Relaxing and immersive, one of our favourite new ways to see Europe in the past few years has been by boat—traversing the ancient waterways of the most storied rivers in history: the mighty Rhine of legends, the romantic Seine, the blue Danube and the underrated Rhône.
The banks of these rivers have seen it all: the rise and fall of empires, the proliferation of centuries-old trade routes and pleasure craft, bloody battles, and successive cycles of building, expansion, and ruin.
From extra leisure time to a variety of experiences on- and off-ship, not to mention some of Europe’s best bike paths, here are just a few reasons why this is your year to try a river cruise.
Reason #1: It’s One of the Easiest Decisions You’ll Ever Make
Choosing a river cruise is the only ‘big’ decision you’ll have to make in the course of the trip. You can eliminate the worrying and logistics of shuffling from place to place, deciding what to see and do, or what stops to make on your itinerary: it’s all been taken care of. The very best part? Unpacking only once—and the fact that everything is included on the ship, from meals to drinks; leave the wallet in your stateroom.
Reason #2: More Time to Connect & Unwind
Even better, with all the extra time you’ve saved on quotidian A-to-B transfers means way more leisure time—the greatest luxury of all in our time-strapped culture. Here, you’ll have so much more time to connect with fellow travellers, with yourself, and enjoy your surroundings as you cruise along.
Reason #3: The Views Are Spectacular—From Inside and Out
Speaking of your surroundings, the views are incredible as you travel along the river, winding your way through the valleys and watching the scenery change. You might find yourself rising earlier just to catch a sunrise from your riverview room over breakfast, or lingering longer on-deck at day’s end.
Reason #4: A Floating, Luxe Home Away From Home
Settle into your home away from home, on Uniworld’s award-winning boutique ships, each with a different design scheme and feel. No matter which river you’re sailing, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the little details done right—high-quality linens, Italian marble bathrooms, excellent amenities, and even original artwork—no replicas here.
As far as public areas go, you’ll find a variety of lounges, decks, bars and restaurants to explore, along with a well-appointed fitness centre and spa on each ship. Finally, these state-of-the-art vessels combined with waveless, tideless waters means quiet all-night navigation, even on a relatively small ship. (Sweet dreams for you).
Reason #5: The Perfect Combo—Boats and Bikes
Here at B&R, we’ve known for over 50 years that biking around the world is one of the undisputed pleasures in life. And riverside bike paths in Europe are some of the best in the world.
The Eurovelo network of long-distance bike paths usually follow the major rivers, are well-marked and maintained. And when we travel a little further away on dedicated bike paths or regular roads, an idyllic, even tranquil experience on two wheels is all but guaranteed.
Reason # 6: It’s Better By Boat
Once upon a time, rivers were the highways of humanity, providing the fastest, easiest way to travel from town to town. And cruising along the river, arriving by boat is the ‘true’ way to approach and visit each town—it cuts out all the traffic, sprawl, and stress of modern times.
And taking this slower approach allows you to see and feel the layers of history and civilization along the way. Most of these towns began facing the river, and you will pass by strongholds, crumbling castles, ancient bridges, and more modern structures all the way through.
Reason #7: Convenient for Post-Trip Travel
Since river cruises typically finish in major city centres like Budapest, Paris, Lyon, or Amsterdam, that means once your cruise is over, you have the freedom to explore, or travel onward easily. (If you like, leave the post-trip planning to B&R; your Travel Advisor can help you craft a post-cruise trip, too.)