Pedal Power: Bicycling Through Europe on a River Cruise

Mosel River in Cochem, Germany // Photo by Susan J. Young
Mosel River in Cochem, Germany // Photo by Susan J. Young

Clients sailing on European river cruises in spring typically book for such seasonal conditions as warmer weather, flowers and vineyards in bloom, and villages and cities awakening from winter with colorful festivals and traditional activities.

Bicycling is a great way for active river cruisers to explore Europe in spring, immerse themselves in local culture, see trees and hillsides blossom and mingle with the locals. Most lines provide complimentary bicycles for guest use and some have guided bicycle excursions in certain destinations.

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Cycling Excursions

Avalon Waterways has a robust portfolio of fully guided bicycle excursions on multiple itineraries within Europe; the list is here: www.avalonwaterways.com/Experience-Avalon/Bicycle-Excursions.

For example, “Cycling Through the Dutch Countryside” is offered from Amsterdam. Following a 15-minute ferry ride out of the city, the bicycle tour begins in the Waterland nature reserve and cyclers meander through quaint, historic villages with wooden houses.

Along the way, cyclers pass waterways, pedal across old wooden bridges and travel along the “Ijsselmeer,” a shallow artificial lake in the central Netherlands. It's a peaceful trip and designated bicycle paths connect the entire region.

In spring, the Dutch fields are usually green and brimming with flowers including colorful tulips. Bicyclists usually see sheep and cows in the meadows. A photo stop is made at a Dutch windmill. Bicycles, helmets and a refreshment break at a typical Dutch inn are provided.

This excursion, which costs $66 per person, is offered on these Avalon Waterways itineraries: Tulip Time; Romantic Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel; Romantic Rhine from Zurich to Amsterdam; European Splendor from Vienna to Amsterdam; Magnificent Europe from Amsterdam to Budapest; Magnificent Europe from Budapest to Amsterdam; North Sea - Black Sea cruise from Bucharest to Amsterdam; North Sea – Black Sea Cruise from Amsterdam to Bucharest; and European Splendor from Amsterdam to Vienna.

Amacerto in Durnstein, Austria // Photo by Susan J. Young
Amacerto in Durnstein, Austria // Photo by Susan J. Young

Scenic Pedaling

Bicycle enthusiasts often enjoy exploring independently at port calls so A-Rosa Cruises (www.arosacruises.com) will carry 15 bicycles onboard each of its cruises this year for complimentary guest use. Guests should always check with the purser's desk if they plan to bicycle as many lines require guests to reserve a bike in advance.

Through its "Go Active" program, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection (www.uniworld.com) provides both complimentary bicycles and Nordic walking sticks for guest use. Most other European river lines and many European barges also carry bicycles onboard for guest use.

While Viking River Cruises (www.vikingcruises.com) doesn't carry bikes onboard for guests, the Viking Concierge service will arrange for a rental if a guest want to cycle while in certain ports.

Tauck guests in Durnstein // Photo by Tauck
Tauck guests in Durnstein // Photo by Tauck

Tom Armstrong, corporate communications manager for Tauck (www.tauck.com), says:  "There are organized, optional bicycle rides on each of our two Tauck Bridges family river cruises, one on the Rhone and the other on the Danube. On our other cruises, guests can use the bikes at their leisure and our Tauck directors will provide suggestions on where to ride."

Austria’s Wachau Valley is one of the most scenic spots for those sailing on a Danube cruise. In Durnstein, guests of AmaWaterways (www.amawaterways.com) might head out on the complimentary bicycles provided by the line to explore the quaint town or countryside.

What's to see? In Durnstein itself, cyclers will see stone walls, cobblestone streets, wine bars and small shops selling suchlocal goods as apricots and hand-crafted souvenirs and gifts. Vineyards surround the town.

Bicyclists wanting a longer "pedal" might head for Weissenkirchen or Krems, both about eight miles away. Just be sure to leave plenty of time to return to the river boat before it sails.

AmaWaterways guests also may sign up in advance to reserve a bicycle for an 18-mile guided ride along the river as their river boat sails from Durnstein to Melk.

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scenic gem
A river cruise in Northern France // Photo by Scenic Cruises

Those sailing on Scenic Cruises (www.sceniccruises.com) 11-day “Gems of the Seine River” cruise roundtrip from Paris on Scenic Gem might choose to utilize complimentary bicycles at Les Andelys or Rouen, to name just a few scenic spots.

At Honfleur, cruisers can cycle from the port to the nearby English Channel beaches. For a more adventuresome ride, cyclists can head out from Vernon to Giverny where Scenic includes entry to Monet’s house and garden.

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