In Central and Eastern Europe, you’ll find some of the most spectacular landscapes, architecture — castles, churches and war memorials—as well as some of the most colorful, inviting cultures in the world. But what is the best way to see it all? On a river cruise, of course!
Here's what you'll experience on a sample Danube itinerary.
My advice has always been “Travel as far away as you can, for as many years as you can.” Get the long distance travel done while the body and mind can manage it. THEN start traveling in your own backyard.
And North America has plenty to marvel at.
If you enjoy cruising as much as I do, there are plenty of options. Of course there are all the Caribbean choices, but do you know about sailing on inland and coastal waterways? Take a look at what’s waiting for you!
With fabulous rooftop pools, jacuzzies, and wellness programs, exquisite cuisine and delicious drinks available petty much around-the-cloc - it’s tempting to many to never leave the ship. But I know that the main reason travelers choose a river cruise is because of the adventure—the amazing, breathtaking stops along the way. With that in mind, the countries you’ll explore on the Rhine are historic, romantic and truly awe-inspiring.
Amsterdam in my opinion is one of the most interesting (and fun) cities in Europe. Far too crowded, with tourists, but I can deal with that for a few days to get my fill of it's eclectic culture. It's the start and end point for a number of river and ocean cruises, so it's perfect for both pre and post cruise extensions.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways - AmaMagna
Ocean cruises have been a popular way to vacation for decades, and for good reason. They’re affordable, convenient and offer travelers peace of mind knowing that everything they need for a fantastic getaway is all in one place. What could be better than that? Well, consider a river cruise.
A charming town located approximately 30 minutes from our Rhine River cruise stop in Breisach, Colmar is considered to be one of the prettiest towns in France. Intrigued by this description, and wanting an opportunity to photograph half-timbered houses, I decided to take this optional tour, despite a little bit of rain. This tour did not disappoint.
Colmar was like stepping into the pages of a fairy tale.
Photo courtesy of Adventures by Disney
Do you ever ask yourself what happened to all that time you thought you had? I sure do - every year seems to zip by faster and faster. And I find this especially apparent when I see friends and family with children. Seems like one day they have toddlers and the next day they have young adults headed off to college (or out on their own).
A marriage of wine and culture, the Bordeaux wine region in Southwest France is a perfect pairing for river cruising, wine lovers and culture seekers alike.
The Bordeaux region is home to over 7000 beautiful chateaux and over 14,000 local wine
Whether you are looking for a short getaway, to tick off a lifetime dream experience or explore new destinations, there are no shortages of beautiful golf courses around the world for you to enjoy. Fun and exciting trips just waiting for you to create lifelong memories – for yourself, with family and friends.
It’s been a while since I’ve read about ancient history, but I’ve always imagined what it would be like to walk in the footsteps of Pharaohs, to wander among impressive ancient temples, curious how they were built. I find this all absolutely amazing, considering the sites and artifacts date back over 2000 years.
Longing to explore France's waterways for a while, I recently had the opportunity to cruise the Rhone on an itinerary from Avignon to Lyon. The three major rivers in France offer very different experiences, and this one intrigued me with the combination of Roman history, scenery and wine country.
The itinerary did not disappoint.
Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest land, sea and air invasion in history, when more than 160,000 allied troops landed on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy. A significant and historical milestone, with much attention.
As it should have.
As I watch the stories of all those involved, the history, the incredible heroes and heroic actions, I find myself yearning to walk these beaches, to pay tribute to those who fought so bravely for our freedoms. My parents were teenagers during this war, and I imagine families with a direct connection to D-Day feel the same, if not more strongly, as I do.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and barging has grown exponentially over the past few years, and options continue to expand. For those who have been on the rivers and love the experience, new and varying choices are exciting but can become overwhelming. For those new to the experience, all these options can certainly be daunting.
But selecting the right river cruise doesn't need to be any of this.
Following these steps will help narrow down your choices on finding a good match.
The rivers of Europe have you experiencing a lot of old world charm in cities big and small. Amazing, photogenic old world charm, all with their own unique personalities.
For anyone wanting to explore ancient cities and historic castles, walk through charming wine villages, take in the lively city of Amsterdam or visit one of 40 museums in Basel, a Rhine and Moselle river itinerary is a great fit.
Plenty of picture perfect moments await you on itineraries that include one or both rivers. Following are my top nine most photogenic places to see.
Earlier this year I wrote about all the new cruise ships being launched in 2018 and 2019. They included Seabourn's all suite ship the Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's fifth ocean cruise ship Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships, the Celebrity Edge and Holland America's Niew Statendam which launched in December and the mega ships launched by Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.
Not to be outdone, Amadeaus, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, CroisEurope, Crystal, Emerald Waterways, Uniworld and Viking launched or will launch new river ships.
A lot of new ships. Very exciting!
There is very little about river cruising I don't like, except that the time goes by far too quickly. Then again, for me, every cruise feels that way, no matter the length.
A rarely talked about fact in ocean cruising is that itineraries are not set in stone and cruise lines can change them with little or no notice. My guess is that most people never read the contract details, so when this happens, they are "shocked". While most sailings follow the scheduled itinerary, stops are occasionally skipped or changed due to weather conditions or operational logistics that make it unsafe to call on that particular port.
This too can happen on a river cruise, especially when the river levels are too high or too low to navigate. Levels too high make it difficult to get under the bridges; levels too low make it difficult to navigate through sections of the river or to get close enough to the pier.
River cruise ships are built for optimal performance (for example the navigation bridge lowers down into the ship so it can get under bridges) and have incredibly low drafts (some as low as 1-3 feet under the keel!). This allows for minimal interruption, but even the best designs can't cover every situation.
How do you plan for this and what happens to your cruise if there are changes made to the itinerary?
When it comes to European river cruising, the upper Danube and Rhine are invariably the ones first time cruisers will sail. And with good reason. Both are wonderful rivers to explore. With distinct personalities, you will find big cities, quaint villages, history, culture, food, beer, wine, and so much more, whichever river you choose.
With that popularity though, means more ships on these rivers to accommodate the huge interest. Undoubtedly still a wonderful small ship experience, but if you've "been there done that", you may want to check out these lesser traveled, less crowded yet exceptional options in Europe.
For the explorer at heart, you won't be disappointed.
Old world European charm. Serene villages. Steep and narrow landscapes dotted with romantic castles and lovely vineyards. Gentle, winding bike and walking trails. World-class wine. Delectable cuisine. This is the Moselle River valley.
And where I had my first official wine tasting.
France - a land rich in history, art, wine, great food and delightful people. These are a few of the reasons that draw us to this wonderful part of Europe. If you are thinking about a river cruise, the lines that sail the region have done an exceptional job weaving these experiences into their itineraries.
How to choose? Despite many similarities, each of these five waterways have unique personalities., which, depending on what you'd like to experience, should help you choose one or at least narrow down the choices.
Still can't decide? Choose one that best matches your dates and budget AND GO! You'll enjoy the experience no matter which area you choose.
Photo courtesy of Ponant
A good number of new ships are being launched in 2018 and 2019, with more coming in 2020.
This year will bring Seabourn's Ovation, Scenic's Eclipse Discovery yacht, Viking's Orion and Ponant's new explorer class Le Laperouse and Le Champlain ships. Celebrity is showcasing the new Edge and Holland America is introducing the Niew Statendam, the sistership to the lovely Konigsdam. Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean all have new mega ships.
These days there are cruise themes for many different interests: Golf, art, photography, World War II history, cultural heritage, gardening, beer, and yes, wine. Wine themed cruises have been around for several years and are growing in popularity. They offer exclusive access to vineyards, winemakers, special talks and tastings one normally doesn't have access to.
It was only a few years ago that I noticed only few articles about Lisbon and Portugal in general. Truly an under the radar destination. Fast forward to 2018 and Portugal is now high on the list of emerging destinations, with Lisbon quickly becoming a favorite city to visit.
Photo courtesy of European Waterways
When you think of cruise lines, which ones to come to mind?
More often than not, the big cruise lines are mentioned. Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity and so on. Given the amount of advertising they do - TV ads, magazine ads, celebrity endorsements, social media, etc., it's not surprising they are top of mind.
Photo courtesy of Sea Dream Yacht Club
There is a lot of excitement these days in the world of cruising with all the new ships recently or soon to be launched. Much of this excitement is focused on the mega ships - the ones with 4000+ passengers. I must say, they are beautiful, with all the "latest and greatest" on board, new technology, new restaurants and even a race track on the top deck of the Norwegian Bliss coming in May. Imagine that!
As an avid cruiser, I understand the lure of all these amenities. The ships have become destinations in of themselves. Perfect for a certain group of travelers.
Under the radar, though, are plenty of small ship cruises. New ships and new itineraries, for those seeking a very different experience from the bigger ships. Adventure, expedition, luxury, river, sailing, yachting - as small as 12 passengers up to about 700 - lots of options to be had!
Every 10 years, the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau transforms itself from a small, quaint town of 5300 residents to a host of over 500,000 visitors between mid May and early October. According to historical records, the residents of Oberammergau have performed the Passion of the Christ, depicting his trial, his suffering and his death, every decade since 1634. The next performance will be held in 2020.
So why am I bringing this up over two years away? Because if you enjoy faith based travel experiences and this Passion Play is on your "must see" list, you need to start planning for this trip - NOW!
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder