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Cruising in Europe: Which River to Choose?

by Barbara Rogers

Feb 22, 2023

© Uniworld Boutique River Cruises


River cruises in Europe have never been more popular, especially for couples, but also for family travelers. Cruise lines meet that demand with new ships and expanded itineraries, adding shore excursions to satisfy special interests. There’s never been a better time to plan a cruise, and this guide can help you choose which river is right for you.


For variety, it’s hard to beat this river, flowing from Switzerland to Amsterdam, with ports stops in France and Germany along the way. Castles in Germany, two wine regions, the great Medieval cathedral cities of Cologne and Strasbourg, plus charming small riverside towns, fill the days with new sights and flavors.


Flowing through even more countries than the Rhine (10 in all), the Danube takes you from Germany through the heart of eastern Europe, with port stops possible in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. Week-long Danube cruises usually sail between Passau, Germany, and Budapest. Uniworld has family-friendly sailings on both the Rhine and Danube.


Unlike most other river cruises that sail one direction only, week-long Seine cruises begin and end in Paris. Although the route is short, shore excursions usually include Monet’s home and garden at Giverny and the World War II landing beaches in Normandy. Complimentary tours of Chantilly Castle, Vaux-le-Vicomte Palace and Fleury-la-Forêt Castle, along with all other shore excursions, are included in the Scenic Cruises Seine itinerary.


Cruises of the Rhone sail between Lyon and Arles, although Avalon Waterways and some other lines continue north into Burgundy on the Saône, as far as Chalon-sur-Saône. This is a cruise for wine-lovers, exploring two different wine regions. The cruise is also one for art and history fans, who can explore Van Gogh’s legacy and several ancient Roman sites in Arles.


Not as well-known as the other major rivers, the Elbe flows through what was once Communist-controlled East Germany. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dresden has rebuilt, regaining its status as one of Europe’s most-beautiful Baroque cities; Meissen’s porcelain factory; Potsdam royal palaces; magnificent stone pillars of “Saxon Switzerland”; and Wittenberg, birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, are highlights. Elbe cruises with Viking begin and end with days in Prague and Berlin.


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