Gourmet river cruises: trips to tickle your taste buds along Europe’s waterways

Food and the cruise go hand in hand like oysters and champagne. It’s no surprise, then, that many cruise lines offer itineraries for the taste buds along European waterways.

It’s a win-win scenario. The countryside scrolls past as you stretch out with a drink of something crisp and cool (rather than cursing the satnav as you walk past your highway exit). An organized itinerary within easy reach of its well-seasoned life means you can always eat in the best places or sneak up on the secret tour.

Can’t decide whether to go to Vienna, Budapest or Amsterdam? No need – enjoy a few city breaks without having to pack and unpack your luggage – your room accompanies you, like a well-behaved dog. The Danube and the Rhine are the two megaliths of gourmet short-distance river cruises, but there are many more …

EPIC OF THE SEVEN RIVERS

Majestic: New AmaMagna River Cruise Ship to Call in 14 Countries for 45 Epic Nights

It’s the ultimate European river voyage – seven rivers, three ships (including the new AmaMagna, a hybrid diesel-electric vessel) and 14 countries on 45 epic nights. Along the way, you will sail on the Rhône and the Rhine, the Main and the Moselle, up to the Danube.

It won’t launch until 2023, but options are available.

To book: Forty-five nights with AmaWaterways from around £ 18,000 per person (amawaterways.com).

PORT IN PORTUGAL

Explore relaxed Porto (pictured right) before strolling down the Douro, Portugal's newest river cruise destination

Explore relaxed Porto (pictured right) before strolling down the Douro, Portugal’s newest river cruise destination

The Douro in Portugal is the new popular destination for river cruises. Allow time to explore relaxed Porto before strolling through the Douro.

Wine terraces line the hills and terracotta-tiled villages slumber on the banks. It is the center of the port and tastings take place in different quintas along the way.

Walks are quiet business, rewarded with picnics in the hills. The pace picks up (slightly) in medieval Salamanca, Spain. Still hungry after exploring the city? Sniff the hornazo (meat pie) or paloma (fried salad sandwich – weirdly delicious) at the market. Obrigado!

To book: Seven nights with Viking from £ 2,045 per person (vikingrivercruises.co.uk).

GERMAN VINES

The German Moselle Valley, pictured above, is synonymous with crisp, floral white wines, which you can sample on a cruise along the Moselle.

The German Moselle Valley, pictured above, is synonymous with crisp floral white wines, which you can sample on a cruise along the Moselle.

The Romans planted vines along the German Moselle in the 1st century and the Germans took over and ran with them. Now the Moselle valley is synonymous with crisp floral white wines (pinot gris acclamations, bottom up riesling).

The vineyards run down to the river and are quite pretty before being topped with fairytale castles emerging from the morning mist. Raise your glass to the Romans in Trier, Germany’s oldest city, with Unesco sites including an amphitheater. In vino veritas.

To book: Seven nights with Tui from £ 1,260 per person (tui.co.uk).

GOURMET FAVORITE

Cruise one of the world's great foodie regions with Emerald Cruises - stopping in Lyon, pictured, en route

Cruise one of the world’s great foodie regions with Emerald Cruises – stopping in Lyon, pictured, en route

Emerald Cruises boasts that every last bite served on board is inspired by the local region.

Given that you are navigating one of the great gastronomic regions of the world (Lyon is the gastronomic capital of a country renowned for its gastronomy), this is good news. Better yet, Fabien Morreale, finalist of the Top Chef show in France, takes care of your Provencal dinner extravaganza.

In case you snack between meals, onboard tastings (cheeses, olives, regional wines) and guided tours of historic towns are organized along the way.

To book: Seven nights with Emerald Cruises from £ 1,895 per person (emeraldcruises.co.uk).

WINE ON THE RHINE

Tauck offers a nine-night package that includes a trip to Heidelberg, pictured, where guests have the chance to learn how beer pairs with food

Tauck offers a nine-night package that includes a trip to Heidelberg, pictured, where guests have the chance to learn how beer pairs with food

You’ll go pint for pint on this beer-themed journey that passes through the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and Germany and culminates in Munich for the massive drinking party that is Oktoberfest (with a guaranteed seat) in one of the best tents).

Relax along the way with a tour of Amsterdam’s coolest bars and a gentle descent into Düsseldorf’s ‘longest bar’ in Düsseldorf (home of the albier – a crispy ale-lager hybrid). It’s not all about silly giggles: in Heidelberg, you learn how beer (some say better than wine) goes with food.

To book: Nine nights with Tauck from £ 4,690 per person (tauck.co.uk).

ACROSS THE CONTINENT

Test your palette and do a wine tasting in Rudesheim (pictured) on Saga's Spirit of the Danube tour

Test your palette and do a wine tasting in Rudesheim (pictured) on Saga’s Spirit of the Danube tour

Saga’s new river ship, the Spirit of the Danube, will launch next year with a variety of cruises for those over 50. Foodies will lick their lips on this culinary epic that crosses the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary and includes wine tastings in Rudesheim and beer tours in Bratislava.

If you take the cruise departing April 4 next year, you’ll find celebrity chef Paul Rankin, founder of Michelin-starred Roscoff in Northern Ireland and star of Ready Steady Cook, on board.

To book: Seven nights with Saga from £ 2,749 per person (travel.saga.co.uk).

NOL DE L’ELBE

Travel through towns like Wittenberg (pictured) down the Elbe in Germany

Travel through towns like Wittenberg (pictured) down the Elbe in Germany

The Christmas markets are at the center of your cruise on the German Elbe. Sausages (bratwurst, currywurst, Everythingwurst) and lebkuchen are offered, but also kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and flammkuchen (German pizza). Of course, there is gluhwein but also eierpunsch made from egg liqueur (it’s wonderful). Start in Berlin and go through Magdeburg, Wittenberg and Meissen.

To book: Six nights with Croisi Europe from £ 1,187 per person (croisieurope.co.uk).

VINTAGE SERVICE

Board a helicopter for a flight over the Wachau Valley, pictured, while participating in Crystal Cruises' trip to Austria and Hungary

Board a helicopter for a flight over the Wachau Valley, pictured, while participating in Crystal Cruises’ trip to Austria and Hungary

This luxury cruise passes through Austria and Hungary and hides all the crispy nooks, with butler service for each suite, Viennese-inspired coffee, and silver-serving food and wine pairings. Vintage Room Excursions are mainly tailor-made activities.

Board a helicopter for a flight over the Wachau Valley and don’t miss Cesky Krumlov for a dark lager from Pivovar Eggenberg or ancient Krems for incredible chocolate.

To book: Seven nights with Crystal Cruises from £ 3,405 per person (crystalcruises.co.uk).

ITALIAN TREASURES

Venice is one of the stops on the Uniworld tour of the Po and its cities

Venice is one of the stops on the Uniworld tour of the Po and its cities

Yes, you start in sophisticated Milan, but the star of this show is the Po River and its cities. Venice doesn’t need to be introduced, but it is nice to be ushered into St. Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace with no crowds.

Bologna is considered the culinary capital of Italy and you can make pasta and bolognese sauce. After all that, Padua has a tough job but holds up – at 3pm it’s rude not to sip a spritz and eat cicchetti (Padua tapas).

To book: Nine nights with Uniworld from £ 2,730 per person (uniworld.com).


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