If you like intimate, cozy, and personal holidays, you’ll love a river cruise. It’s a way to travel that cancels out sea sickness and brings you closer to new cities and towns than ever. A river cruise is very different from an ocean cruise and river cruising in Europe will create great memories. With a day in each port, river cruising provides a “best of” when it comes to all the sights and experiences the region has to offer, with the intimidation-lowering factor of your own semi-private guide.
A European river cruise is all about the scenery. Beautiful, picture perfect scenery, ancient cathedrals, and castles plus traditional local entertainment and historic port lectures by local experts. A European river cruise is also about taking a breath, slowing down, and totally enjoying the outstanding dining, onboard hospitality and pampering along the way. There are several European river cruise companies and ships available.
Riverboats are small affairs that generally hold fewer than 150 passengers. Given the intimate size of the group, you’ll likely form bonds with your fellow travelers—and the ship’s staff—by journey’s end. The vibe is very laid-back: there are no formal nights and you’re left to decide whether you want to explore each port on your own, join an excursion, or simply relax onboard when you’re docked. Suffer from motion sickness? That’s usually not a problem on a European river cruise. Riverboats are extremely stable and glide slowly through the waterways so you can take in the sights at a leisurely pace
Another thing you’ll need to consider is the time of year you’d like to book your European river cruise. Though Europe’s weather doesn’t fluctuate as wildly as America, different seasons present unique travel experiences. In spring, you can take Holland’s Tulip Tour or in the fall, you can join in Germany’s Oktoberfest celebrations.
Pre- or post-cruise extensions allow you to tack on some extra days and destinations at a modest additional cost. Maybe your goal is simply to see some of Europe’s most stunning scenery from the water. Whether your passion is history, cuisine, photography, wine, or art there are themed cruises that specifically cater to your interests.
However, if this is your first river cruise in Europe, you might need lots of help in matching your lifestyle and budget with a cruise line and destination. Choosing a cruise is not the same as picking a hotel or flight, as there are many more options to consider. The amount of variety on offer can be overwhelming, especially if you're new to the world of river cruising. Remember, you won't just be using the ship as a home base, like you do with a hotel: it will be your home, restaurant, and entertainment venue for a week or more. The right ship and itinerary can make your vacation that much more enjoyable and a travel agent can help you determine the best choice for your tastes. Your travel agent will help you decide which ship and itinerary is the best fit for you.
In addition, an agent can answer any questions or address any concerns you might have about taking a cruise for the first time. Contrary to what you might expect, travel agents might actually be able to get you better deals than internet retailers or even the cruise lines themselves. The best travel agents have access to discounted group rates and exclusive cruise pricing that's not found anywhere else. Agents may also occasionally get you extra value on your booking with prepaid gratuities, a free bottle of champagne, or onboard credit to sweeten the deal. Also, if the price of your cruise drops after you book, a good agent will notice and get you a refund for the difference in fare. Once you've chosen your cruise and, with the agent's help, matched your style with your vacation goals, you've got to book the trip. Again, it's a bit more complex than you might think, but a good agent will make the process go smoothly- from securing the right cabin type and location to booking the dinner seating that will suit you and your party. Booking with a travel agent gives your transaction a personal touch- you have a resource for asking questions and someone to contact if something goes wrong with your trip. But, your relationship with your agent doesn't need to end after one trip, they can keep you in their database, alert you to deals or sales, and can even suggest future trip ideas.
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