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Choose Your European River: Our Guide to Europe's Best River Cruises
Sponsored by AmaWaterways Many of Europe's most fabled cities -- Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna, for starters -- have grown up along the Continent's waterways and there's no easier or more comfortable way to explore them, and the stretches of forest, gorges, water meadows and vineyards in between, than by ship. River cruising has its similarities with ocean voyages: great food, service and value for money being just three of them. There are differences, too. Ships are much smaller, carrying no more than around 160, and are therefore more intimate. And, most important, you'll always have a view, whether you're lazing on deck gazing up at the medieval castles along the Middle Rhine or docked in the heart of Budapest, with all the bridges over the Danube lit up at night.
River Cruising Transformed: From Humble Beginnings to Luxury Offerings
Sponsored by AmaWaterways Once upon a time, river cruises presented a very basic way to travel in Europe. As recently as the mid-1990s, the few ships cruising the Rhine were functional rather than elegant. The crew spoke little English, even during the single rudimentary shore excursion offered in each port. Cabins didn't just lack balconies -- the bathrooms were minuscule, the showers had clingy curtains. Dining was a meat-and-potatoes dirge, and greens were used strictly for ornamentation. "I went on a Viking cruise on the Danube back then," recalls Sue Bryant, cruise editor for The Sunday Times, who says the quality of the ships was completely different from what we know today. "The cabins were so much more basic, with pull-down bunk beds and nothing more than a porthole for the scenery."
Discovering the Danube River and Finding Serenity Along the Way
Sponsored by AmaWaterways The Danube River, and the cities, towns and villages that lie alongside it, is crisscrossed by a massive patchwork of transportation infrastructure that serves planes, trains and automobiles. And yet, there's no better way to experience the ebb and flow of this dynamic, historic region than to center your travels along the region's most ancient transportation channel: the Danube River. What's special about a Danube cruise? It's rich with all kinds of history, much of which is ancient – representing Gothic, medieval, baroque and other fascinating periods of time. Much of the landscape is hilly or mountainous and frames beautiful views of darling villages and towns. And, the stops along the way balance destinations you've certainly heard of, including Vienna, where we begin, and Nuremberg, where the cruise ends. In between are some delightful surprises, like the village of Durnstein, where Austria's winegrowing industry is centered, arty Linz, sleepy Passau and super-charming Regensburg.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.
11 Best Cruise Destinations for Active Cruise Travelers
You can get a workout on pretty much any cruise, but to maximize your adrenaline-pumping options, it's best to find the right combination of cruise ship and destination. Active cruise travelers will usually turn up at least a handful of shore experiences to whet their appetites for adventure, but if you're cruising with a sedentary lot, that city bike tour or rainforest hike might get canceled due to lack of interest. Likewise, certain ports simply don't lend themselves to athletic adventures, while others have so many active choices, it's hard to make up your mind. Below, we have listed our picks for the 11 best adventure cruise destinations for those who are active travelers, as well as our suggestions for the cruise lines that make the best matches. Just don't forget to pack your running shoes and snorkel gear.