The 5 Best European River Cruises

There’s no better way to see Europe than from its thrilling rivers. Scroll down to learn about the best European river cruises:

The hardest part about booking a European river cruise is deciding where to go. You could sail Europe’s rivers for a solid year and still not see everything.

To help you with your indecision, the five popular cruises described below may help you narrow your search.

10-Day “Portugal’s River of Gold”

Cruise Line: Viking River Cruises, the Osfrid

Price: $2,800 – $4,300

Strongly consider this romantic, leisurely cruise down the Douro River.

All the staterooms on the Osfrid provide breathtaking views. Its wide verandas for outdoor dining, French balconies, and floor-to-ceiling windows are as elegant as they come. You’ll also enjoy the sun deck, swimming pool, herb garden, and putting green.

Between Lisbon and Porto, you’ll stop in Regua, Barca d’Alva, Pinhao, and Salamanca, Spain. The cobblestone streets and medieval architecture are most intriguing, and there are endless possibilities for making this a memorable trip:

  • Walking tours through scenic villages
  • Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Baroque bridges, cathedrals, and palaces
  • Vineyard tours and wine tastings
  • Helicopter tours

The local cuisine is highly praised, and some of the wines you’ll enjoy have been generations in the making.

The stellar service, particularly when it comes to the tour guides, is one of the first things mentioned in most reviews. People also rave about the amenities and sleek Scandinavian decor. There’s rarely any negative feedback about this cruise, but voyages might be delayed without notice if the river is closed because of heavy rains.

8-Day “Enchanting Danube”

Cruise Line: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise, the Maria Theresa

Price: $4,400 – $10,400

If you’re due for some pampering, there’s no better place to get it than on this lavishly appointed ship. From the finest linens to the Hermes bath amenities to the in-suite butler service, Uniworld has outdone itself. World-class cuisine prepared onboard and unlimited beverages are also part of the royal treatment.

The views are stunning, and the inspiring ports of call include Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; Linz, Austria; and Passau, Germany. Central Europe is steeped in fine art, classical music, and ancient history. Here are some highlights:

  • Access to Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia
  • Four UNESCO World Heritage Sites during six days of fully guided excursions
  • English-fluent tour guides with extensive knowledge of the region and local attractions
  • A stop in Vienna that includes a Mozart and Strauss concert held inside a grand palace
  • An award-winning family program

There are numerous choices when it comes to sightseeing, and Uniworld throws in bicycles and Nordic walking poles to make your experience more comfortable.

The most glowing feedback is for service, decor, all-inclusive pricing, and knowledgeable tour guides. Drawbacks include cramped cabins and so-so entertainment.

7-Day “Legendary Rhine”

Cruise Line: Crystal, the Crystal Debussy

Price: $4,875 – $5,860

The Legendary Rhine cruise sails from Basel, Switzerland, with stops in Strasberg, Rudesheim, and picturesque Cologne, Germany. It ends in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Vineyards, castles, Gothic cathedrals, ancient villages, museums, galleries, twisting alleyways, canals, and cozy taverns are all part of this fairy-tale cruise. Book early to get tickets to a guided tour of Anne Frank’s home.

The brand-new Crystal Debussy exudes luxury with its modern, understated decor. Its seemingly endless attributes include those below:

  • All-suite, all-balcony accommodations
  • Butler service
  • First-rate local and international cuisine
  • All-inclusive meals, beverages and gratuities
  • European-sourced staff
  • Personalized, fully hosted excursions
  • Yoga and fitness classes
  • Indoor pool
  • Spa and massage

Crystal has a reputation for outstanding food and service. It has a rewards program for loyal customers and offers significant savings for booking early. It’s worth mentioning that there are rigid restrictions for sailing with children. Which can be a positive or negative depending on what sort of experience you wish to have.

14-Day “French Escapade: Monte Carlo to Paris Northbound”

Cruise Line: Tauck, the Emerald

Price: $7,290 to $10,400

Tauck has been at this for 90 years, so you can expect unparalleled service and unusual perks. For example, the cruise line has built relationships through the years to give customers uncommon access to private collections and venues.

The French Escapade cruise has diverse destinations with unforgettable, all-encompassing things to see and do:

  • Monte Carlo
  • Nice
  • Arles
  • Avignon
  • Remy
  • Chateauneuf du Pape
  • The Burgundy region
  • Lyon
  • Paris

There’s no better way to conclude your vacation than by spending two days in Paris. Tauck has arrangements for a dinner at the tony, world-famous Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees.

Most travelers find the personalized service and unusual features, such as loft cabins, to be very satisfying. Reviews of onboard dining and entertainment are mixed, but by all accounts, the excursions are well-planned and highly engaging.

Tauck offers special limited-time fares on its website and can get you discounts on airfare. Customers appreciate the lenient change and refund policies.

5-Day “Enchanting Rhine and Yuletide Markets”

Cruise Line: Riviera River Cruises, ship unspecified

Price: From $990

There’s nothing like the magic of Christmas in Germany.

Embark in Cologne and set sail through the dramatic Rhine Gorge. There are captivating Christmas markets in old Rudesheim, which is also known for its skilled winemakers. Explore ancient squares and quaint passageways in Koblenz. Immerse yourself in history in Bonn, the former capital. Be sure to soak up local color in its bustling marketplace.

Cologne, a major cultural center founded in the 1st century A.D., is simply lovely. There is much to discover, and its seven twinkling Christmas markets are sure to charm you.

Riviera’s ships feature the finest appointments. Look for marble floors, intricate ironwork, polished copper, exquisite Italian fabrics and delicate European porcelain. All rooms have river views, and you can expect these amenities:

  • Services of a cruise director and tour manager
  • Panoramic views from lounges and dining rooms
  • All-inclusive dining
  • Furnished bathrobes and slippers
  • Hair salon

Riviera Travel boasts mostly five-star reviews on every major travel site. It is highly commended for service, spacious cabins and gorgeous ships. Some reviewers commented that the excursions on this particular cruise felt a bit rushed, but there are very few negative remarks. Riviera offers a no-surcharge guarantee, so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock

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