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Sail of the century: now is the time for a bargain river cruise

The European river cruise is back, and there’s no stopping the flow of deals for end-of-season trips 2021 and the traditional start of spring in 2022.

Before the pandemic, passengers flew from all corners of the world and reservations had to be made at least a year in advance to secure the best cabins.

Now, the uncertainty about long-haul travel has meant only a trickle of American and Canadian passengers sailing this year. Combined with Australia and New Zealand travel restrictions, it means now is the time to eliminate low fees and no one-time supplements, as well as bag complimentary drinks, Wi-Fi packages, and free tours.

River cruise lines have added attractive itineraries for 2022, including the chance to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria.

River cruise lines have added attractive itineraries for 2022, including the chance to see the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria.

“There is a small window here to book great value end-of-season cruises and get in quickly for 2022-23 before the markets come back in force,” says Travel Counselors’ Zoe Palmer. “British passengers can choose from the group.”

To attract new and existing customers, river cruise lines have also added attractive itineraries for 2022, including festivals unique in a decade such as the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria from May 14 to October 2 and the Floriade horticulture expo in Holland, which opens on April 14.

So the message is clear: get in quickly because these river cruise deals won’t be around for long.

50% OFF

Take the scenic route: Twenty ships now sail the Douro in Portugal with round trips from Porto

Take the scenic route: Twenty ships now sail the Douro in Portugal with round trips from Porto

Take the scenic route: Twenty ships now sail the Douro in Portugal with round trips from Porto

10 ADVANTAGES OF TAKING A CRUISE ON THE EUROPEAN RIVER

  • River boats are more intimate, with about 150 passengers.
  • Many ships sail from Amsterdam, Paris, and Lyon, and offer no-fly options.
  • Enjoy the changing views of the cities and the countryside.
  • Calm rivers do not mean dizziness.
  • Get off the boat and head to the city centers.
  • Chefs buy local, seasonal produce at the markets, so join them.
  • Only river crossings can reveal the beauty of valleys like the Douro, Portugal.
  • Many boats carry bicycles for biking through towpaths and vineyards.
  • On themed cruises, enjoy art appreciation, classical music, garden visits, and history tours.
  • Add pre and post hotel stays.

Savor the colors of autumn in Portugal’s wine country on the Uniworld cruise through the Douro River Valley on the new SS Sao Gabriel and meet the winemakers in the charming quintas. The eight-day sailing on November 14 is 50 percent off with all-inclusive prices starting at £ 1,499 per person (uniworld.com, 0808 168 9110).

£ 581 DROP

Stroll through the Christmas markets knowing that your 2021 cruise will be much cheaper than in 2022.

The AvalonWaterways seven-day Christmas on the Danube cruise from Vienna departs 27 November with prices starting at £ 849 pp (next year’s equivalent cruises start at £ 1,430 pp (avalonwaterways.co.uk, 0330 058 8243).

€ 1,000 DISCOUNT

Join free guided tours of the cultural capitals of Vienna, Budapest, and Bratislava on the 5-day Tastes of Imperial Europe cruise from Scenic Amber.

A classical music concert at Godollo Royal Palace is also included in the £ 1,495 per person rate, which has been reduced from £ 2,495 per person, departing 16 April 2022 (Scenic.co.uk, 0808 301 7599).

FREE DRINKS

Hike from Mount Konigstuhl to Heidelberg and cycle through the historic fishing villages of the Netherlands during the eight-day Emerald Dawn Jewels of the Rhine cruise.

Save up to £ 1,600 per couple when you book before 5 November and receive a free drink package plus £ 170 for spa treatments. Price from £ 1,995 per person departing from Amsterdam on 23 October 2022 (esmeralda waterways.co.uk, 0808 301 3352).

VIP CAR

Be one of the first to visit Floriade, the Netherlands International Horticultural Exposition, which takes place once in a decade, beginning on April 14, 2022. Rates on the eight-day cruise Floriade and Delights of MS River Discovery II on April 13, 2022, from £ 1,549 pp, including free door-to-door VIP travel service and four tours (titantravel.co.uk, 0800 988 5823).

£ 750 DISCOUNT

Viking's Paris & the Heart of Normandy eight-day round trips from April 2022 now start at £ 2.19 per person

Viking's Paris & the Heart of Normandy eight-day round trips from April 2022 now start at £ 2.19 per person

Viking’s Paris & the Heart of Normandy eight-day round trips from April 2022 now start at £ 2,195pp

WHAT IS LIFE ON BOARD?

  • Guests are again free to explore ashore independently.
  • Enjoy more space while the ships are still sailing at reduced capacity.
  • If your ship is crossing borders, cruise lines will collect all documentation, but check with travel agents.
  • Some are returning to a buffet service. Masks must be worn when walking in public areas inside the boat.
  • The dance is back!

Viking is offering discounts of £ 750 per person on European river cruises in 2022 if booked before December 31st. The cruise line’s new Longships, tailor-made for the Seine, host 168 passengers and eight-day round trips to Paris and the heart of Normandy from April 2022 now starting at £ 2,195 pp (viking.com, 0800 458 6900).

OFFER ONLY

A private underground dinner at Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the many highlights of Tauck’s 14-day Berlin and Krakow cruise at no extra cost. Cruises depart on May 1, June 12, July 31 and August 28, 2022, with rates starting at £ 4,850 pp including private tours valued at £ 2,619 pp (tauck.co.uk, 0800 810 8020).

£ 343 SAVINGS

Make one last race to Europe with the last cruise of the season on the Douro River from CroisiEruope, on the MS Gil Eanes. It departs 9th November and prices start from £ 1,182 pp (cruise only) with a savings of £ 343 pp. (croisieurope.co.uk, 0208 328 1281)

HOLIDAY OFFER

Join daily bike rides in the Cotes du Rhone and Beaujolais wine regions during AmaKristina’s Colors of Provence trips from Lyon to Avignon. Seven nights, reduced from £ 750 per person to £ 1,708 per person, departing December 16 and 23 (amawaterways.co.uk, 0800 626 0126).

£ 429 CANDLE

Shearings has added eight new no-fly tours to its 2022 European river program. All trips can be secured with a deposit of £ 25 per person and prices start at £ 429 per person for a four-day cruise in Holland.

Price includes bus ride from local hubs or door-to-door service, full board and unbranded drinks (shearings.com, 01709 249 698).

LESS THAN £ 500

SIP Alsatian wine in Strasbourg and visit a traditional winery in Mainz during TUI Maya’s four-night Mini Wine on the Rhine cruise on November 20. Fly from Birmingham for round trip to Frankfurt with reduced prices from £ 569 per person to £ 490 per person (tui.co.uk, 0800 975 4477).

ALL INCLUSIVE

Peaceful Sailing - Climb aboard the SS Beatrice for an eight-day cruise departing from beautiful Budapest

Peaceful Sailing - Climb aboard the SS Beatrice for an eight-day cruise departing from beautiful Budapest

Peaceful Sailing – Climb aboard the SS Beatrice for an eight-day cruise departing from beautiful Budapest

See the Oberammergau Passion Play during the five-star SS Beatrice eight-day cruise from Budapest starting at £ 5,748 per person plus a four-day pre-cruise extension for £ 3,684 per person on May 25, June 22, 6 July, August 17 and September 14, 2022 departures (uniworld.com, 0808 301 2561).

EARLY SAVINGS

Book early to save £ 1,000 per person on APT’s Travelmarvel Vega 14-night European Gems cruise through Hungary, Austria and Germany. Drinks, tours, tips and flights are included on March 31, 2023, sailing with prices reduced from £ 3,395 pp to £ 2,389 pp (rolcruise.co.uk, 0800 204 4660).

CABIN UPGRADE

One of Saga's offerings includes a free cabin upgrade.  An example of the accommodation available at Spirit of the Rhine is shown in the photo

One of Saga's offerings includes a free cabin upgrade.  An example of the accommodation available at Spirit of the Rhine is shown in the photo

One of Saga’s offerings includes a free cabin upgrade. An example of a cabin at Spirit of the Rhine is shown in the photo.

Receive up to £ 250 per person discount and a free cabin upgrade on Spirit of Danube’s all-inclusive 12-night Bucharest to Vienna cruise on June 24, 2022. Prices start at £ 2,599 per person (saga.co.uk, 0808 258 2978).

LESS THAN £ 2,000

The Riviera Travel cruise from Porto, Portugal, to Salamanca, Spain, departs November 12 for solo travelers 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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