Cruising the rivers of Europe

Cruising the European rivers is becoming more popular, particularly as a cruise offers a convenient was to see the countries of Europe without having to pack and unpack bags, and you have the one bed for the entire cruise, so you have the opportunity to get used to same bed instead having to attempt to get comfortable night after night in a variety of different beds.

If you have a disinterest in cruising because your belief is that you will spend too much time at sea, and not enough time exploring the various ports, then river cruising could be of interest to you as the days are generally jam packed with land tours and the river ships tend to travel at night, unless there is some very good scenic reason for travelling during the day.

That is another good reason to consider river cruising – you don’t just see the sea, on a river there is generally much more to see; you can watch life pass by on a river, whether you pass farmland, towns or valleys, and there is generally a lot of other river traffic to attract your attention.

Of the European rivers, the two most popular for cruising are the Danube and the Rhine.

The Danube is where you can enjoy the medieval cities and old towns of Central Europe, as well as some spectacular mountain scenery.  Cruise ships on The Danube, typically sail through Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, and it is possible to sail all the way to the Black Sea, most commonly in Romania, where the river splits into the various branches of the Danube Delta.

The Rhine River cruises are generally the most popular, and the most common route is between Amsterdam in The Netherlands and Basel in Switzerland.  At 1,230 kilometres it is one of the longest rivers in Europe.  The most spectacular part of the voyage is through the Middle Rhine, where it flows through the Rhine Gorge where you sail past pretty vineyards and spectacular castles.    

The Moselle River is a tributary of the Rhine, and often cruises will sail part of both rivers.  Here you’ll sail through some of Europe’s oldest cities as your vessel drifts past centuries-old castles, lush vineyards and quaint medieval villages in Germany, Luxembourg and France.

And speaking of France, it is also common to cruise the Seine River, with boats sailing between Paris and north west to the Normandy Coast.  Featured stops on these cruises include Vincent van Gogh’s Auvers-sur-Oise and Napoleon and Josephine’s elegant Château de Malmaison; Claude Monet’s stunning gardens at Giverny and Joan of Arc’s historic Rouen.

Remember, that river cruising is all about the destinations, not necessarily the ship itself. These vessels are designed to move you up and down a river from one historic location to another efficiently and comfortably. Unlike the modern trend in cruise ships where the focus is on the amenities on board the ship itself, not necessarily its ports of call, the river ship does not attempt to ‘get in the way’ of the destination. They are comfortable and amenities and meals are good, but they tend not to have any special themes or distractions like climbing walls or ice rinks.  A typical river cruise offers the opportunity to visit quaint villages located way off the beaten tourist track, something that can’t just do on a large cruise ship.

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