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).
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, a bit off the beaten path with fewer tourists, 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.
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.
Is river cruising for you? Here are 13 reasons why river cruising may be the perfect trip for you:
Expand Your Options
River cruises take you through the heart of the country, to ports of call that are not accessible by ocean cruises. New cities and towns to explore, so very different than what you will find on an ocean cruise.
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:
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?
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
River cruising and luxury barging has grown exponentially over the past few years. More and more travelers are discovering and falling in love with this type of travel. Why? With river cruising you have so many options - choices in rivers, choices in itineraries, choices in cruise lines. Something for just about everyone.
If you are new to the experience, having all these options can certainly be daunting. Following these steps will help you narrow down your choices.
River cruising is a wonderful way to experience Europe – for many many reasons. Immersing yourself in the heart of the country, visiting iconic cities, quaint towns and villages, experiencing new foods…. All true on every river cruise in Europe. And visiting UNESCO sites are always weaved into the itineraries.
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
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:
River cruising continues to be very, very popular. Plenty of new ships are being launched, along with new itineraries, new ports of call, ships dedicated to younger travelers and excursions dedicated to wellness and being more active.
River cruising is truly amazing. And the good news is that one doesn't have to leave North America to take advantage of this exceptional experience. One region relatively under the radar is the Columbia River (and her tributaries).
Basque country – an autonomous region located in northwest Spain and south west France – is filled with breathtaking coastal vistas, colorful villages and cities scattered throughout the green countryside.
Spain’s Basque country stretches from the popular beachfront city of San Sebastian (seen above) to Bilbao in the west and Vitoria-Gasteiz and the Rioja region in the south.
Basque country is often added as an extension to Spain and France trips, and I’m seeing cruise lines adding port stops here too. Vibrant, lively, spicy and diverse are just a few ways to describe the top 4 reasons to visit this beautiful region.
Cruising the rivers of France is such a delight, each offering very different experiences. When thinking of the Bordeaux region, it’s all about food, wine and all the beautiful châteaux. On the Seine, history, World War II and art are highlighted, and on the Saône and Rhône rivers it’s about gastronomy, history, architecture.
Experiences on the Saône and Rhône rivers are often more focused on the Rhône, Lyon and Provence, so when I was introduced to the Burgundy region of the Saône, I found it so delightful I just had to share the insights with you.
Searching for a different type of vacation experience? Maybe a unique trip for a family reunion or simply a group of friends? Time to truly unwind and unplug with like minded travelers?
A luxury barge cruise experience could be just the ticket!
Photo courtesy of European Waterways
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 have become quite popular. Exclusive access to vineyards, winemakers, special talks and tastings one normally doesn't have access to plus all the normal excursions. A perfect pairing!
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.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder