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Not sure where to begin with a river cruise?

Lucky me, I just returned from a River Cruise Expo in Budapest, Hungary and I can not get enough! River cruising is becoming an ever popular vacation option for travelers who want to explore the continent’s beautiful waterways while enjoying luxurious accommodations and world-class amenities. For first-time river cruisers, it can be an exciting and unforgettable experience. In this blog post, I will guide you through the basics of river cruising in Europe, including what to expect, what to pack, and some tips to make the most of your trip.

What to expect:

A typical river cruise in Europe takes place on smaller, more intimate ships than traditional ocean liners. These vessels offer a more personalized immersive experience, with fewer passengers, and often stop in smaller ports and cities that the larger ships can’t access. 

One of the biggest perks of river cruising is visiting bucket list destinations and seeing the stunning scenery you’ll encounter along the way. As you glide along the river, you’ll be treated to picturesque views of charming villages, castles, historic landmarks, architectural heritage, and rolling countryside.

River cruises typically include daily shore excursions led by expert guides, which allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and history of each port. These excursions can include walking tours of historic neighborhoods, visits to museums and landmarks, arts and crafts, and tastings of local foods and wines. There are also more active alternatives through biking, kayaking, pickleball, and golf. You also have the means to explore the towns and cities on your own, should you prefer more independent travel, but be sure to arrive in time before the ship leaves without you!

What to pack:

When packing for a river cruise in Europe, it is definitely a perk to pack and unpack only once while seeing multiple destinations along the way. It’s important to consider the climate and activities you’ll be participating in. During the day, you’ll likely be exploring ports and participating in shore excursions, therefore comfortable walking shoes and breathable, layered clothing are essential. In the evenings, dress codes vary depending on the ship and itinerary, but a few dressier outfits for dinners or special events are recommended.

Don’t forget to pack essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a small daypack for excursions. Many river cruise ships offer laundry facilities, so you can pack lighter and wash clothes as needed.

Tips for a great trip:

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your first-time river cruise in Europe:

  1. Research the various ships and itinerary before booking to ensure it fits your preferences and interests.
  2. Take advantage of the included shore excursions, but don’t be afraid to explore on your own as well.
  3. Get to know your fellow passengers and crew members, as they can be a great resource for recommendations and insider tips.
  4. Don’t overpack. River cruise cabins are typically smaller than traditional hotel rooms, so pack light and only bring what you’ll need.
  5. Take time to relax, disconnect, and enjoy the onboard amenities, like the pool, spa, and lounge areas.

A first-time river cruise in Europe is an unforgettable experience that offers stunning scenery, cultural immersion, convenience, and luxurious accommodations. If you are planning a river cruise, it can be overwhelming with all the choices available. Whether you are a first- timer, ready to explore the river, or a seasoned river cruiser, ready to sail a new continent (Southeast Asia, South America and Africa), contact me here and let’s unpack all those amazing cruise locations, options, and differences that make the most sense to fit your river cruise travel style.

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Hi, I'm Nicole.

I founded my boutique agency to design travel that moves you. From embarking on an African safari to hiking the Inca Trail, I’ve always been drawn to travel that is transformative. As an experienced world explorer and well-connected travel advisor, I will design an immersive journey that opens up amazing modes of discovery for you.

Nice to meet you!