Vineyards hiking in Rudesheim on an absolutely gorgeous day.
Extraordinary Experiences on River Cruises
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Now, instead of “life,” imagine she said “travel.” Therein lies the ultimate goal of most savvy travelers - to richly and authentically experience the destination they are visiting.
Perhaps nowhere is this easier than on a river cruise - you’re effortlessly delivered to a new destination practically daily, with myriad opportunities for onshore activities and excursions. It’s easy to pick your own pace, whether you’re feeling active or prefer to sleep in and greet the new day slowly. Let’s peek at what you might expect to find for activity options on a river cruise in Europe.
What Types of Shore Excursions Are Offered on a River Cruise?
Let’s start with what type of traveler you are. Are you ready with a list in hand of all the experiences you want to have on your Europe river cruise, from day-long sightseeing to miles of cycling? Or, are you a late riser who wants to maximize your rest time and still have plenty of daylight left to enjoy your surroundings? The good news is that most luxury river-cruise operators cater to all travel styles. There are typically choices of gentle-, regular- and active-paced tours.
Part of our group chose a bike tour in Cologne. Pictured is the magnificent
Cologne Cathedral in the background.
Active Tours: Biking and Hiking
These typically fall under the category of biking and hiking. Cycling is a wonderful way to get outside the city or village center and explore the enchanting countryside. Your cruise line will likely offer exclusive, guided tours on two wheels, perhaps pedaling along the Danube between Durnstein and Melk in Austria’s Wachau Valley or winding through the medieval street of Rouen in France’s Normandy region near the Seine. From Cologne’s Old Town and Cathedral along the Rhine, to the wooded hills and shoreline poplar trees of Passau, Germany, the cycling opportunities are endless in these regions of Europe.
If you prefer your active sightseeing on two feet instead of two wheels, opt for a guided hike that gets you a touch of fresh air and leads you to vantage points you wouldn’t have discovered on your own. Trek all the way up to the Veste Oberhaus in Germany for views over Old Passau. Stroll up the Philosopher’s Path for a panoramic view of Heidelberg, along the Neckar River. Take an easy walk from the ship to Strasbourg, France’s charming Old Town. Or, venture to Richard the Lionheart’s former site of captivity, Durnstein Fortress. Go beyond the typical European landmarks and architectural masterpieces - when you hike, or simply meander, out in nature, you’ll be treated to rewarding views off the beaten path.
If you’re river cruising with friends, or have met guests onboard who have similar interests - or, if you’re simply hoping to meet like-minded folks - opt for a special-interest tour. Love to cook? Learn to knot a “bretzel” in Wertheim, Germany. Love a good pub? Try the bratwurst and local brews at the oldest brewery in Nuremberg. Go on a food tour in Antwerp, tasting authentic Belgian waffles and chocolates. Visit a museum or famous landmark after hours when the crowds have dissipated. Zip through the streets of Bordeaux in a vintage sidecar. These carefully curated experiences put an extra-special touch on your vacation.
Enjoying a wonderful glass of wine with some old and new friends.
Who Will I Be With During My Shore Excursions?
For the most part, upscale river-cruising companies will place their guests in small groups. You’ll move onshore with a group of like-minded guests, interested in the same experiences and sightseeing you are. Plus, with a smaller group, you’re better able to maneuver at top landmarks and sights and pop into more intimate settings, perhaps a behind-the-scenes vineyard tour or lunch at a tiny, family-run eatery in a riverside village. This way, too, you can get to know your fellow passengers - travel experiences are even richer when shared. Along the way, you’ll be guided by an expert, English-speaking guide - most likely a local who is knowledgeable about the history and culture of your destination.
Does this all sound enticing? Don’t settle for simply passing through your destination - experience it with all your senses by picking and choosing the excursions that speak both to your personal interests and your particular travel style. I can help you decide which outings those are - let’s chat.
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