You’ve settled on a luxury river cruise in Europe. And with good reason - the innovative itineraries, the award-winning dining, the highly inclusive, no-worries pricing and the world-class service. The opportunity to move smoothly along Europe’s most storied rivers, visiting new cities and riverside villages, and having immersive experiences along the way - it’s priceless, really. Now that you’ve decided to go, the next big question is, “When?” Let’s take a look at the best time to take a Europe river cruise.
Where are you planning to take your Europe river cruise? Is the northern region of the continent calling, with its tulip fields and windmills and cities rich in art and architecture? Perhaps you’re drawn to the ancient villages and sun-splashed landscapes of culturally rich Portugal and Spain. Where you’d like to cruise will determine when you go. Generally speaking, the Europe river-cruising season runs from March through December, but within that span, the most optimal time is late spring (April-May) or early fall (September-October).
Europe river cruises run along the Rhine in central and northern Europe, the Danube between central and eastern Europe, the Douro, the Seine, the Rhone and the Bordeaux region of western Europe. These winding, often interconnected waterways crisscross thousands of miles and while one might expect them to run through a variety of climates, the rivers are actually around the same latitudes. That’s good news for the traveler trying to make a decision about when to travel because the temperature and climate are fairly similar for all of these river regions.
If it’s consistently sunny, warm weather you’re seeking, when blue skies promise long days of pleasant excursions and sightseeing, aim for a Europe cruise between June and August. You’ll be all but guaranteed a long list of outings, including walking, hiking and cycling, thanks to the ideal weather. On the other hand, the sunny days attract the most guests, so you’ll find bigger crowds … and often hot weather can be oppressive if you’re not used to or prepared for it.
If you’d like to avoid the larger crowds and still have nice, but not the hottest, weather, aim for the spring or fall. There are more discounts offered during these periods (shoulder seasons) and often you can find specialized river cruises, like springtime tulip sailings or fall foliage voyages.
Have you considered a wintertime river cruise? If you love the festive holiday season, you’ll want to look twice at the December cruises on the Danube and Rhine rivers. These voyages land you at the traditional European Christmas markets of central Europe that have been going on for centuries. It’s an opportunity to enjoy local traditions and food and get an immersive cultural experience as the continent prepares for the holiday. Who can resist warm mulled wine and roasted chestnuts while shopping for one-of-a-kind, handcrafted gifts from local vendors, all to the tune of live Christmas music?
River cruising takes a pause after December when the backcountry goes into a much colder season. As soon as the snow and ice in the mountains starts to thaw and the rivers flow heavier in early spring, the cruising season starts back up once again.
Have a better idea of where and when you’d like to go on your Europe river cruise? Let’s chat and start planning together.
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