Why take a river cruise?

Cruising on the Danube past the Buda part of Budapest.
Cruising on the Danube past the Buda part of Budapest. Photo: Shutterstock

This month, we're publishing a thoroughly updated and expanded new edition of River Cruising in Europe by Douglas Ward, our best-selling guide to the complete experience of river cruising on Europe's waterways! If you want to know what to expect, where to go and what vessel to sail on, this is the book for you. But what if you need a little convincing as to why a river cruise can make a fabulous holiday, read on for our top 10 reasons why this can be a great luxury trip – or just an easy travel option!

Where to go on a river cruise

The biggest challenge when considering a river cruise is deciding which river interests you the most, but all river cruises should be welcoming, scenic, comfortable, effortless, small-scale, inclusive, unhurried, organised and memorable. 

Rivers/regions and highlights in Europe

Bordeauxregion (Gironde, Garonne and Dordogne) – for wine and food

Danube – for Budapest, Vienna and the Iron Gate

Douro – for riverbank vineyards and port wine

Elbe – for Prague, Meissen and mountain scenery

Moselle – for quiet and relaxation

Po – for Venice, Padua and Bologna

Rhine – for Cologne, Heidelberg, castles, the Black Forest and the Lorelei

Rhône/Saône – for Lyon and Provence

Seine – for Paris and Normandy

Spot beautiful castle in the Rhine Valley, Germany. Photo: Shutterstock

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Why you should go on a river cruise

River cruising provides an antidote to the pressures of life in a fast-paced world, in comfortable, unfussy surroundings, with decent food and enjoyable (often international) company. Riverships provide a harmonious blend of public and private space, and, once aboard, you only have to unpack once. It’s a growing area of tourism, now with over 15,000 river cruises from which to choose and close to one million people having taken a river cruise in 2015.

Cruise vessel on river Cruising on the Moselle. Photo: Shutterstock

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10 reasons to take a river cruise

1. There’s so much to see

River cruising is all about sightseeing, from the key highlights en route to villages and the countryside. On a typical seven-night Danube cruise, you could see Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna (Wien), Salzburg, Melk and Dürnstein. On a two-week journey, you might visit major cities including Amsterdam, Budapest (Hungary), Cologne (Köln), Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Vienna (Wien), and even sail down to the Black Sea.

2. Almost everything is included 

Upfront pricing means few additional costs, so budgeting is simple. Accommodation, all meals (usually including wine, although it may be quite basic), snacks, destination talks, some (or all) excursions, light entertainment and perhaps transfers to get to and from your river cruise are all included.  

3. They are small, friendly and comfortable

With their size governed by the length and width of the locks that they need to negotiate, most riverships carry between 100 and 200 passengers. The atmosphere is friendly, and fellow passengers tend to have similar interests. 

4. It’s so easy

Simply embark, unpack and enjoy the scenery, as your floating inn takes you from one historic destination to the next. There are no tenders to take to go ashore, and no formalities, and you will no doubt learn something new every day.

5. There’s always something to see and do 

On a river cruise you can enjoy non-stop scenery, whether an urban landscape or the countryside. There will also be talks by guest speakers, and perhaps wine- or beer-tasting sessions or cooking demonstrations.

A cabin with a view of the Garonne, Bordeaux. Photo: Shutterstock

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6. You’ll have a room with a view

Almost all cabins (except on Mozart, Primadonna and Rossini) have windows with river views, so you’ll be able to admire the scenery. Most new riverships now come with balconies, although this is most likely to be a French balcony (doors or electrically operated windows opening onto a safety railing) due to the size restrictions. (Some do have full balconies that you can sit out on.)

7. You don’t have to look like a tourist on tours 

River cruise operators provide guides with microphones and passengers with wireless receivers and earphones, so you can hear what is being said without having to crowd around the guide.  

8. It should all be smooth sailing

Some first-timers worry about motion sickness, but don’t – the gentle waters of rivers are different to those of the ocean, with no waves for a start. Itineraries can, however, be affected by low or high water: not enough water and the riverships can’t cruise; too much and they can’t get under the bridges (in such cases, comfortable coaches take you to and from the key attractions).

9. Many riverships are surprisingly chic

The newest riverships are very different from those that previously dominated the market. You can have a balcony, various dining options (eg restaurants in different areas of the rivership and possibly on an outdoor deck), Wi-fi (often at no additional charge) and a flat-screen infotainment system. 

10. You don’t have to cook

It’s all done for you, and so is the washing up. You don’t have to make the bed either! Or drive!

Cruising past Paris's greatest icon, the Eiffel Tower. Photo: Shutterstock

Buy the book: River Cruising in Europe

Check back later in the week for more blogs on river cruising in Europe!

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