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River Cruises

As there seems to be extreme drought everywhere, does anyone have experience with river cruising? I am wondering if cruises are being cancelled, due to low water. I was thinking of possible a cruise in Portugal on the Duoro, but am also interested in Europe. No specific timeframe, but generally I don't like to book a year in advance. Thanks for any guidance.

Posted by
6147 posts

Have not been on a river cruise, but see enough reports to know that this is not a new problem. The Danube particularly has had a number of the problems over the years, with parts of the cruise being by bus to take passengers around stretches of low water. The Rhine has had fewer issues, but I do see they are starting to limit cargo loads on some stretches due to low water.

Water levels are highly dependent on the river, then parts of that river, but it is safe to say that this year, nearly every river has been affected to some degree.

There may be cruise websites that have "on the ground" reports of this year to help you gage where problems are.

Posted by
13982 posts

I'm no expert, bit I am in Budapest right now and the boats are going nowhere. If I wanted to cruise I would book after the Spring thaw.

Posted by
198 posts

I recently returned home from a Rhine river cruise. We did not find out until August 21, that we would be able to continue sailing after Strasbourg. We were expecting to do a ship swap, so we were thrilled to sail through the scenic area with all of the castles.

Posted by
7022 posts

We have a number of friends and relatives that take River Cruises, and they just love them.

But we find the prices to be rather high on the more popular River Cruise lines. For the money spent, we could take 2-3 trips to Europe.

And we've seen many of the larger towns on their itineraries anyway.

Posted by
5825 posts

We have done four river cruises (I have don't one more, a Nile cruise), and loved them.

The most beautiful river valley was the Douro in northern Portugal, which was a fantastic cruise.

We also did one on the Rhone/Saone in SE France that was great.

Other other two were in Russia between Moscow and St. Pete and a four day one on the Yangzee in China.

The Russian one was super.
Here are my reviews of those trips
 Portugal, the Douro River and a bit of Spain
Russia, Kiev and Baltics
AMA Rhone River

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for the very thoughtful replies and reviews!

Posted by
3755 posts

River cruising is expanding rapidly, but nothing can be done about seasonal water levels. Reports at the end of August suggested that commercial freighters were running at 1/4 capacity on some routes.
If spring restores the levels, look for lower prices before summer. Like the ocean ships, booking six months ahead or even a year is common and offers more choice of cabin, although that is a lesser concern than on the high seas. Perhaps an agent could point to trips that offer cancellation rights.

Posted by
153 posts

I think the question is “ what’s important to you about your trip?” Is it convenience? Less strenuous? What do you want to accomplish?

I went on a river boat cruise a few years ago. It was not our way to fly. Your stuck on the river. Excursions involved bus time with little time to spend in excursion destination. I was on Rhine which is very industrial for the most part. The boat, amenities, crew was excellent- it was thin on experience in my opinion. We were, frankly,not appropriate for this cruise.

Many love river boat cruises and obviously they are popular. I would consult a travel agent that can point you in the right direction of cruise lines, itineraries to help you find a good match. River boat cruises are all different and cater to different tastes and objectives.

Posted by
20 posts

About 5 years ago, we took a river cruise primarily on the Rhone River which was scheduled to go from Avignon to Beaune. The river was too low and we ended up busing from Lyon to Beaune for the last, day returning to the ship at night. Low water apparently became a frequent problem and the cruise is now from Avignon to Lyon. We were in our mid-60s and found that a river cruise was not active enough for us. There were morning tours, back to the bus for lunch and optional afternoon tours. Depending on the city, the ship may dock away from town and it was not possible to easily explore on one's own. We found river cruises to be almost the opposite of Rick Steve's tours in that there is rarely free time to do your own thing while in town. We had a balcony suite, but in busy port cities, we docked alongside another ship and our view was into someone else's suite. The other thing is that the ship cruised at night, so there was rarely an opportunity to enjoy the countryside. We won't take another river cruise unless mobility issues dictate it.

Posted by
16 posts

Our experience of river cruising was much different to IrishEyes. We docked centrally and had time on our own to explore each town/city. That’s what we liked about it. Often there was a local guide to give an introductory tour on foot, and then you could wander and do what you liked until due back at the boat - varied from a few hours in small towns to whole days in bigger cities. We went from Budapest to Amsterdam over 2 weeks. I expect it’s best to look closely at itineraries. We looked at some Douro cruises but decided it wouldn’t suit us as they didn’t seem to stop in places where you could walk off the boat into town - mostly they took you off on a bus tour, which didn’t appeal to us, but might well to others. Our trip felt very unrushed. If you like being up early, on the go all day every day, visiting many different big name sites, it might not be for you.
Yes, water levels are a big issue, I didn’t realise this prior to booking our trip but we were lucky. And as advised, cruise critic is a good source of info about this.