Why is it so Difficult to Find the Best European River Cruise?

Why is It so Difficult to Find the Best European River Cruise?

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert


The Best European River Cruise—how do I find it and know it is the best?  I write all the time about Europe river cruising and its value.  While some would say it is not the best luxury travel option money can buy to see a lot of Europe in a short time, I disagree. 

Yet, there is always that fear we didn’t get the best.  We all want the best—more value for less money, if that is possible.  It is difficult to find what the best option for many is—it is confusing to many professional travel advisors, so I’m not surprised if you have ever wondered—how can I solve this problem and get the best European river cruise for me?

Is this a real problem?—maybe knowing that about 2,940 people conduct Google searches for Best European River Cruises each month indicates there is a real need for some reliable and accurate information about this vacation option.

Here is another fact for you—over 70% of our new river cruise clients had never heard about or did not know much about the river cruise company they finally chose for their vacation—I think it does demonstrate the difficulty finding the best European river cruise for many folks.

Could there be a simple way to determine what European river cruise is the best?  For the average person who goes on a Europe river cruise, they just can’t objectively know how to select which line or which route is the best—there is just too much to know and a lot of confusing claims about the best European River Cruise—one size or style does not fit all.  So, I can’t give you a simple way to get the best cruise but I can provide you a process that will make your decision based on the best possible information and that will enhance your chances of finding the best European river cruise for you.

So, let me defend my thoughts—how do I find the best Europe river cruise for me?

Why is it so Confusing to Evaluate Europe River Cruise Routes and Cruise Lines?

There are really two reasons, in my opinion for the confusion about Europe river cruising.

First, a simple answer is that good advertising and a good overall product make all lines sound great.  For example, almost all have heard of Viking due to its homerun decision to advertise on PBS, especially on Downton Abbey—the stunning video clip still resonates today even for me who has seen and visited ever sight on the short video clip—it is just a great chance to see some of the most interesting places in Europe in an easy vacation.  But does that make Viking the best cruise line?  At least 7 other good lines (they are the main Europe river cruise companies in the US market) sail the exact Upper Danube route where the majority of the Viking Ad takes its video scenery from for their TV Ads.  Now it starts to get confusing!

Second, few folks have been on more than one river cruise line and/or on multiple Europe Rivers used by the 8 companies that I study almost daily.  Most who have taken a river cruise in Europe, think it is such a good vacation, that they tend to remain loyal to their first cruise line, without really investigating other companies.  But, could there be a better option?—more confusion!

Here are some pictures of several very good river cruise lines—do these 3 look similar at first glance to you? (but there are real differences between these 3 similar looking European River Cruise lines—trust me, we know!):

The AmaKristina in port - “Why is it so difficult to find the best European river cruise?” - Dream Destinations

The AmaKristina in port

The Avalon Destiny on the Rhine 2019 - “Why is it so difficult to find the best European river cruise?” - Dream Destinations

The Avalon Destiny on the Rhine 2019

Emerald Destiny in port 2019 -  “Why is it so difficult to find the best European river cruise?” - Dream Destinations

Emerald Destiny in port 2019


There Just is Too Much Information—Help!

In my humble opinion, without going on a European river cruise and experiencing this great combination of a floating hotel, good meals and included excursions, it is difficult to understand what a great value river cruising in Europe really is.  But, I will be the first to admit that the options are bewildering and every company brochure and website makes it sound like they are the best for your trip.  Your first trip decision is often the hardest—did I get a good deal on the best line for me?

The real answer is in the details and a really solid analysis of your options—sounds complicated but we have a solution for you—either use us to figure it out for you or use our 11 Step Guide which I will feature later on in this blog.

Even Some Pro’s Don’t Really Know Their Stuff

I am often stunned how little really good travel agents and advisors can tell you about the differences between Europe River Cruise Lines.  I have found errors by several travel writers, suggesting that this is the best line or route or stop on a cruise route without any solid facts to back their opinions in their published articles.  I guess it is not surprising, since most authors travel for free at the invitation of the cruise lines or on their company expenses and since most Europe river cruises are a great value and often offer superior vacation compared to other travel options, it would be easy to only accentuate the positive and gloss over the less desirable flaws a line might have.

Viking Baldur in port in Cologne—very large suites are directly over the ship’s engines—other lines position their suites away from the engine noise—a nice detail to know prior selecting and paying a premium for the best cabins on Viking Longships!

Viking Baldur in port in Cologne—very large suites are directly over the ship’s engines—other lines position their suites away from the engine noise—a nice detail to know prior selecting and paying a premium for the best cabins on Viking Longships!

I guess that is where we have a real advantage compared to others in our industry—after sailing on 17 Europe river cruises, it is hard to fool us about what is good or not so good on a particular route or with a particular river cruise line.

Use Our 11 Step Planning Guide

When we plan a river cruise trip for ourselves or our clients, we follow our 11 Step Planning Guide.  Basically, we decide the answers to some basic questions that will enhance our chances of making the best possible choice.

Here are the steps:

Step 1.  Why do you want to go on a Europe River Cruise?

Step 2.  What do you expect to see and experience?

Katz (Cat) Castle on the Rhine River Gorge in 2019

Katz (Cat) Castle on the Rhine River Gorge in 2019

Step 3.  How much time do you have for your trip?

Step 4.  When do you want to go?

Step 5.  Who will you travel with?

Step 6.  What are your preferred activities while on the trip?

Step 7.  What level of service do you expect on the cruise?

Tauck is all-inclusive—is that the level of service you desire?

Tauck is all-inclusive—is that the level of service you desire?

Step 8.  What type of cabin do you desire?

Our Scenic Balcony Cabin—really nice!

Our Scenic Balcony Cabin—really nice!

Step 9.  Do you want a pre or post land stay for this trip?

Step 10.  Now, compare companies that match your requirements.

Step 11.  Now, take care of all the Administrative Details when you book the trip.

I really recommend reading this blog and the related links—it may be one of the best resources that exists to grasp all the facets of European River Cruising in a one source document.  Here is the link to the blog:

Can I do it on my own?

You probably could but it will take a ton of research to do it properly.  It also will require you to really know if the source of the information you are researching is reliable and accurate—a lot of critical thinking skills.

Europe River Cruising is in constant flux—new offers, additional amenities, and changes—it is hard for me to keep up, so it may be even harder for you to have the latest info and promotions.

The bottom line—you can do it but is it really worth your time and effort?  For most the answer is no—use the right professional, like us, usually at no extra cost since the vendors pay us commission—and then rest assured you are getting the right cruise vacation for your money.

My Final Thoughts

You could use this blog and our 11 step guide to do it on your own, but why go through all hassle—let us plan it for you!  You can be assured we will ask all these questions and more to match you to the right cruise line and route.

We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts.  We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe.  We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you.  We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.

When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip.  You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience.  And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process.  We think we have all these qualities.

Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you!  We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel.  Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at hschrader@dreamdestinations.com.  We want to help you:  Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!

Hank Schrader.JPG

HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 47 years.  He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years.  He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees.  His other Certifications:

  • AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist

  • Viking River Cruise Specialist

  • Scenic River Cruise Specialist

  • Emerald Waterways Specialist

  • Avalon Waterways Specialist

  • Brit Agent