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Travel advice

River Cruise Advice for First Timers

A couple standing on the Sun deck on Spirit of the Danube

Thinking of heading off on your first river cruise? Not sure of what to expect?

We’ve put together some helpful cruise advice for first timers to make embarking on your first river cruise a breeze. From the best river cruise itineraries for first timers and what to expect onboard to helpful tips, it’s all here.

So, get ready to feel the excitement of a heading off on a cruise, leave any worries or questions behind and look forward to a relaxing break cruising along Europe’s rivers.

What are the best river cruises for first timers?

The Rhine

Meandering along picaresque waterways and stopping off at captivating European destinations… Discovering Europe by its rivers is an amazing opportunity to see a different side to famous cities and lesser-known sights alike.

But working out the best cruise for first time cruisers can seem confusing. The type of river cruise you embark on for your first cruise will depend on your preference and the part of Europe you would like to spend time exploring.

If stopping off at a number of illustrious cities sounds like your kind of adventure, then cruises along the Danube are for you. Wine lovers and history buffs would enjoy a trip along the Douro, where much of the region is a designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or you might find yourself being drawn to the Rhine with its old forests, fairytale castles and wine.

Find out more about our cruise itineraries and destinations over on our Where We Go page.

How long should you go on your first river cruise?

Planning a cruise along one of Europe’s rivers for the first time is an exciting prospect. If you’re not quite sure how long the best river cruise for first timers should be, the answer is- it’s up to you.

First time cruisers often start by trying our shorter length cruises for their first trip. A weeklong cruise will give you enough time to explore European destinations and take in the continent’s bucolic landscapes. Longer cruise itineraries will offer more of a chance to experience even more destinations and to really relax into life onboard.

What to expect on a river cruise

Romania, The Danube river

The idea of setting sail on a river cruise might seem like a fun idea for your next trip, but what will your first time cruising actually be like? We’ve put together an overview of Saga’s river cruises to help you get a better idea of what to expect when you book a cruise with us.

What do I need to know about going on a cruise for the first time?

The good news is that from your very first time cruising with Saga and every cruise after, you can expect the adventure to begin from the moment you leave your front door. All of our cruises come with an included chauffer service that will pick you up from your home and drive you to either the airport or the Eurostar.

Relaxing into life onboard

A number of guests enjoy the jovial atmosphere of the Panorama Restaurant, Spirit of the Danube

Our crew will be waiting to welcome you onboard and help you to settle in. Unpack only once and let the journey through the captivating landscapes of Europe commence.

All that’s left for you to do is soak up the ever-changing views from the deck, glass of bubbly in hand, as you leave the port behind, eagerly awaiting the adventures ahead.

River cruising with Saga is truly all-inclusive. Sip your favourite drink, dine on delicious meals and join excursions to a host of fascination destinations – you’ll never need to worry about tipping or settling the bill at the end. Everything is included in the price.

Exploring ashore with included excursions

A couple wine tasting in a vineyard

Wake up to mornings on the river as you enjoy a tea or coffee from your French balcony on a backdrop of magnificent views. Spend days sampling wine in verdant vineyards, stopping off in famous cities, and soaking up local life in laid-back small towns. Explore at your own pace or embark on an excursion; our cruise directors will be on hand to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

Find out more about what it’s like to cruise on one of our river ships or discover the difference between river cruises and ocean cruises.

Our tips for first-time river cruising

Here are some top first time cruise tips to help you prepare for your river cruise.

Work out what to pack

A guest reads a book in her cabin, Spirit of the Danube

Packing for your river cruise can seem confusing at first. Working out just what to wear for your trip will depend on the destinations you’re going to be visiting, the type of activities you will be getting up to and the time of year you’re heading off on your cruise. For more helpful advice, read our article about what to pack for your first river cruise.

Get ready to make new friends

A couple enjoy the sunshine whilst others enjoy a game of chess. The Sun deck, Spirit of the Danube

Sharing a drink and chatting about your day with your fellow passengers is one of the joys of river cruising. Our river cruise ships make socialising over dinner or chatting with your neighbour up on the deck easy. There’s plenty of opportunity to unwind in quiet too, with a book in the lounge or a drink on your private balcony.

There’s so much to explore – the choice is yours

Each port of call offers up the chance to get an insight into the local culture and history of the region. Join one of the included and optional excursions which have been carefully curated with our guests in mind or choose to explore independently. The choice is always yours.

Hopefully we have helped you to get a better understanding about what to expect on your first time on a cruise. From exploring the storied port wine cellars in Porto to being charmed by castles dotted along the Rhine, your first river cruise with us will be full of unforgettable moments. And if you don't love all the brilliant first times on your river cruise, we'll give you your money back. That's our Love it First Time Guarantee.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.