Why, where, When and How of European River Cruising A complete guide on to seeing europe by river

River Cruise Group and Travel Specialists


Thank you for your interest in our European River Cruise. In this guide we'll show you "Why" river cruising has become so popular along with information and practical advice on "When, and Where" to take a river cruise. We'll also compare "How" a river cruising is different than ocean cruising. Check out our "Insider Tips" in each section for expert advice to help you enhance your next river cruise along with some bonus information.

Ready to start this journey? Let's sail into it...

We know the rivers, ships and seasons and can size you up with the right itinerary

Top Group Travel d/b/a Meister Meetings & Travel FL, Tel: 561-279-2500 Seller of Travel Ref #ST41916

"Eventually, all things merge and a river runs through it. " - Norman MaClean
Why take a River Cruise?

River Cruising has become increasingly popular as a relaxing way to take a grand tour of the interior of Europe by water. It is a perfect transition for existing ocean cruisers ready to try something new and for brand new cruise travelers that prefer an intimate, cultural experience and don't want to be on an open ocean.

Couples, families and groups love the slower cruising pace, small ship sizes, immersive, up close personal experiences and encounters that only river cruising offers. You can see, touch and feel the different cultures, cities towns, and cuisines of Europe while unpacking once.

Think of a river cruise ship as a floating barge with a boutique, luxury hotel on the top. On the top deck you have a beautiful open deck to see the sights and down below you have the luxury and amenities of a deluxe and fully stocked hotel.

Great views from your luxurious cabin
Exquisite service onboard
Dining with a view
4-Star dining every night
Bars and lounges onboard
Relax and enjoy the view from the top deck
"Where" can you take a River Cruise?

Thanks to the completion in 1992 of the Rhine-Main - Danube Canal and locks connecting Europe's main rivers, travelers can now sail from the North Sea to the Black sea through the heart of Europe and many capitol cities while unpacking just once.

Besides the most popular Rhine and Danube rivers, Europe offers other attractive and totally different cruise itineraries so once you're hooked on river cruising you will not run out of new options and regions to explore.

Most river cruise itineraries are 7 nights or longer so can combine a river cruise with a land program and connect to other cities and regions by convenient high speed trains.

Insider Tip: Whenever possible, we prefer to sail in the direction of the river flow on one-way cruises to enjoy shorter cruising time and longer times in ports (see river flow directions below):

  • Rhine - South to North into North Sea
  • Danube - West to Southeast into Black Sea
  • Seine - South to Northwest into North Sea
  • Rhone - North to South into Mediterranean Sea
View of Eiffiel Tower from your balcony cabin
Exploring castles and sites along the river with onboard bikes
Douro River in Portugal
Most Rhine river cruises start or end in Amsterdam
"When" to take a River Cruise?

European River Cruise Season is April to December

April - May - Spring and Shoulder Season - Spring Flowers and bright colored blooms

May to early Sept - Summer Peak Season - Long days, larger crowds, warmer temperatures and countless festivals

Mid-Sept to early Nov - Fall Should Season - Stunning Fall foliage with brilliant gold/orange harvest colors- great for wine cruises or combining with Oktoberfest festival

Mid Nov - Dec - Holiday Season - Festive Christmas Market Cruises on the Rhine and Danube sail to the fairytale towns and cities traditional Christmas markets. - can be cold but lots of holiday fun and warm cheer!

Inside Tip: Book your river cruise at least a year in advance for best pricing and availability as popular sailings sell out quickly.

Spring Lavender fields in France
Spring Tulips in Netherlands
Fall Foliage on the river
Wine cruises are popular during Fall Grape Harvest
How is a River Cruise different than an Ocean Cruise?

Overall, river cruising is more similar to an escorted land tour but your main transportation is also your hotel and travels with you so only have to unpack once. Below are some of the major differences of how river cruises compare to ocean cruises.

Ship Size: River cruise ships are much smaller and intimate like a luxury boutique hotel (accommodating 120-200 guests compared to large ocean ships carrying 2,500-5,000 guests onboard (perfect size for social distancing).

Atmosphere: River cruising is a more casual and personalized onboard; no long lines ever, no formal nights, no casinos, no large entertainment venues and production shows, no sea days as most cruising is done at night, no late-night parties onboard and no onboard gimmicks or photographers at every event. You’ll wake up early and dock right in town with more port time and emphasis on cultural immersion and experiences. The crew will get to know your names and you'll make new friends onboard due to the intimacy of the ships.

Costs: River cruising costs more than mainstream ocean cruising and is more comparable to smaller ultra luxury ocean cruise ships. However, once onboard River cruising is easier to budget and offers many inclusions such as: all meals and snacks, beer and wine with lunch & dinner, all day coffee and tea service, daily shore excursions and onboard Wi-Fi.

Cabins: Typical, river cruise cabins are comparable in size to standard ocean ship balcony cabins (apx 180-220 sq. ft). but do not offer the variety of cabin and suite categories due mainly to the size of the ships. FYI, there are some River cruise ships that feature all large suites onboard and triple and quad cabins.

Dining: Meals are more casual with buffets for breakfast and lunch and no assigned seating or formal dress standards. Some river cruise ships do feature a chef’s table and onboard barbecue for lunch on their top deck.

No Rough Seas: Rivers are placid and flat with little boat motion compared to ocean cruising

Insider Tip: Take advantage of the extra savings when river cruise lines offer a free airfare with ground transfer promotion as this can really stretch your travel budget and makes for easier planning.

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” ― Laura Gilpin

Additional Facts & Info:

  • Most popular Rivers are Rhine, Danube, Rhone, Bordeaux, Seine, Main, Moselle and Douro which flow throughout the European continent
  • European cities, commerce and trade evolved along the rivers so will see lots of regal castles, historic ruins, vineyard laced hills and famous landmarks
  • River cruising is perfect for couples and groups due to the intimacy and casual atmosphere

You'll love the views, service, amenities and culinary delights of your luxury floating boutique hotel as you sail through the best landscapes of Europe.

Your boutique ship is fully loaded for a luxurious, fun and fulfilling vacation

Click on to see as a slideshow

But wait, your river cruise can be much more...

Consider a holiday, faith, history, flower, culinary, beer or wine theme cruises or combining your river cruise with one of Europe's famous Festivals for added excitement, enjoyment and Fun...we know the best cruises for all seasons and reasons.

Wine tasting
Cooking classes
Tulip Festival in Amsterdam
Basel Military Tattoo Band Festival
Traditional Christmas Markets
Oktoberfest Beer Festival

Pretty amazing Right?

We would love to discuss how a river cruise could be a great option for your next trip or to celebrate a milestone event. Just ask....we know the insider secrets of the rivers, ships, cabins, towns, best seasons and directions for river flow along with pre, post and onboard cruise options and will guide you all the way for stress free smooth sailing

A travel advisor can save you time, money and relieve your stress

Top Group Travel - 561-279-2500 or Dan@topgrouptravel.com

"Don't wait or be late while life sails by, jump onboard and let's have an adventure" - Dan Meister
Created By
Dan Meister - Travel and Cruise Meister


Created with images by Jace & Afsoon - "untitled image" • chris1947 - "amsterdam flowers wood"