First-timer guide to a European river cruise

First-timer guide to a European river cruise

In 1992, an engineering marvel changed the course of the European river cruise industry. A feat of earth moving proportions, the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal made it possible to navigate the three iconic rivers in one continuous journey.

Stretching from the North Sea, all the way to the Black Sea in eastern Europe, the route is now one of the world’s most iconic cruise experiences.

Imagine a luxury river cruise, that includes not just two or three countries, but as many as ten or more, depending on the route booked and inclusive land tours offered.

First-time river cruise goers are sure to enjoy the fantastic sites along the way, as well as the quality service that is the hallmark of the European river cruise experience.

Here’s a first-timer guide to European river cruising.


It’s one of the great benefits of a river cruise – no lugging suitcases from hotel to hotel, simply unpack once, and you’re set for the duration of your cruise. On a river cruise, the ship is your home-away-from-home, where your belongings are at your fingertips.


Often referred to as a floating boutique hotel, your river ship will provide every luxury and convenience. Most river cruise lines offer balcony suites and enjoy modern and elegant furnishings throughout. At the touch of a button, watch as the glass window automatically lowers to convert into your very own private balcony where you can admire the passing scenery.


Dining is such an important part of the holiday experience, and the personal chefs onboard cater to every culinary desire. Pull into a different port each day and enjoy the local flavours on offer from the gardens and orchards of the surrounding farms and villages.

Some destinations may offer a shop-with-the-chef experience where you can join the chef onshore. Shop for fresh, local ingredients and taste the foods back on board.

Select ships will even offer onboard cooking lessons where you can prepare the region’s best-loved dishes, served with the best local wines of course. Glide through Bordeaux enjoying a full-bodied red or feast on hearty Bavarian fare in southern Germany with a crisp Gewurztraminer or local beer brewed to Reinheitsgebot standards.


As you wake in the morning, you’ll find an exciting new port to explore. River cruise itineraries are built around cultural immersion. Each port will see a range of all-inclusive tours and activities to choose from.

Whether it’s a guided walking tour through an historic village or castle, a scenic bike ride along the riverbanks or through vineyards, or a lively market visit, there is never a shortage of things to see and do.


Think of the typical ocean cruise, and what often comes to mind is gigantic ships with thousands of passengers, all jostling to disembark for the short stay in port. If you’ve never experienced a river cruise, imagine an altogether different kind of cruise holiday.

On a river cruise, you can expect less than 165 people on a purpose-built boutique river vessel, a slower pace to enjoy your historic surroundings and luxurious facilities with other like-minded cruise-goers, and plenty of free time to explore the nooks and crannies of every port you visit.


On a river cruise, you’ll hardly know the ship is moving. With a much slower pace, a river cruise is one of the smoothest forms of water transport. That’s because there are no large swells, like you’d find out on the open waters.


Europe is filled with iconic waterways and the hardest decision will be choosing which one to enjoy. From the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Seine, to Rhone, and the Douro in Portugal, these iconic waterways are lined with quaint villages and towns, historic castles, vineyards and all the scenic beauty you could imagine – and it’s all just steps from where you dock.


While river cruises still offer coach tours for some shore excursions, ships typically dock in or near the heart of the city or village, allowing easy exploration.

And because time isn’t wasted waiting for coaches, or standing in long lines to disembark the ship, there’s more time to explore and see the sites with a local guide or to simply enjoy free time on your own.

While most days will see a new port or country, stops in places like Vienna, Budapest and Amsterdam require more time, due to their size and many tourist options. Extended overnight stays are common in such places.


Most river cruises are all-inclusive, meaning that your food, drinks, tours and activities are all included in the price of your fare.

While most ocean cruises take an a-la-carte approach when it comes to additional services and extras, river cruising includes the fine dining, beverages, immersive shore excursions, entertainment, accommodation, and even airport transfers.

Knowing everything is included when you step onboard provides great peace of mind.


While some shore excursions may include exclusive events such as a private concert in a palace, you will also find plenty of entertainment onboard your river vessel.

There are no gaudy casinos or water parks to be found, but rather local entertainment brought onboard in the form of music, dancers, lecturers, and other local performances.


Adult travellers of any age will appreciate the benefits that come with a river cruise. Multi-generational holidays have become a way for the whole family to enjoy a cultural holiday.  And with no schlepping of bags from lobby to lobby, or a mix of flights and airports to worry about, a river cruise really is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the spoils of Europe together as a family unit.


River cruising gives the first-time visitor a ‘best of’ taste to the sights and experiences the region has to offer. You don’t have to think about how you will get from one port to the next, or deal with foreign language barriers along the way.

And with all shore excursions and transport included, your day is simply there to be enjoyed, one included excursion at a time.


There are times where an afternoon cruise lets you enjoy the passing scenery from the top deck lounges and private balconies. Marvel at the splendid countryside laid out before you as you gently glide through some of the world’s most delightful vistas in comfort.


Thanks to the limited number of passengers on board, you’ll never feel like just a number. On a river cruise, you are a guest, and you are taken care of as such. Concierge and butler services are personalised to each guest.

Staff members get to know you, allowing them to provide that extra special touch. It can be as simple as remembering how you like your coffee, to bringing you your favourite wine or beverage, or better yet, dessert.


From humble beginnings, to what is now a world-renowned luxury cruise and tour operator, Scenic is a leader in European river cruising, and one of Australia’s most loved travel companies.

Discover the hidden gems of Europe as you cruise along iconic rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Main, Seine, Moselle and more.

Scenic European river cruises include transport from the airport to the ship. Each suite comes with butler service, world-class dining, unlimited top-shelf beverages and a shore excursion in every port, plus so much more.

With Scenic’s all-inclusive luxury, you can expect:

  • Beautifully appointed suites
  • Free Wi-Fi throughout
  • All-inclusive beverages
  • Mini-bar replenished daily
  • Scenic Tailormade GPS guide devices
  • Up to five dining options
  • Butler service for every cabin
  • Scenic Freechoice – hand selected activities to enjoy more options at your own pace
  • Scenic Enrich – once-in-a-lifetime multi-sensory moments not available to the public
  • Scenic Sundowners – bespoke cocktail events exclusive to Scenic guests only

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