European river cruises on luxurious longboats are five-star experiences on floating hotels. Surrounded by service and elegance, guests visit several countries or one country in depth. Airport transfers are handled smoothly and effortlessly. Unpacking is a one-time chore. On some boats, if you book a suite, your butler will unpack for you. Gourmet meals are provided three times a day, and drinks and snacks are always available. Cabin choices range from below deck with a small window to above deck with a private balcony. Below-deck passengers enjoy sweeping views of the European countryside from elegantly appointed lounges and sun decks.
Evening entertainment includes live music and games. On nights when the boat is docked, local talent comes aboard for traditional performances. Or, if you’d rather have some alone time, you can relax in your cabin with a movie, enjoy a bottle of wine on your balcony, or star gaze on the sundeck.
The boat docks every day at a historic place so guests can tour the area with local, English-speaking guides. Most cruises offer at least one free excursion a day and one optional excursion. Fitness levels required for each excursion are clearly explained. For guests who explore on their own, the crew supplies maps notated with ATMs, restaurants, and historic sites. The onboard concierge will make recommendations and reservations and arrange transportation.
While each cruise company has its own personality, the service, accommodations, and amenities are five and even six-star. When selecting a cruise, most travelers consider destinations, time, and cost over the cruise company. The following are three of our favorites.
The Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland: 8 days
This cruise sets sail from Amsterdam after a walking or canal boat tour of the lively, historic city. If your plane lands in the morning, you will have time to visit the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. The cruise stops for a visit to working windmills and miles of tulips if they are in bloom. The boat docks for a day in Cologne, a tour of Germany’s best-preserved medieval castle, and continues down through a rich landscape of culture and beauty. Highlights are turreted fortresses, grand cathedrals, historic cities, medieval villages, and the Black Forest. The various culinary traditions of Alsace are explored. An evening at a German pub with traditional food, drinking songs, and tavern games is a popular optional excursion.
The Rhône River from Beaune to Avignon, France: 8 days
The Rhône River was used by Greek and Roman traders, so today’s river cruisers experience antiquity, artistry, history, and some of the finest food and wine in Europe. This exquisite journey through southern France follows in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin. Stroll the streets of Arles that Van Gogh made famous and visit Avignon’s majestic Palace of the Popes. A “village day” in enchanting Viviers includes a Bach and Handel recital. Lyon is known as the “City of Silk,” and the ancient art is continued by today’s artisans. If you find Lyon’s silk selections confusing, silk merchants set up shop in the boat’s lounge to help you chose the perfect scarves and ties. More adventurous travelers can kayak on the tranquil Gardon rivers, hike through vineyards, go truffle hunting, and bike around Lyon.
The Danube from Budapest to Bucharest: 11 days
Once hidden behind the Iron Curtain, the eastern Danube now shares its secrets. Bucharest’s 3,000 room Palace of Parliament is the last word in opulent. Belgrade’s Ottoman and European treasures include the 6th Century Kalemegdan Fortress. The grandeur of Budapest explodes at night as castles glitter and gleam on either side of the river while the boat glides beneath historic bridges. The narrated tour of Budapest at night can be enjoyed from the deck (warm shawls are provided) or in the cozy lounge. Continue through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania for traditional food and wine and sights unseen by the Western World until these countries opened their borders.
To find your perfect cruise, we suggest visiting these three websites: Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, and Uniworld. Cruises range from several days to two weeks and more. Take note of pre- and post-cruise land excursions if you would like to linger and explore a particular city or region. Special interest cruises include golf, Christmas markets, wine, tulips, and more.
Luxury is more than plush bedding and seamless service although both are provided on luxury riverboat cruises. Waking up to a misty view of a pristine forest and sipping a star-studded nightcap on a private balcony are just two of luxury’s sweet enchantments.
For more information on luxury vacations, please contact Luxury Mansion Rentals.