Indeed, there are a vast array of rivers to explore on the big continent of Europe. The fun part about taking a river cruise is that you get to see many cities and villages along the way. Of course, you can do the same trip by car, but the views are not the same. We think it is really interesting to see the land from another vantage point and a boat provides that awesome spectacle. Plus, why do the work yourself of hiring a driver or renting a car in a country that you don’t know the laws and maybe are not used to driving the way the locals do? It might be better to let someone else do the work and you relax and enjoy the scenery.
Like in the case of Mediterranean Sea Cruises, European river cruises are in demand. What has happened is people that live in North America are looking for new and exciting places to visit and the cruises have become that much cheaper on the other side of the ocean, so they are deciding to go to destinations in Europe. Some numbers suggest that the industry has risen by close to twenty percent which I am sure the cruise lines are happy for. But that also means an opportunity for travelers to do more with their money.
Now, lets look at six of the best European river cruises.
(Please note that the list is not in order of the best, as in #1 is the most incredible. It may be, but we are just designating which six rivers we think are awesome.)
#1 Danube River
If you are looking for something completely family oriented, then this is the time to visit the Danube through ports in Germany, Hungary, Austria and Slokavia. Disney is a new entry to the European river boat cruises, but like always, it promises to be fun for kids and adults alike. Regardless of the cruise line you choose you are bound to have a wonderful experience visiting venues like Vienna and Budapest. For the adults only, beer cruises are popular!
#2 Rhine River
Tourists love sailing the Rhine because of the many curves and the added mystery of not knowing what is beyond. Dotted with magnificent ancient castles and beautiful vineyards, this cruise might include several different sections including:
- the Middle Rhine, which has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
- the Lower Rhine, which offers fabulous views of windmills and canals in the Netherlands,
- as well as the two tributaries named the Main and the Moselle Rivers.
#3 Elbe and Vltava Rivers
An exciting change has happened in cruises from Berlin to Prague. Previously, for this segment of the river cruise, passengers disembarked from the ship and traveled by bus. But now a paddle wheel boat has been specially made for CroisiEurope to traverse this area, which means the whole cruise is offered by boat. Supposedly, paddle wheelers can operate in very shallow waters and this feature is perfect for this segment of the cruise which includes the Czech Republic and Germany. You’ll probably visit the spa town of Bad Schandau, too.
#4 Loire River
France has always had an appeal for travelers. Whether it be the history, the romance or the lush countryside, it offers a memorable vacation, for sure. This cruise will take you to the gardens of Villandry Château and the Saint-Nazaire shipyard.
#5 Rhône River
Keeping up with the French influence, if you enjoy the epicurean type lifestyle, then tasting wine and gourmet foods such as chocolate and pastries is going to be a focus of this cruise. Places to visit will be Lyon, Valence and Paris.
#6 Douro River
This river is found mostly in Portugal with a small portion in Spain. Taking a cruise on the Douro may mean visiting Coimbra and Salamanca, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site for the world’s oldest wine region situated in the Douro River Valley.
Here’s a great presentation that gives an idea of how a paddle wheeler travels the rivers. It’s quite sleek and not like the ones we toured on years ago.