If you haven’t already noticed, the weather outside for most of us is starting to change. The summer season is definitely over, and fall is upon us. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a river cruise.
In fact, there are a number of great reasons you should consider river cruising during the “off-season” – the shoulder months of fall and early spring. For the river cruise season in Europe, that means October, November, December, and mid-to-late March.
Here’s a few of the reasons we prefer cruising in the off-season to summer sailings:
It’s Less Expensive
This applies as a general rule, not just to your river cruise but also to airfare and hotels. Whereas the prices of flights and lodgings skyrocket during the summer months of June, July and August, you’ll find that prices come down quite rapidly during these shoulder months, stretching your vacation dollars further. Because prices go down, you might be able to afford a better quality of trip: for instance, a hotel like the Four Seasons might be prohibitively expensive during the summer, but could fall into your budget category in October.
There Are Fewer Crowds
This could be the sweetest reason to river cruise in the off season: fewer crowds. In the summer months, major tourist destinations like Vienna, Budapest, and Nuremberg – not to mention Paris – can become a congested nightmare as travellers all jostle for that one shot of the Eiffel Tower, or to squeeze into Vienna’s Café Demel for a Weiner Kaffe. In the off-season, you can enjoy museums, attractions and major shopping opportunities with a fraction of the frustration.
Temperatures Are, Well, Temperate
We have to admit to really liking this too, particularly after sweating it out in Budapest this summer. The summer heat is nice, but high temperatures, long lines and crowded attractions have one major downside: tempers flare when the mercury rises. Yes, the shoulder months are cooler, and yes, you’ll probably need an umbrella, but we find Europe in the fall and spring is a wonderful, relaxing place.
There’s Usually Better Cabin Availability
Finding that perfect stateroom or suite is a lot easier in the off-season, which doesn’t always book up as quickly as the prime-time summer months do. While this is less of an issue if you’re just after the run-of-the-mill French balcony stateroom, it can be a huge issue if you’re thinking of booking one of two suites onboard a particular ship. Even the basic (but highly economical) riverview staterooms can sell out quickly during the summer months because most ships have so few of them. In the off-season, it’s easy to take advantage of these value-priced accommodations.
Fall And Winter Are Particularly Festive
While the summer in Europe is characterized by blue skies and warm temperatures, don’t discount fall and winter. The months of September and October can still be plenty warm in Europe, and there’s a lot of festivity in the air: farmer’s markets crop up in September and October, and late November through December sees much of Europe switch into festive Holiday mode as the Christmas Markets get set up across much of France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and other countries. Just don’t go for Halloween: while you might see a few signs of this spooky holiday around Europe, it’s just as likely that you won’t see anything at all come October 31. It is, after all, a predominantly North American thing.
Do you have tips for off-season river cruising? Let us know by using the comment form below.