Active river cruises are one of the hottest trends for 2018. As river cruising begins to appeal to a wider demographic than it has in the past, the on-shore experience continues to evolve. The best evidence of that evolution lies in the rise in popularity of cycling river cruises and cycling excursions.
In the past, we’ve written extensively about active cycling cruises on the rivers of Europe. Some of these experiences have merely been aboard ships that carry their own fleet of bicycles, while others have been part of guided cycling shore excursions. The most immersive experiences out there, of course, are hosted or cycling-themed river cruises, where guests come aboard for the express purpose of cycling around Europe. Some river cruises even allow you to cycle between ports of call, choosing to reboard the ship at another stop later on in the day.
There are three basic ways to enjoy cycling on any European river cruise itinerary:
Many, but not all, river cruise lines offer complimentary-use bicycles onboard for guests to enjoy during their voyage. These can be used for independent touring, and the ship’s onboard Program Manager can always assist with planning a route for all experience levels. Beginners may want to go for a cycle out in the countryside when docked in small towns like Melk or Durnstein, Austria; experienced riders, however, will want to hit the streets of Amsterdam or Budapest for a truly immersive, local experience.
Early on in the cruise, bicycles are typically always available. But as guests see them parked outside your ship, waiting to go for a spin, expect demand to ratchet up significantly. Many river cruise lines carry fewer than a dozen of these onboard, so reserving on in advance is key.
If onboard bicycles are important to you, check out our activity chart at the bottom of the page to see which lines offer these aboard their European riverboats.
Guided Cycling Excursions
A few lines take things to the next level by offering cycling-themed excursions. These guided tours have been tailor-made to appeal to a broad set of skill levels, and as long as you are comfortable riding a bicycle over cobblestones and on streets, you should have no issues getting into the groove of things. Onboard Program Managers will always detail how strenuous a particular excursion is the evening before it departs, so that guests may choose their shore excursion options with confidence.
While guided cycling excursions are mainly offered by those lines with onboard bicycles, there are a few exceptions. Most notably, Viking River Cruises will begin offering guided cycling excursions this year in select ports of call, but it will rely on a local operator to provide the bicycles, as Viking’s Longships do not carry onboard bicycles.
For the true cycling aficionado, there are proper cycling-themed cruises. AmaWaterways has been at the forefront of this initiative, partnering with active travel company Backroads to offer fully-immersive cycling journeys catering to couples, solo travellers and families. Some of these are groups that come aboard a standard revenue sailing, while others are exclusive, full-ship charters where everyone onboard is a Backroads guest there for the cycling. Scenic partners with Trek Travel for its cycling excursions.
Numerous other lines, including CroisiEurope and all-luxury Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection are offering these cycling-themed voyages in 2018, and it’s not unreasonable to expect other river cruise lines to follow suit in the near future. Avalon expanded its Active Discovery to include two new Active Discovery on its Rhine itineraries. On these cruises, travelers have the opportunity to bike, hike and explore their way through Europe. See Ralph Grizzle’s story, From Amsterdam to Paris on an Avalon Waterways’ Active Discovery Cruise
So why is cycling such a fantastic way to experience Europe? River Cruise Advisor’s own Ralph Grizzle has written numerous pieces on the subject, and both he and myself have cycled through some of Europe’s most popular ports at different times – including one memorably windy day in Amsterdam.
For a look at why you should consider taking a bike for a spin on your next river cruise, check out some of our past articles:
- Scenic Partners with Trek Travel to Offer New Bike Program on Nine Departures
- Bicycling the Wachau Valley With Backroads and AmaWaterways
- Uniworld’s Maria Theresa, Day 6: Cruising & Cycling the Wachau Valley
- River Cruise Basics: Cycling Europe
- A Day Cycling Around Hoorn, Netherlands
Not all river cruise lines are created equal. That’s why we’ve developed this special chart to guide you through the major active options available on the major river cruise lines operating within Europe. Both cycling and active voyages are growing in popularity and now more than ever, there truly is something for everyone on the rivers of Europe.
Active Options On The Top River Cruise Companies
|Bikes On Board For Independent Rides|
|Guided Bike Tours|
|Regular Pace Walking Tours|
|Active Walking Tours|
|Healthy Dining Options|
|Walking Track Top Deck|
^Viking will be adding active touring options, including guided hiking, cycling and canoeing excursions, to select river cruise itineraries beginning in 2018. Bikes will not be carried onboard, and will instead be provided in select ports of call.
**Selected ports and itineraries.
#New for 2018