New to River Cruise

The mighty Danube? The romantic Rhine? The majestic Mekong? With so many amazing rivers to choose from, our guide makes it easier to pick which one is right for you.

What to know before you book...

If you're new to river cruising, there are a few things to note before you book. A river cruise is very different from an ocean cruise; in fact, it's probably more similar to a city break, with lots more sightseeing, exploring and mingling with locals.

You'll be on land almost every day

There's plenty of opportunities to go onshore and explore new cultures as part of a river cruise. For those excited about the opportunity to experience new destinations, it's important to make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes and sufficient clothing for different weather conditions.

Many ports offer a variety of excursions

To get the very most out of every day on a river cruise, we'd suggest researching our included daily excursions available. From immersive guided experiences and tours to solo exploration, Emerald Cruises gives you great freedom to explore new places at your own pace.

Some itineraries feature mini city breaks

A number of our river cruise itineraries feature a short stay at the start or end of a trip. For example our Secrets of the Douro & Lisbon itinerary features three days in Portugal's capital before flying home, or Classic Prague & Danube Delights which boasts three nights in the stunning Czech capital before embarkation. CLICK HERE to find out more about our cruise extensions.

Dining experiences designed to take you there

Since your meals are included in the price, we’ve made it our mission to bring you the finest foods and culinary experiences you can find. Locally-sourced with diverse flavours that’ll delight your taste buds, dinning on board our Star-Ships is always a highlight.

Researching the rivers can help before you book

Whatever your passions, there’s a river ready for everyone’s desires. If you’re a wine connoisseur, then the Rhône is for you. Prefer to explore new cultures? Our Rhine itineraries are hand-crafted to enrich the mind. And for those looking for a more exotic experience, take to the majestic Mekong. CLICK HERE to read our river and city guides.

Which river cruise should you pick?

The wonderful river cruises we offer showcase the enigmatic, unique, and picturesque qualities of some of the world’s most iconic waterways, so whatever river cruise you choose, their distinct personalities will inspire awe and wonder from start to finish.

The Danube River

Passing through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world, the Danube is the lifeblood at the heart of Europe’s most elegant and awe-inspiring cities. Along its winding expanse, you’ll encounter Budapest’s alluring beauty, Vienna’s inspiring culture, and the veiled charms of Bratislava.

Best for…

• History – some of the architecture dotted along the Danube is over 1,000 years old.

• Culture – from Melk Abbey to Austria’s winemaking heritage, a sense of history’s influence over the Danube unveils itself instantly.

• Cities – Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava and Belgrade are just a few of the cities you can encounter on the Danube, ticking many world-renowned destinations off your travel list.

The Rhine River

Beginning in the heart of Amsterdam, and coursing through the fairy-tale wonder of West Germany, the Rhine is a splendour-filled experience. Complete with recreated 16th-century villages, inspiring architecture and lush vineyards, the Rhine has something for everyone.

Best for…

• Fairy-tale castles – the banks of the Rhine are lined with castles, forts and ruins, providing a romantic, ethereal backdrop to your journey.

• Folklore – from the Black Forest region to the Rhine Valley, this beautiful corner of Germany is steeped in folklore, inspired by the historic tales of the Brothers Grimm.

• Germanic viticulture – the Rhine and Moselle are world-renowned for their wine, their terraced slopes cultivating grapes since the Roman Age.

The Main River

Connecting the Danube to the Rhine, the Main’s provincial charm and Germanic splendour unearths a wealth of European history along its 237-mile stretch. A journey through Bavaria lets you experience the region’s distinctly refreshing culture and mentality, from its folksy food and wine regions, to its proudly welcoming spirit.

Best for…

• Medieval Germany – the Main is a gateway to the historic towns and cities of Bavaria, whose timber-framed buildings and unique customs provide plenty of cultural intrigue.

• Bavarian beer culture – The traditional taverns and biergartens of Bavaria have long been a must-see for beer lovers.

• Remarkable architecture – From Bishops’ Residenz to Bamberg’s ancient town hall, you’ll encounter remarkable heritage architecture every day of your journey along the Main.

The Rhône River

Tempered by a pure, tranquil way of life where a glass of wine is never turned down, the bends of this beautiful river are furnished with vast acres of vineyards, a rich vein of Roman ruins and the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, a hilltop wonder that inspires and delights in equal measure.

Best for…

• The culinary delights of Lyon – the unofficial ‘gastronomic capital of the world’, Lyon’s bouchons and boulangeries provide some of the best eating in all of France.

• World-famous wine regions – including Burgundy and Beaujolais, home to a variety of the world’s best vintages.

• Remarkable architecture – from Avignon with its inimitable Palais des Papes to the beautifully-preserved Roman buildings of Arles, the Rhône showcases some of France’s finest historic architecture.

The Douro River

The rusty golden rooftops and sunlit vineyards will offer the perfect accompaniment to your river cruise down the stunning Douro. Leaving the pastel-coloured metropolis of Porto, navigate a path through the country’s mesmerising countryside. Terraced vineyards rise from the river banks, historic landmarks dot distant horizons and charismatic townships lay undiscovered, hidden in the rural hillsides.

Best for…

• World-famous wine – Is there a better place to taste a world-renowned glass of Port wine than on the premises in which its life began?

• Warm weather sailing – Purpose-built to suit the warm Portuguese climate, Emerald Radiance's plentiful open-air spaces provide the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the passing scenery or a cold drink.

• Unforgettable scenery – Elegantly sail through the sublime Douro Valley, where endless beauty seemingly stretches on forever and terraced vineyards rise from the river banks.

The Mekong River

Exotic and immersive, the world’s 12th-longest river passes close to the mysterious Cu Chi Tunnels, Cái Be’s vivid floating markets, and the historic Phnom Penh Killing Fields. Life here is rich and vibrant, and you’ll be afforded a taste of its customs and perspectives – traditions that have been shaped over a thousand years of local life – the second your cruise starts.

Best for…

• Southeast Asia’s historic sights – from the world-celebrated Ha Long Bay to the majestic Temples of Angkor, our Mekong river cruise itineraries showcase the natural and manmade wonders of Vietnam and Cambodia in all their splendour.

• Experiencing traditional local life – Local life in Vietnam and Cambodia is much different from our own, and you’ll get to grips with the traditions of people and place as part of immersive daily shore excursions.

• Exploring great Cities – From Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, a Mekong river cruise sees you alight in some of the most colourful and vibrant metropolises in Southeast Asia, where colonial history, bustling markets and wonderful street food promise a warm welcome.

Why is a river cruise great value?

With a wealth of inclusions, extra-special experiences, and generous savings, an Emerald Cruises river cruise offers exceptional value.
Book confidently and with the peace-of-mind knowing that our exceptional EmeraldVALUE philosophy includes more than excellent cuisine, complimentary drinks with lunch and dinner, a host of immersive excursions and all flights, transfers and gratuities. It’s time well spent, its new experiences, and it’s knowing that your holiday with Emerald Cruises will make memories to last a lifetime.

Further Reading

Keen to find out more about Emerald Cruises and our selection of amazing river cruises? Here is a selection of guides for further reading.
The first timer's guide to river cruises
River cruises vs. ocean cruises
Why is a river cruise great value?
How to choose a river cruise
What to pack for a river cruise
Meet your Emerald Cruises team
Adventure awaits with EmeraldPLUS
Guest testimonials