Six Best Tips to Prepare for a Europe River Cruise

Most river cruise passengers have already taken an ocean cruise and they are ready to move inland. Knowing these six easy tips to prepare for a Europe river cruise vs. a Caribbean cruise are completely different procedures.

Bike tour group in Germany
Heading out on a bike tour in Breisach, Germany, with CroisiEurope.

River cruises, especially Europe river cruises, continue to build in popularity. Every Europe river cruise line wants to attract younger clientele while still catering to their tried and true seniors. But not everyone, even experienced travelers, know what to expect and how to prepare for a Europe river cruise.

Six tips to easily prepare yourself for a Europe river cruise

1. Pack light

Not just for the airline requirements but for convenience. Without the traditional cruise ship formal nights, men need only a collared shirt and sport coat. Women can leave their long dresses and high heels at home. Attire is country club casual even at dinner. While complimentary laundry service is included with many suite-level accommodations, almost no river ships have a self-service launderette. Some don’t even do guests’ laundry. Be sure to find out before you go.

2. Know your limitations

Cobblestone streets, walkways and stairs can be a bit tricky to navigate if you are unsteady on your feet. Europe doesn’t subscribe to the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are out of shape or have a heart condition, you might want to reconsider that 200-step climb to the top of the castle. Pace yourself accordingly. Some of the river boats do not have elevators, so make sure the boat you choose has one if you need one. Alternatively, many river cruises lines, including AMAWaterways, Avalon and Viking River offer an easy-paced walking tour option.

3. Wine and dine onboard

Unlike cruise ships, all meals on river ships are “open seating.” Stroll into the dining room (7am-9am) for a leisurely buffet breakfast with a few à la carte choices. Lunch is fairly relaxed, too, as it is mainly buffet-style dining. Dinner however, doesn’t operate the same. To facilitate good service and freshly prepared entrees,  you are expected to arrive fairly close to when the dining room opens. Dinner times can vary based on the timing of the shore excursions, so check your daily planner. Generally, it’s 7pm.

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On some river cruise lines, the complimentary wine with dinner tends to abruptly stop when your entrée plate is removed. If you like to sip wine after dinner be sure to flag down your waiter for a refill before your place is cleared. A few cruise lines have become more generous with their pours and if you like wine, you’ll get the hang of this after the first night. I keep reminding myself that wine is from grapes so I’m getting my daily fruit requirement, in liquid form.

4. When in “Rome”

Nothing garners a warm welcome quicker than saying hello in the local language. Learn to say “hello,” “thank you” and “excuse me” in as many of the countries’ languages as possible. Write it on a cheat sheet and put it in your pocket. Chances are that the local shopkeeper, upon hearing your broken German or Romanian will immediately speak to you in English. But you’ve made the effort and it won’t go unrewarded.

5. Cash is king

Make a list of the countries you will visit and find a local bank at home that sells the currency. Mainly, you’ll need Euros. But if you can get any of the other currencies (and there are quite a few on the lower Danube river ) you can avoid the high commission exchange fees. Of course, the ship’s front desk will also exchange currency, but there are some limitations. Tipping at the end of your cruise is expected to be in Euros. Some cruise lines now allow you to put the end-of-cruise gratuities on your credit card. It’ll still be in Euros.

6. Blend in and be prepared

If you travel on the rivers in the spring or fall, there will certainly be a variance in temperatures and precipitation. Bring that nerdy plastic poncho and a folding umbrella. Avoid taking your backpack when on a shore excursion. Why? Nothing says “American Tourist” more than an Eddie Bauer backpack. Of course you can easily be spotted as a tourist when you’re on a group excursion. But if you must carry belongings on your day tour, a tote bag is much more European. Also, when taking a motor coach tour, the bus is locked so you can leave that extra sweater or shopping bag on your seat. If you forget your tiny umbrella, your ship will have plenty on hand to lend.

Here you have it, six tips to make the most of your European river cruise. Bon Voyage!

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  1. Diana, thank you for reading my blog. You will have a fabulous experience – fall must be lovely on the river. Have a great trip and stop back here afterwards and let me know about your time on the Danube. Thanks again and bon voyage!

  2. Glenn, Thank you for your comment. I met several folks from Australian on my Uniworld cruise…Queensland, Canberra, Snowy River. If you go on a river cruise, I would suggest starting in Bucharest and taking the cruise northward, all the way to Amsterdam if you can. Bon Voyage!

  3. Thanks for this—great timing as we will be going on the Danube in a couple of weeks. You will love the Nile Desne

  4. I recently went on a Baltic Cruise of Scandinavia & Northern Europe for 10 days. I was shepherded around with tour guides in places like Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg (2 days), Gdansk (Poland), Tallin (Estonia), Oslo and Copenhagen. Would love to do a trip from Amsterdam to Budapest one day! Such a long way from Sydney though!

  5. Glad to help! I’d love to cruise the Nile someday…you are so lucky. Let me know if you are flying over or taking another transatlantic.

  6. Hi Desne and Larry,
    I’m so sorry I missed your birthday bash! I hope it was a wonderful party. Would love to come visit soon…thanks again and thanks for your very nice comments.

  7. Interesting as have a the Nile River cruise almost planned and this info was useful. Thanks

  8. Thanks sheri for the info we are planning a river cruise in may along the nile
    Larry and desne
    still waiting for you to come and visit

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