River cruising was an entirely new concept to Europe when it was introduced in the mid-1970s: a floating hotel that journeys between destinations. In its simplest form, a river cruiser is nothing more than a barge with a hotel on top. For many travelers, the slow chug along the river is just the right pace for getting the lay of the land. Sitting on the top deck of a ship under brilliant blue skies, you gaze on fabled landscapes dotted with castles, villages, and vineyards. A flight of stairs down you have all the amenities of a modern hotel—restaurants, bars, lounges, fitness facilities, spas, Internet access, and comfortable staterooms.
River cruises offer opportunities to step ashore in fairy-tale towns and major European capitals that can’t be reached on a traditional cruise ship. Most river cruisers take these trips to immerse themselves in Europe’s contemporary culture in a way they can’t when traveling between a different Mediterranean port every day and to learn something about the history of the towns along the Continent’s greatest rivers. [read more]