Winter river cruises: Pros and Cons

River or Ocean Cruises

It may be chilly, but you can avoid the crowds!

We recently returned from an 8-day luxury European river cruise aboard the Crystal Mahler. It wasn't the first time we've taken a river cruise in the winter - and it probably won't be the last. Travel agents tend to travel during the off-season.

However, there are some real advantages to cruising in Europe when the weather is a little chilly. You won't be spending much time on the sun deck of your river cruise ship, but the following factors can ensure you still enjoy the voyage:

  • Prices are often lower - not just for the cruise itself, but for flights and pre/post-cruise hotels, as well (as long as you're not travelling right at Christmas)
  • You avoid the crowds - no long line-ups at the sights you want to see
  • You experience the same great service, luxurious accommodation and marvellous meals aboard a river cruise ship that may have fewer passengers
  • If you sail in the month of December, you're likely to have the opportunity to catch the Christmas markets in Europe

There are also some negative aspects, though - points you'll want to keep in mind if you're thinking of travelling at this time of year:

  • The weather - this is the biggest downside, of course. We had a wet and chilly day in Brussels on our most recent cruise. Otherwise, the weather wasn't bad if you dressed warmly
  • Scenery is not at its best - colours and smells can have a real impact on your impressions of a place: lavender fields in Provence, tulips in the Netherlands, etc. We did a river cruise in winter and then returned to some of the same ports of call in August. It was as if we'd gone from a black and white movie to a colour one. However, buildings, structures and people are the same year-round
  • You may walk less - or, at least, faster! The temperature can certainly impact how much strolling you want to do and earlier darkness may inhibit after-dinner walks. Consequently, you may not have as much opportunity to form a real impression of the destination you're visiting.

Nevertheless, while there are pros and cons, there really isn't bad season to take a river cruise, including winter!

If you're interested in river cruising, be sure to enter our 2019 draw - and you could be sailing down a river in spring or fall!



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