Wine aficionados, gardeners, beer lovers, history buffs and multi-gen families are driving increased demand for special-interest Europe river cruises. Here’s what you need to know.
Like ocean cruising, river cruising – particularly in Europe – is once again booming. Companies such as Avalon Waterways are reporting record bookings in 2023 and 2024 and departures are filling fast, so now’s the time to jump on board to find your clients the best-value Europe river cruises for 2025.
Most river lines offer itineraries tailored to the spring tulip season in the Netherlands and Belgium (April- May) and the increasingly popular Christmas Market season throughout Europe (November-December) but there’s also huge demand for ‘special interest’ or themed Europe river cruises.
As CLIA Australasia Managing Director Joel Katz says: “The allure of exploring countries by river is strong in itself, but river cruise lines are enhancing this further by developing extraordinary experiences on shore and creating a stronger connection with a destination’s culture, history, food and wine, and way of life.”
Avalon offers the widest choice of special-interest cruises. Experts in various fields join the ships to host shore excursions and give fun, informative presentations on board. Guests can meet fellow enthusiasts, learn something completely new or refresh their knowledge about a favourite subject or hobby – all while sailing through Europe’s most glorious countries.
To take just one example, Avalon’s Storyteller Series feature celebrity authors, actors, artists and musicians. Next April’s Danube cruise with Outlander author Diana Gabaldon sold out almost immediately but if you act quickly you could still snag a suite for the October 2024 Rhine sailing with Outlander actor, Men in Kilts star and best-selling author Graham McTavish.
Other special-interest cruises operated by Avalon include beer tasting, culinary, photography, wine appreciation, and garden and nature.
Then there are Active & Discovery cruises, which offer activities and excursions that are much more, well, active or immersive than your average walking or cycling tour. Think kayaking, hiking, taking a painting masterclass or wine tasting deep in a cave. Active & Discovery cruises take place on the Upper and Lower Danube, Rhine and Rhône, Seine and Moselle rivers and in Holland and Belgium.
For more info, head to avalonwaterways.com.au
Tauck River Cruises
Tauck is a highly regarded travel company in the US and is now making a name for itself Down Under. The 98-year-old company has been expanding its Australian-based sales team for the past two years and is planning to continue its investment into 2024, 2025 and beyond. Australia is Tauck’s second-biggest market after the US, followed by Canada and the UK – this is definitely the time to get discerning river cruisers on board.
Travellers who have sailed with Tauck (yes, I’m one of them!) award it top marks for its exclusive-access shore excursions, family river cruises and knowledgeable Tauck Tour Directors with three Tauck Directors and one Tauck Cruise Director aboard every Europe river cruise. These talented, well-travelled, often multilingual individuals work with local guides ashore to create experiences that really go above and beyond expectations.
Tauck operates four main special-interest cruises on Europe’s waterways: Autumn Along the Rhine: Munich’s Oktoberfest; Christmas Market River Cruises; Family River Cruises; and Musical Magic Along the Blue Danube. There are three Oktoberfest itineraries in September 2024 and two scheduled (so far) for September 2025. They combine a seven-night Rhine cruise with a two-night land stay in Munich for the world’s biggest Oktoberfest celebration.
Tauck’s Christmas Market itineraries include three Family options in December 2024 to coincide with school holidays. Family-friendly experiences, such as learning to make gingerbread in Passau and a scavenger hunt in Bratislava, appeal to kids of all ages and local musicians and dancers come aboard to perform and mix and mingle with guests. Four more family-friendly Europe river cruises are held on the Danube, Rhine, Seine, Rhone and Douro rivers in June and July 2024 and 2025.
Twelve-day Musical Magic Along the Danube cruises run in May, June and October from Budapest to Prague. Special musical occasions on these Europe river cruises include two in Vienna alone; the chance to sit in on an orchestra rehearsal at Palais Auersperg and a grand evening at the private Palais Ferstel for cocktails, dinner, an orchestra and a ballet performance.
For more information, visit tauck.com.au
Like Tauck, Uniworld offers a series of family-friendly Europe river cruises (the Generations Collection). These include onboard programs, menus, events and excursions specifically designed for families with kids aged four and above.
Generations itineraries in July and August 2024 and 2025 include the eight-day Basel to Amsterdam and vice versa; 10-day Vienna to Prague; eight-day Vienna to Nuremberg; and eight-day Amsterdam round-trip on the Rhine.
Uniworld says it is proud to offer Jewish Heritage cruises, the only collection of its kind on European rivers. Itineraries along the Rhine and Danube focus on the 2,000-year Jewish legacy in Europe and appeal equally to people researching their own stories and people looking for deeper insight into a particularly rich period of European history.
The ultra-luxe line launched its first Rivers of the World Cruise earlier this year and there’s already incredible interest in the 55-day 2024 itinerary. While not confined to Europe river cruises – it starts on the Peruvian Amazon, travels through Central Europe and concludes with a Mekong voyage – it is an exciting indication of where river cruising is going.
For more information, see uniworld.com
Share this story