European River Cruising
River cruising is so popular that cruise companies are scrambling to build new ships fast enough to keep up with demand. New itineraries are opening up every season and the most popular itineraries sell out a year or more in advance. What’s it all about? A river cruise, at first glance, seems like a wonderfully tranquil way to see some of the most historic towns and cities in Europe. But appearances are deceiving. Unlike coastal cruises, voyages along Europe’s waterways rarely offer much time “at sea.” You’ll have sightseeing schedules included at all stops, which range from major cities like Amsterdam and Vienna to delightful, small towns and villages like Austria’s Durnstein and Germany’s Breisach. And on most lines, many of the excursions are included in the price so your costs are defined up front.
The biggest challenge about planning a river cruise is identifying which itinerary most intrigues you.
Favorite International River Cruises
For the second time in three years, Tauck has been named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” by the readers of Travel + Leisure.
This family-run company has offered escorted tours for decades, and today Tauck operates an assortment of river cruises on the world’s famous waterways. Tauck’s ships deliver well-appointed accommodations and daily activities including informative lectures and cultural performances. As with Tauck’s land vacations, the company’s river cruises are highly inclusive.
The cost of your cruise includes your accommodations, most meals on and off the ship, entertainment, shore excursions, and all gratuities and taxes. Wine, beer and soft drinks are included with fine European-style dinners. Each sailing has at least one Tauck Cruise Director and perhaps more, depending on the number of guests. Shore excursions are led by Directors and local guides.
New itineraries for 2014-2015 include The Romantic Rhine, Rendezvous on the Seine, Cruising the Seine, and Danube Reflections.
On all vessels, whether refurbished or newly built, Uniworld’s signature is a daring, dynamic and colorful ambience. Public rooms and cabins are furnished in a high standard, with lush fabrics, antiques and original artwork nestled next to state-of-the-art amenities like flat-screen televisions, marble bathrooms and incredibly comfortable Savoir brand beds. Cuisine and service are on a par with those found on oceangoing luxury vessels, though as riverboats are significantly smaller, ranging in size from 60 to 206 passengers, options like alternative restaurants and entertainment venues are typically fewer in number. While big-ship pastimes — think Broadway-style production shows and casinos — are not offered, each evening provides diversions that range from local acts brought onboard in ports of call to bands that play for dancing.
Most shore tours are included in the fares, while a handful of extra options, such as a bicycling and wine-tasting tour in the Danube’s Durnstein, are available for a fee. Each ship carries a fleet of bicycles for free use by passengers.
We also Like AMA Waterways
AmaWaterways focuses on Europe’s Rhine, Danube, Mosel and Main Rivers, but it has started to put ships in Russia, Africa, France and Vietnam, as well. The line offers ambitious regional cuisine, well-designed cabins and guided port stops (included in the fares) — all set on some of the most modern river ships in the industry. The vessels, ranging in size from 108 to 212 passengers, boast amenities like in-cabin multi=function TV/Web setups, elevators and mechanized wheelhouses that can be lowered to transit under low-slung bridges. Daily sightseeing programs are included with each cruise, and tours include wireless audio devices so cruisers don’t miss a word on history or culture. All ships offer roughly 20 bicycles that passengers can use to explore ports, free internet in cabin as well as wireless, and three different groups for the walking tours…active, regular and gentle.
Part of the Globus family, which also includes Globus escorted tours, Monograms for the independent traveler and Cosmos for the budget or family traveler, Avalon cruises are another great choice in river cruising. Their itineraries include the Galapagos, the Amazon River, the Nile River, The Mekong River and china’s Yangtze River as well as the European rivers. (They do USA itineraries, as well.) This is a great stand-alone choice , or as part of a more comprehensive travel experience with pre and post cruise touring options.