European river cruises are more popular than ever. These relaxing cruise vacations take guests into the heart of countries to visit charming villages, historic sites and beautiful cities. These enriching luxury vacations are a wonderful way to experience Europeís countries and cultures in an authentic, personalized way.
If youíre planning a European river cruise vacation, here are ten important tips for your next trip:
1. Research Your Ports of Call. Europeís enchanting towns and captivating major cities are the highlights of a river cruise vacation. Spend some time researching your ports of call before going on your river cruise, particularly if you have special areas of interest such as art or music. If you've picked the right cruise line, your ship's staff can also provide a lot of assistance. Viking River Cruisesí Longships are staffed with knowledgeable Hotel Managers, Program Directors, Concierges, Receptionists and other staff who can help you plan memorable experiences and personalize your time in every port of call. Their knowledge of local areas is exceptional, so make sure to talk with them when you board your ship.
2. Arrive Early and Stay Longer. Getting to your river cruise's embarkation port can often involve one or more flight connections. Delays and flight cancellations can occur, causing guests and/or luggage to occasionally miss the ship. Arrive at your embarkation port at least a day or two early to allow for potential delays and jet lag. Itís also important to remember that all of the many attractions in key departure cities like Budapest and Amsterdam are tough to pack into one day. Plan to arrive early to take in the sights. While you may be tempted to arrive early and leave immediately on the last day of your cruise, think again. Every passenger we spoke with on our Viking Danube River cruise who was heading straight home wished they could change their plans and explore for an additional day or two. Cruise lines like Viking River Cruises make it easy to extend your vacation with their comprehensive pre- and post-cruise packages and included transfers.
3. Get Ready To Walk. Shore excursions in Europe can involve a lot of walking, so make sure to bring comfortable shoes. If youíre planning to buy new shoes for your trip, do so several months in advance and break them in for a relaxed fit. Walking is generally the best way to see many of Europeís historic cities and towns. On our recent Viking Danube River cruise, we walked 15,000 to 19,000 steps almost every day. If considerable amounts of walking isnít easy for you, check with your cruise line to see what types of excursions are available. Viking River Cruises offers a variety of options on their shore excursions, allowing guests with less mobility to explore in a more relaxed manner.
4. Pack Light. Thereís no need to bring huge suitcases filled with clothes on your river cruise vacation. Dress is generally quite casual. Laundry services are usually offered river cruise ships, so itís easy to have laundry done mid-week if necessary. Service was exceptional on our Viking Gullveig cruise and the attentive staff was always happy to help with any needs. Temperatures can vary substantially throughout your river cruise, so itís best to plan to dress in layers. It's also wise to be prepared for rain. Bring along a waterproof rain jacket and a small folding umbrella, as well as a waterproof bag for your camera and electronic gear. Umbrellas were provided for guests on the Viking Gullveig, but they werenít needed on our Danube River cruise. Although rain and cool weather had been predicted before we left for our voyage, the weather was superb throughout the entire trip.
5. Make It Special. If youíre celebrating a birthday, anniversary or another occasion on your river cruise, get in touch in advance or upon embarkation to let the staff know. Our Viking Gullveig staff went out of their way to cater to guestsí special occasions, providing customized cakes and unique celebrations to match their personal preferences. The shipís Hotel Manager, Program Director and Concierge constantly mingled with guests to learn more about their interests and help suggest personalized activities to make their river cruise experience even more memorable. "Creating emotional engagement for our guests is what it's all about," says JŁrgen Purgstaller, Viking Gullveig's Hotel Manager.
6. Learn A Few Phrases. Research the countries youíll be visiting prior to your cruise and learn some key terms and expressions in the local language before you go. English was quite commonly spoken in every port we visited along the Danube, but that may not be the case on every river cruise itinerary. For vacationers with a cell phone, translation apps such as Google Translate can be helpful. Viking River Cruises sent guests an email with Hungarian phrases several weeks before our Danube River cruise and it added to the excitement. A German language class and handouts with some common language expressions were provided on the Viking Gullveig as well.
7. Do It Your Way. While shore excursions are included on many river cruises, itís easy to explore independently since ships are tied up close to town. Simply opt out of the group tour, break off early on your own, or chart your own course. If we wanted to customize our experience and go off on our own on our Viking Gullveig cruise, our knowledgeable Hotel Manager, Concierge and other staff were more than happy to make personalized suggestions. It's often best to come onboard with an outline of what you'd like to do. If youíre on a group tour and would like to spend a bit more time exploring on your own, talk with your guide to let them know and work out logistical arrangements. Our Viking guides were fantastic and provided excellent suggestions for touring independently whenever we wished.
8. Be Flexible. On our Viking Gullveig Danube River cruise, our entire itinerary went exactly according to schedule and the weather was outstanding. Itís important to remember that sometimes there are aspects of river cruising that cruise lines donít control, however. These can include river lock schedules, weather, and changing river conditions. Adopt a flexible attitude and go with the flow. Viking River Cruises has received multiple awards from leading travel media and they also have a large European river cruise fleet. Viking's fleet size makes it easier for them to accommodate changing river levels and other situations if required.
9. Know Whatís Included. River cruises are much more inclusive than most of their ocean-going counterparts, which makes them an excellent value. River cruise pricing generally includes the stateroom, one or more shore excursions and all meals. Viking River Cruises goes further and includes scheduled airport transfers, a daily multi-hour shore excursion with knowledgeable guides, wine at lunch and dinner, free ship-wide Internet and Wi-Fi access and more. This highly inclusive approach makes their river cruise experience relaxing and hassle-free. For those who are interested in sampling a wide variety of local wines and spirits, a comprehensive beverage package is available.
10. Have Your Camera Ready. River cruising is one of the most magical ways to see the heart of Europe. Most river cruise itineraries offer some incredibly scenic vistas, such as cruising past Budapestís illuminated Parliament Building at night or sailing through the Austriaís Wachau Valley. When you board your ship, talk with your Program Director or Hotel Manager to find out where the most scenic areas are likely to be on your cruise and note the dates/times or your cruise itinerary. This will help you to be in place with your camera ready at the right time. On our Viking Danube River cruise, our Program Director provided insights and commentary as we sailed through the most scenic areas. The staff was also very helpful to avid photographers, providing insights on the best places to take photos on many tours as well.
If You Go:
For more information about Viking River Cruises, visit www.vikingrivercruises.com.