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A season for every river cruise

What Is River Cruising Like in the Different Seasons?

Want to try a European river cruise, but not sure how to determine when and where you can go? Just like travel in general, river cruising is impacted by the different seasons, but the impacts may not be obvious to the average traveler—and there are likely more options than you might think. We’re here to break down some of the finer points about booking a river cruise in the season that works best for your interests, preferences, and schedule.

Destinations with the longest cruise seasons:

Europe’s Big Three: Upper Danube, Rhine, and Main

Vineyards rise up behind a quaint village on the Rhine
The Rhine gorge - a highlight of a Rhine river cruise

Far and away the most popular river cruises travel along one or more of the “big three” rivers in Europe. Itineraries vary in length (4 days, to 4 weeks!) and run throughout the entire river cruise season, which spans March through the end of December. You can even book trips that explore more than one of these rivers. Offering a fair amount of flexibility (unless your only window for travel is January and February), you’re sure to find something that suits you. But be aware that some of the offerings, like Christmas market cruises, book well in advance.

Lower Danube

The imposing rock sculpture of Decebalus overlooks the Danube
The Danube flows past the rock sculpture of Decebalus

With a season only slightly shorter than that of the “big three” (March through October/November), cruises along the Lower, or eastern, Danube are another excellent option. You won’t find the Christmas market cruises here, but what you will find is rugged landscapes, historic architecture, vibrant cultures, and exquisite dining options. Often overlooked, the eastern European region holds many treasures for the discerning traveler.


A river cruise ship with the Eiffel Tower in the background
A river cruise can take you into the heart of Paris

With a dizzying array of options, river cruising in France is definitely worth serious consideration. Whether your interests lie in exploring the cosmopolitan splendor of Paris, historic beaches and battlegrounds, or immersing yourself in vineyards and wineries, you’ll find cruise itineraries as diverse as your interests. Here again, the general cruise season is March through December, but some lines end their runs as early as October. So it pays to have a trusted travel advisor to help you choose the best cruise line and itinerary.

Portugal: The Douro

River cruise passengers enjoy wine while listening to local musicians
Enjoy culture and plenty of wine on the Douro

Also running between March and December, river cruises along Portugal’s majestic Douro River are an excellent option, especially if you are a fan of port wine. And a river cruise is a superb way to explore Portugal in the summer, as the soaring temperatures are nicely tempered by the cool breezes off the water.

Destinations with the shortest cruise seasons:

Russia: The Volga

Structures with onion domes in Kizhi, Russia
Distinctive architecture awaits you in Russia

For obvious reasons, winter is not an ideal time for exploring Russia by water. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still have options. While some lines only run between May and July, there are some with a much more extensive season, with departures starting in May and running all the way through to October.

The Netherlands

Tulips in the foreground, Amsterdam canal houses in the background
Tulips are a Holland icon for a reason! Photo courtesy of annabiasoli via Pixabay

If you’re looking to vacation in March or April, then you’ll want to give serious consideration to the tulip time cruises in the Netherlands. With the shortest season of all, these itineraries are specially designed to target the prime—and brief—tulip growing season. The sailings also tend to be a bit shorter in length than other river cruises: perfect if you’ve only got a short window of travel. But be aware that these cruises are extremely popular and usually book up six months in advance or earlier, so book now!

As you can see, you needn’t let the season be an impediment to booking a river cruise. There’s plenty to choose from! Contact Let’s Go That Way today to begin exploring your options. Even if your vacation window is limited to January and February, there’s a perfect river cruise vacation for you. Let us help you find it!

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