The Top-Rated River Cruises You Should Take This Fall

Euro River Cruises

Remember your dreams? The exciting ones where you were free to explore faraway horizons? The adventurous ones that involved cruising through Paris, Venice, Portugal, Budapest, and other European cities?  Well, believe it or not, those dreams are about to come true. 

After two years of awaiting “the new normal”, cruise lines began taking more confident steps toward re-entry into the European river-cruise sector this past June/July.

Now, with lower temperatures of the Fall season making September through November an ideal time to travel, Emerald Cruises, Viking Cruises, Avalon Waterways, and others have bookings available for 3- to 15-day sailings at a range of price points. Accommodations can be arranged for singles, couples, or families. 

CAUTION: For a 2021 river cruise, you need to choose your cruise and book your reservations almost immediately. So to help with that decision-making, here are some river cruises you’re sure to enjoy.


loire river cruise

For over five centuries, people have gravitated to the Loire River’s 625-mile valley – the longest in France. Today, in addition to hundreds of wineries, vineyards, and orchards, glorious riverside gardens bloom well into Fall and create memories that will last long after your cruise is done. The pièce de résistance for history and photography buffs, though, is surely the unique European character and architecture of towns like Saumur and Nantes and over 40 chateaux along the length of the river. Did you know that in the 16th century, Catherine de’ Medici, queen consort to Henry 11 of France, lived in the Chateau de Chenonçeau?   

Douro – Portugal’s 170-mile River of Gold – Viking

portugal river cruise

Even when you choose a 10-11 day cruise, it’s still hard to visit every attraction on your must-see list but Viking’s 10-day cruise on the Douro comes close.  In guided tours around the Roman-inspired cobblestone streets of Lisbon and Porto you can explore churches and monuments in Salamanca and Coimbra, two of the region’s oldest university towns. Museums abound covering artifacts from the Iron Age onward that include mosaics, sculptures ancient coinage, and other fascinating archeological items. Then, as you enjoy traditional cuisine and a glass or two of the area’s famous port wine against a backdrop of the Serra do Marao Mountains, the soulful notes of Fado singing and guitars provide a restful end to your busy day.

The Rhine and the Seine – Avalon Waterways

the rhine river cruise

Avalon’s October 23, 2021 Romantic Rhine Northbound river-cruise covers an amazing 1,240 miles from Basel, Switzerland to the Black Forest at Breisach am Rhein in Germany, onward through the Rhine Gorge to Cologne and Amsterdam. Throughout that amazing cruise, you can view the scenery from the wide windows of award-winning suites, and have many opportunities to appreciate ancient history and art and luxuriate in fine dining at several stops along the way. Viking has also launched its new Viking Longships® on three 8-day trips along the Seine. Or, to see “everything Français” you can combine all trips into one 15-day “tour de force” along the Seine.

The Blue Danube Discovery – AmaWaterways


Every day of this 7-day, 1,800-mile cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg, through Dϋrnstein, Melk and Passau (city of three rivers) includes enough alternatives along the route to satisfy any traveler’s preferred activities. From walking tours to biking; wine tasting to a tour of “Imperial Vienna”, and from castle hikes to sweets tasting, or just plain scenic cruising, the options are yours. And if you miss the Oktoberfest fun in the Fall cruises, guess you’ll just have to book one of AMA’s Christmas Markets on the Danube cruises.  

In closing, if any would-be river-cruiser needed another reason to go pamper themselves in Europe it might be this: Many of the cities discovered while fact-checking this story have been recognized for their contributions to a peaceful world by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

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