When it comes to cruises, ocean liners usually get all the attention. But cruises aren’t limited to just the Caribbean, or even to the summer months. Viking River Cruises offers all kinds of scenic river boat cruises through Europe—year-round, through rivers (and now oceans)—for travelers who want to enjoy the journey and a few destinations along the way.
I have been lucky enough to have taken quite a few Viking European river cruises—from the Rhine in Switzerland to the Rhône in France to the Danube in Budapest (one of the favorites was the Christmas Market river cruise along the Rhine!). And I am a fan.
If you are trying to decide whether to riverboat cruise or not, I’ve put together a list of reasons why you should choose to take a European Viking River Cruise.
You can book your cruise on the Viking River Cruise website.
1. There are Fewer Passengers
No matter how nice your cruise ship is, you’re probably not going to enjoy it nearly as much if it’s cramped and crowded with long waits at the buffet or no available lounge chairs. The Viking River Cruises boat was smaller with fewer people; around 200, it felt much more comfortable and made getting to know my fellow passengers over dinner all the more enjoyable.
2. Some Excursions are Included
On many of the larger ocean liners, they entice you by advertising really low cruise fares, but then nickel and dime you with excursions. That can add up quickly! On Viking River Cruises there are included excursions, almost one at every single European port.
Most are designed to give you a nice overview of the city you are in. Of course, there will be other paid options at the ports too. A couple of my favorite excursions were an e-bike ride through the vineyards of Austria and a tour of Germany’s Black Forest.
3. You’ll Have Open Seating at Dinner
You might not expect this to be a plus, but for me, it definitely was. Open seating meant that I got to meet and get to know more people. Each night you can select a different group to sit with or you can dine with the same people every evening. It’s totally up to you. Either way, it was fun to compare notes about the excursions with my new friends at the end of the day.
4. Your Room Comes With Free Movies
Alright, so maybe binge watching movies doesn’t top your list of exciting European cruise activities. Still, it was great to come back to my room at the end of a long day and settle in for the night with a free flick.
5. It’s Conde Nast’s Readers Favorite River Cruise Line
Yup—Condé Nast readers ranked Viking River Cruises as the #1 river cruise line out there. Enough said, right?
6. It’s a Smooth Ride
Motion sickness could easily ruin a cruise vacation, so I was relieved to find that all four river cruises I have been on were smooth from start to finish. No Dramamine needed!
7. It’s Casual
Yay to no gala nights! Dinners on the cruise are casual, so you won’t have to worry about packing a formal outfit or getting all dressed up at the end of a long day. Just change into something comfortable (business casual usually), take a seat, and grab a drink.
8. The Views are Incredible
When our cruises set off, I was really looking forward to things like visiting the Christmas markets and seeing some new cities. What I didn’t expect was for the views in-between the ports to be so scenic. There will be plenty of downtime on the ship, so you can regularly enjoyed watching the scenery pass by from the top deck as you make your way to the next stop.
9. You’ll Only Have to Pack (and Unpack) Once
How else can you see 8 towns in 8 days and only have to unpack your bag once? Having what amounted to a portable hotel room took a ton of stress out of this process. Plus, there was plenty of drawers and closet space for two.
10. You Can Experience Sailing Through a Lock
Sailing through the locks on the Rhine, Rhone and Danube was an unexpectedly cool part of the trip, and something you can’t experience on an ocean cruise. Locks are basically water management systems that help boats navigate a river by raising and lowering the water level. They’re a feat of engineering and sailing through them never really got old.
11. You Can Explore Multiple Countries in One Trip
During our Christmas Markets along the Rhine, we passed through 4 countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. And the Romantic Danube was 3 countries: Hungary, Austria and Germany. I don’t know of any other way to see that many countries in so few days while still having time to enjoy the experience.
12. Meals Come with Complimentary Wine
I have told you (about 100 times before) that red wine is one of my true loves. So, it is an extra perk when it is on the house during meal times. The freebie may just be for the house red or white, but it has always been good and there are plenty of options to upgrade.
13. The Rooms are Comfortable
Viking River Cruises set my room up to be a comfy retreat from the get-go, with welcome champagne waiting for me when I boarded and a plate of fresh fruit delivered daily. Between the fruit, the daily sweet treats left in the room, and the view from the veranda, it was a perfect spot to start and end the day in.
14. Anytime Cappuccinos. It’s true!
As if the complimentary wine, beer, fruit, and sweets weren’t enough, each cruise was complete with an automatic cappuccino machine that you can access at your leisure. I loved being able to walk over to the lounge and grab a cappuccino (for free!) anytime.
15. The Food is Really Good
Each mealtime, you can choose between having a full meal in the dining room or snacking on something lighter in the lounge. Most mornings, I opted for the latter and had a simple croissant and cup of coffee for breakfast. I did take full advantage of the cruise’s lunch and (especially) dinner options, though.
The chefs on Viking River Cruises have always put together a creative menu to accommodate all kinds of diners, picky eaters and vegetarians included! It was especially fun when they had themed dinners related to the country we were in.
16. The Ports Aren’t Tourist Traps
The cruise itself was lovely, but if you’re in it for the destinations as well as the journey, this point is a huge plus. Unlike a lot of other cruises, you won’t be stopping at ports full of overpriced tchotchkes and Americanized restaurants. We made stops to see European historic downtowns, cathedrals and churches, castles and palaces, and even a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And in many cases they were all within walking distance from the ships port.
17. The Small Size of the Ship
The smaller size of riverboats allow you to get closer to the shores of a city, so you can really experience all that each destination has to offer without being dropped off in a tourist port. This means that if you decide not to take an excursion, you can just get off the boat and walk right into town on your own.
In addition, cruising on a small riverboat generally means avoiding the crowds that are often found on larger vessels. This can lead to a more intimate and enjoyable experience, both on and off the boat. Plus, it’s much harder to get lost onboard!
18. Meeting Other Cruisers
Because riverboats are typically smaller than ocean-going cruise ships, you’re more likely to run into the same people multiple times throughout your voyage. This creates a sense of community and makes it easy to strike up conversations with fellow passengers. Whether you’re sharing a meal in the dining room, taking in a show in the lounge, or just enjoying some time on deck, you’re bound to make new friends on a river cruise.
19. Animal Towels on Your Bed
Have you ever been on a cruise and found a cute animal made out of a towel on your bed? It’s a tradition that goes back to the early days of cruising. Apparently, it started with a cruise ship engineer who used to make little animals out of towels for his daughter. When she got older, she started working on cruise ships and would make towel animals for the passengers.
The tradition quickly caught on, and now it’s a staple of the cruise experience. So next time you see an elephant or swan on your bed, remember its origins and appreciate the bit of fun it brings to your vacation.
20. The Service is Outstanding
On all my Viking River Cruises, the service was outstanding. From the moment we boarded the ship to the time we disembarked, we were made to feel like VIPs. The staff was attentive and always available to answer any questions we had. They went above and beyond to make our trip more enjoyable.
. . .
Even this list doesn’t sum up everything I loved about all my sailings with Viking River Cruises, whether it was on Europe’s Rhine, Rhone or Danube. We saw and experienced so much more than I expected—both onboard and on the shore—from a beer tasting in Cologne to seeing the Carrières de Lumières Art Show in the South of France to visiting the UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills in Netherlands.
If you’re looking to book an easy getaway, taking a European Viking River Cruise is a great option and you can book here.
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This post was provided in a partnership with Viking River Cruises. All opinions my own. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, I earn a commission that helps to keep this blog running—at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.