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Europe river cruise sunset in Budapest
River cruising in Europe

River Cruises Top Travel Experiences

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River Cruises

River cruising is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing and most popular modes of leisure travel. The ships are much smaller and more intimate than larger ocean-going ships and onshore excursions are usually included in the price. Then there's the continuous sights all along the riverfront, not just in port stops. Stride can help you navigate smoothly to the right river cruise for you.

Top River Cruises Experiences

Wine tasting along the Rhine River

Cruising down the Nile River through the sites of ancient Egypt

Exploring Normandy’s WWII history on the Seine River

Experiencing Vietnam’s culture on the Mekong River

Taking an Amazon River cruise, encountering old ruins and unbelievable wildlife

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Things to do in River Cruises - Expert’s guide

1. Danube River

Danube River cruise through Europe

The godfather of European rivers - the legendary Danube River is truly a marvelous way to travel via river cruise. Flowing through 10 countries, there are several routes and itineraries you can choose from - though it is one of the best river cruise destinations for when you have at least two weeks. The countryside changes constantly and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about several different cultures and histories. For first time travelers to Europe, or first time river cruisers, the Danube is highly recommended.

2. Wildlife Viewing

River otters on Columbia River Cruise

River cruises offer the opportunity to observe wildlife along the banks and in the water, from a unique vantage point. River life, such as pink dolphins in the Amazon, the elusive Irrawaddy River dolphin, and river otters along the Columbia River in the United States are always a joy to spot. In Europe, you may glimpse forest dwellers like deer. If you have a chance to go on a nature hike in Europe keep your eyes peeled for foxes, red squirrels, and some unique birds to add to your life list.

3. Art and History lectures

Take yourself back to school (but without the stress of homework!) aboard a river cruise when you attend on board lectures. These are often available during sailing to the next port, helping you prepare for the next port, as well as providing unique and in depth context to the surrounding lands gliding by. Most common on European river cruises, lectures are a fun perk to enjoy - led by local experts, historians, and scholars.

4. The Adventurous Amazon

Amazon river cruise adventure

Unlike European river cruises, where the focus is on luxury, fine dining, and quaint villages, when you travel on the Amazon, the river cruise experiences is about adventure, wildlife, and nature.

Both on the water and in the rainforest you’ll encounter incredible species, and learn about the Amazon’s unique biodiversity from local guides and wildlife experts.

On some Amazon river cruises you may also have the opportunity to meet local tribes and learn about their way of life - much unchanged over hundreds of years.

5. Wine Tasting on a European River Cruise

Europe wine tasting river cruise

River cruises in Europe are known to serve excellent food and wine aboard. There are many wonderful wine regions throughout Europe, and some cruises offer on board tastings or excursions to wineries.

Wine activities should be available year round - with harvest time occuring in the late summer to late fall - a very exciting time to visit! Consider the Rhone or the Douro rivers for close proximity to vineyards. The Danube will also travel through some lesser known wine regions. For wine enthusiasts, this is an opportunity that should not be missed!

6. Sample Port Along the Douro River

Douro River Winetasting

As mentioned, the Douro River is a great choice for wine lovers, especially if you’re interested in port tasting! The Douro travels through the Porto region of Portugal, and given it’s namesake, there’s hardly a better place in the world to sample port wine.

7. The Ancient Nile

Nile River Cruise

For history lovers, nothing could beat a trip down the ancient Nile River. Pass by centuries old structures, archaeological sites, temples, and the picturesque dunes of the Valley of the Kings - conjuring up mysterious stories and tales of ancient Egypt.

Nile River cruises are not typically luxurious, but they are comfortable, and will make several stops along the way where you can disembark to explore the sites. They will usually offer optional guided tours for an additional fee. This is well worth doing, as they are often led by Egyptologists eager to share some special insights into Egypts fascinating past!

8. Three Gorges, Yangtze River

Sailing the Yangtze river on a cruise

Cruising the Yangtze River through China, one of the top highlights you’ll encounter is the Three Gorges. This stunning stretch of the Yangtze River looks as though it has jumped off the pages of an ancient Chinese landscape drawings. You will sail through 120 miles of picturesque scenery, and get an in depth look at the complexities of Three Gorges dam - some cruises offer a tour of this impressive site.

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Safety Info

COVID-19 Travel Safety

Travel wisely

COVID-19 is still affecting travel around the world but more countries continue to reopen and adjust travel restrictions and requirements. We recommend reviewing the full list of Covid-19 travel resources - all updated regularly given the fast-changing environment.

And check out everything you need to know about how vaccines are affecting travel, including which countries are open to fully vaccinated travelers.

Ready to travel? 

Take a look at our interactive travel restrictions map or see the countries reopening for tourism list to find your next destination.

Consider booking a Custom or Private Trip for the peace of mind that comes from working directly with a travel expert. They can plan ahead for safety and assist you during the trip if any complications develop, plus give you more freedom and flexibility with your itinerary.

River Cruises Tours Reviews & Ratings

Write a review
95% Recommend
4.7 Excellent
Excellent
260
Great
34
Average
3
Disappointing
3
Terrible
10
Value
4.7
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.7
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.7
Write a review
Kaeleigh
·
2022-03-20
5.0
More authentic experience than I would have booked on my own....
I had always been hesitant to try a group tour, because they seemed so stuffy and restricting. I like to do things off the beaten trail when I travel, and I try as best I can to experience whatever I can that is specific to the local culture, which always seemed less likely to happen with a strict itinerary of tourist spots. The Egypt tour I booked through Culture Trip was so far from that, and in fact was way more of an authentic experience than anything I would’ve managed to book on my own, especially had I been traveling alone in Egypt. I didn’t have to stress out about any logistics, or spend a lot of time haggling over prices, or waste any time on the trip wondering about what I should do next, and all of that paired with the fact that I had a wonderful local insider traveling alongside me the entire way made it so that all I had to do was lay back and enjoy the trip.
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Sergey
·
2020-03-14
5.0
Splendors of Egypt by SmarTours
Very interesting tour
This is a very interesting tour. It turned out to be much more interesting than I expected at advance. To a large extent, this was facilitated by the Program Director Mrs. Soha Sabbour. I will recommend this tour to my friends.
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Donna
·
2020-03-14
5.0
Splendors of Egypt by SmarTours
Loved the tour
Loved the tour, the guides, the hotels, the cruise ship & the food!! Great trip!! Can't wait to choose my next Smartours destination! Thanks again Luke!!
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Marsha
·
2020-03-14
5.0
Splendors of Egypt by SmarTours
another great experience with smarTours
"The Splendors of Egypt" was our eleventh SmarTorus trip. As usual, it was an incredible experience. We can't say enough about our tour guide, Soha. Besides being an outstanding organizer and trouble-shooter, her local background and education as an Egyptologist gave us a welcome extra understanding of the culture(s) and history of Egypt. Her experienced local assistants helped make everything run as smoothly as possible. The riverboat for our Nile cruise was far more comfortable that we had expected, with a spacious cabin and attentive crew. Granted, there are a couple of early wake-ups during this trip, but they were actually welcomed by our experienced group of travelers (just a few good-natured groans) as they allowed us to get a jump on our filled days, and a jump on other tour groups. All in all, another great experience with smarTours. Can't wait for another "smart" adventure. Marsha & Joel
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Patricia
·
2020-03-14
5.0
Splendors of Egypt by SmarTours
amazing to see
Our Egyptologist guide, Dina, was a marvel. She enthused the entire trip with her knowledge and love of country. The trip exceeded my expectations, with the exception of the airline controlled timing of the excursion to Abu Simbel. Our time there was frenetic and unfortunately brief. That information was not included in pre-trip sales details. The Movenpick boat was fabulous, and the treasures of antiquity amazing to see.
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Jo
·
2020-03-14
5.0
Splendors of Egypt by SmarTours
great experience
Our trip to Egypt with Smart Tours was great. We traveled with a terrific group of well traveled people ranging in age from the 20s to the 80s! I'd be happy to see any one of them at any future trip. The accommodations were all very good and we were well taken care of by attentive but not overbearing staff. Our guide Tarek was really great. He was passionate about the beauty of the incredible ancient sites of Egypt. There is a concern about safety in Egypt and between the tour company and the tourism department in Egypt we felt safe at all times, with a security agent with us in addition to the guide and also the government provides police escort for the bus. In addition, my husband developed a respiratory bug about 2 weeks before our trip and was sure he was on the mend before our trip, but about a week into it took a turn for the worse. We were so grateful to Smart Tours for the attention they gave him. He was taken to a clinic and was accompanied throughout the appointment with a doctor who took an X-ray, blood test and administered antibiotics and then monitored for the next 2 days with a nurse coming to check on him even. We really appreciated the attentive health care. My only criticism of the way the tour is set up is the tipping situation. I like tipping those people like the guide who was with us the entire trip and driver who was our main driver. I felt that it got a little confusing when we had a different driver for just a day or had the security agent on the bus. I would like those incidental tips to be added to the cost of the trip up front so there wasn't the constant small tipping we did on those days. Overall, I would be confident to reccomend Smart Tours and to travel again with them myself and I want to thank you for this great experience!
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Travel wisely

COVID-19 is still affecting travel around the world but more countries continue to reopen and adjust travel restrictions and requirements. We recommend reviewing the full list of Covid-19 travel resources - all updated regularly given the fast-changing environment.

And check out everything you need to know about how vaccines are affecting travel, including which countries are open to fully vaccinated travelers.

Ready to travel? 

Take a look at our interactive travel restrictions map or see the countries reopening for tourism list to find your next destination.

Consider booking a Custom or Private Trip for the peace of mind that comes from working directly with a travel expert. They can plan ahead for safety and assist you during the trip if any complications develop, plus give you more freedom and flexibility with your itinerary.

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