If you’re stuck between exploring all that Europe has to offer or sitting back and relaxing while someone else does the leg work, a river cruise may be the perfect destination for you! European river cruises offer getaways for any type of traveler and ports of call that combine both grand cities and picturesque villages alike.
European river cruising offers something for all types of travelers. From wine lovers to history buffs to hiking fans, any personal interest can be met with a customized, themed itinerary. Travel in your own personal style while also meeting like-minded cruisers.
Each spring, Belgium and the Netherlands erupt in a sea of color as the tulips come into bloom. From the seven million flowers at the Keukenhof Gardens to the one million bulbs at Floralia Brussels to the vast swaths of blooms in the Dutch countryside, tulips can be found in abundance. A tulip season cruise is a treat for the senses whether you’re a gardener, flower-lover, or simply enjoy a riot of color.
Europe is known for its enchanting Christmas markets. During the darkest month of the year, there’s nothing brighter than sipping a warm cup of mulled wine while you wander through a market of wooden stalls where vendors sell beautiful locally-made arts and crafts. Exploring the markets on a cruise lets you experience a variety of seasonal foods and crafts as you move from port to port—because one Christmas market is never enough.
Whether you’re a wine expert or simply enjoy a great glass of rosé, you’ll get to taste your heart out while on board a wine cruise. Learn about sweet Sauternes in Bordeaux, Port in the Douro Valley or Riesling along the Rhine while sailing past picturesque vineyards and chateaux. Your onboard experience will feature wines local to the region and a ship’s sommelier to continue your wine education while at sail.
Several cruise lines now offer opportunities to golf at various ports along European river cruise journeys. Playing some of Europe’s top courses will give you plenty to talk about over dinner as you compare techniques and scores with your new friends.
For those who prefer a more active approach to river cruising, several lines now offer active cruising options with hiking, biking, running and canoeing excursions (plus more). It’s a prime way to get up close and personal to your port cities while also working up a sweat.
No matter what subject area interests you, there’s a river cruise available to explore it in depth. Through onboard lecture series or art lessons, you can immerse yourself in the timeless knowledge of your European ports of call. On a Jewish History cruise, you’ll discover thriving Jewish communities across Europe while gaining a deeper understanding of the horrors of the past at holocaust and World War II memorial sites.
From quaint, picturesque villages to bustling cities with abounding culture, Europe boasts an array of experiences within mere miles of one another. We caught up with Pam Hoffee, Managing Director of Avalon Waterways, to discover how travelers can immerse themselves into all Europe has to offer without sacrificing relaxing.
Q: Why should travelers consider booking with Avalon Waterways?
Travelers would enjoy a few unique aspects of river cruising when they book with Avalon.
First, our award-winning Panorama Suite was named by Cruise Critic for four consecutive years as the “Best Cabin in River Cruising.” Not only is the Panorama Suite 30 percent larger than the industry standard stateroom, our wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows open wider than any other, creating river cruising’s only Open-Air Balcony®. Plus, our beds face the windows giving Avalon guests a bed with incredible views. Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, you’ve never seen Europe like this. Couple that with a crew who’s warm and welcoming and the best of the best land programs. Avalon is part of the Globus family of brands, a tour operator with 90+ years of experience in immersive experiences, and cruisers get to choose from three unique sightseeing styles: Classic, Active or Discovery.
It all adds up to a river cruise line that’s uniquely positioned to deliver a river cruise experience unlike any other.
Q: What type of traveler / travel experience does Avalon Waterways cater to?
Avalon caters to experienced travelers in their 50’s and 60’s, on average, who love being taken care of while on vacation yet also want to maintain independence and autonomy. They want to cruise their own way and make their own choices, but they like guidance.
We also cater to a new, more active/engaged river cruiser with our Active & Discovery cruises. These cruises are great for those new to river cruising, looking to do more, multi-generational travelers needing a wide variety of choices, and for repeat cruisers who want to experience new ports and different, immersive sightseeing options while at sail on their favorite rivers.
Q: How much can people expect to spend when booking with Avalon Waterways?
On average, an Avalon Waterways cruise (per couple) will cost about $9,000 in an award-winning Panorama Suite for a 7-night cruise (without airfare). Pricing varies based on seasonality and available early booking offers and incentives. Remember, too, that river cruising is inclusive. This price includes daily shore excursions, regional wine and beer, lunch and dinner. Very little additional spending should be expected once on board.
Q: If a traveler could pick only one destination Avalon Waterways offers, which do you recommend and why?
I would recommend Europe, of course, and the Danube River specifically, since it’s one of the most popular, requested rivers in Europe. Avalon Waterways offers more lengths, unique sailing segments and combo-river cruise options than any other company. From European capitals like Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, and from the Wachau Valley to the Danube Delta, no one will help you enjoy all the sights, sounds and stunning scenery of the Danube like we will.
Q: Describe an Avalon Waterways experience in one phrase.
Want to learn more? Contact your travel agent today!
Europe’s rivers are the arteries of the continent, connecting great cities with charming small villages. Whether following ancient trade routes or sailing past stone castles with a glass of wine in hand, each river offers a unique perspective on European travel. Here’s everything you need to know about 10 of the most popular European rivers for cruising.
Europe’s second longest river curves through 10 countries from Germany to Ukraine before flowing into the Black Sea. Danube itineraries vary widely depending on which part of the river you travel, but common ports include Passau, a medieval city where three rivers meet; Vienna, a great capital of music and coffee culture; and Budapest, with its wonderful thermal baths. During the holiday season, the Danube is a prime river for Christmas market cruising.
The Rhine flows from Switzerland through Germany and the Netherlands to the North Sea, dotted along the way with medieval cathedrals and castles viewable from the ship. Common ports include Strasbourg, with its mix of French and German cultures; Cologne, dominated by its gothic Cathedral; and Basel, known for the highest concentration of museums in Switzerland. Christmas market cruises are also popular along the Rhine.
The Rhône is an ancient trade route linking the Mediterranean to Celtic Gaul. Rhône river cruises are all about exploring the food, wine, and culture of southern France. Common ports include Tarascon, where Van Gogh painted his Sunflowers; Lyon, with its secret passageways and ancient Roman theater; and the walled city of Avignon.
Linking Spain and Portugal, this river is best known for the winemaking region of the Douro River Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But three other UNESCO sites lie along the Douro river cruise route: the old city of Salamanca, Spain, the prehistoric rock art sites in Portugal’s Côa Valley, and the historic center of Porto.
A tributary of the Rhine, the Main changed European river cruising when it was canalized in 1992 to connect the Rhine with the Danube. Flowing through central Germany, the Main River showcases medieval villages and castles in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and Hesse. Common ports include Frankfurt, a bustling metropolis; Würzburg, with its UNESCO-designated Baroque palace and gardens; and Bamberg, with its UNESCO-designated and well-preserved medieval old town.
The Seine, France’s most important commercial waterway, begins at a town (appropriately named Source-Seine) about 20 miles northeast of Dijon. The river then flows through Paris, and other common ports include Giverny where you can visit the home of Claude Monet; and the villages along the Normandy Coast where you can tour the historic Normandy beaches and cemeteries.
The Dordogne River flows through the Bordeaux region of France which makes it the perfect river for wine enthusiasts. Common ports include Blaye with a lovely coastal road, Libourne with charming markets, and Saint-Émilion with its ethereal monolithic church. From the ship, watch for the carrelets (fishing huts on stilts) which line the riverbanks.
The Garonne also flows through the Bordeaux region, including the city of Bordeaux itself. The Garonne takes you to the Sauternes appellation where the unique microclimate and “noble rot” produce semi-sweet white wines. Cadillac, another common port, is known for its 16th century castle, but the charmingly ornate Église Saint-Martin is also worth a visit.
The Po flows more than 400 miles across Italy; passengers embark from Venice and sail through the Venice Lagoon en route to Chioggia, a small fishing village with a popular weekly market. Common excursions include Bologna, known for its impressive food culture; Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet; and the Venice Islands.
Rather than a specific river, cruises through the Netherlands and Belgium sail on a network of canals and inland waterways offering a close-up look at life in the lowlands. Common ports include Amsterdam, the metropolitan starting point for many voyages; Kinderdijk, with its stunning view of 19 classic windmills; and Brussels, where you can feast on the world’s best chocolate. Cruises in this region are popular in spring when the tulips are in bloom.
There’s no better way to understand a destination than to see how locals live. From exploring cozy houseboats to touring grand canal homes, here’s how to get an inside look at life in the Dutch capital.
Built in 1672, this grand canal house was the former home of the Van Loon family. The Van Loons were well connected in Dutch society: Willem van Loon was a co-founder of the Dutch East India Company, and later generations included Amsterdam mayors, bankers and ladies in the queen’s court. The home’s ornate interior gives visitors an inside look at the life of the Dutch merchant upper class, including the art collection that the Van Loon family built over 500 years. Behind the Van Loon home is a formal garden and a coach house where you can see the family’s classic horse carriages.
Built in 1687, this double-wide canal house was home to several very wealthy families. The final residents were Abraham Willet and Sandrina Louisa Geertruyda Holthuysen. When Louisa died in 1895, she bequeathed the house, including its contents and impressive art collection, to the municipality of Amsterdam on the condition that it become a museum. The house is furnished in 18th and 19th century style, including a grand salon with elaborate interior textiles from Paris that cost more than 540,000 euros.
The famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (yes, Rembrandt was his first name), lived and worked in this house from 1639 to 1658. Guided by an audio commentary, you’ll explore his living quarters and his studio where demonstrations of 17th century art techniques take place every day. You’ll also see an impressive collection of Rembrandt’s works, including a nearly complete collection of his etchings.
Our Lord in the Attic Museum gives you a look at Dutch life in the Golden Age. You’ll see parts of various homes to gain a sense of how different classes lived while listening to an audio commentary that shares details about the buildings and their former owners. But the most fascinating part of this museum is the church in the attic. Catholicism was tolerated in the Netherlands after the Dutch Reformation but only if hidden from sight. The homeowner, Jan Hartman, combined the attics of three canal houses in 1663 to build this soaring Catholic church hidden from view.
More than 2,500 houseboats line Amsterdam’s canals. At Het Woonbootmuseum, you can get an inside look at one converted from a former sand and gravel freighter originally built in 1914. Operating as a museum since 1997, Het Woonbootmuseum lets you take your time exploring to see what life in a houseboat would really feel like. To fully immerse yourself in the experience, enjoy a coffee in the living room or on the sunny deck.
Tip: If you plan to visit more than a few of these houses, consider purchasing an I Amsterdam City Card which includes free admission to all the homes as well as unlimited public transit to get you to and from.
Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.
No one is more immersed or is authentically Irish than CIE Tours, as evident with our partnership with Croi restaurant. “At Croi restraurant we only use Irish and Kerry produce in what we call modern Irish food, but here is come classic Irish food, it is soul food Irish soul food.”
Pour 6 cups water and beer into large deep roasting pan. Add coarse salt; stir until dissolved. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. If desired, mix in pickling spices. Pierce brisket all over with tip of small knife. Submerge brisket in liquid, then top with heavy platter to weight down. Cover and refrigerate 4 days. Remove brisket from brine. Rinse with cold running water. Can be made 2 days ahead. Wrap corned beef in plastic, cover with foil and refrigerate.
Place corned beef in very large wide pot. Add stout and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Wrap cheesecloth around bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice, and chile, enclosing completely, and tie with kitchen string to secure. Add spice bag to pot with beef bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 ¼ hours. Transfer beef to large baking sheet.
Add turnips and all remaining vegetables to liquid in pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to baking sheet with beef. Return beef to pot and rewarm 5 minutes. Discard spice bag.
Cut beef against grain into ¼-inch thick slices. Arrange beef and vegetables on platter.
Serve with Horseradish Cream and Guinness Mustard.
There is one dessert that always causes a sensation on Queen Mary 2. Several menus include Crêpes Suzette and everyone is in the know, it’s the dessert of choice those evenings!
Many chefs have claimed the parentage of this much loved treat. In fact it was invented by a French chef called Henri Charpentier. At the time he was working at the Café de Paris in Monaco, which was frequented by the high society of the day. The young chef was preparing pancakes for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, when the liqueur with which he was basting the pancakes caught light. Unabashed he carried on sprinkling them with sugar, which was caramelized.
The prince really liked the pancakes so Charpenitier proposed to dedicate the invention to the prince, calling them Crêpes Princesse. Being a true gentleman, the prince replied that the recipe should be named after the young woman named Suzette with whom he was dining.
Setting aside this anecdote, everyone onboard agrees how delicious Crépes Suzette are, when prepared tableside at the last moment in the grills. They are always a great success.
On Queen Mary 2 this dish symbolizes the perfect fit between the kitchens and the dining room. It is excellent team-work that ensures that meals onboard the world’s finest liner are always a special event.
Fold each pancake twice, place two on pretty dessert dishes and pour the hot sauce on top. Serve immediately.
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
On an Avalon Waterways river cruise, the possibilities are as wide open as the expansive views. The same company that reinvented river cruise ships has redefined the river cruise experience. Beyond the widest views on the water is an open invitation to experience your destination in more ways, in exceptional ways, in your way.
While we’ve thoughtfully planned a captivating collection of nautical journeys along the world’s legendary rivers, your final itinerary is completely up to you. With our proprietary YourWay options, you can extend your vacation before and after your cruise with exciting stays in worldly cities. And with our exclusive onboard Avalon Choice® offering, you have your pick of the widest array of included excursions – from classic sightseeing to immersive discoveries to active adventures. With the flexibility to choose exactly what you wish to do before, during and after your cruise, Avalon offers the most desirable amenity of all – the freedom to cruise your way.
We promise more than a good view on an Avalon Waterways river cruise – we deliver the suite view. Our entire fleet in Europe and Southeast Asia is completely comprised of Suite Ships®, each featuring our Panorama SuitesSM with the widest opening windows in river cruising, the industry’s only Open-Air BalconySM, and an inviting bed facing the ever-changing scenery. Wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, our panoramic windows blur the line between outside and in, presenting the greatest window of opportunity in river cruising.
The greatest legends of the world were never bystanders, so when traveling the globe, why should you be? Our new Active & Discovery river cruises offer a deeper immersion into each destination with the most engaging activities imaginable. Practice your J-strokes as you canoe along legendary riverbanks or perfect your brushstrokes in a local art studio. Steer a bicycle through the scenic countryside or sear today’s catch in a lively cooking class. From inspiring food and wine tastings to invigorating jogging and hiking tours, our Active & Discovery river cruises along the Danube, Rhine and Rhône were designed for every type of doer.
We’ve mastered the art of blending luxury with comfort, and now—blurring the line between outside and in. Not only are our Panorama SuitesSM on our Suite ShipsSM 30% larger than the industry standard staterooms, our wall-to-wall and floor- to-ceiling windows open wider than any other, creating river cruising’s only Open-Air BalconySM and an open invitation to discover and dream.
And speaking of dreaming in our Panorama SuitesSM, we’ve turned our beds to face the window, giving you a bed with a view for the sweetest visions ever. Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, you’ve never seen Europe like this.
Avalon Waterways Open-Air Balconies were designed with our guests’ views in mind. Our Open-Air Balconies blur the line between outside and in while forming a comfortable and spacious seating area for six and creating an open invitation to discover and dream.
Even better? Avalon’s balconies do not sacrifice room space. In contrast, we invite our guests to enjoy 100 percent of your Suite, 100 percent of the time.
We’re the only river cruise company that’s figured out how to give our cruisers everything they want - more space, indoor/outdoor living and huge views for miles in the comfort and privacy of their rooms. Our Open-Air Balconies are a retreat, an escape…A place to enjoy a snack, a drink, a good book and a stunning view.
We’re proud to have always provided river cruisers the most spacious staterooms in Europe. Not only do we offer our award-winning Avalon Deluxe Staterooms, but we feature our spacious 200-square-foot Panorama SuitesSM and 300-square-foot Royal Suites to give our guests even more room to relax with 360-degree views of Europe.
Inspired by design, our ships are crafted to entice all five senses. Some enhancements, including deluxe woven carpeting, fresh flowers, and premium L’Occitane® bath products. Avalon-branded premium bedding, plush linens, and marble bathrooms blend with a perfect balance of warm interiors, natural lighting, and panoramic views that are distinctive and unexpected. All combined, these design elements provide travelers with a unique feeling of space, freedom, and comfort not found on any other river cruise line.
Avalon Waterways offers cruisers an exclusive suite of premium Comfort Collection Beds® bedding in all European staterooms, fleet wide. Avalon cruisers have a choice of pillows, including pillows, as orthopedic mattresses, high-comfort mattress covers, European-style duvets, Egyptian super-combed cotton linens, extra blankets, and bed configuration options. Guests also find added luxury with high-quality robes and slippers in each room across our fleet. We’ve also designed contemporary staterooms with the most available storage space, and plenty of thoughtful details like complimentary bottled water and fully-stocked mini-bars.
For some cruisers, comfort comes in the form of connection: staying in touch with friends, colleagues, and family members while away. Because of this, Avalon has taken great strides to enhance the technology available to guests on ship. In addition to offering them flat screen televisions and a wealth of news and entertainment options, Avalon provides cruisers with free Wi-Fi fleet wide.
From morning breakfast to elegant dinners, Avalon frees your taste buds from the ordinary. Using the freshest local ingredients, our talented chefs prepare mouthwatering recipes from the region through which you’re traveling and present them in a variety of inspiring settings. Our FlexDining® approach to onboard dining dispenses with strict seating times and limited restaurant options. Choose the onboard dining venue that suits your mood - from a breezy al fresco lunch at the Sky Grill to an elegant four-course dinner in the glass-walled dining room. For a less formal "sit-down" atmosphere, take a more casual approach to fine dining while mingling over several satisfying selections in our Panorama Bistro. Whichever table setting you choose, you’ll savor local flavors and the familiar favorites you may crave—as well as our Avalon Fresh® menu options—throughout your vacation. On an Avalon cruise, every meal is part of the journey.
No two travelers are alike--so, why on earth should we expect you to enjoy the same things? With more expertly led discovery options than any other cruise line, we make it possible for you to explore each port according to what intrigues you most.
With Avalon ChoiceSM personalized and included Active & Discovery excursions and activities, you can experience each destination in the style and pace that’s best for you. Take in the classic sights, try local customs or culinary delights, or see each locale from new heights. Our Naturalists (in the Galápagos and the Amazon), Cruise Directors and Local Guides (in Europe), and special onboard guest lecturers bring each destination to life - from village to village or island to island. Stretch out on the Sky Deck to watch the world go by, or stretch your legs with yoga or a jog with your Avalon Adventure HostSM. Your pace, your preference.
Avalon’s expertise in each location is backed by award-winning tour leader, Globus—with more than 90 years of experience in showing the world to world travelers. With hundreds of staff on the ground, personalized service on board, and behind-the-scenes operation experts for vacations in over 75 countries around the world, we’re privy to the best included and optional excursions available.
We transform tourists into travelers and storytellers and help them truly experience each destination with guided sightseeing in every port (complete with headsets), daily port lectures, VIP access into key destinations, no waiting in lines and great cultural immersion and storytelling thanks to highly skilled Cruise and Tour Directors.
Avalon has designed included excursions and onboard activities for a choice of experiences. We invite you to select the tours, activities, and events that interest you most, so you can experience your cruise your way.
In addition, our selection of optional excursions allows you to personalize your experience to suit your individual interests, passions, and style. Or, enjoy plenty of free-time opportunities for independent adventures. Your Avalon Adventure HostSM is there to help with suggestions, and our exclusive AvalonGO mobile app brings it all to life.
Regional wine and beer with lunch and dinner. Onboard enrichment activities. Onshore excursions with Local Guides. Special onboard entertainment. A customized mobile app loaded with navigation and suggestions to make the most of your free time. An exclusive experience features all the right inclusions, yet still leaves room for personalization-like our FlexDiningSM options to give you the freedom to choose when and where you dine on board. From formal seating in our glass-walled dining room to more casual atmospheres perfect for a quick plate, our delicious dining options are as unique as you are.