Hearing Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube Waltz” while sailing down the Danube River is something that never leaves you.
It is memories like these that have drawn us and many clients toward river cruising in Europe. There are many ways to see Europe – traditional cruises, organized land tours, independent travel, backpacking, and now river cruising. Europe has many rivers running through it – with the Rhine, Main, Seine, Douro and the Danube being the most popular for cruisers.
Since ancient times most of the cities of Europe were founded near the rivers, as a reliable water supply would be important for any city to prosper. The rivers were also useful as trade routes, which helped many cities grow over the centuries. So, taking a river cruise today will take you to many of Europe’s oldest and sometimes largest cities (e.g. Paris). But besides the big cities,, the real beauty of river cruising is seeing the scenery – windmills, tulips, castles, etc. – and visiting the small towns that are hundreds of years old.
River cruises have become quite popular over the last 10 years or so. It is an elegant yet casual way to travel. Every year, more and more ships are launched, and the industry keeps growing. There are many river cruise companies sailing throughout Europe. The well-known cruiselines, such as AMAwaterways, Scenic, Uniworld, Viking, Avalon, and Tauck all market to English-speaking countries. So, the fun part of that, is your ship (which holds anywhere from 130 to 190 passengers) will have many Brits, Americans, Australians, and Canadians sailing with you. Our recent cruises have even had South Africans, a family from Hong Kong, 2 older couples from Israel (who were very fun), and a Singaporean couple onboard. You meet some of the most interesting people on river cruises.
The river cruising season is generally from late March to Christmas time. In April, the Tulip Time Cruises sail throughout Holland and Belgium. Then at the end of the cruising season in November and December are the famous Christmas Market Cruises. The cruises visit cities which have wonderful Christmas-themed markets in their town squares. The cruiselines also have some special themed cruises throughout the year. For example, Wine Cruises, History Cruises, Jewish Heritage Cruises, and the popular Beer Lovers Cruises.
How to Choose? There are many options and variables in choosing a river cruise that fits you. Each cruise line is different, each itinerary offers something different, each ship is different, too. One thing that has been happening in the river cruise industry is the average age of the customers has come down over the years. It used to be almost all retired people onboard, but the cruise lines have added excursions and activities that attract younger travelers. Many now have bicycles onboard for customers to use, plus organized day-trips using the bicycles to see the sights. There are also some cruises for families with children, which was unheard of a few years ago. For example, Adventures By Disney charters some ships each year for their family-centered cruises. Don’t forget the millennials! U by Uniworld is a new cruise line for 21 to 45 year olds. So, there is something for almost everyone now.
The key in choosing is to do your homework, and talk to an expert in river cruising. As travel professionals, personally we want to make sure everyone is on the ship/itinerary that truly fits their needs. A trip to Europe can cost a lot of Euros, so be sure you are on the right ship and the right itinerary, so you will have an amazing journey and create lifetime memories. Also, think about pre-cruise or post-cruise traveling. Since you are in Europe, you might want to visit other places on the continent. A few days in Paris? Amsterdam? London, maybe?
Blue Danube Moments: Our hope is for all travelers to have their very own “Blue Danube Moments.” That is, travel experiences that uplift you, bond you with your companion, and stay with you forever. Travel On!