If you want to go cruising but are not particularly enamoured with the idea being on a large ocean cruise-liner, or, even if you are, why not try a river cruise instead? It is a totally different style of cruising and there is no danger of sea sickness! One attraction of a river cruise is never missing the scenery and countryside just outside your cabin window. European river cruises, for example, offers a number of itineraries to best meet your travel wants and needs. Some put a special emphasis on themes such as wine cruises, others offer the ability to cruise and cycle at the same time. From luxury river vessels to river barges, here are some suggestions you might want to consider.
River Cruising in France
France has sufficient waterways/rivers to allow you to choose the region which is of interest. For example, if you are in Paris and you want to take a river cruise from the City of Lights, here’s a cruise to consider.
Suggested Cruise: 7-Day Burgundy: A Cruise Along the Canal de Bourgogne
The MS Jeanine is a luxury barge which has a capacity for 24 passengers and sails from just south of Paris, visiting the wine region of upper Burgundy for a one week cruise. You travel along a series of waterways and canals, past small attractive villages and through rolling, verdant French countryside. For added pleasure, the barge provides bicycles which can be used to ride along the adjoining towpaths. Because it is Burgundy, naturally there is going to be wine tasting, plus there are excellent wines served on board too. One of the highlights on the cruise is a walking tour of Dijon, with its delightfully preserved medieval centre. And yes, you can purchase the famous Dijon mustard made here. At the end of the cruise, you are returned overland back to Paris. France is a great place to start on experiencing various European river cruises.
The Hidden Wonders of a Europe River Cruise
River Cruising in Italy
Suggested Cruise: 7-Day La Bella Vita Northern Italy Cruise (ex Venice)
La Bella Vita is a comfortable and stylish 20-passenger cruise vessel offering many onboard amenities. You will begin with a cruise around Venice itself, and even if you have already taken a gondola ride, you will see a different Venice from on board this boat. La Bella Vita has a supply of bikes for passenger use and there are many opportunities to undertake this pastime. Ports of Call include Choggia, a picturesque town with a colourful fish market, Taglio di Po, with its beautiful 17th Century stately home, and Villa Ca’Zen, where Lord Byron wrote some of his best poetry. Then there is Adria, an ancient Etruscan town where you will find the Bagnoli Estate, with its extensive wine cellars and where you will have a private tasting of their renowned estate-grown vintages. The Renaissance city of Ferrara is home to a 14th Century castle and Schifanoia Palace, with its amazing 15th Century frescoes. And then, of course, there is Mantua with its captivating lakeside setting and its 14th Century Ducal Palace. I should also add that the boat has its own chef preparing gourmet meals and an excellent selection of wines – a great asset seen on many European river cruises.
Cruising the Rhine River
Probably Europe’s best known river, the Rhine offers a great deal of variety and is one of the most popular bodies of water to embark on European river cruises!
Suggested Cruise: 8-Day Classic Rhine Cruise – Basel to Amsterdam
Enjoy one of many special European river cruises on the Amadeus Silver, which sails between Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Basel in Switzerland. It is a somewhat larger river cruise ship with 84 cabins but still retains an intimate feel. The cruise can be taken southbound or northbound. Departing from Amsterdam, after exploring the town of Volendam, a pretty fishing village, and a visit to a cheese factory, the cruise gets underway. After a meandering cruise through the Dutch waterways, Cologne in Germany is the next city to be visited. You can discover the old areas of the city with their characteristic cobblestone streets, plus visit Europe’s largest church, Cologne Cathedral. Now you are into the heart of the Rhine which has been described as romantic, bewitching, and captivating with its riverside castles, wine estates, and quaint towns. But first, enjoy a side trip up the adjoining Moselle River to Cochem, where you will sample some Moselle wines. The village of Rudesheim is the quintessential Rhine destination with its wine houses, garden taverns, and narrow laneways. Heidelberg, the exceptionally attractive university city, will provide you with panoramic views of both the city and the river from its castle ramparts. Strasbourg is a lovely city architecturally as well as being the home of the European Parliament. Here you will visit the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and enjoy a stroll through “Petite France”, a medieval quarter with colourful half-timbered houses. Eventually you arrive in Basel, having sampled the best of the Rhine, on a European river cruise.
Cruising the River Danube
The Danube is not blue as far as I know, but is still a very attractive river, and Europe’s second longest, after the Volga River. One cruise on the Danube covers 4 different countries – Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. It is possible to cruise through a total of 10 countries, including additionally Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Suggested Cruise: 8-Day Classic Danube Cruise – Passau to Budapest
Staying with a one week cruise on the Amadeus Brilliant, which has 76 cabins, or the Amadeus Royal which has 71 cabins, this itinerary can be enjoyed in either direction. Starting in Passau in Germany, you visit the town of Regensburg, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, with a side trip to the Benedictine Abbey of Weltenburg. There is time to sample some Bavarian beer at a brewery in a monastery. Passau itself is very picturesque and boasts the world’s largest pipe organ, found in St. Stephan’s Cathedral. Sail on to Linz in Austria, and after a stroll around the historic centre, naturally head to a café for a piece of Linzertorte cake. Continuing through Austria, arrive at Melk, a village known for its wine making, and eventually at Vienna. A tour of the city will include the State Opera House, the famous Ringstrasse, the imposing St. Stephan’s Cathedral, and Schonbrunn Castle. And yes, there is time to visit a typical Viennese café. Leaving Austria, Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia is next. Once again, you will find yourself immersed in a city with much interesting old architecture, plus a large castle offering great views. Your last stop is Hungary, in the beautiful city of Budapest, known for its wide tree-lined boulevards and also as “Little Paris.” The city centre is a mixture of medieval, neoclassical, and art nouveau buildings, giving it a unique look. It is here that your Danube cruise comes to an end, and you already start planning your next bucket list item for European river cruises.
Cruising the Waterways of Russia
Here is a scenario. You’re on a Russia vacation and want to see both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Well, how about a cruise which not only covers the waterways between the two cities, but also allows for time to explore both in detail, while using the ship as your hotel! There are several European river cruises offering this, and they can be joined in either city.
Suggested Cruise: 12-Day Moscow to St. Petersburg Cruise
Generally the cruise allows 3 days in each place, with comprehensive shore excursions available. I won’t go into the merits of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as they are well known and a subject for another time. What is perhaps not so well known is the section of cruise in between. This 5-day part of the cruise gives you a wonderful glimpse of not only rural Russia, but also some cities and towns which have their own inviting reasons to visit. There is historical Uglich, with its own Kremlin and samples of old Russian architecture, notably a couple of Russian Orthodox monasteries. Then comes Yaroslavl, a historic city dating back to the 11th century. The centre of Yaroslavl was planned as far back as the 16th to 18th centuries in Neoclassical style. Goritsy is the home of the historic Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, built in 1397. It is also a picturesque river town which has an ambience all of its own, and is one of the highlights on this cruise. Kizhi is a small but picturesque island situated on Lake Onega. The highlights here are the massive Transfiguration Church, with its 22 domes, and the large number of wooden churches scattered around Kizhi. Your last port of call is Mandrogi, a small village which seems to be a throwback to olden times. Here you will have a traditional Russian picnic. It is also the best place to buy the archetypal Matrioshka wooden dolls.
So, here you have 5 different European river cruises, covering many of Europe’s exceptional countries, and offering great accessibility as well as an intimate look at some of the smaller towns.