribbean cruise and want to branch out.
Chris Owen shares frank, inside information about cruise vacations on ChrisCruises.com.