What Is The Best River Cruise Itinerary?

As a river cruise specialist, people ask me all the time which is the best itinerary. This of course is an impossible question to answer because it depends on so many factors.  Here’s some to consider:

Viking Bestla

Viking Bestla


Do you have a specific time period you can travel? For example, if you are limited to going in August, you will not be able to go on a Tulips themed cruise itinerary.    And while the Rhone is a great itinerary in general, it’s won’t work if you only get away in December.    July is generally good weather in Europe but also brings crowds.  Fall is one of the most popular times for river cruises but the prices peak about then as well.  We’ve been to Paris in April and sometimes it’s cold and rain and other times quite pleasant.  So when you go will help determine the best itinerary for you.

Something completely different? A more exotic itinerary?

Are you interested in something more exotic?  If so, a European cruise may not be your best choice. Instead, consider going to Burma or Vietnam and Cambodia.  There’s itineraries in Africa – which have become very popular.  Some lines go to India while others are in Russia.  So if you want to do something completely different, an itinerary on the Rhine or Danube is probably not for you but there’s lots of choices.

Wine themed river cruises - one way to choose an itinerary

Wine themed river cruises

Wine / Food

Are you a wine lover? There are specific wine themed itineraries and those are very appropriate for certain people. But if you don’t like wine, certain itineraries should be avoided.  For example, the Bordeaux itinerary is fantastic. But even the itineraries that are not wine themed still have a lot of wine involved since that’s what this region is all about.  And while the Rhine River certainly does have wine themed cruises, there’s plenty of non wine things to do that makes this a great itinerary for everyone.   Really into French food?  – then you’ll probably want the Rhone River itinerary that goes starts or ends in Lyon.


There’s so many different things that each itinerary has to offer.  Here’s some:

  • Castles
  • Roman artifact
  • World War II
  • Safaris
  • Impressionist art
  • Middle aged villages
  • Architecture
  • Cathedrals and/or religious themed itineraries
  • Wine or Port
  • Contemporary art
  • Cultures
  • Food

These are just some of the more popular interests that attract people to cruising.  Tell us what you’re looking for and we can match you up with a great itinerary

Been there done that

Where have you been and what did you enjoy about it? If you’ve been to Paris three times, but never been to Budapest, you might want to consider a Danube itinerary.  If you’ve already spent time in France, you might want to eliminate the Seine or Rhone River itinerary.  The Lower Danube through Bucharest is something that many travelers have not done before and is popular with those that have “been there, done that”

How to pick a river cruise itinerary?  When can you go?

When to go?

The Gift of Time

How much time do you have? Most itineraries are 7 days.  But many go longer and are only available if you have say 13 days to take on vacation.  Plus a lot of times you want to spend time in the departure city.  For example, if you take a 7 day Rhine cruise leaving from Amsterdam, many people take an additional 2  – 3 days to focus on the city.  Do you have enough time?

A City of Interest

Do you want to start / end in one particular city? Some people really want to visit Prague (for example) and if so, an itinerary that includes Prague would make most sense.  Or you may have a friend or relative that’s in Paris and so you want to fly into and out of Paris.  Then a Seine itinerary would make the most sense.

Cost and Airfare

Cost is always a factor when choosing river cruise itineraries.   That’s true not only for the cruise portion but for airfare as well.    For example, the lowest costs river cruises are the Christmas markets in December.   But you may have want to use airline points and can only get certain dates or cities.  Flexibility is a must for this option.

So what’s the best itinerary – it depends.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with Don Russell who writes under the name of Joe Sixpack. Don is a beer expert and has lead us on several beer themed trips. Don gets the question of “what’s your favorite beer” quite often, having tasted just about every beer ever made. He has a great answer: “My next one”. And so if you must have an answer to what’s the best itinerary – for me it’s the next one.

But for you, the best itinerary is one that meets your timing, duration, location and cost needs.  And of course the decision as to the best itinerary is one made with the help of an travel agent that specializes in river cruises.  Feel free to contact me for advice  – it’s what I do.

Susan Wolfson
My goal is to Make Your Next Vacation Your Best Vacation!®