European river cruises are on the rise in 2014, and it’s not hard to see why. These tours have all the adventure, inclusiveness, and amenities of a typical ocean cruise, but with land never further than a football field away. You’ll never feel stuck out at sea, and you’ll be able to see several countries without packing and unpacking every other night.
It’s a perfect option for travelers who want to combine the history of Europe with the luxury and novelty of boat travel, but when choosing a river cruise, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are a few hints to guide you in the right direction – downstream, of course.
Where to travel
Europe is a vast and varied continent, so you’ll need to choose what you want to focus on before picking a region. Interested in the flavors of France? Gourmands can try a wine tour through the Seine, emphasizing gourmet meals and the fine wines that the region is so famous for. More of a history buff? Why not cruise the river Rhine, which winds its way from the Swiss Alps through the storied castles of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. If you’re looking for adventure, find it on the Danube, which will offer plenty of land excursions throughout Hungary and Austria.
When to go
High season is from April to October, with some specialty Christmas tours around November and December. Springtime offers Europe in full bloom, featuring the blossoming fields of Holland and Belgium, but floods can also impact your trip during the rainy season. Choose your season based on your interests and vacation schedule, but try to book well in advance – you’ll get the best deal that way. If you’ll be travelling more before and after, talk to your agency to see if a package deal with further flights or accommodation can bring your price tag down even more.
Whose cruise to choose
Several different providers offer a wide range of vessels, from luxury liners to budget boats. Decide where you want to go, and then compare costs between several companies, keeping an eye out for special deals.
What to do when it’s just out of reach
Even on the budget cruises, expect to pay hundreds of dollars each day. The experience will be well worth it if you’ve got the funds, but if money is a limiting factor, think outside the box. If you’re still swept away by the romance of the sailing experience, try joining a smaller ship as a deckhand. Often, privately owned yachts need extra help, and you may not need any experience to join. You’ll skip the amenities of a typical cruiseliner, but you’ll save hundreds by just sharing expenses. If you’re able-bodied, open-minded, and willing to work, this could be your best opportunity for an authentic sailing experience. Try findacrew.net or floatplan.com to get started.