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Updated: May 31, 2022

River cruises in Europe typically run from mid-March through the New Years’ holiday and cover a variety of countries and rivers.

One of the first questions many have when planning a river cruise is “when should I go?”

That will depend on a few factors, including your interests, activity level, temperature preferences, and to some extent, your budget. Here are a few things to consider about each season.


Needless to say, if you want to see the eye-popping tulip gardens in the Netherlands this is the time of year for you. Peak viewing is generally from mid-April to early May, but tulip season begins in late March and runs through mid-May. Elsewhere in Europe, just as at home, gardens, and trees are in varying stages of coming back to life, and although the weather can still be cool, the landscape is bursting with color and the tourist sites are not yet busy with peak season summer travelers. Fares in spring are lowest in March.


If you crave warm weather, outdoor activities, and summer festivals, this is the time of year for you. You may pay a premium for traveling at the peak of Europe’s summer season but if you want to make full use of your stateroom balcony and the top deck of the ship, there’s no time better to travel. The extended daylight hours will enhance your journey as well. Just be prepared for more crowds at popular tourist sites while on your excursions.


Travel in the early fall months of September and October is perfect for those who want to visit Europe during the wine harvest season or to enjoy vibrant fall colors. You’ll also miss the peak crowds of summer while still enjoying relatively mild temperatures. Later in the fall, the days will become chillier and while all outdoor excursions and activities never stop, you’ll want to prepare to dress in layers. The late fall typically brings lower rates on air and cruise fares.


When you reach late November throughout most of December, the Christmas Market season will be in full swing. This has become a popular time to travel and fares generally tick up a bit as the holidays near. You can even enjoy a Christmas and New Years’ celebration during a holiday cruise.

All river cruise lines continue a vast variety of choices of excursions in various ports on all cruises, plus personalized service on board, so you really can’t go wrong at any time of year.

To learn more about your river choices, check out my article on that topic here, and for help with river cruise staterooms, learn more here.

I’d be delighted to help you discover the itinerary and season that work best for you. Get in touch today by clicking the “Schedule a Consultation” button above for a no-obligation complimentary chat.

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