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Is a River Cruise the Best Way to Travel Around Europe for the First Time?

So, you’re traveling to Europe for the first time? How exciting! Europe is a wonderland of historic sights, fairy tale castles, vibrant European cities, charming villages, colorful culture, peaceful countryside, delicious food and interesting people. It’s no wonder this diverse continent sees more than 700 million international tourists every year.

With so much to see and do planning a trip to Europe can be pretty overwhelming and it brings up many questions: Where should you go? What should you pack? How much will it cost? What’s the best way to travel around Europe for the first time? All great questions, but in this article, we’re going to address that last one by telling you why a river cruise may be your ideal way to see Europe.

7 Reasons a River Cruise is the Best Way to Travel Around Europe for the First Time

view from the deck of a river cruise as the is sun setting
View from a riverboat suite balcony

You’ll See More of Europe

Some will argue that you see less by cruising Europe because you spend limited time in each destination. While it’s true you may spend less time in individual places, in reality, you’ll see so much more of this diverse continent because the ships usually dock at a new port every day.

As an example, you can take one of the 8-day river cruises with Avalon Waterways and visit 4 different countries! Could you do that by land or air? Technically, yes but you’d be exhausted and would actually see less of each destination because of all the travel involved.

On a river cruise, you can go to sleep in a beautiful city like Vienna, after a full day of sightseeing, and wake up in Budapest fresh and ready for another adventure. This is especially valuable for the first time traveler to Europe because you can get a taste of a variety of countries, like Croatia and Portugal, and know which ones you’d like to return to.

view across the river of the city of Porto, Portugal: Best way to travel around Europe

Assurance of Luxury and Comfort

Many river cruise lines in Europe provide both luxury and comfort without being stuffy or pretentious. Your private cabin will have comfy beds and an en suite bathroom for relaxing and rejuvenating and will usually come with a mini-fridge, small seating area and television (not that you’ll be watching it much).

The ship will have elegant dining rooms and welcoming bars, lounging areas both inside and up on deck and a concierge to answer all your questions. Of course, you can also book a luxury hotel and have all this but Europe has a different rating system and many of the buildings are historic which sometimes leaves first-time visitors to Europe disappointed in the not so modern amenities.

Silhouettes of people on the deck of a European river boat taking photos of Budapest Parliament at night
Passengers of a riverboat taking in the view of Budapest Parliament at night

Less Stress

Let’s face it, traveling can be stressful and in Europe that stress can be added to by the fact that there are so many different languages, cultures and customs. The language barrier isn’t as big of a challenge anymore with translator apps but if you’re used to English speaking countries it can certainly be a bit of a strain.

The distance between countries may be relatively short but as a first-time visitor to Europe, you may be surprised at how different the cultures and customs are. Being unsure of what to expect and how to behave in a new country can be really stressful and touring Europe by river cruise can alleviate most, if not all, of that.

Your informed and friendly crew will tell you everything you need to know before arriving at your next destination and if you take an excursion they’ll be there with you every step of the way to make you experience as stress-free as possible.

People relaxing on the deck of a Europe river cruise boat
Riverboat passengers enjoying the view from the deck

You’ll Have the Best Views

Trains are a popular form of travel in Europe partly because of the views you get. However, many European trains speed along at a fast clip so the view can be long gone before you can whip out the camera or get a good look.

Cruising through Europe on a riverboat, on the other hand, is a much slower experience…in a good way. Imagine sitting up on deck or in the dining room and watching the scenery change from castles to cities to vineyards and mountains, from blue skies to stars all while you’re sitting with a camera in one hand and a cocktail in the other.

Trust us, if it’s your first time to Europe you will literally be blown away by the views and will go home with hundreds of photos.

Light blue church tower surrounded by red roofed buildings and a castle on a hill in the background

No Wasted Time at Airports and Train Stations

Sure it’s faster to travel by plane or train, once you get moving, but that sort of travel also requires a whole lot of wasted time. If you’re flying you’ll need to allow time to get to the airport (usually far outside downtown), time to check-in, then time to sit and wait to board your flight.

There’s also the chance of a delay. Traveling by train is usually less cumbersome than flying but you still need to get to the station and either check your bags or haul them around until you can board with them. Again if this is your first time in Europe this can all be quite overwhelming

Pedestrian street in Vienna
Pedestrian street in Vienna

You’ll Save Money

You may feel that a European river cruise is too expensive but unless you’re planning to travel as a budget backpacker you’ll very likely save money over traditional travel. Remember that a river cruise is your accommodation, transportation, meals, and even some activities all wrapped up in a beautiful, stress-free, fun and delicious package.

Once you calculate the costs of trains, planes and automobiles plus hotels, restaurants and tours you’ll see that a cruise is often the more cost-effective way to go. Sure, you could miss a meal, take a bus, skip some sights and visit fewer destinations to save a few Euros but do you really want to skimp that much on your first trip to Europe?

Arched bridge reflection on water

Very Little Planning Required

If you’re someone who absolutely loves the planning part of a vacation this may not apply to you. However, I’d guess that most people would prefer not to have to do all that work, especially if you’ve never been to Europe and have no clue where to begin.

Once you’ve chosen your cruise the rest of the planning is done for you. The cruise line will provide an in-depth itinerary, listing all the amazing ports you’ll be stopping at, top sights to see, best tours to take, most delicious food and drink to try and all the tips and need-to-knows about the destination.

Back onboard you’ll be treated to a varied menu of gourmet meals and entertained by the talented crew and staff so you’ve no need to worry about where to go for dinner after a full day of exploring.

So, what do you think, is a river cruise the best way to travel around Europe?

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