Top 9 rivers for luxury river cruising in Europe

River cruising is gaining in popularity, but is it for you, and which river do you choose? The average age is slightly higher than ocean cruising, and it is generally more expensive, but it offers more inclusions and there is a suitable itinerary for everyone.

It particularly suits those with an interest in history and getting into the true heart of some very significant and important cities. It is a fantastic way to see lots of places and cities without having to continuously unpack and change hotels/locations.

There is a huge choice of companies now offering river cruises in Europe, and other parts of the world, including Asia, with a range of quality and itineraries available, from basic, right up to ultra- luxury. Many companies offer different themed cruises, golf, wine, food, castles and wellness being among some of the themes available.

But which river is for you?

Europe is still the biggest player in the river cruise industry with The Danube being the most popular river – it is Europe’s second longest river, after the Volga.

The Danube

Located in Central and Eastern Europe, The Danube was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire, and today flows through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world. It offers guests the chance to explore some of Europe’s most beautiful and exciting cities – Amsterdam, Vienna, Salzburg, Bratislava, Budapest and Bucharest among them.

The Rhine

Running through 6 countries, and cutting across the western side of Germany, it is steeped in history and offers the chance to explore some incredible castles. The upper half of the Middle Rhine (Rhine Gorge) from Bingen to Koblenz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are more than 40 castles and fortresses from the Middle Ages and many wine-villages along its banks.

The Rhône

A historic river of Switzerland and France and one of the most significant waterways of Europe. It is the only major river flowing directly to the Mediterranean Sea and is thoroughly Alpine in character.

In this respect it differs markedly from its northern neighbour, the Rhine, which leaves its Alpine characteristics behind when it leaves Switzerland. The scenic and often wild course of the Rhône, the characteristics of the water flowing in it, and the way it has been used by humans have all been shaped by the influences of the mountains, right down to the river mouth. Here you can find sediments from Alpine glaciers which are carried into the warmer waters of the Mediterranean.

The Seine

A 777-kilometre-long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Source-Seine, 30 kilometres northwest of Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau. From here it flows right through the centre of Paris and out into the English Channel at Le Havre.

The Moselle

Flows through France, Luxembourg, and Germany. It is a left tributary of the Rhine, which it joins at Koblenz, and is said to be one of the most beautiful and scenic in Europe, with picturesque wine villages, steep vineyards, and traditional taverns offering exquisite Rieslings.

The Elbe

Another of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia, then Germany. Above Hamburg the Elbe splits into two branches and these rejoin farther downstream.

The lower course of the Elbe is tidal as far as the dam at Geesthacht, above Hamburg, where the river flow periodically reverses its direction. The average tide at Hamburg is about eight feet. However, during storms the water may rise much higher, occasionally even flooding parts of the city. It then flows into the North Sea 110km northwest of Hamburg, at Cuxhaven.

The Douro

With 5 locks to navigate, is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula. From its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in Soria Province, it flows across northern-central Spain and across Portugal to its outlet at Porto.

From the peaceful wineries producing Portugal’s much-loved port wine to the ancient Spanish city of Salamanca – the Douro is a rustic region of simple pleasures. The Douro Valley is often referred to as the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer. The Douro Wine Region Valley, up to Barca de Alva, is also the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

Volga

The longest river in Europe which runs through central Russia, all the way to the Caspian Sea. It Is widely regarded as the national river of Russia. Russian people have a deep routed feeling for it, echoing their national culture and literature, beginning in the 12th-century Lay of Igor’s Campaign. Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, Moscow, are located along the Volga’s watershed and it freezes for most of its 3692km, for 3 months of the year.

The Gironde

A navigable estuary, in the famous Aquitaine region of southwest France, formed from the meeting of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne just downstream of the centre of the beautiful French city of Bordeaux. Covering around 635 km², it is the largest estuary in western Europe.

Being a tidal estuary, the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers are affected by the Mascaret, a tidal bore, causing the river level to rise significantly, twice each day, sometimes causing a large wave, which is often surfed in the summer months.

Surrounded by vineyards and wine cellars set in old chateaux, the city of Bordeaux is known for its Gothic-style Saint-André cathedral. On Place de la Bourse, 18th-century buildings surround the Fountain of the Three Graces. La Cité du Vin museum explores global wine cultures and offers wine tastings. CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art is housed in a 19th-century warehouse.

The world- famous wine regions of Medoc, Pomerol and Saint Emilion can be found along the banks of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers and the Gironde estuary, which makes this an excellent place to explore some of the world’s best and most expensive wines from the comfort of your luxury floating hotel.

So which river would you choose?

Some of the luxury river Cruise operators on these rivers are AmaWaterways, Avalon, Crystal, Scenic, Viking and Uniworld, although there are many more to choose from of all differing standards.

Kim Robertson is Director at Your Way (Travel) Ltd. Your Way (Travel) Ltd. specialises in long haul, tailor-made, cruise and luxury travel to the USA, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Far East.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Comments (7)

  1. Larry Schultz says:

    Never consider Viking River Cruises. Just finished cruise (November 11, 2018) on the Viking Egil, Gullveig, and Bragg… oh yes, not a cruise. It was a bus trip from ship to ship downstream from Nuremberg to Budapest. Have now secured evidence tha Viking leadership knew for months that they could not navigate the river due to low levels. However they did not share this information with customers to permit a cancellation with full refund or a reschedule. Do not cruise with Viking due to lack of ethics and no commitment to principles of business integrity.
    Larry.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Hi Larry… I’m really sorry to hear this. Must have been a huge disappointment. Viking River Cruises normally has a good reputation but I can see from recent reviews that you are not alone in your dismay at being bussed around due to low water levels. It seems like something of a PR disaster on their part, particularly if they knew of the situation well in advance.

  2. Ed says:

    “So which river would you choose?”

    Come on, that’s a tough question for a Sunday morning when we’ve been given nine options.

    But, I have stood on the banks of eight of those rivers or sometimes taken mini cruises aling them so by default it ought to be the Volga for me. I’ve never even seen it.

  3. Aaron says:

    I’ve done the Sienne and it was a magical experience. Like a movie actually. But if I was to go on another river cruise I’d choose the Danube. Imagine being able to pass through 10 countries! My goal is to visit as many places while I still can and a cruise with a lot of places to stop is a fantastic option.

  4. Claire says:

    I’ve done a couple of conventional Ocean going cruises. I loved the ports of call but I wasn’t very good at the days at sea. Frankly, I got a little bored.

    I think a River Cruise would suit me much better. I’m a bit of a “culture vulture”, stopping everyday at a different European city and visiting castles, cathedrals, churches, galleries and museums would be much more my sort of thing. If the stops included a concert or ballet or opera in the evening then I would be in my element.

  5. Arlene Stanton says:

    The Danube begs the top spot for me. Considering that it passes through the most number of countries, imagine the countless stories I can learn (including each country’s history). Though I’ve been to some of these countries by land already, a river cruise that passes through all of these is one thing I don’t want to miss.

    • Danube is supposed to be a lovely river to cruise. But confirm to be sure that Danube waters levels are sufficient navigate the river for the time frame of your planned cruise . Whatever you do do NOT select Viking River Cruise as they lack ethics and business integrity. They will not commicste completely and/or accurately and your cruise could most likely result in a bus tour stopping at docked ships for lodging. No views as you will likely be double or trippier docked and you would looking only at the side of another ship less than 12 inches away.

      Be wise and work with other reputable and hones cruise lines, NEVER Viking.

      Take care,
      Larry

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