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 in onboard concierge services, that takes you to and through the countries on your chosen route.
Next week I’m flying to Germany to board my second Viking River Cruise in Europe. My first trip with Viking was a Christmas Market Cruise I took in late November of 2016 with my sister. I’m traveling with my husband on this trip and we will be boarding 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.
Some of the highlights for the Danube Waltz Cruise 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. We are also going to have a chance to enjoy a soothing steam at a Budapest thermal bath.
This Danube Waltz cruise looks amazing, but I have to tell you, we had a hard time choosing our Viking Cruise itinerary. So, if any of you are thinking of booking a Viking Cruise, I thought I’d share a few tips for making your decision-making process easier.
5 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?
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 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.
Ultimately, look for a river or route that features what interests you most. Create a list of what you hope to see and do and then find an itinerary to match.
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 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
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 Cruise?
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 to 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 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) What is your budget?
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.
For more information on Viking River Cruises: www.vikingrivercruises.com
Read More About Europe & River Cruises
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.