Best River Cruises for First Timers

My first river cruise was a short voyage on the Danube River. I loved every minute and was immediately hooked. I love being able to travel through the heart of a country and enjoy the changing landscape, historic landmarks and picturesque towns and villages. Keeping the same room while exploring different places is a big advantage. The proximity of the shore allows for stunning views, there is always something new to look at.

River cruises offer a unique perspective and leisurely pace. For first-time river cruisers, choosing the right itinerary can be overwhelming and I often get asked about the best river cruises. Here are some of the top choices:

Danube River Cruise

The Danube River, Europe’s second-longest river, flows through ten countries Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. There are a diverse range of itineraries available. For first timers, a classic Danube cruise between Budapest, in Hungary, and Vienna, in Austria, is a great introduction. This river cruise is like a series of back to back city breaks with three incredible capital cities to explore: Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. You can even add a fourth if you sail further south on the Lower Danube to Belgrade. Read more about my experiences in my Danube River Cruise blogs.

Rhine River Cruise

Another of the best river cruises for first timers is a Rhine itinerary. Cruising along the Rhine River is a journey through time and history. The Rhine flows through six European countries: Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. The journey takes you through the Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its romantic beauty and fairytale landscapes. You will pass medieval castles, charming villages, and rolling vineyard-covered hills. Look out for my blog in August 2023, as this is my next adventure.

Douro River Cruise

My favourite river cruise itinerary so far. I love the leisurely day time sailing and chance to sit on deck and watch the beautiful scenery unfold.

Embark on a beautiful voyage through Portugal’s Douro Valley, a UNESCO-listed region renowned for its terraced vineyards and charming villages. Douro River cruises offer wine-tasting opportunities and a chance to explore the heritage and traditions of this picturesque region. Read more about my experiences in my Douro Destination Spotlight.

Mekong River Cruise

For an exotic and culturally enriching experience, the Mekong River in Southeast Asia is a top choice. A Mekong cruise offers a unique opportunity to explore the cultural wonders of Cambodia and Vietnam. Immerse yourself in bustling markets, ancient temples, and the vibrant local life along this iconic waterway. This river cruise is often combined with land-based extensions to make the most of the opportunity to explore this unique area. Read more in Katrina’s blog about her AmaWaterways Mekong river cruise.

Nile River Cruise

A classic cruise and fantastic way to explore this fascinating country. Travel back in time with a Nile River cruise, discovering the treasures of ancient Egypt. This fascinating journey will take you to iconic landmarks such as the Temples of Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings. A Nile cruise is a perfect blend of history, culture, and relaxation. 

Tips for First-Time River Cruisers:

  • Consider the length of the cruise. A typical first river cruise is seven nights. You can add extra nights on land at the start or finish.
  • Look at the excursions that are available; some river cruise lines offer active alternatives such as hiking, cycling, and kayaking. Others offer unique experiences such as private concerts.
  • Look for river cruises that cater to your interests, such as art, wine, or history. Some cruise lines invite celebrities to host a themed river cruise.
  • Be open to getting to know your fellow travellers. River cruises are friendly and it’s a great opportunity to share experiences.
  • Have a look at my blog about the things you should know before you book.
  • Chat to me about your ideas, I am always happy to offer my experience and advice.

Embarking on a river cruise for the first time is a fantastic adventure, and choosing the right itinerary is crucial for a memorable experience. Whether you prefer the cultural wonders of Europe or the exotic landscapes of Southeast Asia, these river cruises will provide you with unforgettable memories and a new appreciation for the beauty of the world’s most enchanting waterways.