Revised October 29, 2010
There are a number of international cruise companies sailing the waterways of Europe. For the big companies, the major destinations are the Norwegian Fjords and the Mediterranean ports. Smaller companies running small boats take people down the famous rivers of Europe: the Rhine,the Rhone, the Seine and the Danube. Cruises in northern Europe will be cool, even in midsummer while summer cruises on the Mediterranean and the rivers that flow into the sea are much warmer. Bargains can be found if you choose to sail the waters of eastern Europe, but keep in mind that the level of luxury and service may not be as high. For a good place to start your search, cruise with Orbitz!
Large canals connect the major rivers France, Germany and Austria making it possible to travel by river from the Rhone to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to the Black Sea and down many other popular rivers. We met some British travelers in Budapest who had boarded a ship in Amsterdam that traveled up the Rhine and down the Danube to Budapest where they ended their cruise and returned to Amsterdam by air. They described the entire experience as delightful, and echoed their ship captain's opinion that Budapest was, with their late evening arrival, the most spectacular city they had seen on the journey. You can also take shore day excursions from one city to another and return. A very popular route is from Vienna to Budapest with a stop in Slovakia.
Lakes to Cruise
Ocean and Sea Cruises
Rent a Boat
For the confident boat operator, choosing to sail on your own from one European port to the next will create memories to last a lifetime. It is important to remember that the Mediterranean and neighboring seas are huge bodies of water subject to dramatic changes in weather. Unless you hug the coastline, you need strong navigation skills to get safely to your next destination. For the less adventurous, there are many rivers and lakes surrounded by classic beauty that would be a thrill to navigate. Before you put a deposit on a rental, carefully analyze your skills and then make a choice. And if you are feeling like a landlubber but know you can drive a motorhome, maybe a barge trip would be the right holiday for you.
Kayaking and Canoeing
The rivers of Europe offer opportunities for kayaking, canoeing and rafting. Most are short trips, but if you are prepared and adventurous, there are great whitewater rafting experiences in the Alps. Among our favorite days in Europe were the days we paddled down the Dordogne past the castles of the 100 Years War and the day we drifted along the Vlatva River past the Romberg's Castle in Czesky Krumlov.
Good Kayaking or Canoeing (Beginner to Intermediate Level)
- Dordogne River in the area of Sarlat, France where historic castles dot the cliffs you pass
- Altmuhl River in the area of Eichstatt, Germany north of Munich, with convenient camping and lots of nearby breweries
- Lahn River through the Lahn Valley past beautiful medieval towns
Sleep in A Hotel
The clever entrepreneurs of Eastern Europe have found a charming use for old cruise ships. Docked in convenient locations on the Danube, they have converted ships that are no longer profitable as sailing ships into comfortable lodging. Budapest has a few of these "boat-tels."
Orbitz: Free Shore Excursions on Select Cruises!
Cruising the Danube in Budapest
Cruise ship docked in the Venetian Lagoon
Small Boat ferrying passengers through the lagoon in Venice