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A river cruise is a great way to visit destinations that host some of the world’s most spectacular festivals.

Your on-the-spot accommodation is assured, ticketing to events can be included and you don’t have to pay inflated prices ashore for drinks and meals.

Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020

Several river cruise lines have been taking bookings for the past two years for Danube itineraries that take in the famed Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020. It is a five-hour performance that has been staged every 10 years since 1634; between May and October it is repeated more than 100 times in the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau.

Keukenhof Gardens

Viewing millions of tulips in full bloom at the Netherlands’ Keukenhof Gardens is associated with flower shows and art exhibitions between mid-March and mid-May. Numerous ‘Dutch Waterways’ and ‘Tulips and Windmills’ cruises from Amsterdam include a day at Keukenhof during tulip season and the best time to visit is generally April.

Keukenhof Gardens

Numerous ‘Dutch Waterways’ and ‘Tulips and Windmills’ cruises from Amsterdam include a day at Keukenhof during tulip season. Image: keukenhof.nl

Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest

New Orleans hosts two major festivals every year, Mardi Gras in March and Jazz Fest in April-May. This year marks the 50th Jazz Fest and its star-studded line-up, including the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and hundreds of other big names, is the biggest yet. Check out American Cruise Lines’ Mississippi itineraries.

Mardi Gras New Orleans

Mardi Gras New Orleans

Spring International Music Festival

Prague’s annual Spring International Music Festival runs for three weeks from mid-May and is a must for classical music aficionados; look at Danube itineraries.

Prague Spring International Music Festival

Prague’s Spring International Music Festival: a must for classical music aficionados

Avignon Festival

Avignon’s three-week arts festival celebrates theatre in all its forms and is held in July; check cruises on the Rhone. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, hosts drama, jazz and music festivals between July and September, staged at scenic spots around the city; several Danube cruises now include Bratislava.

Avignon Festival

Avignon’s three-week arts festival celebrates theatre in all its forms

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, is held over three weekends in Munich every September-October. Tauck combines a Rhine cruise with two nights in Munich for the boozy do – lunch in a private section of an Oktoberfest tent is included in the fare. Cheers!

River cruise festivals, Octoberfest

Oktoberfest

Rhine in Flames

Rhine in Flames

Rhine in Flames

Rivers run through some of Europe’s finest wine regions, so no wonder wine festivals are a firm favourite. The Rhine has a festival in August/September during which a flotilla of illuminated ships makes its way along the river while fireworks are set off from castles and mountain tops nearby. Called Flames, it celebrates the harvest.

Christmas Markets

Europe’s fabled Christmas Markets typically open around November 25 and stay operational until December 23 or 24th.

Cruising in the run up to Christmas in Europe is truly magical, with cities like Vienna putting on their seasonal best.

Christmas Markets in Vienna

Christmas Markets in Vienna

Nearly every major river cruise line offers sailings that traverse the Danube, Main, Rhine and beyond, including Avalon and Scenic.

The Christmas markets have local crafts and wares and an astonishing variety of delicious local Christmas delicacies, hot chocolate, mulled wine and cider.

It’s the best way to get into the Christmas spirit!