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While the climate varies in different parts of Europe, the best time for a European river cruise is definitely the summer months between June and August. At this time of year, the popular river routes such as the Seine, Rhone, Rhine, Danube and Douro are at their most pleasant, and the climate is ideal for outdoor activities such as walking, biking and hiking. It is possible to enjoy a European river cruise until quite late in the year, but after December, a number of river cruises, particularly those in northern or eastern Europe close for the winter, until the strong winds and icy weather recedes in March and April.
The summer is the most expensive and popular time for European river cruises. December is also an expensive month as tourists flock to Europe to cruise the Danube and Rhine rivers to enjoy a traditional European Christmas, complete with iconic Christmas markets in Germany or Austria. Cheaper prices can be found during the spring and fall, and some tours are only available at this time of year, and in a mild year, many European countries look particularly beautiful in the fall.
Europe is blessed with a wide variety of rich cultures and a millennia-long history of civilization which makes it both an educational and rewarding tourist destination. A number of major ports have developed over the centuries along the waterways of Europe, and these now serve as stopping points for European river cruises. The Rhine includes major ports at Breisach am Rhine, Strasbourg, Cologne and Amsterdam, while tourists cruising the Danube may stop at Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, Krems, Linz or Passau.
For cruises along the Danube, Bratislava in Slovakia is an increasingly popular stopping point, particularly for families, as children can enjoy a range of activities including a scavenger hunt, and a trip to Devin Castle where they can try medieval games and dancing.
Wine cruises are increasingly popular with US tourists and offer the chance to sail through wine country in the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, or along the Rhine, stopping at vineyards en route, with the opportunity to indulge in a little wine tasting while learning about the fascinating wine-making cultures and traditions of Europe.
And if you’re taking a cruise through the Netherlands during the spring, a stop at Keukenhof to see the tulip displays is a must. The greenhouses and surrounding fields are a mass of color as this world-famous tulip-growing region comes into bloom.
With a number of rivers to cruise in Europe, it is possible to find a great variety of European river cruises. Amacerto offer a series of Danube cruises, eastbound and westbound for couples of all ages, and Avalon Waterways provide numerous romantic Rhine cruises, both north and south, while Viking River Cruises can offer a nine-night tulips and windmills cruise that takes in all the major cities in the Netherlands at a time when the tulips are in bloom.