Here’s why you should consider a European river cruise

by: Howard S. Moses, President, The Cruise Authority

There is no better way to explore Europe than aboard one of the new riverboats plying the continent’s beautiful rivers. Throughout history cities were built upon these mighty highways of commerce as riverboats were the main mode of transportation. What this translates to for travelers today is docking typically within walking distance of the center of towns and cities, both large and small.

A new breed of deluxe riverboats has grown quickly in the past 5-7 years, with the likes of AMA Waterways, Uniworld, Avalon, Viking River and Tauck leading the way.

River cruises truly focus on the destination, often compared as the best of cruising and a bus tour. My favorite memory is sitting on the top deck in a hot tub (champagne in hand), watching the European countryside roll by on a sparkling afternoon.

Here are just some of the reasons you should consider making a European river boat your next vacation:

>>> All-inclusive Value
Consider this – everything on your vacation is included – meals, wine with dinner, local entertainment, shore excursions, internet, transfers, bicycles, etc... (Note that inclusions vary from line to line.) It should be noted that these excursions tend to be more walk-oriented and intimate. On a recent cruise with AMA Waterways on the Douro River in Portugal our group enjoyed dinner on a mountain top overlooking Portuguese vineyards on a spectacular evening – truly a memorable experience.

>>> Shore excursions are included
There are typically one or 2 to choose from, generally walking about time with a local host. Most of the lines now use wireless personal headsets where you don’t have to listen to your guide screaming (especially appropriate in museums and churches).

>>> Cruising by day
Unlike larger, ocean-going vessels, riverboats enjoy an unparalleled view of the countryside. Further contrary, riverboats tend to motor during the day, stopping in the afternoons to allow guest to enjoy afternoons and evenings in port. It isn’t unusual to visit 2 or more cities in a single day, spending just a few hours in the smaller, single-highlight towns and villages.

>>> More luxurious vessels
As this segment of the travel market has matured, the vessels have developed into lines that compete with most ocean going ships. Larger staterooms, most with private verandahs or large picture windows are now the norm. Sun decks lined with plush chaises, pools, hot tubs, spa services are all now fairly typical. New vessels, with ultra-chic designs are coming out every year at a blistering pace.

>>> Spectacular Staterooms
One of the big negatives about river cruising was that the cabins were tiny – some not much more than 100 square feet. Today, these have been replaced with 300+ square foot staterooms featuring enormous picture windows so that you can watch the countryside roll by from the comfort of your own room. Large bathrooms and closets are prevalent.

>>> Bicycles included
Most of Europe is very bike friendly, with drivers and pedestrians very aware of cyclists. To cover even more ground, many of the lines now include top-of-the-line touring bikes for usage in port. If you’re up to it, you can ride along the river and catch up to your riverboat in the next town (trust us, dinner never tasted so good!).

>>> New destinations
While Europe is definitely the home of river cruising, there are any number of new destinations for travelers to consider: These include...

Vietnam & Cambodia
China’s Yangtze river
Mississippi river
Nile river
Myanmar (Burma) - in development
Columbia river (Washington State)
Amazon river

In short, there are many, many reasons to consider a river cruise in Europe, or anywhere!

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