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One huge difference between an ocean cruise and a river cruise are all the locks along the rivers. Most river cruise ships are designed in such a way not to waste any space and just fit into the locks. For example the lock width along the Rhine Main Danube Canal is 12meter, so all ships can have a maximum width of 11.40m. That leaves exactly one foot of space to the right and left if a ship enters a lock. Therefore they sometimes bump into the walls, which may be very unpleasant at night. That is one of the little details most operators or travel agents do not mention. But on the other hand, as you can't avoid the locks, try to see it as being part of the whole thing. Hence I listed all locks along the Western European rivers and where they are located.
In order to know how many locks you are going to cruise, just open the interactive map and start to count them.
Total of 19 locks. 15 of them are between Regensburg and Vienna. One is between Bratislava and Budapest. Two locks are at the Iron Gates between Budapest and Bucharest. The last one is at Cernavoda, downstream of most disembarkation ports for Bucharest close to the Danube river delta. Read more about the Danube.
Total of 5 locks. All below hydro dam of Saucelle at Vega de Terron. As most cruises circle from Porto upstream and back, you'll pass 10 locks. Read more about the Douro .
Total of 7 locks. 6 Locks on the czech side of the border upstream until you reach Melnik (at the confluence of the Vltava). Just close to Hamburg is another lock at Geesthacht. Most cruises end (or start) at Bad Schandau on the german side of the border and transfer to Prague by bus. Read more about the Elbe.
Total of 34 locks. All of them have to be passed if you cruise from the Rhine to Bamberg (in order to enter the Main Danube Canal - going to Nuremberg or further down to Regensburg). Read more about the Main.
Main Danube Canal
Total of 16 locks. 7 Bamberg to Nurembergs port. 9 from Nuremberg across the continental water divide to Kelheim and the Danube. These are the really high locks, some go as far up as 25 meters (75 ft.). Read more about the Main Danube Canal.
Total of 28 locks. Cruises usually disembark at Remich (Luxembourg), so only 12 locks are passed on a Moselle cruise. Read more about the Moselle.
No locks. Good news, isn't it?
Total of 12 locks. 2 are upstream of Basel, while the other are along the Upper Rhine Valley from Basel downstream to Rastatt. All are upstream of the mouth of the Main river. Read more about the Rhine.
Total of 13 locks. 12 are beween Lyon and the mouth of the Rhone at the Mediterrean Sea. Read more about the Rhone.
Total of 9 locks. The cruises as far upstream as Merzig, so only 3 locks really matter. Read more about the Saar.
Total of 51 locks. No worries, only three are between Lyon and Chalon-sur-Saone. The rest is upstream of Chalon-sur-Saone. But you'll usually turn around there, in order to cruise back to Lyon. So count them twice. Read more about the Saone.
Total of 34 locks. 5 between Paris and Honfleur where the Seine discharges into the North Sea. All other locks are upstream of Paris. As you do a circle cruise from Paris down to the mouth of the the river and back up to the capital, you'll pass them all twice. Read more about the Seine.
7 Locks that matter as they are between Melnik where the Vltava discharges into the Elbe and Prague. More locks are upstream of Prague but no cruise goes there. Most cruises along the Elbe end (or start) at Bad Schandau on the german side of the border and transfer to Prague by bus. Even if they go further upstream, they usually disembark at Melnik. So it is very likely you'll never experience these locks. Read more about the Vltava.
Waterways in the Netherlands & Belgium
Around 30 to 40 locks along all the canals in the Netherlands and Belgium. If you cruise from Amsterdam up to the Rhine river, you'll just pass one lock. All of these locks are rather used to regulate the flow of water and prevent floodings instead of managing height differences.
If you want extra informations about a particular river (like height differences), check out the geographical information provided.