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Behind the scenes on a luxury European river cruise

Cruise Advice

A European river cruise is full of activity, with lots of time ashore exploring new cities and towns, and soaking up the atmosphere in the markets and village squares.

There's something more though: some of our favourite European river cruise operators bring you extra special visits to places you would simply never get to see if you were visiting independently. Using old friendships and special privileges, they bring you on exclusive visits which you will remember for years to come. Here are our five favourites...

A Viking river cruise ship in Passau, Germany

1. Viking

Viking's Privileged Access excursions in key locations, exclusive to Viking guests, allow you a behind the scenes look or an after hours visit. One highlight is a tour of the boarding school of the Wiener Sängerknaben, the Vienna Boys' Choir, where you can meet some of the singers after an exclusive performance. One of the best known choirs in the world, this perfectly pitched ensemble of trebles and altos is made up of around 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14. Tour some common areas and rehearsal rooms then enjoy an uplifting 30-minute private concert.

AmaWaterways river cruise ship AmaBella in Durnstein, Austria

2. AmaWaterways

The intimate family style of AmaWaterways embraces you from the minute you step on board, so what could be more natural than being introduced to the friends the owners have made over the years? Cruising on the Douro, from Barca D'Alva you are treated to an exclusive dinner at Quinta da Avessada, where you'll enjoy an authentic and traditional dining experience complete with entertainment. Quinta da Avessada is also a fascinating interactive museum commemorating the history and culture of wine in the Alto Douro region, so you'll have fun discovering all the various stages of wine production as well as doing plenty of tasting.

Scenic's river cruise ship Crystal in Budapest, Hungary

3. Scenic

When planning a Scenic river cruise, look out for the Scenic Enrich excursions: all- inclusive, exclusive and unique, taking you into the cultural heart of your destination for a deeper cultural immersion and once-in-a-lifetime memories. Don't just think castles and treasures though! Scenic love to offer something a little bit different. One highlight is to discover Germany's motoring heritage with a special event held at Motorworld in Cologne. Set amongst a large range of classic, vintage and Formula One vehicles, you will have the opportunity to engage in a range of fun filled activities.

MSInspire Tauck's river cruise ship in Europe

4. Tauck

With nearly 100 years of experience creating hand crafted tours in Europe, Tauck's friendships go back a long long way. Their 'Distinctively Inclusive' programme means unique experiences exclusive to Tauck guests. They include Paint 'n Sip high tea with master tile painters at Royal Delft, and evenings at private palaces with memorable cultural performances. On a Seine cruise, enjoy an early opening visit to Claude Monet's house and gardens at Giverny. For Monet this was an ideal retreat where he could work and think in peace, his garden a source of endless inspiration, and this expertly guided early opening visit lets you discover your own inspiration - without the crowds.

Uniworld's River Empress cruise ship on the Rhine

5. Uniworld

In Venice, Uniworld have crafted an experience so amazing that it is sure to be a treasured memory for years afterwards. Uniworld's Nights Out programme features private after-hours tours of popular attractions and fun local nightlife experiences. In Venice, this is an unforgettable experience at one of Venice's most iconic landmarks, St Mark's Basilica. You follow an art historian into the Basilica, after it has closed its doors to tourists, entering in the darkness and watching as the lights are slowly turned on to bring the golden mosaic ceilings to life. This breathtaking experience is exclusively available to guests of Uniworld.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising. Most recently she's cruised on Windstar and has also sailed with Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SeaDream, Ponant, AmaWaterways and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Danube, Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the Caribbean and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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