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Travel | International
River Cruise Planning 101: Unleash the Wonders of Europe and Asia


There was a time when people called cruise ships “floating hotels” and now some cruise ships have been converted into real floating hotels.

But if a cruise ship is a floating hotel, then what would you call a river cruise ship? How about affordable luxury, because that’s what river cruising has become.

Cruising is great because it is all-inclusive with room, food and entertainment included in the price. But river cruising takes it to the next level by including gratuities, ship-wide internet, all drinks (yes, that means alcohol, even the good stuff) and excursions in their price.

And even “the basics” of cruising are not basic on river cruising. All rooms have a window as there are no inside cabins on river cruises so natural light abounds.

A view of karst mountains and the Li River, Yangshuo County of Guilin, ChinaView of karst mountains and the Li River (Lijiang River), Yangshuo County of Guilin, China. Photo by efired/

That also means you can watch the world go by from your cabin since the ship can get much closer to land than an ocean-going vessel. You could upgrade to a French balcony cabin and you could get fresh air in your cabin or splurge and go with the suite, which offers more room and a French balcony.

The food is a significant step-up as the crew does not have to cook for thousands, just more than a hundred or so. Therefore, more time and attention is spent on quality and details. And while there is not a buffet onboard, you will find that the cruise lines use local ingredients and the menu might be relevant to the port or itinerary.

And those itineraries can include the famous rivers of Europe, such as the Rhine and Danube or Asia’s mystique-laden waterways, including the Irrawaddy and Yangtze.

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Charles Bridge in Prague in CzechiaCharles Bridge in Prague in Czechia; Photo by DaLiu/

Several cruise lines, including Viking River Cruises, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and AmaWaterways offer unique European itineraries with superb five-star amenities aboard intimate, luxurious riverboats. These itineraries simplify travel through Europe, yet guests sail through the middle of the most exciting cities, connecting with these destinations on a personal journey of discovery through Europe.

In France, cruise the Seine from Paris through the heart of Normandy, the Marne from Paris to Épernay, or the Garonne from Bordeaux to the country’s rich wine regions. Through Spain, the Garonne flows into Bordeaux’s Gironde estuary.

Winding through quaint French towns, including Pauillac, the river makes its way into Bordeaux’s wine region, along the Médoc wine route, passing beautiful wineries and vineyards. Rhone cruises take visitors through the heart of Provence and Burgundy and into the splendor of southern France.

Enjoy a leisurely sailing through the Schelde and Lys rivers, as well as the canals of Holland and Belgium.

Travel from Amsterdam to Antwerp, admiring the unique beauty of remote country regions with windmills, tulip fields in full bloom and magnificent medieval cities.

One of Amsterdam’s most extraordinary features is the city’s intricate canal system. Sailing through the canals is a favorite activity for visitors to the town, as it affords a unique perspective.

In Central and Eastern Europe, make the journey along the Elbe from Hamburg to Prague, through Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic, which boasts well-preserved castles and palaces. During a sailing along the Danube from Passau, which borders Austria and the Czech Republic, experience a city that dates back more than 2,500 years.

Yangtze RiverQutang gorge is reputedly the most beautiful gorge in all of China; Photo by jejim/

The cultures and landscapes of Asia vary greatly; therefore, cruising through the area is an excellent way to experience this enigmatic region. Travelers can enjoy all the comforts of home while exploring an array of communities, from exciting metropolises to mysterious villages. Visit pagodas, floating marketplaces and seemingly untouched beaches.

Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River – its largest – affords access to some of the country’s most fascinating regions, such as the villages of Kyun Daw, Tigyang, Kya Hnyat and Kyauk Myaung. As visitors sail the Irrawaddy, they will spend a bit of time in these smaller villages, often arriving in the famous city of Mandalay. This city is home to the royal palace, a site that most resembles a town whose walls create distinctive borders within Mandalay. The Swendandaw Monastery’s tale is one of resiliency, as its survival during World War II bombings made it the one significant portion from the original royal palace. The monastery is located at Mandalay Hill, which is home to monasteries, pagodas and temples.

Sailing along the longest river in Asia and third farthest-reaching river in the world reveals soaring cliffs, majestic mountains and an unmatched river cruise experience. Pouring into the East China Sea, the Yangtze River is an essential global route used for trade and tourism. The Yangtze’s Three Gorges has evolved to become a popular attraction for tourist cruising.

Stretching 75 miles, the Three Gorges region comprises Qutang Gorge, Wu Gorge and Xiling Gorge. While each gorge offers distinctive characteristics, Qutang’s beauty sets apart this particular area from the rest.

Experienced travelers agree that a river cruise is one of the most enjoyable and hassle-free ways to explore the world’s most popular sites.