Once you have decided where you would like to go on your river cruise, you need to decide when you are going to travel. There are a lot of factors that influence this, such as weather, crowds and events happening throughout the year. We’ve taken all of these into account to tell you the best time to take a river cruise in a wide range of different regions.
The main season for European river cruises is from April to September. However, depending on which river you wish to explore, there are different periods that will provide the best experience. For example, anyone wanting to cruise the Belgium and Dutch Waterways would be strongly encouraged to do so in either April or May. This is when the tulip fields are in full bloom, providing carpets of colour on the river banks and creating a magical sight.
Conversely, spring is not the best time to take a Rhone river cruise due to the chance that high water levels will affect your sailing. As the snow starts to melt, water rushes down from the Alps and this can cause issues. As far as crowds are concerned, taking your European river cruise at either end of the summer season will be cheaper and less crowded. Outside of the summer months, November and December are a great option for Rhine or Danube river cruises as you get to enjoy the festivities of the Christmas markets.
Whilst the summer season is the best for weather in Russia, it’s still not particularly warm and so you might want to consider a Volga River cruise in May, September or October to avoid the large numbers of tourists. The autumn months are usually the best if you are looking for a bargain.
With June and July being right in the middle of rainy season and March and November often being quite chilly, the best time to take a Yangtze River cruise is either side of the summer. This way you will avoid most of the rain but temperatures will still be quite warm. Prices do tend to rise in the autumn though, so May will be the best option if you are looking for a good deal.
Whether you want to explore Vietnam and Cambodia on a Mekong River cruise or sail through Myanmar via the Irrawaddy, the best time to cruise through South-East Asia is December through to April. You might be tempted by the low prices during months such as June, July and August but this is rainy season and the weather can be very hot and humid. That’s not to say this is not a viable option, just that your savings may be outweighed by how uncomfortable you feel in the heat. To find the perfect balance between cost, weather and tourist levels, we would suggest either March or April.
Mississippi River cruises are split into two clear sections, with Upper Mississippi cruises running between St. Louis and Minneapolis and Lower Mississippi River cruises being operated from New Orleans to Memphis. Due to high water levels in the upper part of the river during the spring, the best time to enjoy this mighty waterway will vary depending on which part you want to explore. In order to avoid hot and humid weather on both parts of the river, we would suggest taking Lower Mississippi cruises in the spring and journeys on the upper section in the autumn. Sailing outside of the summer season will also mean you will have less trouble from those pesky mosquitoes.
As with European sailings, river cruises on the Mississippi can be magical around the festive period. Whilst not as widespread as in countries like Germany, many towns and cities have their own Christmas markets which will spread the joy and provide a chance to grab some gifts for everyone back home.
Columbia and Snake
Meanwhile, in North-West America, the summer period is nowhere near as humid and so these months can be a good choice. However, if you want to avoid the crowds and the highest prices, we suggest travelling in May, June or September. There is likely to me more rain in May than the other months mentioned, but this can result in the banks of the river being covered in lush green colours, providing some excellent views as you sail along. On the other hand, the best time for wine lovers to travel is later September to early October. This is when the harvest usually takes place and there are likely to be wine tasting excursions available on your itinerary.
The two main rivers in Africa are the Nile and the Chobe. Temperatures in Egypt can get very hot during the summer months and so, whilst Nile River cruises are operated throughout most of the year, you may wish to sail between September and April. This will also help you avoid the crowds and therefore enhance your experience in places such as the Valley of the Kings. Choose the start of the period for the best balance between weather and tourist numbers.
As far as the Chobe is concerned, the best time to visit is likely to be dictated by wildlife viewing opportunities. After all, this is the main reason why people choose to drift through this national park. Our suggestion of September and October will mean you are travelling during the hot, dry season but it is definitely worth it for the animal activity you will see. The point just before the rains come (late October) is when you will see large numbers of elephant and buffalo heading to the water to drink and bathe – and you will be sailing right past them.
The thing to remember with any Amazon River cruise is that, even outside the rainy season, you are likely to experience sudden downpours – it is the rainforest after all. Aside from that, the time of year you choose to travel will be dependent on what you want to get from your trip to Brazil or Peru. If you are looking to get off the boat and up close to animals such as sloths and howler monkeys, then it is best to travel in the dry season (December and April) when the jungle paths are more accessible. However, if you want to venture further into the rainforest on board your river ship, the rainy season (May to November) is the best choice. During this time, the tributaries of the Amazon become easier to navigate, giving more chance of seeing a bigger variety of wildlife.
Brahmaputra River cruises take you through the Assam region of India on a journey of discovery that includes meeting people from local villages and spotting fantastic wildlife. The best time to cruise in this part of the world is between January and April. Choosing any of these months will be mean you travel outside of the rainy season and during the period when the Kaziranga National Park is open. December is another option but temperatures can be quite cold and early morning mists might disrupt your wildlife viewing.
Obviously, these are only suggestions and the time of year you actually cruise will be dependent on when you can travel and what you want to see and do whilst you’re there. For more advice on the best time to sail your chosen river, speak to our knowledgeable team today.