When it comes to cruises, ocean liners usually get all the attention. But cruises aren’t limited to just the Caribbean, or even to the summer months. Viking River Cruises offers all kinds of scenic cruises through Europe—year-round, through rivers (and now oceans)—for travelers who want to enjoy the journey and a few destinations along the way.
I have been lucky enough to have taken quite a few Viking European river cruises—from the Rhine in Switzerland to the Rhône in France to the Danube in Budapest (one of the favorites was the Christmas Market river cruise along the Rhine!).
And I am a fan.
If you are trying to decide whether to river cruise or not, I’ve put together a list of reasons why you should choose to take a European Viking River Cruise.
Top Reasons to Take a Viking European River Cruise
1. There are Fewer Passengers
No matter how nice your cruise ship is, you’re probably not going to enjoy it nearly as much if it’s cramped and crowded with long waits at the buffet or no available lounge chairs. The Viking River Cruises boat was smaller with fewer people; around 200, it felt much more comfortable and made getting to know my fellow passengers over dinner all the more enjoyable.
2. Some Excursions are Included
On many of the larger ocean liners, they entice you by advertising really low cruise fares, but then nickel and dime you with excursions. That can add up quickly! On Viking River Cruises there are included excursions, almost one at every single European port. Most are designed to give you a nice overview of the city you are in. Of course, there will be other paid options at the ports too. On my last cruise, the Romantic Danube, one of my favorite excursions was the e-bike ride through the vineyards of Austria.
3. You’ll Have Open Seating at Dinner
You might not expect this to be a plus, but for me, it definitely was. Open seating meant that I got to meet and get to know more people. Each night you can select a different group to sit with or you can dine with the same people every evening. It’s totally up to you. Either way, it was fun to compare notes about the excursions with my new friends at the end of the day.
4. Your Room Comes With Free Movies
Alright, so maybe movie-watching doesn’t top your list of exciting European cruise activities. Still, it was great to come back to my room at the end of a long day and settle in for the night with a free flick.
5. It’s Conde Nast’s Readers Favorite River Cruise Line
Yup—Condé Nast readers ranked Viking River Cruises as the #1 river cruise line out there. Enough said, right?
6. It’s a Smooth Ride
Motion sickness could easily ruin a cruise vacation, so I was relieved to find that all four river cruises I have been on were smooth from start to finish. No Dramamine needed!
7. It’s Casual
Yay to no gala nights! Dinners on the cruise are casual, so you won’t have to worry about packing a formal outfit or getting all dressed up at the end of a long day. Just change into something comfortable (business casual usually), take a seat, and grab a drink.
8. The Views are Incredible
When our cruises set off, I was really looking forward to things like visiting the Christmas markets and seeing some new cities. What I didn’t expect was for the views in-between the ports to be so scenic. There was plenty of downtime on the ship, so I regularly enjoyed watching the scenery pass by from the top deck as we made our way to the next stop.
9. You’ll Only Have to Pack (and Unpack) Once
How else can you see 8 towns in 8 days and only have to unpack your bag once? Having what amounted to a portable hotel room took a ton of stress out of this process. Plus, there was plenty of drawers and closet space for two.
10. You Can Experience Sailing Through a Lock
Sailing through the locks on the Rhine, Rhone and Danube was an unexpectedly cool part of the trip, and something you can’t experience on an ocean cruise. Locks are basically water management systems that help boats navigate a river by raising and lowering the water level. They’re a feat of engineering and sailing through them never really got old.
11. You Can Explore Multiple Countries in One Trip
During our Christmas Markets along the Rhine, we passed through 4 countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. And the Romantic Danube was 3 countries: Hungary, Austria and Germany. I don’t know of any other way to see that many countries in so few days while still having time to enjoy the experience.
12. Meals Come with Complimentary Wine
I have told you (about 100 times before) that red wine is one of my true loves. So, it is an extra perk when it is on the house during meal times. It may just be for the house red or white, but it has always been good and there are plenty of options to upgrade.
13. The Rooms are Comfortable
Viking River Cruises set my room up to be a comfy retreat from the get-go, with welcome champagne waiting for me when I boarded and a plate of fresh fruit delivered daily. Between the fruit, the daily sweet treats left in the room, and the view from the veranda, it was a perfect spot to start and end the day in.
14. Anytime Cappuccinos. It’s true!
As if the complimentary wine, beer, fruit, and sweets weren’t enough, each cruise was complete with an automatic cappuccino machine that you can access at your leisure. I loved being able to walk over to the lounge and grab a cappuccino (for free!) anytime.
15. The Food is Really Good
Each mealtime, you can choose between having a full meal in the dining room or snacking on something lighter in the lounge. Most mornings, I opted for the latter and had a simple croissant and cup of coffee for breakfast. I did take full advantage of the cruise’s lunch and (especially) dinner options, though. The chefs on Viking River Cruises have always put together a creative menu to accommodate all kinds of diners, picky eaters and vegetarians included! It was especially fun when they had themed dinners related to the country we were in.
16. The Ports Aren’t Tourist Traps
The cruise itself was lovely, but if you’re in it for the destinations as well as the journey, this point is a huge plus. Unlike a lot of other cruises, you won’t be stopping at ports full of overpriced tchotchkes and Americanized restaurants. We made stops to see European historic downtowns, cathedrals and churches, castles and palaces, and even a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And in many cases they were all within walking distance from the ships port.
Even this list doesn’t sum up everything I loved about all my sailings with Viking River Cruises, whether it was on the Rhine, Rhone or Danube. We saw and experienced so much more than I expected—both onboard and on the shore—from a beer tasting in Cologne to seeing the Carrières de Lumières Art Show in the South of France to visiting the UNESCO Kinderdijk Windmills in Netherlands.
If you’re looking to book an easy getaway, taking a European Viking River Cruise is a great option!
Take a Christmas Market Cruise Along the Rhine River
Bucket List Itinerary: 12 Hours in Lyon, France
See the Carrières de Lumières Art Show in the South of France
23 South of France Photos to Inspire Your Bucket List
Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Learn the Art of Making French Macarons in Paris
Get Spooked at the Catacombs in Paris
I was a guest of Viking River Cruises, all opinions my own.