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6 Steps to Choose Your Perfect Viking River Cruise in Europe

For an unforgettable immersive and intimate travel experience, river cruising is hard to beat. River cruises don’t just take you into a country but allow you to visit many spots that aren’t as easily accessible if you are traveling by train or car. Most river cruises allow you to visit several countries during a trip as well as many UNESCO heritage sites. A Viking River Cruise in Europe is a floating luxury hotel with the ultimate onboard concierge services, that take you to and through the countries on your chosen route.

My first trip with Viking was a Christmas Market Cruise I took in late November with my sister. My second Viking River Cruise was onboard the Viking Bragi for a Danube Waltz River Cruise. This cruise will take us from Passau, Germany to Linz, Melk and Vienna Austria, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, and Budapest, Hungary.

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River Cruise
River Cruises

Choosing a European river cruise can be a very hard decision. Once you visit the Viking Cruise itineraries, you’ll find there are so many great river cruise options with amazing itineraries.

If you are thinking of booking a Viking Cruise, I thought I’d share a few tips for making your decision-making process easier.

6 Steps To Choosing The Perfect Viking River Cruise

What cruise itinerary offers the best value for the money? What month is the best to go? How do you pack for a river cruise? Which Europan river is best for a first-time cruiser? There are so many questions when you begin researching your first river cruise in Europe.

90% of first-time river cruisers select a Europe river cruise as the perfect introduction to the world of river cruising.

Step 1) What Destinations Do You Want To Visit on Your River Cruise?

Kinderdijk, Netherlands
Kinderdijk, Netherlands

There are so many wonderful river cruise routes in Europe. You’ll want to settle in with a nice cup of tea and a pad of paper and pen to begin your research. With Viking River Cruises, you’ll find 32 European river cruise options. This includes six Danube river cruises, seven Rhine river cruises, one cruise on the Douro in Portugal, one cruise on the Elb in Germany, one Russia cruise, one cruise in Ukraine as well as five holiday-cruises and three river-ocean combo cruises. This is a lot to choose from!

I was told by Viking that the Danube river cruise is their number one choice for people new to river cruising. The Danube cruise reveals the highlights of Passau, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest while cruising leisurely through spectacular scenery.

Some of the highlights for the Danube Waltz Cruise I went on are a day of cruising through the Wachau Valley, a waltz class at a Viennese dance school, savoring Austro-Hungarian cuisine in Vienna, and Budapest as well as exploring the lesser-known Central European city of Bratislava and visiting a traditional thermal bath in Budapest.

Ultimately, look for a river or route that features what interests you most.

Viking longships sail on the Danube, Rhine, Main, Seine, and Elbe rivers through the heart of Europe and each have it’s own unique and beautiful scenery. 

Create a list of what you hope to see and do and then find an itinerary by asking yourself a few questions such as:

  • Do you want to visit the capital of French gastronomy, savor Beaujolais wines, hunt for truffles and see how chèvre cheese is made? Then you’ll want to witness the beauty that inspired artists like Cézanne and Chagall on a Viking ship Rhône cruise to Lyon & Provence.
  • Do you want to explore the world’s oldest demarcated wine region, two of Iberia’s oldest university towns, enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine, wine, fado singing? Then a cruise through the Douro River Valley through Lisbon and Coimbra Portugal as well as a visit to Salamanca, Spain is your best bet.

Step 2) Reach out to the Viking Customer Service Team

Viking is top-rated in the river cruise industry. Viking was named both the #1 River Cruise Line and the #1 Ocean Cruise Line in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Travel + Leisure readers have voted Viking the World’s Best Awards 17 times since 2004. This level of awesomeness includes their customer service. 

If you need more information, reach out to the Viking Customer Service team. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the details of the cruises and can help guide you through your final choices.

When my husband and I were in the process of booking our cruise, we were debating between four cruises. It was an email with someone from the customer service team that helped us make our final decision.

Step 3) What time of Year do you want to take your River Cruise?

Christmas Market in Basel, Switzerland
Christmas Market in Basel, Switzerland

There are pros and cons to cruising in each season. Below are some of the highlights for traveling throughout the year.

Winter  The best time to plan a river cruise in Winter is when the Christmas markets are in full swing. Cruises stop at wonderful destinations along the Rhine River with Christmas markets offering traditional gifts, glasses of glühwein and of course, that unbeatable festive feeling.

Temperatures can be anywhere from nippy to cold and you have the chance of rain or even snow. During my cruise in late November, we had a few cold days in Germany, a very small amount of rain, and even one warm day (no jacket needed) in the Netherlands.

Spring I’ll be able to tell you more about this in just a few weeks! April can be wet and chilly in some European cities and the Mediterranean is a safer bet for April. May or June will tend to have warmer, more predictable weather. Another consideration is the river water levels.

The Rhône River in France is highly prone to high waters as the French Alps are nearby and snow is melting and running off into the river.

Summer European summers are a very busy time for travel and river cruises.  It’s also the hottest time of year, but it also the time of year for many fun festivals. Most of the river cruise lines completely sell out in the summer months, requiring that you book at least a year in advance.

Autumn Like many locations, September and October can be an ideal time for travel. The summer crowds are gone, temperatures begin to drop and it’s a great time to see some beautiful fall foliage.

Step 4) How many days do you want for your River Cruise?

Viking River Cruises in Europe range from eight to 23 days. The majority of Viking River Cruises in Europe are eight days (seven different itineraries available) followed by 10 days cruise which has five available itineraries. Something else to keep in mind is that some of the itineraries don’t include much time in port on the first or last day.

Also, many flights from Europe to the United States tend to leave on the early side, meaning you may not have any time in the last port if you leave the same day you arrive, so you may want to extend your trip by a day or two on each end. 

Make sure to check each itinerary and verify if you’ll have enough time in the first and last port, as this can determine the total amount of days for your trip.

Step 5) Will You Extend Your Trip Beyond the Cruise?

Viking Cruises Europe departure cities include everything from Paris to Amsterdam and Budapest. If you want to explore more of a particular city or 

A fun way to see more of Europe during a river cruise is to add additional days to the trip at the start or end.

Step 6) What is your River Cruise Budget?

Viking River Cruise options for Europe

European river cruises range from $1899 to $6799. The longer cruises will tend to be more expensive, but there are also a few opportunities to find some great deals. Viking River Cruises Shoulder-season dates are often cheaper and mean fewer crowds at key sights.

Viking also runs promotions throughout the year as well as two-for-one deals. Check the current promotions for Viking River Cruises for the best rates and specials.

Another item that needs to be figured into your budget is optional excursions. Viking cruises include a daily excursion and there are additional excursions that can be included in your cruise package.

All Viking River Cruises Inclusions

The Viking experience includes daily shore excursions. The excursions many times include walking tours in the city you are docked in. Many tours include some of the most interesting Unesco World Heritage site locations, historic landmarks, and medieval cities. There are also tours that include a visiting symphony orchestra, exploring local cuisine and even ornate palaces.

All meals with complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner are included as well.

Additional Viking Cruising Options

There are also Viking River Cruise ships to Southeast Asia, Viking Ocean cruises as well as Viking World Cruises.

For more information on Viking River Cruises: www.vikingrivercruises.com

Guide to the Best European River Cruise Routes. Find the most beautiful routes on the Rhine River, the Danube and more! How to find the most beautiful river cruise in Europe!

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  1. Great tips. I would love to do a Rhine cruise to see all the sights I missed living in Germany for 3 years.

  2. River cruise sounds nice since I have done lots of cruising before but not something like this. I am very keen to try it soon especially in Europe.

  3. Very informative! We are going to do our first cruise next month…a Viking Ocean cruise! Looking forward to trying one of their river cruises as well.

    1. Hi Amanda,
      With Viking Cruises, there is a minimum age of 18. I do think there are a few family-friendly river cruise companies, but I haven’t sailed with them. It was a great experience for my husband and me! Highly recommend it for an anniversary or special ‘parent’ getaway.

  4. I’ve always wanted to do a river cruise in Europe. I may have to suggest it as a family trip one Christmas since it would be a great way to see a bunch of the Christmas markets.

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