Photo: Viking River Cruises
4. Some destinations are best experienced in a particular season.
Another thing you’ll need to consider is the time of year you’d like to book your European river cruise. Though Europe’s weather doesn’t fluctuate as wildly as Canada’s, different seasons present unique travel experiences. In spring, you can take Holland’s Tulip Tour; in the fall, you can join in Germany’s Oktoberfest celebrations. Bonnie Carroll of Life Bites News really enjoyed the Christmas Craft Markets tour with Viking River Cruises. “We stopped in Regensberg and Budapest while cruising the Danube,” Carroll says. “It was a cozy and up-close look at their unique arts, and the samples of delicious area cuisine and wines were absolutely delightful.”
5. You can customize your European river cruise itinerary.
Pre- or post-cruise extensions allow you to tack on some extra days and destinations at a modest additional cost. Travel writer Irene S. Levine of More Time to Travel took Grand Circle Cruise Line through Burgundy and Provence, then opted for a “very affordable” three-night post-cruise extension in Nice. “From there, we were able to explore three additional cities by motor coach: Monaco, Antibes and Cannes,” Levine says. “All the logistics were taken care of by the company—including city tours—so we had more time to immerse ourselves in the fabulous food and culture of the region.”
Photo: GAD Adventure Cruises
6. Not all European river cruises cater to the same demographic.
European river cruises are a popular option for seniors, but active baby boomers have also begun boarding in droves. In an effort to accommodate all passengers—regardless of energy level or physical fitness—savvy cruise operators offer a variety of land excursions. Some cruise lines, like G Adventures, have even started catering to millennials. G Adventures’ Burgundy cruise includes biking, hiking and other active adventures designed to appeal to young adult travellers. Regardless of age, if you’re seeking nightlife, book a cruise that stops at cosmopolitan cities so you can disembark to bar-hop while the ship is docked overnight. (Many riverboats don’t travel in the dark, so you can get back on-board even in the wee hours!)