The Afar Guide to
River Cruises

Go with the Flow

River cruising is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to cruise. Because of unprecedented growth in the river cruise industry; there are more vessels than ever sailing on the world’s rivers, canals, and waterways, from specially designed luxury river boats to unique and funky barges. Nothing beats sailing into the center of some of Europe’s grand cities. Budapest, Paris, Amsterdam, Basel, and Cologne offer countless activities for all interests types: great restaurants, cultural encounters, and excursions to castles, wineries, and architectural wonders are all part of the program. And it’s now easier than ever to get into the heart of the Amazon, Africa’s Chobe River, Egypt’s Nile, China’s Yangtze River, Russia’s Volga River, Portugal’s Duoro River, or the Mekong River. Get off the beaten path and explore both world capitals and tiny towns and villages.

River Cruises around the World
Discover the vast variety of unique experiences along remote rivers of the world. See what destination immersion really means when cruising in Asia, Russia, South America, and Africa.
The Mighty Danube
Experience magical forests, see ruins of castles along the riverbanks, and visit thriving capital cities like Vienna, Austria, or Budapest along "the river of kings." The Danube has been an important trade route and exploring the villages near the riverbanks, taking a walking tour of Vienna, or venturing further afar to experience towns like Salzburg are easily doable on a river cruise.
Rhine River Rendezvous
A.A. Milne once said, "rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." Such is the case for those traveling along the Rhine, especially when cruising through the Rhine River Gorge at the Upper Middle Rhine between Bingen, Rudesheim, and Koblenz. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to castles, historic towns and vineyards that are best observed from the water.
European River Cruises
Venture off the beaten path in Belgium, Hungary, France, and The Netherlands. Take a walk, ride a bike, spend an afternoon at a café – all these options are available for river cruise travelers who like the added convenience of exploring towns and attractions close to their floating hotel.
How to Choose a River Cruise
There are many pros to taking a river cruise. Topping the list is the fact that you only have to unpack once—and then immerse yourself in multiple destinations. Once the decision to take a river cruise has been made, the next steps in the planning process are to choose an itinerary and then a cruise line. Keep the following tips in mind when planning a river cruise.
River cruising is all about the journey and the destination. Picking a cruise itinerary will then help determine what cruise line and ship to select. Hands-down the most popular itineraries are in Europe but there are also river cruises available on the waterways of Russia, Asia, Africa, South America and North America. The most popular itineraries for first-time river cruise travelers are on the Danube and Rhine rivers, but there are also options available on the Main, Neckar, Mosel, and in France on the Seine, Soane, and Rhône rivers. Some of the more popular river cruise companies operating in Europe include: AmaWaterways, A-ROSA Cruises, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Scenic, Tauck, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, and Viking River Cruises.
When comparing cruise lines check the ship’s capacity. Look for a high ratio of staff to guests. Since river cruise ships are basically the same design (flat-bottomed long ships designed to navigate rivers) fewer guests could mean more space, larger staterooms, and smaller groups on tours.
Keep an eye out for Crystal River Cruises, which will debut in 2017 from the award-winning ultra luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises.
If planning a cruise along the Columbia, Snake or Mississippi rivers is a goal, then pick from products offered by American Cruise Lines, The American Queen Steamboat Company, and UnCruise Adventures.
Cruise lines generally offer all-inclusive pricing for things like meals, most drinks, lodging, and a tour department. But the differences show up when it comes to comes to unique features like fitness centers, step-out balconies (AmaWaterways) stocked in-stateroom mini-bars, onboard swimming pools (Uniworld Boutique River Cruises), prepaid gratuities, and multiple dining venues.
Know the code. Touring and spending time in port are two of the highlights of river cruising. Although some cruise lines like Viking River Cruises will include tours in the cruise fare, other companies do not.  A-ROSA Cruises, for example, gives guests a per person shipboard credit that can offset the costs of tours or the credit can be applied shipboard purchases. Also, some cruise lines offer optional excursions that are available for an additional fee.
The best time of year to take a river cruise in Europe is in May or June. Choose a cruise line like Viking River Cruises that have a lot of cruise ships for the best selection. Keep in mind that not all Viking River Cruises ships are created equal: much cruise buzz has been made lately about the Viking Longships, which feature the fleet’s Scandinavian designs.
If tulips are on the must see list think Amsterdam and Belgium. Make sure to book early for the best selection. Booking early means between 3 and 6 months in advance. Look for itineraries that embark or debark in Amsterdam and plan to spend an extra night (or two) in the city before or after the cruise for total immersion.
Take time to enjoy the fruits of the valley. Cruise lines like Viking River Cruises, or sailing on the Danube River offer excursions to wineries offering guests an option to learn about the wines in Austria's picturesque Wachau Valley.
Good news—you can bring the kids. AmaWaterways has teamed up with Adventures by Disney to offer family river cruises along the Danube through the heart of Europe.
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Carrie Finley-Bajak, River Cruises Curator