Back to Europe: River Cruises on the Douro, Rhone, Danube and Beyond Sail to Europe to discover the wine and food of France and the Rhone Valley, the castles of the Loire Valley, the castles of the Moselle Valley and the castles of the Danube, the castles of the Königswinter and the castles of the Black Forest, the castles of the Rhine, the castles of the Rhône, the castles of the Danube, the castles of Austria and the castles of Bavaria.
The Douro River in Portugal is one of the places I’ve been wanting to see, and the long weekend I had there was an absolute highlight. I’ve been to a few spots on the river but the Oporto region was a new experience.
River cruises are the touristic equivalent of seeing the world on a dime. You might be sick of it already, but you haven’t experienced how fun they are. It’s not always about seeing places you’ve never heard of, but about sharing a unique experience with your family or friends. And on your trip, you can do plenty of sightseeing.
While the European Union has opened up travel to vaccinated Americans and some other foreign tourists, river cruise lines are returning to the rivers of Europe. Here’s what’s happening this summer, as announced by River Lines at the time of publication. River lines are relaunched on the Portuguese Douro, the Italian Po and the Venice lagoon, the French Seine and the Rhone/Saône and in the Bordeaux area, as well as on the Rhine, the Danube and other European rivers.
Shipping on the Douro river in Portugal
Several river lines on the Douro in Portugal will reopen this month. Consultants say their clients love to sail the Douro because Portugal is a beautiful country with warm and friendly people, a rich history and great cuisine. The Portuguese are very hospitable, and that’s one of their main attractions, says Susan Wolfson, owner of Go Astro Travel, an independent agency of the Avoya Travel Network in Allentown, Pa.
A cruise on the Douro is also very different from cruises on other European waterways. The river is not navigable at night, so all shipping takes place during the day, Wolfson explains. This gives guests more free time to relax and enjoy the terraced vineyards, unique castles and, of course, the port for which the area is famous. She also tells cruisers about the region’s cherry liqueur, called ginjinha or ginja, which tastes like cherry pie.
Viking River Cruises will sail five European river routes in July.
Viking River Cruises will offer five European river itineraries in July, including Portugal’s Golden River, a 10-day voyage from Lisbon to Porto on the Viking Torgil. Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours will launch on the 30th. In July 2023, the Scenic Azure ship will return to the Douro, while sister company Emerald Cruises will return on July 31. July 2023 in Portugal on the Emerald Radiance. CroisiEurope will also be at the Dora again this month.
Many river companies offer special rates or promotions to make travelers want to go abroad again. An example? For new reservations made by 31. In August 2023, Emerald is offering savings of $2,000 per couple for the eight-day Secrets of the Douro itinerary from July 2023 to September 2023 and $1,500 for October 2023 and November 2023.
Generally, River Line officials welcomed the EU’s announcement to allow travelers from the U.S. We are very happy to see that the situation in Europe is moving in a positive direction, says Christine Karst, Executive Vice President and co-founder of AmaWaterways. The AmaDouro vessel will operate on the Douro River in Portugal from July 3, 2023, and the AmaVida will sail from July 27. July 2023 through Portugal and Spain.
Riviera River Cruises will also resume operations on the Douro River in July with two itineraries, Douro Elegance and Douro Splendour. The first flight is scheduled for early July, and 12 flights will be made by the end of August. Extensions to Lisbon should be available on some flights.
We visited Lisbon for the cruise, and it’s definitely a must-see, Wolfson said. We stopped where the great explorers had stopped – at the tower of Belen. With that we were well on our way to our trip on the Douro. While we enjoyed the harbor, we also learned about its origins. Port wine was made in the 17th century. It became popular in the 19th century, when England was at war with France and more traditional sources of wine were not available. The English sought an alternative and discovered the sweet Portuguese fortified wine.
Wolfson also tells his customers about the seafood and fresh produce they can see and taste along the Douro. During our trip in July, the figs were in full bloom, and we couldn’t get enough, Wolfson said, adding that they ate them for dessert every night.
This year, for the first time, Tauck will depart from the Douro with the 84-seater Andorinha.
Tauck had planned to deploy the new Andorinha with 84 passengers on the Douro last year, but the first trips on the Douro will be made with the new vessel this year. Two routes are planned for 2023 and a third Tauck Bridge route will be added in 2023.
We are very pleased to announce that we will be able to resume our European river cruises from August 1, 2023, said Joanne Gardner, Tauck’s vice president of international operations, adding that the first cruises will be in France and then Portugal. The situation in Europe is improving rapidly. In doing so, Gardner and other executives stressed that advisers should check their firms’ websites for the latest health and safety regulations and protocols, which change regularly.
On Andorinha, Tauck will offer two itineraries and guests will be accommodated in 42 staterooms, including 12 300 sq. ft. suites on the upper Diamond Deck and 20 225 sq. ft. staterooms primarily located on the Ruby Deck or mid-level of the ship. The other living quarters (six 200 m² cabins and four 150 m² cabins) are located on the lower deck or Emerald Deck.
Arthur’s new pop-up restaurant Sun Deck opens in Andorinha, with a design and décor that reflects the climate and cultural traditions of the Douro Valley and is named in honor of President Arthur Tauck, Jr. This eatery rises from the stern with hydraulic lifts, and visitors can enjoy the view of the countryside while eating. When passing some Douro bridges, the Arthurs can be lowered onto the track as required.
Return to Italy and France
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises resumes its European river cruises in Italy this summer. The newly renovated supership La Venezia will serve Milan, Venice and the pearls of northern Italy on the Uniworld route and will be launched on 18. June 2023 for her maiden voyage. Guests will spend two days in Milan before disembarking in Venice. Cruise ships leave Venice in both directions and sail along the northern coast of Italy. Activities include a private evening opening and lighting ceremony at the Basilica of San Marco and an excursion to Chioggia, a charming fishing port.
The Venezia will also offer an eight-day cruise through Venice and the pearls of northern Italy. We have been looking forward to this and are happy to be back at Rivers, said Ellen Bettridge, President and CEO of Uniworld. It assures its customers that their safety is our top priority. Therefore, we take the necessary precautions to ensure that they feel comfortable when they are ready to explore the rivers with us again.
With a new interior design by artist and textile designer Mariano Fortuni, La Venezia will welcome guests with more suites, more dining rooms with room for socializing and more luxurious furnishings, while maintaining a high crew-to-guest ratio.
CroisiEurope plans to launch cruises this month on the Po River in Italy and on the Seine and Gironde Rivers in France. It will also resume operations on the French Rhône/Saône rivers and canals in early July.
In France, Uniworld plans to relaunch Bon Voyage on the 27th. June 2023, Joie de Vivre on July 4 and Catherine on July 11. July 2023. Bon Voyage’s eight-day journey, Brilliant Bordeaux, follows the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde rivers in southwestern France; Joie de Vivre’s eight-day journey, Paris and Normandy, departs Paris in both directions and travels through the Normandy countryside; and Burgundy and Provence’s journey follows the Rhône and Saône rivers.
Three AmaWaterways riverboats are also returning to the waterways of France this summer. AmaLyra will be launched on the 22nd. July 2023 will sail on the Seine in France, and AmaKristina will return to the Rhône in France on the same day. The AmaDolce takes place on the 29th. July 2023 in the Bordeaux region of western France.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises’ newly renovated supership, La Venezia.
Tauck also plans to return to France soon with seven river cruises on the Rhone and Seine, including two Tauck Bridge itineraries specifically designed for families.
Viking will sail the Seine again in July with an eight-day voyage from Paris to the heart of Normandy on the Viking Fjorgyn. The eight-day journey from Lyon and Provence on the Viking Buri also takes you from Avignon to Lyon along the Rhône/Saône rivers. For guests looking for a rich Francophile journey, the 15-day Viking France’s Finest itinerary combines northern and southern France in one trip.
It is clear that many people are eager to get back out into the world, and I would like to thank all our destination partners for their support in planning our return, says Torstein Hagen, CEO of Viking.
Rhine and Danube
Mrs Karst, who is from Germany, said that she could not be happier that Europe is opening up this summer to the safe reception of tourists who will contribute to the economic and social recovery that we so badly need. AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna begins its rebirth on July 21. on the Danube, and AmaSiena sails from 29. July on the Rhine.
The AmaMagna is twice as wide as most riverboats, so the interiors are very spacious, which is a big plus for newcomers coming from a large ocean-going vessel and wondering if a river cruise is for them. In addition, the AmaMagna has many well-appointed suites.
CroisiEurope returns to the Rhine on July 2, 2023 and to the Danube on July 8, 2023, and will also offer cruises on the rivers of Spain and Germany this summer.
Viking returns to the Rhine region with the popular eight-day Rhine escapade from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland. Regardless of the river and itinerary, it’s a good idea to check each cruise line’s website for the latest changes in health and safety protocols. For example, Viking’s health and safety program was developed in collaboration with an international team of medical advisors, including Raquel Bono, M.D., Viking’s Chief Public Health Officer and retired Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, who most recently led Washington State’s health and medical systems response to the pandemic.
Through a network of specialized land-based laboratories, Viking river cruise crews can frequently, quickly and easily perform non-invasive saliva PCR testing on river cruise guests and crew members. New air purification technology has been installed on all Viking ships, which always had independent ventilation systems for all guest cabins. In addition, health checks, decontamination, and physical distancing measures are implemented. For more information, see www.viking.com/health-safety.
Rudy Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways, notes that his company successfully completed river cruises in the summer of 2023, giving it a history of implementing enhanced health and safety protocols to ensure guest safety. Last year AmaWaterways successfully and safely operated charter flights on the AmaKristina for a German tour operator for several months.
At the time of publication, Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and general manager of Crystal River Cruises, sent a letter to travel advisors explaining the following: I am pleased to announce that we plan to expand our river cruises in Europe from 29. August 2023 to resume, as we are cautiously optimistic based on recent EU news allowing vaccinated travelers access.
He said it was a necessary and welcome step towards the resumption of smooth European river cruising, but he also said: It should be noted that the adoption of these protocols by the individual EU Member States, which affect our multi-country routes, is an important next step, as the EU Member States ultimately control the borders.
But as Europe begins to open its doors again to American and international river cruise passengers, the reopening of these routes is just the first step in getting all of our ships back on the rivers this year, Bettridge said. The demand for river cruises has never been greater.
Emerald Cruises will be in business as of the 31st. July 2023: sailing on the Emerald Radiance in Portugal.
Crystal River Cruises has unveiled its schedule for the 2023 European river season, which includes voyages on the Danube, Rhine and Moselle rivers, as well as on the waterways of Belgium and the Netherlands. New for 2023 are shorter five-day flights, including Crystal Ravel Danube Discovery from Vienna, Austria to Wilshofen, Germany, and Crystal Mahler Playgrounds of Netherlands & Belgium from Amsterdam in both directions.
New longer flights include the 14-night Crystal Ravel Pearl of the Danube voyage through Austria’s Wachau region, Vienna and Budapest in Hungary, and Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. The new 15-night Crystal Mahler Vineyards, Castles and Masterpieces route connects Basel, Switzerland with Amsterdam, while the 17-night Grand Rhine and Moselle route connects Amsterdam with Basel.
Emerald Cruises has unveiled a collection of special interest cruises for 2023. The eight-day wine cruise on the Moselle between Mainz and Bernkastel, which starts on 21. Launched in August 2023, it focuses on the history of viticulture in the region and learning about local wines through lectures, daily tastings and tours of wineries. Tickets start at $3,295 per person, based on double occupancy. Other new Emerald-themed cruises include a Spa, Art and Culture Danube cruise from Budapest, Hungary to Passau, Germany, departing July 21, 2023, and an eight-day Spa, Art and Culture Rhine cruise from Mainz, Germany to Basel, Switzerland, departing July 26, 2023. June 2023.
Globus family brands require guests to be fully vaccinated.
Tauck resumes operations in Europe and Africa this summer
Riviera River Cruises resumes cruises on the Douro River in July
Emerald, Scenic resumes cruises on the Douro River in JulyRiver cruises are an amazing way to see some of the best scenery in Europe. They offer the perfect blend of relaxation and sightseeing; the perfect opportunity to take in the scenery, absorb local culture and experience the local lifestyle. This is why they are such an attractive way to see the European countryside.. Read more about river cruise lines and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the most scenic river cruise in Europe?
There’s nothing quite like a river cruise to get you back “back to Europe”, and in the case of the Douro Valley, the best part is that you don’t have to fly halfway across the globe to get there. The Douro can be visited across a series of riverside ports from Porto to Porto, but the most scenic sections are in the middle—close to the city of Porto, but far enough away to not feel like a tourist playground. You know that famous question by Mark Twain about which is the best port in England? It’s a trick question, because they all are. Many European river ports have been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, with more cruise lines offering more destination options than ever before. But which is the best? You don’t have to think too long about it, because Europe has something special that just about everywhere else doesn’t: beautiful, scenic rivers.
Which is the best river cruise line in Europe?
The best part about a river cruise is that, while you’re at your destination, it’s not necessary to plan to leave. If you’re staying at a resort, you can simply head to the ship and board the next one in the evening. You can have a full day at the spa, explore the local market, have lunch on the terrace overlooking the river, or just relax on the sun deck. On the other hand, if you’re on your own, you’ll find that there are many things you can do in a big city like Hamburg and Berlin. You can visit all the museums, go shopping, have a drink in a trendy café, or just listen to music in a club. In general, river cruises are a great way to see the scenery and enjoy the local culture of a country. There are many different river cruise lines in Europe, and your decision of which one to choose will depend on a number of factors. Some of these include size of ship, ship type, number of ports visited and overall price of the cruise.
Which is better river cruise Rhine or Danube?
Throughout history, the mighty rivers of Europe have been the lifeblood of the continent – carrying the riches of the land and shaping the lives of its people. For me, the Danube River is the best cruising river in Europe. The Danube River has a little something for everyone, from the majestic castles that line the banks, to the winding roads, to the vineyards, to tiny villages, to the urban centers, to the river tours, to the nature of the Danube itself. Since there is literally something for everyone, you can’t go wrong with it for a river cruise. The Danube, however, is not without its drawbacks. The Danube is the most commercialized of the four rivers, and therefore, you can expect higher prices (and lower standards) when you cruise on it. The Danube is also far from the most popular rivers to cruise on.