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All About The Rivers!


The rivers and canals of Europe are open for travel. As many as 20,000 total miles of inland waterways let travelers absorb European culture at a relaxed, leisurely and up-close pace. The waterways of Austria, The Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and others now have many options to meet the growing demand for river cruising.

No longer an obscure way to see old Europe, travel by river is one of the best ways to venture out and take in the heart of the continent. This guide looks at the options available to travelers wishing to take a trip through Europe from a river's perspective, easing through the countryside at a pace that permits all of the culture's best possibilities to unfold. Travelers who return from river cruises carry memories of very intimate encounters with the countryside, local people, and fellow passengers. River cruise and barging travelers inevitably become true enthusiasts for the experience.

"These river cruise & small-ship cruise ships all feature elegant interiors with abundant glass, vibrant colors, modern designs with contemporary appointments, state-of the- art technology, personalized service, fine dining, remarkable amenities, and spacious outside staterooms."
River Cruises: Europe

A traveler can journey Europe's waterways in a variety of ways. River cruising most often refers to river going cruise ships typically carrying fewer than 250 passengers. As such, river cruising ships are much smaller than mass-market, ocean-going vessels, but as river boats go, are on the larger end of the scale. Western and Central Europe have many river routes to offer the larger cruise boats. Popular itineraries include the Danube visiting Hungary, Austria and Germany and the Elbe River through Germany and the Czech Republic. In France, the Rhone and the Soane meander through Provence and Burgundy, while the Seine takes passengers through Paris and Giverny. In Northern Italy, the Po offers exciting opportunities with a variety of river cruise companies. Finally, the Volga, connecting St. Petersburg and Moscow provides a decidedly different way to port between these two magnificent cities. River cruises tend to be affairs of luxury, with an emphasis on informal, but upscale travel. Relaxation and intensive sightseeing are the main activities, as organized entertainment is somewhat limited on most river cruises, except for the occasional lecture or sing-along.

Mostly, the crew allows passengers to enjoy their time as they see fit.

Cabins on larger river vessels vary in size from 90 square feet on older ships to over 200 square feet on newer. Most rooms are outside cabins, meaning they have windows for optimal sightseeing. The least expensive cabins are lower in the boat, while passengers pay more for higher rooms with better views. Cabins come with basic amenities, such as hair dryers and televisions, and are often very nicely furnished. The larger river cruise vessels have telephones and even Internet service.

Many first time river cruisers are delighted to discover that, unlike ocean cruising, there is very little boat motion. The mandated slow speeds and flat waters of the rivers ensure a quiet, placid voyage. It is often difficult when not on deck to even know the vessel is underway!

On longer trips, 10 days or more, the typical river cruise passenger is a well-traveled individual often over the age of 60. Shorter cruises typically attract a younger crowd. River cruises on the larger vessels do not always allow children under 12 as passengers, so make sure to check on any restrictions for families. The passenger manifest will be a mix of European and North American travelers, but most crews speak at least some English, and many are fluent. Individuals who require physical assistance when traveling should check with their travel consultant to determine the accessibility of any particular vessel for disabled passengers.

Meals have always been a special part of cruising, and river cruises have maintained that tradition. On river cruise vessels, food is a key part of the experience, prepared by a dedicated chef, the ship's captain, or a restaurateur in a small village. Europeans take great pride in their culinary skills, and practically everyone who has ever cruised along the rivers and canals of Europe has at least one story about an unforgettable meal or food experience. Special dietary considerations can often be accommodated if requested early in the booking process. On self-drive barges, travelers can stock up on provisions from the villages and cook on board, or splurge at dining opportunities along the way.

Crewed barges with meal service and more amenities are sometimes referred to as "Hotel Barges": smaller vessels with a passenger capacity of as few as six to as many as 50. Hotel barges tend to be much slower than river cruisers, and due to their smaller size, can enter more narrow waterways like canals, in addition to the larger rivers. Hotel barges range from Spartan accommodations to luxurious rooms with gourmet meals, fine wines, and bicycles for self-guided shore excursions. Cabins vary in size and most often have private baths with showers. Many barges have saunas and hot tubs on deck. Most are without telephones or Internet service, though, as such modernity is typically absent in the barge market.

Travelers can also book a "self-drive" barge and be their own crew. The smallest of the vessels, the "narrow boats" are often seen on the small canals of the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as Holland. These boats are very easy to handle and seldom are capable of exceeding 5 miles per hour. Without a crew, passengers are required to work with the canal lock systems on their own, a simple but time consuming task that consists of turning a crank manually or waiting while a lock attendant, if available, takes care of it. If self-drive is your choice, it's worthwhile to discuss the number of locks along your itinerary with the boat owner/operator to ensure you are comfortable with the physical labor and time required to negotiate the lock systems.

Passengers on self-drive barges provision the galleys themselves and travel their own itinerary. Bathroom facilities are similar to those found on bareboat charters with chemical toilets and potable water. No special licensing is required to pilot a barge, and while it is a very simple exercise, most wise self-drive veterans purchase optional boat insurance to cover any accidental damage to the vessel.

The differences between a river cruise experience on the one hand and a self-drive barge on the other are matters of personal taste and preference. The larger river cruise vessels and the luxury barges are akin to the best cruising experiences anywhere. Smaller crewed or self-drive barging is an outing, something more like a bareboat charter or renting a recreational vehicle on land - an adventurer's way of crossing the terrain. In either instance, however, it is the close connectedness of the traveler to the landscape that's key to the experience. The often ancient cities and villages that have grown up on the banks of the old rivers are artifacts in their own right. River travel affords the opportunity to savor history and culture as it was meant to be experienced: not as an observer, but as a participant.

The peak season for river cruising is much the same as European travel in general, late spring through mid-fall and early November. The shoulder season, a real value, ranges from early March through mid-May. The autumn months coincide with grape season, and several cruise lines are fully booked during this time by wine connoisseurs. Finally, April is tulip season and cruises in and around the Netherlands are particularly popular then.

As always, pack as lightly as possible, as space on the smaller barges can be at a premium. Your cruise operator will no doubt provide you with a list of recommended items to bring, but the usual recommendations of hats, sunscreen and sunglasses are often overlooked but very important, because so much of your time will be spent outdoors. The smaller barges and self-drive options require good deck shoes and weather gear.

Regarding travel budgets... amenities offered by the cruise and barge operators and the travel season determine costs. For high-end river cruises and hotel barges, $2,100 per person, double occupancy and cruise only, is a common brochure cost for a seven day cruise. 12 day cruises often range from $2,800 upwards, but discounts are usually available for most itineraries through your travel agent. Other cruises may be had for as little as $800.00 for a seven day itinerary. Costs typically include all meals, tour excursions, and accommodations. Tips and gratuities are expected, ranging from $10 - $35 dollars per day. Self-drive options cost approximately $700 - $1000 per week for the barge alone, with all provisioning, fuel and other charges as additional costs. Your travel consultant will have many resources on hand for finding the best possible values.

Europe and its waterways await you!


River cruising is a wonderful story of discovery—complete with easygoing comfort and convenience. You'll uncover treasures you find straight out from history books and fairytales. Allow these peaceful waterways to serve as your pathway for a journey of a lifetime!

Seine River

Goes Through: France
Overview: On this relaxing cruise through Northern France, you will enjoy delicious cuisine, fine wine, and breathtaking art.  Cruise the Seine River from Paris to charming towns and villages. Visit Monet’s home in Giverny, where you will see the Japanese bridge and water garden, with its pond still full lilies, which inspired Monet’s great works of art.  One of the highlights of a cruise along the Seine is a visit to Normandy where the Allied forces landed during WWII’s D-Day Invasion and also see the site where Joan of Arc was martyred.

Rhine River

Goes Through: Germany, France, and Switzerland
Overview: Sail the Rhine River, one of Europe’s longest and most important waterways for transportation and trade.  Meander through the Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its stunning castles and natural beauty. Gracing the shores of the Middle Rhine Valley are more Medieval castles than in any other river valley in world! The fairytale castles combine with the breathtaking landscape of terraced vineyards and old-world-towns of Koblenz and Mainz that will leave you awestruck. 

Saône River

Goes Through: France
Overview: The Saône is a river in eastern France and a right tributary of the Rhône River in Lyon. The river rises in Monts Faucilles to Lyon and linked to other river systems by canals. Along the beautiful Saône, you’ll cruise through charming towns and picturesque, vineyard-covered hillsides in France’s famous Burgundy wine region. Your cruise will take you to Chalon-sur-Saône, in the heart of Burgundy, where you’ll visit the famous Hospices de Beaune, a charitable hospital founded by Chancellor of Beaune in 1443.

Rhône River

Goes Through: France
Overview: One of the major rivers of Europe, the charming Rhône River stretches from Switzerland to France. The Rhône was an important trade route since the times of the Greeks and Romans. The scenic Rhône River Valley from Lyon to the north and Avignon to the south is an important wine growing region famous for its red wines.  On a peaceful and relaxing cruise along the Rhône, you’ll visit many small town and villages not frequented by many tourists.

Danube River

Goes Through: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria
Overview: The Danube River stretches from Germany’s Black Forest all the way to the Black Sea, passing through unforgettable cities in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Take a Uniworld cruise along the Danube and see the picturesque Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its steep hills, wineries, and quaint villages. Experience the best way to visit world-famous cities such Vienna and Budapest – while also discovering charming, small towns such as Krems, Melk, and Dürnstein.

Moselle River

Goes Through: Germany, and France
Overview: The Moselle, a tributary of the Rhine River, is famous for its picturesque scenery and most famous for being the wine-growing region of the Moselle River Valley. You'll cruise through lovely, wine villages perched on vine-clad steep slopes, and Medieval feeling towns which give the Moselle River region a very unique character. Along the river is a town called, Trier, which is the oldest town in Germany, over 2,000 years old. Experience the hospitality of the locals and savor the world-famous Rieslings and culinary delights of the Moselle River Valley.

Main River

Goes Through: Germany
Overview: The Main is one of the most significant tributaries of the Rhine River. The Main flows through the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and Hesse. The Main River connects to the Danube River via the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. A cruise along the Main is a relaxing way to visit this scenic part of Germany. Along the Main, you will cruise through historic cities and towns such as Frankfurt, Offenbach, Aschaffenburg, Wertheim, Miltenberg, Würzburg, and Bamberg among many others. Taste the famous food and drink of Bavaria while taking in the beauty of some of the best well-preserved romantic and Medieval towns of the region.

Douro River

Goes Through: Portugal, Spain
Overview: Cruising through the magnificent and scenic Douro River, which rises in Spain and reaches the Atlantic Ocean in Porto, is best way to see Portugal's lush, terraced vineyards of the Douro River Valley. Along the Douro, visit Porto, and try Portugal's world-famous Port wine and visit charming rural villages. The Douro River Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an experience that is truly unique and special, discover Europe's hidden gem on a Uniworld river cruise.


Destination Deals

SEARCH: Viking River Cruises - Discounts & Deals.


River cruising is an experience like no other, offering a totally relaxing way to discover the try heart of Europe, Russia and China. While onboard, you unpack just once in your deluxe river-view stateroom. Then sit back and take in the lovely countryside, dramatic hilltop castles and charming villages as they slowly drift by. Our more than half million satisfied guests can tell you—Viking River Cruises is the best way to journey to the heart of these exciting destinations.

Our Mission

Our mission is to deliver an exceptional vacation experience with everlasting memories onboard a River Cruise. Our partner cruise lines offer some of the top river ships cruising Europe’s legendary rivers and the Russian, Egypt and China waterways. Your cruise vacation is as important to us as it is to you.  We will do our best to provide superior service to ensure your river cruise experience is a most pleasurable one.  River Cruises offer a full program of included shore excursions, as well as entertainment and educational options. This is your vacation, so it is always your decision to either join the excursions or to relax onboard and let the wonderful scenery float by. River Cruise ships feature state-of-the-art public areas with great art work, new amenities and services, exquisitely decorated staterooms and gourmet dining; all of which provide an unparalleled cruise vacation. We pride ourselves on offering the highest standards in European river cruising for your consideration.

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River cruising is a wonderful story of discovery—complete with easygoing comfort and convenience. You’ll uncover treasures you find straight out of history books and fairytales—charming squares, magnificent cathedrals, bustling marketplaces—often just a stroll away from the ship. There is no waiting in long lines to get on or off the ship, and there are always amazing things to see—scenic vineyards, historic castles, or countless World Heritage Sites—from the comfort of your stateroom. There are many ways to travel through Europe, but none compare to the intimate, stylish, and sophisticated experience of a river cruise.


This year, it is all about value.
River Cruising has always been a great vacation value. You travel through exciting destinations in the heart of Europe, Russia, China or Egypt.  An all-inclusive river cruise costs less per day than you might otherwise spend for hotels alone.

If you like ocean cruising, you will love river cruising. It is our goal to introduce as many people as we can to the joys of river cruising and how great a River Cruise journey can be. So we feature incredible 2-for-1 pricing on select river cruises and discounts of $800 per couple or more.

River cruising—a better way to explore

River cruising is, quite simply, the best way to travel through many of the world’s most fascinating places. Comfortable and convenient, it offers a greater variety of destinations than you could encounter any other way—and lets you get in-depth exposure to the culture and history of each region. Both experienced and first-time travelers have discovered the joys of river cruising, making it the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry.

Hassle-Free Travel

After boarding the ship, unpack—just once—in your spacious river-view stateroom. Relax in comfort for the duration of the cruise. No need to worry about maps, traffic congestion or the many other hassles of traveling by bus or train. A river cruise is a stress-free way to see the best that your destination has to offer.

See the World’s Greatest Cities

Cologne, Vienna, Moscow…because so many cities and towns developed along waterways, they were literally made to be accessible by river. Some of these cities are just not available to ocean cruisers, and bus passengers spend precious hours on the highway, checking in and out of hotels. River cruising brings you more of these destinations than you could see any other way.

New Scenery—All Day, Every Day

Enjoy breathtaking scenery from just about everywhere on the ship—in the bar, restaurant or lounge (all with panoramic views), on the sun deck with fresh air or from the privacy of your stateroom. And, river cruise vessels keep moving, so you see new vistas and explore new destinations throughout the day, every day. Our ships often travel at night, so you can wake up in an exciting new place each morning, with no effort on your part.

The Heart of Your Destination

Unlike ocean cruises, rivers provide easy access to city centers. Sail directly to the heart of every destination and dock in the middle of town. Walk right off the ship and join the day’s activities. You spend less time getting there—and more time being there.

A More Intimate Experience

Because these ships are designed to accommodate between 150 and 300 guests, it is easy to make new friends. Share a drink with the couple you met on the day’s tour, or dine with interesting people in the open-seating restaurant. And you can forget about waiting in long lines to embark, debark or have a meal.

Culture & History Everywhere

Walk through an open air architecture museum in the middle of a Russian lake; watch the artists at work in a Meissen porcelain ware studio; contemplate the Yangtze from an ancient stone temple beside the river. Such unforgettable experiences can be yours on a river cruise—and you are unlikely to reach these places any other way.

Travel Your Way

Enjoy the guided walks, in-depth tours and excursions planned for you in each destination—or sightsee on your own, with time allocated for independent activities.

Smooth Sailing

The flat-bottomed shape of river cruise ships ensures a safe and smooth ride without any worries about motion sickness. No need to spend days “getting your sea legs” as with ocean cruising—which means more time to really enjoy your vacation.

Where can you go?

European River Cruises, Danube River Cruises ,Douro River Cruises, Elbe River Cruises, Mosel River Cruises, Rhine River Cruises, Rhone River Cruises, Saone River Cruises, Seine River Cruises, Russia River Cruises, Volga River Cruises, Ukraine River Cruises, Dnieper River Cruises, Yangtze River Cruises

Think outside the boat. Don't choose the boat, choose the entire experience. That way, your cruise vacation will be much more rewarding!"


Review all the award-winning river cruises in Europe, Russia, China, or Egypt from the best river cruise specialists.




SEARCH:  Viking River Cruises - Discounts & Deals.

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What's Included?

All of your onboard meals are included in the cost of your fare, and on a number of itineraries you are invited to dine ashore in a pre-selected restaurant. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner on board, and you can help yourself to tea, coffee and cappuccino at any time.

  • Spacious, light and airy, every stateroom is beautifully appointed, with elegant décor. Whether you choose a stateroom with a picture window, French balcony with sliding glass doors or a suite with your own veranda, every room makes the most of the spectacular scenery.
  • Guided tours incorporate the highlights of each and every destination, and these are included in your fare. Plus, a variety of included cultural events are also offered to provide an enriching, entertaining and memorable experience.
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access provided throughout the ship
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