When Is the Best Time to Take a River Cruise?

If you've decided to take a river cruise, you may be wondering when is the best time to go. Well, it really depends where you want to travel. Each region has months or seasons throughout the year that are better than others with regard to the weather.

River cruises rates often fluctuate and are higher during certain months and lower for other months. That's not always the case, though. There are certain regions where the river cruise rates stay about the same all year.



Between April and June, flooding is sometimes a problem from rising water levels due to melting snow and rain. While this is not something that occurs every year, the possibility does exist and seems to be higher during these months, particularly for the Rhine, Main Danube and Elbe Rivers. 

For the Dutch & Belgian Waterways, flooding is less likely during the winter and springs months and more likely during the fall. You'll see lots of tulips blooming from March through the middle of May, which is also when you’ll find most of the itineraries. Only a few companies offer cruises on the Dutch & Belgian Waterways throughout the year.

The best time for European river cruises in terms of weather is usually in July and August. The weather is warmer and the possibility of flooding has usually past. 

However, during the spring and late summer, you can also enjoy nice weather and you'll probably find Europe less crowded than you would during the summer months. 

In general, European river cruise prices tend to be the highest in May and September and lowest in March and mid-October through December.

European Rivers:

  • Danube (Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia & Serbia)
  • Dordogne (France)
  • Douro (Portugal & Spain) 
  • Dutch & Belgian Waterways (Netherlands & Belgium)
  • Elbe (Germany & Czech Republic)
  • Main (Germany)
  • Moselle (Germany & France)
  • Po (Italy)
  • Rhine (Netherlands, Germany, France & Switzerland) 
  • Rhône (France)
  • Saône (France)
  • Seine (France)


River cruises are available from May through October. The best time for cruises is during the spring and fall. Summer average temperatures are usually mild but not guaranteed. And over the past decade, Russia has experienced some pretty severe heat waves during the summer months.

Lowest prices for river cruises in Russia are from mid-September through October. Between June and August, there’s not much of a fluctuation in price. 

River: Volga



River cruises in China are available from March through November. The best time to take a cruise based on weather is April, May, September or October. Summers tend to be hot and March and November can be cold. June and July is the rainy season.

Lowest prices for river cruises in China are usually in April and from June through August and the highest rates are usually in September and October.

River: Yantze

Vietnam & Cambodia

Cruises in Vietnam and Cambodia are available from January through March and from  June through December each year. The summer months of June, July and August are good months to cruise in terms of cost. Cruise prices are lowest during those months. It's the rainy season, though; and the weather tends to be hot and humid. The dry season is from November though April.

Lowest prices are June through August and highest prices are in February and from October through December.

River: Mekong


River cruises in Myanmar are available from January through April and September through December. The dry season is from October through May and the wet season is from June to early October. Hottest months are from March through June. January and October through December are the coldest months. So, in terms of weather, the best months are probably January and February.

The lowest fares are available in March, April and September. And the highest rates are from October through December.

River: Myanmar


Nile River cruises in Egypt are available year-round. The best time to take a Nile River cruise in terms of weather is from October through April. It gets very hot in Egypt from June through August. September is a good month to book a Nile River cruise. Temperatures will be getting cooler, and it's usually less crowded for travellers.

Fares for Nile River cruises remain about the same throughout the year.

Cruises on the Chobe River in Botswana are available from March through November. South Africa has a climate similar to some parts of Australia and South America. Its cooler weather is from May through August.

Lowest rates are available in March and highest from May through September.

South America

Amazon River cruises are offered throughout the year. Since the Amazon itself is a rain forest, this region experiences rainfall about 200 days annually. Even during the dry or low season, there are days that it rains.

It's located in the southern hemisphere, so the warmer months are from December through May. That also happens to be the rainy season. During this time, you'll be able to cover more of the area by boat than you would be able to during the dry season.

June through November is the low water season, but it doesn't mean you won't experience rain. Temperatures are milder at this time, usually in the mid 70s. If you travel to the Amazon in the dry season, you'll have a chance to experience more of the jungle by foot than you would be able to during the rainy season.

Rates for Amazon River cruises are the same year round for most suppliers.

North America

River cruises in the United States are available year-round depending on the river and the  location. In the northern part of the country, cruises on the Columbia & Snake rivers are available from March through November.

For the Upper Mississippi River, cruises are available between June and October. And on the lower Mississippi, there are itineraries from February through January of the following year. So, essentially, year round.

There are also a few overnight itineraries on the Hudson River from July to August.

The best time to cruise on the Columbia and Mississippi rivers is probaby during the summer months. Although, during the spring, you'll see flowers blooming; and in the fall months, you'll see leaves falling. Both the spring and fall are beautiful and colorful times of the year.

Cruises on the St. Johns River in Florida are available year round.

In the southeastern United States, hurricane season is from June 1 through November 30 with the peak time in August and September. This could affect travel on the St. Johns and the Lower Mississippi rivers. And the rainy season is from June through August with some rain in Florida on most days. It's also the hottest time of the year.

For the remainder of the cruise season in the southeastern United States, the weather is mild. There are cold days during the winter months sometimes but also plenty of warm days and sunshine.

In Canada cruises are available on the St. Lawrence River from May through September. The best time to travel on this river is probably from mid-June to mid-August. The weather can be cool during the other months.

River cruise fares in both Canada and the United States do not generally fluctuate throughout the year.

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Lauri Wakefield is a travel writer who specializes in  river cruises in Europe and the U.S. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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