Bike Your Way Through Europe with AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways was the first river cruise line to stock its ships with bikes. Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways

River cruising and biking—the two are becoming inseparable. I can attest that together, they create the greatest means for exploring the world. I discovered the joys of both river cruising and biking during an AmaWaterways venture on the Danube, my first ever river cruise. Daily excursions during the Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary route included a choice of three, one of which was nearly always a bike outing. Our expertly guided rides led us through the famed Culture Mile in Linz, Austria, the glorious Wachau Valley, and architecturally impressive Vienna. The bike exploration and accompanying guide narrative provided an immersive experience, allowing for a more personal connection to the towns and cities in which we docked. And, the active nature of biking allowed me to more fully enjoy AmaWaterways’ amazing cuisine. It was one of my best vacations ever, and I vowed to replicate it. 

Biking along the Danube in Vilshofen, Germany. Photo by Dan Miller

And I have. During a Bordeaux river cruise, along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, I biked through the vineyard rich countryside to Saint-Émilion, stopping to sample grapes along the way. Our group pedaled through Medoc, towards a private sauterne tasting at a family run winery. Through small villages we rode, braking to grab the figs fallen from an over abundant tree. And more recently, while on a Paris to Normandy sail along the Seine aboard AmaLyra, bike exploration took me through the charming streets of Parisian suburb Les Andelys, along the breathtaking coastline of up-and-coming Le Havre, and along the narrow city streets of cathedral-filled Rouen. Back in Paris, our bike guide led us to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, to Place de la Concorde and its Olympics preparation, and to check-on the renovation progress at Notre Dame. Never in Paris have I covered so much territory as I did on this expertly led bike tour through the City of Lights. The experience allowed for perspective that I’d never achieved via my many walks or cab rides. And at the end of each ride, the comfort and the delicious cuisine of our AmaWaterways ship awaited. 

Exploring the riches of Paris by bike. Photo by Fran Miller
Rouen, France is best explored by bike. Photo by Fran Miller

Always on the cutting edge of wellness and active travel trends, AmaWaterways was actually the first cruise line to stock an entire fleet of complimentary state-of-the-art bicycles (and helmets) on board its ships. Co-founder and executive vice president Kristin Karst strongly believes in providing guests with a vacation that encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. And thus, in addition to hiking and biking excursions, nearly every AmaWaterways ship features a Wellness Host who leads a variety of daily activities such as pilates, resistance band stretching, cardio, active wellness walks and dance. Guests of all ages and activity levels are encouraged to participate; simple modifications are offered for guests with mobility limitations. 

On my recent Seine river cruise, wellness host Goncalo Santos provided back-up to our regional bike tour guide. Wearing his bright yellow safety jacket, Santos monitored busy intersections and brought up the rear, while also guarding our parked bikes when we entered a cathedral or Hotel de Ville (city hall). “Biking allows our guests to stay active during their cruise,” said Santos, who holds a degree in sports science and a masters in physical education. “Biking also allows guests to see more of the cities in which we dock, more than you’d see on some of the other excursion options.”

Exploring Monet's Giverny by bike. Photo by Fran Miller

Allowing for even more extensive bike exploration is AmaWaterways partnership with Backroads. The two formed a partnership nearly ten years ago, inviting travelers to explore Europe with immersive, meticulously planned bike trips with the world-class services and expertise for which Backroads is known, and then ending each day in the comfort and luxury of an AmaWaterways river ship. 

“Being active by day while living aboard a luxurious ship and unpacking just one time makes our active river cruises a perfect way to experience up to five different countries during an eight-day vacation,” said Backroads Founder & President, Tom Hale. “We were the first company to offer guests this unique way to enjoy an adventure vacation along with the luxury of an AmaWaterways ship. Since our very first collaboration with AmaWaterways in 2015, our offerings have continued to grow to include trips for families, full ship celebrations, leisurely e-bike only departures and now our new Bordeaux Active River Cruise, which is a perfect combination of beautiful biking, gourmet cuisine, and superb wines from one of the best regions in France.”

“Our collaboration with Backroads is one of our most valued partnerships, as it is a natural extension of our commitment to health and wellness on all our sailings, and it allows us to further cater to the growing active traveler market,” added Karst. “Guests choosing to join a Backroads group or full ship charter are able to participate in active biking experiences as part of Backroads’ program, while those looking for more relaxed tours of the destinations are still able to have a wonderful experience by participating in AmaWaterways’ cultural or culinary tours each day, so there truly is something for every type of traveler.”   

Lined up, and ready to roll. Photo by Fran Miller

Every Backroads departure with AmaWaterways provides expert trip leaders and individualized support with multiple vans, which allow for optimum flexibility and a variety of biking route options each day. At night, guests return to their AmaWaterways ship for award-winning cuisine, welcoming service, and comfortable staterooms. Additional amenities include a daily Sip & Sail complimentary cocktail hour, heated sun deck pool or whirlpool, hair and massage salons, fitness center, and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the ships. 

Whether as an AmaWaterways guest or a guest of the Backroads/AmaWaterways partnership, you’ll find exquisite freedom in exploration by bike. Wind in your helmet-covered hair, sun on your shoulders, and the sights and sounds of Europe’s greatest destinations at your fingertips, there’s nothing like it.  

Fran Endicott Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is a luxury focused freelance feature and travel writer for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites, editor-at-large for, senior contributor to Napa Valley Life Magazine, and a California editor for luxury travel concierge service Essentialist, specializing in the Napa Valley. Prior to her journalism career she held positions in the fields of politics, te...(Read More)

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