9 best river cruises in Europe

Fran Golden

River cruising in Europe is one of those delightfully slow and easy modes of travel. You're in a small floating hotel, exploring calm inland waters, gliding past castles and vineyards and scenery that changes by the hour.

Daily escorted walking tours and other excursions provided by the river line take you to key UNESCO World Heritage Sites and other city and village attractions you've come to see. Or you can choose to explore on your own, which is easy since your ship often will dock right in town.

Lazy afternoons on the ship afford the time to sit in a lounge chair and watch the world go by — kids swimming from the riverbanks, farmers tending their crops, river birds flapping their wings — as you glide to your next destination.

Which European river should you explore? The choices are broader than you might expect.

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The main rivers in Europe are the Danube and the Rhine and their tributaries. They are, by far, the most popular, doable either on one-week segments or longer itineraries that combine areas and sometimes combine rivers. Even if your cruise is only a week, don't underestimate the allure of relaxing for seven days on a river in France or on the dreamy Douro in Portugal.

Here are the best river cruises in Europe.

Upper Danube

5 day river cruise europe

When it comes to Europe river cruises, a perfect seven-night starter sailing is the Upper Danube, which takes you through centuries of history as you explore Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Ships visit such cultural hubs as Vienna, with its opera and art museums and elaborate royal palaces, and Budapest, Hungary, with its magnificent architecture and modern vibe. If your ship passes the Hungarian Parliament building at night, you're in for a treat; magnificently lit, it's one of the most photographed sights on the river.

Along the route, between Melk and Krems in Austria, you cruise through the Wachau Valley, a key wine-growing region producing rieslings and gruner veltliners, with sipping opportunities available. It's also a great place to bike, which is why it's nice to sail with lines, such as AmaWaterways , that carry bikes on board for passengers to use.

You might also have the option of a side trip to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Mozart — and also where several scenes for the movie "Sound of Music" were filmed. A surprise for many is Old Town Bratislava, Slovakia, which might not have been on your must-do list but which charms with its beer culture and castles.

Related: Booking your first river cruise? Here's what you need to know.

Lower Danube

5 day river cruise europe

For a deep dive into Eastern Europe's past and present, the fascinating Lower Danube route between Budapest and Bucharest, Romania, explores history from the medieval times and Victorian era of Dracula to the rise of communism and the Bosnian War.

The seven-night river cruise takes you through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. The most beautiful stretch of the river is a 62-mile passage through a gorge between the Balkan and Carpathian Mountains. It's also one of the deepest stretches of river in the world.

Other sights accessed on shore excursions via bus include Bulgaria's Belogradchik Rocks, which are naturally carved towering red rock pinnacles that appear to take forms such as "Madonna with child," and Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria's stunning medieval capital.

5 day river cruise europe

When it comes to top cruising rivers in Europe, the Rhine wins for natural beauty and fairytale landscapes. A cruise on the river between Amsterdam in The Netherlands, and Basel, Switzerland — a typical one-week route — takes you past expanses of slope-side vineyards, forests and mountains, historic cities and medieval half-timbered villages.

That's even before you get to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 40-mile stretch of river, between Rudesheim and Koblenz, Germany, has castles galore — you might imagine Rapunzel letting down her hair — and Lorelei Rock, the legendary cliff said to distract sailors with the mesmerizing song of a maiden.

The French city of Strasbourg, with its famous Gothic cathedral and robust Alsatian culinary scene, is often a favorite stop on Rhine itineraries, with other highlights including Heidelberg, Germany, and its imposing castle.

Related: Christmas market river cruises: What to expect on a holiday sailing

5 day river cruise europe

Sure, you can catch sight of the Eiffel Tower when boarding a river ship in Paris, but you can do that while staying in a hotel, too. The real attractions of a Seine River cruise are sailing on the river outside the city toward the English Channel and a visit to the beaches in Normandy for a perspective on World War II.

Your visit there and to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, as well as other memorials and monuments to the fallen, is a poignant experience (one that requires a two-hour bus ride from your ship, however). Avalon Waterways brings a World War II expert on board to add insight on select sailings.

Other treasures exist along the Seine, not the least of which is Giverny, the home and gardens of impressionist artist Claude Monet. If you are a fan of his art, much of the property might seem familiar.

In historic Rouen, where Joan of Arc was martyred in the Middle Ages, stop by the Rouen Cathedral (another subject of Monet) before losing yourself on cobblestone streets with wonderful cafes.

Related: River cruise packing list: What to pack when traveling by riverboat

5 day river cruise europe

Bordeaux river cruises are different from other water routes because you explore two short waterways — the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers — and the Gironde Estuary in Southwest France.

You'll spend more time ashore than floating down the river on this itinerary, with your ship docked for two nights in the city of Bordeaux, a mini-Paris with grand 18th-century buildings. Who cares when you are in the epicenter of French culture, in one of the most celebrated wine regions in the world?

Bordeaux serves up the opportunity to sip Medoc, Margaux, Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Sauternes wines as you expand your wine education. You'll visit vineyards and gorgeous chateaus. Your cruise line might even host a dinner at a wine estate one evening. If you plan your cruise for September or October, you'll be able to admire the grape harvest.

Related: The 5 best cruise lines for solo travelers

Rhone and Saone

5 day river cruise europe

Another must for wine-lovers is exploring the interior of France, sipping Cotes du Rhone in such famous winemaking regions as Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Provence and Beaune in Burgundy.

Rhone and Saone River cruises typically sail between Lyon and Arles or Avignon, and they're top-loaded with such non-wine attractions as the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard and the Roman Arles Amphitheater, as well as the massive Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) in Avignon. You'll also be able to take in the lavender fields, haystacks and other scenes that inspired painters like Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh.

5 day river cruise europe

For a lazy, dreamy, wonderful river cruise experience, nothing quite beats exploring the wine regions of Portugal on the Douro, one of the major rivers through the Iberian Peninsula. The home base for these river cruises is Porto, Portugal, with its historic city center, spectacular bridges and port houses.

On one-week cruises, you'll follow the river 130 miles past green hillside vineyards in the Douro River Valley, a UNESCO-recognized destination, before turning around at the Spanish border. The river cruises typically include a visit to the university town of Salamanca in northern Spain. Viticulture is very much the lesson en route, as you learn about port production on the "River of Gold."

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5 day river cruise europe

Due to fluctuating water levels and narrow passages, the Elbe is a challenging river that runs 680 miles between the Czech Republic and Germany. Historically, it formed part of the border between East Germany and West Germany.

River cruising here is a rare experience. Viking River Cruises is one of the few lines that visits (another is the French line CroisiEurope), offering 10-day itineraries that combine hotel stays in the cities of Berlin and Prague with a stretch of river between Prague and Wittenburg, Germany.

The cruises are on ships built specifically for the Elbe route. They stop in places such as resurgent Dresden, heavily bombed during World War II but expertly rebuilt; the Saxon Switzerland region of Germany with its striking sandstone rock formations; and the spa town of Bad Schandau.

5 day river cruise europe

The Po River in northern Italy is tidal, making it another challenging waterway. However, it affords the opportunity to combine a visit to Venice with a river cruise. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises does the Po in high style with its 126-passenger S.S. La Venizia, completely decked out with a sense of place, from Fortuny fabrics and Murano glass to its gilded accents.

The one-week route doesn't take you far but does include the walled city of Padua, the charming fishing village of Chioggia, and the culinary mecca of Bologna.

For those looking for a longer experience, Uniworld cleverly combines a Po cruise with luxury rail journeys to places like Istanbul, Switzerland and beyond.

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15 of the Best River Cruises in Europe

See fairy-tale villages, iconic landmarks, and vineyards as you explore the continent's waterways.

5 day river cruise europe

Much of the appeal of European river cruises lies in the small size of the ships, casual atmosphere, and accessibility. Unlike oceangoing ships that carry thousands of passengers, these vessels typically accommodate around 150 guests for a more intimate experience. Balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, and open-air viewing are features of most river cruise ships. Many also include fitness centers, spas, and internet access.

Cruises usually offer several daily shore excursions with options based on interests and activity levels. Biking and walking tours are available in most ports. On boats traveling along rivers at all hours, collecting passengers from another port, guests can choose a leisurely day in a comfortable lounge enjoying the passing scenery.

While there are several famous rivers in Europe, the Danube and the Rhine are the most popular cruise options, according to  River Cruise Advisor . The Danube River tends to be more scenic, studded with charming cities and the UNESCO-recognized Wachau Valley. Alternatively, the Rhine offers access to bustling metropolises and passes Europe's industrial hubs. Both rivers flow through excellent wine country as well. Whether you want to explore an iconic route or less-traveled waterways, these are the best river cruises in Europe.

Viking Cruises

Perhaps the best-known river cruise company, Viking Cruises promotes its “longships,” which are designed to deliver maximum space and comfort. There are ample staterooms with full balconies to choose from — including two-room suites. Guests enjoy Viking's destination-focused dining as well as the variety of itineraries.

Trip to Try: Portugal's River of Gold

This nine-night trip begins in Lisbon with a walking tour before heading to Porto, home of Port wine, to board the ship on the Douro River. Guests can explore baroque palaces, vineyards, and lush scenery along the way, arriving in the World Heritage city of Salamanca, Spain, on day six. The itinerary includes visits to Portuguese villages Pinhão and Régua to sample local food and wine before returning to Porto.


A family-owned and -operated cruise company, AmaWaterways focuses on excellent food and wine, tasteful decor, stateroom views, and innovation in its luxurious fleet. Fares include fitness classes, shore excursions, and all dining on board, including The Chef's Table specialty restaurant. New ships debut each year, but the AmaMagna, which traverses the Danube, features the most spacious suites available. Rooms outfitted with full-sized balconies are worth the splurge on these small ships; it's like having a bonus room in your cabin. For a wider berth, book a part-charter to accommodate large groups.

Trip to Try: Taste of Bordeaux

Wine lovers will want to experience this seven-night journey with visits to iconic châteaux, timeless vineyards, and delicious wine tastings while cruising the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Excursions include a Saint-Emilion tour and tasting, a stop in the Medoc wine region, and a tasting of Sauternes in medieval Roquetaillade Castle. Returning to Bordeaux, guests will explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site and capital of the wine world.

Adventures by Disney River Cruises

Chloe Rice/Adventures by Disney River Cruises

Partnering with AmaWaterways, Adventures by Disney offers cruises on the Seine, Rhine, and Danube rivers. In true Disney style, specially designed itineraries create experiences for parents, children, and teens, from active excursions to unique onboard activities. Entertainment for guests of all ages includes adults-only dinners and wine-tasting experiences, teen programming, Disney movie nights, karaoke, and trivia nights.

Trip to Try: Danube River Cruise

The seven-night trip starts in Budapest where excursions include a horse show at an equestrian park, a petting zoo, and a goulash-making competition. In Bratislava, wander cobblestone streets on a walking tour. Visit Schönbrunn Palace, enjoy a marionette show, or learn to make strudel while in Vienna. In Melk, Austria, hike to a castle or bike along the Danube for an active day. Dock in Linz, then visit Salzburg to see famous film locations featured in “The Sound of Music.” A stop in Passau, Germany allows guests to walk among treetops on a high-ropes course or spend a more leisurely afternoon with a monastic brewery tour and tasting. Say farewell to the ship in Vilshofen, Germany, before transferring to Munich for the flight home.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Uniworld River Cruises

Uniworld's one-of-a-kind vessels are inspired by the locations they visit, making them luxurious destinations in their own right. Amenities include in-suite butler service, world-class cuisine, and all-inclusive rates that cover premium spirits and wines as well as gratuities.

Trip to Try: Enchanting Danube

The seven-night Danube cruise aboard the S.S. Maria Theresa or the S.S. Beatrice begins in Budapest with a choice of tours, such as a food tour or a panoramic drive with a guided visit to the Franz Liszt Academy. In Vienna, walk between the city's best attractions or take an early-access guided tour of the Vienna Art History Museum. Excursion options include a vineyard visit and tasting or a saffron workshop in Dürnstein, or a stop at an abbey library in Melk. Dock in Linz for a full day of culinary exploration or transfer to Salzburg to visit music-themed highlights like Mozart's birthplace and "The Sound of Music" filming locations. The cruise ends in Passau after a walking tour of the city and a riverside stroll or a hike along the Ilz, a Danube tributary.

Avalon Waterways

When you cruise with Avalon Waterways, you can observe the riverfront scenery from the comfort of your bed. The line's spacious staterooms and suites boast wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows, luxurious linens, and ample closet space. Large bathrooms include full showers and L'Occitane bath amenities. Avalon offers “Active and Discovery” river cruises with options for a variety of fitness levels, from traditional sightseeing to action-packed experiences like hiking or rail cycling, which is a bike fitted to a former train track.

Trip to Try: Active & Discovery on the Rhône

Southbound on the Rhône River, this cruise begins in Lyon and heads south through the French countryside with picturesque towns and villages. Throughout Provence, stops include Avignon, Port-Saint-Louis, and Arles. During the seven-night journey, Avalon Choice excursions include culinary walks with cooking classes, hikes with panoramic views, a painting workshop, wine tastings, classic sightseeing, and more directed by three available activity levels.

Started as a New England motor coach tour company, Tauck is a family-owned travel firm offering tours and cruises to destinations worldwide. Its award-winning European river cruises are praised for personalized service, exclusive destination experiences, luxurious cabins and suites, fine dining, and professional, caring staff.

Trip to Try: Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy

This seven-night round-trip cruise from Paris features stops in historic small villages and towns after sightseeing in the City of Light. In the days following embarkation, highlights include a guided tour of Versailles, Louis XIV's magnificent palace and gardens, Rouen Cathedral, and Joan of Arc Square. See the D-Day beaches of Normandy, and the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Art lovers will enjoy a private experience of Claude Monet's home and gardens at Giverny and a visit to the Impressionist Museum.

Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours

Scenic Cruises offers both ocean and river voyages. Both feature its fleet of “Space-Ships,” which are meticulously designed for spacious quarters. Guests enjoy personalized butler service and all-inclusive cruising. Ships offer a wellness area, massage services, a gym, and onboard entertainment. Scenic's “FreeChoice” excursions offer something for all activity levels.

Trip to Try: Charming Castles & Vineyards of the Rhine & Moselle

Board the ship in Basel, Switzerland. For seven nights, slowly sail up the Rhine to Breisach in the Alsace region of France. Stops include Koblenz, where guests can take a walking or e-bike tour. There's a private classical music concert and tour of Reichsburg Castle along the way, as well as optional visits to the iconic Eltz Castle or a walking tour of Strasbourg and its magnificent cathedral. Disembark in Mainz to conclude the trip with a transfer to Frankfurt.

Emerald Cruises

For its European river cruises alone, Emerald features a fleet of eight “Star-Ships” with stylish suites, first-class amenities, and room for 180 guests. Most carry bicycles, and all staterooms are equipped with hiking poles. Excursions include EmeraldPlus, a program of special experiences to connect with destinations, and EmeraldActive, which offers faster-paced guided tours, bike rides, hikes, and other activities.

Trip to Try: Sensations of Lyon & Provence

Travel from Lyon to Marseille on a seven-night cruise on the Rhône River. Overland to a quaint village before returning to Lyon to set sail. The ship cruises south toward Tournon, with its 16th-century castle. Other stops include Avignon and Arles. Throughout the cruise, choose from optional activities such as canoeing, hiking through vineyards, walking tours of villages, or onboard wine tastings.

CroisiEurope Cruises

Established in 1976, Croisi holds a fleet of oceangoing ships, canal barges, and river cruise ships. The company's innovative approach stems from basing its ships' design on the characteristics of the waterways. This allowed them to be pioneers on several European rivers including the Gironde, Loire, Po, and Elbe.

Trip to Try: Hamburg to Berlin: Discover the Medieval Charms of Hanseatic Cities

CroisiEurope's six-night cruise starts with guided tours of Hamburg and Lübeck, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a morning cruise, the ship passes through the Scharnebeck twin ship lift. This industrial marvel vertically raises vessels to 125 feet where the River Elbe connects to a canal. An optional visit to the Autostadt theme park, dedicated to German car design, and an afternoon cruise fill day four. The next day, there's a tour of Magdeburg, known for its fascinating architecture and culture. In Potsdam, wander the Sanssouci Palace gardens before enjoying an evening gala. The boat then docks in Berlin, where guests can tour the city before disembarking the following day.

A-ROSA River Cruises

This German cruise company's distinctive ships are easy to recognize by the large red lips and rose on the bow. The 15-strong fleet includes a hybrid-powered ship, A-Rosa Sena , that cruises the northern Rhine almost silently and emission-free. Family-friendly amenities include a kids club, heated outdoor pools, and free passage for children ages 15 and under.

Trip to Try: Highlights of the Rhine

This five-night, round-trip Rhine river cruise begins in Cologne, Germany, followed by stops in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Each city has a unique style of architecture and a thriving art scene. Sightseeing options include guided tours by bus, private car, or even pedal boats on Amsterdam's canals, each at an additional cost. Turning back toward Cologne, enjoy two days in Utrecht before disembarking.

Lüftner Cruises

Lueftner Cruises

This Austrian family business dates back more than 40 years and offers European river cruises on its fleet of 11 Amadeus ships. Five-star service, facilities, and cuisine are hallmarks, and the ships feature panoramic windows and a spacious sundeck.

Trip to Try: Saar and Moselle Fairytales

Board the ship in Cologne and spend seven nights cruising down the Rhine River to its tributary, the Moselle River, one of Europe's best-kept secrets , and the Saar River. The ship passes the Mosel vineyards and docks in the medieval town of Cochem for a guided walking tour. Guests can tour the town of Bernkastel-Kues and enjoy a wine tasting. After a morning tour of medieval Saarburg, the ship cruises along the Saar with panoramic views of Great Bend, an impressive curve in the river. It then stops in Luxembourg and Koblenz, where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet, before returning to Cologne.

Nicko Cruises

Plying Europe's rivers since the early 1990s, this German company has a fleet of over 20 river ships. Nicko Cruises focuses on giving guests a flexible itinerary to explore destinations in a way that best suits their tastes. While guests might have to pay more for a drinks package or additional excursions, this river cruise line delivers value.

Trip to Try: Renaissance and Reformation

The seven-night cruise sets off along the Elbe and Havel rivers from Potsdam, Germany, aboard the Katharina Von Bora . In Magdeburg, visit the Green Citadel, a unique space with shops and cafes designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The next stop is Wittenburg, home to the Castle Church where Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Revolution in 1517. From Bad Schandau, guests have the option to take an excursion by bus to Prague for the day. Having seen the impressive architecture, cathedrals, and Prussian fortresses, travelers sail back to Dresden to end the week.

Teeming River Cruises

Jeff and Gina Paglialonga/Teeming River Cruises

Founded in 2017 with the goal of making European river cruises more economical and personalized, this American company developed a different model. Teeming River Cruises offers a mix of programmed group activities and free time, and guests get a complimentary city tour app to explore each destination on their own. Passengers can also opt for excursions on top of the basic itinerary for an extra fee.

Trip to Try: From the Canals of Venice to Renaissance-infused Mantua

Set in northern Italy along the Po River, this six-night trip starts in Venice where guests can discover the most popular sites like St. Mark's Square. In partnership with CroisiEurope aboard the M.S. Michelangelo , the ship heads west to Chioggia. Join an excursion to Vicenza before boarding again in Porto Viro and cruising to Rovigo. After arriving in Torretta, spend time in Verona, with its ancient amphitheater and Giusti Gardens. The next days are spent in Cremona, with a visit to a violin workshop, and Mantua, where key properties of the House of Gonzaga are located. After disembarkation, take a bus back to Venice.

Les Bateaux Belmond

Belmond has another way to cruise some of Europe's rivers — on luxury barges with private chefs and excursions like truffle hunting, hot-air ballooning, canoeing, and wine tasting. Seven private charter barges make up Les Bateaux Belmond, each with its own style and size. The elegant barges cruise the waterways of Burgundy, Provence, Camargue, and Champagne. Each can accommodate four to 12 passengers, making this a personal experience.

Trip to Try: Les Bateaux Belmond's Napoleon

On the Belmond Napoleon , which runs scheduled trips as well as private charters, guests cruise the Rhône River past châteaux, rural river towns, and expansive vineyards. Begin the journey in Tain l'Hermitage and enjoy a wine tasting. After a stop at the medieval village of Viviers, the cruise continues to Grignan, where you can participate in a luxurious truffle tasting at a farm. Visit the palace where 14th-century popes lived in Avignon. In Arles, explore the surrounding landscape that inspired Van Gogh's work. Along the cruise, enjoy fragrant fields of lavender and wild roses, too.

Riviera River Cruises


United Kingdom-based Riviera River Cruises has four decades of experience traversing Europe's best-known waterways and lesser-visited regions. The ships, many named after British literary greats, feature standard amenities such as Wi-Fi, a fitness room, a pool, and a sauna. Staterooms have plush furnishings and balconies for outdoor lounging.

Trip to Try: Budapest to the Black Sea

While many European river cruises cover the most popular stretches of the Danube, this itinerary picks up where most end, in Budapest. The 15-day cruise follows the Danube through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania to the Black Sea. Along the way, passengers see pastoral lands and steep river canyons. Picturesque stops include Novi Sad with its beautiful baroque architecture, the Iron Gates Gorge marking the boundary between Serbia and Romania, and Oltenița from which guests can visit Bucharest. After reaching the Danube Delta, travelers return to Budapest for disembarkation.

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Really enjoyed the cruise. The food was exceptional, the excursions fun and enlightening and the entire crew was exceptional, fun, and professional. Bully for the Captain and Hotel Manager for setting the tone onboard. The Amabella experience must be the best! P.S. Cruise Manager Stefan is is star.
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  • MS AmaSiena
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  • River Queen
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  • Viking River Cruises
  • Rhine River

Delightful Christmas Markets in the Neckar Valley

  • Explore romantic city of Heidelberg
  • See whimsical Christmas Market
  • Tour in historic Speyer
  • Stroll through Eberbach

The Romantic Rhine Valley and the Rock of Lorelei

  • Explore the old Strasbourg at night
  • Visit the famous Drosselgasse
  • Enjoy a tasting of local wines

Christmas on the romantic rhine, the enhancement of the Lorelei Rock

  • Discover Lorelei Rock
  • Experience Marksburg castle
  • Explore Rudesheim

The Magic of Christmas: Savory Delights And Holiday Traditions On A Rhine River Cruise

  • Savor the magic of Christmas
  • Make Alsatian Christmas cookies
  • Explore Christmas markets

Christmastime in Alsace and Germany

  • Experience the Black Forest
  • Explore Christmas market in Europe
  • Visit Fascinating Heidelberg Castle
  • Tour Strasbourg Cathedral

Rhineland And Dutch Christmas

  • Experience the magic of Christmas
  • Explore romantic Rhine Valley
  • Tour the city of Cologne
  • Explore cozy Christmas markets
  • Visit historic Heidelberg Castle
  • Tour the Strasbourg Cathedral
  • Explore the Stolzenfels Castle
  • Visit the Bassenheimer Hof cellar
  • Enjoy the views of Rüdesheim

Top Rhine River Travel Destinations

  • Ludwigshafen
  • Switzerland

Rhine River Trips by Departure Date

  • 2024 Rhine River trips (67)
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  • August 2024 (35)
  • September 2024 (32)
  • October 2024 (35)
  • November 2024 (18)
  • December 2024 (23)
  • July 2025 (18)
  • August 2025 (21)
  • November 2025 (19)

Top Experiences in Rhine River

  • Rhine River Cruises (72)
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  • Rhine River Luxury (26)
  • Rhine River Cultural (18)
  • Rhine River Food & Wine (7)

Rhine River Trips by Duration

  • 5 day trips (9)
  • 7 day trips (6)
  • 8 day trips (34)
  • 11 day trips (6)
  • 12 day trips (3)
  • 15 day trips (7)

Rhine River Trips by Activity

  • Rhine River wine tasting (37)
  • Rhine River biking (35)
  • Rhine River hiking (30)
  • Rhine River village visits (29)
  • Rhine River urban exploration (20)
  • Rhine River small ship cruises (19)
  • Rhine River christmas market visits (15)
  • Rhine River local market visits (8)
  • Rhine River archaeological site visits (7)
  • Rhine River land & sea exploration (3)

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Mini river cruises.

Mini river cruises typically last for four or five nights, although three-night sailings are sometimes available too. Typically, a four-night river cruise will give you three full days in which to explore three different European ports of call, although on some itineraries you may visit more than one destination per day. A short river cruise is a great way to explore several destinations during a short break or weekend away.

If you’re new to river cruising, a mini river cruise can be the perfect way to dip your toe in the water, so to speak, and see if a river cruise holiday is for you, without the commitment of a longer holiday. It’s also a great way to spend a few hours exploring new cities to see which ones you would like to return to for city breaks or holidays in the future. Make sure to take advantage of our  river cruise deals .

Mini Cruises In Europe

Be enchanted by the cities of Germany on a Germany river cruise as you drift along the Rhine; explore Vienna and Budapest during a trip down the Danube on a river cruise in Hungary , or indulge in rich cultural heritage while sailing the Moselle.

There is so much to explore along the waterways of Europe, a short flight or Eurostar journey away. Explore beautiful cities on city breaks and enjoy the beauty of Amsterdam and all it has to offer on an Amsterdam river cruise . On a mini cruise in Europe, you’ll see some of the most beautiful sights Europe has to offer.

Find Your Mini River Cruise At RiverVoyages.com

Our mini river cruises are the perfect way to experience multiple amazing cities in a short period. Get the full cruise experience packed into a few days. If you’re looking for a mini cruise in Europe, then why not take a look at our European river cruise deals and see if you can snag a great cruise? 

Get In Touch

If you are looking for a short river cruise and need some help with your booking or just need some travel advice , then be sure to get in touch with us and call our freephone service at 0800 1970854 or email us at [email protected] , and one of our friendly and helpful staff will be on hand to assist you with any queries.

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Showing 25 out of 131 cruises.


featured cruise

Danube Symphony (Eastbound)

Sailing Date : 07 Jul 2024

Call now for the best flight inclusive prices!

Gratuities and a choice of daily excursions are included

Avalon Panorama Suites are thirty percent larger than the industry standard

5 day river cruise europe

Was £2278pp

Cruise Only From £2187pp


Enchanting Rhine and Yuletide Markets River Cruise - MS Oscar Wilde

Sailing Date : 01 Dec 2024

FREE Superior drinks package worth £400pp per week - Available on all 2024 and 2025 European river cruises!

Award-winning European river cruises include everything you need for an exceptional experience.

Delicious full board dining, plus Captain's Dinner

5 day river cruise europe

Was £1409pp

Fly Cruise From £1353pp


Enchanting Rhine and Yuletide Markets River Cruise - MS Geoffrey Chaucer

Sailing Date : 10 Dec 2024

Was £1449pp

Fly Cruise From £1391pp


The Danube's Imperial Cities and Yuletide Markets River Cruise - MS Thomas Hardy

Sailing Date : 16 Dec 2024

Was £1349pp

Fly Cruise From £1295pp


Majestic Capitals of the Danube (Christmas)

Award-Winning Included Dining Experiences

Up to £1,500 cruise savings per person PLUS Complimentary Stateroom Upgrade PLUS up to €50 Onboard Credit per person

5 day river cruise europe

Was £2162pp

Fly Cruise From £2076pp


Christmas time on the Danube

Sailing Date : 27 Nov 2024

World-class fleet of contemporary floating boutique hotels

Save up to 35% on 2024 Europe River Cruises

5 day river cruise europe

Was £2993pp

Fly Cruise From £2873pp


Amsterdam, Kinderdijk and the Dutch Bulbfields River Cruise - MS Emily Brontë

Sailing Date : 02 Apr 2025

Dutch Waterway

Was £1499pp

Fly Cruise From £1439pp


Amsterdam, Kinderdijk and the Dutch Bulbfields River Cruise - MS George Eliot

Sailing Date : 07 Apr 2025

Was £1199pp

Fly Cruise From £1151pp


Highlights of the Douro Valley & Salamanca River Cruise - MS Porto Mirante

Sailing Date : 11 Jul 2024

Was £2499pp

Fly Cruise From £2399pp


Sailing Date : 18 Jul 2024


The Seine, Paris and Normandy River Cruise - MS Jane Austen

Sailing Date : 19 Jul 2024

Was £2649pp

Fly Cruise From £2543pp


Sailing Date : 25 Jul 2024


Sailing Date : 26 Jul 2024

Was £2049pp

Fly Cruise From £1967pp


Sailing Date : 01 Aug 2024

Was £2399pp

Fly Cruise From £2303pp


Sailing Date : 08 Aug 2024


A Taste of the Danube (Westbound)

Sailing Date : 10 Sep 2024

Was £1271pp

Cruise Only From £1220pp


Sailing Date : 12 Sep 2024

Was £3249pp

Fly Cruise From £3119pp


A Taste of the Danube (Eastbound)

Sailing Date : 13 Sep 2024


Sailing Date : 26 Sep 2024

Was £3149pp

Fly Cruise From £3023pp


Sailing Date : 24 Oct 2024


Sailing Date : 31 Oct 2024

Was £2199pp

Fly Cruise From £2111pp


Christmastime from Vienna to Budapest

Sailing Date : 29 Nov 2024

Was £2107pp

Cruise Only From £2023pp


Was £1849pp

Fly Cruise From £1775pp


The Danube's Imperial Cities and Yuletide Markets River Cruise - MS William Wordsworth

Sailing Date : 02 Dec 2024


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5 day river cruise europe

8 best river cruises in Europe, from the Douro to the Danube

E urope is a continent built on its rivers, with many having played a vital role in the formation and development of its most important cities . From the Thames to the Tiber , they are an ever-flowing reminder of the continent’s long and varied history.

The opportunity to sail along these rivers, among the world’s most beautiful and peaceful waterways, is a temptation that’s easily given in to. Of course, a river cruise is about more than just spending time floating on the water (although that option is available, should you wish). It’s about the towns, cities and landmarks along the way.

These trips will take you on a relaxing and slow-paced journey to vineyards and valleys, tours and excursions, returning each night to your own floating hotel. Each day offers quick stops to discover some of the continent’s most important cultures at your own pace.

The Independent has rounded up eight of the best Europe river cruise packages, from epic continental crossing and to the finest Christmas markets to explore.

Capitals of Eastern Europe, Viking River Cruises

Viking River Cruises’ Capitals of Eastern Europe itinerary is a 16-night trip covering the main cities on the Danube. It sets sail from Vienna, the elegant and sophisticated Austrian capital, and it finishes in Constanta, Romania, before a quick final journey overland to Bucharest to end your trip with a two-night stay.

Read more on Europe travel :

  • The underrated European holiday destination with fabulous forests and brilliant beer
  • Beat the heat: The ‘cool’ European destinations to visit in summer 2024
  • The lesser-known Croatia destinations you may not have considered

On the way you’ll visit a host of towns in Hungary, Serbia and even Bulgaria, but on this trip the bigger cities are the main attraction. Vienna is followed by Bratislava – where Baroque palaces meet a typically Eastern European Old Town – and then Budapest . The Hungarian capital is a highlight: from festooned “ruin bars” and thermal baths to a spectacular neo-Gothic parliament building, the city has a wide variety of architecture, activities and things to do.

How to book

The tour lasts for 17 days, starting from £5,445pp. This price includes return flights, one excursion in each port of call and all meals. vikingrivercruises.co.uk

North Rhine & The Netherlands, TUI

Alongside the Danube, the Rhine is one of Europe’s main cruise rivers. Many operators have several Rhine packages; TUI’s offering covers a stellar range of cities for a very affordable price. Its ships have two dining options (a bistro and a more formal restaurant) with al fresco seating, as well as a wellness and activity area on the top deck. No excursions are included, but this does give you free rein to choose whatever activities you like.

The first two days are spent in Amsterdam , where you’ll have ample time to wander its canals and green spaces, such as the Vondelpark, or visit attractions such as the Anne Frank Museum, Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.

Days three and four bring you to Rotterdam and Dusseldorf. You can enjoy the port area in the Netherlands ’ second city or simply marvel at its dramatically different modern architecture, while Dusseldorf provides a variety of museums and concerts alongside a lively Old Town. On days five to seven, you’ll visit four picturesque riverside cities and towns: Bonn, Koblenz, Boppard and Oberwesel. There are waterfront bars and restaurants galore, and each has its own slice of history (think of a Beethoven museum in Bonn and a memorial to the ruler who united Germany in Koblenz).

From £1,639pp for this seven-night trip, including three meals per day (you can add coffee, alcohol and other drinks on an all-inclusive basis for an extra £20 per night) and return flights. tui.co.uk

The Douro, Riviera Travel

A trip along the northern Douro River can offer views to rival even the most idyllic of Algarve beaches. This trip starts in Porto , where bars and restaurants line the banks in the Ribeira (Riverside) district, but it is worth climbing the various hills to see other areas and sites, such as the cathedral and Dom Luis I Bridge.

After setting off along the Douro, your first two stops are Pinhao – a picturesque wine town, famous for being at the heart of the Port-producing region of the country – and Castelo Rodrigo, a 12th-century walled village located in the highlands. Day four will see you visit Salamanca, the Spanish sandstone city famous for its cathedrals and university.

The next two days are spent in Peso da Régua and Lamego – two small hillside towns – before returning to Porto on day seven. The cruise ends here, but the holiday doesn’t; this package also contains a three-night stay in Lisbon . After travelling to the capital by coach, you’ll visit the nearby towns of Coimbra (day eight) and Sintra (day 10), while you’ll have a day in the capital sandwiched in between; while in Lisbon, take in the city’s unique Manueline and Pombaline architecture while wandering through its grand squares, and visit Sao Jorge castle or the city’s famous Time Out Market.

This 11-day cruise is priced from £1,599pp, including all meals on board, excursions, airport transfers and coach travel where necessary.  rivieratravel.co.uk

Idyllic Rhône, Scenic Cruises

Scenic Cruises’ luxury Rhone sailing takes you through some of the best sections of southern France , starting in Lyon . The regional capital has 2,000 years of history, so it’s blessed with a Roman amphitheatre right through to a Renaissance Old Town. Your first trip will take you north along the Saone River to Macon, a famous wine region in Burgundy.

The next two towns, Vienne and Viviers, offer spectacular views of the Rhone before you arrive in Avignon. You can enjoy a private concert at the Palais des Papes – once a Papal residence – as well as a cooking class onboard, but a visit to the city itself is worth it to wander its narrow streets and charming squares, starting with the Place de l’Horloge. Your final day takes you to Arles, at the mouth of the Rhone – from here, you can travel home, stay in the city or carry on towards Marseille .

Prices start at £2,999pp for the eight-day cruise. The package includes 20 meals, the premium concert experience, cooking lessons and 19 shore activities, ranging from walking tours to wine tastings. scenic.co.uk

Holland & Belgium, Avalon Waterways

Avalon’s eight-day cruise of the Low Countries is an excellent way to experience some of the region’s best cities in a relaxing way. It starts and ends in Amsterdam , where you’ll have a number of nights to wander its scenic network of canals lined with beautiful 17th-century buildings.

When you move on to Belgium, you’ll visit Ghent , Brussels and Antwerp on consecutive days. More tranquil canals await you in Ghent, and those who enjoy being by the water can continue this in Antwerp’s waterfront area. Brussels has more than its fair share of landmarks and museums (all centred around Grand Place, the main square and Unesco Heritage Site), but the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Antwerp) and St Bavo’s Cathedral (Ghent) are definitely places to visit during the other stops. Day six will take you to Rotterdam before you head back to the Dutch capital.

From £2,453pp. Meals and some activities are included; there are additional excursions in each destination that can be purchased. avalonwaterways.co.uk

Danube Delights, Emerald Cruises

This trip from Emerald Cruises takes you along the famous river to Regensburg. It starts with two nights in Budapest , with a traditional Hungarian folklore show and tour of Buda Hill on offer, along with any solo sightseeing you’d like to do. Days three and four take you to Bratislava and Vienna, where you can enjoy cycling tours and hikes.

Krems and Durnstein are the last two stops in Austria before you head to Passau, the German “City of Three Rivers”. At the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, the city is home to an impressive cathedral and Old Town. After disembarking at Regensburg, you make your way to Munich , where a good plan is to spend time exploring the Bavarian capital before you fly home.

From £1,849pp for this eight-day cruise, which includes five guided tours, 20 meals and complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner on board. emeraldcruises.co.uk

Christmas Markets on the Rhine, Ama Waterways

There’s something quite special about experiencing Christmas celebrations on a river cruise through Europe. On this AmaWaterways voyage, you sail the Rhine, boarding in Amsterdam and with a first stop in Cologne. The Gothic cathedral provides the backdrop for one of the country’s best Christmas markets, where you’ll find dozens of stalls selling festive items, many of them handmade. Other markets include the more elaborate Heinzels Wintermärchen in the Old Town and the Markt der Engel (a more rustic affair in the city’s Neumarkt square). For those who want to mix in a bit of sightseeing, the Museum Ludwig and Roman-Germanic Museum can give you a taste of arts and history.

Next on the itinerary, you’ll visit the German towns of Heidelberg and Speyer, where more markets await, before arriving in Strasbourg, France. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of French and German culture, a warm festive spirit and plenty of opportunities to wander the markets that are spread throughout the town. Wander further afield and you’ll find Petite France, a pretty district known for cobblestone streets and canals. Holidaymakers return to Germany for the penultimate stop in Breisach, before disembarking in Basel (though you can always stay in Switzerland for a taste of Swiss Christmas markets).

From £3.149, including meals and some activities; flights and airport transfer not included. amawaterways.co.uk

European Sojourn, Viking River Cruises

This ultimate itinerary bisects Europe to take passengers from Amsterdam to Bucharest, via sections of the Rhine, Main and Danube among other European rivers. Along the way, passengers will visit some of Europe’s principal cities – think Budapest, Amsterdam and Vienna – smaller (but just as beautiful) riverside settlements such as Passau and Bamberg, and lesser-known towns including Vidin and Kolocsa.

Hidden gems range from Melk, an Austrian town in the underrated   Wachau Valley wine-making region, Osijek, the fourth-largest city in Croatia, and Kinderdijk, a Dutch village famous for its set of 19 windmills. With 23 days, eight countries, 20 towns and cities, and at least 10 Unesco World Heritage Sites, there’ll be plenty to see as you traverse the length of central Europe.

From £8,045pp, including flights, 19 guided tours, all meals, transfers and amenities. vikingrivercruises.co.uk

Read more: Best hotels in Europe 2024: Where to stay for a city, beach or retreat break

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5 day river cruise europe

Venetian Treasures


If you have dreamed of admiring Venice from a gondola, standing in Saint Mark’s Square, or indulging in the fine food found on almost every corner, join CroisiEurope for a cruise through the calm waters and enchanting panoramas in the Venetian Lagoon. This history-filled cruise includes a side trip to Padua.

5 day river cruise europe


  • Cruise through the Venetian Lagoon
  • Our ship is moored in the heart of Venice near Saint Mark’s Square
  • Saint Mark’s Square and its famous basilica
  • Murano, and its glassworks
  • A food tour of Venice’s little-known neighborhoods
  • Padua, the home of Saint Anthony


  • All meals included - DRINKS INCLUDED with meals and at the bar
  • Refined French cuisine - Gala dinner and evening - Welcome cocktail
  • Free Wi-Fi onboard
  • Headsets are included for excursions
  • Official welcome from the captain and crew
  • Onboard activities
  • Travel assistance and repatriation insurance
  • All port fees included

5 day river cruise europe

Passengers are welcome to board our ship at 6 p.m. After you’ve comfortably settled into your cabins, we’ll introduce our crew at a welcome cocktail. We'll enjoy dinner on board before you’ll have a free evening to explore the city on your own.

5 day river cruise europe

This morning, join us for an excursion:

CLASSIC package: Guided tour of Saint Mark’s Basilica (2) (only if pre-booked before departure).

DISCOVERY package: Venice and the Dorsoduro district. 

After the excursion, our ship will cruise through the Venetian Lagoon to Mazzorbo. After lunch, you can explore the island of Burano for a bit.

This afternoon, join us for an excursion included in both packages: Murano , and its glassworks

Our ships will cruise to Venice.

5 day river cruise europe

Join us on an excursion for both packages: Food tour of little-known neighborhoods in Venice.

Return on board.

Free afternoon and evening.

5 day river cruise europe

Our ship will cast off early this morning for Chioggia.

In the afternoon, join us on an excursion for both packages: Tour of Padua. Padua, Saint Anthony's homestead, spans out from its medieval center with charming squares and palaces. We’ll visit the basilica that bears his name and his tomb.

Afterwards, we’ll return on board in Venice. Tonight is our festive gala evening.

5 day river cruise europe

Enjoy breakfast on board this morning before disembarking at 9:00 a.m. End of our services.

Sales Useful info

Included : What you need to know before your departure

Not included Useful info

  • Child discount (2-9 years) : - 20%

Shore Excursions

Mandatory information

Formalities Some administrative formalities to take into account in order to prepare your trip

For navigational safety reasons, the company and the captain are the only authorized persons who can modify the cruise itinerary. Alcohol can be dangerous to your health. Please drink in moderation.

(1) Closed on Sunday.

(2) In the case of unavailability, it will be replaced by the Doge's Palace.

  • Expeditions
  • Complimentary Brochures
  • Budapest to Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam to Budapest

Grand European Tour

  • From $4,499
  • 12 Guided Tours
  • 4 Countries
  • Dates & Pricing
  • 2024 2025 2026
  • Budapest to Amsterdam Amsterdam to Budapest

Grand European Tour Map

Map of Grand European Tour itinerary

Travel through the heart of Europe

5 day river cruise europe

Admire Rhine Valley vistas from a 900-year-old castle. Sample the culinary delights of Austria’s Wachau Valley. Learn the Viennese waltz, visit Melk’s Benedictine Abbey and delve into Nuremberg’s World War II history. Indulge your senses on this 15-day journey spanning the best of Europe, tracing the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers between the windmill-dotted waterways of Holland and the stunning landscapes of Hungary, with engaging encounters at every bend.


5 day river cruise europe

Viking Inclusive Value

All you need included, with no surprises or hidden fees

Map of Grand European Tour itinerary

To learn more about each port of call and our included as well as optional excursions, click on the individual days below.

Itinerary and shore excursions are subject to change and may vary by departure.

More features, services and excursions included

One complimentary shore excursion in every port of call

Free Wi-Fi (connection speed may vary)

Beer, wine & soft drinks with onboard lunch & dinner

24-hour specialty coffees, teas  & bottled water

Port taxes & fees

Ground transfers with Viking Air purchase

Visits to UNESCO Sites

Enrichment lectures & Destination Performances

Your Stateroom Includes:

River-view stateroom

Bottled water replenished daily

110/220 volt outlets

Queen-size Viking Explorer Bed (optional twin-bed configuration) with luxury linens & pillows

Private bathroom with shower, heated floor & anti-fog mirror

Premium Freyja® toiletries

Plush robes & slippers (upon request)

40" or 42" flat-screen Sony® TV with infotainment system featuring Movies On Demand, plus CNBC, CNN, FOX & more

Telephone, safe, refrigerator

Individual climate control

*All amenities on board Viking Longships; amenities vary on other ships.

Pre & Post Cruise Extensions

More days means more to discover, with extension packages you can add before or after your Viking cruise or cruisetour. Enjoy additional days to explore your embarkation or disembarkation city, or see a new destination altogether with a choice of exciting cities. Pre & Post Cruise Extensions vary by itinerary and are subject to change.

5 day river cruise europe

Pre: Budapest

From $649 | 2 Nights

5 day river cruise europe

Pre: Budapest Premium

From $1,299 | 2 Nights

5 day river cruise europe

Pre: Prague

From $949 | 3 Nights

5 day river cruise europe

Pre: Prague Premium

From $1,249 | 3 Nights

5 day river cruise europe

Post: Amsterdam

From $749 | 2 Nights

5 day river cruise europe

Post: Amsterdam Premium

From $1,249 | 2 Nights

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    For a deep dive into Eastern Europe's past and present, the fascinating Lower Danube route between Budapest and Bucharest, Romania, explores history from the medieval times and Victorian era of Dracula to the rise of communism and the Bosnian War. The seven-night river cruise takes you through Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.

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    8 to 21-Day France River Cruises. Cruise Line: Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. Ship (s): Multiple. Departure: 7/15/2024 to 10/25/2025. Length: 8 to 21 Days.

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    The Blue Danube River Cruise. Free drinks package. Austria, Hungary, Slovakia. 5* ships. Flights included. 7 visits & tours. Full board dining. 8 days. From £1749 pp based on 2 people sharing.

  14. The 10 Best River Cruise Lines in Europe

    With more itineraries than any other, Viking is the best cruise line in Europe for first-time river cruisers. The world's largest river cruise line offers a well-tested river cruise recipe on its ...

  15. Europe River Cruises

    Enjoy hand-selected inclusions and world-class experiences for value-minded travel lovers like you. Raise your sights and set your sails for the rivers of Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa on an Avalon Waterways cruise. Elevate your cruise experience with fewer passengers, more choices, and endless possibilities. Europe River Cruises.

  16. The 8 Best European River Cruises 2024

    Best European River Cruise Overall: Viking Cruises, Viking Egdir. Best High-End European River Cruise: Uniworld, S.S. La Venezia. Best European River Cruise For Families: A-Rosa, A-Rosa Sena. Best ...

  17. 25 BEST Europe River Cruises 2024 (Prices

    Lisbon To Madrid With Secrets Of The Douro. 128 Reviews. Leaving: Lisbon. Cruise Line: Emerald River Cruises. No prices currently available for this sailing. Itinerary.

  18. 10 Best River Cruises In Europe

    Here are the top 10 European river cruises for 2023 and 2024. 1. Tulip Time Cruises. Map courtesy of AmaWaterways. One of the best river cruises in Europe is a themed voyage through Belgium and the Netherlands to witness the blooming of the iconic tulips.

  19. 3 to 5 Day Europe Cruises

    View 10 deals and more information. 29. Sailing Date: 9/26/2024. Azamara Onward. Departs: Barcelona. Ports (3): Saint-Tropez, …. Prices are cruise only, per person, double occupancy, and are provided by our partners. Taxes, fees and port expenses are not included. Fuel supplements may apply.

  20. 8 best river cruises in Europe, from the Douro to the Danube

    Alongside the Danube, the Rhine is one of Europe's main cruise rivers. Many operators have several Rhine packages; TUI's offering covers a stellar range of cities for a very affordable price.

  21. 3-5 Day Cruises to Europe River

    Seas the views with 70% off a 2nd Sailor. 70% off a 2nd Sailor: Available on all voyages including 2025 & 2026. Free balcony upgrades on most 2024 Caribbean & Mediterranean sailings. Experience ...

  22. Danube Cruises 5 to 7 Days 2024/2025

    Save up to 50% on Danube Cruises 5 to 7 Days 2024/2025. Set sail on a Danube River cruise for an enchanting journey through the heart of Europe. Gliding past grand cities, you'll encounter a rich past marked by castles, cathedrals, and timeless villages. The Danube weaves through cultural powerhouses like Vienna and Budapest, where music, art ...

  23. Europe River Cruises

    Lisbon To Madrid With Secrets Of The Douro. 128 Reviews. Leaving: Lisbon. Cruise Line: Emerald River Cruises. No prices currently available for this sailing. Itinerary.

  24. Venice River Cruis

    Cruise through the Venetian Lagoon. Our ship is moored in the heart of Venice near Saint Mark's Square. EXCURSIONS INCLUDED: Saint Mark's Square and its famous basilica. Murano, and its glassworks. A food tour of Venice's little-known neighborhoods. Padua, the home of Saint Anthony. All inclusive on board. THE CROISIEUROPE DIFFERENCE.

  25. Grand European Tour

    Admire Rhine Valley vistas from a 900-year-old castle. Sample the culinary delights of Austria's Wachau Valley. Learn the Viennese waltz, visit Melk's Benedictine Abbey and delve into Nuremberg's World War II history. Indulge your senses on this 15-day journey spanning the best of Europe, tracing the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers between the windmill-dotted waterways of Holland and the ...