River cruises—leisurely, elegant, and easy—are quickly gaining in popularity. Some cruise lines have seen bookings grow by 60 percent over the past five years. Europe is especially fashionable right now: A recent online study found that requests for European river cruises have increased more than 22 percent since August 2009.
Why all the interest? River cruises sail on major waterways like the Danube and the Rhine, docking at charming towns along the way. You’ll be much closer to the heart of a city than you would be when cruising by sea—for example, river cruises along the Seine dock at Port de Grenelle in Paris, within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. And with perks like gourmet food, wine pairings from local vineyards, a room with a view, and guided tours and excursions often included in the price, it’s hard to resist the urge to pack up and leave tomorrow.
Europe’s cruising season extends from March to September. Cruises in May, June, and July (the region’s high season) are more expensive. Planning ahead is a must: The ships are much smaller and more intimate than their seafaring counterparts, and trip dates tend to book up fast.
The mighty, 820-mile Rhine begins in Switzerland and streams northwest along the border between France and Germany and into the Netherlands, passing by Basel, Switzerland; Strasbourg, France; and Cologne, Germany.
The second-longest river in France (the Loire is the longest) flows through Paris before emptying into the English Channel.
The 1,771-mile Danube begins in southwestern Germany’s Black Forest region and stretches across Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria before joining the Black Sea.
The 505-mile Rhône rises in Switzerland and runs south into the Mediterranean Sea, drifting through Lyon and the wine-growing Côtes du Rhône region of southern France.
A classic Russian cruise includes the longest river in Europe, which runs for almost 2,300 miles. Most Volga itineraries involve journeys between St. Petersburg and Moscow and traverse other waterways in addition to the “Great Mother Volga” itself.
Check out some great European River Cruise Ideas at http://www.bluedanubeholidays.com/bdh/river_cruises.htm