River cruising is a wonderful way to experience Europe for many reasons, from exploring the heart of a country, visiting iconic cities and capitals to quaint towns and villages, experiencing new foods and culinary deliciousness…. All true on every river cruise in Europe. And visiting UNESCO sites are always weaved into the itineraries.
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.
River cruises are rich in experiences, from culture, history and culinary to gorgeous scenery. A cruise through the Douro River valley is no different, though this river valley is truly unique from any other European river.
Take A Walk Along The Normandy Beaches
Veteran's Day is a day to honor all those who have served, and each year its a day that has me thinking about places in the US and around the world where our soldiers have won and lost.
In the north of France, across the English Channel along a 54 mile stretch of coastline, sits a big piece of World War II history - the beaches of Normandy. This now peaceful part of the world is a perfect spot to take a trip through history and pay tribute to our soldiers lost.
The Rhine and Upper Danube Rivers are the most popular European river cruise itineraries, for many reasons. Quintessential Europe, including castles, vineyards, quaint towns, Hapsburg era palaces and iconic capitals. So much to see.
But if you are looking for something different, fewer tourists and crowds a bit off the beaten path, consider a cruise along the Lower Danube. Cruising between Budapest and Bucharest (you dock in Giurgiu) is a special itinerary - a chest full of unexpected treasures.
From the middle of November through the new year, the Christmas spirit truly comes alive in Europe. Cities, towns and villages are magical with their decorated streets and squares, only seen during this time of year.
Especially fun are the Christmas Markets. Small or large, you'll find them all throughout Europe, all unique to their city and region with local artisans and crafts only found at that location.
European river cruises start and end in some of the Europe’s most amazing cities and regions. You’ve invested time and money getting here, so why not take advantage of this opportunity by extending your stay, even if it’s just a few days. You never know when you’ll be back!
9 Reasons Why You’ll Love Portugal
Portugal packs a real punch with its diverse experiences, stunning landscapes, friendly locals and so much more. Lots of sunshine, good food, tradition, intriguing history and culture are all reasons why you’ll love a visit to Portugal.
The Aurora: Borealis And Australis
Photo courtesy of Kakslauttanen
Simply put, the Aurora Borealis and Australis are the Northern and Southern Lights. These mesmerizing, beautiful green, blue, red and purple lights that flash over the polar skies. As we move into the winter months, they become more and more visible in the polar regions.
Have you ever wondered what these "lights" really are? I never put a lot of thought into it until I listened to a presentation by a photographer who was taking a group to Norway on a winter cruise. Not being a scientist, the discussions around solar flares, magnetic fields, electrons and who knows what else could have made my brain go blurry. I appreciated his simple presentation in layman's terms, and found all of it to be quite fascinating. I'm certain you will too.
Oberammergau's Passion Play
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 performance scheduled for 2020 was postponed to 2022, giving you the opportunity to attend before the next scheduled performance in 2030. If you enjoy faith based travel experiences, the Passion Play is a must see. But it's not just the play - the Bavarian region is also a reason that pulls you here.
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.
For anyone who loves wine, Europe is a great destination. Home to 7 of the top 15 world-wide producers, you’ll find wine regions in just about every country producing a variety of high quality wine. Many are under the radar, largely because production is small and consumed locally.
Europe is also a great destination for river cruising – a perfect pairing with wine experiences. Following are 9 wine regions you can visit while on a European river cruise (listed in no particular order).
Sailing the Northern Cyclades
Off the south eastern coast of Greece lie some of the most stunning islands of the Aegean Sea – the Cyclades Islands. Meaning “encircling”, the archipelago is named such because they form a rough circle around the island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Zeus’ children, twins Artemis and her brother Apollo. As stated on the Visit Greece tourism site, Delos is the head priest of the Cyclades, the birthplace of immortals. Delos is not a museum. It is not there to tell a story. It is history itself.
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.
Which river to choose? Despite some 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.
16 Things To Do In Salzburg
Located in the middle of Europe, Austria is one of the continent's most compelling countries. With a history full of famous musicians, renowned artists, an abundance of breathtaking scenery and architecture, Austria is an enchanting country to visit.
The city of Mozart, Salzburg, is one of Austria's little gems. While you can imagine yourself exploring the set of the Sound of Music (and maybe even singing a few tunes), Salzburg has many more wonderful experiences, making this a popular excursion from a Danube cruise.
Here are some of the top things to do:
10 Epic Train Journeys
Sometimes a rail trip is just what is needed to thoroughly enjoy the scenic surrounds. No driving, no constant stopping to get that photo, travel through areas where roads don't or can't go. Sit back in luxury, relax and enjoy the ever changing scenery and wildlife (instead of watching the road).
10 epic train adventures to inspire you:
There is a saying in German: “Wenn schon, den schon.” It basically means “Let’s go whole hog.” Or “All In.”
When it comes to cruise travel, I often encourage you to take advantage of already being in a region by adding on time for deeper discovery, deeper immersion. One easy way to do this – adding time before and after your cruise in the ports where your cruise starts or ends. A second way, adding time to discover more of the immediate region (or even a bit further away). For example, adding the Loire Valley to a Bordeaux or Seine cruise, or taking the Eurostar to London when ending in Amsterdam or Paris. A third way – extending your cruises from the traditional week to two, three and even six weeks.
Now that’s what I would call “Going whole hog”!
The Bordeaux wine region in Southwest France is a perfect pairing for river cruising, wine lovers and culture seekers alike. So while you are here, why not continue your wine, culinary and culture experiences with a visit to the Loire Valley and San Sebastian and Bilboa before or after your Bordeaux cruise?
River Cruising Through the Netherlands
Have you ever wondered about the difference between Holland and the Netherlands? The official name of the country is the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is made up of 12 provinces. The two provinces of Noord- and Zuid-Holland together make up Holland. However, most people just say Holland when they are referring to the Netherlands.
An endlessly photogenic destination, Cesky Krumlov is one of South Bohemia’s most famous cities. Known for its narrow cobblestoned streets, castle towers and historic city center, these sites have captured the attention of many visitors for centuries.
10 Top Experiences in Malta
The Maltese Islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino - are located in the Mediterranean Sea between the northern African coast and Sicily. These idyllic islands are abundant with rich culture, history, magnificent landscapes and over 300 days of sunshine.
In other words, plenty of reasons to visit. Following are 10 top experiences not to miss.
While not necessarily the first river that comes to mind, the Moselle River is a picture-perfect backdrop for any trip and can hold a lot of appeal for a seasoned river cruiser. While some of the destinations along this waterway are pivotal trade hubs, you won’t find any of the industrial hardware that can clutter the ports of other rivers.
With lush terraced vineyards, fairy-tale castles and villages, half-timbered houses and rolling hills crowned with ancient castles, the Moselle Valley is rich with all the right ingredients for a romantic holiday.
Seeing wildlife in their natural habitats can be a life changing, soul stirring experience, not only for animal lovers but all types of curious and adventurous travelers.
Wildlife themed itineraries are best experienced in small group settings – whether they be private or small group land tours or small ship cruises, taking you into areas less visited, less accessible. Small groups lend themselves perfectly to a better learning environment while contributing to the conservation and protection of species. Sustainable tourism - the best way.
Following are 7 top itinerary picks – one on every continent. Photo credit above: Lindblad Expeditions
17 Sites Not To Be Missed in Budapest
Budapest is a fascinating city with incredible history. Its roots date back to the Roman times and even earlier; modern Budapest dates back to 19th and 20th centuries when it was part of the Austria-Hungary empire and while under Soviet rule for 45 years, which ended in 1991. Today the city is a thriving metropolis, drawing in tourists from all over the world, many arriving or departing on a river cruise.
A few fun facts about the Czech Republic:
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder