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Rhône River Cruises

Tauck's Rhône River cruises explore one of the greatest wine-growing regions woven with epicurean delights found throughout France as you feast your eyes on landscapes and places that have romanced travelers for centuries.

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Welcome to the Rhône River

Romancing travelers for centuries, the Rhône River is a true feast for the senses.  Filled with magical landscapes, sun-dappled villages bathed in history and many opportunities to savor the exceptional culinary delights along the way... in markets overflowing with local bounties... at a French cooking school... in local patisseries and fabled restaurants. 

Châteauneuf-du-pape wine country, in avignon along the rhône, a professional sommelier guides you through a tasting and pairing of châteauneuf-du-pape wines.

The popes who reigned over the Roman Catholic Church in Avignon during the 14th century enjoyed not only their formidable lodgings in the fortress-like Palais des Papes, but also the fruit of the vine; they are credited with cultivating the local wine industry widely recognized today by the appellation, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Today the life of this region still centers around growing, producing and enjoying wine – as you'll see for yourself when a professional sommelier guides you through a tasting and pairing of fine Rhône Valley wines that go perfectly with the unforgettable midday meal you helped prepare… truly an experience to remember!

Les Halles de Lyon

Tasting your way through a culinary icon in lyon.

Lyon is considered the "culinary capital of France" – quite a compliment in a country famed for its cuisine and fine vintages. You'll discover why during a tasting at the famous Les Halles de Lyon, the celebrated indoor food market that's been a fixture in Lyon since 1850. It offers an unbelievable array of breads, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, sausages, wines, chocolates... the list goes on. Everything is fresh and delicious, and it's said that the best chefs in Lyon shop here… so enjoy!

Truffle hunting in the Rhône Valley

Trained dogs and "black diamonds" – truffles – in grignan along the rhône.

The Italians call them tartufo, but to the French and much of the rest of the world, they're known as truffles. But whatever you call it, this rare, pungent (and highly perishable) fungus that grows under the ground in certain parts of Europe is one of the most expensive foods on Earth, highly prized by chefs and gourmets around the globe. Centuries ago, early truffle-hunters used pigs, with their keen sense of smell, to root these treasures out of the ground… but the piggies usually ate the truffles as soon as they found them! So they began training dogs to sniff them out... like the pooches you'll meet and go truffle-hunting with today at a truffle farm in Grignan… followed by a tasting of products made with this precious ingredient.

Tauck Exclusive – Evening at the Duché d'Uzès

Our exclusive gala evening at the duché d'uzès.

The Duke of Uzès kindly requests your presence at his family castle for dinner. Expect to be wined and dined at a grand château that architecturally chronicles its history, from its foundation on the site of a Roman governor's home in the first millennium to its role as the medieval residence of an exiled 9th-century Duchess, the first woman in the Occident to write a book, to its Renaissance renovation, its languish in the Revolution, its 19th- and 20th-century reincarnation as a school to its meticulous renovation in 1954 by the influential Marchioness of Crussol who reacquired the family home. Her vision comes to life in treasured keepsakes and a resplendent décor that provide a stunning setting for Tauck's exclusive gala evening.

Ranch life in la Camargue

An exclusive provençal experience on a family owned ranch in la camargue.

Drive past marshy fields of grazing bulls and white horses to a privately owned ranch in la Camargue, where the Rhône meets the sea, and experience a different taste of Provençal life for Tauck guests only. It begins with a horseback welcome by the warm-hearted family who lives here, continues with a farm-fresh feast of locally produced fare and a heartfelt guitar serenade, and culminates in a display of skill by Provençal cowboys (known as gardians) that will have your heart racing at every turn.

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Experience the Rhône River with Tauck

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Featured River, Small Ship and Land Journeys

Inspired by the destination.

For 90+ years, the Tauck family has had a passion for sailing — aboard small ships and yachts at sea, riverboats along great inland waterways, and at home on the rivers and lakes of Connecticut and New York. When we began blending our land experience with our strong passion for cruising in our first European river cruise back in 1992, we knew that no "ordinary" river cruise experience would do for our guests. We wanted them to travel Europe's rivers in the same beyond-the-ordinary Tauck style they experienced on our land trips. With that in mind, we searched to find a company to partner with that would share our values and our commitment to "do the right thing" by our guests... and found it in another family-owned company, Scylla. Together, we crafted a river cruise experience that was ahead of its time and inspired by the destinations we explore.

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Guest Favorites on the Rhône River

Flowing from Switzerland through the Rhineland and directly into the Mediterranean Sea, the scenic & winding Rhône River is a delectable feast for the eyes as you pass by sun-dappled villages bathed in history and dressed with French flair. Memories will be made as famous cafes, brasseries and shops of every kind... a family cooking lesson...the most sublime "Chocolat"... and inspiration for the world's most famous artists deep in the heart of Provence are discovered.

Savoring france: paris, lyon & provence, bon voyage france family river cruise, tauck's river cruise guide, rhône river facts.

Learn interesting and fun Rhône River facts – its sites in France and Switzerland, history, art, culture, food & more.

First Timer's Guide

Tauck's European river cruise guide will help you find the right Danube, Rhone, Rhine, Seine or Douro river cruise for you.

Why Take A Tauck River Cruise

Tauck River Cruising means traveling in good company, exclusive access to cultural experiences, distinctively inclusive pricing and more!

Choosing The Best European River Cruise For You

Find the best European river cruise for you with top-reviewed itineraries navigating all the major waterways from Tauck.

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Call us, or call your travel advisor, to book your preferred departure date today – and explore our beautiful brochures to find your inspiration for your next journey.

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Rhône River Cruises

Enjoy the diverse pleasures of life along the Rhône with Viking. Savor Lyon, France’s gastronomic heart; the Beaujolais wine region; quaint Provençal villages; and historic Avignon and Arles. For those who love fine food, beauty and riveting history, Rhône cruises are pure bliss.

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Lyon & Provence

Avignon to lyon, $25 deposit & additional savings of up to $800.

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France’s Finest

Paris to avignon.

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NEW! Lyon, Provence & the Rhineland

Avignon to amsterdam, free international airfare*, $25 deposit & additional savings of up to $800, highlights of rhône river cruises.

The Rhône River winds its way into France from the Rhône Glacier in Valais, Switzerland, meeting the Saône at Lyon. Its waters flow past some of the country’s most significant historic landmarks, some dating back to Roman times. Blanketed with lavender and sunflower fields that display their full color in summer, the Rhône’s Provence region has long been an inspiration to artists. Above all, its vineyards and farms produce France’s famed wines and cuisine. Here are a few sample highlights of a Rhône River cruise:

  • Avignon, “City of Popes,” and its historic palace
  • The massive Roman arena of Arles
  • Espace van Gogh, the Arles hospital that treated the artist
  • Charming riverside village of Viviers
  • The spectacular gorges of the Ardèche plateau
  • Lyon, France’s grand culinary capital
  • Distinctive wineries and cellars of Beaujolais

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Saone & Rhone River Cruises

River cruises along the rhone chalon ~ macon ~ lyon ~ viviers ~ avignon ~ arles.

Aside from discovering one of Europe’s most magnificent waterways, a Rhône river cruise is also a journey through France’s gastronomic heartland taking you from Beaujolais and Burgundy to Provence , through simply idyllic countryside.

We’ve partnered with the expert team of Cruise Connoisseurs at the award-winning firm Panache Cruises, who have a combined experience of over 100 years in the cruise sector and will create the perfect cruise for you.

Speak direct to a Panache Connoisseur by calling  ☎  0161 513 8208   Panache is open seven days a week, ten hours a day between 09:00 and 19:00 UK time. They’ll be delighted to tell you more and find you your perfect river cruise on the Saône and Rhône.

Your river cruising enquiry will be sent to Laurie Reitman who has over 20 years of experience, traveled all over the world, and cruised on more than 15 of the top river and ocean lines.

Speak direct to Laurie by calling 469-269-3763 . She will be delighted to tell you more and find you your perfect river cruise in France. Please tell Laurie that you’re making contact through French Waterways.

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Our expert partners at Panache Cruises will find you the perfect river cruise in France

CONTACT US 0044 161 513 8208

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Our expert partner Laurie Reitman will find you the perfect river cruise in France


A selection of Rhone and Saone & Rhone river cruises

Showing 6 of 733 cruises

Emerald Liberte by Emerald Cruises

Sensations of Lyon & Provence with Paris… ABOARD Emerald Liberte

Avalon Poetry II by Avalon Waterways

Burgundy & Provence (Northbound) ABOARD Avalon Poetry II

Sensations of lyon & provence aboard emerald liberte, burgundy & provence (southbound) aboard avalon poetry ii.

MS Lord Byron by Riviera Travel

Lyon, Provençal Rhône & the Camargue… ABOARD MS Lord Byron

MS Rhone Princess by CroisiEurope

All the must-see sites on the Rhône between… ABOARD MS Rhone Princess

Rhone and saone river cruises itineraries in france.

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Start or End of the Journey on Chalon-sur-Saône

Most itineraries begin or end in Chalon-sur-Saône , on the Rhône’s main tributary the River Saône . For wine lovers this could well be heaven on earth, being at the centre of some of the world’s finest wine producers in Givy, Rully, Mercurey and Montagny. Vineyard tours and tastings are very much on the agenda here, but the charming town of Chalon itself is well worth a visit.

Cruise to Beaune

Beaune is the capital of Burgundy’s wine trade and it is also an extremely pretty town brimming with fascinating history, from the mediaeval ramparts to the gothic Hospices de Beaune. There’s also a market here that foodies just won’t want to leave. Just downstream is Macon , another picturesque town made for wine lovers, gourmets and those who appreciate fine scenery. The countryside here is filled with beautifully kept vineyards and peppered with fairy-tale chateaux.

Provence River Cruise Including Lyon

A day in Lyon is one that will linger in the memory, being filled with elegant buildings and fine restaurants – it’s no wonder it’s known as France’s gastronomic capital. It’s also an ancient city with fascinating historical sights, from the Romans onwards.

As the Rhône flows southwards, you enter what is perhaps the most picturesque stretch of the river featuring some of the finest Roman heritage. In Vienne you’ll find well preserved temples and theatres to explore, while in nearby Tournon , there’s a magnificent 10th century castle. This is also prime Côtes de Rhône country and so a visit to the fabled Hermitage vineyard, set on steep slopes above the river, is incredibly rewarding.

Cruise from Arles

Travelling through the Ardèches gorge, with its spectacular sheer cliffs, is truly a wonder of nature and you might well stop at the charming walled town of Viviers , full of ancient buildings and a 12th century cathedral, the smallest in France.

A little further on is Arles , famed for its astoundingly well preserved Roman amphitheatre, but also for its beauty that inspired some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works, including Sunflowers and The Yellow House.

Cruise to Avignon

The majestic walled city of Avignon is the final destination for many Rhône cruises, a stunning historical treasure, rich in papal history especially. It’s also a beautiful city, so you may well wish to simply wander its streets and marvel at the scenery.

From the vineyards of Burgundy to the fragrant fields of Provence, there’s something to delight wine lovers, history buffs and gourmets of all types on a Rhône river cruise.

Beautiful Saône and Rhône Places

Hotel barge Amaryllis Burgundy

Chalon ©M Chanaud | Beaune ©Michael Evans | Avignon ©Yann de Fareins | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a

Cruise Options on the Saône and Rhône

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Luxury Hotel Barging – Burgundy / Saone

Lie back and let the skipper and crew take care of everything. Great food. Fine wine. Unique.

Hotel Barges

Self-drive hire boating holiday canal barge cruise France Burgundy Dijon Saone

Self-Drive Canal Boating – S Burgundy

Go your own way. Explore the pleasures and treasures of the canals and the River Saone.

Are the Rhône and the Rhine the same river?

No. The Rhone river rises in Switzerland and for the large part is not fully navigable due to hydro-electric dams as it journeys west into France. At Lyon, it is joined by the Saone river, at the ‘confluence’, a recently redeveloped area now providing shops, restaurants and entertainments alongside both rivers. From Lyon, the Rhone heads south, past the major cities of Avignon and Arles to the Camargue region and the Mediterranean sea.

The Rhine river also rises in Switzerland but flows north dividing France from Germany for just a small portion of its length, its major French port being Strasbourg.

Can you swim in the Rhône river?

The Rhone is wide and plies fast-moving commercial traffic of all kinds, and at certain times can flow very fast, with strong currents and eddys. Swimming is not advisable unless you know the environs very well.

What cities are on the Rhône river?

When cruising on the Rhone, make the most of Lyon, renowned for its gastronomy and steeped in history and culture.

Be sure to stop at Avignon to see the Pope’s Palace and the famous Pont Saint Bezenet.

Arles offers the most complete Roman amphitheatre in France as well as being one of Van Gogh’s most inspirational cities for his many paintings.

Viviers is a must-see medieval town on the west bank, with an original roman bridge and the smallest cathedral in France.

What river goes from Lyon to Provence?

Provence has no navigable rivers, in spite of its famed southern coastline. But the Rhone borders the whole of its western flank, providing access to its interior towns, such as Aix-en-Provence. River ships, commercial barges and privately owned boats can head due south on the Rhone to reach the Mediterranean. The smaller vessels can also take the Canal du Rhone a Sete and head westwards for the Canal du Midi and, eventually, Bordeaux.

french-waterways.com is the most comprehensive and authoritative online source of inspiration and information about enjoying the rivers and canals of France – on the water or by the water.

french-waterways.com (founded 2003) is independent and impartial. It is not connected with VNF Voies Navigables de France, the national waterways management authority.

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Inland Waterways Intl – Barge Assocn

The information published here results from more than ten years personal experience cruising the waterways from north to south and east to west.

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  • Food & Wine
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  • Archaeological Site Visits
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  • Small Ship Cruises
  • Urban Exploration
  • Village Visits
  • Wine Tasting
  • Avalon Expression
  • Avalon Poetry II
  • Emerald Liberté
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Colors of Provence - Cruise Only

  • Tour the highlights of Lyon, France
  • Stop at the home of a local vintner
  • Learn about olive farming tradition
  • Take the Artist Experience tour

Colors of Provence

  • Enjoy Lyon's culinary delights
  • Visit the Beaujolais wine region
  • Join a Provencal cooking lesson
  • Admire Antoni Gaudi’s works

Essence of Burgundy & Provence

  • Visit Chillon Castle
  • Cooking class in Valence
  • Explore Tournus
  • Enjoy the “City of Gaudi” Barcelona

Active & Discovery on the Rhone

  • Visit incredible landscapes in Lyon
  • Take a sightseeing tour of Tournon
  • Learn more about Viviers
  • See the Provencal farmhouse

Spectacular South of France

  • Tour St. Rémy & St. Paul de Mausole
  • Enjoy a concert at Palais des Papes
  • Explore Château de Cormatin
  • Explore Lyon

Lyon & Provence

  • Explore Avignon
  • Experience Arles' vibrant city
  • Visit Viviers’ Old Town
  • Discover Beaujolais

Idyllic Rhône

  • Visit the beautiful city of Lyon
  • Explore the region of Beaujolais
  • Uncover the history of Vienne
  • Explore the ancient town of Viviers

The tip of Provence to Lyon on the Rhone and Saone River

  • Discover the Vercors Massif
  • The Camargue and its customs
  • Visit Avignon's Papal Palace
  • Explore Beaujolais

Rhine & Rhône Revealed

  • Enjoy a Guided Tour to Heidelberg
  • Explore the magical Black Forest
  • Tour the city of Lyon
  • Join the tour of city of Avignon

Sensations of Lyon and Provence

  • Discover Chalon-sur-Saône
  • Experience Tournon
  • Uncover the rich history of Arles

Essence of Burgundy & Provence - Cruise Only

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A view from a bridge of a narrow river that is lined with low stony cliffs covered in foliage and, in some places, sandy beaches. A vast green, hilly landscape stretches out beyond the river.

‘You Couldn’t Plan It All if You Tried’: Cruising the Rhone River in High Style

On a first-time luxury river cruise in France, our reporter learns why this all-inclusive trip, despite its expense, was worth it.

A view of the Gardon River, which flows into the Rhone. The S.S. Catherine offers an excursion to the area, which includes the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct. Credit... Ashley Tinker for The New York Times

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Ceylan Yeginsu

By Ceylan Yeginsu

  • Oct. 2, 2023

Marble floors, an emerald-green Murano chandelier, a life-size glass horse set against the backdrop of a cascading waterfall: Boarding the S.S. Catherine was like stepping into a meticulously curated room featured on the cover of Architectural Digest.

It wasn’t until I checked into my stateroom in late August and pulled back the curtains to reveal the lush green banks of the Rhone River that I remembered this wasn’t a lavish boutique hotel in Paris, but a luxury riverboat, and we were about to embark on a Uniworld cruise from Lyon through Burgundy to Provence.

This was my first river cruise, and as I set out for four days of the full seven-night cruise, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On my plush, handcrafted Savoir bed was an invitation to the captain’s gala dinner.

The word “gala” sent me into a slight panic over the dress code. Was this a black-tie event? Were gowns required? Or would a cocktail dress be sufficient? I poked my head outside the door, hoping to gather some clues and was greeted by a guest in her 60s wearing a white power suit with shiny green stiletto heels. “Relax,” she said when I asked her guidance. “A spring chicken like you, you’ll look fabulous in anything.”

I anticipated being one of the younger guests, but when I walked into the ship’s Van Gogh Lounge for the reception and saw all the retirees sipping Champagne, I worried that things might be a little slow. But before I could indulge those concerns, I was approached by two energetic couples, who, as if sensing my skepticism, made a case for why river cruises are the best way to explore Europe.

“We’ve done it all — planes, trains, cars hotels — and it’s a lot of hassle especially now with all the disruptions and travel chaos,” said Geoff Skilleter, a 64-year-old retired teacher from Australia, who was on the second leg of a back-to-back river cruise across France with his wife, Robyn.

A young man in a white shirt, tie and black apron, pours a glass of red wine from behind an ornate bar onboard a ship. In front of the bar are formal, red cushioned chairs, and behind the bar are shelves filled with bottles. Wine glasses hang from a gold rack overhead.

“From the second you step on the boat, you don’t have to worry about a thing,” said Ms. Skilleter, also a retired teacher. “Everything is included and taken care of, all you have to do is relax.”

This summer, Europe saw one of its busiest seasons, with demand to some destinations outpacing 2019 levels. Not unexpectedly, prices surged and sites were overcrowded. By June, many hotels were booked for the summer, and airports grappled with disruptions caused by high traffic and extreme weather events. While some travelers abandoned or delayed their plans, others embraced alternative travel methods, including river cruising, despite its expense.

A seven-night European cruise on Uniworld ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 per person, depending on the stateroom category and itinerary. But over the past year, as inflation and demand has pushed up the cost of land travel, river cruising is emerging as a high-value alternative. The fare on Uniworld includes airport transfers, farm-to-table meals, unlimited premium wine and spirits, onboard entertainment and fitness, Wi-Fi, excursions and gratuities. The line mainly attracts wealthy retirees, but even guests with smaller budgets say the packages are worth it.

“The food is really exquisite, and there is so much variety with different regional dishes and wines every day,” Mr. Skilleter said as he tucked into his seared scallops with foie gras. It was golden hour and we were sitting at a window table in the ship’s Cezanne restaurant, admiring the sun-kissed stone buildings as we slowly cruised past the French countryside. Picking a dish from the abundance of options was tricky, but it was liberating to be unconstrained by the price since everything was included. I opted for the delectable panko-crusted butter fish, which came with a root-vegetable tomato vinaigrette, roasted pepper and beetroot.

“French fine dining at its best,” said Ms. Skilleter, who, with her husband, spent around $30,000 of their retirement savings for the back-to-back 15-day cruise. “You pay once and it’s done and dusted. You don’t have to think about it and can enjoy the experience.”

In wine country

At 7 the next morning, I stepped onto my room’s balcony and beheld the picturesque city of Mâcon in southern Burgundy, where the banks of the Saône are lined with pastel-hued houses, with the two towers of St.-Vincent cathedral and St.-Pierre church piercing the sky above them.

I strolled down to breakfast — a buffet served from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. — and was immediately uplifted by the collective excitement about our upcoming excursion.

The medieval town of Beaune is in the heart of the Burgundy winemaking region. As I boarded the bus, I was surprised to see a group of guests in their late 20s and 30s. “We’re one big family,” said Mark Sullivan, a retired Wall Street hedge fund manager as he introduced his wife, four children and their spouses, and his 86-year-old mother. “There’s 10 of us.”

It was the Sullivan family’s first river cruise and they booked the trip at their travel adviser’s suggestion after struggling to find a villa rental in Southern France. Mr. Sullivan’s children had been skeptical at first, especially after seeing the older crowd, but like me, they were keeping an open mind.

We started the day with a guided tour through the cobbled streets of Beaune and soon found ourselves at the Hospices Civils de Beaune , a former hospital for the poor that today hosts an annual charitable wine auction. Our tickets had been paid for in advance by Uniworld, allowing us to skip the lines and have time to explore the 15th-century building, known for its giant polyptych depicting scenes from the Last Judgment, and then roam around the town.

Then we drove through the vast vineyards up to the Château du Rully for a wine-tasting and lunch. With limited space and a tour by Antonin Rodet, the owner of the château, this part of the excursion cost an additional $160. Mr. Rodet took us through each room of the 12th-century fortress, telling us about his ancestors. It felt as if we were in someone’s home even though the château had the air of a museum.

Take a trekking pole, ‘just in case’

The next morning, after waking up alongside the idyllic town of Tain L’ Hermitage, I decided to take a “let’s go” excursion — a hike through the town’s terraced vineyards. The crew offered me a trekking pole, which I initially declined as I assumed this would be an easy trek designed for the older passengers. But when I saw our group in their hiking gear, armed with their double poles, I opted to take one just in case.

We started off at a steady pace, strolling through villages and admiring the view. But when it was time to climb the steep vineyard of Cave de Tain, I struggled to keep up. The sun was blazing and I stopped several times. Then, leaning on my pole, I continued on. By the time I reached the top, the rest of the group had already started the wine tasting.

I felt even more unfit as we bumped into the Sullivan family on the way down. They had decided to do their own hike, a rigorous climb through steeper terrain with no sticks.

“It was great to have the freedom to do our own thing at our own pace,” said Maggie Sullivan, 28, a digital marketing manager at Coty, a cosmetics company. It was her idea to take the big family trip, but when her father relayed the travel adviser’s cruise suggestion, she was hesitant. “I was a bit worried I would feel stuck,” she said. “But,” she added, “I don’t think I would see all the places we have been to if it wasn’t for something like this.”

That night the ship docked at the tiny walled village of Viviers, and the Sullivan siblings and others were excited to get off the ship, as we had been in transit on the previous evenings.

After dinner several of us, including some crew members, ventured out to a riverside bar where locals were line dancing. We joined in, but struggled to keep up. We laughed at ourselves and others laughed at us and it was the perfect dose of spontaneous fun that wasn’t on the itinerary.

Reaching out to younger travelers

Since the pandemic, Uniworld has attracted younger passengers through promotional all-inclusive rates and mystery cruises, where the itinerary is not revealed until the sailings. There has also been an increase in solo travelers drawn to the line’s wellness and outdoor activities.

Gillian Tegg, 58, a school principal from Sydney, was on her second solo Uniworld cruise in Burgundy. She made good use of the indoor pool and morning yoga classes, while still finding the energy to participate in two hikes, a kayaking trip and other excursions.

“These cruises have it all, you couldn’t plan it all if you tried,” Ms. Tegg said. “When we got to Avignon, it was so hot that when we went kayaking, we all jumped in the water and I think we saw almost all of Avignon there, including children, goats and horses.”

Uniworld is also seeing more young professionals who don’t want to deal with the hassle of travel planning, said Ellen Bettridge, Uniworld’s chief executive, noting that the average weekly cruise is $5,500. “But you have all your food, drink, excursions, transfers and gratuities included. There are very few hotels you could go to for a week and not spend that much.”

Another appeal for younger travelers is the focus on sustainability, Ms. Bettridge said. All of Uniworld’s ships are equipped for shore power and it is used whenever a port offers the facility. (In terms of fuel, the company must follow the rules of the country it is sailing in. In France, for instance, the ships use a biofuel that is mandatory by law.) Cabins, she said, are free of single-use plastic, and the ships have a food-waste reduction system that aims to reduce 50 percent of food waste by 2025.

Bottom line

Looking back on my four days on the Rhone, how would I, a 30-something, first-time river cruiser, sum up the experience? Could there have been more opportunity to, say, sample local food, instead of eating just about every meal on the boat? That was one of my complaints, actually: As much as I loved the food onboard, I would have appreciated a few evening port stops to try some restaurants.

Did I miss the sometimes arduous, but often educational, aspects of travel as I succumbed to all the scheduling and the kind of luxury that might keep one from really getting to know a place? In fact, after seeing all the travel chaos and overcrowded sights in Europe in recent summers, I was grateful for the comforts of our ship and the smooth flow of our itinerary.

One thing I did learn: Never underestimate the energy of someone decades older than you.

That lesson was demonstrated the night the crew organized a 1970s-themed dance party in the lounge after dinner. I was sitting at a table with the Sullivans, and as we watched the older guests filter into the dining room in bright costumes from another era, the younger members of the Sullivan family wondered aloud whether they would be able to dance after a long day of touring, eating and drinking. The ever-attentive crew brought the siblings a round of Jägermeister shots to give them a boost and then, together with their 86-year-old grandmother, they were the first on the dance floor.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2023 .

Ceylan Yeginsu is a travel reporter. She was previously a correspondent for the International desk in Britain and Turkey, covering politics; social justice; the migrant crisis; the Kurdish conflict, and the rise of Islamic State extremism in Syria and the region. More about Ceylan Yeginsu

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Dramatic sunset over river Seine in Paris, France, with Conciergerie and cruise boats.

The 8 Best European River Cruises For Every Type Of Traveler

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F rom Portugal's dazzling Douro to the mighty Danube, a river cruise is a fantastic way of exploring Europe’s magical cities and sensational countryside. Sparkling new Europe-based ships seemingly debut every year, all with innovative features and itineraries that showcase art, history, food and more. The best European river cruises make it easy to enjoy the continent’s marvelous scenery to its fullest, with thoughtful amenities, intimate ship sizes and a slower pace to soak it all in.

Selecting the right river cruise for you depends on the kind of experience you’re after. There’s a European river cruise for every type of traveler, from families and couples to the budget-conscious and luxury seekers. For a true luxury experience, we recommend a sail aboard Uniworld’s S.S. La Venezia , while for active travelers we love the holistic wellness offerings found on AmaWaterways’ AmaMagna . No matter what you’re searching for, these are the best European river cruises to book for 2024 and beyond.

  • Best European River Cruise Overall: Viking Cruises, Viking Egdir

Best High-End European River Cruise: Uniworld, S.S. La Venezia

Best european river cruise for families: a-rosa, a-rosa sena, best european river cruise for couples: scenic, scenic azure, best european river cruise for history lovers: tauck river cruising, ms sapphire, best value european river cruise: emerald cruises, emerald luna, best european river cruise for foodies: riverside luxury cruises, riverside ravel, best european river cruise for active travelers: amawaterways, amamagna, best overall european river cruise: viking cruises, viking egdir.

The stellar 2022-built Viking Egdir, carrying 190 passengers, offers a ringside seat of bucolic vineyards and medieval castles on the Rhine, Main and Danube.

Viking Egdir

Recommended Itinerary: 15-day Grand European Tour, Budapest to Amsterdam (or vice versa)
Departure: March 15 - November 5, 2024, and April 10 - October 23, 2025
All-Star Amenities : Aquavit Terrace for outdoor dining; wine and beer included with lunch and dinner; spacious Sun Deck; golf putting; elegant library; free Wi-Fi; inclusive shore tour option in every port; elegant Scandinavian design

The doyen of Europe's waterways is the adults-only Viking Cruises, a multifaceted cruise line that also boasts a fleet of ocean and expedition vessels. With 55 Nordic-inspired “Longships” sailing mainland Europe—including the Danube, Rhine, Seine, Rhône and Elbe—plus four ships on Portugal's River Douro, Viking has an itinerary for every type of river cruiser. The cruise line’s soothing Scandinavian aesthetic combines a chic design with spacious accommodations that include river views or private verandas, and sails also include drinks during mealtimes, shore excursions and Wi-Fi.

The stellar 2022-built Viking Egdir , carrying 190 passengers, offers a ringside seat of bucolic vineyards and medieval castles on the Rhine, Main and Danube. It also takes passengers to some of Europe's blockbuster cities, including Budapest, Vienna, Cologne and Amsterdam. Passengers can sip on fine wines in the Wachau Valley, wander Regensburg's UNESCO-listed old town and marvel at Vienna's Habsburg-period architecture. Itineraries feature guided trips to revered museums, cathedrals, and palaces—complemented by slow days sailing these scenic waterways.

Passengers can dine on fresh wood-fired pizza at Cielo's and sip Bellinis at Hari's Bar, all while taking in views of Venice's sparkling lagoon.

S.S. La Venezia

Itineraries : 8-day Venice and The Jewels of Veneto, Venice to Venice
Departure: Weekly between March 31 - October 27, 2024, and April 8 - November 3, 2025
All-Star Amenities : Inclusive alcohol, including premium spirits and wines; Asprey toiletries; airport transfers in port; bikes and Nordic walking sticks available for use in port; butler-serviced suites

Murano glass, Savoir beds and marble-clad bathrooms with Asprey toiletries are just some of the sumptuous features that make Uniworld high-end European river cruising at its finest. Each of the cruise line’s 12 vessels is adorned with opulent antiques, crystal chandeliers and dramatic artwork to create the feel of a lavish boutique-hotel-on-water. Passengers can indulge in free-flowing drinks and market-fresh cuisine, while suite guests are assigned white-gloved butlers, each one trained at the prestigious Ivor Spencer Butler School in England to ensure royal standards are met.

One of the few vessels permitted to dock in Italy’s Venetian Lagoon, S.S. La Venezia explores the colorful facades of Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello, charming Chioggia and the Po Delta, with the bonus of four nights moored in the center of Venice. This ship truly embodies the decadence of Renaissance Venice, with a playful interior featuring hand-painted Venetian masks and flamboyant custom-made fabrics by Venice-design house Fortuny. Passengers can dine on fresh wood-fired pizza at Cielo's and sip Bellinis at Hari's Bar, all while taking in views of Venice's sparkling lagoon.

The 280-passenger ship—the largest on the Rhine—has a kids splash pool next to a larger pool, with some sailings offering kids swimming lessons for an extra fee.

A-Rosa Sena

Itineraries : 7-night Rhine Experience Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Cologne to Cologne
Departure: Late March to late October 2024 and 2025
All-Star Amenities : Children up to 15 travel free; family cabins sleeping up to five and kids splash pool (A-ROSA Sena); dedicated kids club with programming for 4 to 15 years olds; spa thermal area; wine tasting room; family excursions

German river cruise line A-Rosa has carved a niche for multigenerational river voyages after pioneering its kids club in 2014. The line's European family program is available on at least one ship on each river the line sails during school breaks. Fun activities include a “meet the captain” event, pizza-making classes and treasure hunts. All ships are stocked with age-appropriate games and books, and family shore excursions to zoos and theme parks feature on itineraries.

A-Rosa Sena , launched in 2022, is a knockout for its array of family facilities. A jaunty kids' club with a climbing wall and secret nooks is positioned next to 12 family cabins, each sleeping up to five, featuring nautical-themed bunk beds. The 280-passenger ship—the largest on the Rhine—has a kids’ splash pool next to a larger pool, with some sailings offering kids swimming lessons for an extra fee. Mealtimes are peachy, too, with dishes such as dressed salmon and pork goulash, plus a children's buffet luring kids to the table. After a long day of exploring, parents and grandparents can relax at the spa or in the lounge.

The intimate 96-passenger Scenic Azure winds through the port-producing Douro Valley, with its terraced vineyards, olive groves and tranquil towns and villages.

Scenic Azure

Itineraries: 11-day Unforgettable Douro, Porto to Porto
Departure: April-November 2024 and 2025
All-Star Amenities : Butler service; Scenic Sun Lounges; complimentary restocked minibar; pillow menus in suites; included premium drinks, Wi-Fi, shore excursions and gratuities; L’Occitane toiletries; Vitality Pool and Scenic E-Bikes available for use in port

While Scenic isn't strictly adults-only, this elegant Australian-owned cruise line doesn't tend to draw many families, making it ideal for couples. There are 12 Scenic all-suite vessels on Europe's waterways, each one featuring nifty innovations such as in-suite windows that slide down at the touch of a button—perfect for languid mornings gazing at picture-perfect scenery. Couples can dress up for glitzy cocktail receptions and choose from romantic dining venues, including Portobellos or L'Amour, for candlelit meals for two. Diamond Deck and Junior Suite guests can also dine at Table d'Or, where a six-course degustation menu is paired with local wines.

With balmy summertime temperatures, Portugal's sublime Douro is an idyllic river cruise destination for couples. The intimate 96-passenger Scenic Azure winds through the port-producing (and UNESCO-listed) Douro Valley, with its terraced vineyards, olive groves and tranquil towns and villages. The itinerary sees Scenic whisk passengers to historic vineyards and cellars in Regua, Vinhateiro and the Côa Valley to sip on local wines and Port. An unmissable outing for couples is a private classical concert at the beguiling Sao Francisco Church in Porto, offered as one of the cruise line’s “Scenic Enrich” experiences.

Sail the storied Seine from Paris to Normandy aboard Tauck’s 98-passenger MS Sapphire.

MS Sapphire

Itineraries : 11-day River Seine: Châteaux, Impressionism and Normandy, Paris to Paris
Departure: July-August 2024
All-Star Amenities : Inclusive drinks, shore exclusive shore excursions, gratuities and airport transfers; Molton Brown toiletries and terry cloth robes in cabins, 400-thread satin bed linen; putting green

Tauck’s all-inclusive European river cruises are a boon for travelers with a thirst for history. The cruise line sails all of Europe’s major rivers, offering thoughtfully crafted shore experiences that dig deep into each destination’s past. Between off-hours tours at world-renowned museums and guided walks through medieval cities, guests are also invited to join enriching lectures aboard the ships.

Sail the Seine from Paris to Normandy aboard Tauck’s intimate 98-passenger MS Sapphire to explore destinations such as Caudebec-en-Caux, Les Andelys, Mont-St-Michel and Étretat. The cruise features a number of thoughtful, exclusive excursions, like dinner at the 16th-century Château du Taillis and a walking tour in Rouen to Joan of Arc Square and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Most poignant, however, is the chance to pause at the D–Day Beaches, with 2024 marking the 80th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy. The guided tour also visits the somber Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial on Omaha Beach.

The line’s newest ship sails Europe’s Rhine, Main, Danube and Moselle rivers, featuring a heated pool that transforms into a cinema, spacious suites and a dedicated wellness area.

Emerald Luna

Itineraries: 8-day Jewels of the Rhine, Amsterdam to Basel (or vice versa)
Departure: May-October 2024 and 2025
All-Star Amenities : Indoor pool that turns into a movie theater at night; 20 e-bikes for use in port; Egyptian cotton sheets; ESPA toiletries in bathrooms; top-deck barbecues; golf-putting green; single occupancy cabins

River cruises are not known as a low-cost vacation option. Some lines, however, offer excellent value—especially when you compare the price to the overall cost of a land-based vacation in Europe. One cruise line that consistently offers great value is Emerald Cruises, a river cruise operator that gets travelers more bang for their buck—without compromising on quality or service. As standard, Emerald’s eight Europe-based “Star-Ships” offer a generous number of inclusions built into the cost of the cruise, with typically lower entry level fares.

Airport transfers to and from the ship, drinks (non-alcoholic, beer and wine) with lunch and dinner, gratuities, Wi-Fi and a plethora of shore excursions are included. There are often excellent deals to be had, too, such as free flight credit when booking early, buy-one-get-one-free offers and reduced-single supplement for solo travelers. Emerald’s ships are unquestionably elegant, including the 180-guest Emerald Luna, which sails Europe’s Rhine, Main, Danube and Moselle rivers. Guests on board can enjoy a heated pool that transforms into a cinema, spacious suites and a dedicated wellness area.

The fleetwide reservation-only Vintage Room is set up for private dining, with an extravagant seven-course wine-pairing menu.

Riverside Ravel

Itineraries: 7-night Experience Rhône, Avignon to Avignon (three-, four- and five-night itineraries also available)
Departure: April 10, April 22, June 14, June 26, 2024
All-Star Amenities : All-suite ship; butler-service; onboard concierges; Vintage Room for private dining and wine tastings; open dining in the main restaurant; rooftop herb gardens

Palate-pleasing gastronomy and epicurean shore excursions make new arrival Riverside Luxury Cruises a standout for foodies. The cruise line, which cruises on several ships that once belonged to luxury cruise line Crystal, offers a sublime culinary program, particularly on the 110-passenger Riverside Ravel , which taps into the Rhône’s extraordinary bounty. All menus onboard reflect the region, with vintage wines, dishes featuring truffle, escargot and foie gras and a gout-inducing selection of premium cheeses.

For true indulgence, book a table at the fleetwide reservation-only Vintage Room, set up for private dining, with an extravagant seven-course wine-pairing menu. The experience is worth the $295 fee, especially for true oenophiles who will get to savor coveted Bordeaux Grand Crus. Other highlights include visiting a truffle farm near Viviers and savoring a selection of wines at Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard. In Lyon, guests can visit foodie heaven at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the city’s outstanding indoor food market filled with a vast array of produce.

AmaWaterways' active excursions take in some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery—enticing passengers on hilly bike rides and waterside hikes.

Itineraries: 7-night Magna on the Danube, Budapest to Vilshofen
Departure: February 11-December 15, 2024, March 9 - December 28, 2025
All-Star Amenities: Full-size pickleball court (AmaMagna); wellness studio with fitness equipment; active shore excursions; included Wi-Fi and excursions in every port; complimentary wellness bar with juices and infused water; daily cocktail hour and bikes for use ashore

AmaWaterways' holistic wellness program encompasses a variety of fitness classes and wellness-themed excursions, making it the leading European river cruise line for active travelers. Each ship has an onboard wellness director who hosts daily fitness classes as well as meditation and yoga. The cruise line’s active excursions are perfect for taking in some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery, with passengers able to cycle among Austria's Wachau Valley vineyards on a Danube cruise or hike the Philosopher's Way for dreamy views of Heidelberg on a Rhine sailing. AmaWaterways was also the first river cruise operator to carry a fleet of complimentary bicycles.

The 196-passenger, Danube-based AmaMagna is a standout among the cruise line’s well-equipped offerings. Limber up for a game of pickleball on the full-size court that was just added in 2023. Passengers can work out solo at the Zen Wellness Studio or join an open-air spin class, while drinking in scenic river views. The ship's ample deck space also offers passengers the chance to unwind in the heated pool and indulge in a nap-inducing massage in one of two treatment rooms.

About Kerry Spencer, Your European River Cruise Guide

I am a freelance journalist who has covered travel for over a decade and the cruise industry for several of those years. I've written about destinations ranging from the South China Sea to the Arctic and Norway. Some of my favorite cruise experiences include sailing the Rhine during fall or a transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary 2 during summer. I adore my home city, London, the west coast of Ireland and New York, where I once spent a summer living in Brooklyn Heights on a work abroad program. Outside of travel, my passions are my veggie patch, my record collection and spending time with friends and family.

Kerry Spencer

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Is the Rhein river drying up?


No, the Rhein river is not currently drying up. However, water levels on the Rhein have been closely monitored due to previous instances of low water levels affecting shipping and navigation.

What rivers in Germany are drying up?

The Rhein river, among others, has experienced low water levels in the past. However, at this time, there is no indication that the Rhein river is drying up.

Are river cruises canceled in Europe 2023?

While there may be travel restrictions and requirements due to COVID-19, river cruises are generally operating in Europe as countries gradually ease restrictions. It is important to stay updated on the specific travel guidelines for each country.

Are Rhine River cruises affected by low water levels?

Low water levels on the Rhine River can impact the navigation of ships, making it impossible for them to sail. However, it is more common for the Rhine River to experience low water levels during the hottest and driest time of the year.

Are water levels rising on the Rhine?

As of the provided information, water levels on the Rhine are currently not mentioned to be rising. However, it is important to note that water levels can fluctuate, and it is advisable to stay updated on the latest information.

Drought disrupts cargo traffic on Germany’s Rhine River | DW News

There is no specific information provided about a drought disrupting cargo traffic on Germany’s Rhine River.

Are river cruises canceled in Europe?

River cruises in Europe have gradually resumed operations as countries ease COVID-19 restrictions. However, it is important to stay informed about travel restrictions and requirements, as they may vary between countries.

Is the Rhine navigable for cruise ships?

The Rhine River is generally navigable for cruise ships, particularly from Basel, Switzerland, where most Rhine River cruises begin. However, water levels can affect the navigation of cruise ships, especially during periods of low water levels.

Are river boats cruising on the Rhine?

River boats are expected to be cruising on the Rhine River, as it is one of the popular routes for river cruises in Europe. However, it is advised to check with specific cruise operators for the latest updates and schedules.

Is it safe to take a Rhine River cruise?

River cruising, including the Rhine River, has a strong safety record. It is considered a safe mode of travel, and river ships adhere to high safety standards. However, it is advisable to follow any safety guidelines and instructions provided by the cruise operator.

What is the most picturesque river cruise in Europe?

Europe offers several picturesque river cruises, including the Seine River in France, the Rhône River, river cruises in Portugal, waterways in the Netherlands, and cruises including Germany. Each cruise offers its unique scenic beauty and cultural experiences.

Are river cruises running in Germany?

River cruises in Germany are currently running, although it is important to stay updated on any travel restrictions or requirements that may be in place due to COVID-19 or other factors.

Which European rivers are drying up?

There is no specific mention of European rivers drying up in the provided information. However, it is known that various rivers, including the Danube, Rhine, Loire, and Po rivers, have experienced low water levels in the past.

What is the problem with the Rhine river?

The Rhine river faces challenges such as environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, urbanization, and climate adaptation. However, specific problems may vary depending on the context and region.

Is the Rhône drying up?

There is no specific mention of the Rhône river drying up in the provided information. However, it is known that various rivers in Europe, including the Rhine and the Danube, have experienced low water levels in the past.

How deep is the Rhine river in Germany?

The Rhine river in Germany has a width of approximately 150 meters and a depth of 20-25 meters. However, specific measurements may vary at different points along the river.

Is Viking still sailing the Rhine?

Based on the provided information, there is no specific mention of Viking cruises on the Rhine river. It is advisable to check with Viking or the specific cruise operator for the latest information on their sailing schedules.

What is the best month to cruise the Rhine river?

For favorable weather and fewer crowds, the summer months of May and June are often considered the best time to cruise the Rhine river. However, it is important to check the specific weather conditions and tourist seasons for the desired cruising period.

Why is the Rhine river closed?

There is no indication of the Rhine river being closed in the provided information. However, the Rhine river, like any other waterway, can experience closures or restrictions due to various factors such as maintenance, extreme weather conditions, or other navigational issues.

Which side of the ship is best on a Rhine River cruise?

There is no specific mention of a “better” side of the ship for a Rhine River cruise in the provided information. Both sides of the ship offer scenic views and attractions along the river. It is recommended to choose a cabin based on personal preferences and considerations.

Which side of a cruise ship is better?

There is no definitive answer to which side of a cruise ship is better, as it depends on personal preferences and factors such as the itinerary, views, and specific destinations. Both port-side and starboard-side cabins offer different perspectives and views, so it is up to individual preferences.

Which side of river cruise is best?

There is no specific “best” side of a river cruise ship mentioned in the provided information. As rivers and waterways are narrow, both sides of the ship typically offer scenic views and attractions. It is recommended to choose a cabin based on personal preferences and considerations.

Which river cruise has the most castles?

The Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its high concentration of castles. This region along the Rhine river stretches for approximately 40 miles and is home to around 40 castles and fortresses, offering a rich cultural experience for river cruise travelers.

Is NCL canceling European cruises?

There is no specific mention of

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Travel + Leisure

This Is the Smartest Way to Vacation in 2024 — and It's Not What You Think

Get ready for the year of the river cruise.

Take the Slow Boat

The smartest way to vacation next year might just be on a languorous river cruise.  By Janice Wald Henderson

Even if you’ve never contemplated going on a river cruise before, 2024 could be your year. With long-haul airfares at elevated levels and travel disruptions a constant threat, savvy travelers are booking long trips that navigate multiple rivers and maximize the transatlantic journey.

“It’s been a huge trend in 2023 and will only expand in 2024,” says Samuel Spencer, a travel advisor and the owner of Ocean & River Cruises, an agency in Calgary, Alberta. Spencer notes that four different river-cruise lines— Avalon Waterways , AmaWaterways , Scenic , and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises —now offer multi-week trips through France. While some of these longer itineraries pre-date the pandemic, several lines tell T+L that they have recently surged in popularity among Americans.

It’s a seismic shift for travelers, who’ve begrudgingly become accustomed to playing Where’s-My-Luggage, navigating crowded museums, and paying enormous premiums for high-quality hotels—particularly in Western Europe. Touring by river ship, which often feels more akin to staying in a luxury hotel than cruising on a ocean liner, can address most of these challenges—all while delivering tremendous value, usually at an all-inclusive, up-front price. 

And while river cruising is commonly associated with waterways on the Continent, operators are running similar trips in destinations around the globe. “Uniworld has a hugely successful cruise that spans multiple continents over 55 days,” Spencer notes. The epic trip touches down in Peru for a sail on the Amazon before continuing on the Rhine, Main, and Danube through Central Europe, stopping along the Rhône in France, and wrapping up with a journey on the Mekong for sightseeing in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Because river ships book up well in advance — and are considerably smaller than their oceangoing counterparts — now’s the time to think ahead to next spring and summer. Consider these noteworthy 2024 river trips for...

...France Completists

Uniworld’s Ultimate France voyage spans 22 days, beginning in Bordeaux and ending in Arles, with visits to Burgundy, Normandy, and Provence in between. The itinerary, which is operated in three segments on a trio of vessels, includes a wide array of outings, such as a tour of the vineyards surrounding Château Royal de Cazeneuve, a 13th-century fortress in Bordeaux where you can sip Sauternes with descendants of the family that built it.

...Food Lovers

Avalon Waterways puts a particular focus on cuisine in its 20-day Grand France journey. The trip starts with two nights in Nice before heading north along the Rhône and Saône rivers on the Avalon Poetry II toward Dijon, a culinary powerhouse. Guests then continue via TGV to Paris, where they’ll board the Avalon Tapestry II for a slow cruise on the Seine, with stops at cideries and creameries in Normandy, before returning to Paris and, after a quick trip on the Eurostar, three nights in London.

...Offbeat Destinations

Scenic has several longer trips through Central Europe, including a 15-day sail on the Danube from Budapest to Bucharest, Romania. The line’s river ships, the largest of which accommodates 163 passengers, are known for their white-gloved butlers, who handle guests’ needs both on board and on shore, organizing things such as theater tickets and spa visits. These trips stop at places Americans tend not to visit, such as Serbia’s Fruška Gora National Park; the architecturally significant city of Ruse, Bulgaria, which is often compared to Vienna; and Sighişoara, Romania, said to be the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and, since 1999, a unesco World Heritage site.

...History Geeks

AmaWaterways bundles the Moselle, Rhine, and Main on its Europe’s Rivers & Castles trip, which is bookended by stays in Paris and Prague. The 14-day journey, aboard either the AmaCerto or AmaPrima, both of which accommodate 162, takes travelers past cliffside castles, terraced vineyards, and small towns such as Bamberg, Germany, which is known for its half-timbered houses and a market square that dates back to medieval times.

A version of this article appeared in the November 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Take the Slow Boat."

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure .

Courtesy of AmaWaterways The Scenic Opal sails past the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest.


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