- Get insider tips for river cruises in Europe
- From the Dutch bulbfields in April to the German markets in December
- The luxury of 5-star cruising
- Visit and sail by some of the most amazing sites in Germany, France, Hungary, Slovakia, and Amsterdam
by Sue Bryant
River cruising in Europe is growing at a spectacular pace, and for good reason: it’s a supremely comfortable and stress-free way to travel. New itineraries are opening up all the time – and the newest ships are wonderfully luxurious. Imagine a floating boutique hotel that transports you effortlessly from one beautiful place to another, and you’re close.
So why cruise? Perhaps you’re a fan of ocean cruising and are considering something a bit different. Maybe you’ve never cruised but are intrigued by the idea of exploring several new places in the space of a week. Or you could already be a river addict, in search of something new. Whatever your own story, here are 10 reasons to make 2018/19 the year you step on board.
1. Getting there is easy
If you sail with Riviera Travel, you have the choice of joining your luxurious European riverboat from a wide range of UK airports – or you could even take the train. Once you’re in your cabin, you only need to unpack once; this is your floating home, with an ever-changing view.
2. Luxurious surroundings
Riviera Travel operates 13 ships on Europe’s waterways, all of them of the very highest standard. Onboard, you’ll find luxurious cabins and suites, most with an entire wall of glass that slides across to let the river breezes in. Every ship has a light-filled observation lounge with panoramic river views and an elegant restaurant in which one amazing dish after another is rustled up. Up on deck, you can lie back on a comfortable lounger and soak up the gorgeous scenery, from craggy castles to vineyards, riverside towns and water meadows.
3. Brand new ships
Riviera Travel is introducing two magnificent ships for the 2019 season, MS William Wordsworth and MS George Eliot, and one more, MS Geoffrey Chaucer for 2020. MS William Wordsworth and MS Geoffrey Chaucer will carry 167 in considerable style, with all-suites accommodation, gleaming marble floors, a light-filled atrium, a fitness centre and spa and luxury Crabtree and Evelyn goodies in the bathrooms. MS George Eliot, meanwhile, is a more intimate ship, carrying just 132, with sumptuous furnishings, hardwood fittings and a choice of two places to dine.
4. An itinerary for every taste
In Europe alone, Riviera Travel offers 14 different itineraries on eight rivers, with voyages from four to 14 nights. Love wine? Then check out the Rhine and Moselle cruise, a week that takes you to the pretty villages of Boppard, Rüdesheim and Cochem, each surrounded by vineyards. Or sail through Burgundy and Provence, where you’ll see legendary wine-producing villages such as Meursault and Pommard. Marvel at the glorious bulbfields of The Netherlands (swooning over romantic Bruges on the same, week-long voyage), or stroll the banks of the Seine in spring on a journey through Paris and Normandy. A trip along the sun-drenched Douro valley connects two of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Porto and Salamanca, while a Danube cruise takes you to three capitals in one convenient package, waltzing you through Vienna to Bratislava and Budapest. Or, for a more in-depth experience, there are longer, 14-night voyages. Cruise the Heart of Europe follows the Rhine, Main and Danube from Cologne to Budapest; or Budapest to the Black Sea takes you from the Hungarian capital to the Danube’s vast, marshy delta.
5. Fair pricing
There’s nothing more annoying than finding out that your dinner companions paid a fraction of what you did for their holiday. With Riviera Travel, though, the price is the price. You pay the same, whether you book direct or through your favourite travel agent. Booking early costs the same as booking late – although booking early gives you the best chance of getting the date and itinerary you want.
6. Fantastic food
From the lightest apple strudel to the richest beef bourguignon, a European river cruise immerses you in local cuisine – as well as serving familiar favourites, of course, with lavish buffets for breakfast and lunch and an elegant, four-course menu in the evenings. There’s a wide choice of local wines on the menu, and competitively priced drinks packages that include wines and other drinks with lunch and dinner.
7. Friendly service
Every cruise is escorted by an experienced tour manager, with expert local guides to show you their favourite places. On board, the crew are all smiles; it won’t be long before they know your name and exactly how you like your gin and tonic.
8. Authentic adventures
A river cruise gets you close to the heart of some of Europe’s most beautiful towns and cities and in addition to excursions in every port, all sorts of extra treats are included in the price of your cruise. In Burgundy, taste wine with an expert in Beaune. In Portugal, there’s a traditional dinner ashore one night at the stunning Quinta da Pacheca. On Riviera’s brand new Budapest to the Black Sea itinerary, you’ll visit the wild Puszta prairie in Hungary to see a display of the dazzling horsemanship for which the region is famous.
All Rivera Travel cruises offer a friendly, convivial atmosphere but two cruises in the new 2018/19 season are dedicated to solo travellers. On the Danube, departing 1st or 4th November, 2018, the itinerary includes a classical recital on board, a visit to Bratislava, a tour of Vienna, a visit to the beautiful baroque abbey at Melk and a day in Budapest. Also in November, there’s a Rhône departure for single travellers that includes charming Vienne, the ancient Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard and the breathtaking Ardèche Gorges as well as guided tours of Lyon, Arles and Avignon.
10. Cruising isn’t just a summer holiday
Did you know that you can explore Europe’s rivers and canals from April to December? The season starts in spring when the Dutch bulbfields are ablaze with colour. You can cruise when the riverbanks are blanketed with snow, too. One of the new itineraries for late 2018 is a six-day exploration of the Christmas markets along the Danube, all of which have a different flavour and character. In Budapest, the aroma of spicy goulash wafts through the air, while in Vienna, which has more than 20 markets, you can take a break from shopping to refuel on mulled wine, or hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream.
Sue Bryant is an award-winning journalist specialising in (and addicted to) cruising. She is cruise editor of The Sunday Times and also contributes to magazines and websites worldwide, including Sunday Times Travel Magazine, World of Cruising, Cruise Passenger (Australia), Porthole (USA) and www.cruisecritic.co.uk. Sue lives in London but is often travelling, exploring the world’s rivers and oceans. She has sailed on more than 100 ships over the last 15 years.