The sail of the century: River cruises have never been more popular — and now’s the time to grab bargains of up to half price
- There’s no stopping the flow of deals for end-of-season 2021 sailings and the traditional spring start in 2022
- Deals feature low fares and no single supplements, as well as complimentary drinks and wifi packages
- River cruise lines have been adding alluring 2022 itineraries, including once-in-a-decade festivals
European river cruising is back — and there’s no stopping the flow of deals for end-of-season 2021 sailings and the traditional spring start in 2022.
Before the pandemic, passengers were flying in from all corners of the globe and bookings had to be made at least a year in advance to secure the best cabins.
Now, uncertainty over long-haul travel has meant only a trickle of U.S. and Canadian passengers sailing this year. Combined with Australian and New Zealand travel restrictions, it means now is the time to mop up low fares and no single supplements, as well as bagging complimentary drinks, wifi packages and free tours.
River cruise lines have been adding alluring 2022 itineraries, including the chance to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria
‘There’s a small window here to book great-value end-of-season cruises and get in quickly for 2022-23 before the markets come back strongly,’ says Zoe Palmer, of Travel Counsellors. ‘British passengers can have the pick of the bunch.’
To attract new and existing customers river cruise lines have also been adding alluring 2022 itineraries, including once-in-a-decade festivals such as the Oberammergau Passion Play, in Bavaria, from May 14 to October 2, and Holland’s Floriade Horticultural exhibition, which opens on April 14.
So, the message is clear: Get in quickly because these river cruise deals will not be around for long.
50 PER CENT OFF
Take the scenic route: Twenty ships now sail on the Douro in Portugal with round trips from Porto
10 ADVANTAGES OF TAKING A EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISE
- River ships are more intimate, with about 150 passengers.
- Many ships sail from Amsterdam, Paris and Lyon, offering no-fly options.
- Savour ever-changing views of cities and countryside.
- Smooth rivers mean no seasickness.
- Step off the ship and into city centres.
- Chefs buy seasonal local produce at markets, so join them.
- Only river sailings can reveal the beauty of valleys such as the Douro, Portugal.
- Many vessels carry bikes for cycling along towpaths and through vineyards.
- On themed cruises, indulge in art appreciation, classical music, garden visits and history tours.
- Add pre- and post-hotel stays.
Savour autumn colours in Portugal’s wine country on Uniworld’s Douro River Valley cruise on new SS Sao Gabriel, meeting winemakers at charming quintas. The eight-day November 14 sailing features a 50 per cent discount with all-inclusive prices from £1,499 pp (uniworld.com, 0808 168 9110).
Wander in Christmas markets knowing your 2021 cruise will be much cheaper than in 2022.
AvalonWaterways’ seven-day Christmastime on the Danube cruise from Vienna departs on November 27 with prices from £849 pp (next year’s equivalent cruises start at £1,430 pp (avalonwaterways.co.uk, 0330 058 8243).
Join free guided tours in the cultural capital cities of Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava on Scenic Amber’s five-day Tastes of Imperial Europe cruise.
A classical concert in the Godollo Royal Palace is also included in the £1,495 pp fare, which has been reduced from £2,495 pp, departing on April 16, 2022 (scenic.co.uk, 0808 301 7599).
Hike from Mount Konigstuhl to Heidelberg and cycle in the Netherlands’ historic fishing villages during Emerald Dawn’s eight-day Jewels of the Rhine cruise.
Save up to £1,600 per couple when booking before November 5 and receive a free drinks package plus £170 spend for spa treatments. Price from £1,995 pp departing from Amsterdam on October 23, 2022 (emerald waterways.co.uk, 0808 301 3352).
Be one of the first to visit the once-in-a-decade Floriade, Holland’s International Horticultural Expo, which starts on April 14, 2022. Fares on MS River Discovery II’s eight-day Floriade and the Delights cruise on April 13, 2022, from £1,549 pp, including free VIP door-to-door travel service and four tours (titantravel.co.uk, 0800 988 5823).
Viking’s Paris & the Heart of Normandy eight-day round-trips from April 2022 now start at £2,195pp
WHAT’S LIFE LIKE ON BOARD?
- Guests are again free to explore ashore independently.
- Enjoy more space while ships are still sailing at reduced capacity.
- If your ship is crossing borders, cruise lines will collate all paperwork but check with travel agents.
- Some are returning to a buffet service. Masks must be worn when walking in public areas inside the ship.
- Dancing is back!
Viking is offering £750 pp discounts on 2022 European river cruises when booked by December 31. The cruise line’s new Longships, custom-built for the Seine, each host 168 guests and Paris & the Heart of Normandy eight-day round-trips from April 2022 now start at £2,195 pp (viking.com, 0800 458 6900).
A private underground dinner in Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, is one of many highlights on Tauck’s 14-day Berlin & Krakow cruise with no single supplements. Cruises depart on May, 1, June 12, July 31 and August 28, 2022, with fares from £4,850 pp which includes private tours valued at £2,619 pp (tauck.co.uk, 0800 810 8020).
Make a final dash to Europe with CroisiEruope’s last Douro river sailing of the season, on MS Gil Eanes. Departs on November 9 and prices start from £1,182 pp (cruise only) with a saving of £343 pp. (croisieurope.co.uk, 0208 328 1281)
Join daily bike rides in the Cotes du Rhone and Beaujolais wine regions during AmaKristina’s Colours of Provence sailings from Lyon to Avignon. Seven nights, reduced by £750 pp to £1,708 pp, departing December 16 and 23 (amawaterways.co.uk, 0800 626 0126).
Shearings has added eight new no-fly tours to its 2022 European river programme. All sailings can be secured with a £25 pp deposit and prices start at £429 pp for a four-day cruise in Holland.
Price includes coach travel from local joining points or door-to-door service, full-board and non-branded drinks (shearings.com, 01709 249 698).
SIP Alsatian wine in Strasbourg and visit a traditional wine house in Mainz during TUI Maya’s four-night Mini Wine on the Rhine cruise on November 20. Fly from Birmingham for the Frankfurt round-trip with prices reduced from £569 pp to £490 pp (tui.co.uk, 0800 975 4477).
Smooth sailing: Step aboard SS Beatrice for an eight-day cruise departing from beautiful Budapest
See the Oberammergau Passion Play during five-star SS Beatrice’s eight-day cruise from Budapest with prices from £5,748 pp plus four-day pre-cruise extension £3,684 pp on May 25, June 22, July 6, August 17 and September 14, 2022 departures (uniworld.com, 0808 301 2561).
Book early to save £1,000 pp on APT’s Travelmarvel Vega’s European Gems 14-night cruise through Hungary, Austria and Germany. Drinks, tours, tips and flights are included on the March 31, 2023, sailing with prices reduced from £3,395 pp to £2,389 pp (rolcruise.co.uk, 0800 204 4660).
One of Saga’s deals includes a free cabin upgrade. Pictured is an example of a cabin on Spirit of the Rhine
Receive up to £250 pp off and a free cabin upgrade on new ship Spirit of Danube’s 12-night all-inclusive Bucharest to Vienna cruise on June 24, 2022. Prices start from £2,599 pp (saga.co.uk, 0808 258 2978).
Riviera Travel’s cruise from Porto, Portugal, to Salamanca, Spain, departs on November 12 for solo travellers only.
The eight-day sailing starts from £1,989 and includes eight guided tours including lunch and a flamenco show. Flights from Manchester (rivieratravel.co.uk, 01283 523431).
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