Introduction to Scenic River Cruises
If you’re not familiar with Scenic River Cruises, it’s an all-inclusive, luxury European river cruise company. Unlike most other river cruise lines, Scenic River Cruises is really an all-inclusive, luxury experience. Included in the price of your cabin is airfare and transfers, food, beverages, gratuities and even your own private butler.
After reading through their 2019 and 2020 Europe river cruise itineraries, I’ve narrowed down a few of my (and others) favorite Scenic River Cruises in Europe. But first…
Why take a Europe river cruise
European river cruises are a fantastic way to soak up culture, history and the beautiful, varied landscape that surrounds that part of the world. In just a few short miles, you can cruise from bustling, modern cities to quaint, charming villages. Overnight, you’ll see architecture change from intricate, 18th century buildings to classical Roman monuments. That’s the beauty of Europe, especially when experienced on a river cruise.
I’ve profiled five popular European river cruise itineraries that give you a rich and varied look at the tapestry that forms Europe’s past and present. Read on to find out which cruise might be your idea of a perfect vacation.
Five Favorite Scenic River Cruise Itineraries
Danube cruises – culturally-rich tours through the heart of Europe
The Danube river cuts through central Europe, taking a 1,785-mile journey through 10 countries on its way towards the Black Sea. Highlights of a Central and Eastern European Danube river cruise mean catching glimpses of the wonderful culture on offer in cities such as Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava.
Spotlight on: Budapest. Budapest is a city of two parts. Literally. One part Buda, the other part Pest, the city of two parts is split by the river Danube, and a cruise down the middle of the two areas is a great way to experience both. Today’s combined city was formed in 1873, and cruises today allow guests to gaze upon the surroundings that tell the story of Middle Age fortresses, Ottoman architecture and the catastrophic flooding of the 19th century.
Today Budapest is a modern metropolis teamed with beautiful historical Baroque and Classical architecture. We recommend taking a trip to – and a dip in – Széchenyi Thermal Baths, discovering Buda Castle and then strolling down the Danube as you marvel at the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Example tour: Gems of the Danube with Prague
Set sail from the Swiss Alps on the Rhine
The Rhine, sometimes referred to colloquially as the ‘Romantic Rhine’, is 764 miles of pure bliss. Meandering from the scenic Swiss Alps, through France, Germany and the Netherlands, a journey along the Rhine will take guests through the picturesque and unique Black Forest, the old towns of Strasbourg, France and to the charming city of Amsterdam.
Spotlight on: Amsterdam. For those embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip along the Rhine, we recommend you take in the wonderful city of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. Take a bike ride across town, enjoy the finest waffles around and stroll through the city’s picturesque streets as you prepare for the next stop on your Rhine tour.
Example tour: Rhine Highlights
A Rhône river cruise will show you some of Europe’s most enchanting destinations
Heading southwards through France on the Rhône, cruisers will pass through Lyon, Valence, Avignon and Arles, before entering the Mediterranean Sea. As you set sail through the Rhône Valley, the vibrant, naturally-scenic environment will greet you and wake up your senses. The Rhône region is simply wonderful.
Spotlight on: Avignon. This commune is perched on the southern edge of the Rhône, and offers architecture unlike anything else, such as the 14th century Palais des Papes. For the wine lovers, a visit to the Côtes du Rhône vineyard is a must-see, where guests can try out the revered wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Example tour: South of France
The Douro cuts a beautiful course through Portugal and Spain
Moving away from France and Germany, the river Douro cuts a beautiful course through Spain and Portugal, making pit-stops at Porto, Regua, Pocinho and Salamanca.
Spotlight on: Porto. Often overshadowed by capital Lisbon, Porto is perhaps Portugal’s most underrated city. Situated on the edge of the Douro, Porto looks out across the Atlantic Ocean, and is a cultural hub full of contemporary activities and historical sights. Climb to the top of the Clérigos Tower, sip on a coffee and stroll the streets of Porto like a local. Visit this city on a Douro cruise before everyone else adopts it as their own!
Example tour: Delightful Douro with Madrid
The 777km-long Seine is a perfect vantage point for romantic Paris
Have you ever seen the Eiffel Tower look as good as when it’s viewed from the river Seine? Flowing through the heart of the world’s most romantic city, the river Seine is the ideal waterway to cruise down if you’re looking for a couple’s European getaway. Northern France never looked so good, and stop-offs such as Paris, Rouen and Honfleur can be reached en route. Guests can soak up the best French cider at Fleury-la-Forêt, or appreciate the significance of the legacy of the Somme battlefields at Rouen.
Spotlight on: Paris. Simply inimitable, unique, and totally timeless. The unofficial capital romance is a fantastic way to mark your Seine river cruise. It needs no explanation – it’s simply unmissable!
Example tour: Normandy & Gems of the Seine
If you want to know my favorite of all of these, it’s probably a toss-up. I’ve been up and down the Rhine a few dozen times and have really become good at knowing my way around all the ports. But I think the best time for a Rhine river cruise is during Christmas Markets, from late November through December.
My other favorite itinerary in any season would be a Seine river cruise from Paris to the Normandie Beaches and back. Or maybe it’s a Danube cruise. Bottom line, they’re all wonderful. And with the real all-inclusiveness offered by Scenic, any of their river cruises can be a stressless and memorable experience.