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Make It Simple To Choose

Your Best European River Cruises

European River Cruises are...
very different from Barge Cruises

Both types are popular in Europe, but there’s a big difference between the two… many web sites and travel articles make it even more confusing because they often list both types under river cruises.

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What’s the major difference?

  • River Cruises sail fast on the larger rivers in Europe…Rhine, Danube and Rhone among others…with 100 – 150 passengers.
  • Barge cruises “meander” on the smaller canals and go much slower…with 8 to 24 passengers…

In this section you’ll find the information on European River cruises. Click here for Barge Cruises .

  • River cruises hold from 100 to 150 passengers (most of them around 150) and you’ll often find a gift shop, a beauty salon and some type of local entertainment on board. Not so on barges.
  • River cruises are a lot more personable than the bigger cruise ships that sail on the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas.
  • River cruises provide - and often include - all shore excursions - coach and walking tours in the cities and villages along the river.

  • Activities on barges are wine tasting, biking and walking along the barge as it travels, and some minimal sightseeing by minibus.

Some of your important benefits of a river cruise…

  • No packing and unpacking…only do it once for your whole trip
  • No 7 AM wake up calls…as on escorted coach tours
  • Ships stop right in the center of the town unlike big ship cruises that must dock outside the cities

And maybe some items to think about…

  • No big shows…entertainment can be a piano bar and performances by local groups or the crew
  • You travel for a week with up to 150 people…if you prefer to be with fewer choose a barge cruise

More information about river cruises…

  • They offer regular meals...buffet breakfast and lunch…a multi-course dinner with choice of entrees…not the six or seven course meals that you receive on barges.
  • In addition to “cruise only” programs, operators offer combined “land-cruise” trips (i.e. including Paris or Prague.)
  • Many cabins are standard with shower, hair drier, TV…but no balconies.
    (Some newer ships now have the small Frech style balconies and some suites)
  • The best time for river cruising is from spring to fall. The special Tulip cruises in Holland are the earliest sailings (bring an umbrella and raincoat!)

Where you find river cruises in Europe…

  • The Rhine River from Holland all the way to Basel on the Swiss-German border…the Rhine is scenic south of Cologne but not in Holland.
  • The Danube from Germany via Vienna to Budapest…some cruises go all the way to the Black Sea.
  • The Elbe River in Germany from Dresden to Hamburg. Some sailings include visits to Prague and Berlin.
  • The Seine River in France from Normandy – visit Monet’s Giverny – to Paris.
  • The Rhone River in France from Lyon via Avignon to Arles with side trips to the Provence.
  • The Douro River in Portugal from Oporto to the Spanish border. This is the famous Port wine district.
  • There are additional cruises on the Po River in Italy, the Guadalquivir in Spain (with Seville) and in Russia – between Moscow and St. Petersburg and south to the Black Sea.
  • In Ireland and Great Britain there are no river cruises…but lots of self-drive boating and a few barge cruises.
  • The small boat river cruise on the Gota Canal in Sweden is an exception to the large ship river cruises.

    Link: https://www.gotacanal.se/en/

    It’s a whole different story…a small boat and a slow relaxing trip. It’s a cruise on its own…in between river and barge cruises.

    The boats travel one-way between Stockholm and Gothenburg in either four or six days.

European River Cruise operators…they’re not all the same…

It’s essential to know the difference…you will be sailing with them for at least a week…It's now even more complicated with many new entries in this type of cruise.

Do you want a luxurious or a medium-priced cruise?

If you prefer traveling with more Europeans go with the less expensive cruises. That's where they tend to be.

The European Travel Resource Center has the facts and direct links for all the information you want…

  • You can find luxurious river cruises from Tauck River Cruises.
  • For first class cruises visit the web sites of the following five operators - Avalon Waterways, Viking River Cruises, Uniworld, AMA Cruises and Grand Circle.
  • CroisieEurope is the operator that offers the less expensive European cruises.

So…what’s the best way to choose your European River cruise?

  • Decide what area you want to visit in Europe
  • Decide what type ship you would like to travel on…medium-priced, first class, deluxe.
  • Visit the web sites of the cruise operators listed on this page or click the direct links in the European Travel Resource Center.

    You will find detailed itineraries, departure dates and prices for each category. Rates are less expensive in the off-season…but remember…the weather may not be that good.

    You can also find the information you need on the special all-inclusive land-cruise programs.

  • After you have decided on the cruise and operator, find a river cruise specialist for the cruise line you’re interested in.

    Go to the cruise company’s web site. If at all possible, book European river cruises with a good travel consultant - an “Independent Source".

    The consultant is aware of all the special deals. River cruise operators offer a lot of discounts, when they can’t fill the ships. If you’re flexible don’t book too soon. (But also special discounts if you book a year in advance, see below)

    But remember, many passengers book a year in advance, so you will have to be really flexible if you do it that way.



Click River Boat Ratings.Com for essential tips on River Boat Cruises PLUS ratings for ALL cruise companies and ships. You can also check with" Berlitz's River Cruising in Europe" from Amazon.com.

Also click here for an important point on river cruising in Europe - too much water or not enough water in the rivers and what that means to you!

Final note

At the moment river cruises are one of the most popular cruise vacations in Europe, especially if you’re over 50 and want a relaxing vacation without worrying about anything!

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