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Cruise Travel

The Best River Cruises in Europe for 2019/2020

For travelers curious about cruising but not ready to take the plunge into mega ships and the high seas, river cruising is the way to go. Europe is the natural setting for such a trip, with routes along the Rhine, Douro, Elbe, Rhône and more, allowing easy passage across borders. Read on for nine upcoming cruises we're crazy about, from an intimate tour through southern France to a journey around Germany's Christmas markets.

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AMA Waterways Christmas Markets on the Rhine

Setting off in Amsterdam, this seven-night River Rhine cruise is a celebration of the festive season, taking in Christmas markets in Cologne, Rüdesheim, Mannheim, Strasbourg, and Breisach. The pick-and-mix itinerary also includes bike tours, optional hikes and visits to famous attractions like Cologne's Gothic cathedral and Rüdesheim's vineyards. Accommodation is on one of Amawaterways' three ships, all with space for 150 - 170 passengers, a choice of restaurants, a heated pool, and twin balconies in most cabins. Disembark in Basel and add on an optional post-cruise land tour of Zurich or Lucerne. From $2,499 per person.

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AMA Waterways Enticing Douro

Discover Portugal and Spain via the Douro River on this seven-night, round-trip voyage to and from Porto via the ancient city of Lamego and the Spanish city of Salamanca. Meet your fellow passengers over a welcome dinner aboard the AmaVida, a 106-passenger vessel with all the modern comforts including WiFi, a spa, fitness room and sun deck—or sister ship AmaDouro, most of whose staterooms have balconies. The regionally-inspired meals are served in the main restaurant or al fresco dining area and come with unlimited wine, beer and soft drinks. You'll soak up the history of ancient Lamego, tour the fortified village of Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, embark on a drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Salamanca and much more. From $3,299 per person.

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Viking River Cruises Rhine Getaway - Amsterdam to Basel

This Viking River Cruises itinerary highlights the best parts of the Rhine, traversing nine European cities and four countries in just eight days. Beginning in Amsterdam, you'll sail aboard a state-of-the-art Viking Longship (award-winning vessels for their full verandas and oversized suites) and drop anchor in Netherland's Kinderdijk, Germany's Heidelberg and Cologne, and Strasbourg, France. Stops cover the cultural spectrum from visits to medieval castles to tours of Holland's windmills and waterworks, before disembarking in Basel, Switzerland—with an option to add on additional nights in Lucerne or Lake Como. From $1,999 per person.

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Viking River Cruises Elegant Elbe - Berlin to Prague

Cruisetours unlock inland destinations beyond the river banks, with a mix of river cruising and tours by motorcoach. During this Viking River Cruises 10-day deep dive into European history, travelers head south on four wheels to Wittenberg, the birth of the Protestant Reformation, then transfer to aboard Viking Cruise's Beyla or Astrid ships for a cruise that stops in Torgau, Meissen, and Dresden. Highlights include excursions with expert guides in cultural hubs like Berlin and Prague, the revitalized city of Dresden, and a visit to Meissen's porcelain factory. Come nighttime, you'll retreat to your Riverview stateroom, with a personal room steward and glass-enclosed shower. From $2,799 per person.

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Uniworld Gems of Northern Italy - Milan to Venice

A tour for foodies, oenophiles, art lovers, architecture buffs and just about anyone interested in Italy, this 10-day voyage with Uniworld River Cruises begins in Milan and ends, naturally, in Venice. In between, there’s wine tasting in Valpolicella, an exclusive evening opening at St. Mark's Basilica, bike tours to the coastal city of Chioggia, pasta making in Bologna and stops in the Venetian islands of Burano, Mazzorbo, and Torcello. All meals, wine, beer and spirits onboard are included, as well as guided walking programs, flexible shore excursions, and portable audio headsets. For families, select summer departures include activities for junior river cruisers. From $3,399 per person

RELATED: Italy Special: 25 Best Hotels in Italy

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Crystal Cruises Dazzling Danube Celebration - Vienna round trip

This 10-day cruise stops in seven European cities in Austria, Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia. Setting off along the Danube from Vienna, you'll pass through the beautiful Wachau Valley; go for a guided walking tour in Melk; visit historical landmarks in Budapest, and discover the modern art scene and Communist-era architecture of Slovakia's capital, Bratislava. Cabins aboard the Crystal Mozart start at 219 square feet, and all have large picture windows, king or twin beds, 40" TVs and coffee machines. Unique to Crystal River Cruises, the all-inclusive rate covers one meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant in each destination. From $3,899 per person.

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Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours Gems of the Seine & South of France

Scenic Luxury Cruises is distinctive for its truly all-inclusive pricing, bespoke "Space-Ship" vessels, and customizable shore excursions with real insiders. For this 21-day tour along the Seine and Rhône, a maximum of 128 passengers set off aboard the Scenic Gem, with ship amenities like a walking track, spacious terrace, multiple restaurants, a wellness center and sun deck. The trip begins in Paris and includes excursions in the Île-de-France region and walking tours in Rouen (with an optional visit to the Somme battlefields), before transferring to the Rhône and continuing south to the Beaujolais wine region, Lyon, Tournon, Viviers and more. From $12,690 per person.

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Tauck Budapest to Amsterdam

For culture vultures, this two-week cruise along the Danube with Tauck River Cruises covers five countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary) and myriad cathedrals, monasteries, castles and vineyards on shore excursions from the ms Esprit or ms Treasures vessels. With just 98 passengers aboard the 361-foot ship, cabins are around 225 square feet, and most have floor-to-ceiling windows and French balconies for admiring views of the Rhine Valley, Budapest skyline, the Main-Danube canal and more. Meals in the Compass Rose or Arthur's restaurants are all included in the rate, as are all guided tours and crew gratuities. The flexible itinerary lets passengers personalize their excursions; in Vienna, there's the option to explore the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg or spend a day at the magical Schönbrunn Palace. From $7,290 per person.

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Belmond Alfoat in France

With Afloat in France, Belmond takes its signature brand of sophisticated luxury to the waterways around Burgundy, Cote d'Or, France Comte, Saone, Provence, Valle du Rhône, and Canal du Midi aboard seven sumptuously styled barges. With room for between four and 12 passengers, the six-day voyages are more private charter than classic cruising, with staff on hand to customize everything from the regionally-inspired French meals (ingredients are picked fresh from local markets as you cruise) to unique shore experiences with insider access. Two new barges joined the fleet in summer 2017, adding routes between Meaux and Châlons-en-Champagne and to the heart of the Alsace region. You can expect hotel-like perks onboard including outdoor swimming pools, open kitchens for cooking classes, a petanque court and even a grand piano. Book an individual cabin on the larger vessels, or take over an entire cruise with family and friends. Price on request.

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