When to book your river cruise and why you’re unlikely to get a last minute deal

We often get phone calls inquiring about a river cruise that leaves the next month. Nearly all the time, our agents have to let them know that space is all sold out. The response: “What do you mean the river cruise next month is sold out?”

Iron Gates

The Iron Gates: cruising the Danube River.

Yes, with river cruising, you need to reserve your space a year in advance. As time approaches the date you’d like to sail, availability quickly depletes. Here is why you’re unlikely to get a last minute river cruise deal.


Summer river cruises in Europe go fast. It’s the most popular time to travel. Furthermore, river cruising is growing quickly in popularity. When more people are after a limited product, you have to act fast to get what you want. In the cooler months of September to December, you’re more likely to be able to secure a stateroom a few months in advance. Still, don’t expect to find a river cruise one month before you want to leave. You would be very lucky if you did.

Size of Ships

In general, with passenger capacity at less than 200 in Europe, it doesn’t take many people and not much time to fill ships. Even with Viking’s rapid expansion (they christened 10 ships last year at the same time), space on the waters and onboard compared to ocean cruises is limited. The exception is fall and holiday market river cruises. It’s not as popular a time to travel during these cooler months so, although limited, you may still get a stateroom as late as a few months before the sail date.

It really all comes down to supply and demand. River cruise companies reward those who book early as well, offering them a 5% discount. Ask your River Cruise Specialist about the early booking bonus, as well as our exclusive VIP Too Low to Show offer. Call 1-800-565-2784 today.

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